Monday, January 17, 2005

The Moral Tightrope

Wretchard offers his usual incisive analysis of the situation in Iraq--in this case the preparations of the U.S., Iraqi, and terrorist forces for the upcoming elections:

Through the application of unrelenting terror the insurgents have managed to discipline their own ranks into pursuing a scorched earth strategy. Since they are in no conceivable position to retrieve their former position of power in Iraq, they are bent upon thwarting its attainment by anyone else. By refusing to unleash sectarian violence against the Sunnis and taking every step to coax their participation in the elections, the US hopes may hope to drive a wedge between the average Sunni Arab and the insurgent leadership, whose willingness to expend an unlimited quantity of blood and cruelty constitutes the ultimate asymmetrical weapon.

As I mentioned in the previous post, this is the one area that the terrorists have a mighty advantage over U.S.military might. We are NOT prepared--nor do we even want-- to expend an "unlimited amount of blood and cruelty to achieve our aims", and in this conflict, have never subscribed to a "scorched earth" strategy. If anything, we have bent over backwards in the opposite direction to minimize the loss of innocent Iraqi lives--even if it meant increased loss of American lives at times; or even abandoning an objective. This is the moral tightrope that we walk in Iraq.

There are some who would hamstring the military even further in their ability to respond to the enemy's strategy, and who simultaneously expect there to be FEWER American casualties as a result of their Olympian detachment from the reality on the ground. They are either incredibly foolish or deliberately trying to ensure failure and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

If they expect fewer American lives to be lost, they must tolerate the moral shakiness of incurring collatoral damage (i.e. innocent Iraqi lives) as one ruthlessly proceeds to the objective. If one is to maintain the moral high ground in all instances, under all circumstances and never respond to the terrorists with maximum effect, then it seems inevitable that more American deaths and injuries will result as engagements drag on. Negotiating that moral tightrope is a challenge, but one that the U.S. military forces have admirably taken on. The enemy has not demonstrated any inclination to care about any moral ambiguities like who might get killed during the pursuit of their objectives. In fact, frequently random deaths are their objective.

Many others have written more eloquently and concisely than I could on this very topic. I add my two cents only because I have such great admiration for the Americans in the U.S. military who are fighting this war on our behalf, and who every day are threatened by the terrorist enemy, even while the enemies at home whine and nitpick their actions. Even with some of the unreasonable constraints imposed on them, every day the overwhelming majority make choices and take actions that make me proud to be an American.

Our soldiers and marines may walk a moral tightrope, but their moral choices are based on valuing both Life and Liberty.

UPDATE: I wonder exactly what it is that Seymour Hersh values, besides Seymour Hersh. (see here and then here)

No comments: