February 04, 2005

The Misplaced Moral Imperative

It's looking like the war is sort of winding down and trending toward success. Not to jinx anything, but I think it's definitely headed in a very good direction. obviously there will still be violence, chaos, hardships, costs, obstacles and the needless deaths of many Iraqis and Westerners - and it might even look at times like it's sliding back into a scenario of death and disorder that anti-war lefties are drooling for. However, I think it's pretty much getting better right now even if it's far from over.

That said, I'd just like to point out a few points that continue to aggravate me about the anti-war people. They're in remission like now (like a cancer) but I figure this is a good time to continue to point out the intellectual inconsistency of many anti-war people (specifically those who are pretty dogmatic about the war, but fall short of principled pacifism).

Some people like to cast this war as unforgivably violent, as though it's taking the lives of untold innocent civilians. Figures are thrown about, usually exaggerated (though that doesn't make the losses any less tragic to the loved ones). What's interesting is that only the more doctrinaire socialists and postmodernists would apply a similar standard to World War II - one of America's most popularly supported wars today.

Well there are some good counterexamples.

- Dresden was firebombed to hell and gone right before the end of the war (at British orders) despite holding no military assets of any real value and somewhere between 75,000 and 150,000 civilians were burnt or vaporized to death as a result.
- Hiroshima/Nagasaki and Tokyo were bombed to hell and not just the military targets and not just the industrial areas, resulting in the likely deaths of several hundred thousand civilians.
- Eindhoven was briefly captured in Operation Market Garden, allowing cooperation and communication between Allied forces and the locals, but then Panzers pushed the allies out and the Allies bombed the people they had just liberated and even begun to coordinate operations with.

A lot of innocent people - women, children, grandmothers, grandfathers, babies - were killed in World War II at the hands of the Allies, good guys. Dresden wasn't even militarily necessary, it was just a payback-in-part for bombing London. Throughout the course of the war bombings were performed at night, over cities and unannounced - which only weeks or months earlier might have been considered a rather egregious war crime.

Does this mean that war and necessity bend the rules of morality so that it's okay to kill innocent folks? Nope; not in the slightest. If you only follow the rules when it's easy then your rules suck. What does it mean, then? That we're completely unwilling to acknowledge the relative calm and caution with which the allies are acting in this war despite writing the mother of all free passes to the allies in World War II.

The reason is because people think World War II was a justified war and, if you oppose this war, the war in Iraq was not. In that case, it's an appeal to emotion. If deaths can be justified if the war is justified then the discussion ought to center on the war's justification and not its innocent victims. If deaths can't be justified and a war can be completely condemned for mistakes and abuses then these same people should reject World War II hundreds of times as much as this war in Iraq.

This moral relativism is just maddening. I just wanted to hit it home while the anti-war movement is briefly silenced by successful elections, to which they can only respond 1) the Sunnis didn't vote much and 2) timeline, deadline, exit strategy.

Ultimately, though, I think we should set up tribunals to cover this stuff. If bombs went where they oughtn't or somebody wandered into a free-fire zone accidentally, then there should be procedures to offer civil court-style settlements to the survivors and loved ones. There should also be a continued emphasis on courts martial for soldiers who murder prisoners or unarmed Iraqis. A few hundred thousand dollars is roughly the rate at which innocent lives are compensated in a variety of diplomatic situations (a plane crash in the 1980s comes to mind when the US shot down a plane accidentally).

We should definitely create a process to compensate wrongful victims of the military action in Iraq and Afghanistan, even if it's simply a mistake (after all, manslaughter and negligent homicide are crimes in the US; the same principle ought to apply). If people see that a) in a democracy there is a reckoning for wrongful acts and accountability for mistakes and b) the US is willing to both admit and then correct its mistakes, we stand a better chance of proving our good intentions to Arabs and Muslims.


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