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Israel's Disproportionate use of Force

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KendallJ hasn't solved that difficulty either, but that's not to say it's impossible. But if you have no objective means, then all you have left are subjective means of determining war tactics, and have every reason to maximize the extermination of complicit civilians.

And Hunterrosse keeps ignoring my call for him to go read any basic military textbook on tactics and strategy. It is reason, through the military sciences that focuses on what tactics work in what situations, and what factors are important in characterizing a situation so that the proper options may be decided. That is objective methodology. Don't confuse this with the requirement to predict, a priori, that a given tactic will work in a given situation. That is expecting omniscience in order to be moral.

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Kendall, I am going to try to respond to all your points in one big chunk rather than fragment this conversation with quotes, let me know if I miss something.

First, your comparison between my examples of military acts and criminal acts undertaken within a nation itself is faulty. Military matters cannot directly be compared to the ethics of civilian criminal matters. In criminal law, BOTH parties know from before the act occur that they are bound by the same law and that a neutral third party (judge or jury) will judge their actions objectively on whether or not they conform to the law. Neither party judges the other nor does either create the law. In the military matters we have been discussing there is no such third party, and in fact you explicitly stated how you think the very idea of a neutral judge is a bad one. In military matters there is no law which binds both parties, instead each party has its own law which it gets to impose on the loser ex poste facto. Even beyond that, the idea that because there is proportionality in civilian punishments there is a difference in morality in military acts doesn't logically follow. It is perfectly possible that some civilian penal system imposes the same punishment for all crimes regardless of severity. You still have to show how there is a difference in culpability or morally in the two acts of the Japanese pilots.

Thanks, we're still at it, but making progress I think. It seems before you just wanted me to allow for hte possibility of moral differentiation which I did, and now you want me to actually develop that principle. By inserting the pilot alone implies his orders but doesnt call them out. Since war is an organizational act, the key difference between inidividual civilian crimes and organizational crimes is which part of the organization is culpable for the crime. But I have already given you the clues to that. I believe (and I'm not a military justice expert here), but codes of justice allow for the fact that an individual in an army was only following orders.

The essence of my problem with your position is that it seems to require neutral, well-informed objectivity on the part of all combatants down to the lowliest private soldier. What your position requires is for a soldier to be able to judge the "justness" of the underlying conflict, understand the military law of his enemy, weigh the relative strength of his side versus the enemy's and come to the reasonable conclusion on whether his side is just and thus he can morally do whatever he wants, or that his side is unjust and that he should immediately desert or at minimum refuse to follow any orders which violate the military law of his enemy.

I think such a position is vastly over-optimistic. For one thing, in war there is no clear-cut way to even determine which country is the defender and which the aggressor. It isn't necessarily the nation which first resorts to military force, as you can be the defender and yet use preemptive strikes against the enemy. Nor is it necessarily the nation which has the most free government. To complicate matters, all governments claim some form of self-defense or self-interest when going to war, even if such a claim is fraudulent or shaky. And all governments use propaganda both to confuse the enemy as well as reinforce support for the war at home. How can you expect a soldier to sift through all the various layers of diplomacy, politics, propaganda to arrive at the one correct conclusion as to the morality of his nation's war? Most soldiers don't fight because they think they are an aggressor nation, they fight because they think the war is justified and in their country's self-interest or self-defense.

The key to your and Sophia's arguments (I haven't forgotten you Sophia, I'm just short on time) here lie in the fact that civilians are completely ignorant and complete innocent. Yet, Rand was clear that govts act as agents for their citizens, and even in the worst governments who defraud even their own citizens, its citizens sanction their actions through, if nothing else, "passivity". This is why ultimately, all men must think for themselvse. I grant you that all men do not think for themselves, but that does not absolve them from responsiblity from dealing with reality, nor does ignorance protect them from reality's consequences. To the extent that they are ignorant, I would be prudent (but not morally obligated) to help them learn and treat them differently as they come to understand their mistakes (again, military science woudl deal with this).

The truly perverse element of your argument is that you put the ultimate burden on the individual soldiers to determine the morality of both their personal actions and the actions of their government, yet the very structure of any good military works to PREVENT individual soldiers from making such determinations. Soldiers are not supposed to figure out the politics and justice of a war on the grand scale. They are trained to think at a very small scale and to follow the orders of their superiors under threat of harsh punishment or death. The entire military machine works to keep soldiers from deciding for themselves what actions are moral and what are not. They only need to know what actions their side allows and what are punished. To expect a soldier to refuse to follow the orders of his superior on the grounds that the order violates the military law of the enemy is just too much.

Soldiers as soldiers are somewhat prevented from culpability in a "criminal" act by that fact, which is why whole armies aren't tried as war criminals. Their defeat is their only punishment. But soldiers as citizens are not. Citizens are responsible for the ultimate actions of their govt, their agent.

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Hunterrosse keeps ignoring my call for him to go read any basic military textbook on tactics and strategy.
Can you name any reason, according to your principles and the authority of military textbooks, why nuking civilians is "objectively" demoralizing and killing infants would be "objectively" inflammatory? Any reason at all?

Not counting the quite insufficient Sherman example, are we both ignorant of any of these unstated military principles? Am I to seek out and provide your solutions? Or are you taking the position that, if I really want to understand your hidden priniciples, I'll go elsewhere and get them before questioning you?

Feel free to correct me on this, but I see only two bases for determining an objective efficiency of war actions: objectivity via principles and examining the results after the action has been committed. I can tell you the problem with the pragmatic approach, though I think you understand that one. And, for all I know, there may be objective principles of effectiveness in some book, though that the best ones I've seen from Sun Tzu, Vegetius, Clausewitz, and my fav Robert Greene are objective in the chess sense, and not in the Objectivist ethics sense.

Regardless, perhaps you have some real gems you are saving for maximum effect. Or not; who knows?

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According to you, this is precisely the wrong strategy.

Not at all. My position is that our military commanders should have the discretion to annihilate not only a single evil ruler but the majority of those living in the enemy nation as well--if that is what it takes to eliminate the foreign threat quickly and with minimal risk to our troops. Having the broader option does not mean it has to be chosen.

Your principles leave no room for discriminating between threatening rotten apples and threatening complicit apples.
If the “threatening complicit apples” can do us as much harm as the “threatening rotten apples,” why should our bombs fall only on the latter? What good is assassinating Hitler or Stalin or Saddam if the Hydra can grow more heads?

Your principles leave no room for proportionality in the context of taking out a dictator and waiting to see if that is sufficient.

They certainly do. I have never called for mass extermination as the first and only response to foreign aggression.

But don't lose your appetite for killing Iranians and North Koreans at this critical juncture! If you have some objective means to determine which war tactics are effective/ineffective, then (and only then) you can, by your principles, ethically minimize civilian deaths and condemn child killing, rape, etc as the war crimes that they are.
Here is my objective means: A free nation may kill X number of people in an aggressor nation, X being the number necessary to eliminate that nation as a threat. If X = one person, so be it. If X = every living creature in the enemy state, that is our right. The approximate quantity that X represents will be determined by our ablest military commanders. As for rape, you have yet to show how this can be an effective tactic for eliminating an enemy threat while minimizing the harm our own troops are exposed to.

KendallJ hasn't solved that difficulty either, but that's not to say it's impossible. But if you have no objective means, then all you have left are subjective means of determining war tactics, and have every reason to maximize the extermination of complicit civilians.

Our chiefs of staff will be placed under strict orders to base their determination of X on objective reality.

Coupled with "indiscriminatory and unproportionate," your idea of "defense" is doubly lethal. If on a trip to exotic lands, Australia confiscates my property by suddenly instituting a foreigner tax, the US has the right and moral obligation to wreak overwhelming destruction on Australian civilians???

No. That issue could be resolved more cheaply and effectively by freezing a certain amount of Australian government assets in this country.

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It may as well be that I disagree with Ayn Rand's opinion on this matter.

Thank you for your honesty.

I’m not sure what you mean by “opinion” here but this issue is definitely not of the same species as what kind of ice cream Ayn Rand liked. The Objectivist position is backed-up by reason, logic, and a proper ethics applied to a political situation. All arguments to the contrary suffer from some form of irrationality or altruism. Your last post is a jumble of contradictions and unprincipled assertions

I refuse to hold, for example, a four year old kid responsible for the actions of his government [...] A moral code is a set of principles which grade only those actions that are open to his choice. Under this standard - this kid is innocent.

Kids do not have a choice about much so I do not hold them responsible for much. But someone is responsible for them and they do have a choice as I have pointed out before.

The Objectivist principle is that when a free country is defending itself against a real threat that the existence of innocent individuals in the aggressive nation does not mean that the free nation must sacrifice itself. In fact you allow for the killing of innocent individuals later in your post. So what is the point of illuminating the kid’s innocence? The only reason I can think of is as an appeal to emotion, which is fallacious argumentation.

To ignore the existence of such kid and instead only think on the scale of a whole nation when deciding something of enormous magnitude as to carpet bomb a country - to me is context dropping.

Which context is being dropped? The individual rights of the citizens of the aggressive nation? I thought we dispensed with that. Do individuals have any responsibility to act in regard to their rights? Does the existence of a starving man next door mean that I must feed him because he is too lazy to get a job?

It you absolutely need to use nuclear power to defend your country - you have no other choice - then it is moral.

So as long as I think of the individuals involved it’s OK to bomb them?

If morality pertains only to choice, then the situation where “you have no other choice” would be an amoral one, right?

But to use it because it is easier?

This smacks of altruism. The moral choice is the harder one? So a land invasion of Japan in WWII would have been more moral than dropping two atomic bombs? You would have demanded the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands more GI’s to end WWII? Disgusting.

I am using an extreme example but one of the arguments has been that also the magnitude of force is irrelevant also after you declare war moral.

Could you please quote where this was said, I don’t recall it.

Certainly the magnitude of force is relevant and is determined on a case by case basis, most preferably by military strategists. You want to use enough force to end the aggression. In the case of Grenada (1983?) that required sending in a small compliment of Marines. In the case of Japan 1944-45 carpet bombing, fire bombing and one nuke weren’t enough force to end their aggression. But notice how we stopped bombing Japan once they surrendered.

But to specifically target this kid for an execution as a strategic move is evil. If my enemy would use this kid as a human shield and I would need to destroy that target in order to defeat that enemy - I would destroy the target.

If the strategy is to defeat the enemy, then don’t these two sentences contradict each other?

I don’t mean to pick on you but let me give you some friendly advice. You have already admitted to not being an Objectivist so then your purpose here could be either to learn about Objectivism or argue against it. If it is the latter, then you really should restrict yourself to the debate forum. If the former, then ask questions when you don’t understand.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is an integrated whole. You cannot pick and choose the things you agree with her about, ignore the things you don’t like and then pretend to understand Objectivism.

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My principles do depend on discrimination to an extent. Yours do not, which is why you have to claim a heretofore unvalidated capacity to determine, before the fact, which actions will effectively destroy/demoralize an enemy in order to distance your principle from abominable acts.

Here was your assertion. I responded that the capacity was reason in the form of military science and could be found in any military school cirriculum. That is sufficient to answer the concern. It seems that you also want me to show you with an illustration.

Again, as I said before, there is no requirment that this is a faculty to a priori determine that a particular tactic in a given context will work. That is omniscience, and no human ethical system can require it.

I'm not a military strategician (sic?), but I can throw in some high level ideas that might serve to illustrate. NOTE: I'm not going to debate this particiular analysis. For more research suggest there is much historical writing on topic.

Let's look at Hiroshima:

There are two fundamental aspects to the tactic:

a. Demonstration of Overwhelming Force: this would especially effective if you have a significant difference in war making capability (e.g. the atomic bomb), and your opponent is a rational warrior (i.e. knows warfare and strategic assessment and can "connect the dots")

b. Psychological demoralization: especially effective against an opponents who has a strong cultural or emotional attachment to thier people. Seeing people who they value experiencing the consequences of their actions has a strong psychologial effect.

Implicit in both f these is a contextual characterization of the tactical situation. While I have not read Sun Tzu, I am sure that "know thy enemy" is in there, and possibly some aspects of a or b.This analysis is necessarily contextual. b would not be a good tactic against Saddam, who cared very little for his people.

Is this what you were looking for?

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Feel free to correct me on this, but I see only two bases for determining an objective efficiency of war actions: objectivity via principles and examining the results after the action has been committed. I can tell you the problem with the pragmatic approach, though I think you understand that one. And, for all I know, there may be objective principles of effectiveness in some book, though that the best ones I've seen from Sun Tzu, Vegetius, Clausewitz, and my fav Robert Greene are objective in the chess sense, and not in the Objectivist ethics sense.

The study of Military history is exactly what you describe. One looks at the strategies and tactics used by others in their specific contexts, and their results, and uses induction to formulate the principles by which these tactics worked or didn't. Then, when presented with new situations, one can unpack his principles and use these to evaluate the various options open to him and decide which options are best. This is integrating from historical knowledge, inducing principles, and then evaluating the context of your situation and unpacking your principles in that context to evaluate your options. i.e. this is REASON. It is objective.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Objectivist ethics sense", but since I've explained the ethics several times, I'll try putting it into your language. The ethics is provided in the morally sanctioned objectives of a proper defending army. That is ALL ethics has to say about it. Evaluate your options using military science, i.e. the "chess sense". If the options are good ones from the perspective of meeting your objectives, then they are ethical. There is not a separate ethical evaluation of the options (i.e. "Objectivist ethics sense"). You already have your sanction. If your options do not progress toward meeting your objectives, (i.e. if they are arbitrary) then they are unethical.

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Sophia,

I haven't forgotten about you. Your arguments were the toughest for me to sort out, and since you quote Rand a significant number of times, I felt it necessary to review some of the material in preparation.

For reference for others, I will link to your post and to the Rand quote from Mark's post. (note, you'll have to scroll down, as I can't figure out how to link directly to the post, but at least you'll be on the right page)

Sophia's post #50

Sophia's post #65

Sophia's post #70

Mark's post with key Rand quote #58

I had a tough time figuring out where to start here. You used Rand's concepts of individual rights convincingly, and it was not until you deviated with Rand's specific address to this very issue that I considered that you might have a point. You stated that you disagreed with Rand, but in fact, most of the quotes you used did not address the issue directly (indicating that you derived the conclusions from her premises), but yet, when Rand discussed this very issue in context, you disagreed with her. I'll see if I can summarize.

Rand's case (paraphrase is mine) is that even those citizens who disagree with their country's choice to initiate war keeps such a government in power by their passivity, and as such are responsible and must suffer for the consequences.

You acknowledge a defenders right to self defense, the fact that civilians can give tacit support to an agressor government and are therefore also responsible. However, you posit that not all civilians do so. As such, some civilians are "innocent". These civilians, especially in dictator states, are "powerless" to change their government, and therefore the government does not act on their behalf. As such, I as a defender, must treat these civilians as "unrepresented", and as individuals. Thus individual rights arguments take over, and if I target them, I am initiating force, and as such commiting an immoral act. Therefore, I must not target or kill civilians unless they are unavoidable targets in my own self defense. (if I've misstated, please correct me)

The clue to detection began with Rand herself from Mark's reference.

...I know the source of this statement. It's the idea that nations do not exist, only individuals and if some poor blob in Soviet Russia didn't want an invasion, or he is not a communist, we mightn't harm him.
This gave me the clue. The fallacy you commit is this: in your arguments, you blank out the nature of the agessor government as it relates to the citizens of that government, and then you elevate individual rights concepts to the level of political entity. You demand that I must consider the individuals, as political entities in and of them selves without any regard to their government. You do this in two ways:

a. you call my grouping of citizens together "collectivism", blaming all for what can only be the actions of certain individuals disconnected from other individuals.

b. you disconnect "innocent" citizens from any sanction of their government thereby absolving them of any responsiblity for a government they are "powerless" to control.

a. is what I meant when I said that "individual rights do not translate into political terms", and that was poorly worded. I was not yet sure about the exact natuer of your contradiction and I worded it poorly.

My response to you will be to reconnect the individuals to the context of their government and give them responsiblity by showing the contradiction in these two key issues.

First, individual rights certainly are the basis of political ideas, and the possession of them by individuals is context free. However, my ethical right to violate individual rights is not context free. Also political entities such as governments do exist, and have nature in and of themselves arising from individual rights. When specifying the context under which I can violate anyone's rights, one cannot simply blank out political entities that are operating in the context. And since government have a relationship relative to their citizens, they must be considered.

So let's pull from Rand on government,

The source of the government's authority is "the consent of the governed." This means that the government is not he ruler, but the servant or agent of the citizens; it means that the government as such has no right except the rights delegated to it by the citizens for a specific purpose. "The Nature of Government" VOS

This is for an proper government. Surely, if I were a citizen of this government, you would be able to hold me accountable to some level, if my government misbehaved? It is truly acting as my agent, and I am delegating it some of my rights. This was the root of my first argument, but this is not very satisfying since such a govt would not normally misbehave. So let's look at statist governments, which is usually what you find in agressor governments. Rand again,

Statism - in fact and principle - is nothing more than gang rule. A dictatorhsip is a gang devoted to looting the effort of the productive citizens of it's own country. When a statist ruler exhausts his own country's economy, he attacks his neighbors. It is his only means of postponing internal collapse and prolonging his rule. A country that violates the rights of its own citizens, will not respect the rights of its neighbors. "Roots of War" CUI.
Will this sounds more like it, and in fact come from the same article you were quoting. In fact you also seem to show that the people in a statist government are powerless with this quote.

Remember that private citizens – whether rich or poor, whether businessmen or workers – have no power to start a war. That power is the exclusive prerogative of a government. [you cited: [ibid., 40]]

Your reference here is wrong (your Ibid refers to the previous VOS quote in your post, and this quote is actually from CUI), and this is the quote I thought was used out of context. It is the only one you use to defend the idea that "innocents" are powerless. But in fact, Rand in this context is advocating the fighting of statism, lest it wrench power from you. This paragraph is part of an explanation of the fact that statist governments are more likely to start wars, and that by the time a war starts you will be powerless to stop it. Therefore, you must fight it now. This paragraph provides the motivation for moral action, not the excuse for moral passivity. Rand, in fuller context,

Remember that private citizens – whether rich or poor, whether businessmen or workers – have no power to start a war. That power is the exclusive prerogative of a government. Which type of government is more likely to plunge a government into war: a government of limited powers, bound by constitutional restrictions - or an unlimimted government, open to the pressure of any group with warlike interests or ideologies, a government able to comand armies to march at the whim of a chief executive? .... [Rand after more explanation issues this call to action]...

If men want to oppose war, it is statism that they must oppose. So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some (any) alleged "good" can justify it - there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations....

Let no man of good will take it upon his conscience to advocate the rule fo force - outside or inside his own country. Let all those who are actually concerned with peace -- those who do love man and do care about his survival-- realize that if war is ever to be outlawed, it is the use of force that has to be outlawed.

It is odd to me that you would pull the quote you did to show how powerless some are at the intitiation of war, when Rand in specifically using it to show that therefore one must act before then to oppose statism. You use it as an excuse, Rand is trying to motivate one to action.

So what error is being committed by these "innocent" who are powerless to oppose. Well, first off, you cannot mean they are powerless to oppose. No one can prevent any one else from opposing anything. Wether they are successful or not is another matter, so they must choose not to do so. So what is the "most innocent" offense behind this choice, and what is common in statist countries? Rand again,

The human characteristic required by statism is docility, which is the product of hopelessness and intellectual stagnation. Thinking men cannot be ruled; ambitious men do not stagnate. ARL, I, 12, 1.

This is the image I conjure (and I suspect most would) when someone presents me with an example of the "innocent" of such a country. This is what Rand was referring to when she spoke about "passivity". A majority women (children, I'll address later) to be sure. But this also gives rise to the form of the choice. A choice made as a result of intellectual stagnation, is a form of evasion. And statism requires such evasion, because it is a form of Sanction of the Victim. Victim, yes, but sanction none the less. Here is what Rand has to say about sanction,

There is no escape from the fact that men have to make choices; so long as men have to make choices, there is no escape from moral value; so long as moral values are at stake, no moral neutrality is possible. To abstain from condemning a torturer, is to become an accessory to the torture and murder of his victims. -- "How Does One Lead and Rational Life in an Irrational Society" VOS

This is how Rand's position is substantiated in my mind.

This, and not the agency argument, is the proper relationship between a citizen of a statist country and his country. It must be factored into the analysis. Thus, it cannot be a collectivist treatment of them because, I am not grouping them upon the basis of their being a citizen without regard for anything else, but specifically with regard to the fact that at minimum they sanction their government via their passivity.

If you take an innocent as being someone who is morally pure, then these people are not innocent. At best they are committing a form of evasion and sanctioning their government. A true innocent is one who is morally pure, i.e. opposes his government, and welcomes a liberator, and certainly when such a person is killed by a defender, that is a true tragedy. But such a person would refuse to confer upon his liberator, the unearned guilt of his death. That responsiblity lies with the agressor he opposed.

Sophia, I know that you may have seen or known some of these people in the past, and certainly if their act of sanction is just evasion it might seem as though they are innocent, and certainly their death would be a sad thing. However, they are not powerless. They choose to be. And regardless of how sad their death they cannot escape the moral impetus to focus, and to use reason.

As to children, my argument is the same as Mark's. To the extent that children are not responsible, someone is responsible for them (especially in the realm of politics, which children are not mature enough to be able to contribute to), and if that someone is at best an evader, then the responsibility transfer to the responsible party. This is a case of an innocent, not in the sense of morally pure, but in the sense of morally imature, and it is a tradgedy; however, that is true of children in all sort of situations, and the same reasoning would be used there as well.

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Folks, the fact of hte matter is that I'm whipped. I have taken a great amount of time to response to as many people as have raised objections in the spirit of good debate, and it has been enjoyable.

However, I just want to give notice that while I'll still watch this thread, and welcome additional comments, I will probably reduce the volume of time spent responding, and will be more selective about what I respond to. Also, I take the evidence that the last 4 posts are mine, that you may be wearing out as well.

I'm not evading you, just prioritizing things in my life. My ultimate purpose was selfish anyway, in that I wanted to refine my ideas on the topic, whether or not I was successful in convincing anyone. I am satisfied that I have acheived my objectives and so need to focus on other things.

Thanks!

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I’m not sure what you mean by “opinion” here but this issue is definitely not of the same species as what kind of ice cream Ayn Rand liked. The Objectivist position is backed-up by reason, logic, and a proper ethics applied to a political situation. All arguments to the contrary suffer from some form of irrationality or altruism.

I am not in any disagreements with the principles of Objectivism. There are opinions of Ayn Rand that some Objectivists do not share. For example, Miss Rand's take on the subject of homosexuality and woman president. These are not principles, they are opinions. Reasonable people can disagree.

The application of philosophical principles to the specific issues of military power and war policy requires a consideration of all relevant facts. Standing against indiscriminate killing of civilians is not a case of altruism. Ancient Greeks practiced "just wars" but were some of the most selfish people in history.

The Objectivist principle is that when a free country is defending itself against a real threat that the existence of innocent individuals in the aggressive nation does not mean that the free nation must sacrifice itself. In fact you allow for the killing of innocent individuals later in your post.

I am in agreement with this statement – something which I have stated clearly.

What I “allow for” are the collateral civilian casualties that occur as a result of a free country attacking an enemy's government and military. For the deaths of those (which some of them are innocent) a free country is not responsible - morally.

But I don't agree that everyone in an entire country is equally the enemy. The fact that innocents may be cut down in the crossfire does not justify targeting them as a strategy. This difference of opinion about who is the enemy is what leads to the difference of opinion about how to conduct the war.

So what is the point of illuminating the kid’s innocence? The only reason I can think of is as an appeal to emotion, which is fallacious argumentation.

It was no such thing. It was just one of the examples I could have given to show that not everyone is equally an enemy and responsible for the actions of their government. Some are, some are not.

Which context is being dropped? The individual rights of the citizens of the aggressive nation? I thought we dispensed with that.

You are ignoring contextual complexities of this discussion. An aggressive nation? A dictatorship does not have the consent of the governed and thus is not an agent or representative of the people it rules.

In response to that I have quoted Rand saying that there is no ‘special context’ or emergency situation under which individual rights can be ignored.

Why don’t you address THAT argument instead of insulting me and putting things into my mouth which I did not say?

Do individuals have any responsibility to act in regard to their rights?

Have you read "We the living"?

Citizens of a slave nation do not have a free choice between slavery and freedom. The majority of people living under such evil government (which does not respect rights of their own citizens) is either oppressed by a local dictator and terrorized into silence by the militants among them, or both. The reason I know this is because I have lived in such a country. So they have a choice between slavery and a probably suicidal attempt at freedom. Failing to make that attempt is not a sanction.

While we are on the issue of responsibility...

What about oil companies that do business with Arab nations? Aren’t they arming these governments which then use the money to buy weapons and fund terrorists? Shouldn't they also be destroyed as they are a part of the evil machinery?

Does the existence of a starving man next door mean that I must feed him because he is too lazy to get a job?

Has anybody here claimed this?

I have not said anything about having the responsibility to free those people from their oppression. I do not understand where you are coming from with this. I just said they have a right to life.

So as long as I think of the individuals involved it’s OK to bomb them?

Again that has not been my argument.

You would have demanded the sacrifice of hundreds of thousands more GI’s to end WWII? Disgusting.

Again I have said not such thing.

What I have said was that the fact that free nation's government is only responsible for safety of it's citizens does NOT give it a license to kill indiscriminately.

My argument has been that life is the supreme value. One cannot compare one supreme value with another and claim one is 'more valuable' than the another. Both the soldiers' lives and the innocent civilians' lives are valuable....even if the soldiers' lives are rationally free nation's highest priority.

The unnecessary killing of human beings is evil. Sacrificing others is just as evil as self-sacrifice.

Also what Vladimir have pointed out here: An enemy who fights without rules, strips away all of Western Civilization's conventions on war.

But to specifically target this kid for an execution as a strategic move is evil. If my enemy would use this kid as a human shield and I would need to destroy that target in order to defeat that enemy - I would destroy the target.

If the strategy is to defeat the enemy, then don’t these two sentences contradict each other?

In what way do they contradict each other? One is avoidable one is not.

I don’t mean to pick on you but let me give you some friendly advice. You have already admitted to not being an Objectivist so then your purpose here could be either to learn about Objectivism or argue against it. If it is the latter, then you really should restrict yourself to the debate forum. If the former, then ask questions when you don’t understand.

I have said no such thing.

Keep your ‘friendly advice’ and your personal remarks towards me to yourself. Just because you don’t agree with what I say - you have called me irrational, altruistic, not understanding Objectivism. Those insults are completely unjustified and totally unwarranted. Insults are not arguments.

Ayn Rand’s philosophy is an integrated whole. You cannot pick and choose the things you agree with her about, ignore the things you don’t like and then pretend to understand Objectivism.

I have not ignored or gone against any principles of Objectivism.

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A free nation may kill X number of people in an aggressor nation, X being the number necessary to eliminate that nation as a threat.
Certainly the magnitude of force is relevant and is determined on a case by case basis. You want to use enough force to end the aggression.
Why should we wait and see if a certain magnitude of force (and no more) is enough to end aggression?

Only mass extermination minimizes our casualties and is guaranteed to eliminate all of the complicit threats. What else is there to consider?

The Objectivist principle is that when a free country...
That's a blank statement because "free country" is never, ever, ever defined.

I'm not sure what you mean by "Objectivist ethics sense".

One ... uses induction to formulate the principles by which tactics worked or didn't... This is [integrated] from historical knowledge...

This is pragmatism. Would you base the principle of honesty or support for capitalism on "historical knowledge?"

Unlike honesty and capitalism, violating Demonstration of Overwhelming Force and Psychological Demoralization is sometimes beneficial. This is what is meant by "Objectivist ethics sense," and it invalidates your conception of war crimes. Because you admittedly cannot determine whether a particular tactic in a given context will work, you cannot prosecute someone for war crimes on the basis that something didn't work.

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This is pragmatism. Would you base the principle of honesty or support for capitalism on "historical knowledge?"

Unlike honesty and capitalism, violating Demonstration of Overwhelming Force and Psychological Demoralization is sometimes beneficial. This is what is meant by "Objectivist ethics sense," and it invalidates your conception of war crimes. Because you admittedly cannot determine whether a particular tactic in a given context will work, you cannot prosecute someone for war crimes on the basis that something didn't work.

No it's not. Pragmatism is an ethical concept. This is science.

I didn't develop a concpet of war crimes fully, and I don't intend to. I've already stated I think it is a mixed concept. I only demonstrated that I didn't preclude any ethical judgement of various actions within war. i.e. If Vladimir wants a concept to subsume different actions, he can develop it. I would not and did not. Take any statement I made about war crimes in that manner. I wouldn't prosecute anyone on the basis that something didn't work. An initiator of force does not have the "military science" mechanism available to me, because he doesn't have any proper sanctioned military objectives. Don't port this concept over to the bad guys, it's morally equilibrating.

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I also highly recommend the Brook/Epstein article. I was on the fence about this for a long time before one of my friends convinced me. The Just War Theory article strongly represents my view. One caveat, I think Brook/Epstein make a mistake by positively endorsing the customary use of torture in war.

--Dan Edge

I agree with Kendall here.

As for those who disagree, another summary on the issue by Yaron Brook and Alex Epstein can be found here:

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

Edited by dan_edge
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This would be the goal of an altruist so I guess we know which side you are on.

You realize this forum is for discussing OBJECTIVISM right. So perhaps in the future you will keep your two cents to yourself lest it have something, anything, to do with Objectivism.

I agree completely that "to free the citizens of that country from their oppressors" is complete altruism and that it's wrong for that reason. I just sensed a promotion of such "duty" in several posts with the hint of just bombing the place, and wanted to point out how this is working against the initial goal. I have judged the goal itself in my sentence "Playing world police is self-sacrifice".

Sorry for the misunderstanding. I hope this clarified things.

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Ayman al-Zawahiri, 2nd in command of Al-Queda, said toady "all the world is a battlefield open in front of us."

"The war with Israel does not depend on cease-fires. ... It is a jihad (holy war) for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq," he said. "We will attack everywhere."

Do we need a more exclicit declaration of war? When will the US declare war? I agree with those who say that we must demand the unconditional surrender of Al-Queda, Hezbollah, and other Islamic Totalitarian groups, no matter what countries they are hiding in.

--Dan Edge

Edited by dan_edge
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Dan, why do you think torture should not be used, while it is okay to kill them? I think that the information gained in such a manner can go a much longer way towards effectively defending the free country than would killing one person; why is it not justified to do this? Proper intelligence is a crucial aspect of warfare, and this is one of the methods to get that. I would prefer the government to use this rather than have to kill many more people to effectively defend my life and property.

Edited by Maarten
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Maarten,

I'm not in principle opposed to the use of torture for military purposes, but I think that the burden of proof lies with he who endorses its use. I feel the same way about the use of nuclear weapons. If they are used, it must be a military decision, and the need to use them must be justified. I think it was a (polemical) mistake for Brook/Epstein to endorse the customary use of torture without backing that endorsement with a reasoned argument. It's just not the way to argue the point. Also, I don't get the impression from either philosopher that they are experts in military strategy. I don't mean that snidely, just straight talk.

The principle here is that our government should do *anything necessary* to defeat our enemies. One could drive the point home by using an extreme case, such as torture, declaring: "even if something as terrible as torture is necessary to defeat the enemy, then that is what must be done." This statement does not imply that torture *is* necessary, only that f it is necessary, we should practice it.

I can think of many reasons why the use of torture could *never* be useful for our ends: 1) It could encourage the enemy to keep fighting to the last man, 2) Psychological damage to soldiers who have to perform the torture (I'm told the Nazis had problems with this), 3) Information gathered through the use of torture is notoriously unreliable.

I'm not saying that the above concerns rule out the use of torture, only that it's something to consider. Brook/Epstein did not convince me that torture is *ever* needed, much less using it as common practice. To endorse torture without justifying this damages their argument, turns people off, and takes attention away from their main point.

I spent a lot of time with this criticism (which I'm still thinking about), but it does n ot affect my overall evaluation of the Just War article, which is overwhelmingly positive. I would recommend it to anyone.

--Dan Edge

Edited by dan_edge
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I would guess that most of the psychological damage that came to Nazis from torturing people was not that they were torturing per se, but that they were torturing innocent people.

Frankly, I don't think I'd suffer much psychological damage if I had to torture Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.

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Pragmatism is an ethical concept. This is science.
No it's not. Pay attention :lol:

It is not science to say that demonstrating overwhelming force often is effective against rational people, or that psychological demoralizing is usually effective against those who are concerned about their people. These tactics are generally, but never 100%, effective and are based on the pragmatic assessment of their historical effectiveness.

The problem isn't the derivation of tactics, but the basis for condemning war actions of a defender. It's been repeatedly said that the only considerations, on the part of the defender, is completely eliminating the threat (effectiveness) and minimizing the defender's casualties. Then how can anything be a war crime, to your position, if it is effective and causes no casualties for us?

I didn't preclude any ethical judgement of various actions within war.
You're not saying that there aren't possible war crimes on a defender's part, but you're not saying that you can think of anything that constitutes a war crime (for a defender). Should "war crimes" and their basis also be left up to military science?

Don't port this concept over to the bad guys...
I'm not.

I agree with Kendall here.
Okay. Why?

Why do you think torture should not be used...
Not to speak for anyone else, but there's been given little reason to not torture civilians for valuable info, and "America (as a 'free nation'?) is never the aggressor" is a bit questionable, and leaves open the possibility of implicitly endorsing the torturing of one's own people.
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No it's not. Pay attention :lol:

You're not saying that there aren't possible war crimes on a defender's part, but you're not saying that you can think of anything that constitutes a war crime (for a defender).

There are lots of places to poke holes in your arguments, but this one is the fundamental. You did not read what I wrote or else processed it incorrectly.

The only possible "war crimes" on the part of a proper defender is individual(s) violating orders or giving orders that aren't in line with the stated policies of the army. I am saying there aren't (none, zero, zilch) possible war crimes in the strategic policies of a defender.

I also showed that heavy handedness is not practiced by proper defenders, even though they are not ethically bound not to. Dropping nukes on Lebanon is a poor tactic. Thinking that if a certain tactic is effective, that all more violent tactics are necessarily as effective is a fallacy.

Edited by KendallJ
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...One caveat, I think Brook/Epstein make a mistake by positively endorsing the customary use of torture in war...
I have read the article to the point where torture is discussed. I completely disagree with your statement above. Furthermore, I cannot imagine how you can logically state that while saying that you agree with the rest.

Entire article discusses one major point: government must protect lives of its citizens and value them higher than the citizens of the enemy state. This logically leads to torture as acceptable method to acquire knowledge that would save lives of its citizens.

Sounds like you have issues here: killing civilians in the enemy state to stop the threat is OK, but torture is not, according to your post. That is a contradiction.

EDIT: added the quote I was refering to in your post.

To endorse torture without justifying this damages their argument, turns people off, and takes attention away from their main point.
Furthermore, it was well supported and justified. Here is a snippet:
Of course, if a POW is truly innocent—that is, a genuine opponent of his regime who was forced to fight for it—he will eagerly provide the victim nation with all the information to which he is privy; no torture will be necessary. Thus, torture is potentially necessary only for the guilty. Those who wish to hide information that could protect the lives and rights of Americans in the name of fidelity to the triumph of Islam have forfeited all rights and deserve any form of abuse that can possibly be used to extract information.
Edited by Olex
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Dropping nukes on Lebanon is a poor tactic.
Given that mass extermination (and only mass extermination) has 100% effectiveness, how could nuking Lebanon possibly be heavy-handed or mass extermination a poor policy?

I am saying there aren't (none, zero, zilch) possible war crimes in the strategic policies of a defender.
Simple question: if our military Wise Men decide, using their "objective" military science, that indiscriminate child torturing will psychologically demoralize the enemy and best end the threat, there is nothing, whatsoever, wrong with this policy????

Yes or no? or evasion?

If a [citizen of a regime]is truly innocent, he will eagerly provide the victim nation...

Those who wish to hide information that could protect the lives and rights of Americans... have forfeited all rights and deserve any form of abuse...

It's neither justified nor well supported. The distinction between who can/can't be tortured is based on undefined terms "free nation" et al.
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Q: You say the United States alone should control nuclear weapons, not China or Russia as well. Should the United States ever use them?

Ayn Rand: I would not dispose of the lives of other people. It’s improper to put me in the position of commander-in-chief. As the question in principle: Is it proper for an individual to defend himself? Yes. Are Russia and China monstrous aggressors, whose first aggression is against their own people? Yes. If so, we should certainly maintain superiority over them. At present we should not attack them, because we don’t have to. But at the first sign of an attack by them, we should fight them by every means we have, because it is criminal to kill Americans while not using the better weapons we possess. [FHF 72]Ayn Rand Answers – The Best of Her Q & A. pq.86

FHF 72 – Lecture, “A Nation’s Unity” (Boston, Ford Hall Forum, 1972)

It is pretty clear from this quote what Rand's view was.

However, I am still struggling with this topic.

My response to you will be to reconnect the individuals to the context of their government and give them responsiblity by showing the contradiction in these two key issues.

Here is what I am having problems with.

A group, such as a nation is only a number of individuals. A group can have no rights other than the rights of its individual members. We all agree here that individual rights are inalienable. Rand also wrote that a man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor loose the rights which he does possess.

A notion that under some circumstances, rights belong (or not - in case of war) to groups and not to individuals - means that rights belong to some men, but not to others. It is essentially another way of saying that I believe in individual rights – but only when I am talking about myself.

In a free nation, in which individual rights are respected and protected by its government - the government is not a ruler but an agent of its citizens – a representative. Actions of such government reflect the wishes of the citizens of a nation.

Such thing, in contrast, can not be said about a dictatorship. A dictator is not a representative but a ruler through force. Such government does not possess the consent of the governed.

So during war, during conflict with a nation ruled by a dictatorship – it looks like its citizens loose their rights including their ultimate right to life just for the simple reason of belonging to a group - nation.

As individuals they have rights but as citizens of this nation – even if they do not support the actions of their evil government – they don’t.

Furthermore they loose those rights despite the fact that they belong to this group not by choice but by default – they have been born into a prison which they can not freely leave. Their choices often consist of A. slavery or B. most likely suicidal attempt at freedom. Failing to make that attempt is not a sanction. Depending on circumstances, for a rational person to openly act against the rule of the dictator would be, in fact, a self-sacrifice (literally). The lack of such action may not be (and often it is not) due to the evasion but due to one’s desire to stay alive.

Yet, all of the citizens are called enemy by default during war. They are assumed guilty of the crime of ‘passivity’.

All this, while Rand clearly stated that there is no ‘special context’ or emergency situation under which individual rights can be ignored or lost.

This summarizes the essence my intellectual struggle on this topic. I am having trouble resolving it.

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