“Humanitarian bombing” is self-contradictory

If you believe it is your duty to protect people from their enemies, the only way to do it is to go stand by them.  Dropping bombs from the air in the hope you will hit some of their enemies will not do the job.  You’ll kill bystanders and create more enemies for yourself and them; you’ll very likely kill some of the people you’re trying to protect.

ISIS-Iraq-AttackSome of us Americans are concerned about the fate of Christians and other minorities in Iraq, currently under attack by the fanatical Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists.  But our concern does not reach the level of being willing to send Americans to fight the ISIS in person.  So it is tempting to many people, myself included, to think we can accomplish the same purpose, without risk, by dropping bombs instead.

But giving in to that temptation would be a big mistake.

  • The ISIS is a fanatic Sunni movement in rebellion against the Shiite-dominated government of Iraq and the non-Sunni government of Syria.  The only way to defeat ISIS is to separate it from the Sunni population of those two countries.  Bombing will kill Sunni bystanders, solidify Sunni support for ISIS and bring ISIS closer to Al Qaeda.
  • Intensive bombing of Fallujah and other parts of Iraq during the U.S. occupation never brought about any decisive victory.  Iraq in fact has an air force if it wants to use it.  There is no reason to think that an American bombing campaign will change anything.
  • Persecution of Christians and other minorities has been going on a long time.  More than half of Iraq’s Christians were killed or driven into exile during the American occupation.  Bombing ISIS will not bring them back or end persecution.
  • Once the initial small-scale bombing campaign fails, past history indicates the government will escalate U.S. military intervention rather than admit failure.

I admire the people of Kurdistan.  They are willing to fight for their own freedom and to allow people of other religions (they’re mostly Sunni Muslims) and heritages to live in peace.   I want the U.S. government to make sure they get all they need to defend themselves.  But I don’t want to make their war an American war.


Why Airstrikes are a Mistake: Reality and Iraq by Peter Van Buren.  An excellent post by a former State Department staff member who worked in Iraq during the occupation, and lost his job after writing a book, We Meant Well, about the fiasco (I haven’t read the book, but have been told it is excellent).  The next two links are to articles in favor of U.S. intervention.

Will the U.S. Help the Kurds Fight ISIS? by Dexter Filkins for The New Yorker.

ISIS, the Yazidis, Kurdistan and the Threat of Massacre in Iraq by George Packer for The New Yorker.  The Yazidis of Iraq are a peaceful religious minority threatened by ISIS.

Save Our Yazidi (in Iraq) by Peter Van Buren.

‘Humanitarian Intervention’ Does Not Suspend the Constitution on War Powers by Robert Naiman for Common Dreams.

Obama: US Strikes on Iraq Will Be ‘Long Term Project’ by Lauren McCauley for Common Dreams.

Tags: , , , , ,

3 Responses to ““Humanitarian bombing” is self-contradictory”

  1. tiffany267 Says:

    Reblogged this on Tiffany's Non-Blog and commented:
    I like several of Phil’s very practical points here.


  2. tiffany267 Says:

    I personally don’t buy the rhetoric from Washington about initiatives in Iraq being humanitarian in nature. Regional security and control, as they have always been, are probably more at the heart of the airstrikes (as well as tremendous profits for weapon manufacturers and other defense contractors). I think altruist rhetoric is probably one of government’s more successful propaganda techniques.

    Still, for anyone who does genuinely care about the ongoing humanitarian crisis, this is a very important point and must be shared.


  3. philebersole Says:

    Tiffany, you make a good point about motives. If ISIS had driven the Kurds out of barren desert rather than out of control of some of Iraq’s richest oilfields, would we be hearing about a humanitarian crisis?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: