THE GOOD NEWS. While I was on vacation yesterday, I don't think any of my colleagues noted the ongoing developments in the Haditha massacre story. This is one of those things that makes you appreciate the old-fashioned print news media which, for all its flaws, can bring things like this to light and leaves your humble blogger with relatively little to add.

I will say, however, that I think that if you look at the historical record of counterinsurgency warfare, you'll see that this is the kind of thing that pretty consistently winds up happening. As we've been seeing for a while, insurgent campaigns are a very ugly business. More recently, it's become clear that the counterinsurgency being waged by the Shiite new regime in Iraq is a very ugly business as well. And now we see that the United States military is no exception to the trend, just as it wasn't in Vietnam and in the Philippines. The first-order solution, obviously, is to try and get people to not perpetrate massacres and cover them up when they happen. But the larger lesson is almost certainly that there are actual limits to what can be accomplished in a manner consistent with the humanitarian standards that contemporary Americans espouse and that our government aspires to. The easiest way to stop these things from happening would be to avoid starting or continuing wars for frivolous reasons.

--Matthew Yglesias

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