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The Morality Of War

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Mr. Brook says, in effect, "kill all the innocents" in dictatorships if the nation in question is an enemy of a semi-free nation.

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In wartime should all the terribly-suffering masses just be slaughtered wholesale?

First, what is your evidence for your claim that Dr. Brook "says, in effect, 'kill all the innocents' in dictatorships if the nation in question is an enemy of a semi-fre nation"? In everything I have seen come from Dr. Brook he has stated the moral propriety of killing so-called civilians if they support the regime or even, collaterally, if they die as a result of attacks on the regime and its supporters. I have never seen anything suggesting Dr. Brook supports a campaign to purposely kill innocents.

As for your question about killing the "suffering masses," the answer is yes if they are supporting the enemy and killing them will help stop threats against the semi-free nation. By what right? By the right of self-defense.

For example, in World War II, the fire-bombing of Dresden and the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were moral acts if they saved Allied soldiers' lives and reduced the threat that the nazis and fascists presented.

What would you offer as a more effective, more efficient, and faster alternative?

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Look at vietnam, we bombed the crap out of that coutry becuase we were trying to fight it like WWII.And we put tons of restrictions on our soldiers and trained them for the WRONG KIND OF WAR. ....And again another example of how ground troops are more effective than just bombibg the crap out of somebody.

This is just a totaly wrong statement. In Vietnam we did not burn a single major North Vietnamese city to the ground.

In Vietnam if we Napalmed Hanoi to the ground the war would have been over. Their will to fight would have been gone. Instead we dicked around and accomplished nothing besides putting 56,000 innocent American soldiers in the ground.

This being said you still need heavy ground forces to destroy remaining/hiding enemy and also to control the country.

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First, what is your evidence for your claim that Dr. Brook "says, in effect, 'kill all the innocents' in dictatorships if the nation in question is an enemy of a semi-fre nation"? In everything I have seen come from Dr. Brook he has stated the moral propriety of killing so-called civilians if they support the regime or even, collaterally, if they die as a result of attacks on the regime and its supporters. I have never seen anything suggesting Dr. Brook supports a campaign to purposely kill innocents.

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What would you offer as a more effective, more efficient, and faster alternative?

I suggest you listen to the actual lecture -- Dr. Brook says some remarkable and truly extremist things. As an expert in Aristotle, I'd be interested in your opinion on all this. Brook goes well beyond anything said or written by Peikoff.

Basically Mr. Brook says that "innocent civilians" don't exist, and that any "rules of engagement" are "tantamount to murder and treason." Even "the truly innocent" can be rightly slaughtered.

The essence of his argument is that 1970s-based "just war theory" is utterly altruistic and profoundly evil -- but completely dominant today. He argues for General Sherman style "total war" and "doing whatever is necessary." This last sounds terribly amoral to me.

Brook is even brazen enough to claim "enemy citizens have no rights" and all enemy citizens and civilians are "outside the principle of individual rights."

However this may be, ultimately, I think we all have to face the phenomena of US guilt in propping up dictatorships. And what about the children?

As for the point about What is the effective, efficient alternative here: Offer them freedom! Convert enemies to friends! Tell them that if they switch sides they won't be obliterated and they will get a fresh start once we wipe out all of the appeasers and supporters of tyranny.

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... As for the point about What is the effective, efficient alternative here: Offer them freedom! Convert enemies to friends! Tell them that if they switch sides they won't be obliterated and they will get a fresh start once we wipe out all of the appeasers and supporters of tyranny.

I need clarification about this approach. Let's take an example from history, to concretize this discussion a little.

Let's say the day is December 7, 1941. The Japanese naval air force has just destroyed Pearl Harbor, killing thousands of Americans.

Now what would you do? Offer the people of Japan freedom if they switch sides?

How would you decide who has switched and who hasn't switched?

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As for the point about What is the effective, efficient alternative here: Offer them freedom! Convert enemies to friends! Tell them that if they switch sides they won't be obliterated and they will get a fresh start once we wipe out all of the appeasers and supporters of tyranny.

You offer contradictory solutions: you say we should make friends with them and yet we should threaten to "obliterate" and "wipe-out" the appeasers and supporters of tyranny (which, by the way, consist mainly of Iraqi peole). In other words, we should make them our friends and enemies? If the Iraqi people were truly rational and really wanted freedom, they wouldn't have waited for the United States to "offer" it to them. The sad fact is that they don't want "freedom"--especially the intellectual leaders and dictators, the metaphorical "witch-doctors" and "Attilas" of Islam. Only a very small minority in any Muslim country, one that is severely oppressed, want freedom.

You seem to think, like so many, that there are two types of people in a dictatorship: the majority of complacent, , freedom-loving, peace-loving, "innocent" civilians, and the minority of despots who rule them. That is a false view. Dictatorships do not arise and are not maintained that way. If the majority of the people were truly rational and freedom-loving, the dictatorship could not have arisen in the first place, and neither could it have been maintained without their sanction by silent compliance.

It is no accident that dictatorships arise and stay in irrational societies ruled by mysticism.

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You seem to think, like so many, that there are two types of people in a dictatorship: the majority of complacent, , freedom-loving, peace-loving, "innocent" civilians, and the minority of despots who rule them.  That is a false view.  Dictatorships do not arise and are not maintained that way.  If the majority of the people were truly rational and freedom-loving, the dictatorship could not have arisen in the first place, and neither could it have been maintained without their sanction by silent compliance.

If a dictatorship genuinely had the support of the majority of the citizens, it wouldn't need to be a dictatorship. I do think the majority of people in a dictatorship are, if not fully rational and freedom-loving, certainly not in favor of being oppressed. And they are not responsible for the actions of the despots, whom they did not freely choose to rule them.

"Now this is also true of a dictatorship. If one does not fight the domestic oppression -- resist it in hiding or in public -- one cannot claim innocence. One is implicitly supporting the regime. If a man chooses to go about his daily life, as if all is fine, while people are being slaughtered all around him, and while his rights are being violated, then he shares in the responsibility for the bloodshed and for his own imprisonment. If his country attacks another, he has no right to object when he is punished for his government's actions." (from Brook's speech, as quoted above (my thanks as well))

So Iraqis under Saddam were supposed to 'resist' the regime even though they knew that would almost certainly lead to a horrific death such as being fed into a wood chipper? Failing to take a suicidal action against a regime hardly seems to be implicit support of it.

I'm amazed that anyone would seriously suggest that victims of dictatorships are responsible for their oppression and that they could somehow magically rid themselves of their dictators if they wanted to. Hasn't Mr. Brook or any of the people defending his position read "The Gulag Archipalego" or any of the rest of the vast literature of what is done to dissenters in dictatorships? :(

Also, on the issue of being complicit with a democratic leader you disagree with unless you actively protest: I don't agree on that either. As long as you voted for someone else or spoiled your ballot, you have indicated your disapproval.

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If a dictatorship genuinely had the support of the majority of the citizens, it wouldn't need to be a dictatorship. I do think the majority of people in a dictatorship are, if not fully rational and freedom-loving, certainly not in favor of being oppressed. And they are not responsible for the actions of the despots, whom they did not freely choose to rule them. I'm amazed that anyone would seriously suggest that victims of dictatorships are responsible for their oppression and that they could somehow magically rid themselves of their dictators if they wanted to.

While it may not be the civilians' fault that his government has threatened us, it's not our soldiers fault either. If civilians are getting in our sodiers way in the effort to remove the threat, and it becomes a choice between their lives and our soldiers' lives, our soldiers should choose to survive.

It's sad that they are being oppressed by this dictator, and sadder that they get harmed in our efforts to defeat the dictator, but the purpose of our going to war is not to free the dictator's victims; it's for national self-defense.

I'm amazed that anyone would seriously suggest that dictators can be magically removed from power without harming their means of support.

Also, on the issue of being complicit with a democratic leader you disagree with unless you actively protest: I don't agree on that either. As long as you voted for someone else or spoiled your ballot, you have indicated your disapproval.

So if the leader that wins attacks a free country, and in defense that free country sends in soldiers, would you expect them to spare you because you wave your spoiled ballot in the air ?

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While it may not be the civilians' fault that his government has threatened us, it's not our soldiers fault either. If civilians are getting in our sodiers way in the effort to remove the threat, and it becomes a choice between their lives and our soldiers' lives, our soldiers should choose to survive.

I agree; that was not my point.

Mr Brook and others here seem to be claiming that all residents of an enemy dictatorship are legitimate targets, except maybe active dissidents. That to me seems like dealing with a kidnapping by killing the people kidnapped along with the kidnappers. (unless of course the kidnapped people fight back, in which case they will be killed earlier)

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I agree; that was not my point.

Mr Brook and others here seem to be claiming that all residents of an enemy dictatorship are legitimate targets, except maybe active dissidents. That to me seems like dealing with a kidnapping by killing the people kidnapped along with the kidnappers. (unless of course the kidnapped people fight back, in which case they will be killed earlier)

Actually its more like that movie 'Speed' where one character asks the other a hypothetical question.

Harry:"Okay.Airport.Gunman with one hostage.using her for cover.Hes almost on a plane,youre a Hundred feet away."

What do you do?

Jack:"Shoot the hostage."

Harry:"What?"

Jack:""Take her out of the equation.Go for the good wound and he cant get on the plane with her.Clear shot. "

Harry:"Youre deeply nuts Jack,Shoot the hostage..."

Except that the difference is that it is OUR life that is in danger, and if we have to kill people who are getting in the way from us saving our own lives then so be it.

If you were a police officer and some psycho nut was using a hostage for cover and is about to shoot at you, and you had to shoot at the hostage in order to save your life....... that would be the right thing to do.

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Brook goes well beyond anything said or written by Peikoff.

Try his speech at Northeastern University, America vs. The Americans. He says the exact same thing Brook said, causing one audience member to shout for a few seconds before being rushed out by security.

Mr Brook and others here seem to be claiming that all residents of an enemy dictatorship are legitimate targets, except maybe active dissidents. That to me seems like dealing with a kidnapping by killing the people kidnapped along with the kidnappers. (unless of course the kidnapped people fight back, in which case they will be killed earlier)

I don't agree with the analogy, because dealing with a kidnapping is not an act of self-defense; it is meant to rescue someone. This analogy would work better if we were trying to save our ally from occupying invaders, in which case we definitely shouldn't indiscriminately bomb our ally's cities.

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Except that the difference is that it is OUR life that is in danger, and if we have to kill people who are getting in the way from  us saving our own lives then so be it.

Missing the point again ... I'm not talking about killing people who are in the way in order to save our own lives. I'm talking about considering every individual in an enemy dictatorship as an enemy. I'm dubious about applying this idea even to a democracy, but applying it to the victims of a dictatorship is bizarre.

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In everything I have seen come from Dr. Brook he has stated the moral propriety of killing so-called civilians if they support the regime or even, collaterally, if they die as a result of attacks on the regime and its supporters. I have never seen anything suggesting Dr. Brook supports a campaign to purposely kill innocents.

Except that the only people he considers innocent are those who actively oppose the dictatorship. Failing to actively oppose a dictatorship, when such opposition would likely get you killed, is hardly the same as supporting the dictatorship, and therefore deserving to be treated as an enemy. Does Dr. Brook really think such suicidal opposition would be rational or moral?

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"In war, the wife of the drafted soldier is as morally legitimate a target as the solder himself." (Yaron Brook)

In the context of the talk and years of study of Ayn Rand this statement is clear and profoundly true.

But how can we possibly convince the average person of it's truth ?

It seems  that we should not begin with the above quote.

But then again, it might shock them into a discussion ?

I've studied Ayn Rand for years and I'm shocked at this. If the soldier volunteered and his wife supported his actions, this might make some sense. But how can someone be held morally responsible if her husband is forced into the military against his will?

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I don't agree with the analogy, because dealing with a kidnapping is not an act of self-defense; it is meant to rescue someone. This analogy would work better if we were trying to save our ally from occupying invaders, in which case we definitely shouldn't indiscriminately bomb our ally's cities.

In a sense a dictatorial regime IS an "occupying invader" except that the invasion comes from within the country. In both cases the citizens of the country are essentially held hostage. They did not give their consent to be governed by the regime, and are not responsible for its actions.

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"In war, the wife of the drafted soldier is as morally legitimate a target as the solder himself." (Yaron Brook)

I've studied Ayn Rand for years and I'm shocked at this. If the soldier volunteered and his wife supported his actions, this might make some sense. But how can someone be held morally responsible if her husband is forced into the military against his will?

I was shocked by Brook's talk. I've had to listen to it a few times to see the connections.

I think what I was missing that made this seem so shocking was any personal military experience, and a paucity of thought about the whole issue of war and it's nature. Have you given much thought to how you would eliminate the threat of an enemy nation ? How do nations come into existence anyway, and how could an enemy one be eliminated as a threat ?

Brook has military experience, so he's had more time to integrate this.

War approaches one of those "lifeboat" emergency scenarios, where morality starts to distort and gets unthinkable. I think Rand once said that the proper approach to emergency situations is to end the emergency as soon as possible. I think that's what Brook is getting at - that the context of war is not the same as in peacetime, and the roles and players change, so the wife of the drafted soldier becomes an enemy, regardless of her choice.

I think you need to look at the situation not as a case of soldiers acting as judges, juries, and executioners who punish the guilty, but as a nation, a whole society, economy, and culture, coming to the horrible state of total distrust, of seeking the destruction of an enemy society, economy, and culture. We're talking about ending an entire "way of life" - not just a few criminals.

This at first seems blatantly collectivist, but the fact is that the only way people actually cooperate is to organize in specific ways, and when such an organization itself becomes a threat to the organization you're part of, your organization has to defend itself, and this organized defense is the job of the military. Our physical interdependence (not to be confused with ethical independence) on others in our nation is a fact, and so it is with the enemy.

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I have not heard the speech, but I can see that many of you are confused about the difference between moral responsibility and moral legitimacy. Men can only be morally responsible for their own choices. Dr. Brook is not arguing that innocents in war are morally responsible for the crimes of the dictator, but that the citizens of a free nation are not obligated to sacrifice themselves by refraining from killing enemy civilians. He argues against altruism, not for collectivism.

On that note, if I see any more posts or threads ignoring the point of his speech and calling Dr Brook nasty names I am simply going to delete them.

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GC, here is the quote from Dr. Brook again:

"Now this is also true of a dictatorship. If one does not fight the domestic oppression -- resist it in hiding or in public -- one cannot claim innocence. One is implicitly supporting the regime. If a man chooses to go about his daily life, as if all is fine, while people are being slaughtered all around him, and while his rights are being violated, then he shares in the responsibility for the bloodshed and for his own imprisonment. If his country attacks another, he has no right to object when he is punished for his government's actions."

Dr. Brook seems to be saying that a resident of a dictatorship has a choice only between resisting the dictatorship (and likely being killed) or implicitly supporting it and thus being a legitimate target of the dictatorship's enemies. He is saying only resisters are truly innocent. My objection is that resisting a dictatorship would likely bring one a painful death, and would thus be irrational. Therefore I do not see how failing to oppose a dictatorship can be considered tacit support for it.

I think what I was missing that made this seem so shocking was any personal military experience, and a paucity of thought about the whole issue of war and it's nature. Have you given much thought to how you would eliminate the threat of an enemy nation ? How do nations come into existence anyway, and how could an enemy one be eliminated as a threat ?

I spent 5 years in the Canadian Reserves, although I was never posted overseas, let alone saw combat.

I agree that we should do everything necessary to eliminate the threat to us from an enemy country, even if it means some enemy civilians are killed in the process. What I am having trouble with is the idea that all of those enemy civilians are morally responsible for the actions of their dictators.

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There is a nice quote from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, the Wreckage of Consensus on the military draft

Once in a while, I receive letters from young men asking me for personal advice on problems connected with the draft....................There is, however, one moral aspect of the issue that needs clarification. Some young men seem to labor under the misapprehension that since draft is a violation of their rights, compliance with the draft law would consititute a moral sanction of that violation.This is a serious error. A forced compliance is not a sanction. All of us are forced to comply with many laws that violate our rights, but so long as we advocate the repeal of such laws, our compliance does not constitute a sanction. Unjust laws have to be fought ideologically; they cannot be fought or corrected by means of mere disobedience and futile martyrdom.
[Emphasis mine]

Just like compliance with the draft law does not constitute its sanction, compliance with the laws of dictatorship does not constitute the dictatorship's sanction. Although dictatorships are difficult to fight ideologically, no way does it mean that if we do not actively oppose it, that we are sanctioning it.

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Just like compliance with the draft law does not constitute its sanction, compliance with the laws of dictatorship does not constitute the dictatorship's sanction.

There is a fundamental difference between a government that respects individual rights and a dictatorship. To apply Miss Rand's comments to a dictatorship is a monstrous dropping of context.

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GC, here is the quote from Dr. Brook again:

"Now this is also true of a dictatorship. If one does not fight the domestic oppression -- resist it in hiding or in public -- one cannot claim innocence. One is implicitly supporting the regime. If a man chooses to go about his daily life, as if all is fine, while people are being slaughtered all around him, and while his rights are being violated, then he shares in the responsibility for the bloodshed and for his own imprisonment. If his country attacks another, he has no right to object when he is punished for his government's actions."

...

What I am having trouble with is the idea that all of those enemy civilians are morally responsible for the actions of their dictators.

I don't understand your objection. Dr. Brook does not say all civilians in an enemy country are guilty. Your own replicated quotation from Dr. Brook contradicts that: One is innocent if one resists either in public -- which often (but not always) would be extremely dangerous -- or IN HIDING. There are many ways to resist in hiding. The most obvious is to flee the country -- as thousands have done in Iraq over the last decades, according to news reports I have seen on occasion. Others include minor or major acts of sabotage. "Forgetting" to get gas for the truck you are driving to carry food to soldiers is an example. A further example would be the effort by German nuclear scientists directed to develop an atomic bomb for the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. They successfully delayed completion, in spite of great risk. Perhaps someone in this forum can cite books or articles describing their effort.

Or is there some other issue involved that is leading to miscommunication here?

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I don't understand your objection. Dr. Brook does not say all civilians in an enemy country are guilty. Your own replicated quotation from Dr. Brook contradicts that: One is innocent if one resists either in public -- which often (but not always) would be extremely dangerous -- or IN HIDING. There are many ways to resist in hiding. The most obvious is to flee the country -- as thousands have done in Iraq over the last decades, according to news reports I have seen on occasion. Others include minor or major acts of sabotage. "Forgetting" to get gas for the truck you are driving to carry food to soldiers is an example. A further example would be the effort by German nuclear scientists directed to develop an atomic bomb for the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. They successfully delayed completion, in spite of great risk. Perhaps someone in this forum can cite books or articles describing their effort.

Or is there some other issue involved that is leading to miscommunication here?

Yes, it is possible to resist in hiding. But not many have the courage to do that and risk their lives. That does not mean that they sanction the dictatorship. In Iraq, Saddam committed so many atrocities like killing 5000 Kurds that many were afraid to resist in any way. No matter what their philosophy or thinking now, when the US forces freed Baghdad, many Iraqis were glad. Then how can one say that a person who does not resist a dictatorship for the fear of getting killed is sanctioning the dictatorship?

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Then how can one say that a person who does not resist a dictatorship for the fear of getting killed is sanctioning the dictatorship?

If he's not resisting it, what is he doing ? Going to work and earning money ? Who benefits from his work ? Who is providing the currency system ? Who is providing all the infrastructure that makes life possible to him ?

I think taking these benefits without doing anything to fight against the dictatorship is clearly sanctioning it.

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Yes, it is possible to resist in hiding. But not many have the courage to do that and risk their lives. That does not mean that they sanction the dictatorship. ...

1. Lack of courage, cowardice, is a vice. I have no respect for the immoral. But perhaps, in best case, you mean they are courageous but too prudent to take even hidden action -- that is, they assess the situation at a particular moment and decide that action would be foolhardy. I can understand that, if they continue to being committed to resisting or fleeing the regime when the opportunity arises. But does that describe most adult citizens of countries like Iraq?

2. What do you believe would be evidence of sanction and thus justification for intentionally destroying their property and killing them?

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