thou shalt not…

and kevin drum wills to power the overman

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that we had pretty good intelligence telling us that a bunch of al-Qaeda leaders were in the house we bombed. And let’s also assume that we did indeed kill al-Masri and several other major al-Qaeda leaders. Finally, let’s assume that the 18 civilians killed in the attack were genuinely innocent bystanders with no connection to terrorists.
Question: Under those assumptions, was the attack justified? I think the answer is pretty plainly yes, but I’d sure like to see the liberal blogosphere discuss it. And for those who answer no, I’m curious: under what circumstances would such an attack be justified? [here]

pretty plainly yes? i guess this is what a cavalier attitude toward life looks like.

** * **

the more i think about this, the more i find wrong with this situation. try it this way: what makes this different from bombing a group of equivalently bad terrorists hanging out in the human rockies? if the civilians were complete innocents – human shields for the terrorists – is the attack still justified?
  • life =/= life? pretty clearly no, i’d say. and if anyone wants to bomb my home state… well, please go on cnn so your political party can go on the record as the one ordering the airforce to initiate domestic bomb raids. but if our assessment changes, as i think it must, why? is the life of a foreigner as valuable as that of an american? if drum (or his merry band of cubicle warriors) think that an american life is worth more than a pakistani one, we can safely end the conversation and quite accurately use the r-word to describe them.
    • no other option was open / political context. maybe the cubicle bomb brigade would attribute the justification to political instability in pakistan. president mushrraff has barely survived what – three? – assassination attempts, and his government has virtually no control of the region. the noble cubicle warrior would, no doubt, insist that no other options were open. this argument is dangerous, for two reasons. first, it requires that one explore and disprove every other option. did we even assess grabbing this guy? what were the resources? and second, what distinguishes pakistan from, say, australia? it can’t be that the country simply won’t do it, or can’t do it for political reasons. this has to be a “true” lack of governance – which, if you can quantify, please go write a journal article. fortunately, in pakistan, this isn’t the case.
    • moral frame. normally, we don’t bomb the houses of those responsible for mass death. timothy mcveigh got a trial, as did pinochet, as did those put on trial in nuremberg. we do, however, bomb in war. why the difference? and do the relevant terms of war apply here? (this is a metaphorical war. its not like we’re conquering territory, are we? or fighting on a field, right?)
    ** * **
    anyway, it may be that reframing like that simply ducks the issue. so you know what, i’ll bite the bullet, and i’ll do it clearly
      killing people is wrong -always- end of story.
        it is at best the lesser of two evils. but don’t pretend that makes it right. sure, kill the jerk who is about to press the button and blow up new york. but you don’t deserve a parade, and you certainly don’t deserve political kudos for it. you still killed someone, and calling them a ‘jerk’ or even a ‘terrorist’ doesn’t deprive them of humanity. i don’t think you can simply sum up the amount of evil they would have done, discounted for the ‘collateral damage’ incurred in stopping them, and call it a day. we aren’t gods, even olympian ones. not only are will filled with biases that blur our reason, but reason is itself limited. nobody knows the future, and so the consequences of our actions are anything but predictable.

          honestly, what good came from these deaths? does anybody really pretend that another terrorist won’t rise to take this place? that if somehow we just manage to kill enough leaders, the killing will stop? piss off. mountains of dead won’t stop this war, so don’t mar what is left of america’s good name with innocent civilian deaths, especially when no good can come of it


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