Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Bloody Arithmetic

The completely predictable reaction to the Paris attacks shows how successful terrorists can be at influencing those who are already prone to fear "others."

More Americans have died by gun violence in the last week than died in the Paris attacks.  If it was simply about the loss of life, then we would respond to the crisis of violence in America with the same sort of sweeping generalities and oppressive measure assholes like Donald Trump are throwing about.  He wants to close the mosques.  How many Muslims have committed acts of terrorism since 9/11?  How many White Christian Nationalists have?

If it was just about the number of people killed, the Paris attacks don't measure up.  It is precisely because they came from out of the blue that makes them scary.  And it is the fear that IS is depending on.  They are losing ground in Syria.  They are unpopular across the Muslim world.  They WANT a conflict of civilizations.  That's why they attacked Paris.

Similarly, if we assume that these radical takfiri groups can carry out a mass casualty event every four or five years, how many soldiers lives is that worth?

If the solution is to invade Syria, how many NATO soldiers die?  Are their lives somehow less valuable than the people who died in Syria?  I legitimately ask the question, because it's tricky.  They did - to a degree - volunteer to risk their lives.  But how many dead soldiers is it worth to defeat IS?

More Americans died in Iraq than on 9/11.  That wrought zero net positive change to the region.  Leaving aside the tens of thousands of injured, how do we reconcile the number of dead Americans in Iraq with the dead on 9/11?  Which was worse?

I've said for the last few years that Syria can't be our problem.  IS is trying to make it our problem.  While I am not reflexively opposed to going to war - real war - with them, because they really are that evil, I think we need to reflect on what those costs must be.

What is the value of each life lost?

UPDATE: If we do feel forced to escalate, this letter encapsulates my thinking:

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