Peace and Weight Loss
I remember listening to an interview with Werner Herzog where he was discussing his film Rescue Dawn a fictionalized account of the true story of a German American pilot who escaped from a Vietcong POW camp and spent weeks in the jungle. The actors who played the escapees had to slim down to become near-skeletal. Herzog said that this was done slowly, over many months under the careful supervision of a nutritionist and doctor. But, he noted, after shooting is over, the actors simply resume their old, normal eating habits and the weight that took them six months to take off is back on in a matter of weeks.
Anyone who’s been on a diet and then gained the weight back is familiar with the asymmetry of losing and gaining weight. Losing weight is difficult, sometimes painful, and takes a long time of sustained, careful attention to diet and a consistent exercise regimen. But gaining weight is easy: just start eating whenever you’re hungry and skip the gym.
As we hear of the violence breaking out in Iraq, I can’t help but think of the same asymmetry that exists between peace and stability on the one hand and violence and chaos on the other. Creating stability and order takes tremendous effort and coordinated agreement by a huge host of parties, all of which can be undone in a matter of days by some concerted acts of violence. That’s why all the whooping over the surge seemed premature. The long-terms structural factors in Iraq do not make one think that indefinite US occupation is a strategy that is capable of achieving peace and security. It’s just too tenuous.