Here’s something from a recent go-around at the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog between me and Ilya Somin. The topic of the post was actually May Day, and most of the discussion is rightly about that, but in one eddy of the conversation, Somin decided to say this:
If the wrongs of the US were on anything like the same scale as those of communist regimes, this would indeed be a good suggestion. In the real world, it’s obviously not – especially since many of the US’ “endless wars” actually were against brutal totalitarian regimes. . . .
Which is just really too much. I replied:
Shame how all those dead civilians kept getting in the way of the brutal totalitarian regimes the U.S. government was fighting wars against.
U.S. bomber wings show up over Tokyo, planning to firebomb a “brutal totalitarian regime,” and somehow instead they end up killing 100,000 men, women and children in a single night, who were not part of the regime and had no control over it. They show up over Hiroshima, and in Nagasaki, expecting to drop atomic bombs on a “brutal totalitarian regime,” and somehow instead they end up dropping them on cities of hundreds of thousands of people, wiping out about a quarter million civilians in the process over the course of just over 72 hours. Years later, the U.S. government comes to Viet Nam, intending to wage war against a brutal totalitarian regime, and somehow by the time they leave, the brutal totalitarian regime is still flourishing there, but 4,000,000 other Vietnamese no longer are. A man with less perspective might think that this sort of thing was a sign that the U.S. government, like every other government, doesn’t actually wage war against “regimes;” rather that it wages wars on countries and peoples who inevitably become the overwhelming majority of the victims of the war. Perhaps this was done in the hopes that by doing it, they might somehow get at the regime hiding behind those people in those countries. If so, then the question of justice here certainly turns on something more than just the quality of the ends for which these megamurdering means were deliberately chosen.