Blogs > Liberty and Power > THE TRAGEDY OF WAR

Nov 18, 2004 1:25 am


THE TRAGEDY OF WAR



I wasn't at all surprised that a U.S. marine might have shot dead an injured antagonist in Fallujah and I have to say that I wasn't horrified in the way so many commentators seemed to have been by the alleged incident. It seems absurd to expect that the sort of training which American soldiers (and, no doubt, the soldiers of most armies) undergo wouldn't at least sometimes lead to this sort of outcome. This is, of course, a very good reason (one of many) why politicians should think very carefully before they commit their armed forces to war. Falklands veteran Quintin Wright's Rules of Engagement is well worth reading in this regard.

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Aeon J. Skoble - 11/18/2004

Excellent analysis on Volokh: here


Mark Brady - 11/18/2004

What I also had in mind--and referred to--was the sort of training which American soldiers go through. The Falkland War veteran contrasts this training with the rather different training that he claims British soldiers go through. Quintin Wright writes: "Every nation brings its own character to the task of fighting wars. My training in the Paras instilled in me the need to use aggression coldly, without the need for anger. The kind of group revving-up that can often be observed in the US military always has the potential to allow anger to cause collateral damage." He may be correct. I suspect he is. But I don't know.


Aeon J. Skoble - 11/18/2004

The fighting _is_ supposed to stop at the church door, unless a combatant group is using the church as a base, in which case it's as legitimate a forum as open desert. In this case, that's what had been happening. Unfortunately, this can be spun as both "look at these savage American criminals" and "look at these infidel blasphemers." As to the former point, I can't say it better than Sean Duffy above: "I feel like the outrage over this incident stems from two misperception:(1) the mistaken application of law enforcement standards to military combat actions in wartime, and (2) the under-reporting of instances of enemy combatants feigning injury and surrender to kill U.S. soldiers (my understanding is the day before the event, two other marines were blown up by a wounded insurgent calling to them for medical attention)." Very well put.
As to the latter point, US troops are instructed in the international conventions regarding places of worship, and the rules are as I have said: they are off limits qua place of worship, but when occupied by a combatant force, they are legitimate. So if they don't want infidel attacks to take place in or on them, they shouldn't garrison and occupy them in the first place.


Sean Duffy - 11/18/2004

John, I agree that this event is fodder for UBL and those of his ilk, as almost any negative coverage of our military is (warranted or not).

I wonder, however, if we can draw any lessons from WWII and other wars. I am not well versed in history, but from my diligent study of movies like "Saving Private Ryan" ;) it does not seem like any of those wars stopped at the church door. Was there outrage then when fighting spilled into places of worship? Did we worry about rallying German sympathizers by fighting in the historic city of Berlin? (I don't mean to sound sarcastic-I actually don't know and I welcome being educated). I realize that there wasn't quite the same "clash of religions" then as there is now, but perhaps we can draw parallels nonetheless.


Mark Brady - 11/18/2004

Sean Duffy writes (in part): However, I don't think that the possible misdeeds of one soldier remotely qualifies as a factor in the decision. Perhaps you are referring to soldiers in general encountering situations like this one, but should politicians really view the possibility of our soldiers encountering wounded enemies as a reason not to go to war?

What I had in mind was how any decision to commit armed forces very likely (inevitably?) leads to this sort of incident--and repeatedly so--and that this is something to take into account, particularly when there are other arguments against military action.


John Arthur Shaffer - 11/18/2004

It doens't really matter how we see it. It is another big propaganda piece for bin Laden and his operators' phones must be ringing off the hook. Fallujah is a historic city in Islam and this occurred in a mosque. Ouch.


Sean Duffy - 11/18/2004

"This is, of course, a very good reason (one of many) why politicians should think very carefully before they commit their armed forces to war."

Mark, I don't see how you draw this conclusion. Politicians should, of course, carefully consider many factors when deciding to go to war. However, I don't think that the possible misdeeds of one soldier remotely qualifies as a factor in the decision. Perhaps you are referring to soldiers in general encountering situations like this one, but should politicians really view the possibility of our soldiers encountering wounded enemies as a reason not to go to war? I think not.

On a different note, I feel like the outrage over this incident stems from two misperception:(1) the mistaken application of law enforcement standards to military combat actions in wartime, and (2) the under-reporting of instances of enemy combatants feigning injury and surrender to kill U.S. soldiers (my understanding is the day before the event, two other marines were blown up by a wounded insurgent calling to them for medical attention).

Anyhow, welcome to L&P Mark!

-Sean Duffy