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Eamon Arasbard

The Golden Rule as a basis for rights

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The militarization of do unto others, i.e., just war theory, attempts to rationalize doing whatever it takes to win a war.  The strength just war argument relies on the calculation that two wrongs don't make it right, suggesting that even in cases where doing unto others leads to atrocities committed by both parties, there remains a moral high road.  At the risk of relying on a work of fiction written by a Mormon about a future war, the following exchange expresses the opposing positions particularly well...

 

"We won, that's all that matters" - Colonel Graff

"No!  The way we win matters" - Ender Wiggins

 

The notion that matters of justice may be disposed of in times of war calls to question the legitimacy of justice in times of peace.

In times of war, reciprocity is about the best you can hope for. If Churchill bombs German civilians, they retaliate with V1 and V2. of course, Russian atrocities in Germany were revenge/payback.

 

American incendiary use of low-flying B-29's ovr Japan was simply an effort at genocide, pure and simple. Both Japanese massacres in China and treatment of pow's (Bataan death march) gave a thin veneer of justification that 'Japs' were depraved human beings as a 'race'.

 

Of course, subsequent occupation told an entire different story.

 

Likewise, the fact that from 1900-1935 eleven democratic governments had been overrthrown by the military would indicate that the manifold issue was not the national character. The real tragedy is that anyone . in their own history, could succumb to a putch.

 

Our support and sympathyshould therfore be given to the people; responsibility-mongering is merely an excuse to do evil.

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American incendiary use of low-flying B-29's ovr Japan was simply an effort at genocide, pure and simple.

 

That is not true. It was essential (along with fat man/little boy) for our ability to win the war without an invasion. Pure and simple.

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If Churchill bombs German civilians, they retaliate with V1 and V2. of course, Russian atrocities in Germany were revenge/payback.

American incendiary use of low-flying B-29's ovr Japan was simply an effort at genocide, pure and simple. Both Japanese massacres in China and treatment of pow's (Bataan death march) gave a thin veneer of justification that 'Japs' were depraved human beings as a 'race'.

There are a number of howlers here. First, the British suffered bombing at the hands of the Germans prior to any bombings by the Brits against Germany. What is more, initial British bombings were in daylight over industrial targets. Due to the high losses and inaccuracy, they opted for night area bombing. You are way off base with your false moralizing bumper stickers.

Concerning the American bombing of Japan, if the US were bent on genocide, then why not drop a few dozen nukes and be done with it? The fact is that the US treated the Japanese with dignity after the war.

Stick to facts and stop the false moralizing.

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I don't see how she could be considered a legitimate military target, except that I've seen it argued that her death might strike a blow against my country's fighting spirit. Therefore reasonable. Moral.

I do not wish to launch into an irrelevant tangent, but I believe this is intimately related to what I mentioned in "Blaming the Victim"; the entire thing hinges on the value of one's public image.

---

 

To concretize the rest of it slightly further:

 

If John Wayne were in a firefight with some notorious criminal when one of his bullets inadvertently struck some innocent bystander, I would not hold him responsible for whatever injuries resulted; not even if they died.

 

In that case John Wayne may be guilty of manslaughter, but not murder.

 

But what if he shot this innocent bystander deliberately, knowing that their corpse would land on the criminal and disrupt his aim?  Clearly that would not be the same.

 

And what applies to an individual must apply to a nation.

 

I would not advocate the Golden Rule as the sole basis for social morality. I would propose it within the context of Objectivist ethics -- we want others to respect our right to be left alone to pursue our selfish interests, so we sanction the rights of others to do the same.

However, if I learned that my wife and child were killed by Canada intentionally, as a means of trying to "break my country's will" or something like that... well, I don't know that I could ever forgive such a thing. I might still work to take down the Hitler in my country, but I might come to view Canada as having a Stalin of her own, and work against that country, too.

 

Innocent men have no good reason to hurt each other.

"Respecting your rights out of respect for my own" is a nonessential, in the context of day-to-day life.  The more important thing is that I simply have no good reason to violate rights.

 

However, within the context of an emergency situation (such as a war), I think it becomes essential.

I also think that history shows several demonstrations of this.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_and_Indian_War

 

That is what it means to be in a metaphysical emergency. There is no good outcome here. There is no win-win possible.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9dEI-Ru1CI

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold

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It turns out that there are plenty of people around the world who would like to kill your wife and daughter because they're not part of an ideology. It has nothing to do with your wife/daughter not initiating force. These people don't care about that.

 

But I'm not talking about the "crazy Muslim" here. I understand that they want to kill us, and to the extent that they try, it's fair to kill them right back. I'm talking about reasonable, moral men (wherever they may happen to live). Given my family's innocence, a reasonable, moral man should care about that and not try to harm them.

Which is why I'm arguing against you: because I believe that you're saying that reasonable, moral men should target innocent people at times. That they may, in fact, do so morally.

This seems to me to have the potential to apply to my wife and daughter, though I recognize that you disagree.

 

Look, no one is saying that it's moral to kill your child. No one is saying that it's moral to bomb Kansas. Even if you're a crazy Muslim. What I'm saying is that sometimes it is moral for a free country to bomb innocent people in defense of the lives of the free country's constituents. Now you want to transfer this over to your daughter?? It's not remotely comparable so in no way shape or form does what I'm saying imply that it's OK to kill innocent americans.

 

But these innocent people that we bomb... now they're also fighting for their lives, aren't they? Not necessarily in the name of some "ideology," but in literal self-defense.

So suppose that we bomb a town of citizens, and let's say that among these citizens there are people of varying morality/complicity in whatever regime. There are innocents there, too, I'd contend; at the very least, we may expect our enemies to have infant sons and daughters, much like my own.

Are the innocents in this town that we've bombed now also caught in a "metaphysical emergency"? Is it now in their interest to fight back against the country that seems intent on destroying them and the ones they love? And should they not adopt the very same measures used against them? And let us further recognize that innocent people in *other* towns might reasonably take the same lesson without having to be bombed themselves. If they didn't have an enemy before, they do now.  And if they choose to treat their "enemy" as we have chosen to treat ours, I would fear for the safety of my own family.  For we have made clear the lesson that being "innocent" offers no moral protection.

I would perhaps find it comforting if such principles only applied to our enemies and did not equally apply to us -- to Americans -- but I don't believe that's how they work. Will America always be on "the right side" of every battle she fights? Has she always been on the right side till now? I honestly don't know, and I don't think I could argue the details of every conflict. I don't even know if I'm aware of all of the conflicts, given my government's penchant for secrecy and lying, even (or especially) about the wars she fights.

Yet I do not believe that my daughter would earn her own destruction, even if Obama turned out to be Hitler. If the world one day deemed it necessary (and were right!) to destroy Obama or the American government, I still would not believe that they should accomplish their ends by slaughtering infant children, and very specifically my own. I will fight anyone who tries to hurt my daughter, regardless of their supposed "justification."

To try to put this another way, suppose I lived in Iran and was writing this from there. Now it is no comfort to me that what you're saying does not in your mind apply to Americans, or to citizens of "free countries." But should I feel differently about my family? Should I say to you that it is now okay for your country to target and kill my child? That I understand and would be supportive of your very moral act?

Or should I still tell you that my daughter has not harmed anyone and that you have no right to hurt her? And if you were to target and kill her, wouldn't you have made me into an enemy? Not because I would suddenly be a "crazy Muslim," but because I would be a rational, moral man, who responds to the initiation of force with force in response. And if I buy into your code of targeting innocents... isn't that now, also, a moral option for me in my reprisal?

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But I'm not talking about the "crazy Muslim" here. I understand that they want to kill us, and to the extent that they try, it's fair to kill them right back. I'm talking about reasonable, moral men (wherever they may happen to live). Given my family's innocence, a reasonable, moral man should care about that and not try to harm them.

Which is why I'm arguing against you: because I believe that you're saying that reasonable, moral men should target innocent people at times. That they may, in fact, do so morally.

 

Yes, reasonable moral men should not target your family, of course!

 

 

This seems to me to have the potential to apply to my wife and daughter, though I recognize that you disagree.

 

Let's be very clear about where the disagreement is in application to your family. My view, and I believe the view of Ayn Rand, is that you cannot morally equate each side of a conflict by default. That is, there is no moral reason for anyone to kill innocent Americans. And your family is American. However, say you lived in Iran- that protection would not apply because Iran is a mortal enemy of the citizens of the United States.

 

 

But these innocent people that we bomb... now they're also fighting for their lives, aren't they? Not necessarily in the name of some "ideology," but in literal self-defense.

 

Yes, they are.

 

 

So suppose that we bomb a town of citizens, and let's say that among these citizens there are people of varying morality/complicity in whatever regime. There are innocents there, too, I'd contend; at the very least, we may expect our enemies to have infant sons and daughters, much like my own.

Are the innocents in this town that we've bombed now also caught in a "metaphysical emergency"?

 

Yes, I would think they would be. Would that justify them killing your family? NO. It would justify them killing those people that placed them into such a situation. The initiatiors of force, not the defenders!!

 

 

Is it now in their interest to fight back against the country that seems intent on destroying them and the ones they love?

 

I think this is moral equivocation. The rational action for them to take is to fight for the country that is rights respecting. Not against those who are bombing but those who necessitated the bombing (assuming the attackers are acting in self defense). In the case of Iran that would mean an innocent moral man in Iran, in the case of a US invasion, should fight against the Iranian government- not the US. Surely you cannot disagree with that?

 

 

I would perhaps find it comforting if such principles only applied to our enemies and did not equally apply to us -- to Americans -- but I don't believe that's how they work.

 

I think you might be misunderstanding the nature of metaphysical emergencies. What sort of principles do you apply in a life-boat scenario? A scenario where either you have to kill the other guy or kill yourself. If those are the options offered there is no universal principle governing both parties without contradiction. The principles of Objectivism assume normal life. They assume that you're not locked in a zero sum game. The nature of war is exactly the same as the life boat. It's either lay down and die or kill and survive. As such, the moral obligation of individuals is to fight to protect their own life. That may involve killing people who had nothing to do with the war. It's sad and it's terrible but that is what war is- sad and terrible.

 

 

Yet I do not believe that my daughter would earn her own destruction, even if Obama turned out to be Hitler.

 

Your daughter wouldn't earn her destruction. She would be placed into a life boat situation through no choice of her own- through no choice except that of the aggressor.

 

 

To try to put this another way, suppose I lived in Iran and was writing this from there. Now it is no comfort to me that what you're saying does not in your mind apply to Americans, or to citizens of "free countries." But should I feel differently about my family? Should I say to you that it is now okay for your country to target and kill my child? That I understand and would be supportive of your very moral act?

 

No, that would be bizarre to be OK with losing a tremendous value. How SHOULD you feel? Well, you should recognize that your government has continued to kill and support the killing of innocent American citizens and as such American citizens have a moral right to do what is necessary to end the threat- which includes bombing you. Therefore, you should feel indignation towards your own government for putting you in the way of the American military. And you should get the heck out.

 

 

Or should I still tell you that my daughter has not harmed anyone and that you have no right to hurt her? And if you were to target and kill her, wouldn't you have made me into an enemy? Not because I would suddenly be a "crazy Muslim," but because I would be a rational, moral man, who responds to the initiation of force with force in response. And if I buy into your code of targeting innocents... isn't that now, also, a moral option for me in my reprisal?

 

In what way would it make sense for a man in Iran to be angry at the US for the death of his loved ones? Again, the blood is on the hands of the people that put him into such a situation and that's where his anger ought to be directed. Towards those responsible. Yes, he may not understand that it's his own government at fault but it doesn't matter what he believes. What matters is what's true and how he ought to feel based on the truth.

 

And let's not ignore the implications of your view. Your belief necessitates sacrifice. According to your view we should not have dropped nukes on Japan and instead let hundreds of thousands of Americans (and probably millions of Japanese) die in an invasion. Again, it is the nature of war which necessitates one or the other and I think you should have to answer for the implication of your views- that the lives of innocent Japanese are more important than the lives of innocent Americans.

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Let's be very clear about where the disagreement is in application to your family. My view, and I believe the view of Ayn Rand, is that you cannot morally equate each side of a conflict by default.

I do not seek to "morally equate each side of a conflict." Where the US Government and Iranian government are concerned, or Objectivists and "crazy Muslims," the US Government and Objectivists are in the right, the Iranian government and "crazy Muslims" are in the wrong.

However, I do not consider myself to be in conflict with every single person who lives in Iran. I do not believe them all to be "crazy Muslims" or even to support the Iranian government.

 

That is, there is no moral reason for anyone to kill innocent Americans. And your family is American. However, say you lived in Iran- that protection would not apply because Iran is a mortal enemy of the citizens of the United States.

To continue to try to clarify that point, I am a citizen of the United States. I recognize that I have mortal enemies in the government of Iran and many of the population there. But the innocent people of Iran are not my mortal enemy. They may, in fact, be my ally. I do not wish them harm. I wish them better governance and happy lives.

Perhaps you believe that one's country affiliation or government imparts some sort of moral character onto the citizen...? I do not. I do not believe that a two year old in Iran deserves death. And my view of justice, generally, is to give to people -- to individuals -- that which they deserve, as individuals.

Also in my view, the protection of "I have hurt no one; no one has the right to hurt me" is universal among men. It does not depend on where one was born, or whose one's parents are, or what mischief one's government gets into. We do not have the right or the ability to decide who has rights and who does not. Human beings have rights per their nature, all human beings, and I think that applies to people living in Iran, too. We do not have the right to violate the rights of others.

 

Yes, I would think they would be. Would that justify them killing your family? NO. It would justify them killing those people that placed them into such a situation. The initiatiors of force, not the defenders!!

I should think that they should first take action to stop the people who are trying to kill them directly.

Let's try to put this in a simple form.

I'm a citizen of Iran, but an "innocent." A US soldier breaks into my house, and I know that US soldiers have been going around lately in neighboring towns, killing men, women and children.

I have a rifle and I have the drop on this soldier. My daughter is sleeping in the next room and I see the soldier approaching her room.

Should I kill him? I think so.

Suppose that I do, saving myself and saving my daughter. Now you would suppose that I should turn my attention to my government, yes? But remember that you believe yourself to have put me in a "lifeboat," and my first duty is to get myself safely to shore -- by any means necessary. I realize that the US government has tried to kill me and will continue to do so; I must put a stop to that first.

Perhaps I can hurt the US, and their will to do me harm, by killing their innocents (just as they would kill me)? After all, anything to get out of this damn lifeboat.

 

I think this is moral equivocation. The rational action for them to take is to fight for the country that is rights respecting. Not against those who are bombing but those who necessitated the bombing (assuming the attackers are acting in self defense). In the case of Iran that would mean an innocent moral man in Iran, in the case of a US invasion, should fight against the Iranian government- not the US. Surely you cannot disagree with that?

I cannot disagree, and don't call me Shirley. If I were living in Iran and American liberators rolled through my street, I would cheer their arrival and pitch in to aid their efforts...

Right up until the point where they turned their machine guns on me and my neighbors. For if they do not discriminate between the guilty and innocent in waging their war against my country, then (being innocent) I cannot account them on my side. I do not account those who intentionally kill me, my family, my friends, my neighbors (insofar as we are innocent) as "liberators." I do not recognize them as "the good guys."

Not to put too fine a point on this, but anyone who tries to murder me and my family is my enemy. This is true in war and peace, in America or Iran. I do not have to choose between America or Iran, either; if both governments seek to kill me, then they are both my enemies.

 

I think you might be misunderstanding the nature of metaphysical emergencies. What sort of principles do you apply in a life-boat scenario? A scenario where either you have to kill the other guy or kill yourself.

Or perhaps it is you who misunderstands. It seems likely of one of us, at least.

I don't know whether "moral action" exists at all within an actual lifeboat such as you're describing, or actual emergencies. I recognize that there are certain situations which might force me to act in abominable ways, but I would not consider them to be "moral" acts, and I would likely feel horrible about having done them for the rest of my days, even if I considered them "necessary."

We could perhaps even contrive certain situations where I would prefer to die, rather than commit myself to the actions and subsequent guilt that I would have to endure in order to survive. For instance, we could put me and my wife and daughter on this famous lifeboat and say that only one of us may get out alive.

But now we're not discussing morality at all, are we?

 

If those are the options offered there is no universal principle governing both parties without contradiction. The principles of Objectivism assume normal life. They assume that you're not locked in a zero sum game.

Just so. The principles of Objectivism assume normal life, and in an actual emergency, we're no longer discussing "moral action."

 

The nature of war is exactly the same as the life boat.

You're quite certain?

I agree in some contexts, such as when under fire on the battlefield, or when the soldier busts down my door to kill me and my child; in the latter, I'm shooting the soldier, and I don't care which side he's fighting for, or whether he swears by Ayn Rand or Immanuel Kant.

But when we're discussing generals in an operations room, thousands of miles from the conflict, deciding whether to drop a bomb on an airstrip or a hospital...? I'm not sure that's my idea of being in a "lifeboat."

Here's Rand explaining what she has in mind by "emergency":

 

An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible—such as a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a shipwreck. In an emergency situation, men’s primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.).

I'm certain that this, in itself, could be a very long conversation... but I'm not convinced that Rand's meaning here equates to strategic and tactical planning of war operations that take place half a world away over the course of several years.

War, in terms of strategy and "the rules of engagement," seems to me to be a common, if not routine, phenomenon. Depending on which war we're talking about, I don't know that they are "unchosen" or "unexpected" or even "limited in time" in any sensible fashion. While we may have to react to an actual emergency situation within the context of a war, we have time to consider the consequences of a policy regarding targeting schools, or what-have-you. I think this is more than just escaping from a burning building; I think that there is true moral choice involved.

 

It's either lay down and die or kill and survive. As such, the moral obligation of individuals is to fight to protect their own life. That may involve killing people who had nothing to do with the war. It's sad and it's terrible but that is what war is- sad and terrible.

I agree that we may accidentally kill people who have nothing to do with a war, and that this is sad and terrible. But intentionally killing people who have nothing to do with a war is something more than that. Also sad and terrible, and also something more.

 

Your daughter wouldn't earn her destruction. She would be placed into a life boat situation through no choice of her own- through no choice except that of the aggressor.

I think that you're looking at the actions of people who have choices and saying that they have "no choice." It is a choice, whether to attack a military target or a civilian target. I agree that a moral man has "no choice" but to fight back against those who would destroy him, but he *does* have a choice in directing his reprisal against those who have attacked him, and trying not to harm those who have not.

Even in prosecuting self-defense, we *do* make choices -- especially when we're speaking in terms of overall military strategy and the like.

Someone who wishes to fight back against the evil government of America (in this hypothetical) can choose to attempt to do so without hurting my child.

 

Yes, he may not understand that it's his own government at fault but it doesn't matter what he believes. What matters is what's true and how he ought to feel based on the truth.

Let's be careful not to require a man to be omniscient to act morally.

 

And let's not ignore the implications of your view. Your belief necessitates sacrifice. According to your view we should not have dropped nukes on Japan and instead let hundreds of thousands of Americans (and probably millions of Japanese) die in an invasion. Again, it is the nature of war which necessitates one or the other and I think you should have to answer for the implication of your views- that the lives of innocent Japanese are more important than the lives of innocent Americans.

I don't know enough about Hiroshima and Nagasaki to discuss them comfortably. We could also discuss My Lai, perhaps, or any number of other historical episodes, though they're all bound to be complicated -- and again, I don't have the expertise I feel I should to weigh in on them.

I don't know whether I believe that we should have dropped the bomb, or whether Hiroshima and Nagasaki were appropriate targets, or whether there were other, better alternatives at the time.

I will say that I don't trust you to tease out "the implications of my views" when I do not believe that you understand the implications of your own. In any event, I do not believe that "the lives of innocent Japanese are more important than the lives of innocent Americans," and I think that's a pretty far cry from anything I've actually said. Rather, I would like to protect both innocent Japanese and innocent Americans to the extent that's possible, even during a war where I accept that there *will* be innocent casualties on both sides. How that applies to our dropping of the atomic bomb? Again, I don't know enough about that specific situation to where I feel I can say.

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CriticalThinker:
 
Your last several posts on this subject (innocents in war) are in complete accord with Objectivist principles and doctrine. I am in complete agreement with your answers, characterizations and examples. However, I think you do your argument a disservice by introducing the concept of the "emergency situation", to wit:
 

The nature of war is exactly the same as the life boat.


From the Lexicon:

An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible


Certainly war creates conditions under which human survival is impossible. However, it isn't unchosen (by the aggressor) and thus not unexpected, nor is it limited in time. 
 
The point is that one has a choice about whether to be aggressive or not. And the fact that an aggressor is objectively wrong is what gives your moral argument all of its weight.

 

The nature of war is exactly the same as the life boat. It's either lay down and die or kill and survive. As such, the moral obligation of individuals is to fight to protect their own life.

The lifeboat is an amoral situation, meaning, there is no right answer, no right or wrong, any action you take might be appropriate. You have the right to defend yourself, but so do the others in the boat.

In war, as you have been properly arguing, there is a right answer, a universal principle: DO NOT INITIATE FORCE. If someone has initiated force against you, you have the right to defend yourself, to use force in retaliation against those who initiated it. The guys who initiated the use of force have no right to defend themselves, they have forfeited their rights. Their only option is to stop initiating force and surrender immediately.

Anyway, continue on, you are doing a great job, just leave out emergencies, you don't need them.

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If someone has initiated force against you, you have the right to defend yourself, to use force in retaliation against those who initiated it.

Absolutely.  :thumbsup:   Those who initiated it; not the people who live across the street from them.

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With regard to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I think it's important to bear in mind that many of the people in Imperial Japan (most) would have chosen death before surrender, and likely taken out a few Americans in the process.  So I do not believe the distinction between combatants and noncombatants applied to the Japanese in the same way that it applies to you or I.

 

There are children in the third world who would gladly shoot you in the face and I'm not against blowing them up either.

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I do not seek to "morally equate each side of a conflict." Where the US Government and Iranian government are concerned, or Objectivists and "crazy Muslims," the US Government and Objectivists are in the right, the Iranian government and "crazy Muslims" are in the wrong.

However, I do not consider myself to be in conflict with every single person who lives in Iran. I do not believe them all to be "crazy Muslims" or even to support the Iranian government.

 

OK I'm in agreement.

 

 

But the innocent people of Iran are not my mortal enemy. They may, in fact, be my ally. I do not wish them harm. I wish them better governance and happy lives.

 

I wish such a thing too- but unfortunately that is no longer one of the options.

 

 

I do not believe that a two year old in Iran deserves death. And my view of justice, generally, is to give to people -- to individuals -- that which they deserve, as individuals.

 

Right, I absolutely do not wish a two year old death either. So what exactly is going on here with our disagreement? There is no bomb that will kill only adults. There seems to be a fundamental fact here, rather than a principal, that I accept and you disagree with (maybe?). That fact is: to destroy an enemy it is sometimes necessary to bomb the civilian population. Innocence, as we've been talking about, is inconsequential. It is a simple fact of war that civilian populations are ultimately what give rise to the governments that rule them and therefore must be bombed in order for a threat to be removed. I think the entire history of war backs this premise. Simply look at any war. Could this be the point of our disagreement? Because neither of us think the two year old in Iran deserves death. It certainly doesn't, but by living in the civilian population its life is now diametrically opposed to your own. Again, this is through no fault of its own nor any fault of your own. This is what I mean by metaphysical emergency. Someone has to die and that's why war is disgusting.

 

 

Also in my view, the protection of "I have hurt no one; no one has the right to hurt me" is universal among men. It does not depend on where one was born, or whose one's parents are, or what mischief one's government gets into. We do not have the right or the ability to decide who has rights and who does not. Human beings have rights per their nature, all human beings, and I think that applies to people living in Iran, too. We do not have the right to violate the rights of others.

 

Yes, I agree. But that principle is contextual- it depends upon a context of normal life. It presupposes that you're not in a fight for your life. That context is gone and so is the principle.

 

 

But now we're not discussing morality at all, are we?

 

Yes, I guess this is true. It's more like, if you want to live, this is what you need to do.

 

 

I agree in some contexts, such as when under fire on the battlefield, or when the soldier busts down my door to kill me and my child; in the latter, I'm shooting the soldier, and I don't care which side he's fighting for, or whether he swears by Ayn Rand or Immanuel Kant.

But when we're discussing generals in an operations room, thousands of miles from the conflict, deciding whether to drop a bomb on an airstrip or a hospital...? I'm not sure that's my idea of being in a "lifeboat."

Here's Rand explaining what she has in mind by "emergency":

 

An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible—such as a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a shipwreck. In an emergency situation, men’s primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.).

 

I guess this is a good point to address Marc K as well, who said:

 

 

Certainly war creates conditions under which human survival is impossible. However, it isn't unchosen (by the aggressor) and thus not unexpected, nor is it limited in time.

 

I see both of your points in that war does not necessarily fulfill Rand's description of emergency. But take a step back, what is the fundamental cause that gives rise to 'emergency' in the lifeboat scenario? It's the fact that life is now zero-sum. That very same fundamental cause is active in war as well. The two should be grouped together under the same fundamental- the existence of a zero-sum world- and formed into a concept: emergencies.

 

Edit: Actually now that I think about it more I do think that a war of self defense meets even those descriptive criteria of emergency: It is unchosen (you did not choose to be attacked), It is unexpected (in a certain sense), it is limited in time (war is not indefinite- the point is to end it), and human survival is impossible (someone is going to die).

 

So to say that generals planning bombing runs 2,000 miles away from the battlefield is not an emergency situation is to ignore the fundamental cause of emergencies and to also ignore the fact that the general's decision making deals with the life and death of soldiers. In other words, even though the general is far away he is making emergency decisions- decisions that deal with a zero sum world in which some people are going to die.

 

As for your American soldier example, I think such a person would be justified in defending their immediate existence and then getting the heck out. That doesn't imply a contradiction with what I'm saying.

 

 

 

I think that you're looking at the actions of people who have choices and saying that they have "no choice." It is a choice, whether to attack a military target or a civilian target. I agree that a moral man has "no choice" but to fight back against those who would destroy him, but he *does* have a choice in directing his reprisal against those who have attacked him, and trying not to harm those who have not.

 

So I think this is possibly more evidence that you think that bombing civilians is not necessary to prevent casualties on your own side. Maybe that is our disagreement? If that is what you think (don't want to put words in your mouth), I think the evidence against such a position is tremendous.

 

 

Let's be careful not to require a man to be omniscient to act morally

 

Certainly. But no omniscience is necessary to see that the aggressor nation is the culprit. I was merely pointing to the fact that many people might not come to the proper conclusion but whether they do or not is irrelevant.

 

 

I don't know enough about Hiroshima and Nagasaki to discuss them comfortably. We could also discuss My Lai, perhaps, or any number of other historical episodes, though they're all bound to be complicated -- and again, I don't have the expertise I feel I should to weigh in on them.

I don't know whether I believe that we should have dropped the bomb, or whether Hiroshima and Nagasaki were appropriate targets, or whether there were other, better alternatives at the time.

I will say that I don't trust you to tease out "the implications of my views" when I do not believe that you understand the implications of your own. In any event, I do not believe that "the lives of innocent Japanese are more important than the lives of innocent Americans," and I think that's a pretty far cry from anything I've actually said. Rather, I would like to protect both innocent Japanese and innocent Americans to the extent that's possible, even during a war where I accept that there *will* be innocent casualties on both sides. How that applies to our dropping of the atomic bomb? Again, I don't know enough about that specific situation to where I feel I can say.

 

Well, without delving into a historical example it's sufficient to say there are times when bombing a civilian population is necessary for a government to reduce casualties on its own side. There are many examples.

Edited by CriticalThinker2000

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CriticalThinker:

 

Your last several posts on this subject (innocents in war) are in complete accord with Objectivist principles and doctrine. I am in complete agreement with your answers, characterizations and examples.

 

Thanks!

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Right, I absolutely do not wish a two year old death either. So what exactly is going on here with our disagreement? There is no bomb that will kill only adults.

No, there is no bomb that will kill only adults. Nor a bomb that will only kill the guilty and spare the innocent. I'm resigned to the fact that these bombs, which will kill indiscriminately, must be dropped in times of war. I'm even resigned to the innocent dying and children, too, though I account such as tragedies and argue that they should be minimized as much as reasonably possible.

But our specific point of departure is a question of whether or not it is moral to *target* the innocent.

 

There seems to be a fundamental fact here, rather than a principal, that I accept and you disagree with (maybe?). That fact is: to destroy an enemy it is sometimes necessary to bomb the civilian population.

I would ask that you try to start thinking of people fundamentally as individuals, not as "populations." I think that it will help you to treat them as individuals, which is what I believe justice demands.

 

Innocence, as we've been talking about, is inconsequential.

Innocence is not "inconsequential"; it is that which makes the crucial difference between the initiation of force, which is immoral, and the use of force in self-defense, which is moral. Your conflation of these two states, and subsequent dismissal of it as being unimportant altogether, is what *I* believe lies at the heart of our disagreement.

"Kill them all, and let God sort them out," is not, in my view, a moral sentiment. Kill the people who deserve to die, and only those, is.

 

It is a simple fact of war that civilian populations are ultimately what give rise to the governments that rule them and therefore must be bombed in order for a threat to be removed.

This does not sound simple to me at all. This sounds like a huge contention (or number of contentions) packed into a very small sentence, possibly reductive to a dangerous degree, lacking utterly the explanation, evidence and discussion needed to understand all of what it might mean and imply.

Here's a small quote from Rand on "war," with a curious aside on the nature of dictatorship:

 

Wars are the second greatest evil that human societies can perpetrate. (The first is dictatorship, the enslavement of their own citizens, which is the cause of wars.)

Generally speaking, do we regard the citizens of a dictatorship as slaves who must be liberated? Or as the true monsters who must be crushed? If you find these questions complicated (as I do), and not easily answered, and not answerable at all without recourse to specifics and real world context, then perhaps your "simple fact of war" is not a simple fact of war.

 

I think the entire history of war backs this premise. Simply look at any war.

And again, this is just a tremendous statement. The "entire history of war"? That's... a lengthy history, you know?

I'll assume that you don't mean that the entire history of war supports bombing civilian populations; bombings, such as we're discussing, being still rather a recent innovation...

But do you mean that we can expect that the intentional slaughters of civilian populations have been required throughout history to achieve the removal of "a threat"? And truly with respect to "any war," as you've proposed? What does "the removal of a threat" entail, anyways? Are we talking about salting the earth, like Rome did for Carthage? Was the American Revolution successful on these terms, in throwing off the royal yoke? Or not, given the War of 1812? What about thereafter? Did we need to perhaps decimate London to achieve our just ends at that time?

 

Could this be the point of our disagreement? Because neither of us think the two year old in Iran deserves death. It certainly doesn't, but by living in the civilian population its life is now diametrically opposed to your own.

I don't know whether I've accurately identified the point of our disagreement, whether it remains hidden, or whether there are several, but I can tell you that I do not consider the life of a two-year-old in Iran to be "diametrically opposed to my own."

Please think about what you're saying; think about it critically, as befits your handle, and deeply. You're saying (or at least so it appears to me) that my life requires the death of some two-year-old somewhere. That it's either him or me. This is not true. It is not only a horrific sentiment, but it is (thankfully) false.

 

Again, this is through no fault of its own nor any fault of your own. This is what I mean by metaphysical emergency. Someone has to die and that's why war is disgusting.

Someone does indeed have to die: those who initiate force, as here through warfare, must pay for their crimes. But I do not achieve this end by targeting the innocent. Will innocents die regardless, whether by collateral damage or accident or the aggression of the initiators of force? Absolutely. That's why war is disgusting. But I do not punish the guilty by attacking the innocent. I only make myself guilty as well. (It is by attacking the innocent that we come to recognize the guilty.)

 

I see both of your points in that war does not necessarily fulfill Rand's description of emergency. But take a step back, what is the fundamental cause that gives rise to 'emergency' in the lifeboat scenario? It's the fact that life is now zero-sum. That very same fundamental cause is active in war as well. The two should be grouped together under the same fundamental- the existence of a zero-sum world- and formed into a concept: emergencies.

 

Edit: Actually now that I think about it more I do think that a war of self defense meets even those descriptive criteria of emergency: It is unchosen (you did not choose to be attacked), It is unexpected (in a certain sense), it is limited in time (war is not indefinite- the point is to end it), and human survival is impossible (someone is going to die).

 

So to say that generals planning bombing runs 2,000 miles away from the battlefield is not an emergency situation is to ignore the fundamental cause of emergencies and to also ignore the fact that the general's decision making deals with the life and death of soldiers. In other words, even though the general is far away he is making emergency decisions- decisions that deal with a zero sum world in which some people are going to die.

A general 2,000 miles away from the front may plan a bombing run and then go out at night for a steak dinner. I do not think that in describing emergencies, such as one's immediate scramble to escape a burning building, Ayn Rand meant to include professionals who make decisions in an air-conditioned office and then dine at Outback.

But let's say you're right. Should this same rationale not also apply to police action? Since police chiefs are making decisions which deal with the life and death of police officers, then perhaps there are no reasonable moral limits on what police officers might do, per policy, in the name of justice?

But no, this is not what's meant by "emergency" -- not in Rand's use, and not in reason. It's not "anything which has to do with life and death, even remotely, and even if these general situations are commonplace and eternal," as both crime and warfare are. Though specific situations may well arise, for police officers and soldiers both, which are legitimate life-or-death emergencies -- true lifeboats, where moral reasoning no longer applies -- the initial policies and conventions, strategy and tactics, that we adopt in order to fight back against the guilty and protect the innocent are not formed under emergency conditions.

Thus we have the time to consider the consequences of our decisions, and we may (and must) consider their morality. We institute things such as warrant protections and limits on searches and seizures, and we forbid ourselves the use of certain torture methods, and we prescribe treatment for prisoners of war, and so forth, because we recognize that even while acting in self-defense -- against domestic criminals or foreign combatants -- we must act morally, for our own sake.

May I also add, as perhaps an aside which you'll not find relevant, but I find this compelling myself...

Here's Rand on the draft:

 

Just as an individual has the right of self-defense, so has a free country if attacked. But this does not give its government the right to draft men into military service—which is the most blatantly statist violation of a man’s right to his own life.

Consider this if you would? Here is war as a "metaphysical emergency" in its starkest form, is it not? This is not alone Korea or Vietnam or either of the Persian Gulf Wars, where we could perhaps argue about whether US involvement was strictly justified. This is a "free country attacked."

And yet, Rand presumes that those so attacked still do not have the right to violate the rights of others. Being attacked in the manner of a war does not give the injured party some sort of moral carte blanche. It does not render any action they might take in response "moral," and it does not give them the right to violate the rights of others, not even under the guise of "self-defense."

Marc K. had it right when he said:

 

If someone has initiated force against you, you have the right to defend yourself, to use force in retaliation against those who initiated it.

But he might have done even better to include the word "only," which is a word Ayn Rand appeared to be fond of when discussing retaliatory force, as for instance here (from "The Objectivist Ethics," emphasis in original):

 

Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.

If we mean to use physical force only against those who have initiated its use, does that include targeting innocents such as the two-year-old child who happens to live in the wrong country? I do not believe so.

Edited by DonAthos

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But our specific point of departure is a question of whether or not it is moral to *target* the innocent.

 

Geeze, maybe we're not arguing about the same thing. I don't think it's moral to target the innocent- I think it can be moral to target civilians (many of which may be innocent). You still disagree with this formulation?

 

 

Innocence is not "inconsequential"; it is that which makes the crucial difference between the initiation of force, which is immoral, and the use of force in self-defense, which is moral. Your conflation of these two states, and subsequent dismissal of it as being unimportant altogether, is what *I* believe lies at the heart of our disagreement.

 

Oh for goodness sake. Look, when I say innocence is inconsequential, I meant innocence is inconsequential during war. I thought we understood that the context of normal life- of a non zero sum world- was out? I mean, I understand objectivism so please don't claim that I'm conflating two states. We're talking about war- don't equivocate it with normal life.

 

 

his sounds like a huge contention (or number of contentions) packed into a very small sentence, possibly reductive to a dangerous degree, lacking utterly the explanation, evidence and discussion needed to understand all of what it might mean and imply.

 

OK. Read a history book. I've nothing else to say about that.

 

 

Please think about what you're saying; think about it critically, as befits your handle, and deeply. You're saying (or at least so it appears to me) that my life requires the death of some two-year-old somewhere. That it's either him or me. This is not true. It is not only a horrific sentiment, but it is (thankfully) false.

 

Was it false for the Japanese two year old in Hiroshima and the American soldier? You've accepted the idea that civilians may die in war meaning you've already accepted this premise. That there are times when, in protecting yourself, there is an innocent person in the way. I believe you've said you agree but now you don't agree? There are times when, in protecting yourself, you have to target a civilian population as well (which may include innocents).

 

 

But do you mean that we can expect that the intentional slaughters of civilian populations have been required throughout history to achieve the removal of "a threat"? And truly with respect to "any war," as you've proposed?

 

I mean that there have been many occasions throughout history where victory was unacheivable without targeting civilian populations. If you don't think this is true than we disagree on a fact of war which I think can be seen in the history of many many conflicts. Yes, it's hyperbole for me to say, the entire history of war.

 

 

Someone does indeed have to die: those who initiate force, as here through warfare, must pay for their crimes. But I do not achieve this end by targeting the innocent. Will innocents die regardless, whether by collateral damage or accident or the aggression of the initiators of force? Absolutely. That's why war is disgusting.

 

Only a few lines prior you claimed that there is no conflict between your self defense and the innocents in war (specifically a two year old), but now you claim that you know that they have to die. Well if they have to die, their life is in conflict with yours. That's what it means to have to die.

 

 

A general 2,000 miles away from the front may plan a bombing run and then go out at night for a steak dinner. I do not think that in describing emergencies, such as one's immediate scramble to escape a burning building, Ayn Rand meant to include professionals who make decisions in an air-conditioned office and then dine at Outback.

 

This is silly. As I stated in the prior post, the generals themselves are not in a metaphysical emergency but they are making decisions concerning the lives of men who are. It's pure context dropping to say, oh they can eat in a steakhouse so it's not an emergency situation.

 

 

Should this same rationale not also apply to police action? Since police chiefs are making decisions which deal with the life and death of police officers, then perhaps there are no reasonable moral limits on what police officers might do, per policy, in the name of justice?

 

As I explained earlier, the fundamental cause of emergency situations is the existence of a zero-sum world. Is that true of police under normal circumstances? Obviously not. However, when someone is coming at the police officer with a gun, the gun wielding criminal isn't tried before a court of his peers before the cop shoots him. So yes, it does apply to police in this way.

 

 

And yet, Rand presumes that those so attacked still do not have the right to violate the rights of others. Being attacked in the manner of a war does not give the injured party some sort of moral carte blanche. It does not render any action they might take in response "moral," and it does not give them the right to violate the rights of others, not even under the guise of "self-defense."

 

OK. Let's be precise. Ayn Rand is saying that the government of those attacked does not suddenly have the right to violate the rights of those whose job it is to protect.

 

 

If we mean to use physical force only against those who have initiated its use, does that include targeting innocents such as the two-year-old child who happens to live in the wrong country? I do not believe so.

 

I think this is a straw man because I'm not saying that you should target a two year old child. That is absurd. I'm saying that there is nothing immoral about targeting a civilian population (which may or may not include two year olds) should the preservation of your life demand it. What is your opinion of this exact formulation? You would agree but think that targeting a civilian population is unnecessary (which is a disagreement of practical fact)? Or would you disagree because there are two year olds caught in the way (which is a disagreement of moral principle)? I honestly still do not understand your position because in one part you claim that you understand innocent people (of which the two year old is a pure example) will die and in another part you claim that the innocent's lives aren't in conflict with your own (again the two year old). Well if the innocent person has to die for the sake of your protection, then their lives are in conflict with your own- however terrible it might be.

 

And I don't want to be portrayed as some war monger. I think war is disgusting and terrible for the very reason that your life becomes diametrically opposed to other's lives. It's disgusting and horrible and should be ended as soon as possible with as few casualties on your side as possible. And I'm not for targeting two year olds. That's horrific but also a moronic tactic.

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There are a number of howlers here. First, the British suffered bombing at the hands of the Germans prior to any bombings by the Brits against Germany. What is more, initial British bombings were in daylight over industrial targets. Due to the high losses and inaccuracy, they opted for night area bombing. You are way off base with your false moralizing bumper stickers.

Concerning the American bombing of Japan, if the US were bent on genocide, then why not drop a few dozen nukes and be done with it? The fact is that the US treated the Japanese with dignity after the war.

Stick to facts and stop the false moralizing.

Actually, the Brits bombed first. Regrettably, Hitler was correct in saying that the London blitz (and other places, as well including Coventry) were 'payback'. What's truly howling, then,  is your lack of google-ship.

 

You can also google up 'Bomber Harris' and find out rather clearly that he had intended to 'bring Germany to her knees by terrorizing the population.

 

Americans dropped the nuclear devices thay had--two , to be exact, so-called fat man and little boy. I'm amazed that anyone doesn't know this. Obviously not having read that much, perhaps, at least you might have seen the movie?

 

The stated plan was to drop as they came off of the factory line, estimated at one a month. Again google-read the statements of the American hi-ups in their own words & see for yourself that they would kill civilaians until Japamn surrendered.

 

Since they barely did (the final vote was split with the Emperor casting the tie-breaker), the American intent, in realistic terms was to exterminate the population until there was no one left.

 

As for bumpeer stickers, the only moralizing I see on them are all about how jesus loves the unborn and who is John galt?

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Geeze, maybe we're not arguing about the same thing. I don't think it's moral to target the innocent- I think it can be moral to target civilians (many of which may be innocent). You still disagree with this formulation?

Let me try to be as clear as I can about this, which is not necessarily an easy thing to do, as warfare is a very complicated topic.

I think that during a time of war it is moral to target those forces which are actually aligned against you. Those who have initiated the use of force, who continue to employ force, and those institutions that provide the enemy with material support or the capability of continuing the war (like a weapons factory, or a trainyard).

This could certainly include locations which might otherwise be thought of as generally being "civilian" or within civilian areas. Yet I would describe what I'm talking about generally as being a "military target." For instance, I've already addressed the situation of a weapons factory within a city that might otherwise be civilian; the weapons factory is a military target, regardless of the damage that might be caused to the surrounding population during the course of destroying that weapons factory. (This hopefully resolves the apparent contradiction you later find between me saying that on the one hand I know that innocents will die during war, yet on the other hand, we must not target the innocent. There is a difference between targeting a weapons factory, and unavoidably killing civilians in the process, versus targeting the civilians themselves. A difference that I recognize, and one which I believe you should, too.)

Can there be "civilians" who are, in themselves, a "military target"? Possibly, insofar as they fulfill the criteria I've established above (e.g. "providing material support," or etc.). But that would have to be the case made and supported, with regard to particulars. We would have to be able to say and support the idea that these particular citizens constitute a legitimate military target, for some specific reason.

For instance, if we were to investigate the particulars of, say, Dresden, which I believe you've referenced before, I think we'd find a lot of discussion of whether or not it was a military target, and whether or not the actual attack treated it as a military target. It would require a full analysis of the situation from that perspective to come to a fair conclusion as to whether or not that particular attack was justified, both in planning and execution.

This sort of (difficult and involved) analysis stands apart from the position that "civilians are responsible for their governments; therefore civilians are themselves guilty for their government's conduct; therefore Dresden was peachy" or "any tactic which aims to force the enemy to surrender is moral in a time of war; therefore Dresden was peachy" or "war is a metaphysical emergency, therefore we cannot assess the morality of actions undertaken during a time of war; therefore Dresden was at worst amoral."

Dresden, whether peachy, amoral, or otherwise, would have to be discussed on its own merits with respect to the principles we've discussed, regarding what constitutes a military target and why.

 

Oh for goodness sake. Look, when I say innocence is inconsequential, I meant innocence is inconsequential during war. I thought we understood that the context of normal life- of a non zero sum world- was out? I mean, I understand objectivism so please don't claim that I'm conflating two states. We're talking about war- don't equivocate it with normal life.

I think that a state of war is pretty "normal life," frankly, just as having a police department which takes regular and routine action against criminals is also part of "normal life," and I don't buy into the "zero sum world" paradigm you've introduced to turn every day into an emergency situation, whether on the frontlines or back on the homefront. I think it's a complete misreading of Rand on "emergencies" and clearly and starkly opposed to her discussion of the same.

Besides, when Rand spoke of using force only in response to force, and only against those who have initiated its use, what sorts of situations do you think she had in mind?

Remember, the context for her thoughts on retaliatory force is that "force has been initiated." Doesn't that serve to create a state of "metaphysical emergency" in your parlance? But if such a condition renders innocence moot, then what could Rand have been talking about at all? Why shouldn't a moral man use retaliatory force against the initiator -- or anyone else -- to satisfy himself that he has eliminated the threats he perceives against him? Why should Rand care that force be used only against the initiator, if all is fair for the man who has been first attacked? (For instance, if a man were to threaten me with violence, couldn't I threaten to target his wife and children in reprisal? If it gets him to back down, or is meant to, then isn't that a moral use of self-defense on my part? If he were to attack me, couldn't I take a swing at his child in return?)

Furthermore, do you suppose that in discussing force -- its initiation and reprisal -- Rand somehow forgot about warfare as being one rather prominent example of force among men? (Had she witnessed any important wars during her lifetime, I wonder?) Or didn't consider it important or relevant to the topic? Didn't think her ideas on force might reasonably be construed to apply to warfare? Do you think she meant to say something like, "Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use... except in times of war, or similar 'metaphysical emergencies' where we now live in a 'zero sum world' in which case men have the right to use physical force as they deem appropriate, whether against those who initiate its use or anyone else"?

 

OK. Read a history book. I've nothing else to say about that.

Ah, I see. You think that my failure to agree with your claims is on account of my ignorance of history?

Here are your claims again (I think they're pretty extraordinary on their face):

 

It is a simple fact of war that civilian populations are ultimately what give rise to the governments that rule them and therefore must be bombed in order for a threat to be removed. I think the entire history of war backs this premise. Simply look at any war.

I should tell you: I have read a history book or two, and historians in my experience don't tend to reduce "the entire history of war" in a manner such as this. But maybe you have some specific history book in mind?

 

I mean that there have been many occasions throughout history where victory was unacheivable without targeting civilian populations. If you don't think this is true than we disagree on a fact of war which I think can be seen in the history of many many conflicts.

I think it would be quite an undertaking -- certainly its own thread at least -- to take apart any war such that we could decide whether "victory was unachievable without targeting civilian populations." I don't expect that any historian would regard such a conclusion as easily arrived at, or obvious on its face. But that's my ignorant layman's perspective on history. (I know, I know, "Crack a damn book, DonAthos!")

 

OK. Let's be precise. Ayn Rand is saying that the government of those attacked does not suddenly have the right to violate the rights of those whose job it is to protect.

Ah, but it does have the right to violate the rights of others...? I mean, you don't put a point on it, so I don't know whether this is the intended implication... but if you're saying that "the government of those attacked does not suddenly have the right to violate the rights of those whose job it is to protect," then I'm taking it as your meaning that "the government of those attacked does suddenly have the right to violate the rights of others outside of that country and protection."

That seems to follow, so far as I can tell. But please clarify -- is that your view?

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No, there is no bomb that will kill only adults. Nor a bomb that will only kill the guilty and spare the innocent. I'm resigned to the fact that these bombs, which will kill indiscriminately, must be dropped in times of war. I'm even resigned to the innocent dying and children, too, though I account such as tragedies and argue that they should be minimized as much as reasonably possible.

But our specific point of departure is a question of whether or not it is moral to *target* the innocent.

That's not much of a point. It's pretty basic logic that there is no moral justification for targeting the innocent (not just in Objectivism - no man that lives by a moral code, whatever that code may be, would think that people who are innocent, as per his own code, should be his targets).

In Objectivism, in particular, an "innocent" is someone who would never choose to initiate force and, whenever he has a choice, would choose to fight against evil. Why would anyone want to target such a person?

But, in reality, that's not the point of contention at all. The point of contention is obviously you trying to equate "civilian" with "innocent". And you're wrong, civilian populations can be and often are a threat. The notion that we should sit patiently for them to first put on a uniform or suicide belt, before ending that threat, defies reason.

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Actually, the Brits bombed first.

 

Actually, the Germans bombed first: London, 8/24/1940. It was in retaliation for this that the British bombed Berlin on 8/25/1940. Hitler retaliated with the London Blitz starting on 9/7/1940. It could not be known by the British that the bombing on the 24th was a mistake. What is more, the Blitz was not Hitler's first use of bombing for terror against civilian populations. Bombing of Polish civilians started on 9/1/1940. The Jewish quarter in Warsaw was targeted and set ablaze that month. On 5/14/1940, the Germans started the Rotterdam Blitz, devastating the city. The first "terror raid" by the British against the Germans didn't occur until 12/16/1940.

 

Despite that you are factually wrong on every point, I would like for you to observe that I have not stated a position concerning the present discussion. I am just pointing out that sadly, your hatred is unfounded.

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Is there really a sub-debate on whether Hitler was using retaliatory force? 

 

Any discussion on American practicing Genocide with the Japanese is rediculous.  America was using every resource to win a war in a way to minimize our losses.  That is how you fight a war - kill more of their men then they kill of yours. Or to quote Patton, "Do not give me any shit about dying for your Country... Make the othe dumb son of a bitch die for his Country!" 

 

That is the defintion of how to win a war. 

 

The boobs who claim to be strategists but aren't qualified to manage a lemonade stand, let alone today's modern military, would do well to learn from them.

 

War is, frankly, outside if the OP since it is a state of emergency and is not camparable to ethical issues under moral law.  In war it is life or death. 

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The way we survive matters.

 

It seems unlikely to me that a philosophy essential to living should have so little to say at times when life is threatened beyond, "do whatever it takes." The quality of life we defend is what distinguishes our actions from those who rape, pillage and plunder indiscriminately. And if justice creates impediments to survival during times of war, what's the virtue of pursuing justice during moments of peace? The more consistent premise to adopt would be, might makes right.

 

War and lifeboats aren't man made amoralities; they are man made challenges to morality. One either rises to the ultimate test of ones convictions, or discards them as being of no consequence to living, or worse becomes a hypocrite who practices morality only when it's convenient.

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I think that during a time of war it is moral to target those forces which are actually aligned against you. Those who have initiated the use of force, who continue to employ force, and those institutions that provide the enemy with material support or the capability of continuing the war (like a weapons factory, or a trainyard).

This could certainly include locations which might otherwise be thought of as generally being "civilian" or within civilian areas. Yet I would describe what I'm talking about generally as being a "military target." For instance, I've already addressed the situation of a weapons factory within a city that might otherwise be civilian; the weapons factory is a military target, regardless of the damage that might be caused to the surrounding population during the course of destroying that weapons factory. (This hopefully resolves the apparent contradiction you later find between me saying that on the one hand I know that innocents will die during war, yet on the other hand, we must not target the innocent. There is a difference between targeting a weapons factory, and unavoidably killing civilians in the process, versus targeting the civilians themselves. A difference that I recognize, and one which I believe you should, too.)

 

I recognize that there is a difference. But you keep equivocating civilian with innocent. Can we accept that these two are not interchangeable? Civilian populations are not collections of two year olds.

 

Can there be "civilians" who are, in themselves, a "military target"? Possibly, insofar as they fulfill the criteria I've established above (e.g. "providing material support," or etc.). But that would have to be the case made and supported, with regard to particulars. We would have to be able to say and support the idea that these particular citizens constitute a legitimate military target, for some specific reason.

 

Sure I agree with this.

 

 

This sort of (difficult and involved) analysis stands apart from the position that "civilians are responsible for their governments; therefore civilians are themselves guilty for their government's conduct; therefore Dresden was peachy" or "any tactic which aims to force the enemy to surrender is moral in a time of war; therefore Dresden was peachy" or "war is a metaphysical emergency, therefore we cannot assess the morality of actions undertaken during a time of war; therefore Dresden was at worst amoral."

 

Dresden was peachy? Really? Who said that? Misrepresenting my view is not helpful.

 

 

I think that a state of war is pretty "normal life," frankly

 

Well we're in violent disagreement on this point. I don't even know how to combat such an assertion. War should not be accepted as some every day occurence. I mean, that's just messed up.

 

 

I don't buy into the "zero sum world" paradigm you've introduced to turn every day into an emergency situation, whether on the frontlines or back on the homefront. I think it's a complete misreading of Rand on "emergencies" and clearly and starkly opposed to her discussion of the same.

 

War is not some every day occurrence anymore than getting mugged is an every day occurrence. How can you accept that this is how we should expect to live? Why is living under threat of force normal to you? I see you're a mod so presumably you are at least sympathetic to Objectivism and appear to have an understanding of it. If this is true, how do you accept the idea that someone threatening your life by force is an every day occurrence? I get that you refuse to accept the zero-sum paradigm. But at the same time you accept that in a rational war of self-defense, some innocent people will have to die for you to protect yourself. Can you explain how this is not a zero-sum situation?

 

 

Remember, the context for her thoughts on retaliatory force is that "force has been initiated." Doesn't that serve to create a state of "metaphysical emergency" in your parlance? But if such a condition renders innocence moot, then what could Rand have been talking about at all? Why shouldn't a moral man use retaliatory force against the initiator -- or anyone else -- to satisfy himself that he has eliminated the threats he perceives against him? Why should Rand care that force be used only against the initiator, if all is fair for the man who has been first attacked? (For instance, if a man were to threaten me with violence, couldn't I threaten to target his wife and children in reprisal? If it gets him to back down, or is meant to, then isn't that a moral use of self-defense on my part? If he were to attack me, couldn't I take a swing at his child in return?)

 

Is this really an honest misunderstanding of my view?

 

Why the F would you take a swing at the guy's child? You keep trying to distort my view into: kill two year olds. Seriously, stop it.

 

If the man is using his child as a shield I think that what happens to the child when defending yourself is his fault. With that being said, a government's job is to protect the rights of its citizens. That means it's the government's job to protect the child who did not initiate force.

 

It is NOT the job of our government to protect the rights of people outside of its domain. That means that when protecting our rights necessitates damaging people who did not initiate force against us, the government does what is necessary to protect us.

 

 

Furthermore, do you suppose that in discussing force -- its initiation and reprisal -- Rand somehow forgot about warfare as being one rather prominent example of force among men? (Had she witnessed any important wars during her lifetime, I wonder?)

 

Oh gee wiz I wonder.

 

 

Didn't think her ideas on force might reasonably be construed to apply to warfare? Do you think she meant to say something like, "Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use... except in times of war, or similar 'metaphysical emergencies' where we now live in a 'zero sum world' in which case men have the right to use physical force as they deem appropriate, whether against those who initiate its use or anyone else"?

 

*as they deem necessary for returning to normal life.

 

Yes, I think that's close to what she meant. That is consistent with Objectivism and it's consistent with everything she said about how man should act in situations where metaphysically normal life is not possible (as in war). It's also completely consistent with what she never said: That nuking Japan was immoral. That bombing civilians is always immoral. Etc.

 

 

I think it would be quite an undertaking -- certainly its own thread at least -- to take apart any war such that we could decide whether "victory was unachievable without targeting civilian populations." I don't expect that any historian would regard such a conclusion as easily arrived at, or obvious on its face. But that's my ignorant layman's perspective on history. (I know, I know, "Crack a damn book, DonAthos!")

 

There is a certain 'higher ground' that goes along with claiming that a certain issue is too complex, or necessitates 'quite an undertaking' to explain. However, this is a specific point that should be incredibly obvious to someone familiar with history. The allies bombing of civilian populations in WWII not only was necessary to end the war but also necessary to reduce allied casualties. This is far from being some complicated claim requiring vast historical study. In fact, I would say that such a conclusion was damn near perceptually given for people alive during the war.

 

 

I'm taking it as your meaning that "the government of those attacked does suddenly have the right to violate the rights of others outside of that country and protection."

That seems to follow, so far as I can tell. But please clarify -- is that your view?

 

If you want to formulate it that way, yes. That is, our government cannot both protect our rights and protect the rights of the innocents within an enemy country. IT'S IMPOSSIBLE. That's what happens in war. Dare I use the term, zero sum? It's our governments obligation to protect our rights- not their rights.

 

Anyways, I'm done with this thread. My view continues to be misrepresented as being in favor of punching two year olds.

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A few thought experiments.

For those who continue to grapple with these (difficult) questions, myself included, I think it might be helpful to think about the underlying issues from a few different perspectives and in varying contexts.

#1) The question of "the draft" has come up recently, and Rand's opposition to the same, even for country which has been attacked. For reference, here is the quote I'd provided:

 

Just as an individual has the right of self-defense, so has a free country if attacked. But this does not give its government the right to draft men into military service—which is the most blatantly statist violation of a man’s right to his own life.

But the question -- as always -- is why? Why should Rand be opposed to the draft, even when under attack?

For after all, people in this thread have insisted that "war is an emergency" under which there is no room for the ethics of day-to-day living. So how could a draft be anything worse than amoral, given that "war is a lifeboat"? Or, as some have asserted that the actions one takes in defense of one's life are therefore moral (irrespective of the nature of those actions), why couldn't a draft even be considered moral? "Our free country needs a draft to survive this enemy; therefore the draft is moral!"

So suppose I made that very claim for the draft? How could we argue against such a notion, and on what grounds? (Unless Rand was mistaken about the draft, and it is in fact moral. Maybe she just didn't understand what war was all about? I suppose that's possible...)

#2) Suppose that a man has taken hostages in a bank. He has issued some list of demands and threatens to kill his hostages, one an hour, until his demands are satisfied.

Would it be moral to kill him? Even if the first hour were not yet up, and he had not yet executed anyone?

LOL, of course it would! That's not my question. ;) But... suppose that the police surrounding the bank have learned that the hostage-taker's family live not so far away. Suppose that they believe that the hostage-taker values his family beyond all else. So... they round up his wife and children, and bring them to the bank.

They communicate to the hostage-taker that unless he surrenders immediately, and without hurting anyone, they will kill his family, one-by-one.

"I don't believe you," the hostage-taker says. "You're the police! You have rules! You have to act morally and cannot target the innocent!"

"But this is a lifeboat situation," the cardboard police captain replies. "You've created a zero-sum-world, and therefore the ordinary principles of morality do not apply to us. Any action on our part that compels you to surrender is moral."

"You're bluffing!!!"

So to prove that they are not, in fact, bluffing, the police captain immediately orders the death of the hostage-taker's youngest child, shooting her in the head. We shall make her two-years-old, for the sake of matching up with earlier conversation.

The hostage-taker screams in hurt and anger as the police captain reminds him that he still has two other kids. The hostage-taker immediately capitulates, and everyone celebrates...

Well... everyone except for the hostage-taker's wife, who screams and starts hitting the police captain, calling him a murderer. He orders her arrested.

But first he explains his rationale: "I'm no murderer, lady. I'm not responsible for the death of your daughter; your husband is. I had no choice but to do what I did."

Well, what do we think? Moral? Why or why not?

#3) Suppose that you're a soldier, fighting a war in a distant land against an oppressive government. It is a war of liberation. You're commanding a unit that approaches a village -- whether in jungle, desert, mountains, it doesn't really matter to me, so you may provide that detail for yourself.

You receive orders over the radio from your commanding officer to go in and kill everything that moves, then burn the buildings to the ground and salt the earth. The destruction of this village will surely hurt the fighting spirit of this evil government.

"Sir? Everything that moves?" you ask, seeing children playing in the streets ahead. "Not just the men... but...?"

"A bomb would do the same," your commander says. "Do we need to pull your men out and drop one, or can you do your job?"

"No, sir..." you say, "We can do it. It's only... can't we spare the innocents?"

"Innocents!?" he scoffs. "You mean those 'who would never choose to initiate force and, whenever he has a choice, would choose to fight against evil'?"

"Actually, I just meant the people who aren't at war with us and who haven't tried to hurt us... you know... the people just trying to live their lives in peace. The women doing their laundry. The kids in school. The, uh, civilians, sir, that this evil government is oppressing. The folks we're trying to liberate. I'm looking at them now, sir, and I don't believe that they're a threat."

"Not a threat!? You're wrong, officer! Civilian populations can be and often are a threat. The notion that we should sit patiently for them to first put on a uniform or suicide belt, before ending that threat, defies reason."

"I understand your orders, sir," you say.

Well -- what will it be? Do you order your unit forward to execute every man, woman and child? Or does your view of morality compel you to act differently? How so -- and most importantly, why?

Would you feel differently if you were a drone operator, ordered to drop a bomb on that same village? Why or why not?

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Actually, the Germans bombed first: London, 8/24/1940. It was in retaliation for this that the British bombed Berlin on 8/25/1940. Hitler retaliated with the London Blitz starting on 9/7/1940. It could not be known by the British that the bombing on the 24th was a mistake. What is more, the Blitz was not Hitler's first use of bombing for terror against civilian populations. Bombing of Polish civilians started on 9/1/1940. The Jewish quarter in Warsaw was targeted and set ablaze that month. On 5/14/1940, the Germans started the Rotterdam Blitz, devastating the city. The first "terror raid" by the British against the Germans didn't occur until 12/16/1940.

 

Despite that you are factually wrong on every point, I would like for you to observe that I have not stated a position concerning the present discussion. I am just pointing out that sadly, your hatred is unfounded.

Actually, you've made my point for me: Churchill, by escalating a bombing campaign far larger in scope than what Hitler did, was not just retaliating. Rather, he was therefore a participant in evil.

 

Moreover, both Goring, Harris, and the B-29 commander in the Pacific admitted to having carried out a policy that was aimed at demoralization through terror.

 

In other words, yiou rightfully  call Hitler 'evil' because he terror bombed, but fail to apply the same standard to the allies. Therefore, perhaps you feel that the means of terror-bombing is justifiable if the ends are justified?

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Is there really a sub-debate on whether Hitler was using retaliatory force? 

 

Any discussion on American practicing Genocide with the Japanese is rediculous.  America was using every resource to win a war in a way to minimize our losses.  That is how you fight a war - kill more of their men then they kill of yours. Or to quote Patton, "Do not give me any shit about dying for your Country... Make the othe dumb son of a bitch die for his Country!" 

 

That is the defintion of how to win a war. 

 

The boobs who claim to be strategists but aren't qualified to manage a lemonade stand, let alone today's modern military, would do well to learn from them.

 

War is, frankly, outside if the OP since it is a state of emergency and is not camparable to ethical issues under moral law.  In war it is life or death. 

The boobs who don't research the American leaders --both military and civilians--and cite their own words are unqualified to speak of what passed as 'strategy'.

 

Of course, this negligent boobery pails in comparison to that of citing a moovie about Patton. Oh yes, that one in which he is shown to have cakllenged a straffing run withthe pistol!

 

Going forward, intelligent cinephiles immediately recognized that the film is only about how a Patton hagiography would be written:  a tale told by an idiot, as it were. But i digress...

 

What we're supposed to be discussing is the essence of they-ness which SA banters about--as if it's a done deal to think of all Japanese as enemies, not just the military. Well, not.

 

Obversely, if all japanese were, indeed the 'enemy', genocide might somehow be justifiable.

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