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Advice from the past

By Charles F. Wickwire
web posted September 16, 2002

Science fiction writers have long been known for their prophetic works. Jules Verne, the father of science fiction, started us out with Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and introduced us to the concept of submarines. Now on the eve of war with Iraq, I am reminded of another science fiction author whose predictions of the future were both bright and terrible.

Robert HeinleinRobert Anson Heinlein, 1907 - 1988, often wrote about the human condition wrapped in the trappings of science fiction. He showed people of the future dealing with the problems of his present and past. But now we are in Heinlein's future, his present is our past and his words come to us with both advice and prophecy.

One quote of Heinleins that is especially poignant today is from the 1973 novel Time Enough For Love. Heinlein's immortal hero Lazarus Long says:

"Your enemy is never a villain in his own eyes. Keep this in mind, it may offer a way to make him your friend. If not, you can kill him without hate, and quickly."

This is perfect advice concerning our dealings with Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Certainly Saddam doesn't think that he is the villain. His narcissistic personality is incapable of seeing himself as anything but the perfect leader of his people and quite possible the world itself.

We certainly tried every way to make him our friend. For the last ten years Saddam has been given every chance possible to join the global community as a respected national leader. He has chosen to remain an enemy of the West and indeed, of civilization itself.

And now President George W. Bush has offered Saddam Hussein an ultimatum. In his address to the United Nations on September 12 Bush outlined the immediate actions that Saddam must take to avoid the destruction of his regime. It is very unlikely that Saddam will give the matter a second thought and President Bush will be forced to eliminate his regime.

It is important to note that Heinlein's quote includes the words "without hate". President Bush has been very careful to not fall prey to the preaching of hate against Islam. Our removal of Saddam's regime and the continuing war on terrorism must remain clinical and emotionless. Surgical strikes that cut out the cancer without killing the patient.

Even with all the evidence that President Bush has against Saddam, there are still those in the United Nations and across the globe who are against our use of violence to solve the Iraqi situation. In the book Starship Troopers Heinlein illustrates the fallacy of this kind of thinking.

"Anyone who clings to the historically untrue - and thoroughly immoral - doctrine that 'violence never settles anything' I would advise to conjure up the ghost of Napoleon Bonaparte and of the Duke of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler could referee and the jury might well be the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms."

We all wish that there was a diplomatic solution to the current crisis we find ourselves in but there comes a time when we have to admit the failure of these attempts and resort to the only option left, force. As Heinlein says, violence has settled more issues in history than any other factor and it will settle this one.

Some of Heinlein's writings can be very frightening as well. Another quote from the book Starship Troopers tells us what the United States was like before its collapse.

"Law-abiding people hardly dared go into a public park at night. To do so was to risk attack by wolf packs of children, armed with chains, knives, homemade guns, bludgeon... to be hurt at least, robbed most certainly, injured for life probably - or even killed. This went on for years, right up to the war between the Russo-Anglo-American Alliance and the Chinese Hegemony. Murder, drug addiction, larceny, assault, and vandalism were commonplace. Nor were parks the only places - these things happened also on the streets in daylight, on school grounds, even inside school buildings. But parks were so notoriously unsafe that honest people stayed clear of them after dark."

Starship Troopers was published in 1959 and yet Heinlein was able to predict 21st century America exactly. Even the alliance between Russia, England and America against China doesn't sound very far fetched considering the massive military buildup currently being done by Communist China. At least Heinlein saw a stronger human race rise up and reach for the stars.

The future is something very much on the minds of Americans right now. We stand on the edge of the unknown, facing an enemy whose goal is the total destruction of our culture. In these times we must steel our resolve and face the challenge. These challenges are not new, they have been faced by countless generations before us. Robert Heinlein was a part of one of those generations and through his writing he offers advice on the future. It would be unwise to ignore it.

Charles Wickwire is a Computer Specialist who likes to share his opinion with those who are interested and even those who are not. He can be contacted at CharlesWickwire@yahoo.com.

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