Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I'm not a pacifist, actually

Serwer responds.

I believe (?) Serwer is ultimately agreeing that his position is that members of Al Qaeda deserve neither rights as soldiers nor rights as criminals, which I just find inconsistent with a belief in universal human rights. There's a lot you could say, but the crux of it is this, I guess:
DeBoer takes the approach that even if the killing were consistent with the law, it doesn't matter because he believes there are no circumstances in which the government is justified in killing anyone. I don't take that view, and I particularly don't take the view that American service members are just "the government" and so cannot act in their own defense while those who are trying to kill them are part of the unbreakable circle of life. 
Not true. I'm not, actually, a pacifist myself. I am protective of pacifists and frequently convinced that the are better people than I. I maintain a belief that any liberal claiming that the defense of torture is the moral equivalent of pacifism is, frankly, dangerously deluded. I also think that the refusal to stand with people like radical pacifists is a symptom of precisely why the American left is toothless. Mainstream liberals capitulate and capitulate and capitulate to the right wing in moving the center-- and the extremes define the center-- and then find it difficult to enact the policy platforms they want when the American mainstream is too far to the right. Forget about whether this is more liberal or less; as a matter of practical success, it's a disaster. And it teaches young leftists everywhere that whatever else is true, their movement counterparts won't stick up for them.

I don't know if the killing of bin Laden was legal or not. What I do know is that criminals should be captured with nonlethal force whenever that is possible and given fair and public trials to determine their guilt. If a drug dealer starts shooting at the cops, they have a right to use lethal force to subdue him. They don't have the right to burst into his home, kill many unarmed people, and shoot him despite the fact that he was unarmed, elderly, and sick. So tell me: is a situation like the one that our best available evidence tells us occurred in Abbottabad a situation where a reasonable attempt was made to use nonlethal force? It's hard to tell, given that the people responsible for the raid keep lying about it. But I don't find the idea that such an attempt was made even minimally convincing, given the facts, and many are saying plainly that this was simply a kill mission.

I suppose we'll just have to remain in the dark when it comes to whether the Obama administration and the team that raided made a reasonable effort to apprehend bin Laden without killing him. It seens clear to me, though, that if they didn't (there are elections to think of, after all) then bin Laden's killing was inconsistent with the legal framework for fighting terrorism, and in my opinion, a moral lapse.


paul said...

Radical pacifism really is indefensible though, I think, at least in any sort of non-individualist framework.

I'm not so sure why it would behoove the left to defend such people (though others on the extreme left, such as yourself, aren't necessarily so bad). It's not a 'Sister Souljah' thing, I don't think.

seabe said...

Freddie, I actually held contempt for people calling this an assassination when it first happened (given the facts at the time).

Now I believe that it was an assassination, and could have been illegal. However, a colleague of mine presented this argument, and I found it interesting (I don't know if I agree with him or not, though):

Given the ROE options available to the SEALs, and the scenarios they had to consider, I think they acted appropriately. I've had time to think about this and that's my conclusion.

Capturing Osama bin Laden and putting the fucker on trial is the liberal ideal, but I think Chomsky and Moore forget the nature of the war we're in (and frankly, so did I when I originally heard he was unarmed). There was a very real scenario that the SEALs and the op commanders had to consider when executing the mission: whether OBL had a suicide bomb vest on him by the time he could be neutralized in some fashion. If he had that handy in the "mansion", it's likely he could have assessed his end was looming and he probably wanted to go out with a bang. Thus, the SEALs were instructed (from what I've gleaned) to accept bin Laden's surrender ONLY if they could immediately assess the man was not a threat in anyway. For that to happen... he pretty much would had to have been naked.

And appealing to this scenario isn't really fear mongering since it has precedent. When Abu Ayyub Al-Masri of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was killed, a suicide vest was found on him. Iraqi troops considered the possibility he had one too, hence why they called in helicopter strikes prior.

“The Iraqi officer said Iraqi troops surrounded the safehouse and a firefight began with those inside. Iraqi forces then radioed American helicopters, which fired missiles at the house and the shooting from inside stopped, the officer said.

Iraqi forces had been hesitant to storm the house because they had heard al-Masri might be wearing a suicide vest, he said.

Once the shooting stopped, they went inside and found two women still alive — one was al-Masri's wife — and four dead men who have been identified as al-Masri, his assistant, al-Baghdadi and al-Baghdadi's son. A suicide vest was found on al-Masri's corpse, the officer said.”


Now consider that the President and other staff wanted the OBL mission optimized for maximizing the likelihood that they would obtain evidence of bin Laden's death, which I agree was an important consideration. That means airstrikes were out.

Then consider the scenario where the 1) SEALs failed to secure his capture in time and 2) OBL did get hold of a suicide vest, and— well, it would have been an utter disaster. OBL going out in a blaze of martyrdom and taking out an elite U.S. special forces team with him... jesus, that would have destroyed the Obama presidency, emboldened the wingnuts, and emboldened al-Qaeda to an unprecedented degree. What a goddamn nightmare.

Jeff said...

Freddie, I found your blog via Greenwald's Twitter stream, and I'm so glad I did because I agree with basically everything you've been saying on this issue.

I don't see any way for the OBL raid/assassination to be legal that doesn't make a military takedown of Timothy McVeigh or an Al Qaeda hit on Obama legal as well.

I wonder, if an American citizen directed terror attacks on, say, a German subway system, would these people also support the KSK conducting a covert raid on our soil to assassinate the American terrorist without US government approval? I sincerely doubt it.

Anonymous said...

"I also think that the refusal to stand with people like radical pacifists is a symptom of precisely why the American left is toothless."

Are you a naive child or something? Why should people on the left who do not believe in pacifism have to stand with the radical pacifists? Because they are "on our side" on the left? What kind of simple-minded partisanship is this?

I guess accordin to you, everyone on the left should support the things they disagree with in order to defeat the right. The substance of the matter is irrelevant, the only thing that matter is moving the consensus "leftward". Of course, "leftward" in this case as fitting your personal definition of left. It's not a freaking Sister Souldjah momemnt. Is it so inconceivable to your mind that many people on the left are not pacifists? Jesus. A more mindless partisan I have never met in the leftist blogosphere.

Freddie said...

But, of course, none of that is what I believe, Anonymouse.

Anonymous said...

How is "capture but don't kill Osama bin Laden" a leftist position? Is there any concrete advantage in defending it, other than the intangible satisfaction of augmenting the speakable?

I would suggest that a more stable, properly ideological leftist position at this particular moment would hold that we don't mourn dead American troops. (I don't.)

Freddie said...

Well, it doesn't matter much now. Let be.

ovaut said...

As Holbo writes: Because liberalism suffers from this paradoxical tendency to self-betray, a healthy liberal is one who dialectically tacks and trims, in pursuit of liberty, between extremes of illiberal arch-rationalism and anti-rationalism.