Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Ummah's Answer To Harry Truman

Via Catallarchy, an interesting comment about the relative merits of murder in contests where the ends justify the means:
As President of the United States, Harry Truman ordered the deployment of two atomic bombs on civilian targets. Thousands of men, women, and children were incinerated instantly, turned into organic ash where they stood. ...

My view is the direct opposite of what they teach in government run schools. They teach that Truman’s action was a heroic choice that saved many American lives. With a similar line of reasoning, a friend of mine argued that the massacre of civilians during war may be justified if the reward is high enough. He hesitated to make a judgment in the particular case of Harry Truman’s wartime actions. According to him, the good of saving American troops at least partially offset the evil of incinerating Japanese homes and families, making it a morally nuanced situation.

Other men have used logic similar to Truman’s supporters to justify attacking civilian targets. However, I don’t think my American friends would hesitate to condemn their actions because they don’t bat for the home team.

For example, the name “Osama bin Laden” has taken its place among Hitler and Satan in the pantheon of evil. The reason? He thinks the freedom of the Arab world from Western imperial influences is important enough to sacrifice civilian lives. We might call him the Harry Truman of the Middle East.

As most Americans condemn bin Laden for putting civilians in harm’s way, so too do I condemn Truman. If bin Laden is a “terrorist”, then so is Truman. In fact, Truman’s actions are more indefensible because eventual victory was available through conventional military means. For bin Laden, direct military action, against the most feared armed force in all of history, is out of the question.

Of course, the reality of the situation is somewhat more nuanced than what Lyles presents here; the Japanese had intentionally and viciously mistreated the lands they conquered, so much so that the Chinese to this day retain a great deal of enmity toward the Japanese. And it wasn't just American lives that were saved; it was also Japanese lives, for the casualty estimates of the cost of an invasion of the Japanese homeland ran into the millions. Similarly, bin Laden's idea of governance involves a return to the barbarities of the 12th century, something that must be opposed at all costs. The comparison works at a superficial level, but it is a facile and wrongheaded one.