But what possible moral justification can there be for the two bloody campaigns against Moqtada al-Sadr?
If the figures reported by the US military are true, nearly 2000 of Sadr’s supporters have been killed by US forces (1500 in the first campaign launched by Bremer just before his departure and another 300 in the last couple of days). This is comparable with plausible estimates of the number of people killed by Saddam’s police state annually in its final years.
Boy, there is so much that I think is wrong about this post.
One interesting thing about modern thought – and I won’t necessarily characterize it as ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative’ but instead ‘modern’ – is that the only calculus you can legitimately use is a very crude one. How many alive or dead? The ultimate measure of any policy becomes did it save lives?
There are at least two colossal problems with this.The first is that it ignores the question of whether there are values worth dying – and killing – for. Poland, France, and the UK could have avoided all those deaths in WW II, if only they had simply surrendered. If only President Lincoln had commanded the forces holding Ft. Sumter to simply strike the flag and come home.
You get the point.
It is clear, on one hand, that people often kill for trivial and shameful reasons. It is equally clear, to me at least, that we must sometimes kill for honorable ones.
The second problem, and sad fact, is that we can never know whether we saved lives or not – because events in the world of politics and warfare are ‘wicked problems,’ and so can’t be rerun like computer models with different assumptions.
Doonsbury today has a strip in which Mike has a daydream. He dreams:
“George Bush never became President!
“Not only that, we never invaded Iraq, killing thousands of civilians and turning it into a vast, new staging ground for terrorism!”
“And get this – it says we didn’t torture and kill prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo!”
“And look! We’re not hated around the world!”
“Nope! The American people are far more secure! And haven’t been polarized by a war that has cost nearly 900 U.S. lives!”
As a sidenote, it may be the case that it would be worth re-electing Bush for the simple reason that it might force Trudeau into retirement. On the other hand, if he were to promise to retire if Kerry were elected, he might sway my vote that way…
But back to my point. How does Trudeau know? How does one estimate what the world would look like in an alternate present? And, more important, when one runs his alternate present forward into alternate futures, what do they look like?
We’re dealing in a world where we can count our costs, but have no idea how to measure the benefits. And that’s one of the biggest failures, I believe, of the Bush Administration. They haven’t made it clear what we’re getting for the costs we’re bearing (as they haven’t been as clear as they should of what the true likely costs are).
Quiggin goes on:
These people weren’t Al Qaeda or Baathists, they were (apart from the inevitable innocent bystanders) young Iraqi men who objected to foreign occupation. Sadr’s militia is one of a dozen or so similar outfits in Iraq, and there are hundreds more around the world, quite a few of which have received US support despite having a worse record than Sadr’s. Moreover, there was no cause at stake that justified a war – the first started when Bremer shut down Sadr’s newspaper and the Sadrists retaliated by taking control of some police stations and mosques. The current fighting seems to have had even more trivial causes. It’s the willingness of the US government to send in the Marines that’s turned what would normally be noisy disturbances into bloodbaths.
You know, it’s always us causing the mess. But let’s skip that and point out that one of the primary criticisms of the occupation by war opponents such as Quiggin has been that we have not established order; that we have taken a country that was oppressed – but stable! – and knocked it backward into chaos and horror. Well defeating chaos and horror sometimes involves defeating – which means capturing, killing or otherwise rendering ineffective – those forces that would promote it. Sadr could have chosen a political route; instead he built a militia, and with it, took territory.
That territory is being retaken. One would think that if a pacified, orderly Iraq – and just possibly a free one – is the goal, this would be seen as a good thing. But instead, let’s blame the Marines for creating a bloodbath.
Let’s blame Lincoln and Churchill, too.