Sunday, January 14, 2007

How to Measure Value

Warfare creates an unfortunate situation in which it becomes necessary to measure the value of a human life. It is fairly obvious that if someone is shooting at you, shooting back is required. From there it gets sticky. An Iraq bad guy is shooting from the window of a house, you're pretty sure there are civilian men, women, and children in there as well. The safest approach is to blow the place up. You are now required to make a measurement, the value of the innocents versus the value of your troops.

Iran apparently claims the US invaded one of their consulates in Iraq, these are supposed to be the territory of that nation and inviolate. The Iranians seized the US Embassy in Tehran and we've had no Relations with them since. The US claims the Iranian consulate was a staging point for attacks. Now you're measuring the value of international law.

George W Bush has put Americans in Iraq in warfare at a serious risk to their lives and health. They are dying and being maimed on a daily basis. He says it is worth it, the value gained is worth the losses. He measures the value of our troops and their families thus.

Now I say GWB is entirely wrong, now and from the outset. That does not change the previous measuring exercises, the troops are there, doing his bidding. How does this fall out?

I find myself unwilling to risk the lives of troops to protect putatively innocent civilians, blow the place up. Is it wrong? Certainly it's wrong, but in a my kids versus their kids, my kids win. You could say the people inside could do something about the bad guy in their midst, but you're splitting hairs.

If a consulate is engaging in military action it ceases by definition to be a consulate and the occupants cease to be diplomats. Is that a poke in Iranian eyes? Probably and I really could care less. If the Iranians are engaged in making attacks on our troops they can die for it, in Iraq. It is simple enough to establish some crossing points on the Iranian and Syrian borders and anything crossing anywhere else is subject to immediate destruction. That could be hard on goatherds and others of simple lifestyles.

Warfare itself creates these kinds of measurement dilemmas and it becomes even more of a dilemma where it involves a war you oppose. Let's remember the measuring our kids had to do when we see them, let's try to marginally at least understand. After all, we let this happen. This war is a measure of us.

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