Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Thursday, September 02, 2004

This is a Good Start

I'm never on top of the news on this blog, in the sense of getting the story out there as soon as it breaks. I don't have the time or resources, other people do it better, and I'm content to let a story develop a little bit before pontificating.

So this story has been going on for a day and a half now, and I'm just now getting around to linking it. Militants stormed a school in Russia and took over 200 children (ages 7-17) hostage, as well as some adults. The linked story says the terrorists have released "at least" 31 women and children. As I say in the title of this post, that's a good start. But Russia doesn't have a great record of getting innocent people out of hostage situations. So I don't have much hope that things will continue to go well.

Spoons asks, "what did those Russian children do to make the terrorists hate them?" Heh. But he's getting ahead of himself. As Nick Kronos points out, there's a certain word conspicuously missing from the article. Here's a hint: it starts with a "t" and is replaced here with the phrase "armed attackers."

And Rusty Shackleford over at My Pet Jawa has more here and here. I don't know what Dr. Shackleford teaches at that fancy-pants university of his, but he seems to know quite a bit about Russia (or at least Russia and the former Soviet satellite states in the Caucasus), so read accordingly. It is with some measure of satisfaction that I note: I got the story of the released hostages before him. Heh.

Okay, with that background, I want to get to a mini-argument I had with Spoons yesterday. Commenter Veeshir answered Spoons' rhetorical question by saying the Russian history of treating Chechens is what brought on the current crisis, and Spoons responded with "I condone anything the Russians want to do to Chechyna, up to and including nuking the joint."

I understand that people get emotional about using children as hostages (well, not the terrorists, of course, but normal people). And I am no less interested than Spoons in seeing the terrorists get everything that's coming to them. But I reject a reckless response, even if it's only hypothetical (I can't imagine KGB is reading Spoons or me to determine policy).

If it is morally outrageous to use children as hostages, and possibly kill them, then that moral outrage stems from their age and innocence, rather than from their race or citizenship. Therefore, the outrage towards violence against Russian children is no less repugnant than violence against Chechen children (or Georgian children) - whether Muslim, Christian, atheist, or other. The idea of "nuking the joint" means the indiscriminate killing of children, and I see no reason why that would be less monstrous than the potential deaths in the Russian school.

That was my initial reaction, and I think it is fortified by reports that the terrorists (who are Muslims, by the way, although you won't find that factoid widely reported) are bascially allies of convenience with the Christian Georgians, for whom the current crisis began. Pardon me if I'm getting some of the facts mixed up here. The point is that if it is true that the people who would ultimately get blown up are not the people who actually perpetrated the crime, indiscriminate bombing is even more monstrous.

To create an analogy that even a liberal can understand, it would be like bombing the crap out of Iraq because a group in Afghanistan flew planes into the world trade center.*

If you are going to retaliate, retaliate against the perpetrators of the crime. And for goodness' sakes, don't just start killing random civilians for the crimes of a few. I seriously don't think Russia needs any more encouragement in that direction.

* NOTE: Before assuming that I think the Iraq war was wrong, please note that we did not invade because of 9/11, but because of WMD reports (since validated), and Hussein's persistent violation of UN sanctions and continuing threat to his own people and neighbors.

Update: Don't bother clicking this link. It's too depressing. But I think we all knew this would not end well.