Crush your enemy totally
I was reading the 48 Laws of Power last night by Robert Greene. Law 15: Crush your enemy totally.
The premise is this: If you show mercy for your enemy at the last moment, he will survive and plot his revenge on you. No enemy will ever see your mercy as kindness, only weakness.
My first thought was to the Treaty of Versailles. It left the Germans nearly no way of repaying their war debt after WWI and threw their country in to a devastating depression. This infertile environment let only the most stubborn and twisted political movement to rise. Hitler had his Beer Hall Putsch, failed and was sent to trial. The trial served as a platform for Hitler to spread his ideas. He was given another gift by fate: 8 months in prison to write his infamous Mein Kampf. He was shown mercy by the Germans and the German courts and was allowed to rise again, this time claiming nearly half the continent before the Allies gained enough ground to stop the Nazi cancer.
Should the Allies have been more merciful through the Treaty of Versailles or less? Would it have been better to simply destroy Germany, splitting up its land to members of the Allies? I don’t know.
My second thought was to Syria. There are a lot of factors working against the Syrian rebels, but the continual bombardment of Homs by authoritarian President Bashar Assad has yet to break their spirits. If Assad can gain enough leverage over the rebels, should he crush them totally?
I think in this case it doesn’t matter. Assad is doomed. It may take years, decades, but he and the authoritarian nature of their Presidency will be destroyed. Even if he destroys the rebels, crushes their spirits and their bodies, the idea of freedom, independence, democracy is too strong to crush. Ideas are funny like that — they’re like the wind, there, but intangible. No one can crush an idea, especially not one that has had so long to percolate in the minds of the Syrian people.