Tuesday, November 16, 2004

De Bello

Lauren links to this post in partial response to my post here. (You guys get that?)
I have replied in her comments box, but thing it worthwhile to repeat the substance (slightly expanded)of my remarks:

I was not supportive of the decision to enter Iraqi when and how the Americans and Brits did. I am not sad to see Saddam gone and I do think that many of the other Western powers could and should have taken a more hawkish stance against him. However, that does not mean that I am in favour of a withdrawal at this time. There is a de facto state of war/rebellion in Iraq and there are American and British troops involved. To withdraw or to fail to defend the Iraqi government would be wrong. Now that the troops are there, they have their mission and the Americans, British et al have their responsabilities.
The action of several nations to withdraw from Iraq (particularly under pressure from terrorists) strikes me a cowardly and sinful.
I don't know how the American media is reporting Fallujah, but they have a duty to do so responably - neither obscuring the truth nor needlessly undermining the morale of the troops and the American people. The main issue, from a news point of view, should indeed be how the action is proceding as a military operation without neglecting the conduct of the troops involved.
Lauren, it may seem that the American troops are coming under a lot of criticism. This may be so. The level of criticism may be excessive or unjust. I simply don't know. However, from my point of view, I hold it to be essential that the troops behave honourably and with due restraint. This is because we expect the soldiers of a Western democratic nation to behave with integrity. We hold the Americans and British to high standards because we expect to be able to respect them. It is a compliment. It is based on their honourable behaviour in several previous conflicts. We do not expect them to regress to the level of the undisciplined terrorists they have to face. To do that, to behave less than honourably, to compromise integrity, to sacrifice discipline and justice because of the brutalality of one's enemies is a form of defeat. A just cause pursued in an unjust manner is no just cause at all.
I think it probable that there will be a Western presence in Iraq for the next few years - a quick withdrawal does not seem to be an option, even when 'peace' has been restored. The Allies are (whether they like it or not) likely to be there for the long haul. Pragmatically speaking, the only way they are going to achive genuine success is if they behave with firm restraint and in accordance with all that is good and honourable in the military tradition.
Jon says: Don't forget that the purpose of an army is to secure victory, kill people, and break things. I would put it differently - I would say that an army serves its country in doing things that we civilians have neither the strenght or courage to do ourselves. In doing those things, they can either comport them honourably or behave like beasts. (Recall how the unreasonable behaviour of the British army played a part in provoking the American War of Independence) If the civilian population cannot rely on the army to behave honourably, then they will inevitably be treated with fear and/or contempt. If this happens, everyone loses.
(Of course, this places a huge onus on journalists too - their service to the truth demands that the troops are not unfairly maligned.)

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