When appeals to humanitarianism fail

How do you stop someone who is convinced he'll go to heaven if he drives a truckload of explosives into a crowded building? Or someone who believes it's God's will that innocent people be taken hostage? How do you defuse mob violence by long-oppressed peoples?

One might naturally hope to appeal to a common humanitarianism, to some universal rationality and desire for peace. But if we base our efforts strictly on a human desire for or capability to bring peace, we are liable to failure—as many recent events have shown. The difficulty isn't just that human intelligence is limited and prone to blind spots (fanatics are often convinced of the reasonableness of their acts). It's that appraising man on the basis of what appears to the physical senses doesn't take into account all the resources available for the resolution of conflicts.

September 22, 1986

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