The Price of Betrayal
Richard Fernandez contends that moral arguments against abandoning interpreters and others who have worked with Coalition forces will likely fall on deaf ears (“how effective are moral arguments — really — when it comes to politicians”) and that it would be more useful to present cost-benefit analysis.
In that vein, he argues that abandoning the interpreters will make it much more costly to hire more the next time they’re needed. Not only will there be a cost in finding, vetting, and training the replacements but the enhanced risk caused by the first betrayal will naturally make the price go up. Further, the “intelligence and propaganda mileage Britain’s potential enemies will gain from torturing information from the abandoned interpreters” will require offsetting in a variety of ways.
Commenter NahnCee argues that these people are essentially mercenaries who, unless they were promised safe passage in the event things went south, are owed nothing. There’s something to that; indeed, I’ve made that argument with respect to Western contractors hired to perform various services for the Coalition. The difference, though, is that the Westerners can go home; Iraqi collaborators* left behind are quite likely to be killed.
Now, whether we owe more to Iraqis who have been on the American payroll than to others who are likely to be killed if we leave them in a state of chaos is another question, indeed, and one for which there are no easy answers. Aside from staying until the job’s done, of course. But while the answer is easy in that case, it’s one that begs a number of additional uneasy questions.
*Daniel Davies objects to this term and any other that suggests that Iraqis who sided with the legitimately elected government and Coalition forces are somehow traitors to their people. I’m using it strictly in a value-neutral sense here.