Police and peacekeepers

by John Quiggin on November 2, 2004

Chris’ post made a point that’s central to a post I’ve been planning for some time, so I may as well jump in and complete it. Talking about US airstrikes in Iraq, he writes

The risk of the operation is transferred by deliberate and systematic policy from soldiers to bystanders. Such a policy runs contrary to traditional views about who should bear the risk of operations: we can’t insulate civilians completely but where there’s a choice soldiers both in virtue of the role they occupy and the fact (here) that they are volunteers should take on more exposure in order to protect civilians. It is hard to escape the thought that were co-nationals of the people dropping the bombs the ones in the bystander position, different methods would be used.

An obvious comparison is with the police force. If any of us were involved in a confrontation between police officers and armed criminals, we would expect the police to risk their lives to save us[1]. A police force that viewed protecting the safety of its own members as the primary priority would not be very effective. A police force that was prepared to pursue criminals with deadly force, and treat deaths among the general public as “collateral damage” would be worse than useless. But that is, in essence, what has been given to the Iraqi people.

This raises, I think, a fairly general point in relation to the kind of liberal/humanitarian interventionism exemplified by Bosnia and Kosovo, and (from the viewpoint of some of its backers, particularly on the left) in Iraq. Unless the intervening powers have the willingness and capacity to provide peacekeepers who will operate as a police force, with the associated attitude that protection of the civilian population is the top priority, then intervention is bound to produce bad outcomes.

The Iraq war failed this test for two reasons. The first, which has been aired at length, is that there weren’t enough troops to make this kind of occupation feasible. Gen Shinseki’s estimate of 400 000 troops, based on extrapolation from Bosnia/Kosovo looks pretty accurate now.

The second point is that the spurious WMD rationale for the war meant that the Coalition never treated the war as a humanitarian intervention[2]. Instead, they regarded themselves as the victors in a (pre-emptively) defensive war and Iraq as a defeated enemy state, which they could reconstruct (or not) as they wished. Resistance to the occupation, violent or otherwise, was inherently illegitimate. Hence, firing on demonstrators, banning newspapers and so on was OK. As US casualties have risen, this attitude has only hardened.

The continued presence of US troops, under current policies, is doing more harm than good.

fn1. A point that’s always worth thinking about before criticising the police, though it shouldn’t make them immune from criticism.

fn2. Of course, this theme was played along with many others. But all the Coalition leaders said before the war that overthrowing Saddam wasn’t a sufficient reason for war. Their subsequent actions have been consistent with this view.

{ 42 comments }

1

sock thief 11.02.04 at 12:51 am

The comparison doesn’t quite work as US troops are not fighting criminals, they are fighting a quasi-military force. That is not the same situation as police vs criminals.

2

poupon 11.02.04 at 12:58 am

“If any of us were involved in a confrontation between police officers and armed criminals, we would expect the police to risk their lives to save us. A police force that viewed protecting the safety of its own members as the primary priority would not be very effective.”

Remember Columbine? The police set up a perimeter around the school and waited 2 hours until the shooting stopped. No police were injured that day though, so it was a sucess.

3

Giles 11.02.04 at 1:02 am

“Unless the intervening powers have the willingness and capacity to provide peacekeepers who will operate as a police force,”

Your comparison with Kosovo is instucutive. Kosovo has more troops but by comparison with Iraq is still much less far down the road to running its own affairs at both a security and democtaic level than Iraq, despite having a 10 year head start.

So what you seem to be implying, with the demand for more troops, is that you would prefer a longer occupation with a bigger footprint. But this seems to be precisely what the Iraqi’s don’t want. Who should have the ultimate say? You or them?

4

Alan 11.02.04 at 1:21 am

U.S. military commanders in Iraq use death metal, played loudly, as a motivational tool. I suspect they think “A Fist Full of Dollars” is a training video.

5

George 11.02.04 at 1:27 am

John Q:

These issues are central to the questions of when and how (if ever) military force can be used legitimately. I differ with you on certain points, but I’m glad you’re discussing them. I find your thoughts more edifying than a good chunk of the popular writing on the war, on either side. I’m also happy to see you yoking the Iraq war with the earlier American actions in Bosnia and Kosovo; these situations are, I think, the source of much hypocrisy.

Here’s where I think your analysis goes wrong: the primary job of the police is to enforce the law, not to protect human life. Protecting life is often a consequence of law enforcement, of course, since deliberately taking or threatening human life usually constitutes a crime of some sort. But it’s not the constitutional purpose of the police, as it is with, say, paramedics or (arguably) firemen.

It is only a luxury that we in the “civilized” world can expect the police to be primarily concerned with our lives as well as with the law. We can afford that luxury because, in the US at least, the possibility that any indidivual or group could conceivably mount an armed challenge to the authority of the state is vanishingly small. The state or the nation can (if it gets its act together) bring immense resources to bear on a single crime, in the interest of minimizing loss of life. (As an aside, I suspect that this results in an irrational distribution of resources. But, as you say, it is what we expect from the police.)

But this is not the case in much of the world; Colombia, Afghanistan, the Balkans — pretty much any war zone. Even in healthy nations (India, for instance) the state’s monopoly on violence can be far from complete. Thus the question is often *between* saving lives and enforcing the law. In conjunction with law enforcement, moral calculations must be made. Can we accept collateral damage of X lives if it reduces the risk of losing 10 times X lives? Does the calculus change if X is a dozen lives, or many thousands of lives? Can the tradeoff of risks and rewards account for something other than human lives — freedom, for example? If so, in what proportion?

These are complicated questions, and they must be asked. It’s illusory to believe that the most moral course will always be the one that costs the fewest lives.

6

asg 11.02.04 at 1:30 am

Others have alluded to this, but the record of peacekeepers in protecting any lives but their own is pretty spotty at best. So they don’t make an especially good example of the sort of benign community policing writ large that is suggested as a superior approach than the one we took in Iraq.

7

foo 11.02.04 at 1:33 am

poupon: I remember Columbine. I also remember that the police were pretty roundly criticized for not going in sooner. That was pretty much one of the defining mistakes, tactically, about the whole thing… at least, that’s the CW, and I’m inclined to think it’s right. So Columbine is a bad example…

On the other hand, alan: U.S commanders don’t need to play death metal as a motivational tool — U.S. soldiers are plenty capable at choosing their own music for self-motivation. Examples? If you don’t know any U.S. military, maybe go read something like this. So talking about “death metal” as if it’s some kind of brainwashing tool imposed from above… is pretty dumb, too.

8

ruralsaturday 11.02.04 at 1:47 am

“The continued presence of US troops, under current policies, is doing more harm than good.”

Yes, to the Iraqis, and to the soldiers themselves and their families, and to the United States as a member of the world community, but not to everyone. There are beneficiaries of this carnage for whom the well-being or suffering of the Iraqi people is meaningless.

9

Jake McGuire 11.02.04 at 2:10 am

Combat between ground forces in built-up areas also results in large numbers of civilian casualties. Even the Israelis, despite a much bigger manpower advantage and a more tractable situation, end up killing Palestinian civilians. In any event, there’s a rather large continuum – knives are less threatening to bystanders than are assault rifles than are crew-served machine guns than are vehicle-mounted cannon than are smallish PGMs than are cluster bombs and so on and so on up the scale.

I really wonder what the impact current US military activity is going to have on other western militaries in terms of changing what’s an acceptable level of military losses and civilian casualties, as the US has made far larger investments in these areas than anyone else.

10

Robin Green 11.02.04 at 2:11 am

The situation is somewhat farcical.

Why are in Iraq?

According to the official story, we are in Iraq, primarily to restore security and the rule of law – and in particular, to fight the insurgents so that the Iraqi people can have freedom and democracy.

What do the insurgents say they want?

They want us to stop occupying their country.

So why don’t we just leave? We are not wanted!

Because then anti-democratic forces would take over Iraq, or parts of Iraq, goes the official story.

Ah but wait. There is one slight flaw in this argument. Two, actually. (1) Not if our forces were replaced or supplanted with other (pro-democracy) troops, they wouldn’t. (2) The Iraqi people want us to withdraw, even though they are the ones who will bear the brunt of this. They clearly believe that the alternative, continued occupation, is worse.

But why should we pull out if our intentions are noble, as the official story suggests? Why should we care what the insurgents (and the Iraqi people!) think if it is irrational paranoia?

In the end it all comes down to the crucial question of what the US’s intentions are (contrary to the suggestions of some right-wingers that baser motives – like, say oil – are irrelevant).

A large majority of Iraqis (and, one would suspect, a huge majority of people in Fallujah!) do not believe that the US is being humanitarian – and John Quiggin’s post above shows that they are right not to believe that.

It looks like Fallujah is going to be like one of those massacres in Vietnam that Colin Powell was instrumental in covering up. “We had to destroy Fallujah in order to save it”, seems to what the rationalisations boil down to.

11

jet 11.02.04 at 2:13 am

I would say there are major exceptions to this concept where the counter is true. For instance, the city of Faluja was ordered to evacuate all civilians, was given weeks to do so, and facilities were made for the evacuees. Those civilians who remained did so out of choice (as evidence we have a large number from the city that did leave).

Since death is fairly final and the civilian had a choice to remove himself from the situation and the soldier did not, the soldier should be under no obligation to risk himself for the civilian.

This should probably be taking into account when counting the dead. Civilians killed in their homes with no warning should be counted in the catastrophic cost of war (and to be morned, remembered, and learned from). Civilians killed because they ignored a two week warning to pack up what they can and move to a refugee camp, should be counted in the voluntary human-shield casulty list.

12

Robin Green 11.02.04 at 2:14 am

The situation is somewhat farcical.

Why are in Iraq?

According to the official story, we are in Iraq, primarily to restore security and the rule of law – and in particular, to fight the insurgents so that the Iraqi people can have freedom and democracy.

What do the insurgents say they want?

They want us to stop occupying their country.

So why don’t we just leave? We are not wanted!

Because then anti-democratic forces would take over Iraq, or parts of Iraq, goes the official story.

Ah but wait. There is one slight flaw in this argument. Two, actually. (1) Not if our forces were replaced or supplanted with other (pro-democracy) troops, they wouldn’t. (2) The Iraqi people want us to withdraw, even though they are the ones who will bear the brunt of this. They clearly believe that the alternative, continued occupation, is worse.

But why should we pull out if our intentions are noble, as the official story suggests? Why should we care what the insurgents (and the Iraqi people!) think if it is irrational paranoia?

In the end it all comes down to the crucial question of what the US’s intentions are (contrary to the suggestions of some right-wingers that baser motives – like, say oil – are irrelevant).

A large majority of Iraqis (and, one would suspect, a huge majority of people in Fallujah!) do not believe that the US is being humanitarian – and John Quiggin’s post above shows that they are right not to believe that.

It looks like Fallujah is going to be like one of those massacres in Vietnam that Colin Powell was instrumental in covering up. “We had to destroy Fallujah in order to save it”, seems to what the rationalisations boil down to.

13

poupon 11.02.04 at 3:12 am

Like Robin seems to be doing, I have also twice asked myself “Why are in Iraq?” And the answer: “Because can”.

14

poupon 11.02.04 at 3:14 am

Like Robin seems to be doing, I have also twice asked myself “Why are in Iraq?” And the answer: “Because can”.

15

Russell Arben Fox 11.02.04 at 3:58 am

George, thanks for making those difficult, important points. Repsonding to them, and thus responding to John’s challenge about both the feasibility and the necessary assumptions of “liberal/humanitarian interventionism,” would require us to ask about the validity and extent of international law, and the degree to which such is comparable to what is expected within states. You are correct; only in the weathier and more stable nations of the world is it possible to judge police forces on the basis of their ability to both enforce the law and protect lives. Clearly, most of the time the former dominates the agenda. But what if the extant “law” is vague, or of limited application, as it is in contexts where sovereignty itself is questioned? Would that imply that the “liberal” case for intervention is that much weaker? Or would it imply that, insofar as one argues for such international action in certain cases, saving lives must therefore be considered of equal or even greater value than enforcing the relevant international law (whatever that may be), if one’s case is to be believed? (Kind of a matter of: if you’re going to accept us–American troops, NATO bombers, whatever–as appropriate international cops, we’re going to have to be the best kind of such.)

16

Volunteer State 11.02.04 at 4:25 am

Osama bin Laden lives. He has threatened terrorist attacks on any Red State. Will you make peace with this killer? Your vote makes this decision.

Half of this nation supports our President. Yet, half wish “For Peace in our time.” A noble ambition but it did not work for Neville Chamberlain it will not work today. Peace is earned with sacrifice. You cannot negotiate with Osama bin Laden. He must die or be captured.

Give in to Osama bin Laden and some day he may tell you when to rise each day, when to pray, and what you will think. Have the terrorists’ insurgents that kill our soldiers in Iraq threatened our nation on our soil? No, they do not have the men, the material, the strategy, or the funding.

Osama bin Laden evaded our military not because of out sourcing but because he is a superior opponent with the funding and resources to evade the most sophisticated technological fighting force in history. Hitler and Saddam Hussein abused drugs and alcohol. Both were megalomaniacs with psychotic delusions. It took five years to defeat Hitler and over a year to find Saddam. Osama bin Laden does not have these vices and he is not insane. He is just a killer.

This is a World War. It is not Vietnam. We must finish the liberation and restoration of Iraq. Our Military Forces want President Bush to see this through to the end. This is their choice. Will you deny them? Those that have given their life deserve this hard fought peace. And yet what is your reply? Are you on the front line? Your vote must reflect our nations support of winning this War. We cannot and must not change our Commander in Chief.

We should respect the wishes of those that are on the front line. Do the right thing finish and this War. Let those who are fighting and dying have their say. Your vote is your voice.

17

Dubious 11.02.04 at 4:26 am

I would agree that the WMD issue was an enabling condition rather than a motivating condition. That is, the failure of the Saddamite regime to make good faith efforts to comply with the 1991 ceasefire provided a more or less legal pretext. The ‘real’ motivation was one of ‘grand strategy’: to overthrow a despotic Arab regime and to set up a model state, proving that liberal democracy could serve Arab aspirations better than fascist nationalisms or fascist theocracies.

That said, I think the lack of troops assigned was due to Rumsfield and fellow travelers, who wished to show that all this could be done on the cheap, thus
A) making it more palatable to the American voter
B) making the threat more credible to Syria, Libya, etc.

This is one of the failings of the current administration. The other is that they seem to have been determined to hand over a gift-wrapped version of their ideal of what a democratic Iraq should look like.

Realistically, the administration should have shot for a corrupt semi-democracy which abstained from gross violations of human rights and didn’t threaten its neighbors. This would have represented a vast improvement on the status quo.

Instead, they let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

18

Chris Bertram 11.02.04 at 7:26 am

I think people should reflect on the fact that it is just _unimaginable_ that the British Army (which did some very bad things btw) would have called in an _airstrike_ on the Divis Flats in West Belfast if it had discovered an IRA sniper’s location there. Unimaginable.

19

Matt McGrattan 11.02.04 at 7:52 am

Or, for that matter, if they had systematically and indiscriminately bombed large parts of Derry, for example. Declaring that they would stop only when the people of Derry handed over the local representative of the IRA Army Council.

20

bad Jim 11.02.04 at 8:47 am

Personally, I was thrilled that Osama bin Laden could get so thoroughly into the spirit of Halloween in his latest video. The new marketing team is head and shoulders above the old one.

The cave, suitably lighted, might have been spookier, but they’re clearly targeting a more upscale, sophisticated audience, those more threatened by higher marginal tax rates than by creatures from the swamp.

21

Marc Mulholland 11.02.04 at 9:38 am

On the Northern Ireland parallel, it interesting that the US is very clearly flagging its impending assault on Falluja. The British did the same before they re-took the IRA dominated No-Go areas in 1972 (most notably, ‘Free Derry’). The result then was, on the one hand, a very low level of casualties, on the other, IRA volunteers escaped the net.

It may well turn out much the same this time. I don’t think the resistance will seriously try to defend Falluja.

(Operation Motorman – the occupation of ‘No Go’ areas in Northern Ireland – was the first and only use of tanks by the army there; for one day).

22

Marc Mulholland 11.02.04 at 9:39 am

On the Northern Ireland parallel, it interesting that the US is very clearly flagging its impending assault on Falluja. The British did the same before they re-took the IRA dominated No-Go areas in 1972 (most notably, ‘Free Derry’). The result then was, on the one hand, a very low level of casualties, on the other, IRA volunteers escaped the net.

It may well turn out much the same this time. I don’t think the resistance will seriously try to defend Falluja.

(Operation Motorman – the occupation of ‘No Go’ areas in Northern Ireland – was the first and only use of tanks by the army there; for one day).

23

Dan Hardie 11.02.04 at 12:42 pm

Replying briefly to Marc Mulholland: ‘(Operation Motorman – the occupation of ‘No Go’ areas in Northern Ireland – was the first and only use of tanks by the army there; for one day).’

Can I just point out to all concerned that the ‘tanks’ used in Motorman did not repeat not have ammunition for their guns, and therefore did not repeat not fire those guns- which would indeed have posed serious risks to the civilian population of ‘Free Derry’. Instead, the ‘tanks’ were armoured Royal Engineers vehicles – basically bulldozer-style heavy engineering equipment with a lot of armoured plating- deployed not to fire heavy guns at the enemy but to bulldoze aside the barricades erected at the entrances to ‘Free Derry’ and other ‘no-go’ areas.

Starting references for this would be Dewar’s semi-offical works on the Army in NI; I think ‘Pig in the Middle’ by Desmond Hamill also has the relevant info.
As ever, I will donate £50 to charity if anyone can prove me factually wrong on the points above.

24

kevin donoghue 11.02.04 at 1:49 pm

Dan Hardie,

I don’t know whether my memory is worth a £50 donation to charity but FWIW in a good cause (and you can select the cause yourself): the vehicles used were old Centurion tanks with some bulldozing-type attachments on the front. Whether that contradicts your description I will leave to your conscience.

I believe you are right about the substantive point: they were merely intended for the rapid demolition of barricades.

25

Dan Hardie 11.02.04 at 3:41 pm

Quoting my exact words is of courese as hard as hell, because I am unique in having the ability to copy and paste text, but here goes: ‘Can I just point out to all concerned that the ‘tanks’ used in Motorman did not repeat not have ammunition for their guns, and therefore did not repeat not fire those guns- which would indeed have posed serious risks to the civilian population of ‘Free Derry’. Instead, the ‘tanks’ were armoured Royal Engineers vehicles – basically bulldozer-style heavy engineering equipment with a lot of armoured plating- deployed not to fire heavy guns at the enemy but to bulldoze aside the barricades erected at the entrances to ‘Free Derry’ and other ‘no-go’ areas.’

Kevin Donoghue confirms that the ‘tanks’ did not have ammunition for their guns; (possibly did not have guns either, bar machine guns, though I will check this); did not fire their guns, and were used for bulldozing barricades. Kevin helpfully adds ‘I believe you are right about the substantive point’. I ‘believe’ I am right about all the substantive points. Call me naive, but why do you think I need to hand the cash over? If you’re taking any evening classes in basic literacy or reasoning, I may send you a fiver towards the cost.

26

Dan Hardie 11.02.04 at 3:47 pm

Consultation of any reputable print sources, by the way, will confirm my point that ‘Instead, the ‘tanks’ were armoured Royal Engineers vehicles – basically bulldozer-style heavy engineering equipment with a lot of armoured plating-‘.

But without even referring to print, here is the far-from-Brit-friendly British Irish Rights Watch site: ( http://www.birw.org/Daniel%20Hegarty.html )
‘Such an operation would entail bringing in an extra three battalions and a troop of AVRE [Armoured Vehicles Royal Engineers -converted tanks] for Derry and four extra battalions for Belfast.’

If Donoghue is looking for somewhere to send charitable donations, I have an address for the Parachute Regiment Benevolent Fund…

27

Donald Johnson 11.02.04 at 4:02 pm

I remember back when the murder rate in NYC was 2000 per year. Last I checked it was around 600, I think, so that you get a higher bodycount now watching the cop shows nightly instead of the local news.

How’d Dinkins and Giulani accomplish this? (I mention both in the spirit of bipartisanship). What do you think, liberal weenies?
Helicopter gunships and precision weaponry–no, not those 1000-2000 lb bombs that are likely to level entire apartment buildings–we’re not bloodthirsty or we’d have called in the B-52’s–, but the lower yield 500 lb weapons more suited for the needs of an urban police force. Sure, there was collateral damage, but if people insist on living where the criminals are, consider them the criminal’s volunteer human shield protection unit.

Okay, seriously, I have trouble picturing an American politician willingly taking higher American casualties if they can kill as many insurgents with a lower American casualty rate by using the helicopters and jet planes. Which is an argument against humanitarian intervention unless most American parents are willing to send their kids over to risk their lives in that cause.

28

kevin donoghue 11.02.04 at 4:41 pm

Dan Hardie: “Call me naive, but why do you think I need to hand the cash over?”

I don’t. A tank with no ammunition might still be called a tank, but since they didn’t have guns either (according to J. Bowyer Bell who has no obvious reason to lie about this) it seems fair to say they don’t qualify. Unless you think they do of course – that is what I meant by bringing your conscience into it.

I just wanted to extract fifty quid from you for the benefit of some worthy cause. Call me Robin Hood, or whatever.

Basically though, I was confirming your version of events. Is that so annoying?

29

Dan Hardie 11.02.04 at 5:13 pm

Fair enough, Kevin. I like your blog, btw, but maybe you could do something about the colour scheme…

Marc Mulholland, meanwhile, should remember in future that ‘use of tanks’ is a false statement re ‘Operation Motorman’. The AVREs lacked guns and hence didn’t fire them. It is a very big stretch indeed to say they were ‘tanks’. ‘Use of tanks’ implies Budapest 1956, or at least Prague 1968. ‘Use of armoured bulldozers’ or ‘use of tank chassis without tank guns’ would be an accurate phrase, which I trust Mulholland will use in future.

30

jet 11.02.04 at 8:00 pm

Donald Johnson, I think you need a better metaphor than NYC. NYC crime and Falujah are, ah, different in the extreme.

Since this site is full of intelligent, thoughtful, resourceful folks maybe you can help me with something. I’m looking for stories where US forces used airstrikes in areas that hadn’t been ordered to evacuate. I’m interested in stories of Isreally style mid-night bombings on unsuspecting targets and US air strikes in areas not controlled by the insurgents/terrorists.

31

Donald Johnson 11.02.04 at 8:21 pm

I wasn’t really serious about the NYC comparison, Jet, which I thought obvious. One hint comes in the last paragraph, which I began with “Okay, seriously”.

I do think it’s absurd to hold civilians responsible for evacuating themselves so that the US can blow up whatever portion of their town they feel they should. I don’t know who these insurgents are–some are obviously murderous thugs and others are probably Iraqis who just want the Americans out. But they’re all in Iraq, not in the US, and it’s not real clear to me that we Americans have the right to blow foreigners up in their own homes, even if they’re too stubborn to move when we tell them. If we’re in Iraq for their good, then we shouldn’t be using helicopter gunships and bombs in urban areas. Unfortunately that means American troops would have to risk their lives instead. If Americans don’t want Americans soldiers dying in ugly street battles with guerillas, then we shouldn’t be there. If we insist on going around the world doing good, which seems to be the current justification for Iraq, there are ways of doing so that do more good and less harm, I think. A few million kids die each year in Africa, I hear, and we could help most of them (outside Darfur, Uganda, and maybe one or two other places) without shooting anyone.

32

jet 11.02.04 at 8:45 pm

Donald, I think we might share some common ground in that I believe Iraq was not the best solution to our problem. And I certainly think it is highest of hypocracy that there are still people starving in countries that aren’t exceptionally dangerous to distribute food in.

But people are responsible for their governments. The Iraqis were responsible for Saddam. And I do not agree that US soldiers should extend every oppurtunity for civilians to leave an area the US has designated as the next combat zone and then go out of their way to save civilians that chose to remain at added risk to themselves.

And there is nothing absurd about holding civilians responsible for their own evacuation. If the insurgents chose to hide behind the civilians, it is the civilians responsibility to remove themselves from the situation, especially if the US is letting them know what they are about to face.

So there you have my point of view and that of many other people. US soldiers shouldn’t die because knuckle-heads want to save their house. Houses can be rebuilt.

33

jet 11.02.04 at 8:47 pm

Donald, I think we might share some common ground in that I believe invading Iraq was not the best solution to our problem. And I certainly think it is highest of hypocracy that there are still people starving in countries that aren’t exceptionally dangerous to distribute food in.

But people are responsible for their governments. The Iraqis were responsible for Saddam. And I do not agree that US soldiers should extend every oppurtunity for civilians to leave an area the US has designated as the next combat zone and then go out of their way to save civilians that chose to remain at added risk to themselves.

And there is nothing absurd about holding civilians responsible for their own evacuation. If the insurgents chose to hide behind the civilians, it is the civilians responsibility to remove themselves from the situation, especially if the US is letting them know what they are about to face.

So there you have my point of view and that of many other people. US soldiers shouldn’t die because knuckle-heads want to save their house. Houses can be rebuilt.

34

jet 11.02.04 at 8:49 pm

Ye Gads, my first double post. I feel….so…..dirty. I beg a thousand pardons and will promptly whip myself with a wet noodle in repentance.

35

james 11.02.04 at 10:04 pm

Its ironic that Bosnia and Kosovo where chosen as an exemplified example of humanitarian intervention. Especially since both interventions where considered a complete failure when employing only the purely humanitarian intervention espoused. Bosnia is actually an example of why the limited military conflict does not work. Bosnia and Kosovo only turned around when US forces implemented NATO rules of engagement and an air campaign (bombing).

36

John Quiggin 11.02.04 at 11:32 pm

james, “humanitarian” is an objective, not a method. Bombing attacks in the Kosovo campaign were problematic in my view (particularly the TV station bombing, but also misdirected attacks due to poor intelligence). I’m not aware of anything comparable in the case of Bosnia, and I’m certainly not defending the rules of engagement that produced Srebrenica.

But I think it’s clear that, if NATO had bombed Belgrade or Pale in the way that the US is now bombing Fallujah, the campaign would have been a war crime.

37

kevin donoghue 11.03.04 at 12:29 am

There is a point to the above exchanges regarding Operation Motorman which I think needs to be brought out. The difference between Fallujah and Derry (or Londonderry if that’s your prefered version) is not that Yanks are blood-thirsty and Brits are humane. The difference is that the Bogsiders were seen as (troublesome) citizens of the UK. Like them or not, the UK Government would have to deal with them for a long time to come. The British Army wasn’t engaged on a humanitarian intervention in a foreign land. (“UK” stands for United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland.) A big part of the problem in Iraq is that Americans really do not see Iraq as their problem in quite that sense. But they have made it their problem.

If you compare actual conduct, America’s handling of Iraq looks very like Britain’s handling of Iraq between the two World Wars: not enough troops, bomber aircraft employed to show who’s boss.

It didn’t work very well back then. Why should it work any better now?

38

james 11.03.04 at 12:36 am

The bombing campaign used in Bosnia and Kosovo was also called inhuman and a war crime. It was also ultimately successful in end result. Again, it comes back to who pays the price of war. The original article called for higher military casualties / lower civilian. Current US philosophy calls for lower US citizen casualties.

39

Donald Johnson 11.03.04 at 4:41 am

I’d reply to you Jet, but I’m sleepy. Possibly tomorrow, though by then this thread might be dead.

On the bombing of Serbia, which I don’t know much about, there’s no reason why an action can’t be both successful and also a war crime.

40

Dan Hardie 11.03.04 at 12:41 pm

Kevin, I’m with you in saying that ‘Brits good guys- Yanks bad guys’ rhetoric is simplistic. But there does seem to be a lot of evidence that British forces around Basra haven’t had recourse to air strikes or ‘indirect fire’ (mortars and artillery). The line we kept hearing before Sadr kicked off was ‘the Brits have it easier because they’re dealing with Shi’ites’. Hmmm…

Rhetoric aside, there are big differences in the two armies’ doctrine and training, going back before Northern Ireland to the UK counterinsurgency efforts in the Malayan Emergency and Oman, and we shouldn’t ignore them.

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kevin donoghue 11.03.04 at 2:04 pm

Dan, I wouldn’t dispute that the two military cultures are very different. Thankfully I have no first-hand experience of these matters, but from what history I have read the differences may even pre-date the USA. (I’m sure you’ve read Fred Anderson’s Crucible of War, which highlights how alien the redcoat discipline seemed to the colonists in the Seven Years War.)

When I tried to think of a case where the Brits behaved as the Americans are now doing the only one that came to mind was Iraq under the Mandate. Geography is destiny?

The key point is that leaving aside morality and legality, bombing just doesn’t make sense.

I have a theory, which is now about to be tested, that Fallujah won’t be attacked in a serious way on the ground. A compromise will be hatched. I know the CW is against me on this but I expect to see, within the next few weeks, a Crooked Timber post asking whether the bombing was just an election stunt.

That’s how cynical I am.

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Dan Hardie 11.03.04 at 2:32 pm

Nope, Kevin, haven’t read ‘Crucible of war’. Should have done but haven’t.

You might just be right about Fallujah, although we’ll see major ground fighting somewhere in Iraq in the next couple of months. In Fallujah, I’m hoping most of the bad guys run before the US troops get there, thus minimising casualties, but I’m sure there will be big ground fighting somewhere in Iraq in the next couple of months. I suspect a key factor in Fallujah will be if the rebels have managed to store enough drinking water, or have access to wells etc. If they haven’t, their supplies have been cut off for about a month now and they can’t keep going much longer.

I will make one prediction: if the US either bombs Iranian nuclear facilities itself, or if Israel does so, the Shi’ite areas of Iraq will go up in smoke- a proper rebellion.

I just say these things to cheer myself up…

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