I have no desire to shoot anyone, much less shoot someone and kill them. Can you imagine the paperwork? But seriously, I’m a live-and-let-live kinda guy. I don’t have the right nor feel the need to shoot someone unless they pose an imminent, credible threat of death or grievous bodily harm. This legal/moral justification for the use of deadly force gives me comfort, but it isn’t as straightforward as it seems . . .
If a knife-wielding bad guy is standing within striking distance clearly intent on aerating my internal organs, the internal organs of my family or friends or other innocent life, chocks away! Sure, a verbal warning might preceed and hopefully forestall a ballistic solution. But shooting and perhaps killing the perp is a no-sleep-lost, no-brainer.
What distance constitutes a credible threat? If the bad guy is across the street, outside of Tueller drill distance, both law and common sense says hang fire. But what if he’s in, say, Iraq? I reckon the same basic principle applies but you have to take a very close look at the words “imminent” and “credible.”
The Bush administration sold the first Iraq war to the American people on the basis of Saddam Hussein’s [alleged] possession of weapons of mass destruction, and the possibility that he’d use them on our allies or us. Given the Iraqi army’s Halabja chemical attack, the largest deadly gas attack in human history, it was a credible threat. But perhaps not credible enough to justify a full-force military response.
As for the imminence of Saddam Hussein’s threat, that was kind of a moveable feast, relating more to our ability to attack Hussein’s armed forces than the Iraqi leader’s ability to launch mass murder on American soil. In contrast, the Afghan war was launched with the clear understanding that Al Qaeda posed an imminent, credible threat to innocent life within our borders.
I’m not trying to re-try the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. I’m saying that the American military has a code they can live by. The same code that we, armed Americans, must live by.
Sure, politics screws everything up. The Bush Doctrine includes pre-emptive military action; it stretches the definition of “imminence” and “credibility” to their limits. Is every Muslim “extremist” — both here and abroad — an imminent or credible threat to our safety and security? As we wrestle with these questions, our military stands ready to do the right thing.
The men and women at the sharp end — our Marines, soldiers, sailors and airmen — follow the principle that underpins the whole imminence/credibility equation: protect innocent life. While many bemoan our military’s rules of engagement — claiming they inhibit our chances of success on the battlefield — I view them as one of America’s crowning achievements. Never in the course of human history has so much power been used so judiciously.
The men and women wielding guns at the behest of our Commander-in-Chief are an inspiration. They’re not perfect, but their professionalism is a perfect example to us all. Especially to those of us who choose to exercise our natural, civil and Constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. A right whose protection gave birth to our country. And our armed forces. Happy Memorial Day.