Cover Story



Issue: "Baghdad set free," April 19, 2003

Now it's refinement time, and the place is Iraq. Yes, civilian deaths sadly occur, but we see photos of destroyed military targets sitting next to undamaged civilian structures. The situation in Iraq in 2003 is very different from that in the South seven score years ago, but the desire not to grow decades of hatred is one of the factors leading American forces in Iraq to tread very carefully. They are even holding their fire when Iraqis in mosques or other holy sites shoot at them. They know that any evidence of cruelty, as well as slanders without any evidence, will be flashed throughout the Middle East.

Technological advance provides the opportunity for a refined war; Sherman bragged that his cannon could pick out any house in Atlanta, and sometimes he was right. Now, U.S. commanders can use smart bombs and very smart missiles to pick out a room hundreds of miles away. But human decisions are still key. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said, military planners are carefully selecting ordnance and time and direction of delivery to ensure the least possible chance of civilian damage. An emphasis on speed, mobility, and flexibility allows soldiers to go around potential dangers rather than roll over them.

Coalition forces are minimizing the negative but also accentuating the positive. We're seeing photos of soldiers behaving with mercy and honor. American and British troops are providing food to those Saddam Hussein would gladly starve.

And yet, compassion is never risk-free, particularly on the battlefield. How do we trade off the judicious use of power with the dangers that poses to our own soldiers? What happens when troops leave alone a group of people in civilian clothes, and many are concealing weapons under their robes? How many U.S. lives should be risked to bring aid to Iraqis? How many troops should be taken off offense to guard those who are handing out food and water?

Those are tough decisions, but the major decision already has been taken. The Sherman Doctrine is dead in part because of a political strategy to influence the world's opinion of this war. It's dead in part because of technological progress. It's dead in part because we recognize that Iraq's regime, and not most of its people, is to blame. But it's also dead because, as often as the Bible may be ignored in the U.S. and the U.K., many American and British leaders have grown up within an ethos powerfully influenced by a Christian understanding of compassion.

"War is cruelty. You cannot refine it." Not so.

Marvin Olasky
Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD News Group and the author of more than 20 books, including The Tragedy of American Compassion. Follow Marvin on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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