Tuesday, April 08, 2003

COUNTING THE COSTS: When this war began, a friend of mine pitied the Iraqi children who would have to live through it, as did I, but unlike me, her solution to that horror was "peace," by which she meant stasis, doing nothing. But when the world keeps moving around you, just standing still isn't an option without danger or moral consequences. What do those who advocated "peace" -- doing nothing -- say to the 150 children the Marines freed from a Baghdad prison, who "had been imprisoned because they had not joined the youth branch of the Baath party ... Some of these kids had been in there for five years"? (Link via Common Sense and Wonder) Stasis would have meant their rotting away a few more years of childhood; action has meant their liberation. Of course our primary reason for this war is to destroy an openly hostile, terrorist-supporting state, not freeing children from Saddam's prisons. But it's a nice benefit, don't you think -- or is the horror of living through a war so great that these children would have been better off spending the rest of their lives in prison? Not that the moral calculus is that simple, between living through war and rotting prison. The cost of freeing those particular children has been the deaths of many other children, from babies to adolescents, some killed quickly, some killed slowly, some horribly maimed for the rest of their lives. We can't ever forget that. And it's worth wondering how we would react if we saw one of our little ones torn apart by shrapnel or, worse, horribly burned and left to linger in agony for days or weeks. Maybe I would go mad, and maybe would become fervently antiwar, because I don't see how what little capacity for objective reasoning I have could survive that shock of subjective experience. Those who have suffered so much can be forgiven for their inability to see the world through the eyes of reason. But those of us who haven't suffered that much don't have that excuse. If we are capable of reason, we have to use it, and if we use it, we have to conclude that the blame for most human suffering, however horrible, lays with evil men, not with the good men who try to stop them. "But that kid wouldn't be dead if we hadn't gone to war." No, that kid wouldn't be dead if Saddam hadn't created a terrorist regime that threatened death and destruction to millions. If we're capable of reason, we have to do what those who shout "peace" in the face of any threat to our way of life never do: count the costs of action and inaction, weigh them, and make a reasoned moral judgment about what to do. And then pray that we've made a wise choice.

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