Posted by: Jim | September 23, 2004

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Operation Meatshield

This blog posting is spawned by what I initially thought was a ridiculous headline on Yahoo! News: Bush: Terrorists May Plan More Attacks .

My first thought was, “well, duh!” Then I read the article, and it states that Bush is saying this will happen “if the United States pulled out.”

True that.

By having a strong military presense in their backyard, the U.S. is providing an easier (and more obvious) target for anyone who hates the U.S. I wince as I say this, but our military is a more appropriate target than citizens. By being in Iraq, our military is serving as our meat shield. Why would a terrorist fly to New York with plans to bomb a mall when he can just drive down to Fallujah and earn his 14 virgins there.

While this shows how noble the uniformed men and women truly are, I still question this as a “reason” to keep a military presense in Iraq. Here’s why:

1. Our presense there further angers hardline fundamentalist Muslims. If I understand the Koran right, infidels are not supposed to be among believers. (I welcome comment from someone who knows this better than I do.)
2. By killing and injuring locals, our military presense stirs people to action as well–notwithstanding any religious obligations.
3. Providing a meat shield simply manages and deflects the problem of terrorism. It does nothing to make it go away, and in fact the problem increases by our presense in Iraq (as noted in points 1 and 2.)
4. We are not allowing our enemy to show their true colors by providing them a “more appropriate” target. This is the hardest one to say, but we are in a war of ideals. I believe that non-terrorists are the good guys, and that terrorists are the bad guys. By having a military presense in Iraq, we actually provide a way to partially legitimize the actions of a group whose actions would otherwise be disgusting and reprehensible.

What I’m suggesting is this: if by removing our troops from Iraq we would encourage groups to show their true colors by attacking civilians, that might be a better catalyst for the world to form a more united front against terrorism. Under the current paradigm, the “terrorists” could arguably be called something else because they are targeting military personnel. It’s muddying the waters and allowing the rest of the world to call the US’s actions into question rather than the actions of these savages.

Or maybe not. It’s enough to turn an ethicist’s brain into a pretzel, no? Let me know what you think …

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