It seems now, that warfare has been reduced to a pile of legal minutiae to been chewed over by pundits and haters.
America is the most powerful, and yet, the most moral army that’s ever existed. Power and morality are not thought to go hand in hand. As the saying goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
That is exactly why we should be so amazed by our military’s restraint and respect for human life. The media and protestors want to split hairs, when all the US needs to do in order to be moral, win virtually any war, and far outstrip its enemies in terms of compassion, is to follow the Laws of War.
The Hague Rules and Geneva Convention present three major dictates: Destruction and violence must have military necessity, the actors must avoid imputing unnecessary suffering, and actions must be proportional to the military advantage gained.
The terrorists routinely violate all three of these dictates. And yet the ACLU goes into rabid convulsions over the possibility of trying terrorists in military courts.
Adhering to the Laws of War is both moral and practical. Atrocities make the enemy fight harder. But, violence in any form will be repulsive to the average person. To win, we must apply more pressure to the enemy than he applies to us–or we must endure more pressure than he can. That’s how war is won; there’s no easy way. We should also rigidly hold the enemy to the same account we hold ourselves, otherwise these laws become a joke. The enemy fights without markings identifying him as a fighter, therefore he has legally discarded his right to Enemy Prisoner of War status. He routinely makes civilians his target in order to cause political chaos. And yet the Left quibbles about the location of prisons and trials.
The United States even goes beyond the Laws of War. General McChrystal recently limited night raids, which have upset Afghan citizens.
We’re doing fine. We should obey the Law of the Land (like we do). The minutiae will not win or lose this war, nor will it topple America from its moral high ground. The problem is not in the argument that we should fight moral wars, but in the insinuation that we in fact don’t.
My old blog was called: The Political Realist: Post-Modern Hobbesian Views.
While writing blog entries for The Political Realist, I attempted to argue what would happen, not what should happen.
I firmly believe in what Blaise Pascal had to say about the moral argument: “Without force, the Law is impotent.”
In his recent speech overseas, President Obama has made clear that he chooses the moral argument as his weapon primus. Islam should cooperate with America, after all, we all just want to live peaceful lives, right?
If only it were that simple. People shouldn’t fight. Nations shouldn’t go to war. Everyone should have health care. But we need to consider that one important military term. The word that decides if any operation has even the possibility of success: Logistics.
We can say anything. We can write what our minds can imagine. But we cannot make others do what is right. And we cannot always summon the needed materials, money and will to accomplish any mission.
Woodrow Wilson lived by the moral argument, and saw what amounted to one of the most senseless wars in history kill millions and forever change Europe. He appologized for his forfather’s aggressions, hoping that other countries would all feel the love. But it didn’t happen. Instead, one of the bloodiest centuries in history ensued.
I will admit that human beings should be significantly moved by moral arguments. But they rarely are. And they almost never are if adhering to moral values means sacrifice. Humans will not starve to death in order to obey the moral law of not stealing. Humans will kill if they feel significantly threatened, or if they think they can improve their position in the world by doing so, even while avoiding retribution.
In the end, the moral argument is the brood of convenience or utter desperation. It is easy to conceive that a person facing imminent death in a dark alley at the hands of a mugger may utter: “I have a wife and kids at home. Please don’t kill me.” Now, the mugger may find himself lowering his pistol, and warning the person not to call the cops. But what if he believes the victim will be able to pick his face out of a lineup? What about testimony in court? The survival instinct is likely to overcome the moral argument that he should spare this person’s life so that the his wife isn’t left a widow and the children fatherless.
It is admirable and even desireable to start negotiations with the moral argument. Hamas should stop throwing rockets onto areas populated by defenseless civilians for the purpose of making a political statement. Israel asked nicely for many years. But then of course, it was the Palestinians who after finding themselves at the mercy of the IDF, could only resort to the moral argument. Look: Israel is killing women and children by invading and fighting with Hamas militants. As I said above, the moral argument comes from a weak proponent or a proponent so insulated from the actual problem, that the moral argument now becomes the argument of luxery.
So, let me end this by quoting Patrick Swayze in the movie, Roadhouse. “Be nice until it’s time not to be nice.”