The Value of a Life


The way you can tell that, fundamentally, the right’s Iraq hawk pundits are deeply unserious people is that you’ll see things like Reuel Marc Gerecht making this argument: “I can understand–though not appreciate–Americans who don’t want to see Americans dying in Iraq because they value American lives more highly than they do Iraqi ones. This sentiment, more common on the right than on the left, inevitably leads to a bigoted isolationism that allows nefarious forces to run amok.” The view that American lives are more valuable than Iraqi lives is obviously false. The view that the American government should value American lives more highly than it values Iraqi lives is, I think, quite different, fairly intuitive, and certainly not something that advocates of neoconservative foreign policy deny in anything resembling a consistent manner.

I mean, the consequences of the view that the US government should draw no distinction between its responsibilities to Americans and to non-Americans has far reaching and radical consequences for policy areas far removed from the Iraq withdrawal debate. Immigration, say, or international intellectual property policy. Why not mothball a carrier group and spend the money on mosquito nets? Why not dedicate 3 percent of GDP to direct subsidies to the world’s 25 poorest nations? I mean, who knows. Gerecht obviously hasn’t given any thought to this position whatsoever. He’s a hawk. Since he’s a hawk, he against leaving Iraq. Since hes against leaving Iraq, he needs some arguments. He came to a point in the debate when arguing that the US government should value Iraqi and American lives equally was convenient, so he started espousing this position. Does he espouse it consistently? Has he considered its implications? No, no, of course not. He’s just bullshitting around.