Beforehand, the masked executioner wrote:
“… You and your citizens will pay the price of your bombings! The first of which being the blood of the American citizen, James Foley! He will be executed as a DIRECT result of your transgressions toward us!”
As gruesome an act as this was against an innocent non-combatant journalist, killing innocents in other ways has become a modern war stratagem.
Warring nation states kill innocents from opposing nation-states to break the public’s will, to force the policy question, “Is military action really worth it?”
The “great” civilization of Rome beheaded Cicero at Mark Antony’s direction for what Cicero wrote against Antony.
Now, we have Jihadi cutting off a journalists head for all to see – inviting citizens of the offended nation to be a voyeur at another man’s brutal death.
This public execution contrasts with the killing of thousands of anonymous innocent men, women and children, who are blown to bits by bombs or shot to death.
How much of our anger at this execution therefore is about having been forced to acknowledge that even our nation is engaged in this psycho drama, killing innocents, to build body counts, that become win loss body tallies, so we may win the war of religions, get to seize oil reserves, or gain market dominion, hegemony or territory, all the time, quite unconcerned about whether we’re also killing innocents or uniformed combatants?
We’ve been forced to consider our humanity in its naked violence, and that we’ve chosen to settle our differences with foreign nation states in this primitive fashion.
Given the epidemic of war fever that is roiling the nation, fed by some of our military leaders, the prospect for military constraint or serious analysis seems quite doubtful.
This begs the question, so what price do we believe we should pay to readjust the scales of injustice for Mr. Foley’s beheading?
How many people should we kill to set this “right”?
And what is “right?”
When we went in to Iraq to save Kurds stranded on a mountain top, we said it was to save thousands from slaughter. We had zero public discussion of that military decision. We saved Kurds including women and children – so we’re told. In response, the Jihadi terrorists claim they killed Mr. Foley. Did we consider this calculus, ponder this possible outcome, before we began bombing? Did we find the tradeoff acceptable in advance, namely, did we know when we intervened to save innocents on a mountain top, it might be an exchange for Mr. Foley’s life? Did some Dr. Strangelove type anticipate that we would provoke this response?
Will there be any discussion before we lurch forward again, before we hack at the jihadi wherever we can find them with weapons from the air and boots on the ground? Will it be a simple war of revenge? Will we war in Syria and Iraq? For anything more than revenge? Will we assist the Iraqis to govern themselves? Or will we occupy the territory ourselves? Impose a “beneficent protectorate” that favors our nation’s interests? Or will we stand down?
Whatever course we prefer, it would be a refreshing democratic exercise to have the nation discuss it first, before we did anything as a nation. If we the people don’t speak up, and in sufficient numbers, some few will decide to take our ship of state into the turbulent Iraq waters that caused us to cap-size the last time around.