I’m about to say (as the song goes) a bad bad thing.
When a national government is faced with an attacker of overwhelming force, in an all-but-certain war, leading in all probability to enormous suffering, death, and devastation in their nation, and most likely an eventual loss…
capitulation is morally defensible and perhaps morally obligatory; and failure to do so is morally condemnable.
To say this, is a bad bad thing: because it goes against endless centuries of praise for valor against overwhelming odds, courage in the face of defeat, “never say die,” “we will fight them on the beaches, in the alleys, etc,” VIVE LA RESISTANCE!, contempt for Neville Chamberlain, “free the captive nations!”–and almost every war movie ever made.
And it’s arguably true that the individual person who fights to the death against what he/she regards as something intolerable deserves honor.
The question is, How admirable is it to require thousands, or even millions, of one’s subject citizens to fight to the death in a war of resistance that will almost surely end in defeat?
It is objectively impossible for Iraq to defeat the United States in the case of an all-out military invasion. True, they can go down in such a manner as to inflict tremendous damage, and maybe pull down the whole middle east with them. And if this were to be a gradually escalated, half-hearted war of foreign policy, it might well be possible to inflict such pain and cost that the whole project will be abandoned.
But within, say, the first 48 hours, it will be very clear what kind of operation this is to be. What sort of morality thinks it’s OK, and even praiseworthy, for Saddam to send wave after wave into the meatgrinder just to save face, or in the cause of “national honor,” a natural sentiment of such vagueness that it is easily turned to dishonorable and irrational ends?
I hear, quite properly, loud and frantic debates about the US plan, its justification, its morality. That’s right, and necessary.
But I often hear things like, “Saddam is a corrupt, odious dictator; but we shouldn’t inflict on his people…etc etc”
Maybe we shouldn’t. But does the fact that we (arguably) bear the prime culpability (if culpability it be) as the initiator of the situation thereby render Saddam morally innocent?
In moral terms–disregarding the politics and pragmatics–shouldn’t those opposed to the US policy NEVERTHELESS comdemn Saddam for refusing to “just give in”?
–because I fear some opponents of our policy, those most verbally solicitous of the abused Iraqi people (and I wholly agree that they are indeed abused, and by all sides), are in fact USING those same people as “cannon fodder” to turn (what might be) a misguided US policy into a human catastrophe.
Couldn’t Saddam and his minions just step down for the good of his country? Couldn’t there be such a thing as occupation without war? Shouldn’t the peace moralists be marching for THAT now and then?
The police do say: For the good of your family, when the bandit pulls out a gun–don’t resist!