March 19, 2003

JOSH MARSHALL IS WORRIED that we won't kill enough Iraqis to ensure a stable postwar environment:

Not only did millions of Japanese and Germans die in World War II, but U.S. and British aerial bombing of major Japanese and German cities alone killed hundreds of thousands of civilians in what is now delicately termed “collateral damage.” And that’s not even counting the carnage caused by the atomic bombs we. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the final days of the war against Japan. . . .

Violence, death and destruction on such a massive scale have a profound conditioning effect on the psyches of individuals. And the same applies to whole nations. Japan and Germany weren’t just ‘defeated’ or ‘occupied,’ they were crushed — not just their armies, but their civilian populations too. This led to a sort of national humiliation and a transformative willingness to embrace defeat and change.

True defeat changes people and nations too. The fact that our subsequent occupation turned out to be so benign was extremely important. But part of that importance was the contrast between how much these populations had suffered during the war and how much better things got for them after we took over.

And thus our problem. If everything goes according to plan, the loss of civilian life in Iraq will be minimal.

Not that Josh wants people to die, he just thinks it has a valuable pedagogical function. I think, though, that the past twelve years of sanctions and Saddamo-tyranny has been bad enough to produce the contrast that he's writing about. Let's hope. Anyway, first we have to, you know, win the war.

UPDATE: Read this post by Donald Sensing from last year.