Monday, January 10, 2005

I would welcome an extended discussion about metaphors :) Or, a discussion about anything that you are emotionally involved with. I feel at a disadvantage being the only one emotionally involved...

You have come up with a string of questions - all of which I have a desire to answer - but I am having trouble, so perhaps I can bring up the issue of US in Iraq again. You are quite correct in stating that I am whinging about it. Notwithstanding the strategic values which are still just as valid, I still want to be able to say - "Hey, this is working against the USA", which is whinging for all that it is, I guess. I want to bring up something that I call "Moral Capital", which is in an international consensus sense, what people think of country X. When a country is subjected to a severe terrorist strike (or other indiscriminate killing), their "moral capital" increases. For instance, after 9/11 the "moral capital" available to the US was very high, and it didn't take much "expenditure" of it to take care of Afghanistan - the main terrorist problem. There was some "moral capital" left over and they used it to take care of Saddam Hussein and the general Iraq problem, and squandered a whole heap on Guantanamo bay. However, since the capture of S.H., the US has been lured into squandering a whole lot more, by well timed suicide bombs against them. The "Moral Capital" gained from being subjected to these strikes has been a lot less than that lost in the various heavy-handed and somewhat self defeating retaliations and "paranoid" shoot first ask questions later behaviour. I have argued that "good cop" is appropriate now, and essentially, what Iraq needs is a good police force and peacekeepers who know arabic. I know that it is impractical to expect that from the USA now, but what about the future? Surely the new generation of US soldiers must realise that the lives of the general population of an occupied country are valuable, and paranoid behaviour will lose the battle for the hearts and minds hands down. The (probably inaccurate) reputation of the US being deadly and unscrupulous is born from these encounters.

Equally, Israel also squanders its "Moral Capital" almost as quickly as it gets it, by retaliating forcefully after every suicide attack. I don't advocate decriminalising terrorism as such, but I think it would be more helpful to treat them as you would any murder - by the book. Fair and open trials on these murderers would infinitely increase Israel's moral capital. Killing innocent civilians for political motives is not an act of war, I believe, but a crime of organised mass murder. The retaliation serves the political interest of the murderers, in a "Moral Capital" sense.

2 comments:

Dr. Clam said...

The big problem with moral capital is that there is no real international consensus: the differing reportage and pre-existing prejudices in different countries will lead to the same action being reported differently in different countries. For example, if the good things that Israel does and the sufferings of its citizens are never reported in Europe, it will have no opportunity to accumulate moral capital; ditto with the United States and the Arab press. Even within the same country, different people can have wildly different moral capital balance sheets: somehow, a large number of the people I knew in the 1980s managed to maintain a frightening moral equivalence between the US and the USSR. Moral capital also devalues with frightening rapidity, thanks to the world's short memory...

Dr. Clam said...

...and given the choice between accumulating moral capital and preserving the lives of its citizens, a sane country will always chose the latter.