Those studying international peace and security tend
to look for the origins of violence in differences, whether among economic
interests, ethno-cultural groups, or clashing ideologies. Arguing from the
Girardian perspective (described in an appendix to this essay), Bland argues
that it is the similarity of the warring camps in Northern Ireland that underlies
cycles of violence and retribution. Over the past two centuries, periods of
relative calm and socioeconomic equalization in the region have been followed
by outbreaks of inter-group violence and rapid social polarization.
that symbolic displays of "marching and rising"--in which Protestant
and Catholic extremists reassert their respective roles as triumphant masters
and defiant rebels--are generative rather than merely symptomatic of differences
and violence between the two sides. Acts of terror beget more than retaliation:
they permeate the entire fabric of society and become self-perpetuating, as
each person becomes a potential victim and a potential killer in the eyes of
the other side. The only protection and "justice" in Northern Ireland
was that offered by the very perpetrators of violence. Whereas social
scientists have argued for security guarantees and constitutional engineering
as solutions to internal wars, Bland shows that a "hurting stalemate"
of violence and retribution can persist indefinitely as long as making peace
with the enemy is unacceptable.
Bland argues that protacted inter-group conflicts are
best resolved in ethical and interpersonal terms. Combatants on each side must
transcend their conflict by recognizing and affirming publicly their common
humanity, and by unilaterally renouncing the principle of retributive justice.
To paraphrase Anwar Sadat, whom Bland cites as such a "transcender," peace
is won not by signing agreements but by embracing enemies.