Friday, April 4, 2003

Gregg Easterbrook from TNR

With the gates of Baghdad in sight, Best Laid Plans now ponders two things. First, as Uwe Reinhardt of Princeton has pointed out, is that the deaths of Iraqi combatants, whom U.S. and British units are now slaying--as they must--with great efficiency, ought to be cause for sorrow.

Though valid military targets, most Iraqi combatants are forced conscripts who want no fight. They're poorly trained and poorly equipped, with almost no chance of survival should they be foolish enough to discharge any weapon: The U.S. military locates and obliterates sources of fire with almost robotic competence. Most Iraqi combatants are in uniform not through voluntary choice, as is the case with all U.S. and British combatants, but because they were impressed. Iraqi men cannot refuse conscription, and face summary execution if they try to return to their families. It's awful when even one Iraqi civilian dies, but civilian deaths are occurring in small numbers by the standards of warfare. Iraqi combatants are dying en masse. This conflict must end soon so that the United States can stop doing what is, by the logic of war, entirely legal, proper, fair, and necessary--killing Iraqi soldiers.

The second thought that comes to mind at this moment is that though the assault on Iraq is going extremely well and U.S. and British forces are conducting themselves with exemplary honor, we should not see this for anything more than it is. Iraq was a sitting duck. Relative to an attacker, few nations have ever been more vulnerable.