Obama’s assertion that American boots will not hit the ground in Syria has comforted many Americans – and is the reason some have trouble deciding whether they are a “yes” or “no” on the question of war. Instead, our newest war president would like to lob various cruise missiles, bombs, and incendiary devices over the Syrian borders, to hit various “sensitive” targets. This promise should be one Americans find disturbing, not comforting. Though it is always wrong to use preemptive force or violence against one’s neighbor (self defense requires the danger be certain and immanent, and that the response be measured to only the degree required for defense), there is a point that must be made about bombs. Bombs do not discriminate against friend, neutral, or foe. You can aim a bomb at a target, but generally an explosion cannot be controlled after the bomb or missile has been set on its course. The result of this policy is that women and children and other noncombatants die indiscriminately. If force is necessary as a last resort, it is essential that the aggressor discriminate between those that it means to kill and those it does not. If this is not done, the action is wrong and should be avoided.
This leads to the conclusion, of course, to an assertion that boots on the ground is the most moral solution in war, if one must be waged. I stand by that assertion. If you want to wage a war, you will have to go in and wage it, pointing your gun at an individual person who is murdering or destroying. If our forces truly are the fearless badasses as they all pretend they are, this shouldn’t be a problem. Bombs and tech that render a population (especially when civilian) helpless against death are the supreme form of cowardice. A further extension of the same line maintains that when a force comes to your land to take over or occupy, you have a right to self-defense. This means that things like drones are generally evil as well, when used to fight goat herders or men only armed with AK-47s. The goal is to preserve life, of course, and boots on the ground means the loss of more soldiers. But soldiers signed up to fight, and there is a chance in signing up that they will die. Burdening the civilian population with unnecessary death because it is safer for American lives is hypocritical and nonsense. No person’s life, no matter nationality or skin color or race or sex (etc.) is worth more than another’s. But if killing is to be done, it should be aimed at those who signed up to kill for a living. Women and children especially are to be off limits. Additionally, there is something abhorrent and dishonorable about killing people who have no chance to stop you. I will continue to develop this thought, but generally it stems from civilian populations being helpless against us – when in truth, men in Iraq, for example, living in land occupied by the US, should have every right to protect family and friends from American troops with deadly force if it comes down to it.
Leaving aside the lack of outrage from the double-tap drone strikes that the Obama administration has engaged in across the MidEast in recent years (in which a drone strike of a “terrorist” target is followed by another strike several minutes later to kill first responders – generally resulting in the death of local police, clergy, wives and kids, and emergency workers), explosive ordinance – including uranium-depleted rounds – should be a general topic of serious reflection for Americans. Not only is it wrong to kill innocents purposefully, it is wrong to be apathetic to human collateral damage. It is time to open a discussion as to the use of these weapons in general. It is perhaps useful to bomb a military base or site, but the occasion for this to be possible without a chance of injuring civilians or non-aggressors is very rare in the modern age. Many estimates of the implications of the Iraq War see death and suffering as ongoing for generations, thanks to our use of uranium-depleted rounds. We have created untold suffering of many more than even Saddam could have tortured. The weapons we use should be a constant debate.
Does it sound impossible, then to wage a moral war? GOOD! That is the way it should be. War, contrary to how it is used by the American elites in the past 200 years, is an absolute last resort, and fitting into the box of a “good war” is nearly impossible. That is the way it should be – and if your response to reading this is that it makes war entirely too difficult, then I have actually done what I have set out to do…
The inevitable conclusion of those who have pondered a one-on-one interaction of war is that war is wrong across the board – generally for both sides, but in VERY rare circumstances for just one. There is always one side in the wrong. How will we know which it is? Even if we do, and a group of soldiers kills a group of people unjustly, does that mean that we have the right to send our group to kill an unrelated batallion of soldiers a part of the same force – none of whom took part in that original massacre? Of course not. Individual responsibility is a tough concept when we have been raised to think that the collective is responsible for action, but it makes no sense to say that for the mere fact of having a certain pattern of flag on my shoulder I should be punished for the actions of others wearing the same insignia. If A, a soldier from Mexico, shoots American soldier B, does that mean soldier C (American) has the right to kill soldier D (Mexican)? Not really. Maybe C can go after A, but D didn’t do anything except wear a uniform. It doesn’t make much sense to say he could go kill D and claim some moral high ground. (relevant Onion article here) Further, all being done at the behest of politicians, whose interests are often much different from the civilian population of the country over which they preside? Why should men kill for causes of which they truly have no interest? If the politicians want to kill men beyond another arbitrary line in the sand for the insults another group of self-important men within those borders sent their way, let them do it themselves or send their kids. Why would we support the troops anyway, when we are really supporting the interest of politicians who take these men and women away from their families to die in some foreign land for some arbitrary dispute? Some of us are over such childishness.
Notwithstanding all of the above, even the most just war requires both the good and bad side to act in aggression toward innocents. This is one reason Murray Rothbard disagrees with Just War theory – there is no truly just war. Wars are financed by the civilian population, who either pay by way of direct taxation (theft) or inflationary monetary expansion (theft) – all often without consenting to a war being carried out in their name (again, back to the politician’s interests and disputes, who have little, if anything to do with the general population of either country). Even in the most just of circumstances (probably genocide), a war must involve unjust aggression by the government of the “good guys”, against the civilians who will be forced to pay for it else be put in jail. War also often results in the destruction of private or public property, which must be rebuilt or paid for by the population. War is the ultimate broken window fallacy. Billions or trillions of dollars wasted, and for what? Resources squandered, trillions of dollars poured into the latest technological advances that can be devised to kill as many people as possible as efficiently as possible, and what do we get out of it? Bumper stickers.