Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Speaking of Utilitarianism...

Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. -- Patton.

Speaking of utilitarianism, I wonder who did the math that recommended the drone airstrike that took out 18 villagers in order to kill 4 al Qaeda members. Pakistan is playing up the fact that there was a key bomb expert in the group, given that al-Zawahri wasn't there after all and that maybe this thing might damage popular Pakistani support for the CIA.

I rather suspect the math doesn't favor this sort of thing even if you're 100% certain that al-Zawahri was there and I wonder how many fresh, new Pakistani key bomb experts were made of those 18 villagers' friends and relatives.

The ugly fact of this is that even the brutality calculus militates against this sort of decision--so it's just slop. Seems that after 1918 we might have figured out that wars of attrition are ugly and ineffectual, and that body counts are what you resort to when you've run out of ideas but want to look like you're doing something.

I included the Patton quote at the top because it's wrong. You win wars by destroying your opponent's ability to fight--in conventional wars by seizing strategic terrain and destroying industry. Killing angry people just creates more angry people.

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