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Morality and War

By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

05/24/2012

I’ve come across and interesting moral dilemma presented by individualists who love Ayn Rand’s rational egoism and think that the individual ought to be free to pursue his life using reason and reality to benefit themselves ardently. The moral dilemma is usually put in the form of an application of individualism and self-defense. How can an such an individualist be in favor of having a war, when the individual enemies cannot be sought out to be killed in the name of retaliatory justice, and one winds up having to kill a vast number of people on the other side not directly involved in killing members of an individualist and moral country? In other words, in their version of applying rational justice, it would be moral to kill enemy soldiers attacking a peaceful country in the name of self-defense – like shoot down their air force or their tanks or their armies – but leave the rest of their country alone, since the rest of their country is not attacking us. And this sounds quite reasonable on the face of it. If a murderer comes and kills your loved one; you don’t go kill their loved ones or their grocer or their teachers or their neighbors. No, you hunt him down and deliver justice, by either killing him or by throwing him in jail. And that is the way these anti-war individualists think about fighting a war. So, why not fight a war that way? Why not just live and let live for the rest of their country, and kill only their soldiers?

I think the issue here is one of context – the facts governing how one is to think about a particular moral issue. In the case of a lone gunman who kills your loved one, there is no implication that he is attacking a whole neighborhood, let alone a whole country; no, he kills that one person (or maybe several in the immediate vicinity) and doesn’t declare war on the neighborhood or the whole country. So, it is rational to treat that lone individual as a lone individual, and not take it further, unless it can be shown that he had accomplices helping him to carry out his evil act. For example, if a bank robber uses a car as a getaway, and killed the teller in the process of robbing the bank, not only is the robber guilty of murder, but the getaway driver is also held as an accomplice to murder – even if he didn’t go into the bank. In a similar manner, one could defend oneself against a cadre of bank robbers and their support system, say if a group of them got together to plan a heist and lived together and encouraged each other to go rob banks; teaching each other how to use a Tommy gun and how to avoid the police and how to control bank customers at the point of a gun, etc. In other words, everyone involved in the bank heist cadre would be guilty of being accomplices. Nonetheless, it is still only individuals attacking individuals, and has to be handled by the police rather than the armed forces.

In the case of a foreign armed forces attacking a peaceful nation, the implication is entirely different – instead of just attacking those particular people who they bomb, their intent is to destroy the entire peaceful country. Hitler sought to overthrow Poland, for example, and burst through their border to do so; killing many Polish people along the way. But his intent was to get all of Poland to surrender to Germany. He attacked a country, and not just a few individuals. In that sense, he was not like a gang leader who attacks a neighborhood, his plans were much more grandiose – he wanted all of Poland.

And so all of Poland – qua country – had the moral right to fight back in self-defense. And let’s say Poland did this, they fought back and destroyed that particular army. Would it be over? Would justice have been served? For the immediate moment, perhaps. But, Germany is still there, and Hitler still wants Poland, and so he puts together another army, and they attack Poland again. And let’s say this goes back and forth a few times. How long is Poland supposed to put up with these continuous attacks? The source is coming from Germany, who is out to destroy Poland, and their factory workers continue to make tanks and fighter planes and war ships and guns and ammunition, etc. There is a whole support system there. And there is encouragement from the German people to take over Poland. They cheer on their armed forces; they agree with Hitler that Poland ought to be taken over with force. So, who is Poland supposed to kill in their pursuit of self-defense? In a manner similar to the cadre of bank robbers, there are many accomplices involved. Is Poland supposed to go into Germany and arrest all the military factory workers, the munitions plant workers, the people cheering them on, or what? And how are they to do this anyhow? I think Germany would have something to say about that, and seek to prevent it. So, more Polish people get killed. And they weren’t doing anything except minding their own business and trying to institute justice.

So, when you come right down to it, such attacks on peaceful countries can only be repelled by all out war against the aggressor nation. And by implication of the people of that aggressor nation supporting their troops in various ways, as mentioned above, they are all a fair target. Justice will only be served in the Germany / Poland case if Germany is made to stand down their attacks on Poland. And the only way to do this is to take away the German people’s moral fortitude to attack Poland, to let them know in no uncertain terms, that what they are doing is morally wrong and that it will not be tolerated. And maybe it is unfortunate that many of them will have to be killed for them to realize they have done something wrong, but they supported Hitler’s reign, and they will have to pay a heavy price for it.

Similarly for our current War on Terror. Americans, by and large, have been minding their own business around the world, and being attacked time and time again by Muslim Fundamentalists. The height of these attack were the mass terror attacks of September 11, 2001; where over 3,000 Americans were killed for doing nothing but taking care of business in a peaceful manner. And like the Poland example, it was an attack on America qua country, rather than qua individuals, and there is a whole support system there to train them and to encourage them to make such attacks. In fact, one could almost make a case that the entire Middle East stood behind the attacks, with the exception of Israel, as they cheered in their streets as those towers fell. How long was America to put up with it? And since these particular Islamicist soldiers died in the attacks, is justice served by the fact that the terrorists are dead? In a way, like the Poland example, perhaps. But there will be more of them, and there already have been many of them, and there is a whole ideology behind them, and entire countries are giving them moral and material support. Are these people innocent bystanders? I think not. Not by a long shot. And they need to be taught that we will not put up with these continuous attacks against Americans; and they will have to be taught by force, along whoever are their accomplices.

One final note about the truly innocent who had absolutely nothing to do with the whole mess, such as the children and the babies. If the terrorists and their accomplices grouped together, leaving the children out of it, then we could kill only them and only them. But that is not the way war operates. Like I’ve said, in a sense, their whole country attacked us or encouraged others to do so and idolized their suicide bombers and their following of Islam and the killing of the infidel. We don’t have a method of aiming only at the bad guys and their accomplices – we have to bomb buildings and villages and cities to get them to stand down. And it is not our fault that they carry their women and children with them. It is the terrorists who put such people in harm’s way, not us. Now are we to stand down until no one can possibly get hurt except for the terrorists and their immediate accomplices? How many Americas are supposed to die before that type of event will happen? Realistically, it can’t be done. When it is kill or be killed – for an entire nation, one way or the other -- it’s all of them as targets or all of us as targets. And personally, I don’t like being a target just because I live in a semi-free country that the enemy literally hates with religious passion. They can lay down their arms – and the truly innocent can encourage the terrorists to lay down their arms – or they are dead. It’s as simple as that. It’s either the USA survives as a nation, or some hell-hole in the Middle East survives as a nation. And I know what side I’m on. So, I fully support our troops in their efforts to defend America by fighting abroad. If you want to save the babies over there, then be against the terrorists, not the American Soldier who is killing the terrorists and their support system. Besides, I really think such baby defenders ought to be more concerned with American babies than Islamicist babies.

http://www.appliedphilosophyonline.com/morality_and_war.htm

Edited by Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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This ethic applies to us as well. Our nations military and those who lead it in our name do some pretty irresponsible things (like invading the entirely wrong country for no objective reason). People who did not deserve to die under the named conditions do die. The iraq war did not have to happen and millions have died as a result who did not need to.

Some ignorant peasant in iraq could very easily see us as enemies and there for be justified in attacking our military's support structure (us)? Now obviously joining a terrorist organization to fight the most powerful nation in the world is a very bad idea, but every time we get involved in some conflict where we don't belong we add credibility to terrorists networks by this very standard.

I just don't know why we can't assassinate people anymore. I think it would be a better idea to shoot powerful people in the head until the whole entire country's ruling class fears for their children's lives.

Edited by Hairnet

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I just don't know why we can't assassinate people anymore. I think it would be a better idea to shoot powerful people in the head until the whole entire country's ruling class fears for their children's lives.

I haven't read Thomas's essay yet, but this caught my eye.

Why is assassination not an option any more? Modern warfare should have changed beyond

recognition, with its technology. "Boots on the ground" is always terribly wasteful,

in terms of our combatants and civilian casualties.

Today, surveillance, info, and a team of highly skilled SEALs can accomplish the job -

with a lot of patience. A delaration of war on an enemy would entail only pin-point air-strikes, and hit-teams targeting only the top-brass. Such a declaration in effect would mean an automatic sentence of death on the leader(s)- and they would know it.

Invade, subdue, overwhelm, and change regime, doesn't make any sense now.

As you say, the problem is put off for another day, at massive expense.

Forget "hearts and minds", I reckon. Treat a hostile nation exactly as a terrorist

gang. There is no need (and it could be irrational) to pound it into submission.

Keep cutting off leaders until no more step forward, and the rest plead for peace.

Edited by whYNOT

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And what one suppose to do with the aggressor's infrastructure which supports the war effort? The industry which creates tanks and jets and weaponry, nuclear bombs and missiles? What to do with the storage facilities, aggressor's energy resources etc...? Leave them intact-and the war will never end. The only way to reduce the number of victims on the both sides is to defeat the aggressor as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

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And what one suppose to do with the aggressor's infrastructure which supports the war effort? The industry which creates tanks and jets and weaponry, nuclear bombs and missiles? What to do with the storage facilities, aggressor's energy resources etc...? Leave them intact-and the war will never end. The only way to reduce the number of victims on the both sides is to defeat the aggressor as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

I am not against the war in Afghanistan in principle however, that country had it coming as it was a literal terror state.

The reason that I bring up assassinations is because it seems that there are people in these enemy governments who would like to cooperate with the us, people who pretend to cooperate with the US and just do nothing, and people who are actively working against us. I think Yemen (a hotbed of terrorism and officially our ally?) is a perfect example. I am saying, in order to prevent war, that purging their governments of our enemies is in our best interests. If we root out their corruption, they will either fall into line or attempt to fight us, in which case bring in the real guns.

We really do need a military option other than total war.

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And what one suppose to do with the aggressor's infrastructure which supports the war effort? The industry which creates tanks and jets and weaponry, nuclear bombs and missiles? What to do with the storage facilities, aggressor's energy resources etc...? Leave them intact-and the war will never end. The only way to reduce the number of victims on the both sides is to defeat the aggressor as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

Leon,

Well, yeah: the objective is to show the enemy he's beaten.

Get his weaponry and strategic installations, of course, by all means.

My approach is to keep targeting his top personnel as well.

I'm saying the days of carpet-bombing cities to weaken the morale of a civilian

population - followed by massive troop invasion, and eventual dismantling

of the State - with the responsibility of replacing it with a democratic gov't -

are not so feasible any longer. Mind, not out of the question.

I am suggesting something over a longer period, but just as effective.

Call it an 'arm's-length' war.

With advanced technology comes another kind of war. If one still uses the tactics and strategies of, say, the war on Nazi Germany, and ignoring all that hi-tech, is one not being irrational - or immoral? Risking more of our own soldiers' lives, primarily; and definitely killing many 'innocent' civilians. With different tools of war, what becomes possible and sane, adapts too.

In the end, sure it's about finishing it decisively and effectively, so the threat is removed in future.

(One condition of granting peace would certainly be on-the-ground, supervised destruction of every military installation and factory, afterwards.)

Edited by whYNOT

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Leon,

Well, yeah: the objective is to show the enemy he's beaten.

Get his weaponry and strategic installations, of course, by all means.

My approach is to keep targeting his top personnel as well.

I'm saying the days of carpet-bombing cities to weaken the morale of a civilian

population - followed by massive troop invasion, and eventual dismantling

of the State - with the responsibility of replacing it with a democratic gov't -

are not so feasible any longer. Maybe, not out of the question.

I am suggesting something more like Israel's tactics of subterfuge and self-control.

With advanced technology comes another kind of war. If one still uses the tactics and strategies of the war on Germany, ignoring all that hi-tech, is one not being irrational - or even, immoral? Risking your own soldiers' lives, primarily; and definitely killing many'innocent' civilians. With different tools of war, what becomes possible and sane, adapts too.

In the end, sure it's about finishing it quickly and effectively, so the threat is removed in future.

(One condition of granting peace would certainly be on-the-ground, supervised destruction of every military installation and factory.)

I'm also against carpet bombing and the export of democracy-this is pure Trotskyism http://en.wikipedia....wiki/Trotskyism

However, no one can win a war by remote control. To defeat the aggressor you have to occupy his territory and to make sure that an aggressive regime will never come back. The regime of occupation which had been established by Allies in Nazi Germany and Japan achieved exactly that. The American troops which occupied Iraq and Afghanistan did very little to prevent Jihadists to come back. That why they failed.

Edited by Leonid

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Were there any Jihadists active in iraq until we removed their secular dictator?

(I don't ask rhetorical questions often, and I am not doing a Google search because i trust my fellow forum members on these issues more than I trust various internet articles filled with bs).

Edited by Hairnet

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Were there any Jihadists active in iraq until we removed their secular dictator?

(I don't ask rhetorical questions often, and I am not doing a Google search because i trust my fellow forum members on these issues more than I trust various internet articles filled with bs).

They probably were, but didn't act in Iraq since Saddam supported their actions abroad.

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However, no one can win a war by remote control. To defeat the aggressor you have to occupy his territory...

You're right, of course; at the very least, not wrong.

I'm only throwing round some ideas for a multi-level type of war, now and in future.

I support an objectively moral approach to oppose an aggressor - but I see no

rationality in helping him rebuild his country in the aftermath.

One might show some humanity and support to the defeated survivors, but any more than that -

"exporting democracy" - represents guilt and appeasement: altruism, in fact.

War is hell - as the man said, and so it should remain. To soften it in any way,

is an evasion of its reality.

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You're right, of course; at the very least, not wrong.

I'm only throwing round some ideas for a multi-level type of war, now and in future.

I support an objectively moral approach to oppose an aggressor - but I see no

rationality in helping him rebuild his country in the aftermath.

One might show some humanity and support to the defeated survivors, but any more than that -

"exporting democracy" - represents guilt and appeasement: altruism, in fact.

War is hell - as the man said, and so it should remain. To soften it in any way,

is an evasion of its reality.

Obviously there is no obligation to rebuild the aggressor's country with the money of his victims. That would be a case of the lowest and most despicable kind of altruism. The only proper function of the occupant is to uproot the foundations of aggressive regime.

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You're right, of course; at the very least, not wrong.

I'm only throwing round some ideas for a multi-level type of war, now and in future.

I support an objectively moral approach to oppose an aggressor - but I see no

rationality in helping him rebuild his country in the aftermath.

One might show some humanity and support to the defeated survivors, but any more than that -

"exporting democracy" - represents guilt and appeasement: altruism, in fact.

War is hell - as the man said, and so it should remain. To soften it in any way,

is an evasion of its reality.

I agree on the principles involved but would like to also point out that it is in a country’s rational self-interest to help rebuild a conquered state. I don't mean hand over a ton of money as charity but the act of running a temporary State while restoring a moral system of government is a good idea (when done right). You would insure that the wrong groups don't fill the political void so the country can be established politically and economically to the point it can flourish as an ally after you depart. Assuming a moral system of government in the original country business investment would also naturally fill the void since a new market has opened, so capital would form in the new country properly without altruistic help. This is a comprehensive international victory and in the victor’s long term self-interest on top of simply defeating a criminal state. See Japan for how to do this right.

As an aside, one of the main reasons I am against an invasion of Iran is the very sobering fact that we have botched this in Afghanistan despite having more time then Macarthur had in a country we nuked twice. I don’t trust the non-minds running things to run a popsicle cart let alone a comprehensive war effort and post victory occupation scenario. And if it isn’t practical in the current context it becomes immoral since you are throwing lives at a non-value.

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I agree on the principles involved but would like to also point out that it is in a country’s rational self-interest to help rebuild a conquered state. I don't mean hand over a ton of money as charity but the act of running a temporary State while restoring a moral system of government is a good idea (when done right). You would insure that the wrong groups don't fill the political void so the country can be established politically and economically to the point it can flourish as an ally after you depart. Assuming a moral system of government in the original country business investment would also naturally fill the void since a new market has opened, so capital would form in the new country properly without altruistic help. This is a comprehensive international victory and in the victor’s long term self-interest on top of simply defeating a criminal state. See Japan for how to do this right.

As an aside, one of the main reasons I am against an invasion of Iran is the very sobering fact that we have botched this in Afghanistan despite having more time then Macarthur had in a country we nuked twice. I don’t trust the non-minds running things to run a popsicle cart let alone a comprehensive war effort and post victory occupation scenario. And if it isn’t practical in the current context it becomes immoral since you are throwing lives at a non-value.

Up til 6 months ago I would have agreed with you all the way. That may sound irrational, and I will try to explain. Firstly though, I'd like to say, that as an American who'd pay in tax dollars (once more)for these nation-building initiatives - as well as in compatriots'lives to achieve the victory - I respect your ethical stance.

Thing is, are we (the USA actually) not setting precedents? Invade, and beat an aggressor, but then - risk our soldiers' lives further, all the while dismantling the regime and setting up a democratic government - which may only be accepted by some?

After Iraq, the message received by every dictatorship is: heads we win, tails, we win.

If we lose against the Americans, well they play fair, and will rebuild the country at their own cost. If we win, well..!

I am fully opposed to targeting civilians in war. To what degree they support

their regime, or silently oppose it, is not for our generals to morally judge. As much as is humanly possible, non-combatants should be protected. (So my suggestions for creative strategies and new techniques of war.)

If I am invoking double standards of morality, then so be it. A moral nation acts by its own morality - not by its enemy's, I believe.

BUT; having said that, there must be no doubt in the mind of every man, woman and teenager in that country, that a victorious USA - while displaying humanity and benevolence - is not going to reward the defeated with the gifts of re-building and democracy. (If the majority of people desperately desire democracy, then I agree to a measure of support for a while.

Then they are on their own.)

Having seen events in the Middle East play out so many times the same way - murderous threats, and sabre-rattling - self-justifying "victim" propaganda to a sympathetic Europe - and when it's all over and lost, the presumption that the West (or Israel) will treat the losers fairly and justly,

- enough times to change my mindset largely.

This time, let them be warned - faced with this stark reality maybe fanatical, jingoistic support for war will lose its flavor with the populace. And their despotic leaders may back off. Rational self-interest should be so long-term, as to practise consistency - and look ahead to the next wars.

Edited by whYNOT

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Democracy as such is simply a rule of majority. Such a rule could be anything from Nazism to Sharia. What we really have to support is not a democracy but a rule of law that based on individual rights. That would be be in our rational self-interest. But such a rule cannot be established on the point of gun. Nobody can order people to be free. Only spread of the right philosophy can do that-and for that we even don't have to occupy any country. Charity starts at home.

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I read the replies as they have come across in the email of replies, but having added anything else due to time constraints.

I disagree with one of the first replies that the USA was the aggressor in the current Iraq war. For one thing, it was a dictatorship, and as such, has no right to exist and can be destroyed by any free or semi-free country in the name of long-term self-defense. What makes this necessary is that a dictatorship (or any other State that does not respect the individual rights of its own citizens) will not hesitate to use force against its neighbors unless repelled by force. Witness the First Gulf War after Iraq invaded Kuwait in order to steal their oil wells and reserves. Trouble is, the USA got involved and fought them back to their own borders, but did not continue the war to overthrow Hussein (which we should have done with full justice). So, attacking them this time around could still be seen as an act of self-defense of ourselves or our allies in the area.

Regarding rebuilding a destroyed nation, I think it all depends on what is feasible in the context of the de-moralized country. Because if a war is fought the right way -- to win, rather than appease the citizens of the destroyed regime -- then after being so devastated, they will accept anything. See Germany and Japan after WWII for examples. I do think it would have been in our long-term benefit to have had another State in the Middle East (aside from Israel) that would have respected individual rights, but Bush royally screwed up that mess by making their religion a big part of the new Democracy, which looks like now will become some sort of Islamic Theocracy, because the only thing they all have in common over there is their religion and no respect for freedom. We would not be obligated to do this, to establish a Constitutional Republic after the war, but the example of rebuilding Europe and Germany and Japan and how they are now our allies shows that it can be beneficial in the long-run. Though I don't think it should be done with American tax dollars, it should have been done by raiding the treasury of the destroyed regime.

As far as trying the best we can not to kill by-standers or those not supportive of the evil regime out to destroy us, there is really no way this can practically be done. We are trying that now in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and that is why the war is lasting for ten years, instead of being over with in less than five years, like WWI and WWII. A politically correct war fought on those terms can never succeed because it doesn't matter how many civilians you don't kill, all the press and the world sees are the civilians that you do kill, so it is a losing battle on all fronts.

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One thing I forgot to mention was the disposing of the leadership of an aggressive nation and if that would solve the problem without a full-scale war. I don't really think it would as that leadership came about due to the ideas accepted by the people of that nation in the first place. In other words, Hitler was the result, not the cause, of Nazism and the philosophical ideas from it. It took the acceptance of certain fundamental ideas for Hitler to have been able to take over Germany with a cadre of a few men who were completely for his rule over the people. However, when you think in terms of maybe a few thousand versus the millions in the rest of the population, there is no way an evil man with his cadre can literally take over a country with force. So, getting rid of the leadership would incapacitate the government to some degree, but the people would rally around their accepted ideas and declare war on the defending nation as soon as they were capable. See The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff for details as to how philosophy leads to an aggressive nation out to take over the world with force. And the same applies to Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden or the Taliban. It was ideas that made these regimes possible -- made them tolerable to those people being ruled by force -- and force and perhaps re-education ala Germany and Japan post WWII would be the solution.

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Democracy as such is simply a rule of majority. Such a rule could be anything from Nazism to Sharia. What we really have to support is not a democracy but a rule of law that based on individual rights. That would be be in our rational self-interest. But such a rule cannot be established on the point of gun. Nobody can order people to be free. Only spread of the right philosophy can do that-and for that we even don't have to occupy any country. Charity starts at home.

I had an impossible thought: imagine a dictatorial M.E. State which lost such a war of

aggression, then willingly turning right round and embracing separation of mosque and State, individual rights, rule by objective law, and capitalism. A new, and possibly unique

exemplar of liberty to the world.

Dreaming, I guess...

********************

Am I the only one who finds slightly insane the notion that the people we bomb the hell

out of (okay, nobody suggests deliberately targeting civilians, but there is

some rationalizing about loss of 'collateral' lives) and then expect those survivors to

happily accept a far different ideology?

It's a better idea that converts people - and consciously avoiding civilian casualties,

thus showing value for life - will be streets more convincing of the morality of self-

responsibility and rationality, than handing them over a meaningless 'democracy.'

Again, what about flattening cities and non-strategic installations - and building them

all over again? Is this an apology by the victors? Far preferable to hit only military targets, the resulting death and destruction left as an unapologetic reminder of the brutality of war,

and the immorality of initiating force.

This is a different time, place and ideology than Nazi Germany, with different

weapons and tactics that can be used. Bombing people will not change their minds.

We should get it straight: are these wars about a. self-defence b. punishment

and retribution c. removal of future threat or d. a correctional obligation ? how many,

or all of the above, and in what order of priority?

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Up til 6 months ago I would have agreed with you all the way. That may sound irrational, and I will try to explain. Firstly though, I'd like to say, that as an American who'd pay in tax dollars (once more)for these nation-building initiatives - as well as in compatriots'lives to achieve the victory - I respect your ethical stance.

Thing is, are we (the USA actually) not setting precedents? Invade, and beat an aggressor, but then - risk our soldiers' lives further, all the while dismantling the regime and setting up a democratic government - which may only be accepted by some?

After Iraq, the message received by every dictatorship is: heads we win, tails, we win.

If we lose against the Americans, well they play fair, and will rebuild the country at their own cost. If we win, well..!

I am fully opposed to targeting civilians in war. To what degree they support

their regime, or silently oppose it, is not for our generals to morally judge. As much as is humanly possible, non-combatants should be protected. (So my suggestions for creative strategies and new techniques of war.)

If I am invoking double standards of morality, then so be it. A moral nation acts by its own morality - not by its enemy's, I believe.

BUT; having said that, there must be no doubt in the mind of every man, woman and teenager in that country, that a victorious USA - while displaying humanity and benevolence - is not going to reward the defeated with the gifts of re-building and democracy. (If the majority of people desperately desire democracy, then I agree to a measure of support for a while.

Then they are on their own.)

Having seen events in the Middle East play out so many times the same way - murderous threats, and sabre-rattling - self-justifying "victim" propaganda to a sympathetic Europe - and when it's all over and lost, the presumption that the West (or Israel) will treat the losers fairly and justly,

- enough times to change my mindset largely.

This time, let them be warned - faced with this stark reality maybe fanatical, jingoistic support for war will lose its flavor with the populace. And their despotic leaders may back off. Rational self-interest should be so long-term, as to practise consistency - and look ahead to the next wars.

Cool. Just to clarify however, when I am explaining my position on rebuilding a nation I am also assuming we are invading that nation for ethical reasons that are in our best interest as well. At this point it would be hard to justify any military invasion in recent history as justified outside of going after the Taliban in Afghanistan. How well we did that is a different story. Iraq was sold as a combination of self-defense that didn’t pan out (WMD’s) and altruism (enforce U.N. resolutions and bring democracy to the helpless citizens of a dictatorship) so we now no we had no business going in and certainly now have no business dedicating resources to help them.

Invading Japan or German was in our best interests and reestablishing those countries would follow as well. Iraq and Libya are ongoing demonstrations of the reverse principles at work and I would argue the lack of interest in investing in those areas demonstrates it was never a good idea to begin with. So in today’s context of the poor ill-advised policies I completely agree with you.

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I find nothing immoral about causing civilian casualties, and would even argue it is the moral choice in war, in the context of a just war.

For me, this is the ultimate litmus test of whether we are justified in going to war. Are we comfortable with civilian deaths? Can we go to war and feel justified in unleashing unholy hell on another person? This is the question to ask.

The purpose of war is to kill people and destroy things. It really is that simple. At the end of the day the military is supposed to do this to the point it can occupy another sovereign people’s territory, make them surrender, and raise your flag in victory. To occupy someone’s land you need to go through their people and infrastructure to do this, which means you need to kill more of them while preserving the life of your soldiers. You must preserve your resources while denying them theirs. To sacrifice your lives for theirs would be the worse example of altruism in every way. You need to kill them and destroy their property to win. It’s harsh but that is war, which is why it is bad.

In WWII we bombed the living hell out of Germany and their infrastructure to win. We did send out radio messages to allow innocent people to escape targets but ultimately that was an act of goodwill for when the sky filled with B-52’s we were carpet bombing factory or civilian alike. This is your standard when thinking about war and all of what is good, bad, and ugly.

If you do not feel justified in using the military to in its proper roll, to kill people and destroy things, then that should tell you something about whether we should be doing it at all. Today’s PC wars of compromise are a testament trying to have your war and not at the same time. We are monkeying around and I’d argue blowback is just a cute term for what is really just compromising on basic war principles. We are getting our kids killed and wasting tons of resources on a war we don’t want to win properly. But the principle is always the same – Do it right or don’t do it at all. If your not comfortable doing it right then that tells you that you need to reevaluate if we should do it at all. If there is a good enough reason to do it, then you need to go all in. To paraphrase Patton, you don’t win wars by dying for your country; you make the other guy die for his country.

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This ethic applies to us as well. Our nations military and those who lead it in our name do some pretty irresponsible things (like invading the entirely wrong country for no objective reason). People who did not deserve to die under the named conditions do die. The iraq war did not have to happen and millions have died as a result who did not need to.

1. It's not true that millions died in the Iraq war.

2. You have made no valid argument to back up your implication that the US is morally responsible for the deaths which did occur.

3. People who do not deserve to die, die in all wars. If that is unacceptable to you, then you should be against all war, not just this one.

4. It's not true that there weren't objective reasons for the Second Gulf War. This list is not exhaustive, but every item on it is an objective reason to go to war:

- Saddam Hussein's refusal to abide by the terms of the cease fire he agreed to after the first Gulf war

- regular attacks against American and allied aircraft in the no-fly zone

- anti-American rhetoric

- sponsorship and open backing of the mass murder of Israeli civilians by Palestinian terror groups

- atrocities committed against Iraqi civilians in retribution for collaboration with the West, including acts of ethnic cleansing

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I just don't know why we can't assassinate people anymore. I think it would be a better idea to shoot powerful people in the head until the whole entire country's ruling class fears for their children's lives.

We can and we do. Presidents are free to rescind, re-interpret or just plain ignore executive orders issued by their predecessors. And they do. In fact the current administration even has an active kill list of terrorists, and they cross names off of it on a regular basis.

The reason why everyone refrains from going after political leaders is because political assassinations are ineffective at defeating an enemy country, and they instead invite retaliation from the large numbers of supporters political leaders invariably have (that's how people get to be political leaders- by gaining popular support).

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One other reason for us or our government from directly targeting the leadership of another country is that it is illegal. I had thought that we signed an international treaty to that effect, but according the a Slate article, it is illegal because Ford signed an Executive Order making it illegal.

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I find nothing immoral about causing civilian casualties, and would even argue it is the moral choice in war, in the context of a just war.

For me, this is the ultimate litmus test of whether we are justified in going to war. Are we comfortable with civilian deaths? Can we go to war and feel justified in unleashing unholy hell on another person? This is the question to ask.

The purpose of war is to kill people and destroy things. It really is that simple. At the end of the day the military is supposed to do this to the point it can occupy another sovereign people’s territory, make them surrender, and raise your flag in victory. To occupy someone’s land you need to go through their people and infrastructure to do this, which means you need to kill more of them while preserving the life of your soldiers. You must preserve your resources while denying them theirs. To sacrifice your lives for theirs would be the worse example of altruism in every way. You need to kill them and destroy their property to win. It’s harsh but that is war, which is why it is bad.

In WWII we bombed the living hell out of Germany and their infrastructure to win. We did send out radio messages to allow innocent people to escape targets but ultimately that was an act of goodwill for when the sky filled with B-52’s we were carpet bombing factory or civilian alike. This is your standard when thinking about war and all of what is good, bad, and ugly.

If you do not feel justified in using the military to in its proper roll, to kill people and destroy things, then that should tell you something about whether we should be doing it at all. Today’s PC wars of compromise are a testament trying to have your war and not at the same time. We are monkeying around and I’d argue blowback is just a cute term for what is really just compromising on basic war principles. We are getting our kids killed and wasting tons of resources on a war we don’t want to win properly. But the principle is always the same – Do it right or don’t do it at all. If your not comfortable doing it right then that tells you that you need to reevaluate if we should do it at all. If there is a good enough reason to do it, then you need to go all in. To paraphrase Patton, you don’t win wars by dying for your country; you make the other guy die for his country.

Very good points. One way or other, I've made them all myself at some time.

(So I know they're good :)) My 'new' and unconventional approach is probably a consequence

of my war-weariness, but it really only differs by degree from yours. My view is more

protective of civilian lives, now - and less keen to stay in-country in the aftermath.

It's only by degree, as I said. The objective (I think you agree) is to make even the

craziest bastard dictator hesitate before he makes threats - or launches an initial strike;

while trying to save a minority/majority of genuine innocents from the backlash; but, primarily, while also taking minimal casualties of the men in one's armed forces.

I am still exploring the idea, which may be temporary I'm beginning to think.

(Sure - one does generally have to go 'through' the citizenry - as long as

the alternatives of going 'by', or 'over' them are considered seriously.)

No war should be entered automatically or emotionally - and when it is, there should

be no pleasure or glory in it. It's a dirty business.

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Well it seems that the Iraq war may have had some justification, although I am not convinced it was at all necessary. However I was incorrect in saying that it adds any credibility to terrorist organizations.

I stand corrected.

One thing I forgot to mention was the disposing of the leadership of an aggressive nation and if that would solve the problem without a full-scale war. I don't really think it would as that leadership came about due to the ideas accepted by the people of that nation in the first place. In other words, Hitler was the result, not the cause, of Nazism and the philosophical ideas from it. It took the acceptance of certain fundamental ideas for Hitler to have been able to take over Germany with a cadre of a few men who were completely for his rule over the people. However, when you think in terms of maybe a few thousand versus the millions in the rest of the population, there is no way an evil man with his cadre can literally take over a country with force. So, getting rid of the leadership would incapacitate the government to some degree, but the people would rally around their accepted ideas and declare war on the defending nation as soon as they were capable. See The Ominous Parallels by Leonard Peikoff for details as to how philosophy leads to an aggressive nation out to take over the world with force. And the same applies to Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden or the Taliban. It was ideas that made these regimes possible -- made them tolerable to those people being ruled by force -- and force and perhaps re-education ala Germany and Japan post WWII would be the solution.

You misunderstand me. Assassinating Hitler would do nothing. We all know that.

I am talking about countries like Yemen where there are people who claim to be our allies but are not always honest, people who don't care, people who are honest and are our allies, and those people who hate us. I suppose we could start steam rolling the apathy and corruption out of our supposed allies, but that off the cuff doesn't seem like a good idea. Nazis were pretty astonishing in how united they were.

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One other reason for us or our government from directly targeting the leadership of another country is that it is illegal. I had thought that we signed an international treaty to that effect, but according the a Slate article, it is illegal because Ford signed an Executive Order making it illegal.

The article misinterprets what an executive order is. It's not legislation. It's a standing order given to government employees. They have to abide by it only as long as it is the standing order.

So, in effect, that order (or rather a different one, issued by Reagan, banning all assassinations not just political ones - Ford's order is not actually in effect) only applies to government employees acting without presidential authorization. If they have Obama's authorization to assassinate someone, Reagan's order no longer applies.

All these Presidential orders were issued to prevent the CIA from engaging in unauthorized assassinations, not to stop such activity altogether.

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