Monday, December 04, 2006

the bird in hand versus bush calculation is a little different to me when the bird in question is "genocide"

From Paul Krugman's NYT column today:
It’s true that terrible things will happen when U.S. forces withdraw. Mr. Bush was attacking a straw man when he mocked those who think we can make a “graceful exit” from Iraq. Everyone I know realizes that the civil war will get even worse after we’re gone, and that there will probably be a bloody bout of ethnic cleansing that effectively partitions the country into hostile segments.

But nobody — not even Donald Rumsfeld, it turns out — thinks we’re making progress in Iraq. So the same terrible things that would happen if we withdrew soon will still happen if we delay that withdrawal for two, three or more years. The only difference is that we’ll sacrifice many more American lives along the way.
Okay, so I suspect like the vast majority of my readers, I certainly didn't want this war in the first place, and I've since been astounded by how ineptly it's been conducted by the administration. I will not profess to any clear idea about what the United States should do going forward; indeed, my ideas get more cloudy the more I keep reading.

But, still: when we are talking about "a bloody bout of ethnic cleansing," the argument that if it's going to happen in three years, we might as well get it over with now just doesn't do it for me. If the argument is that the ethnic cleansing will be worse if it's postponed, that's a different matter. Otherwise, having many (many) thousands of people survive several additional years is not nothing. If given the choice between myself dying today and dying in three years, for instance, I would choose to wait.

Whether it's worth the price for America is the question, but: one's moral calculus of how many Iraqi lives are worth one American life is not a matter I'm going to get into this morning, although I'm surprised at how high many fellow liberals seem to put the figure. I myself am uncomfortable with how cavalier some people seem to be about trading off hundreds of lives for one life just because the former were born in Baghdad and the latter in Des Moines. (Of course, I'm typing this from the comfort of not personally being on either side of the grim equation.)


Winston said...

The question does not compute for me. I do not think in terms like that. Rather, from a more pragmatic view that they seem hellbent to slaughter each other whether we are there or not. So does it contribute anything to the situation for us to have our guys over there in the middle of it getting slaughtered too. Our presence there to date has done nothing to stabilize or delay, but seemingly the opposite. If our presence there could really make a positive difference, then by all means, stay. Else, get out and bring 'em home, and leave the factions to wipe each other out to the best of their ability as they carry on with their civil war.

Anonymous said...

what they should be doing is replacing American occupation by a more international occupation, also including arab countries. There is the question of the legitimacy of the U.S. occupation, but I agree with Jeremy that leaving a power vacuum would be worse right now.

Tom Volscho said...

After seeing pictures and films with the fear on the children's faces who are suffering with missing arms and burns it should break your heart. You should cry.

For how horrible and disgusting he was, Hussein did not starve children. In the U.S., we only get one-side of the war (a Vietnam-induced "media correction") complete with Bush's "top gun" act.

We need a U.N. or multi-national Arab peace-keeping coalition brought into that country. It is a travesty everytime you get your paycheck, those federal taxes are supporting this garbage. Plus, you have a bunch of kids who went into the military to get money for college tuition and now they are coming back in bodybags, wheelchairs, and potentially suicidal, alcoholic, etc.

This whole thing stinks to high-heaven.

My fiance and I are donating a big chunk of whatever Christmas money we get to pay for civilian medical supplies in Iraq. UNICEF has had to pull out of Iraq, so we are instead looking to indigenous organizations still operating in Iraq that provide relief to civilians.

Anonymous said...

Tom, can you share a link to such an organization?