The Immorality of a "Compassionate War" on Terrorism
By Elan Journo and Stephen Siek (Capitalism Magazine, October 23, 2001)
For nearly a month, the American people waited patiently for our government to retaliate against the perpetrators of the September 11 atrocities. Now that the military campaign has finally begun, it is clear what the Bush administration meant by calling this a "compassionate war." In this war, America's rational self-interest is being subordinated to Christian mercy. Such an absurd love-thy-neighbor war will not safeguard us from the threats we face.
On the first day of bombing Afghan military targets, our Air Force was busy delivering charity food packages stamped "This food is a gift from the United States of America." We have already lavished on the Afghans more than 450,000 aid packages. Not only is such alms-giving expensive (the President has pledged $320 million worth of food and medicine), but it also betrays an obscene inversion of morality. Who, in 1941, would have countenanced parachuting in bread and medicines to the people of Hitler's Germany? Our mission then--as it ought to be today--was to vanquish the enemy at all costs. But to the Bush administration, Christian charity toward Afghanis is apparently more important than achieving a swift and just victory.
The policy of dispersing food over hostile terrain--before the enemy has been eliminated--would once have been condemned as treason. Intermingled among the very "innocents" whom President Bush wishes to aid are legions of Taliban militiamen, including 10,000 Al Qaeda terrorists-in-training. Whether the terrorists consume our food, feed it to their livestock, or burn it for warmth, American taxpayers are providing succor to people bent on annihilating us.
Our soldiers, moreover, are risking their lives to provide that succor. Although our large C-17 cargo jets fly well above the Afghans' anti-aircraft batteries, Air Force officials admit that the planes require armed escorts. Indeed, the first-day assault was directed at neutralizing ground weaponry that might have threatened the food drops.
A consequence of this "compassionate war" is that our military is given contradictory instructions--both to fight and not to fight. Although President Bush has averred that our mission is to "smoke out" the terrorist "evil-doers," on Oct. 12 our bombing raids were suspended in deference to a Muslim holy day. As the bombardments resumed, Secretary of State Colin Powell was voicing assurances that America will help rebuild Afghanistan. (Who will help rebuild New York City?)
As the Air Force increased its bombardments, we also dropped 500,000 apologetic leaflets informing the Afghans that we are "here to help." (Powell has already indicated that he wants to end the fighting by November, not because he expects victory, but in deference to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.) Our soldiers are asked to pull their punches, to drop bombs ever so gingerly, lest some "innocents" be harmed. The longer we dither with "surgical" bombing--coupled with apologies--the more we demoralize our soldiers, and the longer we put them in danger.
What motivates this desire to appease the Afghan people?
Christian morality considers the weak, not the strong--the needy, not the producers--as morally virtuous. Implicitly, President Bush accepts that America's greatness--our wealth and freedom--is a scarlet letter, an emblem of our "sin" of success. Our attempts to ingratiate ourselves with the Afghans, to impress them with our charity, to win their approval--all bespeak an abject, unwarranted humility. Observe how at every opportunity President Bush declares that "we are friends of the Afghan people"--and note the tone of self-abasement in his voice.
Only a mentality that lives by Christian "hope" could consider a war fought on such self-sacrificial terms to be practical. Even if we uproot terrorist networks in the Middle East, and even if we eliminate bin Laden, new murderers will come to the fore. As is evidenced by the recent riots in Pakistan and in Gaza, anti-Americanism is rife in the Islamic world. Our conduct in this war invites future aggression: our softly-softly approach tells the world--especially our enemies--that America is a pitifully indecisive giant willing to compromise any value--even its own defense. (The Taliban soldiers are reading the signals: it was reported that they are no longer sleeping in their barracks, and have moved into mosques, because there they know they are safe from our bombs.)
No war can be won unless the nation waging it is unequivocally committed to the righteousness and success of its cause. America must make its rational self-interest our paramount consideration. We must stop putting mercy above justice, charity above self-defense, the lives of foreigners above those of Americans. We must fight to win, as quickly as possible, and by any means necessary. Only a war fought on these terms will wipe out the current menace and strike the requisite fear in the hearts of terrorists.
Stephen Siek, professor of music at Wittenberg University, is a guest writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. Elan Journo is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.
The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
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