Foreign Policy

American Lives = Iraqi Lives….

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…says Reuel Marc Gerecht in the New Republic. Matthew Yglesias wonders if he means it:

[T]the consequences of the view that the US government should draw no distinction between its responsibilities to Americans and to non-Americans has far reaching and radical consequences for policy areas far removed from the Iraq withdrawal debate. Immigration, say, or international intellectual property policy. Why not mothball a carrier group and spend the money on mosquito nets? Why not dedicate 3 percent of GDP to direct subsidies to the world's 25 poorest nations? I mean, who knows. Gerecht obviously hasn't given any thought to this position whatsoever. He's a hawk. Since he's a hawk, he against leaving Iraq. Since hes against leaving Iraq, he needs some arguments. He came to a point in the debate when arguing that the US government should value Iraqi and American lives equally was convenient, so he started espousing this position. Does he espouse it consistently? Has he considered its implications? No, no, of course not. He's just bullshitting around.

Indeed, some pro-warriors are sounding a a bit desperate these days. They ought to relax, though. As this Radar mag story shows, being wrong on Iraq seems better for your career as a pundit than having been right all along.

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  1. They should draft one USian for every foreign citizen USians kill. If a conflict is serious enough to do collateral damage, it should be at least serious enough to draft in equal measure of lives.

    An Iraqi or Somali civilian’s life may not be as important as a US citizen’s life, but it should be deemed equal to four years of coerced service, doled at random (and no deferrals or other outs, no age limits).

    by following my scheme, a C in C will think twice about killing civilians in a conflict that is less than critical. OTOH, if the conflict is critical then it will make it easier to do the neccessary conscription.

  2. Not to mention the fact that Yglesias is conflating “sins of omission” from “sins of comission.”

    Sorry to go to the Catholic terminology on this, but our jingoistic national political discourse does not even address this distinction thru euphemism. Just like we don’t have a non-religious term for “unjust war.”

    some days I miss gaius marius.

  3. [T]the consequences of the view that the US government should draw no distinction between its responsibilities to Americans and to non-Americans has far reaching and radical consequences for policy areas far removed from the Iraq withdrawal debate. Immigration, say, or international intellectual property policy. Why not mothball a carrier group and spend the money on mosquito nets? Why not dedicate 3 percent of GDP to direct subsidies to the world’s 25 poorest nations?

    You don’t even have to apply it to statist solutions like subsidies or whatever. You could use that argument for free trade: “This deal will create a hundred thousand new jobs…in Bangalore, but still!”

    For the record, I’m all in favor of free trade for all sorts of reasons, and I have all sorts of reasons for not objecting to a trade deal even if most of the jobs created are overseas. But I still think it would be…interesting to watch a politician make that argument.

  4. Why not mothball a carrier group and spend the money on mosquito nets?

    You mean the carrier group that delivered the mosquito nets to the tsunami victims not that long ago? Yea, great idea. Oh yea, I forgot that the tsunami damage was the fault of GWB for not donating a warning system to the folks who got flooded, leading to the next question.

    Why not dedicate 3 percent of GDP to direct subsidies to the world’s 25 poorest nations?

    Just like that student loan program in the previous story! Yes, let’s just toss money at those folks in amounts equal to or less than what they dedicate to oppressing people within their own borders, like the beloved Darfur.

    Of course, that soultion could never be accomplished by the existing governments changing their ways, allowing commerce, using thir military to eliminate lawlessness instead of being lawless themselves, oh no, we should not interfear in their internal affairs, just subsidize them.

  5. Speaking as an ex-officer from an aircraft carrier, they are colossal wastes of money and should be mothballed. As mechanisms for humanitarian assistance, you could save money by building a ship dedicated for the purpose which had boilers that were fed with paper money. It would still cost less to operate.

    On the other hand they do visit some nice liberty ports on occasion – ah to see Hong Kong again on someone else’s dime

  6. tarran,

    Aircraft carriers are not meant to be delivery systems for humanitarian aid so the fact that they are not cost effective in that role is irrelevant. Are you suggesting they should be mothballed because they are unsuited to their real role though?

  7. I think that looking at the costs in human lives of a U.S. pullout is a legitimate argument. Regardless of your opinion, an ensuing bloodbath might be something worth considering when looking at the U.S. options. It is certainly a relevant fact; maybe not dterminative but at least relevant. Admitting as much doesn’t mean that “US government should draw no distinction between its responsibilities to Americans and to non-Americans”. What a bunch of horseshit that is. One side, “gee if we leave, millions of people could die and the entire middle-east could be drawn into a Sunni, Shia civil war” and this guy’s response is “well you are just saying the U.S. government has the same responsibilities to non-Americans it has to Americans”. Is there any piece of sophistry or tinfoil hat thinking attacking the war that Reason won’t endorse? The Hit and Run posts on the war have all of the thought and balance of the loudspeakers at Khmer Rouge reeducation camp these days.

  8. Ever go back and read what the hawks were saying about Iraqi lives during the runup to the war, when they were pushing the WMD button?

    These people will say anything to avoid admitting they were wrong.

  9. It’s tough to take seriously warnings of the terrible things that are going to happen if we leave, since the last set of terrible things that would happen if we leave (civil war, ethnic cleansing, imposition of a death-squad government) have all come to pass under our very noses.

  10. “These people will say anything to avoid admitting they were wrong.”

    You’re probably right. I say let’s leave and then you can be wrong.

  11. “These people will say anything to avoid admitting they were wrong.”

    You’re probably right. I say let’s leave and then you can be wrong. The fact is, there is probably nothing that can be done that is “right”.

    Did you see the news report where various Arab states are proposing a “land for Iraqi peace” deal? It is being reported that the Saudis and other Arabs are proposing to Condo Rice that if Israel will just give back all the land it took in the ’67 war then they (the Arabs) will deliver peace in Iraq. This of course begs the question, if they can deliver peace and stability in Iraq why have they not done it already? I thought the muslims all loved each other.

  12. It’s a fallacy that the U.S. is saving Iraqi lives by refusing to pull out. All they’re doing is enforcing a stalemate where no party has a monopoly on violence and so every party has an incentive to use it. Only when the U.S. withdraws will the groundwork for peace begin to form. This is so obvious I don’t know why nobody is making the point.

    Stop killing Iraqis, get the troops out NOW.

  13. “I say let’s leave and then you can be wrong.”

    I certainly hope I’m wrong, and leaving doesn’t produce all the terrible things I expect, but I’m not optimistic.

    ‘The fact is, there is probably nothing that can be done that is “right”.’

    Now you’re getting it. Our chance to do the right thing was in 2003, and we blew it. At this point, we’re not going to find a pony in the pile of manure. When we leave as Iraq turns into a bloodbath, it won’t be the leaving that caused it, but the entirety of the invasion and occupation, from beginning to end.

    “This of course begs the question, if they can deliver peace and stability in Iraq why have they not done it already?” Because, like every other country in the world, they want to get something in return for taking action? Or maybe becaise they need the political cover of a peace deal, and can’t just “deliver peace and stability” by waving a magic wand?

    “I thought the muslims all loved each other.” What’s the Arabic word for straw man?

  14. Tarran:
    That you were once an officer makes me proud to have been an enlisted man. No, 6K of personnel and all the associated infrasructure required for a WAR MACHINE, are not an efficient relief delivery system. Duh! I would also imagine the Red Cross is woefully ill-equipped to fight a war. I am awaiting your rational response to this post.

  15. I think that looking at the costs in human lives of a U.S. pullout is a legitimate argument.

    So let’s recap: potential loss of life is not good if John’s positios is strengthened.
    Actual loss of life is not too bad if John’s position is strengthened.

  16. Wow, if Mary Todd Lincoln had the support of this bunch the USA could be two countries right now.

  17. It’s a fallacy that the U.S. is saving Iraqi lives by refusing to pull out.

    No, we’re delaying the bloodbath that will surely follow an eventual U.S. withdrawal.

    If you want evidence that some traits skip a generation, look at the Bush family as it relates to intelligence and prudence.

  18. OK, for the people who didn’t read my post carefully, I repeat

    Speaking as an ex-officer from an aircraft carrier, they are colossal wastes of money and should be mothballed. As mechanisms for humanitarian assistance, you could save money by building a ship dedicated for the purpose which had boilers that were fed with paper money. It would still cost less to operate.

    Note the bolded clause. It is a conditional clause, implying that there are other uses for aircraft carriers, such as launching airplanes which then go and kill people and destroy property. This being their primary function, aircraft carriers are quite efficient at it. However, I was responding to a comment that implied that their usefullnes in humanitarian relief justified the money spent on them.

    You may go back to your regular sniping now.

  19. “Now you’re getting it. Our chance to do the right thing was in 2003, and we blew it. At this point, we’re not going to find a pony in the pile of manure. When we leave as Iraq turns into a bloodbath, it won’t be the leaving that caused it, but the entirety of the invasion and occupation, from beginning to end.”

    So, no matter what it is America’s fault? The Sunni/Shia schism has no relevance? Thirty years of Saddam/Sunni dominance over the Shias has no relevance? The religious meddling of the Iranians has no relevance? The fanatical Sunni Wahabis in Saudi Arabia has no relevance?

    I think this place has been a powder keg for a very long time, and if there is fault to be assigned then only the middle easterners themselves are to blame. The invasion and occupation was Iraq’s opportunity to shed itself of Saddam and become a democracy. They have probably missed the opportunity, small as it was.

  20. Oh, and I should apologize for the confusion caused by my calling for them to be scrapped.

    I believe their primary purpose of enabling pilots to commit acts mass-murder and vandalism to be immoral, and thus I do believe they should be scrapped. Thus I reject them because I consider their primary purpose to not be worth 1 cent let alone the billions spent on their upkeep.

  21. Tarran,

    Point taken. I was not sniping, and I apologize if it seems I was.

    I am interested in this statement though:
    “Speaking as an ex-officer from an aircraft carrier, they are colossal wastes of money and should be mothballed.”

    I am curious why you think they should be mothballed?

  22. “The Hit and Run posts on the war have all of the thought and balance of the loudspeakers at Khmer Rouge reeducation camp these days.”

    Yeah, it makes me wonder why you seem to spend every waking minute on this site. I think you are actually writing a book, one post a time. At the end of the year you’ll pubilsh it: “Reason’s Watchdog: Keeping Them Honest, 85 Posts At A Time”

  23. question answered.

  24. That Radar link was pretty intriguing and wholly depressing.

  25. “”The Hit and Run posts on the war have all of the thought and balance of the loudspeakers at Khmer Rouge reeducation camp these days.””

    EVERYBODY DRINK! TWO DRINKS and one HFCS. Plus, someone gets to read the leather-bound copy of “Heather Has Two Mommies” (the edition with the sweaty pillow fight scene on page 69).

    Between the drinking game and H&R BINGO, it’s gonna be a long day. Hey – Crane! Warm up some Diet Mountain Dew on the Stove! We got work to do!

  26. The Land-for-peace thing is complete bullshit. Sure, Syria might cut off supplies to some militias, and other states will crack down on funding…but when Iran doesn’t join in and the Arabs realize they’re accelerating the Sunni defeat, they’ll jump back in.

    If the neighboring states get more involved than they already are, there might be regional war. The US Army should be back offshore by then, and should have been back offshore long enough to make intervention a credible threat. Remember–it’s the Army’s ability to occupy countries that has been shaken, not our ability to beat armies.

  27. what say what?

    shit man i heard there was a 50% off sale on merkins at moo ‘n oink. what’s this about diet mt. dew?

    oh right, khmer rouge re-education camp! i been there before. “attention campers. this is dr. klahn. we are building a fighting force of extraordinary.. magnitude. we are forged in the traditions of our ancestors. you have our..gratitude.”

    craft hut opens at 3PM!

  28. wayne,

    I agree that joe was being pretty heavy on the blame America side and light on the blame the Middle East guys. But saying

    if there is fault to be assigned then only the middle easterners themselves are to blame.

    is as equally wrongheaded as saying

    no matter what it is America’s fault

  29. Land for peace? BAHAHAHAHA!

    EVERY ‘land for peace’ scheme involving Israel results in their enemies getting to rocket and shell more of Israel.

    Then again, folks like James Earl Carter III, the new ‘president’ of Iran and anybody else who wishes every Jew be pushed into the sea or burned in an oven promotes this ‘idea’ as a way toward peace.

    Yea, if your idea of ‘peace’ is the extermination of all Jews, it works. Sorry, I forcefully disagree.

    For the true humanitarians out there, send some goodies ton the good guys at http://www.pizzaidf.org

  30. No, we’re delaying the bloodbath that will surely follow an eventual U.S. withdrawal.

    How could anyone look at the headlines from Iraq over the last year and conclude that the U.S. is delaying a bloodbath? They initiated a bloodbath and now they’re refereeing a bloodbath. The bloodbath will continue until after they leave. It will not end before they do. Ergo, pull out now.

  31. The bloodbath will continue until after they leave. It will not end before they do. Ergo, pull out now.

    Make that until long after they leave and I concur.

  32. Then again, folks like James Earl Carter III, the new ‘president’ of Iran and anybody else who wishes every Jew be pushed into the sea or burned in an oven promotes this ‘idea’ as a way toward peace.

    Oh, I get it. In your view, people who want to negotiate Israel’s borders are a lot like the Nazis of the 1940s under their leader Adolf Hitler. fascinating.

  33. “Oh, I get it…. people who want to negotiate Israel’s borders are a lot like the Nazis of the 1940s under their leader Adolf Hitler”

    Do you not see the obvious similarities between the nazi’s position on the Jews and the Iranian government’s position? The Arabs and the Iranians pretty much want Israel gone, and the Jews dead. Sounds like nazis to me.

  34. Sounds like nazis to me.

    The way you put it, it does sound exactly like the Nazis of the 1940s under Adolf Hitler.

    One additional similarity is that Hitler was willing to let the Jews leave the country alive before the war started, and Iran has indicated a willingness to let the state of Israel to be set up somewhere else, too.

    So many similarities!

  35. Shining up your boots Sam?

  36. I will go if called. I am no Dick Cheney.

  37. Ah, as long as it is getting rid of Jews Sam Franklin will go, but if it is defending freedom he will stay here and gripe.

    Well put Sam, well put.

  38. I believe their primary purpose of enabling pilots to commit acts mass-murder and vandalism to be immoral, and thus I do believe they should be scrapped. Thus I reject them because I consider their primary purpose to not be worth 1 cent let alone the billions spent on their upkeep.

    Tarran, what is it like to live in Candyland where the military is not required for an independant nation? Yes, bird farms are designed to break things and kill people. Didn’t they teach you that at OCS?

  39. I misunderstood the question. I thought I was being asked if I were willing to go fight in for the US army to protect for the interests of Jewish people in Israel. i was indicating that I would do this if called. I saying the opposite of what you think I was saying.

  40. AH, that doublespeak gets me every time. Sorry il Duce.

  41. AH, that doublespeak gets me every time.

    I admit that there are similarities with the Nazis and then I say I will go fight against those same “nazis” if called.

    that seems more like single speak to me.

  42. Look at how we’ve policed Iraq since the invasion ended and the occupation began

    what would any US urbanite (and Iraq’s pop is almost all urban) do under the same circumstances?

    we used snipers to summarily execute Iraqis for the “crime” of selling guns in an open market. While an imperial edict issued the day before told the Iraqis it would be illegal to sell weapons, it neglected to say it would result in non-judicial executions.

    how about our use of helicopter gunships and for urban policing?

    Dropping bombs on suspected insurgents

    hosing down crowds of pedestrians for curfew violations

    Roadblocks, identity checks, travel restrictions, house-to-house forced entry searches, mass arrests of “combat aged males”

    I imagine the rage I’d fly into if some foreign troops came here and did me and mine like our troops did theirs and them…

    if anything, the Iraqis (after Saddam) were too timid or simply didn’t know how to freak out as a nation, so they freaked out as ethnic groups

    but most any urban dwellers on the planet would freak out if subjected to such treatment by foreign invaders

  43. wayne,

    I wasn’t assigning “fault” – defined as moral culpability – to America alone. Obviously, the jihadists who are setting off bombs bear greater moral culpability than we do for creating the conditions that allowed them to do that.

    My point was about consquentiality, not morality. There was indeed a powerder keg there. We threw a hand grenade at it. That wasn’t very smart.

  44. J sub D,

    I believe I’ll let Maj General Smedley Butler, former Commandant of the Marine Corps and two time medal of honor winner, answer your riposte. Then again, perhaps he’s just another dumbfuck ignorant officer to you… 😉

  45. jb,

    “The Land-for-peace thing is complete bullshit. Sure, Syria might cut off supplies to some militias, and other states will crack down on funding…but when Iran doesn’t join in and the Arabs realize they’re accelerating the Sunni defeat, they’ll jump back in.

    If the neighboring states get more involved than they already are, there might be regional war. The US Army should be back offshore by then, and should have been back offshore long enough to make intervention a credible threat. Remember–it’s the Army’s ability to occupy countries that has been shaken, not our ability to beat armies.”

    Iran could likely be brought around, if we agreed not to support a hostile regime in Iraq, and if we foreswore attacking their country. Remember, Saddam invaded Iran in the early 80s, killing maybe a million Iranians. We’ve been threatening them for decades. Their primary interest is not to make Iraq an Iranian puppet state, but to avoid another disasterous war.

    The fact that we don’t like the idea of cutting a deal with those bastards shouldn’t lead us to conclude that it’s impossible.

  46. “Do you not see the obvious similarities between the nazi’s position on the Jews and the Iranian government’s position?”

    Do you not see the obvious differences between Jimmy Carter and Iran?

    Jimmy Carter negotiated peace between Israel and what was the most powerful Muslim country on the planet. Iran proclaims that waging war against Israel is the duty of every Muslim.

  47. I don’t believe I’ve ever called you ignorant, but to deny the need of a military in a multi-national world is Pollyannaish (simplisticly optimistic). Do you disagree with that? Oh, a high ranking officer, like all sane people, opposes war in the abstract. I certainly hope so. His history lessons are subject to debate. Those that don’t live by the sword can still die by the sword.

  48. Joe,

    Your posts drip with accusations of “moral culpability” for America. Maybe it is an unconscious reflex on your part and you don’t realize you are doing it, or maybe you are just trolling. I probably should not take the bait.

  49. joe should come out and say that America has a fair degree of moral culpability. sometimes joe is a bit political for my tastes./mild criticism

  50. I guess I am in trouble when Sam seems to be in (partial) agreement with me.

    I don’t think America is morally culpable at all for the sectarian violence, or the Al Qaida violence or the violence brought by the kind muslim neighbors of Iraq.

  51. Wayne,

    If you kick in my front door and leave it that way, can you deny all moral responsibility when thieves walk in and steal my stuff?

    Saying that you bear some responsibility does not diminish those thieves’ responsibility.

    Same thing in Iraq. We set the table for Al Qaeda. That doesn’t make us terrorists, but we don’t get to proclaim “Not my problem,” either.

  52. BTW, wayne, I’m not sure you know this, but in your eagerness to discuss how my posts make you feel, you completely failed to address any of the substantive points I made.

    I was talking about what we should DO, and your response was to chide me for not sounding patriotic enough. That’s really shallow.

  53. Joe:
    “Ever go back and read what the hawks were saying about Iraqi lives during the runup to the war, when they were pushing the WMD button?

    These people will say anything to avoid admitting they were wrong.”

    “Now you’re getting it. Our chance to do the right thing was in 2003, and we blew it. At this point, we’re not going to find a pony in the pile of manure. When we leave as Iraq turns into a bloodbath, it won’t be the leaving that caused it, but the entirety of the invasion and occupation, from beginning to end.”

    “I wasn’t assigning “fault” – defined as moral culpability – to America alone. Obviously, the jihadists who are setting off bombs bear greater moral culpability than we do for creating the conditions that allowed them to do that.”

    I don’t see where you suggested doing anything, but maybe it was in a different thread.

    I do want to answer one thing you said: “Obviously, the jihadists who are setting off bombs bear greater moral culpability than we do for creating the conditions that allowed them to do that.”

    here is what we did to “create the conditions that allowed them to do that”:

    We deposed a murderous dictator, and rid Iraq of his even more dangerous and cruel sons who were preparing for the next generation of the Hussein reign of terror.

    We presided over a free and fair election where a large majority of Iraqis got to vote in the first free election in Iraq in at least thirty years and maybe ever. We nurtured the creation of a democracy and a constitution.

    How you construe those actions to be equivalent to kicking down the doors to the house of Iraq and throwing it open to burglars is not entirely apparant to me.

    I said nothing about patriotism by the way, I said you were unfairly characterizing America’s intentions, and you were portraying American soldiers as thugs and murderers, and you were.

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