I hate to give him more readership, and it’s my first experience with this columnist, but it’s such a good example of muddleheadedness that I have to recommend James Carrol’s mindless whine in today’s Boston Globe. It’s almost in the Kingsolver class in its cluelessness. In fact, it’s hard to believe that this guy is serious–it reads more like a semi-clever parody of what a leftist would be writing about the war on November 27.
The Taliban are described as all but defeated. The ”noose” around bin Laden grows ever tighter. Afghans are seen rejoicing in the streets, and the women among them are liberated. All because the United States turned the full force of its fire power loose on the evil enemy. Anyone still refusing to sign onto this campaign is increasingly regarded as unpatriotic. Next, we will be called ”kooks.”
Naahhh, Jim, we reserve that one for the flying-saucer and black-helicopter types. You’re just a “useful idiot.”
Not so fast. The broad American consensus that Bush’s war is ”just” represents a shallow assessment of that war, a shallowness that results from three things.
Ummmm… speak for yourself, Jim.
The United States government has revealed very little of what has happened in the war zone. Journalists impeded by restricted access and blind patriotism have uncovered even less. How many of those outside the military establishment who have blithely deemed this war ”just” know what it actually involves?
As many as need to, given that we are still prosecuting it. Why do you simply assume that Don Rumsfeld is lying, Jim?
It is clear that a massive bombardment has been occurring throughout Afghanistan, but to what effect?
Apparently to the effect of allowing people to play music, and dance, and fly kites, and take off burqas, and stuff. I haven’t heard many non-Taliban Afghans complaining, Jim.
Oh, I forgot, the press isn’t allowed into those areas where thousands or millions have been killed by our 98% accurate bombs, because the military wants to cover up all of our atrocities. As the great Dr. Evil once said, “Riiiiigggggghhhhht.”
And against whom?
Like the Pres said, Jim–terrorists and those who sponsor them. Don’t you watch the news?
Is the focus on the readily targeted Taliban, in fact, allowing a far more elusive Al Qaeda to slip away?
No evidence of that so far. In fact, it sounds like several hundred of them not only didn’t slip away, but just got massacred up in Mazar-i-Sharif when they objected to their accommodations and tried to get new quarters using stolen weapons.
Again, why do you think that Don Rumsfeld is lying? Can you point to some previous-documented example of mendacity on his part?
I didn’t think so.
The crucial judgment about a war’s ”proportionality,” central to any conclusion about its being ”just,” simply cannot be made on the basis of information available at present.
Well, gee, Jim, that’s almost clever. But even unclever logicians will recognize it readily as something called a “false premise.” There is not a consensus that a “just war” requires “proportionality.” But maybe you knew that, and just thought that your readers were dumb. As many of them, if regulars, no doubt are–indeed–must be. If they don’t start out that way, a regular diet of this silliness would certainly render them so.
Here’s a helpful hint–go read up a little on “Just War” theory. You might try a google on St. Augustine.
And how is this war ”just” if the so far unprovoked war it is bleeding into – against Iraq – is unjust?
Gee, that’s even better. At least two, and possibly three false premises in a single question, and a complex question at that. Back to logic class, Jim.
Second, narrow context. The celebrated results that have so far followed from the American war – collapse of the Taliban, liberation of women – are welcome indeed, but they are relatively peripheral outcomes, unrelated to the stated American war aim of defeating terrorism.
This is the first thing you’ve said that’s not entirely wrong, though I wouldn’t say it’s totally unrelated. If we’re to win the war on terrorism, we have to not only eliminate, but prevent from returning to power, governments that harbor terrorists. This is more likely to occur in places that have an equal stake in that outcome, which is greatly enhanced by freedom.
And these outcomes pale in significance when the conflict is seen in the context of a larger question: Does this intervention break, or at least impede, the cycle of violence in which terrorism is only the latest turn? Or, by affirming the inevitability of violence, does this war prepare the ground for the next one? By unleashing such massive firepower, do we make potential enemies even more likely to try to match it with the very weapons of mass destruction we so dread?
Ahhh, here it is, he finally gets around to trotting out the old “cycle of violence” routine. Why did it take him so long?
Alas, the answer is clear.
Only to dunderheads, Jim. Cycles of violence are actually rather easily broken. All it takes is installing good governments–a commodity, unfortunately, in short supply in the Middle East. This is a situation that we will have to rectify as part of the war effort. We did it in Japan, and Germany, after the war. We’re starting to do it in Afghanistan.
This ”overwhelming” exercise of American power has been a crude reinforcement of the worst impulse of human history – but this is the nuclear age, and that impulse simply must be checked. This old style American war is unwise in the extreme, and if other nations – Pakistan, India, Israel, Russia? – begin to play according to the rules of ”dead or alive,” will this American model still seem ”just”?
If Americans hijack airplanes, and drive them into Pakistani, Indian, Israeli, or Russian skyscrapers, we can talk about it, Jim. In those circumstances, it will certainly seem just to Americans, and in fact, we’ll probably help them out with the dead-or-alive part.
Oops, I forgot, you don’t like being called unpatriotic. Sorry.
Third, wrongly defined use of force. This war is not ”just” because it was not necessary. It may be the only kind of force the behemoth Pentagon knows to exercise, but that doesn’t make it ”just” either. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 could have been defined not as acts of war, but as crimes. That was the first mistake, one critics like me flagged as it was happening.
Yes, (rolling eyes), if we’d only listened to critics like you. Tell me, Jim, assuming just for laughs that we’d followed your advice, how would we have brought Mr. bin Laden and his henchmen up on charges and rendered punishment, given that the Taliban was clear in their statements that they weren’t going to give him up, and also given that it’s even more clear that even had they been willing, Al Qaeda would not have gone along quietly with the deal? How would your “bring him to justice scenario” ultimately look much different than what we are presently doing (other than being an utter failure, that is)?
As perhaps the most savage crimes in history, the terrorists’ acts should have been met with a swift, forceful response far more targeted than the present war has been.
More targeted than 98% accuracy? Just which targets would you have forgone? Just what would that “swift, forceful response” have looked like? Compare and contrast it with what we’ve actually done (including whether or not the women would still be having their fingernails torn out, and beaten for laughing). And how many American lives would you have been willing to sacrifice for it? Oh, I forgot, you still think that Don Rumsfeld is lying to you.
Police action, not war. The criminals, not an impoverished nation, should be on the receiving end of the punishment.
Earth to Jim!
The criminals (who happened to be running that impoverished nation, and impoverishing it further) were the ones on the receiving end. Now that they are out of power, we can see the possibility of ending its impoverishment.
Instead, a massive war against a substitute enemy leaves the sprawling criminal network intact – perhaps in Afghanistan, certainly in major cities elsewhere.
Ummmm….OK. Whatever. (rolling eyes heavenward again)
Meanwhile, because of the war, the rule of law at home is being undermined. Because of the war-driven pressure to be ”united,” the shocking incompetence of US domestic security agencies goes unchallenged.
I’m shocked to find a little nugget of sense in this morass of nonsense, but I totally agree with the second sentence in this paragraph.
Early in the war, the highest US officials, including the president and vice president, encouraged the idea that the anthrax attacks were originating with the bin Laden network. The understandable paranoia that consequently gripped the public imagination – an enemy that could shut down Congress! – was a crucial aspect of what led both press and politicians to accept the idea that a massive war against an evil enemy would be both necessary and moral.
Uh, Jim? In which alternate universe did this occur? I’ve seen nothing but pooh-poohing of the notion that it came from abroad by the authorities–the emphasis has been on domestic terrorism. I think that it was in fact from overseas, but I can understand for the moment why the Administration might not want to reach that public conclusion, if it forces the schedule in the war. But you seem to be living in a radically-different reality than me and mine if you believe what you wrote above.
Now, the operating assumption is that the anthrax cases, unrelated to bin Laden, are domestic crimes, not acts of war. But for a crucial moment, they effectively played the role in this war that the Gulf of Tonkin ”assault” played in the Vietnam War, as sources of a war hysteria that ”united” the nation around a mistake.
Have you forgotten that bit about the terrorists converting the WTC to an aircraft drivethrough, and later to a smoking pile of rubble and human remains? We really didn’t need anthrax to prosecute this war, Jim. Honest.
In such a context, the more doubt is labeled disloyal, the more it grows. The more this war is deemed ”just,” the more it seems wrong.
Can you run through the logic of this statement for me? I don’t quite follow it…
Ahhh, to heck with it. Never mind.
Oh, and finally, I particularly liked this little addition by the editor.
James Carroll’s column appears regularly in the Globe.
As if I needed another reason not to read the Globe…
[Update at 12:07 PM PST (3:07 PM EST)]
I see that Best Of The Web took a little swipe at this piece, too. FWIW, I beat them by two and a half hours. Advantage, Transterrestrial!