Most people trace the origin of “humanitarian bombing” to the war in Kosovo in 1999. It was well articulated by Václav Havel: “I believe that during intervention of NATO in Kosovo there is an element nobody can question: the air attacks, the bombs, are not caused by a material interest. Their character is exclusively humanitarian: What is at stake here are the principles, human rights which are accorded priority that surpasses even state sovereignty. This makes attacking the Yugoslav Federation legitimate, even without the United Nations mandate.”
Get that? No questioning. Once we label indiscriminate explosions over a large area of enemy territory “humanitarian,” it’s time for peaceniks to move on.
Humanitarian bombing is how President Obama ushered us back into Iraq. It was the cover for saving an ethnic group no one ever heard of before.
To widen the war, Obama now builds on the foundation of humanitarian maiming by using the pretense that will we “degrade and destroy” the enemy. (It does not matter who the enemy is. What matters is our conduct.)
Once again, he tells us this will be so controlled and surgical. Nothing will go wrong. We won’t be bombing wedding parties in Yemen and Afghanistan.
Such clean descriptions of humanities’ most brutal act have a long history. In the 1950s, we invented “Victory through Air Power,” an antiseptic way to control our enemy without getting dirty. Vietnam, where we dropped a greater tonnage bombs than we did in WWII, destroyed that lie. But by the first Iraq war, enough time had passed so we forgot. The concept was called “precision bombing” with “smart bombs.” Again, as recent events show, a complete failure.
Barack Obama, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has once more shown us his most effective political skill: a great speech.