"Bombing to support a genocidal tyrant isn't the same as bombing a terrorist organisation... pursuing a malign policy for malign goals is worse. Hence, yes, there is a difference in reactions... You must see the quantifiable difference".
So says a long-time reader in response to this post, a bashed-out ramble about our noticeably lesser levels of indulgence for Russian ultraviolence than we display for our own.
Taking these comments in context, I'm inclined to agree. There are notable and marked differences between our military hijinks and those of the Russian armed forces.
For one thing, Bad Vlad Putin - a vicious cartoon KGB gangster straight out of Bond-villain central casting - has only just embarked on his first murderous death rampage in the region.
We, however, are now approaching a decade-and-a-half's worth of trying to make the Middle East and north Africa sit still and behave by repeatedly blatting several countries with thousands upon thousands of missiles.
Are Vlad's war aims much worse than ours? Well, sure! He's bombing one crew of nutty jihadists and a tiny clique of possibly-theoretical secular liberal warriors at the behest of the mass-murdering Syrian dictatorship, which is itself a vicious tyranny that tortures dissidents to death.
We, on the other hand, are blasting fuck out of an even nastier army of mass-murdering death-cultists on behalf of the Iraqi government, which machine-guns protestors and only tortures its dissidents mostly to death, while we quietly pass boatloads of cutting-edge explosives to the Sauds for use on Yemeni civilians.
So you see, it's really quite a stark moral contrast.
Joking aside though, that post was mainly about the welcome return of open suspicion and ridicule for great power "interventions". Bad Vlad's ludicrous pronouncements this week have been met with open mockery, and the Russian armed forces' claims to nobility have been torn to shreds in a riot of feral press hostility. We are, in short, treating Russian military malfeasance with the appropriate level of credulity, i.e. none at all.
The difficulty with this is that it makes our own boot-licking, self-fondling fluffery of "the Coalition" - since that's the latest fruity name that we're giving what is basically the American government and its air force - look every bit as comical as the Russian media's supine surrender to Vlad.
You'd think that, after we've been bombing huge tracts of the
planet for this long with nothing at all to show for it but ever more carnage
and chaos, we might finally be shamed into maybe... just... shutting the fuck up, for five seconds.
Not so. Instead, the Americans fret about Russian malevolence supposedly "inciting extremism" in the Middle East, as if US armed forces weren't still locked in combat with an army of brain-eating Islamic zombies... Themselves the product of America's own recent military stupidity. Such a statement would be met with open hilarity, if it weren't quite so serious.
Consider - ourselves and the Americans know for an absolute certainty that our current strategy of drone-bombing hell out of buildings and vehicles in pursuit of nominated targets occasionally kills large numbers of civilians - wiped-out wedding parties, unlucky car passengers, and so on. (Update - and the occasional party of Medicins Sans Frontiers clinic staff).
We know we are going to kill innocent people while we're splattering our way through the latest batch of Al-Qaeda Number-Three-Most-Wanteds, or whatever other terribly critical, high-value target we're aiming at - and yet we do it anyway.
Civilian casualties have long since become a normal aspect of our strategy, a regretable but supposedly unavoidable expense, factored in to a well-calculated cost. These incidents happen so frequently that we can no longer reasonably claim that they're unexpected, or even really kid on that they're unintentional. They are militarily acceptable, politically acceptable, morally acceptable. This is what we do.
And this might even be fine, if there was some reason to believe that these people were dying to effect some grand strategic achievement, to orchestrate an endgame to this war or that. Reader, it is not part of such a strategy. The plan, just as it was in 2007, is to keep killing motherfuckers until the remainder settle down, or until there are no motherfuckers left to kill.
In 2007, complaints about this wacky plan were met with firm tickings off about the dangers of "moral relativism" and "equivalence", the type of patter that is supposed to emphasise our national rectitude but is almost always deployed in service of the firm message - It's fine when we do it.
In 2015, the message is unchanged, and the relentless warfare is no closer to an endgame. You think our dumbass bombing campaigns are morally problematic? Why, you must be one of those gosh-darned relativists who can't see the difference between Our Boys and Ol' Journalist-Shootin' Putin!
What this tells us is that fourteen years into our great, superviolent war on whatever, we have learned no lessons at all, and that almost nobody has been held to account for their misdeeds. It tells me that there is literally no catastrophe so great that it can dent our endless faith in our own towering virtue; that there is no pile of rubble and corpses so high that it can't be mounted for use as a podium to issue stern lectures upon comparative morality.
It baffles me to say it, but it means that for some people, being a better human than Vladimir Putin is a real achievement in itself.
I mean, I'm taller than my cat, but I don't expect anyone to congratulate me and suck my dick for it.
Anyway, I raise all this, just as a little reminder of the context in which these grand morality plays about our wildly-different military methods and objectives play out. I don't expect to change any minds, nor to inspire anything more than mild annoyance.
We can be sure though that ten thousand years from now, while Her Majesty's Royal Drone Force battles the resurgent 17th Glorious Ball-Peen Caliphate or whatever on the plains of Mesopotamia, some joker somewhere will still be explaining that actually, this war is not at all like the last, and that there is a vast moral difference between our war aims and those of Replicant Army Zeta.