Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Study War More -- Please

Last week, a co-worker opined out loud, "We defeated Hitler without waterboarding; why can't we survive without it now?" It's the kind of thing that gets said all the time around here, not as an honest question but as something that is expected to be greeted with nods and rumbles of assent. I must have been tetchy because I actually turned around and answered it.

"Because we bombed the living shit out of everything in Germany. We didn't care about specific information. If U.S. troops took fire from a town, they pulled back, called in the artillery, and blew it to smithereens, citizens and all, and moved on. We didn't torture POWs, but sometimes we shot them to spare ourselves the trouble of transporting them."

Honestly, just go and be a pacifist. It's an honest profession. You can fight this kind of war or you can fight that kind of war, but you can't have a war that doesn't force you into awful dilemmas and choices between one kind of immoral act or another that will haunt your national conscience.

What if, instead of terror-bombing German cities from the skies and killing hundreds of thousands of old men, women and children, we had concentrated on getting Hitler: Had used the British and American air forces to try to catch him out in the open or traveling between safe havens. That would have been better, right? That would have been more humane than carpeting German cities with brimstone.

Well, that would have depended on specific, timely, accurate information, getting it fast and acting on it at once, without verification. And what sorts of things do you think would have been done to get it?