Monday, June 11, 2012

Calculating the Compensation

Is there a difference between bombing a city at high altitude and destroying a single building by an air strike? No. Both are acts of collectives, but they are ordered and then carried out by conscious individuals—which fuzzes up the moral picture slightly. And any righteous feelings should be curbed. The necessary labor and material is paid for by all of us, hence we are all, like it or not, cells of the collective monster.

I happened to see General John Allen make his apology to a turbaned village elder on TV this past Saturday for just a destruction of a single-house; there were women and children inside, of course, a loss of eighteen people in the wrong place. Among the words I heard General Allen say were: “We will do the right thing by the families. We will do the right thing for the community.”

We pioneered this method—the compensation of families for the death of members—back in 2011 under an act of Congress. The average payment to a family was $2,083,000. Interestingly, the compensation was scaled to the income level of the person killed. The bottom here was $250,000 for a person earning up to $20,000 a year. Will the Afghanistani families who lost members in that airstrike get millions, hundreds of thousands, or less? Well, per capita income in Afghanistan last year was $585 a year. Can Big Man Capital even see such minute income? No. And that’s the problem with peripheral damage. Can’t see anything when you are acting in total darkness.

2 comments:

  1. I am bemused by this transformation of an Army into a "Persuader of Hearts and Mind By Good Example... and Violence Where Need Be."

    It's a big title, but what else can it be?

    Sun Tzu's idea of strike smart, and fast and get it over with quickly did not envisage "Excuse Me" wars of extended duration whose objectives are vague and changing, and are so diffuse as to befuddle us.

    Killing civilians and then apologizing is as good a policy as any for a nation of morons.

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  2. Interestingly, the U.S. military established "condolence" payments to civilians for "civilian harm occuring as a result of combat operations" back in 2003 for the Iraq War (or should I say Iraq action?). What a tangled web we've woven.

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