June 22, 2006

Soldier's Burden


From the Investor's Business Daily editorial page: Friend Or Foe?.

The grisly deaths of two American servicemen show how hard it is to fight a war in which the enemy knows no rules and civilians can't be distinguished from combatants. Maybe it's time to make it easier.

There's a method in the madness of those who kidnapped, tortured and murdered Pfcs. Kristian Menchaca, 23, and Thomas Tucker, 25, who were manning a Baghdad checkpoint with a comrade who was killed in the assault.

The jihadists want to give momentum to those in the U.S. such as Rep. John Murtha and Sen. John Kerry who want to bring the boys home either now or by a certain date. ...

This is a war where terrorists routinely kill innocent civilians and booby-trap their bodies so others will die as well. They use civilians as shields and masquerade as civilians, hoping overly cautious Americans will become their next prey. They follow no rules. They wear no uniforms. They could be behind any door. They could be the next person you see. They could be the last.

As war critics mourn three jihadist suicides at Gitmo, we have three dead soldiers who might have met their fate simply because, after Hamandiyah and Haditha, they took too long to determine if their kidnappers were friend or foe. If they'd killed their assailants, would they now also be accused of killing "innocent" civilians?

And from NRO: Hue Again (and Again) by James S. Robbins. (via TIA Daily)

So why is it that My Lai has become a byword for brutality while Hue is a footnote? Why will Menchaca and Tucker be forgotten while incidents like those under investigation or the grotesque theater of Abu Ghraib will persist, fester, be written about, analyzed, become vehicles for critiques of U.S. policy, the military, or the whole of American culture?

By rights these incidents should demonstrate that we are better than our enemies. We are civilized, they are barbarians. What we are fighting for is objectively superior to what they are fighting for. Our struggle is legitimate, theirs is not. There is no room for moral relativism in this war. Certainly those who view torture and beheading as acts of piety have no problem seeing it as a black and white conflict. And when faced with extremism of this sort, we should take it at face value.

The cartoon is based on a suggestion from Philip Hannum.

UPDATE -- June 26: From TownHall.com: The war for moral superiority by Diana West. (via HB List)

If we still valued our own men more than the enemy's and the "civilians" he hides among -- and now I'm talking about the war in Iraq -- our tactics would be totally different, and, not incidentally, infinitely more successful. We would drop bombs on city blocks, for example, not waste men in dangerous house-to-house searches. We would destroy enemy sanctuaries in Syria and Iran, not disarm "insurgents"; at perilous checkpoints in hostile Iraqi strongholds.

In the 21st century, however, there is something that our society values more than our own lives -- and more than the survival of civilization itself. That something may be described as the kind of moral superiority that comes from a good wallow in Abu Ghraib, Haditha, CIA interrogations or Guantanamo Bay. Morally superior people -- Western elites -- never "humiliate" prisoners, never kill civilians, never torture or incarcerate jihadis. Indeed, they would like to kill, I mean, prosecute, or at least tie the hands of anyone who does.

This, of course, only enhances their own moral superiority. But it doesn't win wars. And it won't save civilization.

Why not? Because such smugness masks a massive moral paralysis. The morally superior (read: paralyzed) don't really take sides; don't really believe one culture is qualitatively better or worse than the other. They don't even believe one culture is just plain different from the other. Only in this atmosphere of politically correct and perpetually adolescent non-judgmentalism could anyone believe, for example, that compelling, forcing or torturing a jihad terrorist to get information to save a city in any way undermines our "values." It undermines nothing -- except the jihad.

Do such tactics diminish our inviolate sanctimony? You bet. But, so what? The alternative is to follow our precious rules and hope the barbarians will leave us alone -- or, perhaps, not deal with us too harshly. Fond hope. Consider the 21st century return of (I still can't quite believe it) beheadings. The first French Republic aside, who on God's modern green Earth ever imagined a head being hacked off the human body before we were confronted with Islamic jihad? Civilization itself is forever dimmed -- again.

Posted by Forkum at June 22, 2006 04:36 PM