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The frustration that is the U.S. Foreign Policy

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The other night I happened to start watching videos about the Twin Towers being hit, falling down, the actual footage, people jumping, a guy on the phone just before it collapses, realizing he is going to die. Those things just enrage you to the point that you feel yourself sitting in disgust wondering what has happened these past, what, 11-12 years? Almost 3,000 people died that day, many knowing that it was only a matter of time before they did. Maybe its because I was young, around 11, when it happened, and that I did not really notice what was going on in the U.S., but I still think we have done very little in our own defense, let alone avenging those people's murders.

 

I have been reading the Sword of Truth series lately, and I am on Chainfire, please no spoilers. And in the beginning Richard is speaking to the people of Altur'Rang, telling them that they need to deal with the Imperial Order proactively. He said they needed to kill those who spread the ideas, the priests and so forth. I can see that is the same thing we have to do in this case. But what would happen in the fallout if the U.S. were to destroy the leaders (military and spiritual) of countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Egypt? They would sustain moderate to heavy civilian casualties. Would limiting ourselves in any way, such as putting troops on the ground, be justified in so far as limiting these causalities? Assuming many of their people, such as the youth, are generally more secular in countries such as Iran, Egypt, and Pakistan. If according to Leonard Peikoff and Yaron Brook, the lives of our soldiers are worth infinitely more than the lives of those countries citizens, why not nuke them all and be done with it? Why use any "conventional weapons"? Why use troops at all? We can easily wipe them all out. If not, doesn't that mean that we value to some extent the people of those countries, and that there should be decided some line we cannot cross? How would that line be chosen? How do we decide, as a numbers game, between ours and theirs?

 

Alex

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Any means  which secures our survival (and perhaps triumph) in the face of religious insanity are permissible.  The object is to survive and that mean the object is to win the struggle.  Victory or death.   Victory AND death.  Our victory,  their death.

 

It is as simple as that.  The end (our survival) justifies the means (nuclear and even chemical weapons).  

 

When Stonewall Jackson,  the Confederate General was asked what to do about the Yankees who put Fredricksburg VA to the torch, he answered simple:

kill them.  Kill them all.  

 

Playing by the Marquis of Queensbury rules against opponents who fight dirty is high stupidity.   We not only want to sink to the level of our adversaries. We want to go lower still so that we attack them from below.

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ruveyn1,

 

Any means, at any time, and in any situation? If we were to commit ourselves to destroy in capital letters, the Iranian regime, militarily and spirtually, and taking out their government leaders would obviously be an essential, would there be any thought to how we did it, or would we just nuke Tehran perhaps several times, ensuring no one was left alive? Or would we decide that that is not necassary, despite the fact that we don't owe the Iranian people anything (self-interest and so forth), and only "tactically" bomb their government and spiritual leaders? Taking the latter choice over the former, may leave us slightely (to the extent we don't have perfect knowledge of their leaders whereabouts) in harms way, but the former may seem a bit over kill, wouldn't you say?

 

So is it the case that if we don't have perfect knowledge of the situation, that whenever we go to war with some puny third world nation, we should nuke first, don't take the chance of leaving anyone alive, and never clean up later (which I agree with, we shouldn't clean up, unless whoever is left learns their lesson)?

 

In reference to the Marquis of Queensbury rules, I am not saying there should be some outside rules set by polite society. I am just saying that with the might of our armed forces, we have a lot of options, not only nukes. Is there a justification of using "conventional" weapons over nukes?

Edited by abott1776
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ruveyn1,

 

Any means, at any time, and in any situation? If we were to commit ourselves to destroy in capital letters, the Iranian regime, militarily and spirtually, and taking out their government leaders would obviously be an essential, would there be any thought to how we did it, or would we just nuke Tehran perhaps several times, ensuring no one was left alive? Or would we decide that that is not necassary, despite the fact that we don't owe the Iranian people anything (self-interest and so forth), and only "tactically" bomb their government and spiritual leaders? Taking the latter choice over the former, may leave us slightely (to the extent we don't have perfect knowledge of their leaders whereabouts) in harms way, but the former may seem a bit over kill, wouldn't you say?

 

So is it the case that if we don't have perfect knowledge of the situation, that whenever we go to war with some puny third world nation, we should nuke first, don't take the chance of leaving anyone alive, and never clean up later (which I agree with, we shouldn't clean up, unless whoever is left learns their lesson)?

 

In reference to the Marquis of Queensbury rules, I am not saying there should be some outside rules set by polite society. I am just saying that with the might of our armed forces, we have a lot of options, not only nukes. Is there a justification of using "conventional" weapons over nukes?

Learn from history.  How did the Romans finally deal with Carthage?  They leveled it to the ground.  Delenda Cartago est!  It is said of the Romans they create a desolation and call it peace.

 

The Roman republic and empire lasted 1200 years.  How long will the U.S. last?

 

ruveyn

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I think it would be very difficult for our leaders to declare a total war. The international community which can influence our economic propserity doesn't like the idea of us using nuclear weapons or declaring a total war on any country. My father was a Major in the US Army and was stationed in Korea for about 8 years out of his career. When I was fifteen I asked him "Why don't we just bomb them and get it over with?". He told me that they can't. China and South Korea "can't" handle taking in millions of poor and diseased refugees with no skills after a bombing like that. Essentially the leaders of those countries don't want to deal with the situation at all and attempt to stay in a holding pattern as long as possible. From what I understand reasoning like this is a big factor in deciding who we can and can not go to war with. Our leaders care about trade zones not freedom. @OP Whats wrong with Egypt? Considering that they are currently attempting to form a republic, I think they are a "watch and see" situation rather than a "bomb the hell out of them" situation.

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Learn from history.  How did the Romans finally deal with Carthage?  They leveled it to the ground.  Delenda Cartago est!  It is said of the Romans they create a desolation and call it peace.

 

The Roman republic and empire lasted 1200 years.  How long will the U.S. last?

 

ruveyn

 

You haven't answered my questions. I understand the power of destruction. I just don't think you understand what I am trying to get at here. By the logical implications of total destruction of the enemy as you and pretty much any other Objectivist, including me, says in regards to war, the U.S. would never consider anything less than total annihilation of any city standing in our way with nukes, etc. What is the point of having a standing army, other than the possible invasion of the homeland? We would never put any troops on the ground anywhere, but simply go nuke crazy. Terrorists launch attacks from Iraq, we go nuke every major city, bomb every major military installation, wipe everybody out, and be done with it? Never, no matter what, put our troops in harms way?

 

Look at it this way, is there a difference between bombing a mosque despite human shields to get the insurgents (like we refuse to do in many circumstances today), and nuking an entire city to get an insurgent "regiment" despite the whole cities populace being used as a human shield?

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You haven't answered my questions. I understand the power of destruction. I just don't think you understand what I am trying to get at here. By the logical implications of total destruction of the enemy as you and pretty much any other Objectivist, including me, says in regards to war, the U.S. would never consider anything less than total annihilation of any city standing in our way with nukes, etc. What is the point of having a standing army, other than the possible invasion of the homeland? We would never put any troops on the ground anywhere, but simply go nuke crazy. Terrorists launch attacks from Iraq, we go nuke every major city, bomb every major military installation, wipe everybody out, and be done with it? Never, no matter what, put our troops in harms way?

 

Look at it this way, is there a difference between bombing a mosque despite human shields to get the insurgents (like we refuse to do in many circumstances today), and nuking an entire city to get an insurgent "regiment" despite the whole cities populace being used as a human shield?

The difference is in the body count. The principle is the same:  kill the enemy and damn the collateral damage.

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This question of when to nuke is not a philosophical question, it is a military strategy question which should be left to the military sciences. 

 

The philosophical principle is that a nation defending itself must do whatever is necessary to defeat the enemy. "Whatever is necessary" means different things in different contexts. In the context of Grenada 1980 (?) it means you send in one squad of marines. In the context of Japan 1945 you nuke them until they relent.

 

There are several good threads discussing these questions in which I have participated in the past. This one entitled "Pre-emptive War: Should we nuke Tehran?" is quite long but good. The very last post is by me and addresses the question of whether we could just assassinate the leaders of an aggressive country.

 

This one is entitled "In Our Name"? and is very good and short, only two pages. It addresses the issue of the differing contexts of semi-free countries versus aggressive ones.

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Learn from history.  How did the Romans finally deal with Carthage?  They leveled it to the ground.  Delenda Cartago est!  It is said of the Romans they create a desolation and call it peace.

 

The Roman republic and empire lasted 1200 years.  How long will the U.S. last?

 

ruveyn

You want to emulate the Roman Empire, in 2013? Do you understand that the Roman Empire was worse than most modern dictatorships?

 

You haven't answered my questions. I understand the power of destruction. I just don't think you understand what I am trying to get at here. By the logical implications of total destruction of the enemy as you and pretty much any other Objectivist, including me, says in regards to war, the U.S. would never consider anything less than total annihilation of any city standing in our way with nukes, etc.

That is not the Objectivist position, though. The Objectivist position is that such action would be morally justified, not that it should be the one automatic solution to any problem. Like Mark said, that says nothing about what the right military and geo-political strategy is.

Nuking half the middle east would pretty obviously not be in the interest of the United States. The threat of terrorism is nowhere near significant enough to justify causing such massive damage to American interests across the world.

Furthermore, the reason for all the American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan is not the mere refusal to use nukes, it's the refusal to also wage a conventional war properly, and the policy of using American soldiers for rebuilding, for training local police that often turn on their own teachers, as a police force for protecting local civilians, etc. The number of casualties in the actual war against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam's army was in fact quite small. So, nukes vs. thousands of dead soldiers is in fact a false dichotomy, those deaths could've been avoided through other means as well.

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Alex, this is a long piece written by Yaron Brook and Epstein, I recommend reading it:

http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2006-spring/just-war-theory.asp

Some highlights:

"Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense

written by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein (from the Ayn Rand Institute)

Like an innocent individual, an innocent nation does not seek to exist at the expense of other nations, by force. But once force is initiated against it and its citizens, it must respond righteously with force; anything else is an injustice toward its citizens and an abdication of its moral purpose: to protect their rights.

Once the basic egoist view of morality and government is understood, the egoist view of war follows readily: The sole moral purpose of war is the same as the sole moral purpose of any other action by a proper government—that is, to protect the individual rights of its citizens. Every moral issue pertaining to war must be judged by this standard—and only by this standard.

By the standard of individual rights, a nation can morally go to war only for the purpose of self-defense, and can morally do in war only what is necessary for that purpose.

The necessity of war in self-defense arises when a nation is attacked or threatened by a foreign aggressor. In some cases it might be possible to stop such an aggressor through lesser coercive means, such as sanctions or ultimatums. Once it becomes clear that the enemy is undeterred, however, military force is not a “last resort,” but the only resort.

War is then inherently an act of justice, when waged this way.

It is important to note that a proper morality does not require that one be directly attacked in order to retaliate. We need not sit idly by as Iran builds nuclear weapons and missile launchers; we need not wait to respond until they have destroyed an American city. A preemptive strike is justified if the nation involved is an objective threat—that is, if it has shown, in action or in official statements, its willingness to initiate or advocate force against us. For America to identify a nation as an objective threat does not mean to identify exactly when or how that threat will materialize (that is impossible); rather, it means to identify that a nation or regime has the will and means to attack or support an attack against the United States. A nation that threatens innocent nations thereby forfeits its right to exist and deserves whatever consequences innocent nations visit on it. There is an analogy here to domestic criminals. When a government establishes that a man is making death threats against his wife, or has hatched a plot to kill her, it properly throws him in jail—it does not wait until her corpse is found, on the grounds that he might change his mind and not carry out the threat.

To fight and win a proper war of self-defense requires two basic courses of action: (1) objectively identify the nature of the threat and (2) do whatever is necessary to destroy the threat and return to normal life, with minimum loss of life and liberty on the part of the citizens of the defending nation.

As for what to do about any given threat, egoism gives the crucial sanction, in enemy territory, to kill and destroy whomever and whatever needs to be killed and destroyed in order to end the threat to the victim country. Such a policy, contrary to Just War Theory, upholds both the principle of justice and the principle of individual rights. Depending on the circumstances, legitimate targets can include the leaders, soldiers, and civilians of the enemy nation.

There is a popular notion, held by nearly every advocate of Just War Theory, that only a handful of crazed dictators and bomb-toting terrorists are our enemies; all other residents of the unfortunate, backward states are “innocent” civilians, tragically trapped among these few killers. Accordingly, we must wage war, not against a nation, but against the few evildoers within it, treating the rest of the population with the same respect we accord American citizens. This notion is false and deadly.

Now take the case of Islamic terrorism, a threat in which civilians are also a crucial source of spiritual support. Many civilians across the Arab world give terrorists encouragement by worshipping them as heroes. Newspapers in many Arab countries spread anti-Americanism and glorify the martyrdom of the terrorists. Clerics promise terrorists a glorious afterlife. Madrassahs indoctrinate students with Islamic Totalitarianism. Even civilians who do not entirely support the methods of Islamic terrorists are often sympathetic to and encouraging of their goal of Islamic world domination. Enemy civilians are also a crucial source of material support for terrorists; these civilians frequently provide terrorists with hideouts, money, and weapons. Rich statesmen pay large bounties to the families of suicide bombers.

Most civilians of oppressive regimes do nothing to oppose or resist or change their governments. This passivity does not render them innocent; it renders them accomplices to the evils of their regimes. This passivity is one of the major factors enabling these regimes to commit atrocities against innocents at home and abroad. Unless oppressed civilians take active steps to object to the evil ways of their government, or to go underground, they are morally responsible for the actions of their government. (The positive or negative consequences of the actions one's government performs in one's name is one reason why being active in regard to politics, especially intellectually active in this realm, is a selfish obligation.)

“Individual citizens in a country that goes to war,” Ayn Rand once said in response to a question on this topic,

"are responsible for that war. This is why they should be interested in politics and careful about not having the wrong kind of government. If in this context one could make a distinction between the actions of a government and the actions of individual citizens, why would we need politics at all? All governments would be on one side, doing something among themselves, while we private citizens would go along in happy, idyllic tribalism. But that picture is false. We are responsible for the government we have, and that is why it is important to take the science of politics very seriously. If we become a dictatorship, and a freer country attacks us, it would be their right."

To summarize: The civilian population of an aggressor nation is not some separate entity unrelated to its government. An act of war is the act of a nation—an interconnected political, cultural, economic, and geographical unity. Whenever a nation initiates aggression against us, including by supporting anti-American terrorist groups and militant causes, it has forfeited its right to exist, and we have a right to do whatever is necessary to end the threat it poses.

Given that a nation's civilian population is a crucial, physically and spiritually indispensable part of its initiation of force—of its violation of the rights of a victim nation—it is a morally legitimate target of the retaliation of a victim nation. Any alleged imperative to spare noncombatants as such is unjust and deadly.

That said, if it is possible to isolate innocent individuals—such as dissidents, freedom fighters, and children—without military cost, they should not be killed; it is unjust and against one's rational self-interest to senselessly kill the innocent; it is good to have more rational, pro-America people in the world. Rational, selfish soldiers do not desire mindless destruction of anyone, let alone innocents; they are willing to kill only because they desire freedom and realize that it requires using force against those who initiate force. Insofar as the innocents cannot be isolated in the achievement of our military objectives, however, sparing their lives means sacrificing our own; and although the loss of their lives is unfortunate, we should kill them without hesitation.

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This question of when to nuke is not a philosophical question, it is a military strategy question which should be left to the military sciences. 

 

The philosophical principle is that a nation defending itself must do whatever is necessary to defeat the enemy. "Whatever is necessary" means different things in different contexts. In the context of Grenada 1980 (?) it means you send in one squad of marines. In the context of Japan 1945 you nuke them until they relent.

 

There are several good threads discussing these questions in which I have participated in the past. This one entitled "Pre-emptive War: Should we nuke Tehran?" is quite long but good. The very last post is by me and addresses the question of whether we could just assassinate the leaders of an aggressive country.

 

This one is entitled "In Our Name"? and is very good and short, only two pages. It addresses the issue of the differing contexts of semi-free countries versus aggressive ones.

 

Marc K.,

 

The decision to nuke or not, to carpet bomb a large swath of land or not, to demolish a mosque or not, will always involve ethics, and thus philosophy.

 

I understand and agree with Yaron Brook's criticism of Just War Theory. But what confuses me is when other Objectivists just push the policy of nuking into the realm of military strategy and be done with it. Tell me, by what principle does a general decide when to carpet bomb as opposed to nuking a city, if it is not in consideration of the enemy's civilians' lives? Is it the monetary cost? By what principle is it decided that instead of surgically bombing a country, invading it, putting our soldiers' lives at risk as opposed to laying it to waste, if not in consideration of the country's inhabitants lives? We don't owe them anything, right?

 

Are you into math, and engineering? There is a trade off between our lives and theirs' depending on what is used to eliminate the threat. This is an optimization problem, what is the least amount of deaths that we can achieve when it comes to our soldiers' lives? Once we answer that do we take it? Or is there something else we consider, their lives, the geo-political situation (other countries opinions of us)?

 

Is it because of what the rest of the world thinks? Is our foreign policy dictated by the whims of other countries?

 

Alex

Edited by abott1776
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You want to emulate the Roman Empire, in 2013? Do you understand that the Roman Empire was worse than most modern dictatorships?

 That is not the Objectivist position, though. The Objectivist position is that such action would be morally justified, not that it should be the one automatic solution to any problem. Like Mark said, that says nothing about what the right military and geo-political strategy is.

Nuking half the middle east would pretty obviously not be in the interest of the United States. The threat of terrorism is nowhere near significant enough to justify causing such massive damage to American interests across the world.

Furthermore, the reason for all the American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan is not the mere refusal to use nukes, it's the refusal to also wage a conventional war properly, and the policy of using American soldiers for rebuilding, for training local police that often turn on their own teachers, as a police force for protecting local civilians, etc. The number of casualties in the actual war against Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Saddam's army was in fact quite small. So, nukes vs. thousands of dead soldiers is in fact a false dichotomy, those deaths could've been avoided through other means as well.

 

Nicky,

 

If there is credible threat to our lives in Middle Eastern countries, is it not our responsibility to destroy them? Geo-politcal strategy is another word for the opinions of other countries, if they get in the way of our defense they should be considered the enemy and be destroyed as well. When you say that we should consider geo-political strategy you are playing into the mainstream hand of political correctness applied to diplomacy.

 

What do you mean not in our interest? Oh, you mean the politically correct backlash from other countries (France, Germany, China, Russia....) and Muslims. Again why should that stop us, that is their problem, if they don't shut up about it, before we turn on them.

 

No way near significant? These Islamists killed nearly 3000 men and women in one day, is that not significant? We have not dealt with them, the Iranian regime, the Wahhabi supporting Saudis and Muslim Brotherhood Egyptians are still in power, spewing their garbage, creating more terrorists.

 

I hope this does not come off as a rant. I just am trying to get my points across. I am a pretty nice guy.

 

Alex

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Geo-politcal strategy is another word for the opinions of other countries

No, geo-political strategy is a word for considering the economic interests of a country's citizens in a geographic area outside its borders. For instance, Americans have massive economic and personal interests in the Middle East, from property to business partners, to friends and family members.

No way near significant?

Please don't do that. I wrote "nowhere near significant to justify using nukes". I didn't say that it wasn't significant. Edited by Nicky
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Marc K.,

 

The decision to nuke or not, to carpet bomb a large swath of land or not, to demolish a mosque or not, will always involve ethics, and thus philosophy.

 

I understand and agree with Yaron Brook's criticism of Just War Theory. But what confuses me is when other Objectivists just push the policy of nuking into the realm of military strategy and be done with it. Tell me, by what principle does a general decide when to carpet bomb as opposed to nuking a city, if it is not in consideration of the enemy's civilians' lives? Is it the monetary cost? By what principle is it decided that instead of surgically bombing a country, invading it, putting our soldiers' lives at risk as opposed to laying it to waste, if not in consideration of the country's inhabitants lives? We don't owe them anything, right?

 

Are you into math, and engineering? There is a trade off between our lives and theirs' depending on what is used to eliminate the threat. This is an optimization problem, what is the least amount of deaths that we can achieve when it comes to our soldiers' lives? Once we answer that do we take it? Or is there something else we consider, their lives, the geo-political situation (other countries opinions of us)?

 

Is it because of what the rest of the world thinks? Is our foreign policy dictated by the whims of other countries?

 

Alex

Ethics ceases when war begins.  The main question changes from "what is right"  to "what will win"

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Ethics ceases when war begins.  The main question changes from "what is right"  to "what will win"

 

Not completely true. I think altruism in warfare needs to cease. But is it not an ethical statement, upholding the value of our soldiers' lives as against committing them to being slaughtered? For example the difference between the commies in world war two and the U.S., the policy of "not one step backwards" on the commies part and our bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima to save millions of our soldiers' lives?

 

I really don't think you are reading my questions and comments thoroughly. The "what will win" mentality even though sounds completely okay from an Objectivist perspective fails to address the ethical military decision of what one ought to use against threats by the enemy.

 

For example: An egoist general surveys the battlefield that is Iran, after being given orders to destroy the Iranian regime. The U.S. is on board with the Objectivist idea of warfare, it being for the defense of its citizens, and to achieve minimal (zero?) casualties on our side. It looks at all sorts of ways of destroying the regime and its military. You can target Tehran, and all major military sites with nukes or with carpet bombing runs and a full scale invasion with boots on the ground (to ensure target success). There is an obvious tradeoff between their civilians deaths and the risk to our soldiers lives. According to many Objectivists that I speak to, they claim the general(s) will make the call on this. What other call can he make other than the nukes, according to his orders the only way to ensure minimal casualties is to not send any troops on the ground?

 

That is the meat of my argument. Saying that we should do whatever to win and then leaving it at that, assumes pretty much total devastation of the enemy's populace and the reservation of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to being body counters. Does that make any sense? If we are to use any other means of warfare (weapons), below total devastation, then by default we are either weighing cost of weapons, potential value of the enemy's civilians, or the opinions of the rest of the world vs our soldier's lives (and our defense).

 

Alex

Edited by abott1776
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No, geo-political strategy is a word for considering the economic interests of a country's citizens in a geographic area outside its borders. For instance, Americans have massive economic and personal interests in the Middle East, from property to business partners, to friends and family members.Please don't do that. I wrote "nowhere near significant to justify using nukes". I didn't say that it wasn't significant.

 

First off I apologize for my assertion that you don't think it is significant.

 

I am certain you are using the word geo-political wrong. Wikipedia talks of it as being the study of the political and diplomatic relationship between countries (meaning governments not economic interests).

 

Friends and relatives being U.S. citizens loyal to the United States? If so, along with the consideration of economic interests, would that not be tantamount to considering the value of the enemy's civilians as rational beings willing to trade?

 

I think you are on the track of what I have been thinking, that is that there is an acceptable level of minimal casualties that is not zero. That there are things that secondarily (as opposed to the primary of defense and minimal casualties) affect the decisions in warfare such as the potential value of the enemy's civilians. This is not addressed in the typical Objectivist statement of "do whatever is needed to win".

 

Look at my response to ruveyn1.

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First off I apologize for my assertion that you don't think it is significant.

 

I am certain you are using the word geo-political wrong. Wikipedia talks of it as being the study of the political and diplomatic relationship between countries (meaning governments not economic interests).

Yeah, that's not what I meant by "geo-political". I explained what I meant, so I don't get what the problem is.
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Consider the consequences of loosing.  That is the justification.

Well, that's cool. But as an Aristotelian and Randian, I reject the Hobbsean ethics of bare survival, and so I deny that anything can be done as long as someone subjectively believes it will ensure his survival.

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Well, that's cool. But as an Aristotelian and Randian, I reject the Hobbsean ethics of bare survival, and so I deny that anything can be done as long as someone subjectively believes it will ensure his survival.

So if it can be shown that objectively it would ensure survival , those actions then should be undertaken,yes? Edited by tadmjones
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But survival qua what? Is the only reason Galt refused to become dictator because he wouldn't have been able to stay alive?

Galt would have had to deny his very essence in order to become dictator.  If Galt became dictator he would cease to be Galt.

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No doubt. Then so much for Hobbesian survivalist ethics.

You misunderstand what Hobbes was getting he.  He said we need a Commenwealth (a State) precisely so humans can live more than a hard scrabble life consisting of wars for survival. 

 

ruveyn1

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