I'm linked in Reason.com


Unfortunately Brian Doherty spends a lot of his post on an odd (although in retrospect, I guess understandable?) claim about me.

The post was this:

"It's amazing to me how many people think a crazy person targeting kindergartners is comparable to the military targeting al Qaeda affiliates

You are welcome to be angry about a policy you don't agree with and you are welcome even to call its ethics into question. You are welcome to mourn the (dramatically fewer) innocent victims of drone attacks.

But to talk about these two things as if they're equivalent is something I find horrific."

So he took "(dramatically fewer)" to mean fewer than the deaths at Sandy Hook. I suppose in retrospect I can see someone reading it that way, but I've blogged a lot on here before about how drone warfare kills fewer innocent people than conventional warfare so I assumed my readers would be thinking in those terms. On top of that, I just can't imagine anyone would actually think that drone warfare killed fewer innocents than Sandy Hook! It seems implausible on its face and it could have been easily cleared up. What I find most funny is that when I've talked about this issue in the past I've cited many of the sources that Doherty cites on civilian casualty statistics!

Anyway - the post Doherty links to is now updated so no one else is confused.

[UPDATE: Wow! Everybody seems taken in by this "dramatically fewer" thing! Let me spell this out - Doherty was perfectly sensible to read it the way he did, and that's something I unfortunately realized after he pointed it out, and not before I posted. Unfortunately, it's not at all reflective of what I think, so hopefully that's clear now. I didn't even realize people argued such a thing. Look people, drones are far more humane and efficient than conventional warfare, but it's still a bloody and imperfect business. Nobody should have any illusions about that. So we're on the same page: the really important issues come below this update!]

This was interesting:

"As far as motive for Sandy Hook, we all seem to agree there was none other than a desire, for whatever reasons, to murder a bunch of helpless strangers, including children. That is a big difference. But is it enough to inspire horror that someone who objects to murder of innocents in general might find them similar in that respect?"

Obviously it does! I was horrified by it after all and I object to "murder of innocents in general"!!! Equating wanting to kill children with not wanting to kill children is something that Doherty agrees is a "big difference" (I'll say!). As far as I can tell someone who does not recognize that big difference is bordering on sociopathic behavior. If you have no moral compass that differentiates wanting to kill someone from not wanting to kill someone I find that horrific. I can't imagine what other reaction there could be to that sort of thing.

He goes on (after noting that this is politicizing the tragedy):

"Indeed, the very reason why those opposed to U.S. drone strikes might feel it necessary to make that analogy that horrified Kuehn (and as I noted would undoubtedly horrify most Americans, if they'd heard it) is the very reason that it horrifies him: that people opposed to drone strikes find it very difficult to get their fellow Americans to understand that there might be something horrific and evil about a policy that murders children with bombs from the air, and that a moment where they are mourning and hating a crime involving someone murdering well over a dozen children with guns might be a moment they are open to understanding this; perhaps more so when they consider that unlike the one-time horror of Sandy Hook, with a dead perpetrator, this policy and practice is ongoing and may well result in more dead children."

Wow. OK, so now Doherty is doing the exact same thing. You don't have to convince me that "murdering children" is bad. That's my whole point. I'm already quite adamant on the point that murdering children is bad. I was quite adamant on that point before I even knew who Brian Doherty was. You have to convince me that we should change what it is to "murder" to fit the political point you're trying to make.

Lots of innocents get killed in war. This is why we should have much less war. It's as simple as that. This is why I've been advocating the end of the Iraq war for years (well, since 2003! but of course I haven't been blogging that long!). It's why recently I've been noting that we are probably done or close to done with the good we can do in Afghanistan (it's hard for me to be declarative on this because I don't have the facts on the ground). Indeed, this is exactly why I've said that it's good that the war on terrorism is transitioning from a conventional to a drone war. It kills less Americans and it kills less innocent non-Americans than conventional war. How could I not support that?

The problem that Doherty skirts around is we have twin evils, of course. There is collateral damage from war and that's bad (but certainly not murder), and we have the evil of terrorists and totalitarian Islamist governments. The trade-off between those two is quite difficult - much more difficult than Doherty is suggesting. A step in the right direction, in my mind, is moving forward in a way that reduces the first evil while still combating the second. I can't imagine how that could be controversial or suspect.

As far as I know I've never suggested that Brian Doherty needs to be convinced that terrorism or totalitarianism are bad, and that gender equality and liberty are good.

I wish he'd extend the same courtesy to me. Instead he thinks he needs to convince me that murdering children is a bad thing.

Nonsense, Brian. I don't need you to tell me that.