April 07, 2006

Things that annoy me - part 1

It greatly annoys me that people pretend that suicide bombers are incomprehensible fanatics or a recent development. All nations have had decorated war heroes that took actions that put their own life in danger, sometimes against ludicrous odds, to achieve some military goal, save someone's life or take someone else's. Did everyone forget about kamikaze bombers? How about the Alamo, Gettysburg, the beaches of Normandy or the trenches of Verdun? People doing things that are suicidal, just because they are ordered to, or because they believe that they are fighting for some worthy ideal, certainly isn't a recent phenomenom, and we have lauded them if they fought for things we believed in, and vilified them if we didn't.

Perhaps suicide attacks are more wide-spread than before, but that is explainable by the simple fact that so many aggrieved people face vastly superior military forces these days. Let's be frank, attacking a well-equiped, modern military is pretty much suicide with the tools at the disposal of most second-tier armies, let alone what a rag-tag rebel group can assemble. The suicide bomber is a rational solution to the increasingly common military problem of immense asymmetry in military force.

Of course, this tool is very blunt, and many unnecessary casualties fall. The British used to shrug and call this "the fortunes of war". The allied bombings of Dresden, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were considered justified at the time, and no one has been put on trial for them, even though they almost exclusively targeted civilian populations. It's tempting to say that we should outgrow this barbarism, that we should move on. But that is easy to say when the military might is at your side.


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