Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Balance Sheet

Clauzwitz says that the moral factor in war is the predominate factor. Fighting and sustaining the fighting has a moral calculus. The answer an individual gets will depend on the weight given to each component in the analysis. The weights are moral weights.

Eric was taking a look at this and my relentless pursuit of democracy in Iraq. As Eric has pointed out: I'm kind of obsessed. Well he is right. So is this some kind of free floating obsession or does it have an origin? It has its origin for me in the Vietnam War. In my estimation of the worth of a Vietnamese vs the worth of an American. Raw racism in other words. In 1975 after having participated in the war (very lightly in '66 - my unit never fired a shot in anger, although we supported shooting units), I decided after relentless propaganda efforts and the testimony of John Kerry before Congress in '71 that Vietnam was a lost cause. That it wasn't worth one more American life or dollar. It was a pretty popular sentiment at the time.

Then, despite our leaving history continued to happen in South East Asia. First off were the re-education camps which the Communists had said were not going to be a feature of their victory, unlike every otther communist victory. They lied. 100,000 dead. However, that was only the start. Next was the fear that drove 500,000 out to sea. The boat people. Except for most of them they weren't boats. They were rafts, badly provisioned, open to the weather. Out at sea in the hopes that some one would pick them up before they died from exposure, starvation, or drowning. About half of the boat people died.

Well history still wasn't over. The dominoes were falling. Cambodia fell not just to Communists but insane Communists. They were going to make a perfectly functioning agrarian society. Rousseau's noble savage raised on Communist shoulders. All they managed to raise was a pile of skulls. Something like 2 or 3 million. Just swell. Well it wasn't our fault was it? We weren't there. Some one else did the dirty work.

Which reminds me of an ongoing incident in WW2. By 1944 the fact of the death camps was well known. It was also well known that the Jews of Europe represented about 1/2 those in the camps. Jewish emissaries like Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, who asked that the camps and the rail lines leading to them be bombed, were denied. The Jews and the other people in the camps were not worth one bomb. Not unlike the stance we took in 1975 when the South Vietnamese asked for air support to defend against an attack by the Communists. Our Democrat Congress declared that the South Vietnamese were not worth one bomb. So let us do the moral calculus. Three hundred and fifty thousand dead South Vietnamese were not worth one bomb in support. The millions who would live under a totolitarian government were not worth one bomb in support.

So where do I come in to all this? I was with the "not one bomb" crowd. Big time. The in crowd. The "Morally Correct" crowd. So sure of our calculus. So sure that ending the fighting would lead to a good outcome. After all war is bad. Peace is better than war. "What if they gave a war and nobody came." Which leaves out "What if they gave a death march and you have no choice?" A bit too dark a thought for most people. Better to think of peace, and birds, and kite flying.

So in response to Eric's look at some of the issues I have mentioned here commenter The Mechanical Eye says:

"Maybe, just maybe, "victory," at least in the vague, amorphous way you define it, is no longer possible. We don't have the will, the the manpower, the machinery, the morale, the leadership, and dare I say it, the brainpower, to win this."

I understand your point.

The Iraqis are not worth even one American death. When we do the balance sheet on this war we must count Iraqi lives as worth zero.

Then once the Iraqis count for nothing it is impossible to justify any American effort.

"Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph." Thomas Paine

So yeah, my fair weather friends. Give in to tyranny and despots.

Salve your conscience with "its only Iraqis". What are they worth to us?

Make yourself feel better by saying that once we are out the head choppers will not follow us home. After all we are strong and they are weak. Haven't we proved our strength by surrendering Iraq to them? Why would they ever think of following us home after we have given them what they want? And you know maybe they won't follow us home. Maybe they will just do death marches, and religious re-ed camps, and totolitarian governments. None of our buisness really. What should it mean to us? They are not our kind.

We have the example of the Austrian Corporal. Wasn't he satisfied with Czechoslovakia? Didn't the abandonment of Czechoslovakia bring Peace For Our Time?

Abandoning Iraq will bring us peace. This time giving in to brigands will get us what we desire. The fighting will stop. The killing will stop. For sure. At the very least from the time we leave our hands will be clean.

Well let me tell you that if any bit of your conscience lives after abandoning the Iraqi people your hands will drip with blood for the rest of your life. And like Macbeth nothing will out the spot.

Which is why I Support Democracy In Iraq.

Cross Posted at Classical Values


A Jacksonian said...

I find it strange that so many want to keep on going on about the political reasons for the war... and ignore the fact that there are other reasons beyond those mentioned by 'either side'.

First is accountable Nation States. That is something that we are currently lacking in that region and, unfortunately, in many other areas of the globe, like Africa. The basis for any 'international law' is just that accountability - without it you do not *get* any 'international law'. I find it very strange that those very same individuals that wish to cite this lovely and nebulous 'international law' have very few clues about what it *is*. Strangely enough it is NOT a body of work that all Nations are held accountable to, has no means or method of judicial oversight and has no means to enforce itself. The only thing 'international law' is, is Treaties between Nation States. A system of reciprocity, accountability and being held to agreements by any and all means between Nations. That starts with diplomacy and ends with a barrel of a gun.

Second, going with the first, is to show that we Mean What We Say when we make an international agreement. In this case the ceasefire brokered with Saddam. He broke that so many times, that one lost count with fingers and toes by the third year, when all he needed to do was demonstrate the destruction of his WMD and long-range missile *programs*, hand over some kidnapees from Kuwait, turn over a few Coalition Armed Forces personnel, and generally pay the price for his misdeeds. He *agreed* to that! Signed up for it and shook hands all around. Smiled, even. Then proceeded to do everything he could to get out of those obligations for over a DECADE. If the US does not hold *itself* to such agreements, then why, on Earth, have we any right to expect anyone else to do so? This *doing nothing and complaining* was not upholding 'international law' but destroying it via erosion at its basis. I have yet to hear from *any* war detractor exactly *how* more inspections were going to *prove* anything, when the dictator had orders out to hide, obfuscate, distract and outright deny entry to places where he was hiding things. Been there, done that for a decade and it did not work. Even Joe Biden pointed out the fact that Saddam had equipment, stocks, stores, materials, programs and scientists still working on the stuff that was *documented* right after the war and never, not once, was it all accounted for under international scrutiny as was put forth in the ceasefire. Not even most of it. Not even a plurality of it.

Third, the Congressional Authorization which went much, much, much farther than anything the President asked for and, for those who haven't read it, declared a virtual war on terrorism. al Qaida is mentioned once, in passing, and International Terrorists are mentioned multiple times. Saddam had connections to: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PLO, Jemaa Islamiya, various 'Red' groups in Europe, and helped from up Ansar al-Islam against the Kurds. Carlos the Jackal spent some lovely time in Baghdad in the late 1970's. Abu Nidal was in Baghdad up to 2002 when he, conveniently, died there recovering from surgery. The possibly late al Masri was there before the war as was Zarqawi. Not *just* al Qaeda, but a whole slew of people and organizations that were given training, arms, safe haven and supplies from Iraq and Congress considered that to be a non-starter in the modern world of the 21st century. Doing *nothing* was not stopping that.

We have had lots of *doing nothing* and when nothing is done, then nothing is, exactly, what gets done. If you want robust 'international law', then the Congressional support for Treaties made via the UN should be of paramount interest to you. Enforcement of them even *better* as they all have warnings and actual citations that action on the enforcement front will be taken for non-compliance. That non-compliance is the breaking of a ceasefire: making war.

I would have preferred that the very *first* breaking of the ceasefire, about two or three months after it was *signed* had been addressed with a protection zone for the southern Shia population so that they would not suffer 300,000 dead. While Saddam did the killing it is only through the neglect of our responsiblities that allowed it. The ongoing neglect by the next President made things worse, year on year, and eroded support of this thing known as 'international law'. Strange that the supporters of that concept never mention that.

I don't mind playing the logic games and twisty evidence games that so many trot out time and again. My stance has been exactly the same since 1991 when it would have been cheaper to finish the job. As I look back on history it would have been a bit more expensive in 1917, but if we had paid the price we might have *stopped* Britain and France from doing their Imperialism Carve-Up of the Middle East and gotten the more ethnically aligned States that Woodrow Wilson had wanted. Unfortunately he did not have the guts to put it on the line when it counted and so got no say in those post-war treaties.

Our parents, grand-parents and great-grandparents failed us.

Against this enemy that has no Nation, wears no uniform, flies no flag and sets down to protect no People, we must remove its training and support from every damned Nation that we can. That is not warmongering: that is survival instinct. The best way to get there is by accountable agreements between Nations with reciprocity and holding tightly and strictly to them. No leeway for laxness, for bleeding hearts, for pity. That has failed us for going on 9 decades now. It continues to fail us. That is the definition of stupid: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Our enemies are vicious, fantasy oriented, fanatical, and while they may be a bit blind to their defects they are not stupid. Damn well trained. We should know. Some of them have gone to Western Universities and gotten degrees. These are not the poor nor downtrodden of the Earth: these are the well groomed, sophisticated and fanatical backers of Empire.

And the one thing they do not do is hold to any agreements.

There is a word for such: barbarians.

If you quaver at the downpayment on their butchers bill now, realize it is only on the interest we are paying. They are coming for us and have demonstrated time and again they will not stop. We must fight harder, smarter and use all the tools available to us. If we don't, we are stupid and deserve the fate we will get.

Doug said...

Michael Yon was in Cambodia a year or so ago and did a post or 2 on the killing fields.