"Their backpedaling is so furious you can smell the skid marks."

Mona Eltahawy, the Egyptian-born liberal journalist who writes for Asharq al-Awsat, has been a steadfast critic of George Bush, the Iraq war, and Israel. On Sunday, however, she wrote an impassioned essay in The Washington Post condemning not only terrorist bombers, but the tepid reactions of many Muslim leaders in the wake of the July 7 London attacks.

Eltahawy blasted "those dog-eared statements that our clerics and religious leaders read out telling us that Islam means peace -- it actually means submission -- and asking us to please forget everything they had ever said before July 6, because as of July 7 they truly believe violence is bad. Their backpedaling is so furious you can smell the skid marks."

Citing Mohammed Musawi, the head of the World Islamic League in London, Eltahawy wrote that, "In a classic example of laying blame everywhere but at our own door, Musawi actually criticized the Western media (for supposedly confusing frustrated young Muslims) rather than those scholars who had blessed suicide bombings as long as they targeted Israelis." Such bombings "are killing Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and yet our imams and scholars cannot condemn them."

"I'm done with the 'George Bush made me do it' excuse," concluded Eltahawy. "We must accept responsibility for this mess if we are ever to find a way out."

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    So she's done with the "George Bush made me do it" defense. Good. Now if the more hysterical Reason columnists and Hit-and-Run commenters will stop blaming Bush for everything that goes wrong, we might be getting somewhere.

  • ||

    Joe,

    that was hyperbole-tastic!

  • ||

    Evan Williams,

    And yet, oh so true (paging gaius "the U.S. military loooooves to annihilate civilian populations! My proof? American soldiers aren't dying in large enough numbers! That's my proof!" marius).

    Now we just have to get ready for about 200 posts saying the same damn things we've been saying for months. can't we just link an older Iraq thread and be done with it?

  • ||

    It's easy to blame Bush, regardless of the fact that completing the war in Iraq (begun back in '90) was the culmination of the efforts of two presidents and our entire Congress, both in U.S. legislation and diplomacy. We're here now, so blame the guy in charge, of course.

    At a far enough remove from the power structure, everything's a conspiracy.

    I actually don't have a problem with "suicide bombing" attacks as a tactical measure. If the 9/11 hijackers had stolen empty airliners and crashed them into government or military targets, I can't say as I'd be very quick to label them terrorists. It's all about the means, and 9/11 isn't the first time we've seen an enemy get into a plane and try to fly it into a structure as a means of attack. But to directly leverage collateral damage as a weapon in and of itself, that's not waging war, it's just murdering people. The imams don't need to distinguish between occupying and non-occupying powers. They need to give militants a course on identifying the difference between an actual occupying power and just some settler who outside of his family and settlement won't be very missed. 9/11 was a big slap in the face, but collectively we went to our funerals, paid up the insurance claims, and then got back to the football season. Our extremist brethren appear to be too simple to understand that the world is just too big to be incapacitated by the loss of even a few thousand at a time.

    The one thing the terrorists are counting on is that we are unwilling to kill innocent Muslims, and quite frankly I don't know how long that assumption will be safe. al Qaeda would be absolutely horrified if we exerted a proportional effort towards killing Wahabbists.

  • ||

    p.s. re "unwilling to kill innocent Muslims," I know one of their complaints is that we are doing exactly that with policy. I mean directly and en masse, as al Qaeda likes to do it.

  • ||

    What if you just go and read some old Iraq threads for us Swede? Then you can come back and hijack this thread with more comments unreleated to the post.

    I wish the Democrats and Republicans believed what Mona Eltahawy wrote. Then maybe my country would stop saying "The Terrorists made us do it" and take responsiblity for our part of this war.

  • ||

    My god, that's a great line. Someone give this woman an award.

  • ||

    Swede: I recognize the constant re-hash is irritating, but I do learn from it.

    rst: If you ran on that platform, I bet you would get to be the next "person to blame", with a large majority. Americans like plain talk and kicking ass. That's what football season is all about, right?

  • ||

    "I'm done with the 'George Bush made me do it' excuse," concluded Eltahawy. "We must accept responsibility for this mess if we are ever to find a way out."

    Sounds kind of like Bill Cosby no?

  • ||

    why can't one hate Israel, George Bush, the Iraq War , and suicide bombers all at the same time? I certainly do and I don't think I'm alone.

  • ||

    why can't one hate Israel, George Bush, the Iraq War , and suicide bombers all at the same time? I certainly do and I don't think I'm alone.


    Hey, spur, you can hate anybody you want. There's no law against it, though some of the "hate speech" initiatives the leftists like so much would attempt to change that.


    I can tell you this, though. Any political actor who goes to the American people with a message of "I hate George Bush and I hate Israel, and by the way, I hate suicide bombers, too" is never going to gain an electoral majority outside the Bay Area.

  • ||

    From the point of view of a non muslim american blaming george bush or the larger issue of u.s. foreign policy in general, is a lot closer to taking responsibility for the part you can control (by votes/protest/etc. and I admit ones power is still limited) than blaming muslim clerics. And considering there is blame enough to go around ....

  • ||

    Know what, I hate the haters.

    Out here.

  • ||

    Smells like...

    JIHADI QUAGMIRE.

  • ||

    I find Eltahawi's comments encouraging, if only for who is making them. I also think the appropriate response to such soul-searching is some soul-searching of our own.

    I therefore propose that we trade in "war between the civilizations" for a "revolution within each civilization". It's time for moderates everywhere to become immoderate about the immoderates.

  • Andrew Ian Dodge||

    I believe she is realising like some Muslim MPs in the UK that if these loons keep killing British people like they did two weeks ago the British people will react in a firm way. The last straw for many was the idiotic statements of the leading Islamic in Birmingham last week. As many have said he was given a perfect opportunity to highly moderation is Islam and instead he came across like a swivled-eyed fanatic ranting into a microphone.

  • ||

    why can't one hate Israel, George Bush, the Iraq War , and suicide bombers all at the same time? I certainly do and I don't think I'm alone.

    Of course you're not alone, you can talk to your little green martian friends anytime you want.

  • ||

    I find Eltahawi's comments encouraging, if only for who is making them.

    Mona (Eltahawi, not the I'm-not-coming-back-here Mona) is a regular contributor to asharq alawsat. She lives in New York city. A short bio of her can be found here. The same link is link to this same WaPo article. It was published originally in asharq alawsat in Arabic July 18. It (and all asharq alawsat op-eds) are also available in English.

    It's time for moderates everywhere to become immoderate about the immoderates.

    I second that.

  • ||

    Boy, I was really waiting to see what kind of silly counterpoint joe would concoct in opposition to that essay, yet he's nowhere to be found.

  • ||

    why can't one hate Israel, George Bush, the Iraq War , and suicide bombers all at the same time?

    I notice you left out the enemies of Israel, George Bush, and the Iraq war - the Saudis, the Baathists, the PLO, the Iranians, the Syrians. Presumably you don't hate them, and the enemy of my enemy . . . .

    Nice friends you got there.

  • ||

    No counterpoints here, rafuzo. I don't think you have a very good grasp of politics, if you think I, or any liberal, would have a problem with that.

    Maybe a little less with the "with us or with the terrorists" Rush/Fox bullshit for you?

  • ||

    RC: spur also didn't mention hating you, which according to your logic must mean he really loves you.

  • ||

    I notice you left out the enemies of Israel, George Bush, and the Iraq war - the Saudis, the Baathists, the PLO, the Iranians, the Syrians.

    The Saudis are enemies of Bush? Have you seen the Texas ranch tour?

    The Iranians enemies of the Iraq war? Hell, they are the ones who most benefited from the war.

    I noticed that what you listed are all common enemies of Israel, but not Bush or the Iraq war.

  • ||

    The Saudis are enemies of Bush? Have you seen the Texas ranch tour?

    Alright, maybe not Bush personally, although I suspect that the Saudis aren't so much supporting Bush as trying to manage him and stay out of the cross-hairs. They sure aren't very excited about our plan to establish a modern democracy right next door, and I have little doubt that much of the money funding the insurgency has Saudi fingerprints on it.

    I feel pretty comfortable including them in the list of enemies. They sure aren't our friends.

    The Iranians enemies of the Iraq war? Hell, they are the ones who most benefited from the war.

    Well, they are one of main supporters of the opposition, and squawk like holy hell about the "invasion", so, yeah, I feel pretty comfortable counting them as enemies. How exactly have they benefited from the war, again?

    I doubt spur loves me, Penry, but that's because I'm not the enemy of his enemies, either. Which was kind of the whole point of my post.

  • ||

    Because "enemy of my enemies" has worked so well in dealing with the greater Middle East. From the muj to Rumsfeld's buddy Saddam, that type of hard headedness certainly doesn't bite us in the ass.

  • ||

    joe, I'm not endorsing "enemy of my enemies" as a principle of foreign policy (although in wartime situations it certainly has a venerable and successful history).

    I'm just saying that someone who says they hate Bush, Israel and the Iraq war certainly joins an interesting group of like-minded haters.

    Throwing in the suicide bombers makes it sound like the only dispute Spur has with our enemies in the Middle East is a purely tactical one.

    Of someone were to say in 1943 that they hated Roosevelt, England, the war with Japan, and kamikazes, well, it would at least invite speculation as to which side they are rooting for, wouldn't it?

  • gaius marius||

    (paging gaius "the U.S. military loooooves to annihilate civilian populations! My proof? American soldiers aren't dying in large enough numbers! That's my proof!" marius).

    i love it when an idiot tries to recreate a well-considered point. so entertaining! :)

    fwiw, the proof is in how many civilians are dying per american military casualty. would anyone seriously argue that its more humane to level a city block with a 500-pound bomb to annihiliate the target area than to send in a squad of troops to root out the specific target? and yet the american military is now designed to do the former -- they admit it themselves.

    that it an engine designed to maximize civilian casualties. like it or not, that's our military.

  • ||

    gaius, there are an awful lot of standing city blocks, and dead US marines, that would suggest that, whatever stupid budgetary decisions have been made, the military is not favoring the former tactic over the latter.

  • gaius marius||

    more on topic, however, ms eltahawy has an excellent point -- the once-proud islamic civilization is well in advance of the west in its state of decay.

    but that hardly absolves us of our sins, does it? i would agree with ms eltahawy. but i would further say that both sides share the blame.

  • gaius marius||

    Of someone were to say in 1943 that they hated Roosevelt, England, the war with Japan, and kamikazes, well, it would at least invite speculation as to which side they are rooting for, wouldn't it?

    should it have, mr dean? or was it a weakness and not a strength of our ancestors that they sometimes could not separate criticism from disloyalty -- or disloyalty from sin?

    many have so completely romanticized that horrifying time in american history so as to believe everything we did then was holy. it was not -- to idolize the state at war is one of the most egregious sins a sensate person can commit, imo.

  • gaius marius||

    the military is not favoring the former tactic over the latter.

    i disagree, mr joe. the change hasn't come in the last year, so it's escaped the notice of virtually everyone. but it is now accepted practice to call in airstrikes -- bombs, air cavalry, artillery -- on urban areas. whatever one wants to believe about accuracy, these weapons annihiliate entire areas. it hardly matters if it falls into a six-inch box -- it's going to devastate the region. and many innocent people live even in war-torn cities.

    how much footage of attack helicopters sinking missiles and interminable machine gunning into urban areas during 2003 did we see? and do we think air operations have halted? to the contrary, i'm afraid.

    it's almost impossible to exaggerate, i think, the increase in the capacity for destruction of industrial weaponry of this type, and its employment in urban areas guarantees a high proportion of civilian casualties.

    and why do we use it? largely in the service of blitzkrieg -- we want our troops to be mobile and secure, not pinned down slugging it out with resistance. so, rather than take the time and causalties it would take to solve the problem precisely -- losses which are the responsibility, i would say, of an invading army to take in an effort it mitigate complete disaster in civilized practice -- we savagely demolish the entire area and everything that may or may not be in it.

    the american armed forces are far from the first to war in this way. but we have perfected it, with our technology, industry and finance. and it is as abhorrent to a decent civilized mind as it possibly can be, i say.

    i'm sure that many here see war as just another economic operation, just like everything else, without need of morality or conscience, and probably think i'm sily to even suggest that invading armies have responsibilities to their victims as well as themselves. so much the worse for us. it's testament to our collective return to a natural state of barbarity.

  • ||

    I suspect that the Saudis aren't so much supporting Bush as trying to manage him and stay out of the cross-hairs.

    Come again? From Hit&Run a couple of weeks ago:

    "To this day," the elder George wrote to The New Yorker, "Bandar is the only person besides the President of the United States that Bar lets smoke in our house, although both have to do it in their room with the door closed."



    RC: How exactly have they benefited from the war, again?

    Let's see:

    Saddam, their nemesis, is no longer in power.
    Sisatani is an Iranian who pretty much controls Iraq. SCIRI and Dawa were formed in/by Iran, now they control Iraq's parliament and the prime minister. Enough?

  • gaius marius||

    an awful lot of standing city blocks

    i would say the fact that iraq doesn't yet look universally like 1945 dresden isn't quite testimony to our humanity. especially considering what occurred in fallujah in 2004. have you seen the photos from that place?

  • gaius marius||

    It's time for moderates everywhere to become immoderate about the immoderates.

    you'll be happy to know, mr paradoctor, that we're now in a global struggle against extremism. ;)

  • ||

    I'm not going to defend everything the military does, gaius, but a couple points are worth considering:

    1) the military has developed, and uses, a guided munition that contains no explosives, just concrete inside a shell, connected to a JDAM tail. They're very effective at destroying a targetted vehicle, and not causing colateral damage.

    2) the population of Falluja was evacuated prior to the fighting, even at the cost of allowing some of the enemy to avoid death or capture.

  • Britton||

    Falluja was primarily a MOUT-type infantry battle. We deliberately risked (and took) much higher casualty levels than we had to in order to minimize civilian casuallties.

    As was mentioned above, we also allowed and encouraged civilians to leave the city beforehand, even though this gave the jihadis a great opportunity to dig in and fight more effectively.

    The main reason that our casualty rates are so low is training and discipline, second reason is modern equipment. One marksman can take out a hell of a lot of spray-and-pray gunmen.

  • gaius marius||

    population of Falluja was evacuated prior to the fighting

    which plays very well at home, but we both know that a great many of fallujah's citizens chose to stay. can we really absolve our consciences of the blackness of industrialized warfare so easily, just by making an offer and saying, "well, it's their fault now"? maybe you can. i can't.

    Falluja was primarily a MOUT-type infantry battle.

    that's wonderful love-my-country propaganda, but perhaps you'd be interested to know that fallujah was the proving grounds for a new type of jdam which is supposed to assuage our guilt of dropping bombs into populated areas by being smaller. here's what the navy had to say about it:

    "The 500-pound JDAM is perfect for the urban warfare that's taking place now in Iraq," said JDAM program manager Capt. Dave Dunaway. "Precision, reliability, and accuracy is exactly what the warfighter was asking for, and we are pleased that we could respond quickly."



    never mind, of course, that a 500-pound jdam levels entire city blocks, leaves a crater 25 feet wide and nine feet deep, and kills even bunkered troops in a radius of 220 meters -- and exposed troops out to 500 meters -- according to the army's own handbook on self-protection in calling them in.

    our armed forces are a very competent group of people, most of whom would rather not be where they are. but please don't glorify these folks and what they do. they're americans, not gods. every man is a child under the circumstances of war. that has nothing, literally zero to do with bravery. it's human. "call in a 500-pounder? fuck yes, save us!" it isn't a tom clancy book. this sort of glorification

    The main reason that our casualty rates are so low is training and discipline, second reason is modern equipment.

    is utter bullshit, narcissistic self-congratulations on our personal heroism and superiority. it's the kind of thing that every self-satisfied empire on earth has uttered about itself, to such a reliable degree that the greeks gave it a name and a place in their literary pathos -- "hubris" -- which is immedately followed by "ate".

  • Britton||

    Sorry, but trained soldiers of any nation frequently defeat larger groups of poorly-trained combatants. It's not hubris to point this out. A French infantry squad would slaughter a group of 100 untrained, undisciplined Americans with guns.

    Tactics and training matter.

  • ||

    I'm sure gaius marius isn't the only person in the world who thinks that developing a less-powerful JDAM to be used in urban areas is an example of how inhumane the US is in its conduct of war.

    But that only goes to show that there are a lot of ignorant people out there. From the press release GM cites:

    "The Navy's newest JDAM - known as a GBU-38 - provides the warfighter with greater flexibility and accuracy. The JDAM guidance kit converts existing unguided bombs into precision-guided 'smart' munitions."

    In other words, it allows us to precisely target what used to be 'dumb munitions' (or gravity bombs) - in order to further limit the potential for collateral damage and loss of civilian lives.

    "VFA-34's weapons destroyed the target where insurgents were known to be operating in Iraq... NAVAIR test pilot, Maj. Timothy Burton, USMC, commented, 'the use of this precise weapon opens up target sets that might not otherwise be available.'"

    In other words, we use these smaller bombs to take out known insurgents in areas where larger and dumber bombs would cause unacceptable loss of civilian lives and collateral damage.

    So tell me gaius, is shaving tough for you? I mean, since you already see the world upside down and backwards?

  • gaius marius||

    In other words, it allows us to precisely target what used to be 'dumb munitions' (or gravity bombs) - in order to further limit the potential for collateral damage and loss of civilian lives.

    and this makes you feel better about it, i suppose, mr rob? dropping 500 pounds of explosives into a 30-foot box instead of 1000 into a 100-foot box?

    are you aware that a 500 pound bomb is filled with 500 pounds of high explosive? that it will kill people two football fields away?

    let me ask you: what difference does the accuracy make?

    do you feel better because were not using 1000-pound bombs anymore? i admit, it's a technological improvement -- one which you and many others have used to avoid making a moral improvement. an abstract, statistical adjustment in our economical killing machine that offers greater efficiency is hardly a substitute for rejecting sin.

    it's deductions like this that emptily assuage the fears of many in the idolatry of benevolent technology, i fear. "it's more accurate, therefore no one will be hurt and we are good." RANK BULLSHIT. it's more likely to land where it's aimed -- however, it's still a quarter-ton of high explosive aimed at THE MIDDLE OF A POPULATED CITY. it could hardly matter less if it's more accurate! we're still as morally bankrupt as seems possible. our piddling little technological guilt-patches don't change that.

    it's hard to be surprised that many in this country also feel pretty good about guantanamo bay, given that they blithely accept demolishing innocents in this manner -- so long as its efficient! it's also hard to be surprised that most of the planet seems to hate us unto death as the aimless, destitute, bankrupted lot we seem destined to demonstrate ourselves to be.

  • ||

    GM - I suggest you step back, take a breath, and realize that for some reason your emotional reaction to dropping a bomb - any bomb, apparently - is overwhelming the reality that the US does more than any nation in the history of the world to avoid unnecessary collateral damage and loss of civilian life on the battlefield (including urban areas).

    "and this makes you feel better about it, i suppose, mr rob? dropping 500 pounds of explosives into a 30-foot box instead of 1000 into a 100-foot box?" - GM

    No, I reasonably understand the usefulness of a smaller precision munition to a larger, gravity bomb and the inherently more humane approach to warfare that it is a result of. I'd rather we didn't have to EVER drop any bombs, or fire a shot in anger for that matter. But I don't live in that world... tho at this point I'm not sure which world you live in!

    I'm not arguing that no one is hurt by stray bombs or that the US military is so morally superior that it doesn't accept (with great sadness) that there is unavoidably going to be loss of civilian life in any military action. But that's the sad reality of war. The goal is zero civilian casualties and zero collateral damage. But that's impossible for ANY military conducting ANY military action - at the current level of technology, at least.

    Shrilly screaming things like "what difference does accuracy make?" reveals a deep ignorance. Much like the statement that recognizing that our highly trained infantry forces are capable of decimating poorly trained insurgent forces any time they are foolish enough to stand and fight "is utter bullshit, narcissistic self-congratulations on our personal heroism and superiority."

    I think maybe you're looking through a mirror, darkly. Perhaps you should re-examine your desire to strip recognition from those who behave in a morally superior fashion and exemplify personal heroism and sacrifice both on and off the battlefield. Those folks exist in the military in far greater numbers than those who have done morally reprehensible things. (BTW, you seem to be confusing Gitmo with Abu Ghraib, but then anger and ignorance are a mind-numbing combination.)

    "one which you and many others have used to avoid making a moral improvement. an abstract, statistical adjustment in our economical killing machine that offers greater efficiency is hardly a substitute for rejecting sin." - GM

    You actually seem to believe that greater accuracy absolves military personnel of the need for careful mission planning? That they use accuracy of munitions as a substitute for morality?

    You are truly ignorant regarding the amount of planning and preparation that goes into the average combat air sortie.

    You think the targeting process doesn't take into account what surrounds the target area? Your ignorance on this subject is only surpassed by how powerfully your emotions have overpowered your reason.

    You are clearly ignorant regarding tactics, techniques and procedures for air operations - but I guess that shouldn't be surprising since your expertise is in ancient history (and apparently trying to apply it as a tool to prophesy the endtimes for the US.)

  • ||

    gaius:

    Clearly you believe there is a non violent solution to the myriad problems for which we have deployed troops recently. I think that can be argued just fine. Consider, however, that the arguments you are making are equally applicable to any use of force. Once a military force is brought to bear and an opposing force makes the cynical tactical decision to fight amongst their own, you face a choice. You either A) withdraw with the knowledge that whomever you were fighting has an Aegis you can't penetrate or B) choose to engage anyway. There are practical and moral consequences to each decision. There is, to me, a real problem if the outcome is that anyone who wants to carry out any harmful act in the world is 100% safe as long as they hide amongst civilians.

    I think the choice to engage can be made on both practical and principled grounds and I think that you get credit for every choice you make to minimize the probability of incidental loss of life.

    Too, and we will REALLY disagree on this one, I'm not as forgiving of the fellow who refuses to tell me where I can find al Zarqawi. The fact of the matter is, if local Iraqis wanted him caught, he'd be caught. Of the absolute number of incidental casualties, some portion are effectively innocent hostages and some portion are conspirators.

  • ||

    I've been fighting myself from saying this all day, but since it's Friday and this thread isn't new, I won't feel so bad deflating it:

    "...so furious you can smell the skid marks."

    When I read this, I can't help but think of some grandpa with badly soiled underpants.

    Sorry. It had to be said.

  • ||

    what difference does the accuracy make?

    You must not be a scientist, or really any kind of analytical thinker, to actually be asking that question. That is perhaps the stupidest question I have ever read on this forum.

    Just because you call it a sin doesn't make it so, GM. Get over yourself.

  • gaius marius||

    I suggest you step back, take a breath, and realize that for some reason your emotional reaction to dropping a bomb - any bomb, apparently - is overwhelming the reality that the US does more than any nation in the history of the world to avoid unnecessary collateral damage and loss of civilian life on the battlefield (including urban areas).

    it's precisely in taking a step back and coldly analyzing the issue, mr rob, that exposed the fact that this argument has no clothes. what we've done is assured ourselves at every opportunity that this is true in spite of the facts -- and in this way we are no different than any rampaging militant nation of history, i assure you.

    fwiw that this

    Perhaps you should re-examine your desire to strip recognition from those who behave in a morally superior fashion and exemplify personal heroism and sacrifice both on and off the battlefield

    and you don't think your view is hubristic and nationalist, mr rob?

    That they use accuracy of munitions as a substitute for morality?

    exactly. putting cities to the sword is made acceptable to us by making the process more efficient and, therefore, humane -- humane in exactly the same way a gas chamber or a lethal injection is supposed to be.

    is that moral?

    You are truly ignorant regarding the amount of planning and preparation that goes into the average combat air sortie.

    as though that could be a substitute for decency. the depth of our -- not your, mr rob, but our, our civilization's delusion is revealed in these comments.

  • gaius marius||

    Just because you call it a sin doesn't make it so, GM.

    and you think bombing cities is virtuous, i suppose, mr rst? it's obviously sinful in every sense. let's not delude ourselves.

  • gaius marius||

    Consider, however, that the arguments you are making are equally applicable to any use of force.

    it absolutely is, mr ligon. i'm not so far off my rocker as to think no violence will ever come to us again.

    but when did it become perfectly acceptable to bomb population centers in western military ethics? quite recently, you'll find, in the grand scheme of western civilization.

    one can conduct war without such recourse. does it mean you achieve total victory? i would ask you -- what war ever has achieved total victory without inviting delayed disaster? what is its worth? invariably, the mindset of total war has been adopted only in the bankruptcy of civilization in militarism -- and that's where we seem to be today. we're largely unable to countenance methodologies that would preserve our moral character because we are obsessed with technical efficiency -- or, conversely, we're obsessed with efficiency, technique and management because we've been unable to preserve our moral, positive and creative character and have nothing else to fall to.

    Once a military force is brought to bear and an opposing force makes the cynical tactical decision to fight amongst their own, you face a choice. You either A) withdraw with the knowledge that whomever you were fighting has an Aegis you can't penetrate or B) choose to engage anyway. There are practical and moral consequences to each decision. There is, to me, a real problem if the outcome is that anyone who wants to carry out any harmful act in the world is 100% safe as long as they hide amongst civilians.

    thank you for addressing the moral question, mr ligon -- but i think you're correct to point out the moral hazard on the other side.

    but we have chosen to face that moral hazard not by taking a morally clear view but by creating one of our own -- and making it acceptable to kill large numbers of civilians (so long as we can convince ourselves that we're doing something technical to mitigate it). in other words, we answer their moral bankrupcy by bankrupting ourselves. is that a way, do you think, that we can ensure our survival in the long run?

    i clearly don't, mr ligon. and i think history provides a lot of evidence for my view.

    The fact of the matter is, if local Iraqis wanted him caught, he'd be caught. Of the absolute number of incidental casualties, some portion are effectively innocent hostages and some portion are conspirators.

    again, mr ligon -- and i think you know this -- this is a rationalization for killing the innocent and the good. what have we won if this is what we become? a fleeting dominion over a hollow, decrepit society that is decayed from within instead of without -- the prize in the end is our own collapse.

    i don't think there's any getting around this central point: a civilization is not a product of technique but of the moral and spiritual force of the society that creates it. compromise that, rationalize it away with technical and legalistic arguments, and you've ensured the death of civility. this is what these arguments represent, in my view.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement