Monday, September 04, 2006

No authority in tragedy.

Here we find the father of a Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan attacking Jack Layton's recent call for a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Putting aside whether Layton was right or not, I find it really bizarre the way the media tries to capitalize on victims of tragedy in this way, and accord them some sort of instant authority. The mere fact that someone has had one experience of something vaguely relevant to the issue being discussed does not confer authority. At the very least, there's a real problem of unconsciously exaggerating one's own experiences -- inflating their significance in order to over-generalize towards a desired conclusion. (Yes, this applies to Sheehan as well. Any authority she has must stem from reasons she offers for her views, not from the mere fact that her son was killed in Iraq.)

What's worse, the gentleman in this case has apparently been getting his marching orders from the right (emphases added):

[Jim] Davis said yesterday that Layton has not only insulted the memory of the dead and injured, but endangered the lives of those still fighting. "I mean, that's ridiculous and I can't believe he would do that, endanger the lives of our soldiers by saying such a thing," Davis told CTV News. ... Davis said statements like that encourage the Taliban to keep fighting. "Playing politics with the lives of our soldiers is despicable," he said. "We made a decision to go after the Taliban, trying to get Afghanistan back on its feet, so it doesn't make sense for us to call it quits."
Does it need to be said? I suppose it does:
  1. It is no insult to the dead to say that their actions were futile, for bravery is a matter of one's response to (physical) danger, not a matter of the sense of one's goal. Furthermore, if the action truly is futile, then the insult may be deserved. That something is an insult doesn't necessarily make it wrong.
  2. It is beyond implausible to suppose that the Taliban are sitting around, waiting for what Jack Layton has to say, in order to gain inspiration for their ongoing fight. It is clearly ludicrous. The idea that there is any causal connection between what Jack Layton says and what the Taliban does is viciously (as in "vice", of the intellectual and moral kind) stupid.
The only potentially cogent argument is at the end, that Canada is trying to "get Afghanistan back on its feet". I have yet to see any evidence, though, that this could ever happen. If the country wasn't stable before Canada (and everyone else) arrived, how stable can it be when Canada is there? (And when Canada ultimately leaves?)

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