Yes, Killing Innocent People Is Kind of Frowned Upon, But What’s the Alternative?

Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

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10 Responses

  1. Liberty60 says:

    I’m afraid we won’t have a discussion about drones until AQ obtains them and we start seeing them rain down on San Diego and Omaha.

    Then of course they will be cowardly weapons of mass destruction.Report

  2. KatherineMW says:

    The alternative? The alternative is that we accept the possibility that ending drone strikes may (or may not, if ceasing drone strikes and foreign wars decreases terrorist recruitment) marginally increase the threat of terrorism. The alternative is that we think seriously about whether a hypothetical American life really outweighs an innocent life overseas.

    Sadly, nobody seems interested in doing that. I can actually see where this comes from: I’m current in a graduate-level International Affairs programs, and the assumptions underlying the piece are the same one’s we’re taught. A core assumed objective of foreign policy is to maximize domestic security. One of the rare times we discussed ethics in a class, I was taught that the security of the state was the primary moral imperative of a state’s foreign policy, because if there were no states, everyone would be far worse off (sort of a combination of Hobbes and the “go to Somalia if you don’t like it” argument). Thus, if you believe that killing off more members of Al Qaeda makes America safer, the only question is “how should we do it?”, not “should we do it?”. It’s perfectly plausible that, within government circles, this kind of thinking is so ingrained that they don’t even think about “lives of people who aren’t citizens or residents” as anything other than a secondary or tertiary objective, something to try to minimize provided all other objectives (e.g., “eliminate the ability to Al-Qaeda to function through elimination of its personnel”) have been achieved.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to KatherineMW says:

      “The alternative is that we think seriously about whether a hypothetical American life really outweighs an innocent life overseas”

      You should actually prefer the system be that way. Totes serious.

      If American (or anyone else’s) foreign policy is predicated on the assumption that every person in the world has equal standing in the eyes of the American government, then the logical conclusion is the American government should do everything to ensure the rights and privileges of anyone in the world are equalized.

      In other words, it would no longer be enough to say ‘let’s stop drone strikes in Warizistan’ – which one can easily justify even under a “Americans first” policy. The necessary condition would be ‘let’s make sure they have Obamacare and are recognizing gay marriage in Warizistan’ – which is going to take a whole lot more drone strikes.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Kolohe says:

        I’m quite willing to deal with sins of commission first, and deal with the sins of omission in order of priority. The latter means that we focus on saving lives in places where we can do so without taking lives; once all of those potential lives are saved, and nobody is dying of hunger or preventable disease in places that aren’t conflict zones, we can discuss the ethics of humanitarian intervention.

        I don’t see how “don’t kill innocents in Waziristan” logically leads to “kill more innocents in Waziristan so we can enforce our policies on them”. There are plenty of ways to save non-American lives that don’t require military action.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to KatherineMW says:

          Most everyone in the world that’s dying of hunger and preventable disease is in a conflict zone.Report

        • Kolohe in reply to KatherineMW says:

          And if the moral imperative to do something affirmative to help people in the name of liberal social justice was not there, we would not have a drug war. A sin of commission right here on US citizens and residents.

          (Yes, the drug war has a mostly a conservative impetus. But it’s the liberal that so scared that someone somewhere may make a profit of a drug transaction that provides the margin of the status quo these days)Report

  3. mclaren says:

    You have to understand that this is the sick twisted nation of America you’re talking about. The alternative is slow torture.

    As a nation of cowardly sadistic bully-worshipers, Americans dote on torture and genocide. Nothing brings an American to his feet with his hand over his heart reciting the pledge of allegiance more than the sight of a strapping 250-pound man beating up a defenseless child. Your typical Americano lacks the courage to rape an underage girl, but will eagerly hold her down for someone else to rape. This is the nation, after all, built on the genocide of the native American indian, a nation that started using waterboarding not in the 1970s in Vietnam but in 1902 during the Philippine campaign (where waterboarding was known joshingly as “the water cure”).Report