April 07, 2004

Rules of War

I've previously commented on the inadvisability of turning Fallujah into a lake of glass. That's explicitly what we were invited to do by those four desecrated corpses. War is such a savage act and we are so good at it, that we (like boys who have discovered that their bodies are now big enough to kill each other) have hemmed it in with rules of mutual self-preservation. I'll work with precise violence and so will you, say these rules. This works in various ways and the desecrated corpses were an invitation to throw out the rulebook. Where that ends up is one plane, one bomb, one city sized lake of molten glass, Carthago Delenda Est in the most literal modern fashion.

This, and not the blood guilt that Armed Liberal talks about in his recent post is why the contractor's desecration matters more than the very real child's death that Armed Liberal uses for comparison. There were five soldiers killed that same day and their deaths did not provoke that same outrage. The only differences were that one set of victims maximized pay and decided to forego the flag and the other had flag and reduced pay on the one hand and on the other the contracters were desecrated and the soldiers were not. Since it would be considered normal for the outrage to be greater for the patriotic soldiers the reason it was the other way around has to center around the desecration. And desecration only matters as a violation of war crimes rules. Armed Liberal is saying true things, but they are not directly relevant to the visceral emotions at hand.

The enemy must be destroyed but Carthago Delenda Est should not be applied literally if we can at all avoid it. Violations of the laws of war are invitations for us to do just that and they've been threatened for some time (since Afghanistan, really). The USG has struggled to keep such incidents quiet because it does not want the public baying for blood. It's counterproductive and leads to bad long-term choices. The desecrators of Fallujah demand that we take note of their barbarity and took that option away from us.

We are thus thrust into the world of war crimes reprisals to enforce the rules. It is an arena that is fraught with peril. We need to step back and choose wisely our method of reprisal to avoid a descent into hell.

Posted by TMLutas at April 7, 2004 09:03 AM