Thursday, August 04, 2005

Murderous Words

Right-winger Mark Steyn has a glibly atrocious op-ed today in the Jerusalem Post arguing that the U.S. should have learned the lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and hit Iraq harder in the initial bombing campaign. Who would this have benefited you might ask? Iraqi civilians of course.
The main victims of western squeamishness in those few weeks in the spring of 2003 turned out to be not American or coalition troops but the Iraqi civilians who today provide the principal target for "insurgents." It would have better for them had more Ba'athists been killed in the initial invasion. It would have been preferable, too, if the swarm of foreign jihadi from neighboring countries had occasionally been met with the "accidental" bombing of certain targets on the Syrian side of the border. Wars fought under absurd degrees of self-imposed etiquette are the most difficult to win – see Korea and Vietnam – and one lesson of Germany and Japan is that it's easier to rebuild societies if they've first been completely smashed.
I don't doubt that rebuilding a country you've already razed is an easier task, but to argue that it's Iraqi civilians who paid the ultimate price for "western squeamishness" is near psychopathic. If I may stoop so low to ask an elementary question, "If you 'completely smash' a society, which seems indiscriminate, how do you not kill most of the civilians you're purportedly trying to save?" Moreover, Steyn studiously ignores the latest findings that more than a third of civilian casualties in Iraq was due to U.S. American bombs and bullets. Another third was killed due to post-invasion criminal violence, which was also the responsibility of the U.S. In any war the occupational force must provide security to the occupied.

Yet, Steyn even outdoes himself when he argues that Syria should have been accidentally bombed. The continued violation of international law: this is what Steyn considers an "absurd degrees of self-imposed etiquette." But it's easy to write such nonsense as this when you neither have to smell the burning flesh nor see the strewn limbs of women and children lining the street.