Sunday, August 21, 2005

Letting Emotion Get in the Way of Making War

Via the Daou Report, Ace of Spades implies that Cindy Sheehan's judgment and intelligence regarding U.S. policy toward Iraq are impaired because her son died in Iraq.

It's actually quite a questionable proposition that anyone with a heavy emotional response to a policy issue should have undue influence on that policy. If the mothers of people killed by drunk drivers were allowed to set policy, DUI would be presumed at 0.01 BAC and you'd spend five to ten years in prison for your first offense.

If the families of cops killed in the line of duty set policy, their murderers would get the death penalty presumtively, as a matter of routine. And maybe I'd agree with that, but I'd understand if the rest of the country didn't want to subcontract such criminal justice decisions to such a small and emotionally-involved group.

And, of course, if our response to 9/11 was determined by a plebescite of only the victims of the attack and their families, there might be three or four fewer habitable cities on the face of the earth.

Ace's premise is obviously flawed, since the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association and police departments nationwide do exert enormous influence on convictions and sentencing decisions in cases involving the killing of police officers; and, as one of Ace's readers notes in a comment, Mothers Against Drunk Driving are allowed to set policy.

Clearly, the Bush administration does not agree with Ace's view that it's a mistake to shape policy issues by appealing to people who have strong emotional responses to an issue. That's how Bush has persuaded the American people to support his invasion and occupation of Iraq from the very start. Paul Kerr at Arms Control thinks that "scaring the shit out of the American public" was how Bush won reelection. How many times have Bush, Cheney, Rice, and the rest of the White House gang invoked 9/11 to manipulate the grief and anger of victims' families and friends, and Americans in general, so that they could keep U.S. troops in Iraq?

On the other hand, it's possible that the Bushies do believe that "anyone with a heavy emotional response to a policy issue" should not have undue influence in shaping that policy. That could explain why none of the people in the Bush administration or Congress who support the war in Iraq and who are helping to shape the policy have children or other family members or loved ones fighting in Iraq, or Afghanistan. This war policy needs to be shaped by people who do not have reason to respond emotionally to the issue. And you've got to admire the selflessness of individuals like Bush, Cheney, Rice, Bolton, and so many others, who forego the honor and joy of having their children fighting the war in Iraq, so that objectivity can reign in making decisions about war.

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