Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Thought Exercise

John Cole at Balloon Juice wrote this paragraph which I fully agree with:
When you bomb people and kill their family, friends, and neighbors, burn down their homes and burn down their businesses and kill their livestock, spewing unexploded ordnance and munitions in fields where they work and their children play, it pisses them off. Many of them even get pissed off enough to fight back against the people they think are responsible for the bombing. They probably even form lifelong grudges when they find their mother and children in thousands of bloody pieces in their former homes.
But I thought about it for a minute:

Historically, lots of people whom America has bombed the hell out of haven't held grudges. That may be the current situation, but think of it this way: America killed more Germans and/or more Japanese civilians on several single days in World War 2 than they have total Iraqi and/or Afghan civilians in almost a decade of fighting. But after World War 2, the Germans and Japanese were not out for revenge; anti-American sentiment in those countries was not a major problem at any point since. Why? Why is it that killing 5 million civilians then didn't elicit the same amount of lasting infamy and animosity as having killed just 50 now?

Not to say that this side of the argument is a better choice/solution, but perhaps when it's just you and a dozen or so of your neighbors who have had your lives ruined by a single explosion, the attack is more personal and the psychological impact more direct. When you look around and see half a million other people standing with you in the rubble, maybe it changes your perspective a bit.

I think an argument could be made that the war fought with the Germans and Japanese was an "official" war sanctioned by governments which the German and Japanese people fully supported, and thus felt themselves somehow responsible for — or party to — what happened. Or perhaps because the war machines of those countries and the war footing of those countries was so extant, their populations understood explicitly from the outset that every square inch of their country could have a bomb land on it.

Nonetheless I'm pretty sure that Pakistanis and Afghans today are just as aware and understanding of the fact that the group of terrorists who live down the street from them are just as likely to unexpectedly explode as a ball-bearing factory or rail yard would have been 66 years ago in Dresden.

What has actually happened is that people (especially those people who happen to be torn apart by falling ordinance) have come to have unrealistic expectations of war and its destruction. They think that collateral damage is a thing of the past, and that anything but aseptic wars and aseptic results are, in essence, terrorist acts which can be fought in kind. (And most importantly: the possibility for the aggrieved to take action against America exists today in ways and with methods that had not been invented half a century ago.)

But in essence, people now have the false expectation that they can live in peace in a war zone of their countrymen's creation. Obviously that's wrong, but it's not a belief that is going to be changed anytime soon.

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