What United Airlines Can Teach Us About Syria and Violence as a Last Resort

What does United Airlines have to do with Syria and soon, perhaps, North Korea?There's a term we almost always hear in the lead-up to a war: last resort. We're trying to convince ourselves that we have exhausted every option and that we have no alternative to violence, when that is seldom the case.The idea of force as a last resort was also salient in a letter to employees by United Airlines chief executive Oscar Munoz concerning the highly publicized incident aboard United Express Flight 3411. Describing the passenger who refused to disembark as "disruptive and belligerent," Munoz claimed the airline was "left no choice" but to send in Chicago Aviation Security Officers.For all that has been written in the aftermath about airlines' rights under the law, the terms and conditions on the back of the ticket, the passenger's behavior, even his alleged past, no one has been able to satisfactorily answer this simple question: Why didn't the airline just offer more money?After all, everyone has his or her price. As a capitalist society, aren't we supposed to know that?There were many ways United Airlines could have resolved the standoff, but they chose to take the easy way out, casting 69-year-old David Dao as a belligerent. Not relying on the invisible hand of the market but taking the gloves off. Not "resorting" to force but rushing to violence. Not navigating the halls of diplomacy but using every weapon in their arsenal to extract a profit.The truth is that United Airlines wasn't trying to avoid igniting conflict, they were trying to avoid incurring cost. And yet, just look what it ultimately cost the airline. The $1.4 billion beating that United Airlines took on the stock market is nothing compared to the long-term consequences of having its reputation dragged down the aisle.It's understandable how we as Americans have come to see force as the ultimate solution to vanquishing whatever foe we face. Time after time in our history, the use of force has paid off for us. Even as World War II wreaked devastation upon populations and infrastructures from Europe to Asia to North Africa and the Middle East, our own country reaped the spoils of war, securing our place as a superpower — and emerging from an economic depression in the process — all while avoiding any conflict on our own continent and, with the notable exception of Pearl Harbor, battles in our own backyard.We've come to see force as some kind of secret weapon, cheat code or easy button, a dependable deus ex machina that neatly resolves any and all problems as soon as things start to get tough — or require more than we're willing to give. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the same unshakable faith in the superiority of force that played out in the cabin of Flight 3411 is also unfolding in Syria.Let us ask ourselves, does Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not have a price too? Do we not believe there is diplomatic solution that could peacefully clear a path for an end to the conflict and eventually a better situation for the people of Syria?Or Afghanistan?Or Iraq?Or, now, North Korea?Put another way, did United seriously believe that not a single passenger would have disembarked voluntarily if it had offered $2,000, $5,000 or $10,000?The truth is, violence is seldom a last resort. Far more often it's the easy (or cheap) way out. But as long as we "leave every option on the table" and "refuse to rule out the use of force," we will never truly be giving peace a chance.Because peace is more difficult than war. The price of peace costs more than war up front, but it saves us all in the long run.Tim Gingrich works for a communication and marketing agency in Dallas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email: timgingrich@gmail.com  Continue reading...

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