A “moderate” is described in Webster’s Dictionary as “within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme.” It can also be defined as “of average quality or quantity; mediocre.”
Moderation could be “average,” which has bad connotations, but this is not the definition that I am referencing. It is the moderate who avoids excessive or extreme positions that is the role model for all. A business or political leader is aggressive, assertive, and sometimes even zealous. These are good qualities in many societies, especially in a capitalistic system. However, moderation, which is opposed to extreme or radical views or measures, should be the goal of all societies in order to promote external peace and order. But, other benefits of moderation include internal peace and a longer life.
Hopefully, the moderates still represent the majority of people in the world today. At least, moderates seem to be in control for now. “Moderation in all that you do,” should be your marching order for the rest of your life. The problem with excessive behavior by individuals, groups, or civilizations is that it leads to other excessive behavior. For every action, there is an equal, but opposite, reaction. This means that for every excessive action, there will be an equal, but opposite, excessive reaction. It may not occur immediately, but, eventually, it will happen. And this creates a process of polarization, which erodes the moderation within a society. Follow the golden rule of Jesus and the golden mean or Aristotle.
The majority of people in the world are moderate until provoked or polarized into an excessive position. It really is not the nature of Homo sapiens to be excessive since it would have gotten prehistoric man into a great deal of trouble with the more aggressive animals. The gene pool included moderation in forming Homo sapiens, a species that emphasized personal well being, the family, and staying out of harm’s way. Since Homo sapiens do not have a hard shell or sharp teeth or claws, they had to survive by using their brain. They did that by playing the odds and taking a more moderate, conservative approach to life. Man did not have the protections necessary in order to be a great risk taker. This is probably one reason why Homo sapiens survived, and Neanderthal man did not. A tiger, lion, or wolf pack could take man down if he strayed too far from his comfort zone.
Polarization is a process that pulls and tugs at the middle, tearing it into two opposite poles like a magnet. As an example, we see America very divided today similar to the way it was divided in the 1860′s. Americans are not happy with Democrats or Republicans right now. A Republican disappoints the voters, then Americans will predictably rush to a Democrat who promises change, leading the country into an endless circle of excessive responses.
The moderate voters, whether Republican or Democrat, rarely have a candidate who represents them. Why is that? One reason is because typically only extremists run for President. Only somebody with a huge ego or with extreme ambition would be willing to take on the job. Another reason is that a moderate in politics cannot be successful since the special interest groups and minorities are extremists who do not support a moderate candidate.
Our society has become polarized by the two major political parties. The moderates disappear quickly with this scenario. The Democrats represent the left or liberal extreme who champion the poor and minorities, while the Republicans represent the right or conservative extreme who are representatives for business and military. But who represents the middle-class, moderate American?
Polarization can also occur between different religions. Catholics and Protestants have had their days of fighting, especially in Ireland. The Jews have been persecuted for years, but today they are known for their ability to retaliate, so their enemies are more discriminating in their attacks. Extremism in religion comes from the Old Testament. When Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists attack Israeli soldiers, the Israelis punish them with like kind action, an eye for eye. Religions have not been free of extremist approaches: witch trials, Crusades, religious persecutions, and terrorist bombings.
Even the religions have internal polarization. The Shiite and Sunni Muslims fight constantly over small differences in their religion. So, let’s examine some good examples when things turned out for the better. The religious problems in Ireland were resolved, for the most part, after the boundary between Northern and Southern Ireland was erased. The same happened in Europe and the United States. The moderates regained control in those regions also because it was good business. Excessive behavior is expensive and very destructive.
Extremism generally involves two opposite sides, but the real opposite is moderation. Both left and right wing extremists consider moderates fair game to woo to their side. If the moderate refuses to budge, then both extremists consider the moderate the enemy. For example, in Iraq if a moderate family tries to avoid Sunni and Shiite pressures to be on one side or the other, the family is in jeopardy of being killed by either Sunni or Shiite. The middle ground soon is gone.
There were many times in our history when moderation went out the window: the French Revolution and the Civil War are just two examples. During these times, moderation vanished as everybody was drawn to one side or the other. You would have found it very difficult to sit on the fence during these periods.
Extremism can be seen even in family lives. It can be as simple as a child sticking his tongue out at Uncle Bob, and then Dad responding with inappropriate punishment to the child and perhaps Uncle Bob, as well. I am not saying that you should never punish your children. This is another extreme. But I am saying that you should take a moderate approach to your punishment, making it fair and consistent. A hand raised in anger does not meet out appropriate punishment.
The recent killing of innocent school children in Connecticut probably will be analyzed for years and never will be completely understood. However, there are some important lessons from this nightmare. When a society starts its descent into a chaotic environment, members of that society will take extreme actions, some of which will make no sense. As America loses its focus on religion and moral structure, we will see more of these extreme reactions. As America’s youth spends more of its time using social media, rather than socializing face-to-face, you will see our society becoming less stable and less human.
The excesses in our lives take their toll on us physically and mentally. Stress comes from aggressive behavior either practiced by you, by others against you, or both. It is important to stay balanced throughout life, not straying too far to either extreme side. Stress cannot only change our personality, but it also can impact our health. The tempering of our emotions can prevent health problems over the course of our lives.
So what has happened? We have great confidence in ourselves. We can destroy our competitors, enemies, other animals, or whatever is in our way. We are kings and queens of the world. We love to look in the mirror, and we like what we see.
We also have become overpopulated in our world. This overpopulation created friction among our species. If you don’t believe that, just compare how people act in the city of New York with Dry Ridge, Kentucky. But even Dry Ridge is starting to experience growth and some friction.
Decisive moderation is the best approach to avoid excesses. Decisive moderation means that you are not excessive about anything except being moderate. An example would be if somebody came up to you and said, “Let’s go skydiving.” Since this seems to be an excessive activity, you might say, “I don’t want to.” But your friend says, “Oh, come on. It’ll be fun.” And you respond, “No, I don’t think so; it sounds a bit dangerous.” But your friend doesn’t give up. “Come on. How do you know it’s dangerous if you’ve never tried it.” You answer, “I don’t have to jump out of a plane to know it’s dangerous.”
A decisive moderate is a person who refuses to take these risks no matter how much pressure is applied by another person. This moderate never took illegal drugs and never went over twenty miles over the speed limit. Decisive moderation is a good thing. There are times when I wished the world were filled with decisive moderates. This moderate will never give in to the emotional arguments that are designed to pull you to one excessive side or the other.
Initially, you may have to emphasize “decisive moderation” and fight fire with fire in order to get terrorism under control. For example, the extremist terrorist cells may have to be countered with moderate Muslim counter-terrorist cells. In America, we could form anti-terrorist cells, as well, consisting of federal and state law enforcement officials with an Assistant U.S. Attorney on call for these cells when they need legal assistance and guidance. These cells would have full autonomy delegated to them, no different than the terrorist cells.
But, we should always keep the big picture, moderation, in mind. Once the moderates have eliminated the terrorist cells, we should disband the anti-terrorist cells. To continue with these excessive responses would be excessive in quantity and would be inconsistent with the goal of moderation. We should leave this future work to the moderate Muslims.
Further, the global economy is a perfect background for coalition building to defeat the terrorists. Countries who want to reap the benefits from being a part of the global economy will join forces to prevent terrorism, which is harmful to this economy.
One of the greatest mysteries in life is transformation. There are many transformations… we are all familiar with our own from childhood into adulthood and from life to death. But we should start with one less familiar to us… from azurite to malachite or from blue to green.
I am an amateur geologist… if you don’t believe me, look at all my books in the bookcase. I have “Roadside Geology” books for most of the states or sections of the United States. I have books on physical and structural geology. I have field guides to rocks and minerals. And I spent a lot of time examining the rocks and minerals in the Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.
The mineral pyrite also called “fool’s gold” is easily mistaken for native gold. Since gold is a very valuable mineral, it draws men from all over the world who will gamble their very existence on finding the mother lode. In order to find it, moderates must use a built-in moral compass. Extremists are easily satisfied with pyrite, which is easy to find without using any compass at all.
Extremists in the world can be transformed into taking a more moderate approach to life through negotiation. Agreements and accords are reached through negotiation. Negotiation can lead to compromises and concessions that reach a middle ground somewhere between two extreme positions. Negotiation offers a means to reach compromises between extreme groups.
If we assume that the majority of Muslims are moderates, which is probably true, then we might encourage our political leaders to take the opportunity to work with them to form a peace pact to manage the Middle East, the ‘Stans, and Africa. This opportunity might disappear if a civil war kicks off or if a war erupts between Israel and Arab countries. Now is the best time to make this effort.
However, there is absolutely no guarantee that it will be successful, but there also is no guarantee that it will fail. As long as there is any chance at all, it is worth the effort. It would be similar to what President Carter did with Egypt and Israel in the 1970’s. He brought the moderate leaders together.
Carl Von Clausewitz, a war strategist from Prussia, described war as a political instrument to achieve the political objective of a state. President George H.W. Bush announced that the political objective in Desert Storm was to remove Iraqi forces from Kuwait and he allowed the military to do its job, which it did with great efficiency. Many Americans criticized President Bush for not going into Baghdad at that time, but it would have been a violation of international law since it was outside the scope of our announced political objective. This is a great example of how presidents should handle wars and act as the Commander in Chief.
The international laws are important not only for the Commander in Chief but all within our government, military and civilian, to follow for several reasons: (1) with globalization tugging at America’s crown as the surviving superpower, America needs to be a part of the globalization process, working closer with the international community, including closely following international laws; (2) the basis for international law is found in principles of warfare taken from the Old Testament and espoused by religious leaders, so that violations of these old laws go against the grain of civilized society; (3) one of the practical reasons for following this law is that it makes it easier and less costly during rehabilitation and reconstruction of the invaded country; (4) over the years, experts have learned that failures to follow the law do not offer any benefits to the violators, rather instead, they only usher in detriments; and (5) the contemporary world does not like America with its wealth, power, and its arrogant hegemony, so it is important that America play by the moderate rules of international law, avoiding extreme positions that fuel enemy extremists.
America has an open window of opportunity to provide global stability by following international law and leading the moderates in the world with a calm-assertive approach to fighting the terrorists. This does not mean a passive approach. The terrorists will just run over a passive opponent. But it does mean avoiding extreme approaches that do not have good results anyway.
For example, our federal government has targeted terrorists for assassination. This does not have any appearance of following the laws of humanity, a core international law, since it is a murder for hire. Even if politicians argue that they have the right to kill terrorists as a right to self defense, it sends the wrong message to the world.
And what will this accomplish? Typically, if you kill one terrorist or terrorist leader, ten more will pop up in their place. It is not reasonable or intelligent to take this action, even if attorneys find the action legally sufficient. I would always provide legal advice, letting my client know that even though an action that they were considering might be legal, it was also stupid.
Arbitrary and extreme practices of the United States will isolate it from the rest of the world and could impact our economy, especially if we are using our resources by ourselves to put out fires within the world. A much better approach is to form coalitions and get consensus and support from other countries. America cannot afford to be a cowboy in today’s world. The stakes are much higher with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of fanatical groups that will not hesitate to use them, ignoring international laws. We must abide by the international laws so that we can attract all the moderates in the world to join us in our war against the terrorists, for it is truly their war too.
Forming coalitions is a lost art in America. President George H.W. Bush did a great job of bringing countries together to remove Iraq from Kuwait. He even had two Arab countries joining with the 41 other countries to remove Hussein. Coalition building is what is necessary in today’s excessive environment. For example, the Election of 2012 showed how a candidate, who is on the ropes, can work with different ethnic groups to get out the votes in order to win an election. The Republicans did not understand this simple approach to winning. And forming coalitions is critical in everything we do today.
The reason why it is critical for America to throw in with the moderates of the world is that they are the best weapons against the extremism of terrorism. It is through the moderate Muslims that we have the best chance to create stability in the Middle East and to neutralize the fanatics. Right now, the moderates are in the majority, but if we continue our course, we will alienate and polarize them, so they will join the fundamentalist side of the Islamic faith. The moderate Muslims currently have the opportunity to educate, infiltrate, and annihilate the extremists within their own religion.
What would happen if the young terrorists realized that there were no virgins waiting for them after they died? What would happen if the terrorists realized that their families would get no money for their martyrdom? What if terrorists realized that the Koran and Mohammad did not support their activities? What if moderate Muslims infiltrated the terrorist cells and neutralized them? Could moderate cells eliminate extreme cells?
The dual powers in the Cold War did not pull the trigger because each knew the consequences and took a reasonable approach of détente. But America cannot count on a reasonable approach from the terrorists, and you cannot negotiate with them, so where does that leave you? President George H. Bush, who did not form coalitions like his father, decided to arbitrarily smash and kill. This was not the right direction for our country. His invasion of Afghanistan was a reasonable initial approach when he had the backing of the world community. It was similar to a policeman’s “hot pursuit” into a different jurisdiction. But his next invasion overstepped the bounds of reason. And it upset the balance of power in the Middle East, leaving Iran with the ability to obtain nuclear capability and to support terrorism.
Since you cannot negotiate with terrorists, you negotiate with the moderates in the Middle East and Muslims throughout the world to promote peace and stability. That is something that will unify the majority. In order to reach the bargaining table, we have to come with clean hands. In other words, we have to be moderate in all that we do. Talk is cheap. We need to find moderate leaders with moderate national security policies, following up with action that is a mirror-image of these policies. There is a hunger within many of the Middle East countries, including Israel, to stop the bleeding and the pain. It is time to take advantage of this and form coalitions with moderates within the world.
The terrorists are much more afraid of moderates unifying than all the invasions and assassinations that Bush could orchestrate within twenty years. This is why they killed Sadat. The terrorists assassinate moderate leaders before they ever worry about extremist leaders, because they fully appreciate the damage that moderates could do to their cause. Extremist leaders, in more cases than not, actually help their cause, since extremists begat extremists. In other words, opposite positions will polarize moderates and pull them into an extreme position.
The new world will not see dual super powers again. The next nuclear proliferation problem will be between fanatical groups and regionalized conflicts throughout the world using weapons of mass destruction. That is why the moderates in America and the world better come together while they can. That opportunity will disappear after the first nuclear weapon is detonated… which will probably be either in the United States or Israel.
Today, nineteen fanatics can have a major impact on America. There is no practical way to protect ourselves from such an enemy, but we have a history of operating in a reactive mode, throwing our money at the last mode of attack, rather than being proactive and outthinking the enemy.
It is important to know your enemy. Our politicians have not done their homework. We must first understand the motives and passions of our enemies and attack that foundation rather than individuals who appear on our radar scope. The War against Terrorism is not a regular land war where we have our soldiers lined up in a battle against their soldiers and where you do gain advantages by killing the enemy. We must strike, instead, at the heart of the terrorist movement, their fundamental base. And we must strike them from within. Again, moderate Muslims can do this if you gain their trust and enlist their support.
 George Webster, Webster’s Dictionary (NY:
 Supra, Chapter 4, How can we Wage a War against Terrorism?
 Charles W. Chesterman, The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1978), p. 375.
 Carl Von Clausewitz, On War,1968, p. 75.