Sunday, November 15, 2015

Rational Reaction to Paris: Should We Bomb the Bombers, Kill the Killers?

Are we bombing the bombers, killing the killers, or blowing up their children? if we
kill (some of) the right people, are collateral kids okay? Parents might say no.

When a terrorist attack happens -- as bad as Paris is, these attacks are rare -- even the rational and the humane have thoughts of retribution, revenge, retaliation. On a human basis, such thoughts are cruel, crude, even if justified.

But rationally speaking -- avoiding the moral considerations -- are such reactions effective? Can we reduce terrorism by inflicting terror and death in response? A Daily Kos diary, reacting to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last January, was republished in light of the latest Paris attacks that cut to the heart of the matter:
(1) Well, in the wake of a terror attack, Step One is to forget about "the score" completely ...
Whenever some notorious rapist is caught, exactly 100 percent of the conversations or Internet comment sections about the subject will say, 'I hope he gets raped in prison!'

See, because that would “even the score.” But even five seconds' consideration demonstrates how monstrous that idea is: “rape is awesome, as long as it's targeted toward people who deserve it!” No, the cruel reality is that if that guy gets raped, the score isn't: Rapist 1, Society 1.

It's: Rape 2, Society 0 ...
That math is stark but to the point. Extend it to the children -- common collateral victims in this "war" on terror -- and the math doesn't get more acceptable:
So the next time you turn on the news and see that terrorists have blown up 10 children with a car bomb, that's the first step: Realize that the scoreboard lies. It will tell you that winning the game means dropping bombs that you know full well will splatter ten times as many children as collateral damage. The score — the real score — would then be:
Violence Against Children 110, Humanity 0
But we have to do something! We're not hippies, peaceniks, we're Americans! But...
Our knee-jerk, bomb-dropping reflex is our weakness. They are trying to exploit it, because retaliation bombings are how they recruit more terrorists to their side. And please note that when I talk about their “side,” I'm not talking about Islam, or even Islamic terrorism. Their “side” is what I'm going to henceforth call Team Violence ... The bully doesn't fight because he wants to win; he fights because he wants a world in which everything is resolved by fighting (note: The bully himself doesn't realize this). It doesn't matter if he loses — the moment you chose to fight, his side already won, and the world becomes more like the world he wants to live in ...

In other words, “We can't beat them, unless we become more like them.” It's like a doctor telling you he's going to get rid of your tumor by growing a bigger, meaner tumor next to it. Even if it works, Team Cancer wins, and you just fell for a scam that has been tripping up humanity for 200,000 years or so.
Which team do you want to be part of? Do you say, "I'm humane, a person of peace, but this time they've gone too far. I have no choice but to support the bombing, the killing. We have to stop them." I've been swayed over the years by favorite blogger Atrios, who coined the term DFH -- dirty fucking hippies -- that opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning (and many other wars like Vietnam). Here's Atrios responding to Paris:

What Would You Do, Hippies?

I've seen some version of this question around the internet a few times over the last couple of days, mostly from conservatives but also from "hawkish liberals." As always the point is that there are bad and violent people out there in the world, so if we're not going to blow them up and arm everybody who might be inclined to blow them up, also, too, then you got nothing, do you, hippie?

No simple cause and effect with these things, ever, but we've been blowing people up and arming other people to blow people up and toppling governments and siding with the "moderate rebels" and then siding with the new moderate rebels and then the new new moderate rebels and then sometimes reconsidering and siding with the people the new new moderate rebels were attacking because those moderate rebels suddenly didn't seem too moderate anymore. Hey, where did all of those weapons go? Better send some more! Also, too, more training.

It's horrible when a lot of people get killed. Sometimes we see that, sometimes we don't.

As for what the hippies would do? Probably not quite so much blowing up. Might not work, but the blowing up isn't working too well either.
Yes, the blowing up isn't working too well either. I suppose that's called understatement.

Finally, I go back to Daily Kos and something that Marcos Moulitsas -- the "Kos" of Daily Kos -- said quite awhile back when responding to hate email from self-professed Christians whose Christianity was highly suspect, to say the least. I can't find a link to his commentary, but it came down to this: It's hard to recognize the Jesus many American Christians seem to follow. Kos called this the "bad-ass Jesus."

Sorry, but there's no bad-ass Jesus, no matter how much vengeance you wish to see rained down on the world. There's only Jesus, the one who says to turn the other cheek.

Yes, I'm a humanist who doesn't need a god or a messiah to guide my journey through this world. But for my conventional Christian friends -- who make up much of the West, also known as the "Free World" -- I offer that bombing the bombers and killing the killers doesn't help anything beyond soothing our angry souls. But the violence remains.

Yes, find the killers, go for justice, as a police action. But all-out war on the bad guys? That's the blockbuster, comic-book, fuck-yeah! approach to solving the world. Don't for a minute think that it's really solving anything, as hard as restraint can be in the face of such mindless violence as we saw in Paris. Let the police do their work and go out for a café au lait or glass of wine on a Friday night, just as the Parisians are wont to do.

Live. And remember that what we should be killing, what we should be blowing up, is despair, alienation, poverty. Killing terrorists breeds terrorists (Who doesn't know that by now?!). Killing despair breeds hope, so let's do that.

So sorry, but this is what bombing does.

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