A Deal with the Devil, Continued

Posted: May 6, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

You: I am scared and want to be safe.

Devil: Sure, I can make you safe. I have the entire Kingdom of the Sword at my disposal. All I ask is that you accept the consequences…

Up to 100 civilians feared killed in US air raids in Afghanistan

The Pentagon yesterday promised to launch a joint investigation with the Afghan government into reports that ­dozens of civilians were killed in US air strikes on Monday night.

Afghan officials estimated that at least 30 and possibly more than 100 died in the attack on Bala Baluk, a Taliban-controlled area in Farah province near the border with Iran. If confirmed, it could be one of the highest civilian death tolls since the US-backed invasion in 2001.

Villagers brought truckloads of bodies, most of them women and children, to the provincial capital.


24 Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. 26For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

Would you give 100 Afghan lives in exchange for your life? Your government thinks you would. In fact, they just did.

  1. […] A Deal with the Devil, Continued posted on May 7th, 2009 at Return Good for Evil […]

  2. bob w says:

    ‘Would you give 100 Afghan lives in exchange for your life?’, you asked.

    A good question, although it is a rare day indeed where a commander has the opportunity to make such decisions under fire (as the coalition forces who were under fire in this incident apparently were).

    I will wait to see the results of the investigation before I pass judgment on the actions of anyone in this situation.

    The investigation may very well confirm that civilians were killed in the battle, we’ll see. I bet it also confirms that the Taliban were using houses for cover and firing from them; it is a typical tactic for them.

    I would not want American or coalition soldiers to die because they were unwilling to use lethal force against a position they are being fired upon from. Again, perhaps that was not the case; we’ll see what comes out of the investigation.

    I know that your answer to violence in all cases is to walk away from it, DC; however I note the difference between the Coalition and the Taliban; the Coalition unfortunately kills civilians while conducting operations, as has happened in every modern war; the Taliban intimidate and kill civilians as a matter of policy and ideology.

    I could debate war strategy and tactics and policies with people all day, but I personally have never lost a moment of sleep knowing I oppose(d) a foe who passes night letters to teachers threatening them if they continue to teach class to little girls, burn down schools, and detonate themselves in crowded markets indiscriminately. I can still shave my face each morning. . .

  3. dcrowe says:

    Hi bob w, thanks for stopping in.

    I have a few reactions to your comments:

    A good question, although it is a rare day indeed where a commander has the opportunity to make such decisions under fire (as the coalition forces who were under fire in this incident apparently were).

    I’d disagree with this statement from several different angles. Broadly speaking, policymakers do make these decisions. Governments, ours included, makes them all the time. The decision to go to war is the macro decision in modern times, as we know before the war even starts that statistically, more civilians will die in the war than combatants.

    Second, from a perspective of tactics, commanders absolutely know (or should know) that airstrikes in support of ground troops under fire have been responsible for the largest share of coalition-caused civilian casualties (67 percent!). The choice to use airstrikes in these situations, then, is a knowing trade-off: we use them to minimize losses to our soldiers knowing that the cost is a high risk of civilian casualties. So again, we’re making exactly the “deal with the devil” decision when commanders choose this tactic. (I’d also add that using airstrikes like this runs absolutely counter to modern counterinsurgency strategy, which requires increased tactical risk on the part of our troops to reduce risk to the civilian population. That calls into question the entire operation for which we’re being asked to send more people and treasure in Afghanistan.)

    Finally, to put a fine point on it, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned commanders that there were civilians in the area, some wounded (and they’ve already confirmed civilian casualties). To say the Taliban uses human shields does absolutely nothing to absolve anyone of moral culpability when incidents like these occur. To use a hyperbolic scenario to illustrate the point: police chasing a gunmen don’t have the right to lob a grenade into a kindergarten if he fires on them from the school window.

    More broadly, I think you mischaracterize my perspective on violence. My response is not to “walk away” from a given conflict, but the use of violence in a conflict is a tactical decision distinct from conflict itself. In no way do I believe people should shy away from conflict with extremists like the Taliban.

    However, from a religious perspective, I believe the use of violence to be totally at odds with the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    From a pragmatic perspective, I also believe that violence is a tool ill-suited for the ends we seek. It’s a well-known fact, born out by research from not-exactly-peacenik organizations like RAND, that the vast majority of terrorists groups do not “end” because military force was brought to bear against them. And, when dealing with areas in which repressive forces have control, nonviolent resistance has been shown to be twice as effective compared to violent resistance over the past 100+ years.

    Given those facts, I’m left to believe that our continually escalating use of force in Afghanistan is not based on clear thinking or fact-based decision-making, but rather on faith in the power of violence. “There’ll be pie in the sky when they die, by and by.” I’m not buying.

    One last note: If you’re opposed to people who mistreat women, you might be surprised to know that the government we’re propping up in Kabul has been termed by local women’s groups as “The Rule of the Rapists.” To quote one Afghan women’s right’s advocate,

    ‘During the Taliban era, if a woman went to market and showed an inch of flesh she would have been flogged; now she’s raped.’

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s