Battlepanda: Kevin and Anti-Kevin


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Kevin and Anti-Kevin

Dadahead and I have this theory: For the most part, Kevin Drum is a smart, no-nonsense centrist blogger. You usually can't go far wrong by sticking with ol' Kevin. But once in a while, out pops Anti-Kevin. Unlike the real Kevin, Anti-Kevin courts controversy. There would be nothing wrong with that he did so with Kevin's usual sense and acumen, but Anti-Kevin seems to delight in saying dumbass things in as smugly and complacently as possible.

Now we're told that the attack on the Pakistani village that was meant to kill Zawahiri killed some super-duper important terrorists we've never heard of before after all.

So Kevin Drum asks:
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?
What the hell does "justified" mean anyhow? Justified in the eyes of our own subjective morality? Sure, why not. It's natural that I care more about the fate of my own family than yours. So we can't blame any nation for caring more about their own citizens (and by extension, their national interest) than the citizens of other countries. If we are willing to baldly admit "A Pakistani life is worth 1/x of an American life in our eyes; A Begian life is worth 1/y of an American life in our eyes; A Canadian life is worth 1/z of an American life in our eyes...", then we can go ahead and calculate whether a couple of Al-Qaida "Number threes" plus a Son-in-Law is worth 18 Pakistani lives.

But guess what. The Pakistani are not going to see it that way. The 18 people killed in that bombing raid are their people -- they are as outraged as we would be if a foreign government did this to us. In fact, it's a safe bet that attacks of this nature turns hearts and mind in the whole Middle East against us even more.

There are two ways to get people to do what you want -- cooperation and coercion. Cooperation is fragile -- my respect for you does not guarentee your respect for me, but my disrespect for you pretty much guarentees your disrespect for me. Coercion, on the other hand, is expensive. The U.S. is now the world's lone superpower, yet the occupation of two midsized countries have bogged us down to the extent where we don't have the the military werewithal for more invasions. Even if we scrape together enough soldiers to move into Iran, what are we to do with Syria? Not to mention North Korea, who really are nuked up? And if we go down this route, you just know that China and Russia are going to be passing the popcorn and enjoying the show. As much as we would prefer just to crush them, the future of our security depends on persuading our current enemies to cooperate with us.

A good start to that is demonstrating that we value the lives of the citizens of our Muslim allies at least as much as the citizens of our other allies. Can't imagine killing innocent Brits of Belgians or Canadians to get at terrorists? Don't do it to Pakistanis.