IÂ raised a bit of a ruckus a few days ago.
In my article, Always Shoot the Looters, I illustrated one of the most important mistakes made by coalition forces in Iraq. By not acting to stop the looting, they signaled to the population as a whole that the rule of law was no longer in effect.
That signal was the single most destructive message anyone could have made, and it is a message that still plagues Iraq today.
Having said that, shooting looters would not have been anyone’s aim. In fact,Â coalition forces would have needed to work hard to shoot as few looters as possible.Â They would have had to give warnings, thenÂ shoot over their heads, and if noÂ one responds… fire single shots in an attempt to wound.
Only when none of that worked should coalition forces have shot to kill.
No one should ever want to do this, and violence should never be the first option. But, taking away this option only increases violence.
IfÂ coalition forces had handled the situation correctly, several hundred looters might have been wounded, and only a few of them killed – and a country could have been saved. However, because coalition forces refused to exercise their authority, they indicated that there was no authority andÂ hundreds of thousands ofÂ innocent Iraqi civilians died as a result.
I think that killing a few criminals that wouldn’t heed warnings is a small price to pay to save a hundred thousand lives. Don’t you think?
Governments exist to protect us from each other. They exist to defend us from those whoÂ do not acknowledge any moral authority that does not wield a gun.
Remember also that there is a difference between public and private morality. We are not allowed to take moneyÂ by force, but the government must be able to. We are not allowed to punish misdeeds ourselves, but the government must be able to. We are not allowed to engage in acts of violence, but the government must be able to.
If we do not provide a governmentÂ with the ‘right of violence’Â while denying this right to ourselves… well, we condemn ourselves and our children to the kind of chaos that Iraq is experiencing today.
In the final analysis, no one should ever use lethal force to stop looting until every other option has been expended. But, once you determine that the only remaining option is a lethalÂ one, you must never flinch from its use.
BecauseÂ there are people whoÂ will only respond to violence and the threat of violence.