Targeting Civilians

One of the great tragedies of Democracy is that it breeds the notion that the actions of the ruling class represent the general will of the people.  From this line of thought comes the practice of total war which helped to make the 20th century the bloodiest in history.  Regardless of whether or not each individual finds their own government’s foreign policy deplorable, they are nevertheless targeted as being enablers of these policies.

The British arguably began the modern practice of targeting of a civilian population en masse with their naval blockade of Germany during and after WWI which starved somewhere around a half-million people.  In more recent history, the US had employed this tactic by imposing crippling sanctions on Iraq from 1990 through 2003 which largely affected the most vulnerable members of a population – the very young and the very old.  Most studies report somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 excess child deaths due to a combination of direct killings from bombings, infrastructure damage from these bombings affecting sanitation, and the economic sanctions themselves.  When asked about these tactics and their cost in terms of innocent lives, former UN ambassador and former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright infamously remarked, “The price is worth it.”

For some time now, the US has been repeating history by imposing sanctions on Iran that are mainly affecting cancer patients, hemophiliacs, and other vulnerable members of their society.  The sanctions have been put in place to penalize Iran for a nuclear weapons program which all 16 US intelligence agencies agree does not exist.  Through their connections and privileged status, the people who are the ultimate targets of these sanctions, the governing elite, never have any trouble acquiring the goods and services they need.  While admittedly not as severe as the Iraqi sanctions, the US is essentially waging a war on sick Iranians who, I’m sure, aren’t as concerned about the geopolitics of their rulers as they are about knowing whether or not they might get to see their kids grow up.

These acts of war targeting a civilian population are typically instituted with the hope that the people will eventually rise-up in anger against their own government and effect a regime-change.  To believe this, one has to completely disregard the lessons learned from the Iraqi sanctions which did nothing to achieve their stated goals and instead likely contributed to the blowback of 9/11.  If you believe that foreigners targeting civilians in an effort to make them change the policies of their own government is an effective strategy, let me ask you this:  Towards whom did the American people direct their anger after they were attacked on 9/11?


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