Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Rules of War

by Steven Grueshaber

This week we are dealing with questions regarding jus in bello, or ‘justice in war.’ Jus in bello questions are concerned with actions that occur after a war is already started. What actions are you justified in performing during a time of war? This is a very broad question and the answer to it is beyond the scope of this paper. The goal of this paper is to address more specific questions that you must first answer before attempting the much broader question above. More specifically, I am concerned with the distinction between combatants and noncombatants as well as the role that distinction plays when determining the rules of war.

Ever since the 9/11 destruction of the World Trade Centers our country has placed a lot of stress on the concept of patriotism, the love and devotion to one’s country. This, I feel, is a misguided concept. One should not perform any particular action for the sole reason of it being your country’s desire. One should actually be concerned with what actions you truly ought to perform and make decisions accordingly. While this may seem to address the issue of jus ad bellum, it is important for the distinction of soldiers in my combatant vs. noncombatant issue. Walzer makes the claim that soldiers are not responsible for the decision of whether or not they fight but that they are only responsible for how they fight. Walzer believes that a soldier’s nation is responsible for determining whether or not a soldier goes to war. He says that “We still hold soldiers to certain standards, even though they fight unwillingly—in fact, precisely because we assume that they all fight unwillingly.[1] Later, he says that “It is the sense that the enemy soldier, though his war may well be criminal, is nevertheless as blameless as oneself.”[2] I disagree with Walzer on this point. A soldier is not innocent of a crime simply because he was told or even threatened to do so. Patriotism does not dissolve someone’s responsibility for a crime. Since when has “he told me to do it” ever been a viable excuse for a crime? While the answer to this is an obvious “never,” being threatened to do something has more complicated solutions. One common argument for a soldier not being responsible for going to war is that he suffers bad consequences for not doing so. He could suffer legal and social persecution for abandoning the army. In some armies a deserter may even be punished by death. However, I cannot be morally justified in killing others unless they are unjustly trying to kill someone else. Self defense cannot apply here because you are not actually defending yourself from the person threatening you but you are in effect appeasing him. This means that soldiers are only justified in fighting a war if that war itself is just.

Walzer also makes the claim that killing another combatant in a war is not murder. While this mostly draws from the fact that he believes that soldiers are not responsible for being involved in the war, he also gives an example for soldiers that do agree to go to war of their own volitions. “When soldiers fight freely, choosing one another as enemies and designing their own battles, their war is not a crime; when they fight without freedom, their war is not their crime.” Due to the fact that every soldier has the freedom to choose not to fight – regardless of whether or not there are consequences – we are left with the first claim. Suppose that my country is under attack by another country. If I decide to fight to defend myself, my loved ones, or the other people of my country, then it would seem that I am satisfying Walzer’s first claim. However, I am not choosing the people of the other country as my enemies. The soldiers that are attacking my country are the ones choosing to be my enemies. Because I have not entered into some sort of war contract with them, it would be murder; they would be unjust in killing me. I, on the other hand, would be justified in killing them because I would be doing so in self defense.

My point to all of this is to show that the legalist paradigm does apply to jus in bello issues. Walzer claimed that it wouldn’t work because there are separate rules in a time of war. This is largely because he felt that soldiers didn’t have the freedom to choose whether or not to go to war, but also because there are certain customs to war that both sides should follow. I have already shown how soldiers are responsible for deciding whether or not they go to war. The customs, however, exist only for pragmatic reasons but are not always the most pragmatic thing to do, so they are by no means universal. Basically, these customs are designed to limit the severity of the war. Some examples of these customs are allowing the surrender of enemy soldiers and refraining from torturing enemy prisoners. This is good for a couple of reasons, both of which are mentioned by Walzer: “It has to do not only with reducing the total amount of suffering, but also with holding open the possibility of peace and the resumption of pre-war activities.” However, sometimes ignoring these customs is necessary. For these reasons, I think it is safe to apply the legalist paradigm in jus in bello situations.

The first jus in bello consideration is that of proportionality. Basically, you want to win a war while causing the fewest number of casualties as possible. I cannot cover the entire topic here but I will show how proportionality should be viewed in relation to combatants and noncombatants. There are a couple of important points to consider. You have three separate classifications for individuals in a war: Noncombatant, combatant aggressor, and combatant defender Noncombatant casualties should always be avoided if possible. They are innocent of starting the war and are not even involved in the fighting. Combatant defenders are also innocent of starting the war, although if they do commit war crimes (killing noncombatants needlessly, for example) then they would be considered an aggressor. For this reason, their casualties should also be kept to a minimum. However, due to the nature of combat, their casualties are practically inevitable. Combatant aggressors, however, are not innocent of war crimes. Killing a combat aggressor is considered just because doing so is in self defense or the defense of another. Therefore, for proportionality purposes, combatant aggressors can be left out of the equation. However, keep in mind the pragmatic reasons for reducing combatant aggressor casualties that I mentioned earlier.

The second jus in bello consideration – the one that this paper is concerned with - is the distinction between combatants and noncombatants and the concept of noncombatant immunity. As I have already said, noncombatant casualties should be kept to a minimum. Some combatants are easy to recognize. The most obvious of these are the soldiers and other military personnel that are directly involved in the war. Others are less clear and more debatable. For example, is an unarmed villager who scouts for the military and points out troop positions a combatant? How about if that villager is just a child? Is someone who designs or produces guns and other weapons a combatant? If so, are they still a combatant if they are off duty? How about a farmer whose crops feed some soldiers? By applying the legalist paradigm we can come to some clear answers to these questions. First, we should look at how we think any criminal should be treated. Suppose, for instance, that person A breaks into the house of person B. He shoots and kills person B, steals some valuables, and then leaves. Person A is obviously involved in the crime and is a criminal. Suppose there was a person C who mapped out person B’s house, showing person A places of easy entry and providing him with information regarding person B’s schedule. We would consider him an accomplice to murder assuming he knew person A’s intent. Person C would be punished even if he is a child, although it would likely be less severe. A person working at the factory where the gun was produced would not be found as an accomplice to the murder. The farmer who grew some of the food that Person A consumed would definitely not be held accountable.

The only people responsible for a crime are those that are directly involved with it. Using the legalist paradigm, that concept should also be applied to times of war. The difference is that punishment cannot always be the same. A soldier rarely has the liberty to take prisoners in a fight. It is often a kill or be killed scenario. However, if a soldier surrenders to the other side he is no longer considered a combatant because he is no longer directly involved in the war. By applying the legalist paradigm to jus in bello situations, we can determine the proper course of action in order to uphold morality and justice in times of war.

[1] p. 35

[2] p. 36

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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Liberals and the Left

by Joe Miller

At the TPMCafe Bookclub, Todd Gitlin is blogging about his new book, The Intellectuals and the Flag. It seems that Gitlin's basic premise is that, post 9/11, "intellectually as well as politically, it felt to me that the left was disarmed." Indeed, Gitlin goes on to criticize in the second part of the book several "incapacitating trends in the academic left." Gitlin goes on to suggest rather pointedly:
Suppose that intellectuals of the left were thinking more clearly about the American nation as (a) a whole and (b) a work in progress? Suppose that ideas about actual American potential proved more appealing on the putatively left-wing campus than sticking up, in code and despair (albeit with flourishes), for all kinds of exotic indeterminacies, theological neo-Marxisms, and third-worldist romantic fancies?
In his discussion of Gitlin's post, Michael Tomasky argues for a distinction between the left (which he claims dominates academia) and liberals, claiming that
the dividing line[between liberals and the left], I think, hasn’t to do with ideology, but something more innately human: faith. Not religious faith. Faith in America and its potential to do good; and faith that we can build a civic sphere in which engagement and deliberation lead to good and rational outcomes. The left doesn’t have it, for the most part (there are some exceptions). But liberals uniformly must.
I couldn't agree more.

I've been trying for a while now to articulate the distinction between liberals and leftists. I know that there are all sorts of trends on my side of the political spectrum that I find quite distasteful. Multiculturalism. Relativism. Marxism (and its bastard post-isms spawn: postmodernism, poststructuralism, postcolonialism and deconstructionism. Yes, I know the last one isn't a 'post-ism'. I think that it deserves (dis)honorable mention here, though.) It's these sorts of ideologies that spawn the blame-the-U.S.-for-everything mentality that pervades the academy. I, for one, get tired of the assumption that my Kerry/Edwards bumper sticker means that I must agree with the latest Limbaugh/Hannity/O'Reilly librul bogeyman. Liberals end up, in the popular mindset, being equated with every leftist loon out there.

I'm not sure that I would go as far as Gitlin is tying a more optimistic worldview to patriotism per se. It's not that I have any real objection to loving my country; I do in fact prefer living in the U.S. to living elsewhere. Okay, I've a real weakness for the UK. But let's face it; the UK these days is Boston crossed with Savannah. And older buildings. I digress. No, my objection is not that I think people ought not love their country. Overt displays of emotion for pretty much anything make me uncomfortable, so I cringe a bit at people crying during the playing of the national anthem at the Olympics. That's not a critique of the overt patriotism so much as it is my own personal hang-up about open displays of emotion.

My worry about patriotism lies more in the ease with which patriots are sometimes (willfully) blind to the faults of their governments. Gitlin quotes Mark Twain approvingly: "Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it." The problem, however, is that those who support their country strongly often come to conflate their country with their government. Twain's remark is a long way from, "My country, right or wrong," but the slope between those two positions is slippery.

I would argue that what is needed is a compromise between the kind of unquestioning patriotism that has led some on the right to embrace torture just as long as the government tells us that it's necessary and the knee-jerk anti-Americanism that does seem to pervade college campuses. We should take pride in living in the wealthiest and (arguably) most free nation in the history of our species. But we must also be aware that "Hey, we're better than anyone else" isn't an untrumpable defense against all criticisms. There are some areas in which the U.S. could be doing better than it is (e.g. more emphasis on effective family planning of the sort that makes abortions less common, full legal recognition for same-sex couples, better access to health care for the poorest among us--hey, we're rich enough that we can afford to sacrifice some efficiency here). But there are nevertheless a whole host of areas in which we are doing things quite well, often orders of magnitude better than other nations manage. Where things are going well, we should say so.

This doesn't seem that much to ask from academics. One of the first lessons that I learned as a brand new teaching assistant back at Virginia Tech was to be sure that at least some of the comments that I put on essays should say something positive. It's easy to point out flaws, but pointing out only the flaws and leaving nothing but critical comments in a sea of red ink usually results in students who simply stop reading the comments. Those of us who take our teaching seriously try to remember that basic truth (though it's sometimes hard to do). We academics ought not forget that the same principle applies when we adopt our role as public intellectuals. All criticism all the time will result in a public that just stops paying attention.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Prevention Means What, the Follow-Up

by Joe Miller

A week or so ago, I criticized Edward Feser's account of preventive war (see Feser's original posts here and here). Professor Feser was good enough to reply to several of my points via a very nice (indeed, much nicer than my own post had been) e-mail. He has graciously allowed me to reprint those points here. As this sort of interaction (that is, feedback from other philosophers, whether professional or not) is exactly what I had hoped for in starting the blog for class, I'd be really quite remiss if I failed to get this posted as soon as possible.

I hope that my students will take advantage of the opportunity to read and then comment on Prof. Feser's posts. I would suspect that you'll get some excellent feedback. From reading some of his other writing, I suspect that he and I disagree on a number of issues. Those of you who disagree with me regularly (hi Rick) may well find much to like. Keep in mind of course, that I'm the one who controls your grade. I'm kidding of course. This site is going to get me fired yet.

Anyway, here are the comments. Gotta get them posted before it gets too much later. About half of the regular readership of this blog will be over soon for some food and some conversation that shall we say it?...perhaps a bit more lubricated than our usual seminars. So here goes (Ed's comments are indented. Like I had to specify that. Sorry).

1. Please keep in mind that my arguments were directed specifically against paleoconservatives who have characterized the war as a "manifest injustice," damned the administration as moral monsters, etc. Even more specifically, they were directed against the book I was reviewing and the sorts of people who were likely to sympathize with the (largely Catholic-oriented) arguments in that book. I was not addressing left-of-center critics, or critics of any political stripe who have been more moderate in their arguments. So I did not expect what I said to be completely applicable to, or even very convincing to, other critics of the war. (For instance, I'm sure many critics of the war couldn't care less about what the pre-Vatican II manuals I cited have to say.)
That’s fair, and it’s a big part of the reason that I don’t address large portions of your review. I don’t particularly care what pre-Vatican II manuals have to say about war. Indeed, not being a Catholic (or a theist for that matter), I don’t particularly care what the Catholic Church has to say about war at all. Or rather, insofar as the Church’s position is grounded in reason rather than revelation, I’m interested. Where the ultimate reason for holding X boils down to “X is consistent with the teachings of Christ” or “X is endorsed by Paul,” well then at that point, we’re no longer doing philosophy, so I’m just not all that interested. We analytic types replaced the Scholastics for good reason. :)

2. I am aware that there is an important difference between "pre-emptive" and "preventive" wars. But unfortunately the terms have come to be used interchangeably by many who have written on the war in Iraq (either pro or con), and this sloppy usage sometimes appears in the book I was reviewing. Since it wasn't relevant to the points I was making, and the posts were long enough as it is, I didn't bother to get into the distinction. Still, you're right that I should have made the distinction anyway.
This may be the only really fair point that I made in the entire post. The rest needed at least a bit more elaboration. And tact.
3. The silly definition of "preventive war" that I was criticizing is, I think, quite common, though probably not among the serious writers on just war theory you're used to reading. I was largely addressing more journalistic arguments made by political writers. And Fr. Juan Iscara, the one contributor to the volume I was reviewing who makes an attempt to say something substantive on this matter -- he emphasizes the "preemptive/preventive" distinction, for example -- discusses "preventive war" as if it meant what I said it does not mean. He says, for example, that it involves reacting to the "mere possibility of, or potentiality for, a future attack" or to "what is, at present, only the mere possibility of a future attack by a potential adversary"; that it is intended "to prevent a threat that such a country may or may not present in the future, but which we fear it may"; that it involves "our own assessment of his possible future intentions" and "guesswork"; and so forth. It was this kind of thing that I had immediately in mind in writing what I did.

Here’s my worry. It’s that, according to a whole lot of pretty serious writers on just war theory, preventive war really does mean something pretty close to what Fr. Iscara is claiming. While prevention is often defined in more general terms, serious definitions from serious writers would, at the very least, entail that a nation could do all of the things that Fr. Iscara says prevention involves. “Guesswork” is way too loose, but the rest of the claims you quote…well, they just are what prevention involves. You can say that that’s not what you mean by prevention, but that’s pretty much what the term itself does mean. If you want to redefine the term, that’s fine. You would, of course, need to offer some argument as to why your definition is better than all the others out there (see my response to your next point). It’s simply not fair to pretend as if the usual understanding of “prevention” is just knee-jerk anti-Bush rhetoric.

4. What I describe as a reasonable understanding of preventive war was indeed, as you speculate, meant to be understood specifically as the Bush administration's understanding and the understanding of the war's defenders, rather than as a definition that past theorists have used. (I would have thought that the "freakin' date" you refer to, i.e. 9/11, would have made that obvious!)

Yes, of course it’s rather obvious what you meant. I’m still pretty puzzled, though, why this seems like a reasonable thing to do. It’s fine to object to a bad formulation of preventive war. I would think, though, that the proper response would be to offer a better formulation. That would mean appealing to definitions that past theorists have used. If you want to then go on to argue that we ought to reject those past theories in favor of something different (and the formulation that you give is different from standard accounts of prevention and/or pre-emption), then that would be interesting. But it would also really need to be done. Just jumping straight to Bush’s own idiosyncratic definition is an odd move.

5. Your paraphrase of my formulation (at the end of your post) is, I think, not fair, for two reasons. First, it seems clear that at least according to the authors I was citing, violating the terms of the 1991 cease-fire _would_ constitute a casus belli, at least all things being equal. Second, this "all things being equal" is crucial: while violating such terms would by itself be a presumptive reason to go to war, this consideration could of course be overridden if it looked like the good of enforcing the terms might be outwighed by the evils typically associated with war. (This, I suggested, is why the war's defenders have also put emphasis on liberating the Iraqis from Saddam's tyranny, since this could plausibly be said to neutralize fears that the costs of enforcing the terms would outweigh the benefits.) Surely that's not as morally objectionable as you imply my formulation is.

Okay, I concede Feser’s first point. It’s true that, according to the authors Feser cites, violating the terms of the 1991 cease-fire does indeed constitute a casus belli. What I would deny, however, is the relevance of their so considering. It is irrelevant because, quite frankly, it is just flat wrong. Let me be clear here: violating the terms of a cease-fire can be a casus belli. As I have argued elsewhere, though, the violation of an agreement between Iraq and the United Nations Security Council gives the Security Council the right to resume hostilities (or to authorize a third party to resume hostilities on its behalf).

But if the Security Council declines to reinitiate hostilities, the violation quite simply does not authorize any third party to act unilaterally to enforce the agreement. No one who defends the war would buy this sort of argument in domestic law: I simply cannot sue you for breaching a contract with my brother after my brother has quite explicitly declined to file a suit against you, and it’s hard to imagine a sane legal system that would allow such suits. My case would be dismissed for lack of standing. Similarly, if I am a minority shareholder in a corporation that is the victim of a breached contract and the corporation, after holding a shareholder vote, decides not to pursue a lawsuit, I cannot sue unilaterally and claim to be enforcing the contract on behalf of the corporation.

In other words, I would deny that the violation of its 1991 cease-fire actually constitutes a casus belli for the United States. Since Feser has formulated his account of pre-emption as being explicitly targeted at the United States’ invasion of Iraq, then I think that it is perfectly fair to point out that, in that particular invasion, the U.S. lacked anything that would count as a casus belli. Perhaps, however, I should amend my paraphrase to read: We have the right to attack a country that has done a wrong act that, in and of itself, does not amount to a casus belli for us because we think that it could potentially do something harmful to us in the future. That more accurately describes the Iraq invasion. And it’s still pretty morally objectionable.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Singer on Factory Farming

by Joe Miller

In preparation for a campus lecture at the University of Minnesota, Peter Singer has written an editorial for the Minnesota Daily, the campus newspaper, condemning factory farming. Singer chronicles a fairly standard set of objections to factory farms:
Cows and veal calves are confined in crates too narrow for them even to turn around, let alone walk a few steps. Egg-laying hens are unable to stretch their wings because their cages are too small and too crowded. With nothing to do all day, they become frustrated and attack each other. To prevent losses, producers sear off their beaks with a hot knife, cutting through sensitive nerves.
Chickens, reared in sheds that hold 20,000 birds, now are bred to grow so fast that most of them develop leg problems because their immature bones cannot bear the weight of their bodies.
Another consequence of the genetics of these birds is that the breeding birds — the parents of the ones sold in supermarkets — constantly are hungry, because, unlike their offspring that are slaughtered at just 45 days old, they have to live long enough to reach sexual maturity. If fed as much as they are programmed to eat, they soon would be grotesquely obese and die or be unable to mate. So they are kept on strict rations that leave them always looking in vain for food.
Moreover, as Singer notes, these practices don't actually result in a more efficient method for feeding a growing population. Meat animals consume more calories than they yield as food (after all, some of those calories that animals require go into things like growing bones and other inedible parts, and other calories are burned in moving around and generating heat and the like). So if we're really trying to feed more people, it's far more efficient simply to use crops to feed humans directly.

So, then, what's the point of factory farming? As Singer puts the point:
It has nothing going for it except that it produces food that is, at the point of sale, cheap. But for that low price, the animals, the environment and rural neighborhoods have to pay steeply.
Oh, only that going for it. At this point, my brain tries to go in two directions at once. The pro-market side of me says, "hey, efficient equals cheap equals more money to spend on other stuff equals ultimately more wealth and that's all good." OTOH, part of the reason that I value markets is that they square so nicely with utilitarianism--the same utilitarianism that tells me that I really ought to consider the suffering of cows and pigs and chickens in my moral deliberations.

In part, the dilemma is easy enough to reconcile. I buy eggs from free-range chickens and milk from free-range cows and avoid eating animals (except for my weakness for sushi). But $4 per dozen eggs or $16 per pound sashimi-grade tuna is a tough sell to the minimum-wage earning single mother who would far rather buy the $0.99 package of hot dogs for her 3 kids.

One (partial) solution that should please the marketists and the minimum-wage earners alike: get rid of agricultural subsidies and eliminate all tariffs on agricultural products. Perhaps that would drop the prices of food enough to provide some real alternatives to the $0.99 hot dogs.

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Odd Statistics

by Joe Miller

I came across a couple of different sets of statistics today, and I'm not really quite sure what to make of them.

The first is courtesy of the Pew Research Center (via Liberty Corner) which shows that Republicans are happier than Democrats (see the pretty chart here). According to Pew, 45% of Republicans report being very happy as compared to just 30% of Democrats and 29% of Independents. Even when one controls for other factors (i.e., that Republicans are more likely to be wealthy and--big surprise--people with high incomes are happier than people with low incomes), there still remains a large gap between Republicans and Democrats. Indeed, the survey has shown Republicans to be happier than Democrats every year since 1972.

Perhaps ignorance really is bliss?

The second bit of data comes from Andrew Sullivan who reports that:
Most disturbing to me are the high numbers of self-decribed Christians favoring torture: only 26 percent of Catholics oppose it in all circumstances, while only 31 percent of white Protestants rule it out entirely. If you combine those Christians who think torture is either never or only rarely acceptable, you have 42 percent of Catholics and 49 percent of white Protestants. The comparable statistic of those who are decribed as "secular," which I presume means agnostic or atheist, is 57 percent opposition. In other words, if you are an American Christian, you are more likely to support torture than if you are an atheist or agnostic.
I really have no idea what to say here. In my really cynical moments, I think that it was, after all, deeply religious, very devout Christians who managed to rationalize the Inquisition and the various periods of witch trials. OTOH, both of these rather embarrassing episodes were pre-Enlightenment, and I had thought that most Americans--Protestants in particular--were pretty well steeped in Enlightenment values. You know, the sorts of values that hold that individuals matter qua individuals and all that jazz.

I've argued before (I won't name names here, but I suspect that at least a few of you can guess with whom I've had this particular argument) that Christianity purged most of its hyper-violent tendencies after the rest of the West dragged Christians through the Enlightenment and that the same thing will likely happen with the hyper-violent strains of Islam just as soon as the Muslim world goes through its own version of the Enlightenment. My interlocutor disagreed. Perhaps he was right, though for the wrong reason. Maybe what these statistics show is that Christianity still hasn't actually purged itself of all that Old Testament-wrath-of-God crap.

Anyone who has anything more insightful, please leave your suggestions in the comments. Or, if you've nothing insightful, feel free to leave any particularly witty snark instead.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Iran and IR

by Joe Miller

The always enlightening Matt McIntosh has posted a nice analysis of the somewhat incoherent U.S. foreign policy with respect to Iran. Matt's thesis: the hardline approach that the U.S. has taken (beginning with the inclusion of Iran on the "axis of evil" list) provides perverse incentives for the Iranian regime. Specifically, by making it clear that Iran is on our hit list of places-we'd-really-like-to-impose-a-regime-change, the most rational response for Iran is to develop nuclear weapons.

I largely side with Matt here. I've a few reservations, but I'll hold off on further comments until I see the forthcoming part two of the discussion. In the meantime, the discussion in the comments section between Matt and Brian Doss is well worth reading if only for the joy of watching two thoughtful and articulate people taking turns smacking down on the other.

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Absurd Beliefs

by Joe Miller

Via Jonathan Wilde, I see that Tyler Cowen asks readers to offer their most absurd beliefs. Tyler lays out the rules:
What is your most absurd view? Comments are open. Yes your comment should be crazy but serious too. It should refer to a view which you actually hold, but many other smart people consider untenable and bizarre.
For me, I hardly know where to start. I hold a number of, well let's charitably call them idiosyncratic philosophical views. First, though, a caveat. There are some philosophical views that I hold that the average layperson would likely find absurd but that most (or at least a lot of) philosophers seem pretty much to accept. So, for example, I think that there really is no such thing as the present. That, however, is a view that dates back to St. Augustine. Anyway, I'm going to restrict my list to those that philosophers (a group that includes not only professional philosophers, but also those who think pretty seriously about philosophy--i.e., everyone who reads this blog).
  1. Eliminative materialism. Yes, this is going to get me in trouble with all the psychologists with whom I share the third floor. I think that what we call mental states (indeed, I go further and argue that what we call the mind) do not exist. We have brain states and that's pretty much it. Psychology is the new phrenology. Neuroscience is where it's at.
  2. Qualitative hedonism. I spent five years of my life trying to articulate a coherent picture of Mill's claim that the quality of our pleasures is just as important as (if not more important than) the quantity of pleasure. I, however, took the odd extra step: I think not only that Mill is coherent on this point, but that he's actually right. Pleasure is the only good, provided that we understand the term properly. I'm not going to try to explain what that means here. Read the link. I dare you. You'd be something like the seventh person ever. The other six? Me and the five members of my dissertation committee.
  3. Anselm's ontological argument. I think it works. But it doesn't show that God exists. It shows that if our definition of God as "that than which none greater can be conceived" is conceptually coherent, then God exists necessarily. In other words, if God is possible, then God is necessary. The concept of God is not conceptually coherent, though, so my atheism is safe.
  4. The Enlightenment. Okay, lots of people kinda, sorta like the Enlightenment. But most intellectuals have rejected the idea that there is such a thing as Truth and that reason will lead us to it. I, however, completely reject postmodernism. I suppose that I should note that plenty of other philosophers reject postmodernism. Actually, all real (read: analytic) philosophers do so. But we analytic philosophers are, sadly, a distinct minority within the general intellectual world.
These are the big ones that I can think of right off hand. I'm sure that there are more that I come up with were I (a) less tired and (b) not already putting off the tons of work-related things I ought to be doing right now to write this post.

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Humanitarian Military Intervention or Policing

by Wesley Gibbs

As I was reading the article by George Lucas Jr., I was at first pleased with much of the analysis he makes about the difference between war and humanitarian military intervention. His point about how the goals and strategies used in intervention will always be hard to identify was one I agreed with. Even after finding points I disagreed with, I still got some overall enjoyment out of reading his article. While I read the article, one thing kept bothering me though. The thing that kept bothering me was a point he made early in the article that stated that in humanitarian interventions the military should act more closely to a police force than a military. He said that they should incur more risks on themselves rather than on the individuals that they are supposed to be intervening on behalf of (as in trying to reduce collateral damage). I see a huge problem here due to the fact that a military is not a policing organization, and that even when a police force deals with similar situations it does not incur as much risk on itself as Lucas seems to think.

First, there is the fact that the military is not a policing force. They are used for this occasionally (more often in modern times), but the primary purpose of a military is to defend its own borders and fight wars. Lucas admits to both of these, but he also says that the world is moving away from the “normal kind” of aggressive war. This is sort of true, but the possibility of an aggressive war is still there. Thus the military is still trained to fight wars. This means that they have to be able and ready to kill if necessary. Police are trained in similar ways, but they have more constraints that determine whether or not killing is appropriate. The military lacks many of these constraints and this lack is necessary in order for them to remain an effective military. The military is effective as long as it can carry out its primary purpose, which is to fight war. If the military were bound by the same constraints as police was, they would no longer be able to carry out their primary function.

The military could just apply these apprehension tactics to times when they are involved in humanitarian military intervention. These apprehension tactics are the main way that the military could avoid collateral damage. The problem here is that when the military is needed for humanitarian intervention, there is normally some kind of aggressive action going on. The military needs to be able to effectively deal with this aggressive threat and not be crippled by the need to apprehend subjects. The aggressive side is not going to try to apprehend any of the soldiers, thus the risk that Lucas mentions. Lucas fails to understand that much of the time this aggressive side within a country is still going to target the other side, even with the presence of a foreign military to enforce peace. Since one side is still attacking the other (or both are attacking each other), innocents are going to be killed. If the military is forced to follow something close to a police mandate while the intervention is going on then more innocents are going to die due to the military’s inability to effectively combat the threat. In situations similar to those that take place during a humanitarian military intervention, the police actually follow tactics that are similar to those that the military uses.

First and foremost of these similarities, is the fact that police are allowed to take forceful action in order to protect their own lives or the lives of others around them. Police are allowed to do this in a sense that is similar to the military’s. If a person is within 15 feet of a police officer, they are allowed to shoot him because he poses a threat to their well being. This seems reasonable, as it is moral for the officer to protect his own safety as well as the safety of possible innocents in the vicinity (it is also the function of law enforcement to protect the safety of innocents in society). This would even seem sort of reasonable to apply similar constraints about imminent threat and the response allowed to the military during humanitarian military interventions, except for one major difference. This difference is that the people that the military are dealing with during an intervention are normally carrying heavier weapons that pistols, uzis, or knives. The knife or pistol they are carrying is a backup weapon rather than their primary. Their primary weapon is normally an assault rifle of some kind. Many would argue that this is no different than what police have to deal with in modern times, but that is where military or paramilitary organizations come into play.

In the United States, if a situation escalates to certain point, SWAT or HRT are called in to deal with it normally with a military group on standby incase neither of these organizations can handle the situation. These organizations are not in many respects police oriented. SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics, thus stating in their name that their weapons but more importantly, their tactics are different than those of a regular police force. HRT is the federal version of SWAT and stands for Hostage Rescue Team and their training and tactics are very similar to those of SWAT. The difference is that HRT operates on a federal level while SWAT is localized. Both of these groups are called in to deal with certain situations that police may come across (ex. hostage situations, terrorists, well-armed gangs, etc.). These groups are paramilitary in nature, that is that there training and tactics are similar to those of a military organization. Since these groups are paramilitary in nature (in some countries they are military, Great Britain has SAS, Germany has GSG-9, France has GIGN, etc.), their tactics take more of a military approach (thus the name paramilitary). They tend to kill the hostile group rather than attempting to capture them alive. Apprehension is not the tactic often used by SWAT, HRT, or similar organizations because it puts innocents at a higher risk of injury than just eliminating the aggressive individuals. Even though eliminating these aggressive individuals could lead to civilian casualties in the process, the cost is normally much lower than if they attempted apprehension. These groups are even expected to acted this way since there is a part in their operating rules and regulations in which it specifies that they are to neutralize any target who is posing a threat to an innocent. At other times it is necessary due to the nature of the confrontation. Many of the situations they deal with are hostage-based situations, but there are also ones where they are required to take down heavily armed gangs and organizations.

Situations similar to both of these are likely to arise when there is a humanitarian military intervention in a country. The forces fighting in the nation in which the intervention is taking place are posing a threat to the civilian population (thus the intervention), and at the same time they are normally heavily armed. So if the military takes to operating along the lines of the police organizations they most closely resemble, then they will still be killing the majority of the resistance that they encounter. This would be due to the threat that these resistance groups pose the safety of the civilian population. Another reason the military would be forced into killing the majority of these forces is due to their right to protect themselves, which the police also have. If a gang that is only going to be arrested and imprisoned would rather shoot it out with SWAT than go to jail, it is unlikely that an aggressive force within a nation is going to surrender especially when they are very well armed. This would then justify the military’s actions in these situations even when using police standards because the police are expected to protect the civilian population and to protect themselves as well.

Lucas states that the military needs to act more like a police force when participating in humanitarian military intervention, but they would lose their effectiveness as a military force if they had to do so. Even if one applies police standards to what the military does it is often easy to see where they can be justified in their actions. The actions that are taken by a military to still effectively combat the aggressive force and preserve civilian life are the best available at this time since apprehension is not a very viable option. Police organizations often use elimination tactics by way of paramilitary or military organizations when operating within their duties as police in order to protect as many civilian lives as possible.

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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Prevention Means What?

by Joe Miller

Thanks to Tom at Liberty Corner who alerted me to the existence of a couple of posts on JWT at Right Reason, I've been spending my evening alternating between attempting to perfect my martini recipe and reading Edward Feser's first two of a projected three-part series of posts on Paleoconservatism and the War in Iraq (see here and here for parts I and II respectively). I had intended to start with a long and sober fisking of the entire series. But with sober not so much on the horizon, the longer post will probably have to wait. In the meantime, the following caught my eye.
Another tactic of critics of the war is to concoct an absurd caricature of the idea of "preventive war" and then present this caricature as if it were the justification for the war in Iraq. The "“Bush doctrine" of prevention or pre-emption, they say, amounts to something like: We have the right to attack a country which has done nothing wrong just in case it might choose to do something wrong in the future. But no one in the administration has ever suggested such a ridiculous policy.
Well no shit no one in the administration has ever suggested that; the only really interesting question to ask about such a policy is whether its political stupidity outweighs its moral obtuseness. And while I sometimes question whether the administration worries all that much about being morally obtuse, I'll be the first to say that Bush, Rove, et. al. are decidedly not politically stupid. Of course, the other rather obvious point to make here is that, well, critics of the war (at least not the serious sort whom Feser is theoretically addressing) haven't actually accused the administration of endorsing this ridiculous policy.

Indeed, it's hard to see how it is the Feser could have gotten this point so dreadfully wrong. For starters, 'prevention' and 'pre-emption' have very different meanings in the JWT literature, a point that could hardly have escaped Feser's notice. 'Pre-emption' means something like: We have the right to attack a country when that country presents a threat that is "instant and overwhelming" such that it leaves "no choice of means and no moment for deliberation." Walzer clearly articulates this point in Just and Unjust Wars, but it's hardly a new principle. Daniel Webster argues for such a position in the Caroline case in 1837 (indeed, the quoted portions above are Webster's), and it's been an accepted principle of international law pretty much ever since. 'Prevention,' OTOH, means: We have the right to attack a country in order to preserve a balance of power, to prevent what is thought to be a good or just distribution of power from shifting into something less good or less just.

Now admittedly, Feser isn't offering his straw-man definition of prevention and pre-emption as his own view but is rather attributing that view to (all?) critics of the war. That characterization is plainly false, though as I haven't read the book he is reviewing, I suppose that it might accurately characterize the views of the various contributors. Certainly, though, there are rather a lot of critics of the war who properly distinguish between prevention and pre-emption, so at the very least, Feser should be clear as to just who he is criticizing.

So far, though, this is only a minor quibble, one not really worthy of it's own post. What really caught my attention was this howler:
"Prevention"” or "“pre-emption"” has always quite clearly meant instead something like: We can no longer allow tyrannical regimes to get away with violating their agreements, for though such violation, despite its being a prima facie justification for military action, might for several reasons have been allowed to slide in the past, it is in the post-9/11 world too potentially dangerous to permit.
WTF? This is what prevention and pre-emption have always quite clearly meant? Feser's definition builds in a freakin' date! So all those people who talked about pre-emption prior to 2001 were just prescient? How could this be what prevention has always meant? The fact is that prevention and pre-emption have always quite clearly been regarded as two distinct sorts of things. It's only in the past five years or so that Iraq War apologists have begun conflating them. Now perhaps a more charitable reading of Feser would be:
The Bush administration has always quite clearly meant by 'prevention' and 'pre-emption' something like: We can no longer allow tyrannical regimes to get away with violating their agreements, for though such violation, despite its being a prima facie justification for military action, might for several reasons have been allowed to slide in the past, it is in the post-9/11 world too potentially dangerous to permit.
This version at least has the virtue of being plausible. The cynic in me wonders a bit whether the set of things properly picked out by the phrase "The Bush administration has always quite clearly meant" has any members. Snark.

More to the point, I wonder to what extent the version of preemption that Feser attributes to the administration really differs in substance from the "ridiculous" policy that he attributes to critics of the war. Certainly Feser's sounds better; it lacks the political stupidity of the one that he attributes to critics. But is the real difference all that substantive? In effect, Feser substitutes "has violated its agreements" for "has done nothing wrong". Certainly Feser is right to point out that Iraq violated (the letter) of a number of its agreements in the 1991 cease-fire agreement with the Security Council. Most critics of the war will acknowledge this point as well. So Feser's new formulation really reads something like: We have the right to attack a country that has done a wrong act that, in and of itself, does not amount to a casus belli because we think that it could potentially do something harmful to us in the future. Politically that's much better. Morally? I'm not so sure there's all that much difference.

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Consequentialism, Deontology and Just Wars

by Joe Miller

In Anarchy, State, and Utopia, Robert Nozick famously advances the view that rights act as side-constraints on our actions. There Nozick rejects what he calls a "utilitarianism of rights" which calls for minimizing instances of rights violations and argues instead that a proper understanding of rights as side-constraints requires that rights function as "moral constraints in the pursuit of your goals" (Nozick 29). What Nozick recognizes is that deontological theories of ethics (Kant and Locke in particular) don't so much prescribe what sorts of things I should be doing as proscribe what sorts of things I must not do. Kant gives us lots of duties to refrain from X, but very few duties of the do-Y sort. (Indeed, pretty much all of the duties of the do-Y type are imperfect duties, or duties which I must discharge but which I am also free to choose how and when I will discharge.)

The upshot is that deontological accounts of ethics, particularly those of the Kantian or Lockean variety, offer individuals much greater latitude in their actions than do consequentialist (specifically, utilitarian) theories of ethics. Most consequentialists say something like, "maximize G for P" where G is some conception of the good and P is some person or group of persons. Since they are committed to maximization, consequentialists must typically hold that there is one particular action that is required of me in any given circumstance. For deontologists, however, there is always a wide range of actions open to me; I will be free to perform any non-proscribed action that I choose. Hence the basis of Kantian emphasis on living my life in accordance with reasons that I give to myself.

What all of this means for Nozick is that an account of ethics that takes rights seriously may well also take seriously the pursuit of good consequences. Rights, however, will act as constraints on the consequences that one can pursue. For Nozick, in other words, there is nothing inconsistent in having a theory of morality that says, "among those acts available to you that don't violate constraints C, act so as to maximize goal G" (Nozick 29).

It is precisely this view that Michael Walzer imports into his discussion of humanitarian intervention in chapter 6 of Just and Unjust Wars. Following Mill, Walzer outlines a set of criteria for justifying armed humanitarian intervention:
  1. In cases of secession, where the side attempting to secede has demonstrated that it represents a real national movement and has made at least some positive progress toward liberty all on its own.
  2. In civil wars, when a foreign power has intervened illegitimately on behalf of one side, intervention on the other side is permitted, but that counter-intervention must do no more than balance out the initial illegitimate intervention.
  3. In real humanitarian crises, where a state is committing acts that "shock the conscience of mankind" against its own citizenry (e.g., genocide or mass enslavement).
Walzer's criteria provide a set of side-constraints on just intervention. In effect, Walzer is saying that any intervention that does not meet one of the three above criteria is proscribed. But where one of the above criteria is met, Walzer does not require intervention. Rather, he falls back (albeit implicitly) on a view much like Nozick's. Specifically, Walzer allows that in deciding whether or not to intervene, a nation may legitimately consider the degree to which intervention really will maximize goal G, where goal G can be either the interests of my nation generally or the interests of overall world peace.

To sum, Walzer is not claiming that nations ought to rush to the aid of every promising secessionist movement or charge in to correct all human rights abuses. Rather, he provides a set of conditions under which intervention would be justified. Individual nations must then determine under what conditions they actually will intervene in those (sadly numerous) cases in which intervention would be justified. Walzer provides the side-constraints C and then leaves open the question of what sorts of goal G it is appropriate for nations to pursue within those constraints. Our task is to make sure that G is likewise morally defensible.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Concern over Walzer's Case for Just Intervention

by Wesley Frazier

Walzer outlines a series of justifications for the intervention of one state towards another. They are drawn initially from Mill and largely from the legalist paradigm. They are as follows :

1) The formation of political communities within a nation due to secession or national liberation.

2) Counter balancing other external involvement.

3) Human rights and other humanitarian concerns.

Throughout the course of the chapter Walzer generates new permutations of the legalist position to cover all three of these contingencies. The final permutation being :

states can be invaded and wars justly begun to assist secessionist movements (once they have been demonstrated their representative character), to balance the prior interventions of other powers, and to rescue peoples threatened with massacre.

The argument is largely compelling and seems to fit with many everyday notions of when a war of intervention would be justifiable. However I am left with some lingering doubts as to how well Walzer has made his case, despite my wishes to agree with it. What Walzer has failed to prove ( or has failed to convince me of ) is that these are in fact the actual justifications for wars of intervention he cites. At every point in this chapter Walzer suffixes a disclaimer citing that the intervening nation may not act if it is against their best interests, and repeatedly fails by his own admission to find evidence of a war of intervention backed solely by these justifications.

In the case of the Hungarian Austrian conflict Walzer claims that England's non-involvement could easily not have been questioned until the Russian involvement, and then is still permissible under the desire for the maintenance of the european status quo.

In the later two examples, the Spane-Cuba conflict and the Pakistani oppression, the actual concerns of the United States and India seemed to contain many more pragmatic and self interested factors than the three justifications for intervention.

The decision to intervene or not intervene by each country in question in these examples seemed primarily centered on their own internal well being as the primary justification for action ( or non-action ) at the time. This seems painfully obvious when Walzer writes :

On the other hand or perhaps for this very reason-clear examples of what is called "humanitarian intervention" are very rare. Indeed, I have not found any, but only mixed cases where the humanitarian motive is one among several.

It should also be noted that the actions of every intervening nation he has cited has mixed motivations ( not just the case of India from which the quote was taken ). This being said the primary justification for intervention seems akin to justifications of preemption for domestic safety and not based on the interest of the target country's autonomy.

Defenders of Walzer's position will argue that I am conflating justifications for war and when a nation ought to go to war. However it is clear in these examples that the intervening nation's self interest was present just as often, and rooted in some sort of pragmatic sense of self defense ( economic or otherwise ). This style of self defense alone may be enough to justify the intervention on the behalf of the states. It takes no stretch of the imagination to believe that their is a larger wealth of examples of states intervening due to defensive self-interest.

This being said I think their are wider areas of exploration to be had in Intervention many of witch are pressing considering current events, specifically in the areas of regime changes and nation building.

In such cases however I believe that Walzer would be forced to argue heavily in favor of non-intervention, especially in light of recent events. Having drawn heavily from Mill one would be forced to respect the autonomy of a nation until an independent political community reached fruition within it.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Of Legalism and Intervention

by Adam Johnson

In Chapter 6 of Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer addresses the complicated issue of wars of intervention. Under the premise that aggression is the most important (or perhaps only) factor in determining if a war is just or unjust and the only wars waged in good moral standing are defensive, wars of intervention seem to be rather directly disallowed. Indeed, military intervention to reshape the internal affairs of another nation very clearly runs counter to the doctrine of respecting the territorial and political sovereignty of nation-states. Walzer however claims that intervention is effectively in a different category than the standard aggressive war and can in fact be justified (86). Walzer then moves to establish three cases in which intervention is morally justified, roughly paraphrased as 1) when there are issues of secession/national liberation resultant from multiple political communities residing in the same national borders, 2) when another foreign power has already become involved, and finally 3) extreme human rights violations (90). My purpose in this paper is to support these three cases (with some slight modifications to case two), but rather than using Walzer’s appeal to self-help and self-determination doctrines as justification, to instead articulate a refined legalist justification centered around the ideas of sovereignty, legitimacy, failed states, and revolution.

First let us tackle case one – that of secession and national liberation. It is important to note that Walzer clarifies that in the event of multiple political communities residing within the same borders, one of these communities must already be engaged in large-scale military efforts to acquire independence before intervention can be allowed. (90) This prevents such things as intervention in America as even though we are quite polarized politically today, we have some how refrained from large-scale military conflicts internally. The implication here is basically thus: unless one political community feels oppressed/under represented enough to fight for escape, no intervention is allowed. To me, this is rather obviously and strongly tied to the notion of political legitimacy. In the event that a political community rightly feels so seriously wronged by its fellow communities/state, a drastic failure and breakdown of the state’s responsibility to the people has occurred, which in turn predicates that the state has lost or at least severely damaged its political legitimacy and sovereignty. This has extremely important implications for the legalist stance on just war theory, as legalism only forbids nation-states from aggressive wars against other sovereign nation-states. In the event that the government has acted in such a way as to present itself as a failed state, legalism allows us to intervene, as we do not risk violating the territorial or political sovereignty of a fellow nation-state since a failed state has neither of these things. Furthermore, I would like to point out that in the circumstance of a political community being justified in having a military conflict in order to achieve independence is more commonly known as a just revolution. Therefore, it seems to follow that once an internal revolution is justified, so too is outside intervention.

Though Walzer’s second case for intervention – when another foreign power has already become involved – is somewhat problematic, cashing it out in legalist terms of sovereignty serves to reduce some possible sticking points. For Walzer, counter intervention is not about winning the war, but rather to accomplish a balancing act to “maintain or restore the integrity of a local struggle” and military action on the part of the counter-intervening state should be “roughly equivalent to that of the other intervening states.” (100) Obviously, the goal in this approach is to ensure the self-determination of the state in question. Unfortunately this noble goal runs into some issues. First of all, Walzer does not seem to give any credence to a situation in which the original intervention was in fact justified. The problems associated with countering a legitimate intervention are obvious enough. Furthermore, there is simply something innately flawed with the stance of finding one side distasteful enough to counter-intervene, but only enough to even the odds, and not have the goal of actually winning the war. It seems inappropriate at best to throw away resources and human lives in order to put up a half-assed fight against something you would not address at all had another foreign power simply stayed out of it. We can, however, salvage case two with a small, yet important, additional word and by cashing it out in legalistic terms of sovereignty. Firstly and obviously the addendum – modifying the original claim from ‘when another foreign power intervenes’ to ‘when another foreign power intervenes illegitimately’ avoids the mess of counter-intervening against a legitimate intervention. Furthermore, this distinction between legitimate and illegitimate interventions allows us to hold a more logical stance concerning the local integrity of the conflict in terms of legalism. Thusly, if a separate foreign power illegitimately intervenes, it is threatening the sovereignty of the invaded state, which of course is ‘illegal’ according to international tradition, if you will, therefore we are free to counter-intervene in order to preserve the sovereignty of the nation enduring the conflicts.

Finally we come to case three for intervention – mass violation of human rights. Walzer manages to soften some of the errors of his defense of case two here, stating in the event of widespread atrocities “we don’t want the local balance to prevail…the appeal to self-determination in the sense of Millian self-help is not very attractive.” (101) Here again, however, I will turn to legalism to defend this position. Walzer describes and defines these mass violations as activities that “shock the moral conscience of mankind…the moral convictions of ordinary men and women, acquired the course of their everyday activities.” (106) Though this is vague enough to warrant a fuller fleshing out, for the purposes of this argument it will work well enough, especially when coupled with the parameters used by the Nuremburg code to define crimes against humanity. The existence of the Nuremburg code at all seems to heavily favor the legalist stance in the case of mass human rights violations. In the all too common event of ethnic cleansing, genocide, and severe oppression, the Nuremburg code gives us leeway to intervene and halt the atrocities. Furthermore, in a more general sense this situation is remarkably similar to that of a political community fighting for independence from case one. Here again, the state has acted in such a way as to become a failed state and lose its political sovereignty, once again paving the way for legitimate intervention. Likewise, again it seems that once an internal revolution can be justified, so too can the intervention of an outside foreign power be justified.

All in all, Walzer has provided us with at least an excellent starting point for evaluating wars of intervention. He gives us three cases--secession/national liberation, counter-intervention, and human rights violations--that are compelling and mostly well-defended in terms of self-determination that allow a certain amount of bending of the standard rules of war and aggression and can thusly justify a war of intervention. While I very much like and agree with these three cases, I feel a stauncher legalism in terms of political legitimacy and sovereignty provide a much stronger defense of these cases than Walzer provides himself as it follows a more internally consistent system than that of 'sometimes it is okay to aggressively violate a nation's political and territorial sovereignty.'

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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Saddam Hussein: dictator, tyrant...leviathan?

by Joe Miller

That seems to be the position of Robert Kaplan, at any rate. Writing in the Washington Post, Kaplan argues that
Because under Hussein anybody could and in fact did disappear in the middle of the night and was tortured in the most horrific manner, the Baathist state constituted a form of anarchy masquerading as tyranny. The decision to remove him was defensible, while not providential. The portrait of Iraq that has emerged since his fall reveals him as the Hobbesian nemesis who may have kept in check an even greater anarchy than the kind that obtained under his rule.
I'm not really sure just how useful it is to compare any actual states to the Hobbesian state of nature. As bad as Iraq is, I'm pretty sure that it hasn't really devolved into "a war as is of every man against every man." Indeed, the problem in Iraq is less that every single person lives in constant fear of every other person. Rather, the issue seems to be that big groups of Iraqis hate other big groups of Iraqis.

Minor quibbles aside, Kaplan's larger point is worth mentioning. The West, Kaplan claims, has had relative stability for such a very long time that we tend generally to focus on the evils of government. For many liberals (broadly understood), government is at best a necessary evil, an institution that tends toward despotism and that must therefore be kept in check at all times lest it begin to limit the very liberty it is supposed to provide. But what we Westerners must remember, Kaplan cautions, is that worrying about despotism is a luxury that is affordable only for those who can take order for granted. For much of the world, however, Hobbesian anarchy is a far greater worry than despotism. Thus, Kaplan argues,
For the average person who just wants to walk the streets without being brutalized or blown up by criminal gangs, a despotic state that can protect him is more moral and far more useful than a democratic one that cannot.
Rushing out to topple despotic states, particularly in the Middle East, may turn out to be a bad strategy. Instead
What we have to work toward -- for which peoples with historical experiences different from ours will be grateful -- is not democracy but normality.
Kaplan's position here seems to be directly at odds with Matt Yglesias' recent suggestion that perhaps the U.S. is a bit too cozy with Middle Eastern monarchies. Matt posits that a better strategy would be
to cut back both on the heavy democracy rhetoric and on the extent of our entanglement with these governments. It's possible to engage with governments without become [sic] their backers.
In one of those cool philosophy-meets-real-world moments that happen frequently sometimes...well, that happen, the dispute rather nicely parallels our discussion of Walzer and sovereignty (JSTOR link; subscription required) from class this week. Walzer argues that there is a certain fit between a nation and its government and that foreigners generally ought not try to second-guess the correctness of that fit. Unlike Matt, who is willing to tolerate Middle Eastern monarchies in the name of political necessity all the while making clear our disapproval, Kaplan seems willing, at least in principle, to endorse those monarchies as necessary for stability.

I suppose that I have the same worry about Kaplan's position that I have about Walzer's. It strikes me as a deeply troubling throwback to colonial attitudes wherein the "civilized" whites justify the sometimes brutal oppression of their nonwhite colonies with the excuse that the "poor savages" understand only despotism. Obviously Kaplan and Walzer are not arguing that Westerners ought to impose tyrannical regimes on Middle Eastern nations. Yet I fear that the underlying sentiment remains. That the despotism is internal rather than external strikes me as small consolation.

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Civil War Kicks Ass!

by Joe Miller

One of the difficulties with any sort of discussion of preventative war is that it's pretty nearly impossible to know, on consequentialist grounds, whether your decision was the right one. After all, the justification for prevention is that (a) fighting later would have been inevitable and (b) delaying would be more costly. The problem? Short of having a direct line to an omniscient being, knowing whether a particular counterfactual would have obtained is pretty much impossible. One can, after all, always claim that however bad the actual consequences turn out to be, the alternative would have been far worse.

All that said, this sort of thing still strikes me as pretty absurd:

It's one thing to say that things would have been worse in Iraq had we not invaded. It's another entirely to say something like, "Well, yes, Iraq has now dissolved into a three-way civil war which will surely result in thousands of dead Iraqis. But that's actually a good thing to have happen." Please. It might be that all-out civil war in Iraq is better than having Saddam Hussein still in charge of the country. I tend to doubt it, but that's at least a possibility. To think that an Iraqi civil war is a good thing, though? That claim makes sense only if we completely alter the meaning of "good".

I find it a bit stunning that this sort of doublespeak passes with so little commentary. Even more amazing is that it seems to work. Indeed, so commonplace is this sort of cavalier abuse of the language that those who do protest are quickly decried as liberals and their protests dismissed as attacks on the only "objective" news source out there.

I sometimes wonder how it is that people can manage to say these sorts of things with a straight face. Straussian philosopher kings? True believers grasping at straws? Bullshitters plying their trade?

My personal explanation is simpler. Indeed, I'll let Rainer Wolfcastle do the talking here. After acknowledging that his latest (horrifyingly bad) film cost $80 million to make, Wolfcastle is asked how he sleeps at night. His response:
On top of a pile of money with many beautiful ladies.
Sleep well, Rupert.

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