In Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, Ben Carson compared waging war to preparing a young patient for brain surgery.
The former head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center has been slipping in the Republican presidential primary as the contest has shifted focus toward foreign policy issues.
At the debate Carson repeatedly cited his experience as a world renowned neurosurgeon as his main qualification for the presidency. MSNBC noted Carson’s use of “several medical-inspired metaphors” to explain his approach to ISIL. The most jarring one came in his answer to a question about air strikes.
Moderator Hugh Hewitt asked Carson whether, as a pediatric neurosurgeon, he could “order air strikes that would kill innocent children by not the scores, but the hundreds and the thousands.”
“Well, interestingly enough, you should see the eyes of some of those children when I say to them we’re going to have to open your head up and take out this tumor,” Carson said. “They’re not happy about it, believe me. And they don’t like me very much at that point. But later on, they love me.”
Carson explained that the point was “to look at the big picture.”
“So you are OK with the deaths of thousands of innocent children and civilians?” Hewitt asked.
“You got it,” was Carson’s reply.
It was, first of all, an odd rhetorical choice to respond to a question about “hundreds and thousands” of dead children with a quick parable about the looks in “the eyes of some of those children.”
But there is also an essential contrast between surgery, in which great effort is expended to preserve a single life, and war, in which the deaths of innocents is tallied under the headline “collateral damage.”
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