Maybe now that we actually see people dancing in the streets and welcoming American and British troops with smiles and flowers and pulling down statues of their now ex-dictator, we might hope for an apology from those many commentators in the media and elsewhere who, during the past couple of weeks, have been heaping scorn on those who predicted that such would be the case. A recent “Conventional Wisdom” feature in Newsweek, for example, gave Vice President Cheney one of its dreaded downward-pointing arrows with the comment: “Tells Meet the Press just before war, ‘We will be greeted as liberators.’ An arrogant blunder for the ages.”
As the Vice President is far too gracious and gentlemanly to allow himself to be seen shouting, “In your face, Newsweek!” perhaps someone at the magazine will be gracious enough to acknowledge that the “blunder” — not to mention the arrogance — was their own after all. What do you suppose are the chances?
For a couple of weeks now I have been mulling over the complaint by Uwe Reinhardt in the New York Times about glib talk of protecting “innocent life” in war. “What does ‘innocent’ mean in the context of war?” he asks. Are not the enemy soldiers who are just doing their job, just like our own, as innocent as any civilian? That, as it turns out, seems to have been more or less the way in which the American commanders looked at the matter. There can be little doubt that allied forces have gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid hitting civilian targets, but as Max Boot pointed out, also in the Times, we have “gone beyond the chivalrous warfare of the 18th and 19th centuries. Nowadays the military tries to spare not only civilians, but enemy combatants as well.”
Though there were good reasons for this if we expected the enemy combatants to lay down their arms without fighting — as many of them seem in fact to have done — some caveats have to be entered. First of all, “just doing their job” like “just obeying orders” is no excuse for wicked behavior, and our men are quite likely to regard those who are shooting at them — if there be any such — on behalf of a cruel dictator as being guilty of wicked behavior. Does not the very idea of “war crimes” acknowledge that soldiers are moral agents and not automata?
Moreover, if they are presumed to be free to choose not to obey an immoral order, are they not equally to be held accountable for putting on the uniform in the service of an immoral master? That’s a more difficult question. But we ought at least to consider the concept of what Henry V in Shakespeare’s play called being “guilty in defense.” You may remember what he said to the burghers of Harfleur when he called upon them to surrender:p> em>For as I am a soldier, br> A name that in my thoughts becomes me best, br> If I begin the batt’ry once again br> I will not leave the half-achieved Harfleur br> Till in her ashes she lie buried. br> The gates of mercy shall be all shut up, br> And the fleshed soldier, rough and hard of heart, br> With conscience wide as hell, mowing like grass br> Your fresh fair virgins and your flow’ring infants.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?