That the deliberate targeting of noncombatants is intrinsically evil and cannot be justified under any circumstances is one of the entailments of Catholic just war doctrine. I am sensitive to its moral force. I am strongly inclined to say that certain actions are intrinsically wrong, wrong by their very nature as the types of actions they are, wrong regardless of consequences and circumstances. But what would have been the likely upshot had the Allies not used unspeakably brutal methods against the Germans and the Japanese in World War II? Leery as one ought to be of counterfactual history, I think the Axis Powers would have acquired nukes first and used them against us. But we don't have to speculate about might-have-beens.
If I understand the Catholic doctrine, it implies that if Harry Truman had a crystal ball and knew the future with certainty and saw that the Allies would have lost had they not used the methods they used, and that the whole world would have been been plunged into a Dark Age for two centuries -- he still would not have been justified in ordering the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Indeed, if the deliberate targeting of noncombatants is intrinsically evil and unjustifiable under any circumstances and regardless of any consequences, then it is better that the earth be blown to pieces than that evil be done. This, I suppose, is one reading of fiat iustitia pereat mundus, "Let justice be done though the world perish." Although I invoked an historical example, nothing hinges on it since a matter of principle is at stake.
This extreme anti-consequentialism troubles me if it is thought to be relevant to how states ought to conduct themselves. Suppose that there is no God and no soul and no post-mortem existence, and thus that this life is all there is. Suppose the political authorities let the entire world be destroyed out of a refusal to target and kill innocent civilians of a rogue state. This would amount to the sacrificing of humanity to an abstract absolutist moral principle. This would be moral insanity.
On the other hand, extreme anti-consequentialism would make sense if the metaphysics of the Catholic Church or even the metaphysics of Kant were true. If God is real then this world is relatively unreal and relatively unimportant. If the soul is real, then its salvation is our paramount concern, and every worldly concern is relatively insignificant. For the soul to be saved, it must be kept free from, or absolved of, every moral stain in which case it can never be right to do evil in pursuit of good. Now the deliberate killing of innocent human beings is evil and so must never be done -- regardless of consequences. On a Christian moral scheme, morality is not in the service of our animal life here below; we stand under an absolute moral demand that calls us from beyond this earthly life and speaks to our immortal souls, not to our mortal bodies. Christianity is here consonant with the great Socratic thought that it is better to suffer evil, wrong, injustice than to to do them. (Plato, Gorgias, 469a)
But then a moral doctrine that is supposed to govern our behavior in this world rests on an other-worldly metaphysics. No problem with that -- if the metaphysics is true. For then one's flourishing in this world cannot amount to much as compared to one's flourishing in the next. But how do we know that the metaphysics is true? Classical theistic metaphysics is reasonably believed, but then so are certain versions of naturalism.
I am not claiming that classical theism false. I myself believe it to be true. My point is that we know that this world is no illusion and is at least relatively real, together with its goods, but we merely believe that God and the soul are real.
If the buck stops with you and the fate of civilization itself depends on your decision, will you act according to a moral doctrine that rests on a questionable metaphysics or will you act in accordance with worldly wisdom, a wisdom that dictates that in certain circumstances the deliberate targeting of the innocent is justified?
An isolated individual, responsible for no one but himself, is free to allow himself to be slaughtered. But a leader of a nation is in a much different position. Even if the leader qua private citizen holds to an absolutist position according to which some actions are intrinsically wrong, wrong regardless of consequences, he would not be justified in acting in his official capacity as head of state from this absolutist position. The reason is that he cannot reasonably claim that the metaphysics on which his moral absolutism rests is correct. God may or may not exist -- we don't know. But that this world exists we do know. And in this world no action is such that consequences are irrelevant to its moral evaluation. By 'in this world' I mean: according to the prudential wisdom of this world. Is adultery, for example, intrinsically wrong such that no conceivable circumstances or consequences could justify it? A worldly wise person who is in general opposed to adultery will say that there are conceivable situations in which a married woman seduces a man to discover military secrets that could save thousands of lives, and is justified in so doing.
Anscombe's case against Truman does not convince me. Let the philosophy professor change places with the head of state and then see if her moral rigorism remains tenable.
We confront a moral dilemma. On the one hand, a head of state may sometimes justifiably act in the interests of the citizens of the state of which he is the head by commanding actions which are intrinsically wrong. On the other hand, no one may ever justifiably do or command anything that is intrinsically wrong.
Of course the dilemma or aporetic dyad can be 'solved' by denying one of the limbs; but there is no solution which is a good solution. Or so say I. On my metaphilosophy, the problems of philosophy are almost all of them genuine, some of them humanly important, but none of them soluble. The above dilemma is an example of a problem that is genuine, important, and insoluble.
Patrick Toner holds that waterboarding is torture. I incline to say that it isn't. But let's assume I am wrong. Presumably, most who hold that waterboarding is torture will also hold that torture is intrinsically wrong. But how could it be wrong for the political authorities to torture a jihadi who knows the locations and detonation times of suitcase nukes planted in Manhattan? Here again is our moral dilemma. I suspect Toner would not 'solve' it by adopting consequentialism. I suspect he holds that torture is wrong always and everywhere and under any conceivable circumstances. But then he is prepared to sacrifice thousands of human lives to an abstract moral principle, or else is invoking a theological metaphysics that is far less grounded than the prudence of worldly wisdom. I would like to hear Toner's response to this.
Some have tried to solve the dilemma by invoking the Doctrine of Double Effect. But I am pretty sure Patrick will not go that route.
Here is the opinion of a man who has both done it and had it done to him. "I volunteered to be waterboarded myself and can assure you that it is not a pleasant experience. But no one volunteers to be tortured."
Words mean things. They ought to be used responsibly. No good purpose is served by exaggeration in a context such as this. If waterboarding is torture, what would you call having a red-hot poker rammed 12 inches up your anal cavity? Would anyone volunteer for that?
Come Thursday it will be the fifth anniversary of the death of Christopher Hitchens. He, along with other journalists, allowed himself to be waterboarded.
I grant, however, that being waterboarded by friends is considerably different from being so treated by enemies.
Try to guess when the following was written, and by whom. Answer below the fold:
Ever increasing frenzy, tension, explosiveness of this country. You feel it in the monastery with people like Raymond. In the priesthood with so many upset, one way or another, and so many leaving. So many just cracking up, falling apart. People in Detroit buying guns. Groups of vigilantes being formed to shoot Negroes. Louisville is a violent place, too. Letters in U. S. Catholic about the war article. -- some of the shrillest came from Louisville. This is a really mad country, and an explosion of the madness is inevitable. The only question -- can it somehow be less bad than one anticipates? Total chaos is quite possible, though I don't anticipate that. But the fears, frustrations, hatreds, irrationalities, hysterias, are all there and all powerful enough to blow everything wide open. One feels that they want violence. It is preferable to the uncertainty of 'waiting.'
Chris Hedges well illustrates the leftist obsession with moral equivalentism in his piece, "We are All Islamic State."
I will quote some portions, then comment. The piece begins:
Revenge is the psychological engine of war. Victims are the blood currency. Their corpses are used to sanctify acts of indiscriminate murder. Those defined as the enemy and targeted for slaughter are rendered inhuman. They are not worthy of empathy or justice. Pity and grief are felt exclusively for our own. We vow to eradicate a dehumanized mass that embodies absolute evil. The maimed and dead in Brussels or Paris and the maimed and dead in Raqqa or Sirte perpetuate the same dark lusts. We all are Islamic State.
Hedges opens with a curious mixture of insight and illusion.
Granted, war opens the flood gates to revenge, and much of what takes place in a war is revenge. There was plenty of revenge in the fire bombing of Dresden by the Allies in WWII. The Brits wanted revenge for the Blitz. Perhaps you know where the V-1 and V-2 nomenclature comes from: they were Vergeltungswaffen, weapons of revenge. But there is nothing in the nature of warfare to require that in every case war be revenge. Revenge is not the same as retributive justice and there are or at least can be just wars. If the state can justly punish a wrongdoer for his wrongdoing, then one state can justly punish another for its wrongdoing, even if this happens only rarely and partially. There are rogue states. German philosopher Karl Jaspers referred to the Nazi regime as a Verbrecherstaat, a criminal state. Surely he was right. A bunch of thugs seized power and unleashed hell on earth. Or will Hedges and his comrades say that Churchhill's England and Hitler's Germany were morally equivalent?
Hedges' moral equivalentism is false and offensive. On September 1, 1939, Hitler's Wehrmacht invaded Poland. Does Hedges really think that the defensive operations undertaken by the Poles were motivated by revenge? Or that the Poles engaged in indiscriminate murder? And how exactly is killing in self-defense murder? Can Hedges think in moral categories? Does he think that self-defense is never morally justified?
Speaking of Islamic terrorists, Hedges claims that "Their tactics are cruder, but morally they are the same as us."This is beneath refutation. So beheading and crucifixion are merely "cruder" than waterboarding, but otherwise morally equivalent? It is already quite a stretch to speak as leftists do of waterboarding as torture. Would C. Hitchens and other journalists have delivered themselves up for torture? Would they have submitted to to the insertion of red hot pokers into their anal cavities?
The Christian religion embraces the concept of “holy war” as fanatically as Islam does. Our Crusades are matched by the concept of jihad. Once religion is used to sanctify murder there are no rules. It is a battle between light and dark, good and evil, Satan and God. Rational discourse is banished. And “the sleep of reason,” as Goya said, “brings forth monsters.”
Hedges is certainly warming to this theme, isn't he? The present tense of 'embraces' renders the first sentence manifestly false. Hedges needs to give some examples of holy wars prosecuted by Christian denominations in recent centuries. He won't be able to do this, which is why he brings up the Crusades. Hedges is making at least three mistakes.
First, he refuses to admit that it is obviously unfair to compare present atrocities by Muslim fanatics to long past atrocities -- if atrocities they were -- by Christians. Islam was and remains a violent religion. Christianity has long reformed itself.
Second, Hedges cannot or will not understand that the same sorts of war-like activities that are morally wrong when deployed offensively can be morally acceptable when deployed defensively.
Third, Hedges is unaware or will not admit that the Crusades were defensive wars and ipso facto morally justified. Thomas F. Madden:
For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression—an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.
Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity—and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion—has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.
With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed’s death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt—once the most heavily Christian areas in the world—quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.
That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
Back to Hedges' tirade:
How can we rise up in indignation over Islamic State’s destruction of cultural monuments such as Palmyra when we have left so many in ruins? As Frederick Taylor points out in his book “Dresden,” during the World War II bombing of Germany we destroyed countless “churches, palaces, historic buildings, libraries, museums,” including “Goethe’s house in Frankfurt” and “the bones of Charlemagne from Aechen cathedral” along with “the irreplaceable contents of the four-hundred-year-old State Library in Munich.” Does anyone remember that in a single week of bombing during the Vietnam War we obliterated most of that country’s historic My Son temple complex? Have we forgotten that our invasion of Iraq led to the burning of the National Library, the looting of the National Museum and the construction of a military base on the site of the ancient city of Babylon? Thousands of archeological sites have been destroyed because of the wars we spawned in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Libya.
Amazingly, Hedges thinks he can simply ignore the crucial difference between the unintended destruction of cultural artrifacts that comes about as collateral damage and the willfull, intended destruction by Nazi and Islamist savages of cultural goods. Could this idiot actually think that Churchill's England and Hitler's Germany were morally equivalent? To defeat the Third Reich drastic measures were required, and time was running out: the Nazis would soon have have had nuclear weapons had they not been brought to their knees.
It goes without saying that my opposition to the moral equivalentism of the lunatic Left is no endorsement of moral Manicheanism. No man is without sin, and no state either.
Pope Benedict XVI touched on alleged “evil” in Islam very lightly in his famous 2006 lecture at Regensburg on the necessity of uniting reason and religion. He cited the example of a 14th century emperor’s view of Islam as irrationally violent and thus evil. This touched off a world-wide uproar and mayhem, concerning which then-Argentinean Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the future Pope Francis, commented: “These statements will serve to destroy in twenty seconds the careful construction of a relationship with Islam that Pope John Paul II built over the last twenty years.” He added that such statements “don’t reflect my own opinions.”
Yet another indication of Bergoglio's squishy, bien-pensant foolishness.
But what does he make of past and current reports of Islamic atrocities? The 2015 World Watch List found 4,344 Christians killed for faith-related reasons and 1,062 churches attacked. The 2016 list documents 7,106 killed and 2,425 churches attacked. There are literally thousands of cases of violence against Christians and destruction of churches in Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Indonesia, Africa, and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
Pope Francis is presumably well-informed about such events, but he comments in his Apostolic Address, The Joy of the Gospel, “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”
I wonder if Francis thinks that every generalization is 'hateful' just in virtue of being a generalization. I hope not. Generalize we must. The fact that it is sometimes done poorly is no argument for not doing it at all. Wise up, liberals.
Note the presumptuousness of Francis in supposing that he knows what "authentic Islam" is and requires. He desperately wants to believe that Islam is a religion of peace and so he substitutes his fervent wish for the reality. He ought to study the subject just as he ought to study economics.
In taking this position, Francis, a faithful “son of the Church,” is echoing Vatican II. At the Council, Pope John XXIII, as part of his goal of “opening the windows of the Church,” wished the participants to reconsider the relationship of the Church to Judaism, avoiding theological and liturgical positions which had a history of contributing to anti-Semitism. There was no agenda at the outset for pronouncements about the relationship to Islam; but, as I mentioned in a previous column, some Fathers and theologians at the council, were anxious to include Islam in official documents related to “non-Christian religions.”
A significant factor behind this movement was the work of Louis Massignon (1883-1962), a Catholic scholar of Islam and a pioneer of Catholic-Muslim mutual understanding. Massignon taught that we need a “Copernican revolution” in our approach to understanding Islam. We have to place ourselves in the center of the Islamic mindset, understanding Islamic spirituality, and conduct dialogues from that vantage point.
During the Council, one of Massignon’s disciples, the Egyptian Dominican theologian, Georges Anawati (1905-1994), actively “lobbied,” in conjunction with other council members, for positive statements about Islam in official documents. This group succeeded: Nostra aetate and Lumen gentium contain laudatory statements about Islam: “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems,” an Abrahamic monotheistic religion, submitting “without reserve to the hidden decrees of God,” and sharing much with Christianity in basic beliefs and moral teachings.
But in view of the hateful attitude toward other religions shown throughout Islamic scriptures, as well as the massive numbers of murders and church-burnings and persecutions we’ve seen for decades now, was such praise simply wishful thinking? Condemnations of obvious features of Islam are almost non-existent in today’s Church.
Pope Pius XI published Mit brennender Sorge, an open critique of the German Reich and Divini redemptoris against Communism. Pope Pius XII chose to work persistently, but undercover, during his papacy, to defeat Nazism and save Jews. What if he, too, had published a bold condemnation of Nazism?
During Vatican II, the Soviet Union was a global scourge, and Our Lady of Fatima in extraordinary appearances at the outset of the Communist revolution had even warned the Church about Russia “spreading her errors throughout the world.” But incredibly there was not a whiff of criticism of Communism from the Council. What would have happened if Paul VI had strongly condemned the USSR, Leninism, and Marxism? Is diplomatic caution essential in papal pronouncements? Or should we follow the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand I’s motto, Fiat justitia, pereat mundus, “let justice be done, even if the world perishes”?
And with regard to Islam now, an outright papal condemnation of the religion, such as uttered by popes from past centuries, we can be sure, would result in massive disturbances throughout the world – perhaps World War III. And such a condemnation might unfairly tar the moderate Muslims along with the extremists. But short of condemnation, continuous eulogizing is out of place. And as to “the religion of peace,” it’s time to take into account the traditional Muslim interpretation of “peace.” The world is divided into two “houses” – the House of Peace (Dar Al-Salaam) and the House of War (Dar Al-Harb). Only Muslims are within that first “house.”
Muslims have been murdering Christians for a long time now. Liberals need to face reality for a change. Here is an example of how adherents of the 'religion of peace' treated some Armenian Christian girls:
In her memoir, Ravished Armenia, Aurora Mardiganian described being raped and thrown into a harem (which agrees with Islam’s rules of war). Unlike thousands of other Armenian girls who were discarded after being defiled, she managed to escape. In the city of Malatia, she saw 16 Christian girls crucified: “Each girl had been nailed alive upon her cross, spikes through her feet and hands, only their hair blown by the wind, covered their bodies.” Such scenes were portrayed in the 1919 documentary film Auction of Souls, some of which is based on Mardiganian’s memoirs.
It's a movie I haven't seen. I have no strong desire see it. I understand the principle; why do I need to rub my nose in the details? I know what a sniper is and I know what he does. It is an awful world in which snipers are needed, but they are, and they do a job that few of us could do. Could you put a high-powered round through the head of a child who was about to be sent on a suicide mission? I am not referring primarily to the mechanics of getting off a good clean shot that hits its target from a great distance after you have been lying in the weeds for hours in a war zone. I am talking about bearing the psychological burden.
There are two extremes to avoid: the bellicose jingoism of the my-country-right-or-wrong types and the knee-jerk, hate-America mentality of moral equivalentists and blame-America-firsters. If the brunt of my scorn in these pages is aimed at the latter, it is because they are in the ascendancy and need it more.Think of it as akin to a quasi-Kierkegaardian 'corrective' to quasi-Hegelian excesses.
In 1967, Benjamin Netanyahu skipped his high school graduation in Pennsylvania to head off to Israel to help in the Six Day War. That same year Obama moved with his mother to Indonesia.
When Obama suggested that Israel return to the pre-1967 borders, described by Ambassador Eban, no right-winger, as “Auschwitz borders,” it was personal for Netanyahu. Like many Israeli teens, he had put his life on hold and risked it protecting those borders.
In the seventies, Obama was part of the Choom Gang and Netanyahu was sneaking up on Sabena Flight 571 dressed as an airline technician. Inside were four terrorists who had already separated Jewish passengers and taken them hostage. Two hijackers were killed. Netanyahu took a bullet in the arm.
The Prime Minister of Israel defended the operation in plain language. “When blackmail like this succeeds, it only leads to more blackmail,” she said.
Netanyahu’s speech in Congress was part of that same clash of worldviews. His high school teacher remembered him saying that his fellow students were living superficially and that there was “more to life than adolescent issues.” He came to Congress to cut through the issues of an administration that has never learned to get beyond its adolescence.
Obama’s people had taunted him with by calling him “chickens__t.” They had encouraged a boycott of his speech and accused him of insulting Obama. They had thrown out every possible distraction to the argument he came to make. Unable to argue with his facts, they played Mean Girls politics instead.
Benjamin Netanyahu had left high school behind to go to war. Now he was up against overgrown boys and girls who had never grown beyond high school. But even back then he had been, as a fellow student had described him, “The lone voice in the wilderness in support of the conservative line.”
“We were all against the war in Vietnam because we were kids,” she said. The kids are still against the war. Against all the wars; unless it’s their own wars. Netanyahu grew up fast. They never did.
Netanyahu could have played their game, but instead he began by thanking Obama. His message was not about personal attacks, but about the real threat that Iran poses to his country, to the region and to the world. He made that case decisively and effectively as few other leaders could.
He did it using plain language and obvious facts.
Netanyahu reminded Congress that the attempt to stop North Korea from going nuclear using inspectors failed. The deal would not mean a denuclearized Iran. “Not a single nuclear facility would be demolished,” he warned. And secret facilities would continue working outside the inspections regime.
He quoted the former head of IAEA’s inspections as saying, “If there’s no undeclared installation today in Iran, it will be the first time in 20 years that it doesn’t have one.”
And Netanyahu reminded everyone that Iran’s “peaceful” nuclear program would be backed by ongoing development of its intercontinental ballistic missile program that would not be touched under the deal.
He warned that the deal would leave Iran with a clear path to a nuclear endgame that would allow it to “make the fuel for an entire nuclear arsenal” in “a matter of weeks”.
Iran’s mission is to export Jihad around the world, he cautioned. It’s a terrorist state that has murdered Americans. While Obama claims to have Iran under control, it has seized control of an American ally in Yemen and is expanding its influence from Iraq to Syria.
Its newly moderate government “hangs gays, persecutes Christians, jails journalists.” It’s just as bad as ISIS, except that ISIS isn’t close to getting a nuclear bomb.
“America’s founding document promises life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Iran’s founding document pledges death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad,” he said. It was the type of clarity that he had brought to the difficult questions of life as a teenager. It is a clarity that still evades Obama today.
When the otherwise distinguished Robert Paul Wolff over at The Philosopher's Stone plays the stoned philosopher and quits the reservation of Good Sense, I call him 'Howlin' Wolff.' Hear him howl:
I need to say this. If anyone wants to call me a self-hating Jew, so be it.
Israel is far and away the militarily most powerful nation in the entire Middle East. It has a large, fully functional nuclear arsenal with appropriate delivery systems, and a well-trained army with a large Ready Reserve. If Israel wants to start a war with Iran, let it put its own young men and women at risk, instead of adopting a belligerant [sic] stance and inviting the United States to shed our blood and spend our treasure making good on Israel's threats.
Let me warm up with a bit of pedantry. 'Self-hating Jew' seems not quite the right expression. After all, a Jew who hates himself needn't hate himself because he is a Jew. He might hate himself, not in respect of his Jewishness, but in respect of some other attribute, say, that of being white. I recommend 'Jew-hating Jew.' On whether Wolff is one or not I have no opinion. You may also draw your own conclusions from Wolff's having penned Autobiography of an Ex-White Man.
But it is entirely typical of a delusional leftist to engage in the sort of Orwellian reversal expressed in the paragraph quoted above.
According to Wolff, Israel threatens Iran, and not the other way around. And it is Israel's "stance" that is "belligerent," not Iran's.
Israel is militarily supreme in the Middle East. It has nuclear war-making capacity. Iran doesn't, at least not yet. But so what?
I detect the typical leftist confusion of weapon and wielder, as if weapons themselves are the problem, not the character of their wielders. That, in tandem with some such silly equivalentism as that all actors are morally equivalent and that if one actor has nukes, then it is not fair that the others not have them. Should the U. N. provide them all around to 'level the playing field'?
I could go on, but my readers do not need their noses rubbed in the obvious.
Besides, some notions are beneath refutation. Their mere exposure suffices to refute them.
War is peace. Slavery is freedom. Less liberty is more liberty. Defense is attack. Concern for one's survival in a situation in which one's adversaries have threatened one with nuclear annihilation is belligerence. The Orwellian template: X, which is not Y, is Y.
In the interests of full disclosure, I am not now and never have been a Jew either ethnically or religiously, nor an Israeli, nor do I have any intention of becoming the two of these three that it would be possible for me to become.
Douglas Murray's article from The Spectator is so good I have reproduced the whole of it. (HT: Joel Hunter) Study the article. Pass it on. If you live in the West and enjoy its freedoms and liberties, then you have a moral obligation to do your bit in defense of it and them. People have shed blood in defense of these freedoms and liberties and you are too lazy to inform yourself about these matters and to speak out? In particular, you must speak out against the mendacity of Obama and his underlings who refuse to refer to Muslim terrorism as perpetrated by Muslims acting from (what they take to be) Islamic beliefs and which are, the experts tell me, really Islamic beliefs.
The only weak point I find in Murray's piece on a quick reading is the author's claim that no religion is peaceful. A religion is not the same as its adherents. It is certainly true that no religion is such that all of its adherents are peaceful. But aren't Buddhism and Christianity in their doctrines and approved practices peaceful in stark contrast to Islam and its doctrines and approved practices?
It occurs to me that there may be a second weak point. The author says nothing about the need to examine immigration policies. Shouldn't we be having a 'conversation' about this? Liberals love 'conversations' about this, that, and the other thing. Do you liberals really believe in free inquiry and open debate? Prove it!
UPDATE, 1:45 PM. This just in from Joel Hunter:
1. "‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. [. . .] Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion."
I do not agree. While public denunciations from Muslim leaders to the larger world may be muted, qualified, or even nonexistent, I think the militant nature of secularism puts plenty of heat on Muslims at all levels of society to reassure the rest of "us" that they either (a) have nothing to do with the fanatics and/or (b) are taking steps to shun and ostracize them from "acceptable" (within the secular sphere) society. My impression is that this message, though delivered in and by western societies with a velvet glove, is pretty constant.
2. "Because the violence of the Islamists is, truthfully, only to do with Islam: the worst version of Islam, certainly, but Islam nonetheless."
I think this is self-serving and reductive. The violence of Islamists has to do with Islam, yes. But only Islam? Ridiculous. This is equivalent to the claim that the violence of the Christians in the Crusades had only to do with Christianity.
3. "Here we land at the centre of the problem — a centre we have spent the last decade and a half trying to avoid: Islam is not a peaceful religion. No religion is, but Islam is especially not." As you pointed out, he overreaches here. He goes on to cite stories about Mohammed from the Hadith that indicate Mohammed was no pacifist. He wants to infer that Islamists are acting on the violent history of their founder. But nowhere does he show that Muslims teach that emulating all of the actions of their Prophet are what a good Muslim does, nor that Muslims believe that.
To "fight" Islamists will require more than a total surveillance state, state-of-the-art military equipment, and combat soldiers. It will require a more difficult examination of historical, non-religious causes emanating from western societies. This Guardian article discusses this perspective. It has its weaknesses, too, but I think gives a more complete picture of what is needed from our leaders to "defeat" Islamism and rescue the idea of the secular.
An aside: Malcolm Muggeridge once wrote that Joseph McCarthy might have been the most brilliant conspiracy ever created by the Reds, for what other person, what other rhetoric, would be likely to elicit sympathy for communism? In a similar vein, it strikes me that the militant atheists are best explained as an elaborate plot by theists to garner sympathy for believers and interest in their ways.
Thanks for posting all of the Murray article - it's quite good.
But readers might find your "Update" confusing. Could you show more clearly where Joel Hunter is speaking and where you are speaking? I'm inferring that Joel Hunter states the following:
"But nowhere does he show that Muslims teach that emulating all of the actions of their Prophet are what a good Muslim does, nor that Muslims believe that."
Unfortunately, Islam does teach that a good Muslim does emulate Muhammad in every respect. Fortunately, most Muslims do not do so, nor do most mosques talk about Muhammad's 'bad' actions, for whatever reasons.
BV: The material above the first update is wholly mine, while the material in the first update is wholly Hunter's. So Jeff's inference is correct.
The West’s movement towards the truth is remarkably slow. We drag ourselves towards it painfully, inch by inch, after each bloody Islamist assault.
In France, Britain, Germany, America and nearly every other country in the world it remains government policy to say that any and all attacks carried out in the name of Mohammed have ‘nothing to do with Islam’. It was said by George W. Bush after 9/11, Tony Blair after 7/7 and Tony Abbott after the Sydney attack last month. It is what David Cameron said after two British extremists cut off the head of Drummer Lee Rigby in London, when ‘Jihadi John’ cut off the head of aid worker Alan Henning in the ‘Islamic State’ and when Islamic extremists attacked a Kenyan mall, separated the Muslims from the Christians and shot the latter in the head. And, of course, it is what President François Hollande said after the massacre of journalists and Jews in Paris last week.
All these leaders are wrong. In private, they and their senior advisers often concede that they are telling a lie. The most sympathetic explanation is that they are telling a ‘noble lie’, provoked by a fear that we — the general public — are a lynch mob in waiting. ‘Noble’ or not, this lie is a mistake. First, because the general public do not rely on politicians for their information and can perfectly well read articles and books about Islam for themselves. Secondly, because the lie helps no one understand the threat we face. Thirdly, because it takes any heat off Muslims to deal with the bad traditions in their own religion. And fourthly, because unless mainstream politicians address these matters then one day perhaps the public will overtake their politicians to a truly alarming extent.
You wrote: ". . . one must turn their own Alinsky tactics against them . . . . Conservatives should not allow themselves to be hobbled by their own civility and high standards."
I completely agree which is why I support the ambush tactics of Jason Mattera (most recently of Lois Lerner fame). In my opinion the tactics are sleazy, but they are necessary as you note above. Mattera delivers to the left a taste of their own medicine. Moreover, in being slammed to a wall by Harry Reid's armed guard, Mattera does more to reveal the thuggish nature of the left than any polemic, no matter how well delivered.
As for all the criticism that Mattera has elicited, well, when one is getting flack one knows one is over the target.
In this video, Mattera responds to critics of his ambush of Lois Lerner, IRS chief. It is too bad that these ambush tactics are necessary, but when we are dealing with corrupt leftists who use the awesome power of the State to silence dissent, and who refuse to take responsibility for their actions or admit their wrongdoing, then tactics far more adversarial than those of the mild-mannered Mattera are justified.
We need less civility and more confrontation. The courageous Mattera is doing the job that journalists are supposed to do as members of the Fourth Estate, namely, monitor politicians and government functionaries such as Lerner in order to ensure that they don't violate their oaths of office or otherwise abuse the democratic process.
I speak as a conservative when I say that we need less civility and more confrontation. But of course there are leftists who say the same thing.
I think most of us will agree that confrontation and contention are not good and that peace is better than war. But how reduce the level of political strife?
There is a conceptually easy answer, but it won't happen. The Left has to back off. But the Left, being totalitarian, cannot consistently with it own nature back off or limit itself. Like Nietzsche's Will to Power it does not seek merely to preserve itself but always to expand and extend itself. (Here is a clue as to why leftists love Nietzsche; it is not because of his reactionary views.)
What we need is more federalism, less integration, and more voluntary segregation. I don't mean any of this racially. It is relatively easy to get along with one's ideological opponents if one limits contact with them. But this presupposes that they are willing to back off. If they don't, then war is inevitable.
There is much to be said in favor of a voluntary military, but on the debit side there is this: only those with 'skin in the game' -- either their own or that of their loved ones -- properly appreciate the costs of foreign military interventions. I say that as a conservative, not a libertarian.
There is also this to consider: In the bad old days of the draft people of different stations -- to use a good old word that will not be allowed to fall into desuetude, leastways not on my watch -- were forced to associate with one another -- with some good effects. It is 'broadening' to mingle and have to get along with different sorts of people. And when the veteran of foreign wars returns and takes up a profession in, say, academe, he brings with him precious hard-won experience of all sorts of people in different lands in trying circumstances. He is then more likely to exhibit the sense of a Winston Churchill as opposed to the nonsense of a Ward Churchill.
One of the reasons Obama is such a disaster as a president is that his experience does not extend beyond the merely verbal: that of the adjunct law professor and the senator. He is well-spoken and talks a good game, but his talk rarely hooks onto reality. He is a master of the manifold modes of mendacity. Compare him with Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces. Ike couldn't pronounce 'nuclear' but he knew something about the world. He saw the Nazi extermination camps and demanded that the atrocities be recorded for history.
A reader asks whether Israel's actions against Hamas are defensible according to the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE).
According to the New Catholic Encylopedia, an action is defensible according to DDE if all four of the following conditions are met:
(1) The act itself must be morally good or at least indifferent.
(2) The agent may not positively will the bad effect but may merely permit it. If he could attain the good effect without the bad effect, he should do so. The bad effect is sometimes said to be indirectly voluntary.
(3) The good effect must flow from the action at least as immediately (in the order of causality, though not necessarily in the order of time) as the bad effect. In other words, the good effect must be produced directly by the action, not by the bad effect. Otherwise the agent would be using a bad means to a good end, which is never allowed.
(4) The good effect must be sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect.
My example. An obviously hostile knife-wielding intruder breaks into my house. I grab a gun and shoot him, killing him. My intention is not to kill him but to stop his deadly attack against me and my family. The only effective means at my disposal for stopping the assailant is by shooting him. But I know that if I shoot him, there is a good chance that I will kill him.
There are two effects, a good one and a bad one. The good one is that I stop a deadly attack. The bad one is that I kill a man. My shooting is justified by DDE. Or so say I. As for condition (1), the act of defending myself and my family is morally good. As for (2), I do not positively will the bad effect, but I do permit it. My intention is not to kill a man, but to stop him from killing me. As for (3), the good effect and the bad effect are achieved simultaneously with both effects being directly caused by my shooting. So I am not employing an evil means to a good effect. As for (4), I think it is obvious that the goodness of my living compensates for the evil of the miscreant's dying.
In the case of the Israeli actions, the removal of rocket launchers and other weaponry trained upon Israeli citizens is a morally good effect. So condition (1) is satisfied. Condition (2) is also satisfied. The IDF do not target civilians, but military personnel and their weapons. Civilians deaths are to be expected since Hamas uses noncombatants as human shields. Civilian deaths cannot be avoided for the same reason.
Condition (3) is also satisfied. The good effect (the defense of the Israeli populace) is not achieved by means of the bad effect (the killing of civilians). Both are direct effects of the destruction of the Hamas weaponry.
But what about condition (4)? Is the good effect sufficiently desirable to compensate for the allowing of the bad effect? The good effect is the protection of the Israeli populace. But the cost is high in human lives given that Hamas employs human shields.
Are numbers relevant? Suppose that 1000 Gazan noncombatants are killed as 'collateral damage' for every 100 Israeli noncombatants. Is the 'disproportionality' morally relevant? I don't think so. For one thing, note that Hamas intends to kill Israeli noncombatants while the IDF does not intend to kill Gazan noncombatants. There is no moral equivalence between the terrorist entity, Hamas, and the state of Israel.
It would be the same if were talking about fighters as opposed to noncombatants. If 1000 Hamas terrorists are killed for every 100 IDF members, the numbers are morally irrelevant. They merely reflect the military superiority of the Israelis. No one thinks that in the WWII struggle of the Allies against the Axis, the Allies should have stopped fighting when the total number of Axis dead equalled the total number of Allied dead.
My tentative judgment, then, is that condition (4) of DDE is satisfied along with the others.
According to the New York Times, Secretary of State John Kerry is hoping for a cease-fire to "open the door to Israeli and Palestinian negotiations for a long-term solution." President Obama has urged Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to have an "immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" -- again, with the idea of pursuing some long-lasting agreement.
If this was the first outbreak of violence between the Palestinians and the Israelis, such hopes might make sense. But where have the U.N., Kerry and Obama been during all these decades of endlessly repeated Middle East carnage?
The Middle East must lead the world in cease-fires. If cease-fires were the road to peace, the Middle East would easily be the most peaceful place on the planet.
"Cease-fire" and "negotiations" are magic words to "the international community." But just what do cease-fires actually accomplish?
In the short run, they save some lives. But in the long run they cost far more lives, by lowering the cost of aggression.
At one time, launching a military attack on another nation risked not only retaliation but annihilation. When Carthage attacked Rome, that was the end of Carthage.
But when Hamas or some other terrorist group launches an attack on Israel, they know in advance that whatever Israel does in response will be limited by calls for a cease-fire, backed by political and economic pressures from the United States.
It is not at all clear what Israel's critics can rationally expect the Israelis to do when they are attacked. Suffer in silence? Surrender? Flee the Middle East?
Or -- most unrealistic of al -- fight a "nice" war, with no civilian casualties? General William T. Sherman said it all, 150 years ago: "War is hell."
If you want to minimize civilian casualties, then minimize the dangers of war, by no longer coming to the rescue of those who start wars.
Israel was attacked, not only by vast numbers of rockets but was also invaded -- underground -- by mazes of tunnels.
There is something grotesque about people living thousands of miles away, in safety and comfort, loftily second-guessing and trying to micro-manage what the Israelis are doing in a matter of life and death.
Such self-indulgences are a danger, not simply to Israel, but to the whole Western world, for it betrays a lack of realism that shows in everything from the current disastrous consequences of our policies in Egypt, Libya and Iraq to future catastrophes from a nuclear-armed Iran.
Those who say that we can contain a nuclear Iran, as we contained a nuclear Soviet Union, are acting as if they are discussing abstract people in an abstract world. Whatever the Soviets were, they were not suicidal fanatics, ready to see their own cities destroyed in order to destroy ours.
As for the ever-elusive "solution" to the Arab-Israeli conflicts in the Middle East, there is nothing faintly resembling a solution anywhere on the horizon. Nor is it hard to see why.
Even if the Israelis were all saints -- and sainthood is not common in any branch of the human race -- the cold fact is that they are far more advanced than their neighbors, and groups that cannot tolerate even subordinate Christian minorities can hardly be expected to tolerate an independent, and more advanced, Jewish state that is a daily rebuke to their egos.
Might does not make right, but neither does impotence or relative weakness. That weakness does not justify strikes me as an important principle, but I have never seen it articulated. The Left tends to assume the opposite. They tend to assume that mightlessness makes right. I'll dub this the Converse Callicles Principle.
The power I have to kill you does not morally justify my killing you. In a slogan: Ability does not imply permissibility. My ability to kill, rape, pillage and plunder does not confer moral justification on my doing these things. But if you attack me with deadly force and I reply with deadly force of greater magnitude, your relative weakness does not supply one iota of moral justification for your attack, nor does it subtract one iota of moral justification from my defensive response. If I am justified in using deadly force against you as aggressor, then the fact that my deadly force is greater than yours does not (a) diminish my justification in employing deadly force, nor does it (b) confer any justification on your aggression.
Suppose a knife-wielding thug commits a home invasion and attacks a man and his family. The man grabs a semi-automatic pistol and manages to plant several rounds in the assailant, killing him. It would surely be absurd to argue that the disparity in lethality of the weapons involved diminishes the right of the pater familias to defend himself and his family. Weakness does not justify.
The principle that weakness does not justify can be applied to the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict from the summer of 2006 as well as to the current Israeli defensive operations against the terrorist entity, Hamas. The principle ought to be borne in mind when one hears leftists, those knee-jerk supporters of any and every 'underdog,' start spouting off about 'asymmetry of power' and 'disproportionality.' Impotence and incompetence are not virtues, nor do they confer moral justification or high moral status, any more than they confer the opposite.
The principle that mightlessness makes right seems to be one of the cardinal tenets of the Left. It is operative in the present furor over the enforcement of reasonable immigration laws in Arizona. To the south of the USA lies crime-ridden, corrupt, impoverished Mexico. For millions and millions it is a place to escape from. The USA, the most successful nation of all time, is the place to escape to. But how does this disparity in wealth, success, and overall quality of life justify the violation of the reasonable laws and the rule of law that are a good part of the reason for the disparity of wealth, success, and overall quality of life?
I don't believe I have ever read a column by Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club that is more penetrating, thought-provoking, or chilling than his Seven Gambit. Excerpts:
Just as soon as Israel accepted an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire Hamas fired 47 rockets killing one Israeli citizen. Anyone who has followed the conflict could have predicted this with certainty; the point of a ceasefire — for a terrorist organization — is to break it for exactly the same reason it purposely attacks women and children.
Dr. Anna Geifman tried to explain that the reason why innocents are selected as terror targets is because “children are the last consecrated absolute”. That is just why they must be killed in the cruelest way possible. For “militant nihilism strives to ruin first and foremost what their contemporaries hold sacred”.
Nihilism isn’t the absence of a belief. It is something subtly different: it is the belief in nothing. The most powerful weapon of terrorism is therefore the unyielding No. “No I will not give up. No I will not tell the truth. No I will not play fair. No I will not spare children. No I will not stop even if you surrender to me; I will not cease even if you give me everything you have, up to and including your children’s lives. Nothing short of destroying me absolutely can make me stop. And therefore I will defeat you even if you kill me. Because I will make you pay the price in guilt for annihilating me.”
It’s an extremely powerful weapon. The Absolute No is a devastating attack on the self-image and esteem of civilization. Hamas will demonstrate the No, the Nothing. It will show that deep down inside Israelis — and Americans — are animals like them.
[. . .]
The power of Hamas lies in that they will never stop hating. No ceasefire, concession, negotiation or entreaty will move them. That is their inhuman strength. The Jews can even exterminate them, but only at the cost of destroying all the ideals they hold dear. If the last Hamas activist could speak he would say this:
“Shoot! I am the last. Carry out your ethnic cleansing, just as the Nazis tried with you. You will never be able to look yourself in the mirror again. The price of victory is to win on our terms. Nothing will remain of your precious Jewish self-esteem, of the illusion that you are a civilization dedicated to morality. What will you do after you kill me? Go to your synagogue and a hymn of praise to your God?
“At that moment your faith will desert you. For you claim your God does not desire blood, that yours is a God of love and I say therefore He is false. The only real Gods are those of Hate. A God that does not live by blood does not exist as my God who lives by blood exists; and when you pull the trigger you will be worshipping at my altar! I have won at last. Come to prayer. Come to Islam.”
[. . .]
Wars through history have exacted an irreparable spiritual price from its [their] combatants.
[. . .]
It’s not an original thought. William Tecumseh Sherman knew before Collins that War is Hell; that the only excuse for it was the belief that you could in the subsequent peace, chain up the devils. He wrote in his letters, “you cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it … If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war.”
Nor has its character changed much. Curtis LeMay, during what we remember as the Good War, shared his formula for defeating the enemy. “If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting.”
Human beings are remarkably good at calling up the devil in their fellow human beings. They start out Christian enough, but give them time. In the first Christmas of the Great War, when fighting was but a few months old, there enough fellow-feeling among the combatants remained to spontaneously create what is now remembered as the Christmas Truce.
Through the week leading up to Christmas, parties of German and British soldiers began to exchange seasonal greetings and songs between their trenches; on occasion, the tension was reduced to the point that individuals would walk across to talk to their opposite numbers bearing gifts. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, many soldiers from both sides—as well as, to a lesser degree, from French units—independently ventured into “no man’s land”, where they mingled, exchanging food and souvenirs. As well as joint burial ceremonies, several meetings ended in carol-singing. Troops from both sides were also friendly enough to play games of football with one another.
By the next year they were modifying their bayonets so it would hurt more when you stabbed the enemy. When we look at Hamas we are looking at some[thing] very old and ancient. Does the devil win in Seven? For that matter does he win on earth?
Say no if you can. For Hamas is determined to prove that you too are like them. Just like them.
Fr. Robert Barron here fruitfully compares the Catholic Church's rigoristic teaching on matters sexual, with its prohibitions of masturbation, artificial contraception, and extramarital sex, with the rigorism of the Church's teaching with respect to just war. An excellent article.
Although Fr. Barron doesn't say it explicitly, he implies that the two topics are on a par. Given that "the Catholic Church's job is to call people to sanctity and to equip them for living saintly lives," one who accepts just war rigorism ought also to accept sexual rigorism. Or at least that is what I read him as saying.
I have no in-principle objection to the sexual teaching, but I waffle when it comes to the rigorous demands of just war theory. I confess to being 'at sea' on this topic.
On the one hand, I am quite sensitive to the moral force of 'The killing of noncombatants is intrinsically evil and cannot be justified under any circumstances' which is one of the entailments of Catholic just war doctrine. Having pored over many a page of Kant, I am strongly inclined to say that certain actions are intrinsically wrong, wrong by their very nature, wrong regardless of consequences and circumstances. But what would have been the likely upshot had the Allies not used unspeakably brutal methods against the Germans and the Japanese in WWII? Leery as one ought to be of counterfactual history, I think the Axis Powers would have acquired nukes first and used them against us. But we don't have to speculate about might-have-beens. The Catholic doctrine implies that if Truman had a crystal ball and knew the future with certainty and saw that the Allies would have lost had they not used the methods they used, and that the whole world would have been been plunged into a Dark Age for two centuries -- he still would not have been justified in ordering the annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Indeed, if the killing of noncombatants is intrinsically evil and unjustifiable under any circumstances and regardless of any consequences, then it is better that the earth be blown to pieces than that evil be done. This, I suppose, is one reading of fiat iustitia pereat mundus, "Let justice be done though the world perish."
This extreme anti-consequentialism would make sense if the metaphysics of the Catholic Church or even the metaphysics of Kant were true. If God is real then this world is relatively unreal and relatively unimportant. If the soul is real, then its salvation is our paramount concern, and every worldly concern is relatively insignificant.
But then a moral doctrine that is supposed to govern our behavior in this world rests on an other-worldly metaphysics. No problem with that -- if the metaphysics is true. For then one's flourishing in this world cannot amount to much as compared to one's flourishing in the next. But how do we know it is true? Classical theistic metaphysics is reasonably believed, but then so are certain versions of naturalism. (Not every naturalist is an eliminativist loon.)
If the buck stops with you and the fate of civilization itself depends on your decision, will you act according to a moral doctrine that rests on a questionable metaphysics or will you act in accordance with worldly wisdom, a wisdom that dictates that one absolutely must resist the evildoer, and absolutely must not turn the other cheek to a Hitler?
An isolated individual, responsible for no one but himself, is free to allow himself to be slaughtered. But a leader of a nation is in a much different position. Anscombe's case against Truman does not convince me. Let the philosophy professor change places with the head of state and then see if her rigorism remains tenable.
To sum up these ruminations in a nice, neat antilogism:
1. Some acts, such as the intentional killing of noncombatants, are intrinsically wrong. 2. If an act is intrinsically wrong, then no possible circumstance in which it occurs or consequence of its being performed can substract one iota from its moral wrongness. 3. No act is such that its moral evaluation can be conducted without any consideration of any possible circumstance in which it occurs or possible consequence of its being performed.
The limbs of the antilogism are collectively inconsistent but individually extremely plausible.
At a bare minimum, make the case to the American people and consult with congress.
A simple question that John Kerry does not address in his case for intervention is the one posed by Hanson: "And what of the irony that Assad is probably no worse a custodian of WMD than is the opposition that we would de facto [be] aiding?"
. . . is like going hunting without an accordion." A line from Mark Steyn's brilliant column, An Accidental War.
Liberating Syria isn’t like liberating the Netherlands: In the Middle East, the enemy of our enemy is also our enemy. Yes, those BBC images of schoolchildren with burning flesh are heart-rending. So we’ll get rid of Assad and install the local branch of al-Qaeda or the Muslim Brotherhood or whatever plucky neophyte democrat makes it to the presidential palace first — and then, instead of napalmed schoolyards, there will be, as in Egypt, burning Christian churches and women raped for going uncovered.
Didn't we learn anything from Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan? Prudence dictates that we stay out of Syria, or at least that we look very carefully before we leap. Here is a balanced treatment of the pros and cons by Ron Radosh. And this guest post by William Polk at Robert Paul Wolff's place is well worth reading.
The soldier's operations in the field are often encumbered by the presence of civilians and considerations of 'collateral damage.' The seaman's is a purer form of combat. Ships far out at sea. All hands combatants. No civilians to get in the way. Less worry over environmental degradation. The 'purity' of naval over land warfare. Bellicosity in the realm of Neptune must breed a brand of brotherhood among the adversaries not encountered on terra firma.
Kevin Kim has been following me since late 2003 before I was a proper blogger commencing 4 May 2004 and only a mere slogger (slow blogger without the proper software: I'd upload batches of short posts to a website that I have long since taken down).
Well, I didn't for a second think that there would be a landslide in favor of Romney, and I was puzzled by the cocksure pronunciamentos of Dick Morris and others who made up for their lack of crystal balls by displaying their brass balls. But no, I didn't think the Obama win was inevitable, especially after his miserable showing in the first debate. I thought Romney had a good chance of winning given all the objective considerations that condemn Obama, the litany of which I will not again recite. If I was naive, it was because I foolishly underestimated the foolishness of the electorate and how it has been dumbed-down and stupefied by the flim-flam man and his empty rhetoric and outright lies and promises of all sorts of goodies that he is going to get the rich bastards to pay for.
Bill Keezer, whom I have met in the flesh a couple of times and who truly deserves (as does Pollack) the epithet 'gentleman,' speaks in his post of civil war:
If you go back through my blogs for the past few months, you will see the prediction of a coming civil war. The differences in the red vs. the blue states is now so fundamental, that I think civil war is quite possible. I also think the red states will win, hands down. They still have the values that make for effective soldiering. Imagine street gangs against disciplined, seasoned fighters. There will be no contest, and if the red states take mercy on the blue, woe to both. It is time for justice. (A concern of the last couple of blog posts, which is not moot.)
God help us if Bill is right and the present war of words and votes ramps up into a shooting war. Leftists need to be careful. If push comes to shove, and shove to shoot, the Red Staters will clean your clock. After all, they have the guns.
How can we avoid tearing ourselves apart? My recommendation is a return to federalism. But of course the Left, which is totalitarian from the ground up, won't allow that. And so we may be in for some 'excitement.'
Some warn of the militarization of space as if it has not already been militarized. It has been, and for a long time now. How long depending on how high up you deem space begins. Are they who warn unaware of spy satellites? Of Gary Powers and the U-2 incident? Of the V-2s that crashed down on London? Of the crude Luftwaffen, air-weapons, of the First World War? The Roman catapults? The first javelin thrown by some Neanderthal spear chucker? It travelled through space to pierce the heart of some poor effer and was an early weaponization of the space between chucker and effer.
"I will not weaponize space," said Obama while a candidate in 2008. That empty promise comes too late, and is irresponsible to boot: if our weapons are not there, theirs will be.
The very notion that outer space could be reserved for wholly peaceful purposes shows a deep lack of understanding of the human condition. Show me a space with human beings in it and I will show you a space that potentially if not actually is militarized and weaponized. Man is, was, and will be a bellicose son of a bitch. If you doubt this, study history, with particular attention to the 20th century. You can bet that the future will resemble the past in this respect. Note that the turn of the millenium has not brought anything new in this regard.
Older is not wiser. All spaces, near, far, inner, outer, are potential scenes of contention, which is why I subscribe to the Latin saying:
Si vis pacem, para bellum.
If you want peace, prepare for war.
One must simply face reality and realize that the undoubtedly great good of peace comes at a cost, the cost of a credible defense. A credible defense is what keeps aggressors at bay. I mean this to hold at all levels, intrapsychically, interpersonally, intranationally, internationally, and in every other way. Weakness provokes. Strength pacifies. That is just the way it is. Conservatives, being reality-based, understand what eludes leftists who are based in u-topia (nowhere) and who rely on their unsupportable faith in the inherent goodness of human beings.
They should read Kant on the radical evil in human nature. Then they should go back to Genesis, chapters 2 and 3.
Here we have one of those deep defining differences between conservatives and leftists. Vote for the candidate of your choice, but just understand what set of ideas and values you are voting for.
I was a bit surprised to read that in response to your post about tempering one's joy at Osama's demise, "Prager pointed out that the Jews rejoiced when the Red Sea closed around the Egyptians, and that this rejoicing was pleasing to God."
First, I was surprised because a quick look at Exodus 15 does not say that the Israelites' rejoicing was pleasing to God. Maybe this was "lost in translation," but I very much doubt that, since the Bible is the most carefully translated book in the world.
You are right: Exodus 15 does not explicitly say that the Israelites' rejoicing was pleasing to God. But one can infer from verse 25 that God was pleased, or at least not displeased, since God shows Moses a tree with which he sweetens and makes potable the bitter waters of Marah after they make it through the Red (Reed?) Sea and are mighty thirsty (Ex 15: 23-25). I should add that "this rejoicing was pleasing to God" was Dennis Prager's addition, as I understood him.
Second, I was surprised because I imagine that Prager was at some point exposed to a Talmudic story which is often recounted at the Passover Seder. A version that I was able to locate fairly quickly on the Web follows. As evil as Pharoah and the Egyptians were, when it came to their destruction at the hands of God through the plagues (particularly the death of the first born)and at the Sea of Reeds, the rabbis went to great lengths to temper our joy. A famous midrash in the Talmud makes the point:
When the Egyptians were drowning in the Sea of Reeds, the ministering angels began to sing God's praises. But God silenced them, saying: How can you sing while my children perish? We may rejoice in our liberation but we may not celebrate the death of our foes. To underscore the point, and re-enforce the value, the rabbis instructed that ten drops of wine be spilled from our cups [at the seder] diminishing the joy of our celebration, as a reminder of those who peished in the course of our liberation. It is said that this is also the reason why a portion of the Hallel (the great songs of praise) is omitted on the last six days of Passover.
By the way, I would like to question your agreement with Prager that pacifism is "immoral." Is it really immoral, or just not morally obligatory? Or perhaps it should be approached as part of an aspirational ethics. While I'm not a pacifist, I think it's something to which I ought to aspire. Perhaps one is less guilty for aspiring to, but not realizing pacifism, than for not aspiring to pacifism at all.
We agree that being a pacifist is not morally obligatory. So the question is whether it is morally permissible. The answer will depend on what exactly we mean by 'pacifism.' Suppose we mean by it the doctrine that there are no actual or possible circumstances in which the intentional taking of human life is morally justified. Someone who holds this presumably does so because he thinks that human life as such has absolute value. Now if that is what we mean by pacifism, then I think it is morally impermissible to be a pacifist. Here is an argument off the top of my head:
1. We ought to (it is morally obligatory that we) work for peace and justice and oppose violence and killing. "Blessed are the peacemakers." 2. It is sometimes necessary to kill human beings in order to maximize peace and justice and minimize violence and killing. 3. To will the end is to will the means. Therefore 4. It is morally obligatory that we sometimes kill human beings to minimize violence and killing. Therefore 5. It is morally impermissible that we never kill human beings to minimize violence and killing.
(1) is a deliverance of sound moral sense. The NT verse is a mere ornament. It is not the justification for (1). Examples of (2) are plentiful. (3) is an unexceptionable Kantian principle. (4) follows from the first three premises. (5) follows from (4).
Should we aspire to be pacifists? In some senses of that term, sure. But not in the sense I defined. It's a large topic.
In a comment thread Tony Hanson asked me if I had written a post on cumulative-case arguments. After some digging, I located one that I had written 24 August 2004. Here it is for what its worth.
Suppose you have a good reason R1 to do X. Then along comes a second good reason R2 to do X. Does R2 remove the justificatory force of R1? Obviously not. Does R2 leave the justificatory force of R1 unchanged? No again. Clearly, R2 augments the force of R1. Any additional good reasons R3, R4, . . . Rn, would of course only add to the justification for doing X. What we have here is a cumulative case for doing X, a case in which the justificatory force of the good reasons is additive.
A thorough discussion would have to distinguish between cumulative case arguments in which each reason is sufficient to justify the action envisaged, and cumulative case arguments in which one or more or all of the reasons are individually insufficient to justify the action envisaged.
Suppose each reason in a cumulative case argument is individually sufficient to justify the action envisaged. Then in what sense are the reasons additive? They are additive in that each additional sufficient reason provides an additional fail-safe mechanism. If an agent has many reasons each of which is both good and sufficient for doing X, then, if one of the reasons should turn out to be either bad or insufficient, then the other reasons are available to shoulder the justificatory burden.
Apply this to the Iraq war. One reason for going to war was the widely shared belief that Saddam had WMDs. Another was that he was a known sponsor of Palestinian Arab terrorists and a reasonably surmised sponsor of other terrorists. (On the second point, see Stephen F. Hayes, The Connection: How al-Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America, Harper Collins, 2004) A third was humanitarian: the liberation of the Iraqi people from a brutal dictator and his sons. A fourth was to enforce unanimous U.N. resolutions that this august body did not have the cojones to enforce itself. A fifth was to end the ongoing hostilities, e.g., Iraqi attacks on coalition warplanes. Even if no one of these reasons is sufficient to justify the invasion, the five taken together arguably provide good and sufficient reason for the action.
The strategy of ‘Divide and Conquer’ cannot be used against a cumulative case argument. Suppose Jack has several reasons for marrying Jill: she’s nubile and pretty, moneyed and witty; they are physically and psychologically compatible; they share the same values; she has beautiful eyes, and there is beauty at the opposite pole of her being as well. So Jack has nine good reasons. It simply won’t do to point out that each of them, taken singly, is insufficient to justify the marriage. A good reason is not the same as a sufficient reason. A good reason can be either sufficient or insufficient. What then are examples of bad reasons? A bad reason would be her having a police record, or her having a doctorate in biology when her doctorate is in mathematics.
The point is that several good, but individually insufficient, reasons can add up to a good and sufficient reason. If so, then ‘Divide and Conquer’ is a fallacious form of refutation. But that is what many leftists do when they oppose the Iraq war. Suppose that the cumulative case consists of R1, R2, and R3, each of which is insufficient by itself to justify doing X. The ‘Divide and Conquer’ objector wrongly infers ‘no reason’ from ‘insufficient reason.’ Thus he thinks that if R1 is insufficient, then R1 is no reason, and similarly for R2 and R3. He then concludes: no reason + no reason + no reason = no reason. He fails to appreciate the additivity of individually insufficient but good reasons, just as the typical poor person fails to appreciate the additivity of the small amounts of money he throws away on cigarettes, lottery tickets, and overpriced convenience store items.
For example, if a conservative gives liberation of the Iraqi people as a reason for the invasion, the leftie is likely to object: "But then why don’t we liberate the North Koreans?" This is an asinine response since it it is based on a failure to appreciate that the liberation reason is only one part of a cumulative case, not to mention the fact that an attempted liberation of the North Koreans could easily lead to nuclear war. Granting that liberating the Iraqi people is an insufficient reason for the war, it does not follow that it is no reason at all. It is a good reason which, though insufficient taken by itself, is part of a cumulative case which amounts to a good and sufficient reason for the war.
Another mistake that leftists make is to confuse a reason with a motive. They do this when they say that a proffered reason is not the real reason. A reason is a motive when it plays a motivating role within the psychic economy of an agent. Suppose Jack has available to him an objectively good reason R for marrying Jill. But Jack is not consciously or subconsciously aware of R. Obviously, R can play no role in the etiology of his envisaged action. Yet R remains an objectively good reason for performing the act in question. A good reason need not be a motivating reason, and a motivating reason need not be a good reason. The expression ‘real reason’ should be avoided because it is ambiguous as between good reason and motivating reason.
Suppose Bush II’s sole motive for invading Iraq was to avenge Saddam’s assasination attempt on his father, Bush I. Even on this wildly counterfactual assumption, there were good reasons for the invasion. For an action to be justified, all that is required is that there be objectively good reasons for the action; it is not necessary that the agent’s motives be objectively good reasons. Even if an agent is not justified in doing X – because he is either not aware of or motivated by the good reasons for doing X – the act itself (the act-type itself) can have justification. Our man Jack, for example, may be driven to marry Jill by his lust and nothing besides; but this does not entail that his marrying her lacks justification. Jack’s father might say to him: "Son, you made the right decision, but for the wrong reason." The rightness of the decision is due to the availability of good reasons even if horny Jack did not avail himself of them.
At this point an objector might maintain that what I am calling good reasons are simply ex post facto rationalizations.But a rationalization after the fact is not the same as a good reason that plays no motivating role in bringing about the fact. For a rationalization is a bad reason. Suppose Ali physically assaults Benjamin because Benjamin is a Jew and Ali believes that Jews are the "sons of pigs and monkeys." After the fact, A explains his behavior by saying that B insulted him. Suppose B did insult A. A is rationalizing after the fact as opposed to giving a good reason after the fact. B’s insulting of A did not give A a good reason for initiating physical violence against B.
Now let us suppose that Bush II’s sole motive for ordering the Iraq invasion was his desire to deprive Saddam of the WMDs that he, Bush, believed Saddam to possess. Suppose, plausibly, that the belief is false. In that case, Bush II’s motivating reason was not an objectively good reason – based as it was on a false belief – but it could still count as a subjectively good reason in this sense: he had a reason that was a good reason based on the information he had available to him at the time of the decision. I would then argue that the other reasons, which are objectively good, bear the justificatory burden.
An astonishing number of people, some of them intelligent, believe that the motivating reason for the Iraq invasion was the desire to secure access to Iraqi oil. But if that was the motivating reason, it is was a very bad reason since (i) the oil was flowing; (ii) starting a war with an opponent believed to have WMDs and known to have ignited oil wells in the past is clearly a stupid way to secure access to Iraqi oil; (iii) the projected cost of the war would be scarcely offset by the value of the oil secured; and (iv) deposing Saddam and his sons was not at all necessary to insure the flow of oil. I would argue that since this oil reason is so obviously bad, it is not reasonable to impute it to Bush and his advisers as the motivating reason for the invasion.
To sum up. The case for invading Iraq was a cumulative case. A cumulative case cannot be refuted by ‘Divide and Conquer.’ A good reason need not be a sufficient reason. A reason is not the same as a motive: there can be objectively good reasons for an action even if the agent of the action is not motivated by any of these reasons. To find good reasons after the fact is not to engage in ex post facto rationalization. This is because a rationalization is the providing of a bad reason. But of course, liberals and leftists are so blinded by their passionate hatred of Bush II, that patient analysis of the foregoing sort will be lost on them.
Tony Hanson e-mails from the once-great state of California whose governor-elect is once again Governor Moonbeam:
I see you had Berlin's essay in your library and reread it. I just wanted to say I don't think that we are in quite the bind you describe since there still seems to be a lot of room for some good rationally justified smiting, polemics and general political ass-kicking in spite of value pluralism. I'll make this very brief.
Defense of Polemics. I am sure you would agree that one's opponents may have all sorts of bad reasons for their positions, and (politely?) exposing them can make people more thoughtful, and may even enlighten them to the truth of value pluralism so much so that they may "flinch" too. Could this encourage comity?
That is a good point and I fully agree with it. The pluralistic position, according to which no objective resolution satisfactory to all competent practioners is possible due to irresolvable value differences, is entirely consistent with the possibility of the fully objective exposure of bad arguments and empirical falsehoods on both sides. Take abortion. There are bad arguments on both sides of the debate, and almost everyone will agree that there are. (I won't say what those bad arguments are lest I spark a meta-debate as to exactly which arguments on both sides are bad; but that there are bad arguments on both sides is uncontroversial.) An argument can be objectively bad for a number of different reasons: it is logically invalid; rests on an empirically false premise; involves a weak analogy; commits an informal fallacy; is so murky and indistinct as to be insusceptible of evaluation, etc. The essence of the pluralistic position is that once all the bad arguments on both sides are set aside, one arrives at a set of 'good' arguments which, however, do not resolve the issue for an impartial observer.
I would quibble, though, with your use of 'polemics.' From the Greek polemos, it means strife, struggle, war. So we can define polemics as verbal warfare, warfare at the level of ideas. There needn't be anything polemical about pointing out to an opponent that one of his arguments falls short of an objective standard such as the one represented by formal logic. Here there is the possibility of convincing the opponent (assuming he is sincere, intelligent, etc.) because the cognitive values that come into play (truth, clarity, logical coherence, etc.) are agreed upon.
Defense of War and Smiting. You said, "Suppose further ... that this value difference that divides them cannot be objectively resolved to the satisfaction of both parties by appeal to any empirical fact or by any reasoning or by any combination of the two." Say you are arguing with a Fascist or radical libertarian (who thinks property rights are absolute), and no empirical fact or reasoning satisfies them In other words, they are unreasonable.
But if you say that the radical libertarian is unreasonable, what are your criteria of reasonability or rationality? I reject the radical libertarian position on property rights and I get the impression that you do as well. But from his point of view, his stance is reasonable in that it is rationally derivable from certain axioms he accepts. Is there some plain empirical fact that he fails to take cognizance of, or some rule of logic that he flouts? When you say that the radical libertarian is unreasonable, aren't you just rejecting his scheme of values? He places an absolute, inviolable, value on the individual and his property and refuses to admit that there are any competing values that would tend to have a relativizing effect. Consider an eminent domain dispute. Farmer Jones has worked hard all his life and owns 100 acres. The Feds want to buy from him a strip of land for a much-needed road that cannot be placed anywhere else. Jones refuses to sell. Even if he agrees that there is such a thing as the common good, he refuses to concede that it has the power to limit the absoluteness of his property right.
When you say that Jones is unreasonable, what you are doing is pitting your value-based conception of reasonableness against his. But then my point goes through, which was that disputes like this are objectively irresolvable because rooted in value disputes which are objectively irresolvable.
Seems like its time for the Converse Clausewitz Principle [Politics is war conducted by other means]. Well, you can of course work to defeat libertarians in the political arena (though they do a pretty good job of this themselves, which is why I follow Medved in calling them 'losertarians.') But the issue concerns your rational warrant for "unflinchingly" opposing them. What makes you so cocksure that you are right and they are wrong?
Further, it seems a distinction needs to be made between the priority of a value, and the weight (or height?) of the priority. Two people could prioritize security over liberty, but one would be prepared to sacrifice a lot more liberty for security than the other. The extremist gives his value too much weight, obviously; but it also seems one can be objectively wrong about the weight of the prioritized value, and not be an extremist. Invoking Aristotle might be helpful. Though one might not be a complete coward (or extremist), one might miss the mark with respect to courage and be a little cowardly, and so on with the various values. Moreover, it might not be possible to come to an agreement by using facts and reason, to what "hitting the mark" is, but you know it misses. Someone might have a different intuition on what hitting the mark is, or the target might be a large one allowing for disagreement, but it still might be worth trusting your sense of "tone," and fighting for it.
I agree that if value V1 takes priority over value V2, there remains the question of how much higher up in the axiological hierarchy V1 is. Patrick Henry said, "Give me liberty or give me death." He apparently valued his liberty over his very life. Would you call him an extremist? If yes, then what is wrong with being an extremist? If he is placing an inordinate value on liberty, how do you show that? Or take the Obama liberal who is willing to sacrifice his liberty for (the promise of) cradle-to-grave security and material comfort. How do you show in an objective manner that the liberal places too much value on security and not enough on liberty? You simply assert that "one can be objectively wrong about the weight of the prioritized value." Gratuitous assertions, however, elicit gratuitous counterassertions in response.
Tea Partiers object to the liberty-encroaching governmental overreach of the Obama gang. (Case in point: the 'individual mandate' of Obamacare which forces citizens to buy health insurance.) The political conflict is rooted in a deep value conflict. How resolve it?
I don't see how Aristotle helps in this. I would also point out that he was talking about virtues, not values, which are a different animal entirely and didn't come into philosophical currency until the 19th century. A virtue is a habit (hexis, habitus), a dispositional feature of an agent; a value is . . . well what exactly is a value? An abstract or ideal object of some sort?
The ComBox is open to give Hanson an opportunity to reply. Others may chime in as well, but only if their comments are well-informed, intelligent, and stick precisely to the topic under discussion, what he says and what I say here and in the post that Hanson in replying to. I simply delete comments I consider to be substandard.
This is one of my favorite bumper stickers, and not just because there are all too many motorists clogging the roads who seem unacquainted with the function of turn signals. The sticker is a parody of ‘Visualize World Peace’ (‘Visualize Whirled Peas’). Visualizing something as nebulous and utopian as world peace is about as pointless as the sort of visualizing going on in John Lennon’s silly ditty, “Imagine.”
If you want to improve the world, try visualizing some concrete action that it is in your power to perform such as letting a motorist enter your lane. Better, visualize an entire day in which you gratuitously offend no one in word or deed. Then take the next step: visualize an entire day in which you gratuitously offend no one in word or deed, and entertain no negative thoughts to boot. In the end, there is only one person over whose behavior you have any real control, namely, yourself. So if you are serious about improving the world, you can start with that guy. If you desire peace in the world, begin by making war against your lower self.
I am not saying that this is sufficient for world peace, but it may well be necessary.
Often and thoughtlessly repeated, 'One man's terrorist in another man's freedom fighter' is one of those sayings that cry out for logical and philosophical analysis. Competent analysis will show that clear-thinking persons ought to avoid the saying.
Note first that while freedom is an end, terror is a means. So to call a combatant a terrorist is to say something about his tactics, his means for achieving his ends, while to call a combatant a freedom fighter is to say nothing about his tactics or means for achieving his ends. It follows that one and the same combatant can be both a terrorist and a freedom fighter. For one and the same person can employ terror as his means while having freedom as his end.
Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace, tr. Emma Craufurd, Routledge 1995, p. 77, emphasis added.
Non-violence is no good unless it is effective. Hence the young man's question to Ghandi about his sister. The answer should have been: use force unless you are such that you can defend her with as much chance of success without violence. Unless you possess a radiance of which the energy (that is to say, the possible effectiveness in the most material sense of the word) is equal to that contained in your muscles.
We should strive to become such that we are able to be nonviolent.
Required reading from the pen of Victor Davis Hanson. Since I cannot do better than him, I will simply provide excerpts of five key points he makes. Be sure and read the whole piece. Here are Hanson's Gaza rules in his words but with material omitted:
First is the now-familiar Middle East doctrine of proportionality. Legitimate military action is strangely defined by the relative strength of the combatants. World opinion more vehemently condemns Israel's countermeasures, apparently because its rockets are far more accurate and deadly than previous Hamas barrages that are poorly targeted and thus not so lethal.
Second, intent in this war no longer matters. Every Hamas unguided rocket is launched in hopes of hitting an Israeli home and killing men, women and children. Every guided Israeli air-launched missile is targeted at Hamas operatives, who deliberately work in the closest vicinity to women and children.
Third, culpability is irrelevant. The "truce" between Israel and Hamas was broken once Hamas got its hands on new stockpiles of longer-range mobile rockets — weapons that are intended to go over Israel's border walls.
Yet, according to the Gaza rules, both sides always deserve equal blame. Indeed, this weird war mimics the politically correct, zero-tolerance policies of our public schools, where both the bully and his victim are suspended once physical violence occurs.
Fourth, with instantaneous streaming video from the impact sites in Gaza, context becomes meaningless. Our attention is glued to the violence of the last hour, not that of the last month that incited the war.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 to great expectations that the Palestinians there would combine their new autonomy, some existing infrastructure left behind by the Israelis, Middle East oil money and American pressure for free and open elections to craft a peaceful, prosperous democracy.
Fifth and finally, victimization is crucial. Hamas daily sends barrages into Israel, as its hooded thugs thump their chests and brag of their radical Islamic militancy. But when the payback comes, suddenly warriors are transmogrified into weeping victims, posing teary-eyed for the news camera as they deplore "genocide" and "the Palestinian Holocaust." At least the Japanese militarists did not cry out to the League of Nations for help once mean Marines landed on Iwo Jima.
Might does not make right, but neither does impotence or relative weakness. That weakness does not justify strikes me as an important principle, but I have never seen it articulated. The power I have to kill you does not morally justify my killing you. In a slogan: Ability does not imply permissibility. My ability to kill, rape, pillage & plunder does not confer moral justification on my doing these things. But if you attack me with deadly force of magnitude M and I reply with deadly force of magnitude 10 x M, your relative weakness does not supply one iota of moral justification for your attack, nor does it subtract one iota of moral justification from my defensive response. If I am justified in using deadly force against you as aggressor, then the fact that my deadly force is greater than yours does not (a) diminish my justification in employing deadly force, nor does it (b) confer any justification on your aggression.
Suppose a knife-wielding thug commits a home invasion and attacks a man and his family. The man grabs a semi-automatic pistol and manages to plant several rounds in the assailant, killing him. It would surely be absurd to argue that the disparity in lethality of the weapons involved diminishes the right of the pater familias to defend himself and his family.
The principle that weakness does not justify can be applied to the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict from the summer of 2006 as well as to the current Israeli defensive operations against the terrorist entity, Hamas. The principle ought to be borne in mind when one hears leftists, those knee-jerk supporters of any and every 'underdog,' start spouting off about 'asymmetry of power' and 'disproportionality.'