Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Risk also has to considered when deciding on a course of conduct. For example, if we were certain that a chemical attack on the US was going to take place and the result would be 10,000 American deaths, then we can make our decisions about what we're willing to do in order to prevent those deaths from taking place. But since we're dealing in hypotheticals and probabilities we need to factor this uncertainty into our consideration of what actions are appropriate.
An example from an earlier posting advanced the argument that "...to avoid a chemical Sept 11th, where 10,000 Americans might die, up to 125,000 Iraqis might die" presumes that (1) a chemical attack was going to take place, (2) there would be 10,000 US deaths and (3) preventing such an attack would cost the lives of 125,000 Iraqi civilians. But, without trying to get lost in the math, it would seem that if there were only a 10% chance of this attack taking place, then preventing this attack would justify actions that resulted in the loss of life of less than 12,500 Iraqi civilians.
Which leads me to a reassessment of my views of Clinton's actions in Kosovo. I didn't like it at the time, partly of my dislike for the man, but mostly because I thought he had done a lousy job of showing why he was putting American forces at risk (exactly the argument that many use against Bush today). I believe the sole role of the American military is to protect American lives - sorry, but I'm not willing to have American soldiers die in order to protect strangers halfway across the world. In Kosovo, I saw no threat to American civilians, as I believe there is with Iraq, so I couldn't see risking putting the American military at risk. But, as it turns out, Clinton wasn't doing that as the military tactics that were used kept (for the most part) Americans out of harm's way (ground troops not used and aircraft flying out of range of ground fire). So, by lowering the risk to Americans in combat, Clinton was able to justify supporting people in an area in which American civilians were not at risk. Clever.