Sometimes I argue with friends who believe the people who run America are utterly indifferent to human life. I tell them: “You couldn’t be more wrong. If you made up a list of the top 1000 priorities of the people who run America, human life might come in as high as 997th.”
I was pleased to see my perspective validated in George Packer’s recent New Yorker article about Iraq:
David Kilcullen, an Australian counter-insurgency adviser who served on Petraeusâ€™s staff…drew up a list of core American interests in Iraq, which he later gave to senior officials at the White House and the State Department. In order of priority, the list contained the following items: maintain the flow of oil and gas in the region; prevent the establishment of an Al Qaeda safe haven in Iraq; contain Iranian influence; prevent a regional war; prevent a humanitarian catastrophe on the scale of Rwanda; and restore American credibility in the region and in the world (which Kilcullen called â€œthe master interest,â€ and which doing all the others would go a long way toward achieving).
You see? They do care! Human life is on the list! Right there after their four higher priorities! Of which the top one is oil!
The best part is that mere paragraphs later, Packer expresses this concern:
Even in narrow strategic terms American interests would be harmed by large-scale slaughter in Iraq. The spectacle, televised around the world, would deepen the feeling that America is indifferent to human, especially Muslim, life.
Yes, it would be terrible if the world were to get such a distorted picture of America. We must make them understand how we really feel: that human life is wonderful, as long as it doesn’t conflict with all our higher priorities.