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To Nuke or Not to Nuke

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Gary Brenner
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This may have been covered in other threads, but I think the best way to look at a dictatorship is that it is a hostage situation on a much larger scale. Imagine a crazed gunman takes an innocent woman hostage and starts shooting at you, you, in the course of defending yourself, accidentally shoot and kill the woman. You are not a murderer, you were simply trying to defend yourself, the gunman is the one who knowingly put the woman in harm's way, and presumably would have killed you and continued killing until both he and his hostage were killed.

That is precisely the calculation of a dictator, he counts on that moral equivocation that blanks out on the context of war and aggression. He knows that most people will swallow the logic of "you killed an innocent civilian, you are a murderer" and not dig deeper to consider that a peaceful country like the US has no reason to kill innocent civilians, unless they are unfortunate enough to be held hostage by a warmongering dictator.

Fine. Now let’s hypothesize a future in which the United States is an aggressive dictatorship bent on conquering peaceful, laissez-faire Canada. The only thing that stands between Canada and enslavement by its expansionist southern neighbor is its nuclear-tipped missiles, which can take out every U.S. city from Boston to San Diego.

Furthermore, Exaltron, you and I are unwilling subjects of this tyrannical America. If we could send a message to the Prime Minister of Canada, what would we say?

“Please, in the name of freedom, go ahead and bomb us!”

Or, “For godsakes, try to settle this thing without disintegrating us and hundred million other people!”

(I know what my answer as a rational, self-interested human would be.)

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Fine. Now let’s hypothesize a future in which the United States is an aggressive dictatorship bent on conquering peaceful, laissez-faire Canada. The only thing that stands between Canada and enslavement by its expansionist southern neighbor is its nuclear-tipped missiles, which can take out every U.S. city from Boston to San Diego.

Furthermore, Exaltron, you and I are unwilling subjects of this tyrannical America. If we could send a message to the Prime Minister of Canada, what would we say?

“Please, in the name of freedom, go ahead and bomb us!”

Or, “For godsakes, try to settle this thing without disintegrating us and hundred million other people!”

(I know what my answer as a rational, self-interested human would be.)

And the award for most thoroughly and completely dropped context goes to...

The first problem with your hypothesis is that it assumes that somehow I could be living under some sort of murderous tyranny, and yet I would somehow be able to get a message to anyone, much less the Prime Minister of Canada.

The second problem: How exactly would you propose "settling this thing", if "The only thing that stands between Canada and enslavement by its expansionist southern neighbor is its nuclear-tipped missiles, which can take out every U.S. city from Boston to San Diego"? That makes no sense, it's a complete contradiction. If there were a way to settle the thing without the annihilation of every US citizen, then how could you say that the only thing stopping the US from enslaving the Canadians was their missiles?

Setting both of these aside, you cannot negotiate with aggressors, it's called appeasement, it's never worked. It only emboldens them and shows them that you are nothing but a paper tiger. They are precisely counting on the type of rhetoric you are setting forth, in the hopes that they can paint the nation who is under attack as an aggressor, obfuscating the fact that they are the ones who put their citizens at risk, they are completely and utterly responsible for that predicament.

So no, I would not appeal to the leaders or the citizens of Canada. My interest would best be served in this bizarre hypothetical by either appealing to my fellow citizens to help overthrow the tyranny or trying to escape. It would emphatically not be in my interest to suggest that the Canadians do something which would clearly not be in their interest, namely appease a dictator and aggressor who represents a clear and present danger. The fact that some or even most of the citizens of the US might not support the aggression would not change that (based on your description of the situation, it would be far beyond the possibility of Canada supporting some kind of Wolverine-esque uprising). They would laugh in my face and they would be well justified, since I would basically be asking them to roll over and die.

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Fine. Now let’s hypothesize a future in which the United States is an aggressive dictatorship bent on conquering peaceful, laissez-faire Canada. The only thing that stands between Canada and enslavement by its expansionist southern neighbor is its nuclear-tipped missiles, which can take out every U.S. city from Boston to San Diego.

Furthermore, Exaltron, you and I are unwilling subjects of this tyrannical America. If we could send a message to the Prime Minister of Canada, what would we say?

“Please, in the name of freedom, go ahead and bomb us!”

Or, “For godsakes, try to settle this thing without disintegrating us and hundred million other people!”

(I know what my answer as a rational, self-interested human would be.)

Ah, Gary Brenner's back. Wonderful. When did that happen?

Why is this relevant? I'm sure if you were the unwilling victim of a hijacker, that you'd want to live too, but that has no bearing on the moral evaulation of what the Canadians do. There is moral responsiblity for your death and it belongs with the US, regardless of who pushes the button.

Besides, a self-interested person might advocate negotiating with a dictatorship, but he'd not be rational. He'd simply be delaying his own eventual death at the hands of his captors.

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Fine. Now let’s hypothesize a future in which the United States is an aggressive dictatorship bent on conquering peaceful, laissez-faire Canada. The only thing that stands between Canada and enslavement by its expansionist southern neighbor is its nuclear-tipped missiles, which can take out every U.S. city from Boston to San Diego.

Furthermore, Exaltron, you and I are unwilling subjects of this tyrannical America. If we could send a message to the Prime Minister of Canada, what would we say?

“Please, in the name of freedom, go ahead and bomb us!”

Or, “For godsakes, try to settle this thing without disintegrating us and hundred million other people!”

(I know what my answer as a rational, self-interested human would be.)

I'm not speaking for Exaltron.

If America were an aggressive dictatorship, then there would be no way to "settle this thing," if by that you mean peaceful diplomacy. If Canada has evidence of America making plans to conquer them, then "she" would have every right to defend "her" citizens, including nuclear warfare (though the proximity to the target would be an issue).

After understanding the relation between mind and force, it becomes irrational and immoral to claim that the innocent man defending his life is to be held accountable for the death of a hostage in an attempt to kill the gun-wielder.

The same logic applies to the national-scale: if a country has to defend itself, then it has to focus on targets necessary to end the conflict as quickly as possible; it would have neither the power nor resources to secure the lives of every innocent, individual rights-respecting hostage in the aggressor nation. And even if it did have such things, that is not the government's role in wartime: to protect the individual rights of another nation's people. It's role is to protect the rights of its own citizens, which in war can lead to, like in World War II, the case of deliberately destroying cities and people who didn't escape in a demonstration of power, individual-rights respecting or not.

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I'm not speaking for Exaltron.

If America were an aggressive dictatorship, then there would be no way to "settle this thing," if by that you mean peaceful diplomacy.

Really? For example, did diplomacy play no role in forestalling all-out war between the relatively free United States and the aggressive dictatorship of the Soviet Union? I’m not aware of any history of the Cold War that argues this.

If Canada has evidence of America making plans to conquer them, then "she" would have every right to defend "her" citizens, including nuclear warfare (though the proximity to the target would be an issue).

After understanding the relation between mind and force, it becomes irrational and immoral to claim that the innocent man defending his life is to be held accountable for the death of a hostage in an attempt to kill the gun-wielder.

The same logic applies to the national-scale: if a country has to defend itself, then it has to focus on targets necessary to end the conflict as quickly as possible; it would have neither the power nor resources to secure the lives of every innocent, individual rights-respecting hostage in the aggressor nation. And even if it did have such things, that is not the government's role in wartime: to protect the individual rights of another nation's people. It's role is to protect the rights of its own citizens, which in war can lead to, like in World War II, the case of deliberately destroying cities and people who didn't escape in a demonstration of power, individual-rights respecting or not.

Let me make it clear that I am not specifically challenging your position that

1. Canada has a “right to defend ‘her’ citizens, including nuclear warfare”

2. it “is not the government's role in wartime: to protect the individual rights of another nation's people.”

My objective is to explore the ethical options of freedom-loving, self-interested people within the aggressor nation. While it is true that as rational individuals they might recognize the right of the defender nation to use weapons that would result in killing massive numbers of the aggressor nation’s subjects, to save themselves they could reasonably urge a solution, diplomacy perhaps, that would prevent such destruction. To go even further, to save themselves they might take such steps as jamming an incoming missile’s telemetry to prevent it from hitting them or manning anti-missile stations.

In another thread David Odden makes a point about rights and self-preservation that is relevant here:

Life-threatening metaphysical emergencies are exactly when you should [violate other people's rights]. You should violate a man's property rights when snowed in in the woods and you encounter a cabin. You don't have the right to do so, but you should do it, because the alternative of death kind of takes the motivation away from acting in a strict rights-respecting manner. Your reason for following principle is defined in terms of your ultimate goal and choice, namely to exist. Deciding to die cannot be better, in terms of that ultimate goal, than deciding to live. Putting the matter in comparative terms, what's more important to you and your long-term goal of existing as a man, respecting another man's property rights or avoiding a minor inconvenience by violating those rights; living because you violated someone's property rights, or dying?

I argue that as a captive of an aggressive U.S. dictatorship I would not have the "right" to prevent Canadian citizens from trying to destroy my country (and me with it), but I should try to do so anyway because, as Odden neatly puts it, “Deciding to die cannot be better, in terms of that ultimate goal, than deciding to live.”

Edited by Gary Brenner
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My objective is to explore the ethical options of freedom-loving, self-interested people within the aggressor nation. While it is true that as rational individuals they might recognize the right of the defender nation to use weapons that would result in killing massive numbers of the aggressor nation’s subjects, to save themselves they could reasonably urge a solution, diplomacy perhaps, that would prevent such destruction. To go even further, to save themselves they might take such steps as jamming an incoming missile’s telemetry to prevent it from hitting them or manning anti-missile stations.

The best thing a resident of a dictatorship could do is try to emigrate or cause a revolution or assassinate the dictator. All of those steps have and are being tried by residents of dictatorships around the globe, past and present. The examples are multitudinous, such as Cuban boat-people fleeing that country or the generals who plotted to assassinate Hitler during World War II.

It is not in the self-interest of an oppressed resident of a dictatorship to aid the preservation of that dictatorship in any way. Of course, some of those residents do so, but under the threat of compulsion, as in the case of millions of terrified workers in Stalinist Russia, or because they incorrectly believe some or all of the statist propaganda with which they are fed, which does apply to millions of dictatorship subjects, both past and present.

Only a terrified or brainwashed person would fight for his dictatorship. That certainly was the case during World War II on both the German and Soviet sides. Interestingly, when World War II ended, hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers tried to flee West once the German threat ended and they had the seemingly realistic hope of becoming free. (Incidentally, in deference to our Russian ally, American and other Allied soldiers sent the Russians back to the Soviet Union, where they suffered imprisonment and death.)

On a separate note, my observation is that Gary Brenner's examples are of the hypothetical-fantastic variety. As such, they do not make good material for a discussion. Consider the example he hypothesizes, of a laissez-faire Canada and a totalitarian United States. Quite a contrast, and quite unrealistic that such a situation could just pop up. Consider also his alternative, nuke the United States or do nothing. That is also absurd. In any historical conflict with dictatorships, no such dramatic solution as a complete nuking of the country was ever necessary. In fact, in no historical war that I can think of has a conqueror had to completely wipe out an enemy to defeat him. Countries are always defeated with far less than that. This is important because it is completely unrealistic that a resident of a dictatorship has to fear certain annihilation from the laissez-faire country. In fact, unless there are the most drastic circumstances, odds are that he will survive any war.

Finally, consider Brenner's hypothetical "freedom-loving, self-interested person" in the dictatorship. The fact is, many if not most people who qualify for such a description try to escape in the years leading up to a war, if they really value their freedom. That was true following the Russian Revolution, it was true in the 1930s in Germany in the years leading up to World War II, and it has been true for nearly 50 years in Cuba.

Using a realistic example, not a fantastic hypothetical example, makes it much clearer that for the rather few truly freedom-loving residents of a dictatorship, their interests always lie with their liberator.

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“Please, in the name of freedom, go ahead and bomb us!”

Or, “For godsakes, try to settle this thing without disintegrating us and hundred million other people!”

(I know what my answer as a rational, self-interested human would be.)

If we're exploring options of those inside a dictatorship, then that is in itself an interesting discussion, however, I'm not sure I see the threat of war against a dictatorship as a "metaphysical emergency" in the same sense that the Odden quote is used. THis is really a matter of boiling a frog by raising the water temperature one degree at a time. So as conditions get worse and risk of death (either at the liberators hands, or at the hands of your captors) increases so should your efforts to save your life.

However, one key point. Which nation has the moral responsibilty in such a case, and who is your second sentence addressed to? That is, if facing a true metaphysical emergency, and probable death, then shouldn't the appropriate action of a dictatorship's citizens (if they are rational freedom loving people) be aimed at rising up against the dictatorship? In fact, toppling the dictatorship has the best chance of reducing the risk of death to oneself than trying to jam enemy missles.

In fact the logic of asking Canada to negotiate or of complying with a dictatorship's pleas to come to its aid, is that of believeing that a dictatorship acts rationally and with justice. That negotiation with it is no different than negotation between two peace loving rights respecting countries. In fact, real tyranny deals in just the opposite, random causeless death to instill fear. It is the whole theme of the "First They Came... ".. poem. Such an option, is no long term option, and rational, self-interested men realize that.

Edited by KendallJ
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The best thing a resident of a dictatorship could do is try to emigrate or cause a revolution or assassinate the dictator. All of those steps have and are being tried by residents of dictatorships around the globe, past and present. The examples are multitudinous, such as Cuban boat-people fleeing that country or the generals who plotted to assassinate Hitler during World War II.

As I mentioned in the "Move if you don't like it thread, switching countries does not occur with the same ease as changing TV channels (or cable providers or brands of toothpaste or even spouses). This is particularly true for residents of dictatorships where emigration is tightly regulated in order to prevent not just a brain drain but the exodus of virtually the entire body politic. We admirers of Ayn Rand should consider it fortunate that the author of We the Living was not born much later. Otherwise, she might have had to wait a half century to leave her native land – or suffered the fate of Kira Argounova.

I have Russian cousins who were not able to flee the U.S.S.R. until the 1970s. Even then they were forced to pay a heavy “education tax” for their one-way trip to Israel.

As for changing the regime, I agree that it is in almost everyone’s self-interest to choose good government, that is, government that confines itself to the protection of rights. However, even in a country which has regular and open elections this is no small task. Believe me, I’ve spent 20 years trying.

I don’t think the inmates of Castro’s or Kim’s political prisons would benefit much from our kibitzing that they should install a more benevolent ruler.

It is not in the self-interest of an oppressed resident of a dictatorship to aid the preservation of that dictatorship in any way. Of course, some of those residents do so, but under the threat of compulsion, as in the case of millions of terrified workers in Stalinist Russia, or because they incorrectly believe some or all of the statist propaganda with which they are fed, which does apply to millions of dictatorship subjects, both past and present.

Only a terrified or brainwashed person would fight for his dictatorship. That certainly was the case during World War II on both the German and Soviet sides. Interestingly, when World War II ended, hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers tried to flee West once the German threat ended and they had the seemingly realistic hope of becoming free. (Incidentally, in deference to our Russian ally, American and other Allied soldiers sent the Russians back to the Soviet Union, where they suffered imprisonment and death.)

While it is not in the self-interest of the vast majority of people to aid a dictator, it may be a necessity of survival to fight an invading army. Although it is true that some of Stalin’s subjects (those in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists, for example) made common cause with the Germans in World War II, most Soviet citizens correctly surmised that they would be worse off under Hitler, whose planned Lebensraum envisioned the extermination a great many non-“Aryans” west of the Urals.

You are correct about the Russian soldiers who tried to flee West when World War II ended. The important phrase in your description is “once the German threat ended.”

On a separate note, my observation is that Gary Brenner's examples are of the hypothetical-fantastic variety. As such, they do not make good material for a discussion. Consider the example he hypothesizes, of a laissez-faire Canada and a totalitarian United States. Quite a contrast, and quite unrealistic that such a situation could just pop up.

Since I explicitly labeled my example of a future tyrannical U.S. “hypothetical,” it does not require astute observation to see it as such. My intention was to put the reader, who is, more likely than not, American, in the shoes of someone like Ivan, the hypothetical character mentioned by jparagons in his post at the top of this thread. The improbability of a tyrannical U.S. does not in any way change the ethical question I was posing. Had I said Country A and Country B instead of the U.S. and Canada, the philosophical inquiry would be just as worthwhile.

Consider also his alternative, nuke the United States or do nothing. That is also absurd. In any historical conflict with dictatorships, no such dramatic solution as a complete nuking of the country was ever necessary. In fact, in no historical war that I can think of has a conqueror had to completely wipe out an enemy to defeat him. Countries are always defeated with far less than that. This is important because it is completely unrealistic that a resident of a dictatorship has to fear certain annihilation from the laissez-faire country. In fact, unless there are the most drastic circumstances, odds are that he will survive any war.

In fact, I never said “nuke the United States or do nothing.” I made it perfectly clear that there might be an alternative to nuclear arms or abject surrender. In Post #5 I wrote, “settle this thing without disintegrating us,” and in Post #9 I wrote about ways of “forestalling all-out war.” Read my response in the context of what jparagons wrote at the start of the discussion.

As for the odds of a resident of a dictatorship surviving bombardment by a relatively free country, they may on average be quite good. But for the residents of Tokyo, Hamburg and Dresden in World War II, they may not have been good enough.

Finally, consider Brenner's hypothetical "freedom-loving, self-interested person" in the dictatorship. The fact is, many if not most people who qualify for such a description try to escape in the years leading up to a war, if they really value their freedom. That was true following the Russian Revolution, it was true in the 1930s in Germany in the years leading up to World War II, and it has been true for nearly 50 years in Cuba.

I don't doubt that most freedom-loving people “try to escape in the years leading up to a war.” Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises did. However, Anne Frank and Dietrich Bonhoeffer did not.

But what about the second or third generation under a dictatorship? My Russian cousins were not born until after Lenin's death. I don’t see much purpose served by saying that if they “really valued their freedom,” they should have escaped shortly after the Bolsheviks took power.

Using a realistic example, not a fantastic hypothetical example, makes it much clearer that for the rather few truly freedom-loving residents of a dictatorship, their interests always lie with their liberator.

I would counter that liberation is in one’s self-interest but not necessarily at the cost of one’s life.

Edited by Gary Brenner
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Ah, Gary Brenner's back. Wonderful. When did that happen?

Why is this relevant? I'm sure if you were the unwilling victim of a hijacker, that you'd want to live too, but that has no bearing on the moral evaulation of what the Canadians do. There is moral responsiblity for your death and it belongs with the US, regardless of who pushes the button.

Thanks for the welcome. My post is relevant because one’s preferences for the way international disputes are settled may depend very much on which side of a border one lives on. It is easy for a citizen of Free Country A to say, “We could take out the dictator of Enslaved Country B with just a few nukes and no harm to our troops or citizens.” But the unhappy subject of Country B may not wish to pay for the liberation with his own life. If he is unable to overthrow his dictator, it would certainly be in his self-interest to prevent or deflect a lethal assault aimed in his direction.

And let me emphasize, I’m not specifically challenging A’s right to use nukes or trying to shift blame from the dictator. I’m simply examining the conflict from the egoistic perspective of an enslaved subject who doesn’t take “nuclear liberation” lightly and is understandably skeptical about its purported benefits.

Besides, a self-interested person might advocate negotiating with a dictatorship, but he'd not be rational. He'd simply be delaying his own eventual death at the hands of his captors.

I would argue that it is not rational for a person to hasten his own death. Indeed it is perfectly rational to delay death unless life is unbearably painful.

If we're exploring options of those inside a dictatorship, then that is in itself an interesting discussion, however, I'm not sure I see the threat of war against a dictatorship as a "metaphysical emergency" in the same sense that the Odden quote is used. THis is really a matter of boiling a frog by raising the water temperature one degree at a time. So as conditions get worse and risk of death (either at the liberators hands, or at the hands of your captors) increases so should your efforts to save your life.

I do not see why a person threatened with nuclear annihilation is in any less of an emergency than someone about to freeze to death in a snowstorm. If I were in dire need of food and shelter I would not hesitate to violate another’s property rights. Similarly, if I am the captive of an absolute dictator, I would have no qualms about shooting down “liberating” warheads that were on a trajectory for my head – despite the fact that those warheads are the property of the citizens of a free country.

However, one key point. Which nation has the moral responsibilty in such a case, and who is your second sentence addressed to?

That is, if facing a true metaphysical emergency, and probable death, then shouldn't the appropriate action of a dictatorship's citizens (if they are rational freedom loving people) be aimed at rising up against the dictatorship? In fact, toppling the dictatorship has the best chance of reducing the risk of death to oneself than trying to jam enemy missles.

In my post I said the message was addressed to the Prime Minister of Canada. Once more, I am not calling into question Canada’s right of self-defense. I am simply explaining why the captive of a dictator may find it in his legitimate self-interest (i.e. continued existence on earth) to oppose an invasion. It’s all very well to say that captives just need to rise up against their oppressor and everything will be fine. In reality the dictator may be a thousand miles away, while the invader’s bombers are coming up over the horizon.

Please view my exchange with Galileo Blogs in which we discussed Soviet soldiers fighting Nazi invaders in World War II. These soldiers had next to zero probability of getting close enough to Stalin to shoot him. (And replacing Stalin with a republican government would not have stopped the German advance anyway.) But the Soviet soldiers did have the power to stop Hitler’s conquest, which almost certainly would have resulted in a genocide worse than Stalin’s.

In fact the logic of asking Canada to negotiate or of complying with a dictatorship's pleas to come to its aid, is that of believeing that a dictatorship acts rationally and with justice. That negotiation with it is no different than negotation between two peace loving rights respecting countries. In fact, real tyranny deals in just the opposite, random causeless death to instill fear. It is the whole theme of the "First They Came... "... poem. Such an option, is no long term option, and rational, self-interested men realize that.

One does not have to believe that a dictatorship acts rationally and with justice in order to see that one may lose more than one gains from the bombardment of one’s country. This is not to say that no one benefits from the annihilation of a dictator’s country but to point out that it does not automatically serve one’s self-interest to urge the onset of war.

As for opposing negotiation with dictators, do you think the United States would have been better served not to have had talks with the Soviets from 1945 to 1993?

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The topic of this discussion shifted, and I unwittingly allowed myself to get shifted with it. It started with, "Why are the citizens of a dictatorship responsible for the dictator?"

Then Gary Brenner shifted it to his hypothetical discussion of whether citizens of a dictatorship would want war with a "nuclear-tipped" enemy where a "hundred million" people would die:

Brenner Post #5

Fine. Now let’s hypothesize a future in which the United States is an aggressive dictatorship bent on conquering peaceful, laissez-faire Canada. The only thing that stands between Canada and enslavement by its expansionist southern neighbor is its nuclear-tipped missiles, which can take out every U.S. city from Boston to San Diego.

Furthermore, Exaltron, you and I are unwilling subjects of this tyrannical America. If we could send a message to the Prime Minister of Canada, what would we say?

“Please, in the name of freedom, go ahead and bomb us!”

Or, “For godsakes, try to settle this thing without disintegrating us and hundred million other people!”

I believe my response (post #10) effectively responds to Gary's question and challenges his use of such a hypothetical example that postulates near-certain annihilation for the residents of the dictatorship.

But now Gary changes the topic yet again (post #13):

As for opposing negotiation with dictators, do you think the United States would have been better served not to have had talks with the Soviets from 1945 to 1993?

What I surmise from the direction of these topic shifts is that the real point Gary Brenner is trying to make is that it is wrong to take a strong moral stand that dictatorships are evil and that a free country has the moral right to take military action against such countries. His last post also appears to confuse a "right to action" with actually taking the action. The U.S. always had the right to militarily confront the Soviets. Whether we did or not is a question of tactics, not moral right.

A free country has the right to take whatever steps are necessary for self-defense, including all steps necessary to stop a threatening country. Getting back to the original question of this thread, it is in that context that the citizens of a dictatorship are responsible for the dictator. If a free country engages in war with a dictatorship and some residents of that dictatorship die, the moral guilt for their deaths lies with the dictatorship, not with the free country.

A particular citizen of a dictatorship may not bear direct responsibility for the dictatorship (if he was Hermann Goering, yes; a "non-political" German, no), but all such citizens bear indirect responsibility to the extent they do nothing to stop the dictatorship or save themselves. In any case and regardless of the moral status of Germans, in a war of self-defense against a dictatorship, to the extent civilians unavoidably die, the responsibility for their deaths lies with the dictator and, to an extent, with themselves to the extent they did not take such actions. A free country bears no responsibility nor any guilt at all for such deaths, given that such country is acting in self-defense. (Exaltron's post #4 presents a useful analogy, comparing residents of a dictatorship to hostages.)

I might add that American prisoners died in the nuclear blasts in Japan and certainly died in the aerial bombing in World War II, just as American soldiers have died in friendly fire incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq. In those cases, there is no question at all of the moral worth of the Americans, yet even in these instances, the moral responsibility for their deaths is not with President Truman who ordered the nuclear attacks or the pilots of the Enola Gay or the soldiers who unknowingly killed their fellows. The moral guilt lies squarely with the enemies who threatened us, with Adolf Hitler, the Iranian mullahs, et al.

Edited by Galileo Blogs
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My post is relevant because one’s preferences for the way international disputes are settled may depend very much on which side of a border one lives on.

Only if one is irrational. If one is rational, then one knows the difference between right and wrong and what is in one's self interest and that the interests of men do not conflict.

It is easy for a citizen of Free Country A to say, “We could take out the dictator of Enslaved Country B with just a few nukes and no harm to our troops or citizens.”

I should think it would be very hard for a rational, free man to say this. But he might find it harder to point to his own countrymen and say: "we will be sacrificing a few of our brave heroes for the sake of those who are unable to right themselves."

But the unhappy subject of Country B may not wish to pay for the liberation with his own life. If he is unable to overthrow his dictator, it would certainly be in his self-interest to prevent or deflect a lethal assault aimed in his direction.

The depredations of a dictator are known well before a free country declares war. If the unhappy subject wants continued enslavement and possible death, then he should stay and fight with the dictator. If he wants freedom and a possible death, then he should leave or stay and fight the dictator.

I would argue that it is not rational for a person to hasten his own death.

Nor is it rational to hasten one's enslavement.

I do not see why a person threatened with nuclear annihilation is in any less of an emergency than someone about to freeze to death in a snowstorm.

War doesn't come on quite as quick as a snowstorm. And most certainly I would get out of the way of an oncoming war just as quick as I would get out of the way of hurricane Katrina. And if I hadn't, I'd be just as responsible to suffer the consequences of my choice.

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The topic of this discussion shifted, and I unwittingly allowed myself to get shifted with it. It started with, "Why are the citizens of a dictatorship responsible for the dictator?" . . .

I believe my response (post #10) effectively responds to Gary's question and challenges his use of such a hypothetical example that postulates near-certain annihilation for the residents of the dictatorship.

I have never argued that the only outcome of a confrontation between a free nation and a dictatorship is “near-certain annihilation for the residents of the dictatorship.” It is only one in a number of possible outcomes. The vital issue for the captive of a dictatorship is whether or not he is likely to gain from the invasion of his country by a freer nation. Obviously, if the risk to his life is minute and the likelihood of increased freedom great, he would be foolish to do anything but welcome such an invasion. On the other hand, as his risk factor rises, the less he may welcome the launch of hostilities.

In short, it would be understandable and rational for captives of dictatorships in certain circumstances to seek to prevent a military attack on their nation, or, failing to prevent it, seek to minimize the effects of that attack.

I acknowledge that examining the perspective of the captive of a dictatorship does not precisely address the question raised by jparagons in Post #1: What is the reasoning behind the idea that it is “acceptable to target civilians specifically if their government acts aggressively to the US?” However, the question I posed in Post #5 is a legitimate philosophical inquiry and certainly worth considering in any discussion of war and ethics.

But now Gary changes the topic yet again (post #13):

What I surmise from the direction of these topic shifts is that the real point Gary Brenner is trying to make is that it is wrong to take a strong moral stand that dictatorships are evil and that a free country has the moral right to take military action against such countries. His last post also appears to confuse a "right to action" with actually taking the action. The U.S. always had the right to militarily confront the Soviets. Whether we did or not is a question of tactics, not moral right.

If you had taken the trouble to read the entire thread you would have noted that in Post #9 I wrote, “Let me make it clear that I am not specifically challenging your position that 1. Canada has a ‘right to defend “her” citizens, including nuclear warfare’ 2. it ‘is not the government's role in wartime: to protect the individual rights of another nation's people.’”

Thus there is no foundation to your claim that I have argued against taking “a strong moral stand that dictatorships are evil” and against the right of a free country “to take military action against such countries.”

If you had read my question in context, you would have seen that it was in response to KendallJ’s apparent admonition against negotiation with dictatorships.

A free country has the right to take whatever steps are necessary for self-defense, including all steps necessary to stop a threatening country. Getting back to the original question of this thread, it is in that context that the citizens of a dictatorship are responsible for the dictator. If a free country engages in war with a dictatorship and some residents of that dictatorship die, the moral guilt for their deaths lies with the dictatorship, not with the free country.

Since I have previously and repeatedly made clear that I am not challenging this position, it is quite pointless to bring it up here again.

A particular citizen of a dictatorship may not bear direct responsibility for the dictatorship (if he was Hermann Goering, yes; a "non-political" German, no), but all such citizens bear indirect responsibility to the extent they do nothing to stop the dictatorship or save themselves. In any case and regardless of the moral status of Germans, in a war of self-defense against a dictatorship, to the extent civilians unavoidably die, the responsibility for their deaths lies with the dictator and, to an extent, with themselves to the extent they did not take such actions. A free country bears no responsibility nor any guilt at all for such deaths, given that such country is acting in self-defense. (Exaltron's post #4 presents a useful analogy, comparing residents of a dictatorship to hostages.)

I’ll refer you to what I’ve written so far. See, for example, my Post #13: I am not challenging a free country’s “right to use nukes” nor “trying to shift blame from the dictator.”

I might add that American prisoners died in the nuclear blasts in Japan and certainly died in the aerial bombing in World War II, just as American soldiers have died in friendly fire incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq. In those cases, there is no question at all of the moral worth of the Americans, yet even in these instances, the moral responsibility for their deaths is not with President Truman who ordered the nuclear attacks or the pilots of the Enola Gay or the soldiers who unknowingly killed their fellows. The moral guilt lies squarely with the enemies who threatened us, with Adolf Hitler, the Iranian mullahs, et al.

None of this is under debate. I refer you to my earlier posts.

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For those who have not encountered Gary before, he was on the board a while back arguing for the Prudent Predator principle, of which this is but a variant. That post lasted some 600 individiual responses at which time, he had not budged an inch, and simply refused to understand the concept of what acting on principle means. One would do well to check that thread just to see what you're getting into.

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=8874

I'd like to ask the mods to split this into its own thread so that jparagons doesn't have to have his question and thread hijacked as it is sure to be.

Gary, your inability to see the moral dillema one faces as a subject of a dictatorship as no different than an emergency like a snowstorm is indicative of this same error. Your method is to ignore what any such subject has done during the time he was such a subject and then claim that it is rational to want to live under any circumstances and therefore to fight against your liberator. This is simply a variant of the Prudent Predator problem (i.e. "if this is what I have to do to live today - regardless of anything else I did or could have done before - then why is my wanting to do it not rational?")

The fact is you continue to present false alternatives that either require such a subject to passively submit to his dictator or actively repel the liberator. For every such dilemma there is a middle ground, and that is to passively survive, doing as little to interfere with your liberator, and at the earliest possible moment to surrender and aid your liberator. That is what you won't allow for. That is the only rational course.

Targeted by bombs? flee your current location.

Pressed into military service? Follow orders and then surrender at your earliest possible convenience.

And that will be my last post in this thread.

Edited by KendallJ
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I would argue that it is not rational for a person to hasten his own death. Indeed it is perfectly rational to delay death unless life is unbearably painful.

Gary Brenner has spoken and declared that he would like to live as a slave. As far as I'm concerned, I say:

GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME DEATH!

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Only if one is irrational. If one is rational, then one knows the difference between right and wrong and what is in one's self interest and that the interests of men do not conflict.

I’ll refer you to Odden’s snowbound scenario mentioned earlier in the thread. Cabin owner A has a right to his dwelling and all contents therein. While B has no right to A’s property, it is both understandable and rational for B to break into the cabin to save himself from certain death in a snowstorm.

The depredations of a dictator are known well before a free country declares war. If the unhappy subject wants continued enslavement and possible death, then he should stay and fight with the dictator. If he wants freedom and a possible death, then he should leave or stay and fight the dictator.

I grant that there are any number of possible scenarios in which a resident of a slave state could further his self-interest by cooperating with an invading army. I simply want to point out that it is not automatic that captives of dictators benefit from conquest by an invader and the attendant destruction. Some may be liberated. Some may be quite dead. If, for example, I were a resident of Moscow in 1960, I would certainly not welcome a nuclear first strike by the United States.

Nor is it rational to hasten one's enslavement.

I don’t aim any criticism at those who cheerfully accept death as an alternative to brutal enslavement. It makes perfect sense for a concentration camp victim to welcome the dropping of Allied bombs on his camp. But there may be victims of dictators whose lives, while far from perfect, are nonetheless preferable to death. There were hundreds of millions of Soviet citizens, my relatives included, who did not put their heads in ovens or slash their wrists.

War doesn't come on quite as quick as a snowstorm. And most certainly I would get out of the way of an oncoming war just as quick as I would get out of the way of hurricane Katrina. And if I hadn't, I'd be just as responsible to suffer the consequences of my choice.

So how would you advise a North Korean to get out of the way of a possible war with the U.S.? Are you suggesting it is as easy to walk away from Kim’s slave state as it is to leave New Orleans?

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For those who have not encountered Gary before, he was on the board a while back arguing for the Prudent Predator principle, of which this is but a variant. That post lasted some 600 individiual responses at which time, he had not budged an inch, and simply refused to understand the concept of what acting on principle means. One would do well to check that thread just to see what you're getting into.

http://forum.ObjectivismOnline.com/index.php?showtopic=8874

I have no intention of reopening that earlier discussion, KendallJ. I will insist, however, that while I am not a prudent predator, my argument on his behalf was indeed a very principled one. Consider that an egoist places his own interests first while an altruist places the interests of others first. They both have a set of principles, the egoist having a smaller set of people whose good he must be responsible for. Similarly, an egoist who is scrupulous about the rights of others is not necessarily more principled than the egoist whose self-interest reigns supreme regardless of the consequences to others. The latter simply has a different set of principles, one that excludes the rights of his fellow men from the definition of good.

Gary, your inability to see the moral dillema one faces as a subject of a dictatorship as no different than an emergency like a snowstorm is indicative of this same error. Your method is to ignore what any such subject has done during the time he was such a subject and then claim that it is rational to want to live under any circumstances and therefore to fight against your liberator.

When have I ignored what the subject of a dictator has done? If you wish to deal in particulars and cite specific examples of people living in totalitarian countries and what they have done, I will be happy to comment on each.

As I have said, unless one’s life is excruciatingly painful, it is generally better to choose life over death. In Post #13 I wrote, “The vital issue for the captive of a dictatorship is whether or not he is likely to gain from the invasion of his country by a freer nation. Obviously, if the risk to his life is minute and the likelihood of increased freedom great, he would be foolish to do anything but welcome such an invasion. On the other hand, as his risk factor rises, the less he may welcome the launch of hostilities.”

This is simply a variant of the Prudent Predator problem (i.e. "if this is what I have to do to live today - regardless of anything else I did or could have done before - then why is my wanting to do it not rational?")

But wait. I’m perfectly willing to discuss what victims of dictators might or should have done in the past. I’m just not going to leap to the assumption that overthrowing a tyrant is or was within the means of every resident of a tyranny. It is true that few despots can stand once the majority of the nation turns against him. The problem is that a willingness to actively oppose dictatorship is not always the majority view. In a secret police state it may not be rational at all for a freedom-loving individual to try to lead a charge on the presidential palace.

Similarly, it would not be rational for me at this time to brazenly refuse to pay my income taxes.

The fact is you continue to present false alternatives that either require such a subject to passively submit to his dictator or actively repel the liberator. For every such dilemma there is a middle ground, and that is to passively survive, doing as little to interfere with your liberator, and at the earliest possible moment to surrender and aid your liberator. That is what you won't allow for. That is the only rational course.

Of course I have allowed for it. Consider my Post #8 in this thread: “While it is not in the self-interest of the vast majority of people to aid a dictator, it may be a necessity of survival to fight an invading army.” The operative phrase here is “may be.” Nowhere did I exclude the possibility of self-interest being served by actively aiding the invader. Again: context, context context. Rational choices depend on knowing the exact circumstances.

Targeted by bombs? flee your current location.

Pressed into military service? Follow orders and then surrender at your earliest possible convenience.

Great suggestions! But how much freedom did the residents of Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden have to move in Nazi Germany?

Edited by Gary Brenner
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Fine. Now let’s hypothesize a future in which the United States is an aggressive dictatorship bent on conquering peaceful, laissez-faire Canada. The only thing that stands between Canada and enslavement by its expansionist southern neighbor is its nuclear-tipped missiles, which can take out every U.S. city from Boston to San Diego.

Furthermore, Exaltron, you and I are unwilling subjects of this tyrannical America. If we could send a message to the Prime Minister of Canada, what would we say?

“Please, in the name of freedom, go ahead and bomb us!”

Or, “For godsakes, try to settle this thing without disintegrating us and hundred million other people!”

(I know what my answer as a rational, self-interested human would be.)

I've already answered this question a million times over in the other threads in this board so I consider Gary's re-opening of the issue to be in poor form, if even possibly dishonest.

For the sake of everyone else I will provide an answer - I don't promise any reply to Gary directly.

Assuming this completely insane scenario exactly as worded:

Any rational, self-interested human would have seen this thing coming long ago. The nature of dictatorships has been made MORE than clear in history, not to mention in Objectivist literature. Given that a rational, self-interested person would know that this was coming, no rational, self-interested person WOULD CHOOSE TO STICK AROUND IN THE DICTATORSHIP. They would know that death is the inevitable result of living in a dictatorship and so would have left when it was possible to leave or left at great risk later on if for some reason they were crippled and unable to move when the iron curtain was descending.

People who expect to go on living under a dictatorship are people who want to have their cake and eat it too. It's an impossible expectation - and not one that these hypothetical Canadians ought to take seriously when they decide whether to push the button.

Now of course Gary will cut in with some "Prudent Predator" scenario where he thinks someone is acting self-interested by sticking around under a dictator. And I will ignore him because if he wasn't going to listen to reason about "Prudent Predators" in a thread specifically about that, then he certainly won't do so in a thread about an issue derivative of the "Prudent Predator" idea.

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Gary,

Your arguments have an air of sophistry. Repeatedly, as Kendall observed, you present a false alternative, and then you deny that you are doing so.

Kendall nailed it when he said (post #14):

The fact is you continue to present false alternatives that either require such a subject to passively submit to his dictator or actively repel the liberator. For every such dilemma there is a middle ground, and that is to passively survive, doing as little to interfere with your liberator, and at the earliest possible moment to surrender and aid your liberator. That is what you won't allow for. That is the only rational course.

The argument for passively submitting to the dictator is constantly couched in terms of dire extremes that do not permit the middle course Kendall describes. Here are some examples from Brenner's posts:

Post #16:

I simply want to point out that it is not automatic that captives of dictators benefit from conquest by an invader and the attendant destruction. Some may be liberated. Some may be quite dead. If, for example, I were a resident of Moscow in 1960, I would certainly not welcome a nuclear first strike by the United States.

Nuclear first strike by the United States? On those particular cities? Is that the argument why a Soviet citizen would not have welcomed liberation from his oppressors? This is a falsely drastic scenario given that no citizen of the Soviet Union could know whether liberation would involve a military attack by the United States, and if it did, whether he would die in that attack. If the Soviet citizen was worried about risks in the particular city he lived in, he had years, even his entire life to try to move to a different city if not escape the Soviet Union itself. This example is an unrealistically drastic choice to force a choice among the false alternative. Kendall's realistic "middle way" is excluded.

Another example from the same post:

But there may be victims of dictators whose lives, while far from perfect, are nonetheless preferable to death.

Again, the false alternative of certain death or passive acceptance of the dictatorship.

Post #17:

But how much freedom did the residents of Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden have to move in Nazi Germany?

The answer is: plenty! Anytime from 1933 onward when Hitler assumed power, these residents could have moved within Germany or, like many thousands of Germans before the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, flee Germany. But Gary presents the situation as if a resident of Dresden was trapped there and had certain foreknowledge that his city would be firebombed. That is an absurd scenario, again designed to force the false alternative of acquiescence to the dictatorship versus certain death.

Post #9:

But the unhappy subject of Country B may not wish to pay for the liberation with his own life. If he is unable to overthrow his dictator, it would certainly be in his self-interest to prevent or deflect a lethal assault aimed in his direction.

Again, the unrealistic scenario that the unhappy subject must pay for liberation with his own life.

Realistically, as has been said by several posters, including myself, a citizen of a dictatorship (in nearly all conceivable circumstances) faces only the possibility of death if the dictatorship he lives in is overthrown by war or revolution. Realistically, the greater odds in nearly every conceivable situation is that he will survive such a liberation, as the vast majority of French did when the Allies liberated them from the Nazis and, in fact, the vast majority of Germans did (whether they wanted to be liberated or not) when their country was defeated by the Allies. Most Germans and Japanese survived World War II, one of the most horrific wars in history, even when their cities were repeatedly firebombed and even nuked.

Wanting liberation doesn't mean walking in front of an Allied tank to be run over, or trying to stand in front of an oncoming missile. Far from it. It means trying to survive, laying low if possible, until the liberators arrive and then surrendering immediately, just as Kendall described it.

The broader question becomes, why would someone want to face risks in order to live in freedom? Is such freedom valuable? Is it worth fighting for or taking risks that could result in death?

The answer of the millions of Americans who volunteered to fight in World War II (yes, many were also drafted) is that such freedom was worth taking risks. The answer of the thousands who fled East Germany at the cost of the lives of many of them was that freedom was worth taking risks. The answer of the Cuban boat people and the North Koreans who escape to hostile China, are all that such freedom is worth taking risks. None of these people faced certain death. However, all were willing to face a significant risk of death.

The answer is the same (although less courageous) for all those residents of dictatorships who simply bided their time and tried not to get in trouble, and awaited the end of their dictatorship.

I can't help but wondering at the real object of Brenner's argument. Is it to say that freedom is not worth taking risks for? Or, is it an argument to justify those who lacked the courage to defy their dictatorships? On the last point, such people have my sympathy, but not my admiration. If that is the point Brenner is trying to make, I will agree with him. It is understandable why many people don't stand up, either by taking active measures of resistance or simply by trying to flee as so many millions have done over the years. The reasons why a particular person doesn't stand up might be complex. It could be that his particular situation is so risky (say, he is a scientist in a weapons lab and his family is held hostage) or it could also be that he simply doesn't value his life enough to risk it to live as a free man.

One's life as a free man is incredibly valuable. That is why people risk it everyday to defy their dictatorships. Fortunately, such defiance does not typically mean certain death, as Brenner suggests with his examples.

Edited by Galileo Blogs
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I've already answered this question a million times over in the other threads in this board so I consider Gary's re-opening of the issue to be in poor form, if even possibly dishonest.

For the sake of everyone else I will provide an answer - I don't promise any reply to Gary directly.

Assuming this completely insane scenario exactly as worded:

Any rational, self-interested human would have seen this thing coming long ago. The nature of dictatorships has been made MORE than clear in history, not to mention in Objectivist literature. Given that a rational, self-interested person would know that this was coming, no rational, self-interested person WOULD CHOOSE TO STICK AROUND IN THE DICTATORSHIP. They would know that death is the inevitable result of living in a dictatorship and so would have left when it was possible to leave or left at great risk later on if for some reason they were crippled and unable to move when the iron curtain was descending.

People who expect to go on living under a dictatorship are people who want to have their cake and eat it too. It's an impossible expectation - and not one that these hypothetical Canadians ought to take seriously when they decide whether to push the button.

I have dealt with this argument elsewhere in this thread (Post #8 ). If we suppose that without exception all rational, self-interested persons leave a dictatorship in its early stages, we might then feel justified in concluding that those who remain want to be there.

The problem with the theory of no remaining innocents is that it does not account for the second, third and successive generations born to those who do stay. Since Ayn Rand explicitly rejected original sin or inherited moral responsibility, Objectivists cannot necessarily hold younger residents of a slave state responsible for their captivity. I have cited as an example my Russian cousins who were born into the U.S.S.R. well after it became a prison state. As I said earlier, I don’t see much purpose served by saying that if they “really valued their freedom,” they should have escaped shortly after the Bolsheviks took power.

Furthermore, the argument makes no provision for dictatorships that arise with virtually no warning. Anne Frank is pertinent here. After Hitler came to power in 1933, her family fled Germany for Amsterdam. Then when Germany occupied the Netherlands, her family went into hiding but were eventually discovered and assigned to concentration camps. It would be absurd to claim that the Franks “wanted to have their cake and eat it too.”

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I have dealt with this argument elsewhere in this thread (Post #8 ). If we suppose that without exception all rational, self-interested persons leave a dictatorship in its early stages, we might then feel justified in concluding that those who remain want to be there.

If anyone seriously think's Gary's argument here or in post 8 "dealt with" what I have presented, you are welcome to ask me and I will give you more of an explanation as to why it certainly has not done anything even remotely of the sort. But I'm not responding to Gary here as he has done exactly as I predicted and isn't bringing anything new to the table.

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Gary,

Your arguments have an air of sophistry. Repeatedly, as Kendall observed, you present a false alternative, and then you deny that you are doing so.

I am not obliged to acknowledge something that is not true.

The argument for passively submitting to the dictator is constantly couched in terms of dire extremes that do not permit the middle course Kendall describes.

I’ve already responded to Kendall, but since you bring it up again, here’s what I wrote him:

Consider my Post #8 in this thread: “While it is not in the self-interest of the vast majority of people to aid a dictator, it may be a necessity of survival to fight an invading army.” The operative phrase here is “may be.” Nowhere did I exclude the possibility of self-interest being served by actively aiding the invader. Again: context, context context. Rational choices depend on knowing the exact circumstances.

Here are some examples from Brenner's posts:

Post #16:

“I simply want to point out that it is not automatic that captives of dictators benefit from conquest by an invader and the attendant destruction. Some may be liberated. Some may be quite dead. If, for example, I were a resident of Moscow in 1960, I would certainly not welcome a nuclear first strike by the United States.”

Nuclear first strike by the United States? On those particular cities? Is that the argument why a Soviet citizen would not have welcomed liberation from his oppressors? This is a falsely drastic scenario given that no citizen of the Soviet Union could know whether liberation would involve a military attack by the United States, and if it did, whether he would die in that attack.

“On those particular cities?” I mentioned one. “A falsely drastic scenario?” Do you mean as opposed to a truly drastic scenario? “No citizen of the Soviet Union could know whether liberation would involve a military attack by the United States.” No, they wouldn’t, just as I would have no idea in 1960 whether the Soviet Union was planning a pre-emptive strike on Washington and New York City. Foreknowledge is not required to express displeasure at certain possibilities. In fact, some in the West openly advocated such a course of action against the Soviets: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_strike#...ike_on_the_USSR And it is hardly inconceivable that Soviet citizens might have weighed the costs of atomic devastation against the gains of a defeated Soviet leadership.

If the Soviet citizen was worried about risks in the particular city he lived in, he had years, even his entire life to try to move to a different city if not escape the Soviet Union itself. This example is an unrealistically drastic choice to force a choice among the false alternative. Kendall's realistic "middle way" is excluded.

First of all, you might want to suggest which areas of the Soviet Union were safe havens from nuclear devastation during an all-out war. Other than special underground bunkers for the Politburo, I don’t know of any. More importantly, I doubt that my Russian cousins knew of any either. More importantly still, I rather doubt that they or most other Soviet subjects would have the freedom to move to the Russian destination of their choice.

Another example from the same post:

“But there may be victims of dictators whose lives, while far from perfect, are nonetheless preferable to death.”

Again, the false alternative of certain death or passive acceptance of the dictatorship.

You fail to provide context. Mark K had written, “If the unhappy subject wants continued enslavement and possible death, then he should stay and fight with the dictator. If he wants freedom and a possible death, then he should leave or stay and fight the dictator.”

I answered, “I grant that there are any number of possible scenarios in which a resident of a slave state could further his self-interest by cooperating with an invading army. I simply want to point out that it is not automatic that captives of dictators benefit from conquest by an invader and the attendant destruction.”

So much for the bogus accusation that I present false alternatives.

Post #17:

“But how much freedom did the residents of Berlin, Hamburg and Dresden have to move in Nazi Germany?”

The answer is: plenty! Anytime from 1933 onward when Hitler assumed power, these residents could have moved within Germany or, like many thousands of Germans before the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, flee Germany. But Gary presents the situation as if a resident of Dresden was trapped there and had certain foreknowledge that his city would be firebombed. That is an absurd scenario, again designed to force the false alternative of acquiescence to the dictatorship versus certain death.

So exactly what part of Germany would one know to move to in order to avoid Allied bombs? And since the Nazis imposed internal travel controls, which high ranking official would one call on to get a pass? More importantly, what about the tens of thousands of children born between 1930 and 1945 that had absolutely no choice in where they lived and what form their government took? If the children of this period had an alternative to dictatorship and death, what was it?

Post #9:

“But the unhappy subject of Country B may not wish to pay for the liberation with his own life. If he is unable to overthrow his dictator, it would certainly be in his self-interest to prevent or deflect a lethal assault aimed in his direction.”

Again, the unrealistic scenario that the unhappy subject must pay for liberation with his own life.

Where is the word “must”? In the same post I wrote, “One does not have to believe that a dictatorship acts rationally and with justice in order to see that one may lose more than one gains from the bombardment of one’s country. This is not to say that no one benefits from the annihilation of a dictator’s country but to point out that it does not automatically serve one’s self-interest to urge the onset of war.”

Nowhere did I state that every single enslaved person “must” pay for the cost of liberating his country with his life. The point I’ve been making, which is clear to anyone who bothers to read the complete thread, is that in the case of some individuals, having one’s country bombarded as a means to its liberation may not be worth it.

Realistically, as has been said by several posters, including myself, a citizen of a dictatorship (in nearly all conceivable circumstances) faces only the possibility of death if the dictatorship he lives in is overthrown by war or revolution. Realistically, the greater odds in nearly every conceivable situation is that he will survive such a liberation, as the vast majority of French did when the Allies liberated them from the Nazis and, in fact, the vast majority of Germans did (whether they wanted to be liberated or not) when their country was defeated by the Allies. Most Germans and Japanese survived World War II, one of the most horrific wars in history, even when their cities were repeatedly firebombed and even nuked.

Once again, read my words: “This is not to say that no one benefits from the annihilation of a dictator’s country.” I acknowledge that a great many people survived the war and went on to live prosperous lives. At the same time there were hundreds of thousands who were slaughtered. The key point is that as individualists we don’t perform a utilitarian calculus and justify deaths on the basis of what they accomplish for the majority.

Wanting liberation doesn't mean walking in front of an Allied tank to be run over, or trying to stand in front of an oncoming missile. Far from it. It means trying to survive, laying low if possible, until the liberators arrive and then surrendering immediately, just as Kendall described it.

Lying low sounds good. Kurt Vonnegut survived the fire bombing of Dresden because he happened to be in a basement meat cooler. That course of action is highly recommended for those who find themselves in a similar situation.

The broader question becomes, why would someone want to face risks in order to live in freedom? Is such freedom valuable? Is it worth fighting for or taking risks that could result in death? .

I have already answered you directly in my Post #13, which I’m not sure you bothered to read: “Obviously, if the risk to his life is minute and the likelihood of increased freedom great, he would be foolish to do anything but welcome such an invasion. On the other hand, as his risk factor rises, the less he may welcome the launch of hostilities.”

Again, so much for the unfounded charge of no middle ground in my position.

The answer of the millions of Americans who volunteered to fight in World War II (yes, many were also drafted) is that such freedom was worth taking risks. The answer of the thousands who fled East Germany at the cost of the lives of many of them was that freedom was worth taking risks. The answer of the Cuban boat people and the North Koreans who escape to hostile China, are all that such freedom is worth taking risks. None of these people faced certain death. However, all were willing to face a significant risk of death.

An important distinction should be made here. Those who pick up the phone to commence a military operation are not the ones taking the risks. A man climbing over the Berlin Wall or floating on a raft from Cuba is acting on his own initiative and risking no one’s life but his own.

In sum, your second attempt to misrepresent my position fares no better than your first

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I can see this discussion going on in an endless back and forth. I will let my posts stand as my last comment on this topic, and end with the last paragraph of my last post.

One's life as a free man is incredibly valuable. That is why people risk it everyday to defy their dictatorships. Fortunately, such defiance does not typically mean certain death, as Brenner suggests with his examples.
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I can see this discussion going on in an endless back and forth. I will let my posts stand as my last comment on this topic, and end with the last paragraph of my last post.

One's life as a free man is incredibly valuable. That is why people risk it everyday to defy their dictatorships. Fortunately, such defiance does not typically mean certain death, as Brenner suggests with his examples.

I have never suggested defiance typically means certain death. Any careful reader of my first post would have noted the word "hypothesize" (the fourth word!) and properly seen my imaginary example as "something taken to be true for the purpose of argument or investigation" (American Heritage Dictionary).

Thus the situation of a captive of a dictatorship, who is unable to escape his homeland but threatened with a devastating assault, was never represented as true for all or most people – although it has occurred in a distressing number of cases in recent history.

My example is just as hypothetical as David Odden’s snowbound man who must break into a private home in order to survive. And it is just as worthy a subject for philosophical inquiry.

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