Thursday, March 01, 2007

Stick to your guns, John

I was shocked and surprised when I read a headline this morning stating that Senator McCain had said that lives lost in Iraq have been "wasted".

Folks are always very careful never to say that. It's very hard to get the underclasses to go off and die for you if you don't tell them what they're doing is "heroic" and "noble". And it's hard to get them to do that without all the monuments, language, and cultural legend about the immortalization they'll receive for making "the ultimate sacrifice". Some get 1000 virgins in the afterlife, others get the Congressional medal of honor. Same function.

So I was surprised that someone actually called a spade a spade. Especially surprised that it was McCain, whom I like for his irreverence and candor. It turns out that he wasn't as direct as I'd hoped, and that he's now back pedaling.

I think one can make the case that American lives lost in the midst of an Iraqi civil war are lost without causing any clear compensating benefit. If a giant ethnic-cleansing conflict in Iraq is somehow prevented because of our presence, then perhaps it's not a total waste. One American death prevents many dozen Iraqi deaths. But I think, at this point, Iraq will inevitably turn into a hotbed of ethnic hatred fueled by religious division and extremism, and it won't stop until both sides moderate or one side is annihilated. And the former will not come about until the whole society realizes that paying any deference to leaders causing division and hatred only leads to misery and mayhem. But they're only going to learn that by experiencing the misery and mayhem which result from their allegiances. And with misery and mayhem inevitable, it seems a waste for anyone to die trying to futilely prevent it.

We want to console grieving families that their loved ones died for some noble purpose. But the fact is that most of the dying going on in Iraq is a tragic waste of human life. And it's about time someone had the guts to say that. I was hoping McCain was that guy. I guess not.