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Hatfield-McCoy Conundrum

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What constitutes retaliation? Some countries have been warring for centuries. Which one drew first blood? Which one is defending; which is the aggressor? Does it even matter? Which one is right; which one is wrong? It’s like the Hatfield-McCoy feud—when and how does this cycle of violence stop? Is this a simple case of might is right—with the current nation in power in the right—or does the beaten nation have the right to fight to reclaim it’s nation? This issue is not just about rules of international warfare—it’s about individual rights and the rights of groups (if they even have rights). For example does the American Indian have the right to start a war against the US in order to reclaim their lands?

In order that we are able to debate without being charged with getting off topic I want to include the issue of land ownership. It seems to me that all the land on earth was claimed and held by force and that force is the only factor enabling nations to lay claim to the land they claim to “own.”

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What constitutes retaliation?
Retaliation is any action taken in return for an wrongdoing.
Some countries have been warring for centuries.
Name two, or four. Or did you make a mistake in saying “have been”, or “warring”? I seriously dispute this claim, so the more examples you can provide us, the clearer your argument will be. In order to determine who is defending and who is the aggressor, we have to look at the facts, which means you have to name names.
It’s like the Hatfield-McCoy feud—when and how does this cycle of violence stop?
That, actually, is much easier to answer. It stops when a civilized government is formed and laws preventing these tribal wars are enforced, i.e. it stops once you get an actual country.
For example does the American Indian have the right to start a war against the US in order to reclaim their lands?
No, because The American Indian is not a government, it does not have any rights, and it did not ever own any land. Actually, The American Indian doesn’t exist, except in the way that unicorns “exist”. The Iroquois confederacy existed, of course, and the Mohawk Tribe exists and has a particular legal status arising from negotiations with New York and the United States. If you want to discuss the Mohawks, we could. Or the Navajo, or the Nisqually. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as you avoid talking about The American Indian.
In order that we are able to debate without being charged with getting off topic I want to include the issue of land ownership. It seems to me that all the land on earth was claimed and held by force and that force is the only factor enabling nations to lay claim to the land they claim to “own.”
Well, I own two pieces of land, one that I bought and one that I inherited and my parents bought. So in neither case was the land claimed or held by force. In the latter case, it is the case that the US government held that land by force for about 100 years until it opted to auction the land off. Properly done, the land would probably have been claimed by The Great Northern Railway Company around 1890. Before that, the land was simply unowned.

The important point to keep in mind in this debate is that government do not own the land (except that the government can own the land that it builds its offices on). The government has custodianship over unowned land and defines objective procedures for individuals to lay claim to that land; and, the government has the obligation to protect the rights of its citizens, which means the government must protect the land owned by its citizens.

(Language? Man, I gotta stay focused. Thanks, Maarten)

Edited by DavidOdden
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Semantics of "The American Indian" aside, you saying that the Iroquois didn't have land rights?
The Iroquois don't exist. The government reached an agreement with the Mohawk granting them certain rights to form a government, and that was tied to some concrete land. The Mohawk, collectively, also have no land rights, but individual Mohawks have particular land rights that are protected by the Mohawk government.

For the Iroquois to have any collective land rights, hell would have to freeze over. Same as with white man's land rights.

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Well, I own two pieces of land, one that I bought and one that I inherited and my parents bought. So in neither case was the land claimed or held by force.
Wrong. Your land deed is filed and protected by law. And law is enforced by and through the use of force. It is a fact that Native Americans originally occupied the land that is now controlled by the United States. Before we controlled it, it had been "claimed" by Europeans. We then fought the revolutionary war and took the land from them by force. The land you now claim you own is yours only to the extent that you (through your government and it’s guns) can defend it from the attacks and claims of others. If for example the US were to be taken over by a foreign power the new government would take the land and redistribute it per it’s will. Your "ownership" would vanish because you would no longer have control and use of that land. Ownership of land is just another way of stating who has control of it. It is the guns behind property laws that ensure the titles are protected—and by force the entire surface of the earth has thus been claimed, divided, and is currently held.
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If for example the US were to be taken over by a foreign power the new government would take the land and redistribute it per it’s will. Your "ownership" would vanish because you would no longer have control and use of that land. Ownership of land is just another way of stating who has control of it. It is the guns behind property laws that ensure the titles are protected—and by force the entire surface of the earth has thus been claimed, divided, and is currently held.

Taking this a step further, "your" land is, under state and local laws, not actually yours as in allodial land title--it is in fact rented to you from the government, with the property taxes you pay being the rent. Fail to pay those taxes and you will see that you don't actually own that property. All property that is taxed is effectively rental property. The occupants have the custodial duty of upkeep at their own expense, but the town can choose to take that property away and sell it to someone else, either for nonpayment of taxes, or because someone else (like a shopping mall developer) can make that property value increase, thereby increasing taxable value to the municipality.

Ultimately, in a practical sense, might makes right. He who has the most firepower, makes the rules.

We know that philosophically, right is a concept that defines actions that support man's life. However, the world we live in does not often follow philosophical ideals.

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In order to determine who is defending and who is the aggressor, we have to look at the facts, which means you have to name names.
Perhaps you can tell me who is the agressor and who is the defender from the folowing list of events (excerpted from: http://www.mideastweb.org/briefhistory.htm)

About 61 B.C., Roman troops under Pompei invaded Judea and sacked Jerusalem in support of King Herod. Judea had become a client state of Rome. Initially it was ruled by the client Herodian dynasty. The land was divided into districts of Judea, Galilee, Peraea and a small trans-Jordanian section, each of which eventually came under direct Roman control.

During the seventh century (A.D. 600's), Muslim Arab armies moved north from Arabia to conquer most of the Middle East, including Palestine. Jerusalem was conquered about 638 by the Caliph Umar (Omar) who gave his protection to its inhabitants. Muslim powers controlled the region until the early 1900's.

The Seljuk Turks conquered Jerusalem in 1071, but their rule in Palestine lasted less than 30 years. Initially they were replaced by the Fatimid rulers of Egypt. The Fatimids took advantage of the Seljuk struggles with the Christian crusaders. They made an alliance with the crusaders in 1098 and captured Jerusalem, Jaffa and other parts of Palestine.

The Crusaders, however, broke the alliance and invaded Palestine about a year later. They captured Jaffa and Jerusalem in 1099, slaughtered many Jewish and Muslim defenders and forbade Jews to live in Jerusalem. They held the city until 1187. In that year, the Muslim ruler Saladin conquered Jerusalem. The Crusaders then held a smaller and smaller area along the coast of Palestine, under treaty with Saladin.

In the mid-1200's, Mamelukes, originally soldier-slaves of the Arabs based in Egypt, established an empire that in time included the area of Palestine. Arab-speaking Muslims made up most of Palestine's population. Beginning in the late 1300's, Jews from Spain and other Mediterranean lands settled in Jerusalem and other parts of the land. The Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamelukes in 1517, and Palestine became part of the Ottoman Empire.

In 1798, Napoleon entered the land. The war with Napoleon and subsequent misadministration by Egyptian and Ottoman rulers, reduced the population of Palestine. Arabs and Jews fled to safer and more prosperous lands.

In November 1917, before Britain had conquered Jerusalem and the area to be known as Palestine, Britain issued the Balfour Declaration. The declaration was a letter addressed to Lord Rothschild, based on a request of the Zionist organization in Great Britain. The declaration stated Britain's support for the creation of a Jewish national home in Palestine, without violating the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities.

The Haganah mounted its first full scale operation, Operation Nahshon, using 1,500 troops. It attacked the Arab villages of Qoloniyah and Qastel, occupied by Arab irregular forces after the villagers had fled, on the road to Jerusalem and temporarily broke the siege, allowing convoys of supplies to reach the city. Qastel fell on April 8, and the key Palestinian military commander, Abdel Khader Al-Husseini was killed there. Qoloniyeh fell on April 11. In the north, Fawzi El-Kaukji's "Salvation Army" was beaten back at the battle of Mishmar Haemeq on April 12, 1948

On May 14, 1948, the Jews proclaimed the independent State of Israel, and the British withdrew from Palestine. In the following days and weeks, neighboring Arab nations invaded Palestine and Israel

In the summer of 1956, Israel, France and Britain colluded in a plan to reverse the nationalization of the Suez canal. Israel would invade the Sinai and land paratroopers near the Mitla pass. Britain and France would issue an ultimatum, and then land troops ostensibly to separate the sides. The plan was carried out beginning October 29, 1956. Israel swiftly conquered Sinai.

The 1967 6-Day war changed the perceived balance of power in the Middle East and created a new reality. Israel had acquired extensive territories - the Sinai desert, the Golan heights and the West Bank, that were several times larger than the 1948 borders.

On March 20, 2003, US, British and Australian forces invaded Iraq. The Palestinians had supported Saddam Hussein and his regime had provided payments for families of suicide bombers, as well as sheltering Palestinian militants. US forces entered Baghdad on April 9, and President Bush declared the war over on May 1. The war produced an upheaval in the Middle East and especially affected the Palestinians.

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And law is enforced by and through the use of force.
So your argument then would have to be that all rights are based on force, because all rights are protected against the initiation of force by the threat or actual application of defensive force?
It is a fact that Native Americans originally occupied the land that is now controlled by the United States.
No, we've govered this myth. The land which I own or owned was not occupied by The American Indian, and occupation is not the same as ownership. In addition, the specific land I'm speaking of was not at all occupied by Indians.
Before we controlled it, it had been "claimed" by Europeans.
Why do you continue to interject these racist concepts? Who cares what color skin the land owners had? Some people born in Europe came to the New World, saw valuable land that was or was not owned by "Indians", and they either bought, negotiated for, or claimed the land, just as we do now (though there is precious little unclaimed land on the planet).

Anyhow, the thrust of your position is that all rights are "based" on force. Supposed "ownership" of a car or money is just another way of stating who has control of it. Your very life is based on force, because the government will use force to protect your life from the initiation of force by another. So what?

In order to debate without being charged with getting off topic, you should want to include the issue of all rights. It should be obvious to you that all rights arise by force because all of your rightful actions are made possible the government protecting your existence, and that force is the only factor enabling any person to lay claim to any rights they claim to “have.”

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Perhaps you can tell me who is the agressor and who is the defender from the folowing list of events

....

On March 20, 2003, US, British and Australian forces invaded Iraq. The Palestinians had supported Saddam Hussein and his regime had provided payments for families of suicide bombers, as well as sheltering Palestinian militants. US forces entered Baghdad on April 9, and President Bush declared the war over on May 1. The war produced an upheaval in the Middle East and especially affected the Palestinians.

I presume your focus then is Saddam. The answer is, Saddam Hussein is the aggressor and the coalition forces are the defenders. The irrelevant parts, I snipped. You mentioned some but not all of the relevant facts pertaining to his initiation of force, such as his invasion of Kuwait, his attack of Iran, his repeated systematic murder of his own people. I'm sort of surprised that you would ask such a simple question. And I'm puzzled why you bringing up this other irrelevant stuff. While you didn't ask specifically, the Mongols were the aggressors and the Abbasid caliph was the defender inBaghdad, in 1258. The defenders lost, in that case. Your error seems to be in thinking that Ancient Rome has some moral relevance to terrorist attacks against Israel or Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.
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Taking this a step further, "your" land is, under state and local laws, not actually yours as in allodial land title--it is in fact rented to you from the government, with the property taxes you pay being the rent. Fail to pay those taxes and you will see that you don't actually own that property.
Exactly! I have long held that since there is no limit on the legal tax rate it is possible for the government to set it so high as to make it impossible for the “owner” to pay. The same goes for income tax rates—no legal limit—could go to 100%. We not only have no property rights, we have no right to earn a living. Without these rights we have no rights. And thus the US is not a government that protects citizens rights—except by the whim of the current law makers.
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Why do you continue to interject these racist concepts? Who cares what color skin the land owners had? Some people born in Europe came to the New World, saw valuable land that was or was not owned by "Indians", and they either bought, negotiated for, or claimed the land, just as we do now (though there is precious little unclaimed land on the planet).
Why do you want to make this a race issue? Europe is made up of many races--so what? Stay on topic. As far as land not being owned by the Indians—you can only say that because the Europeans killed them. If the Indians were successful in their efforts to defend themselves (if they had had the might) you would not be able to claim that you own the little piece of ground that you now say you own.

Let’s discuss what it means to own something. What gives a person (or a country) the right to say they own something? What is ownership in metaphysical terms?

Your error seems to be in thinking that Ancient Rome has some moral relevance to terrorist attacks against Israel or Saddam Hussein's dictatorship.
The point is that land and countries have been taken by force since the beginning of time. You have to look beyond the tree to see the forest.
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The government reached an agreement with the Mohawk granting them certain rights to form a government, and that was tied to some concrete land. The Mohawk, collectively, also have no land rights, but individual Mohawks have particular land rights that are protected by the Mohawk government.
the Mohawk Tribe ... has a particular legal status arising from negotiations with New York and the United States. If you want to discuss the Mohawks, we could.
The Mohawk lived on and cultivated specific areas of land... and even had a government. Why would they need to reach an agreement with the subsequently formed US government in order to have government/land jurisdiction rights?

Let’s discuss what it means to own something. What gives a person (or a country) the right to say they own something? What is ownership in metaphysical terms?
Good question.

In the case of unclaimed land, I think that cultivating and living on a specific area of land is sufficient to make a valid claim to it, regardless of whether a government grants it to them.

Edited by hunterrose
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The Mohawk lived on and cultivated specific areas of land... and even had a government. Why would they need to reach an agreement with the subsequently formed US government in order to have government/land jurisdiction rights?
In part because they initiated forces against Americans (recall that they were on the wrong side during the Revolution). They also needed to have defined physical boundaries which they could retreat to if they wanted (because there was significant physical comingling of Mohawks and Americans in the same area). The Mohawk are not the same as the Iroquois: the old Iroquois confederacy was the analog of a nation.
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As far as land not being owned by the Indians—you can only say that because the Europeans killed them.
Nah, I say it because for the most part they did not view the land as something to be owned. They used the land on occasion, but didn't lay claim to the land (until, of course, years later after they discovered that laying claim to land could be good for them). When a person walks through the land on their way to a river, that doesn't constitute owning the land. Notions of "rights" and "property" were, in North America, pretty rudimentary.
Let’s discuss what it means to own something. What gives a person (or a country) the right to say they own something? What is ownership in metaphysical terms?
Are you familiar with Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal? For the discussion to be fruitful, I need to know how much of that book you would need explained to you.
The point is that land and countries have been taken by force since the beginning of time.
You're perpetuating the myth of original sin. Just because some property was taken by force in ancient history does not invalidate the concept of ownership. The point is that despite the fact that men used to live in an uncivilized manner, that does not justify continuing to use force as your means of survival. Mankind did not spring fully civilized from the head of Zeus, fully aware of man's nature. Men must discover their proper means of survival -- we have done that, now it's time to embrace civilization over savagery. It's time to look past the forest so that you can see the city.
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Nah, I say it because for the most part they did not view the land as something to be owned. They used the land on occasion, but didn't lay claim to the land (until, of course, years later after they discovered that laying claim to land could be good for them).
So ownership is a subjective concept? It is based on the way one "views" it? Come back to reality! I need to know what you have read before I can continue this. I thought you understood the basis of objective concept formation. Have you read, and do you understand, "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology"?
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In part because they initiated forces against Americans (recall that they were on the wrong side during the Revolution). They also needed to have defined physical boundaries which they could retreat to if they wanted (because there was significant physical comingling of Mohawks and Americans in the same area). The Mohawk are not the same as the Iroquois: the old Iroquois confederacy was the analog of a nation.

Ok, I have to object to this line of thought. The Europeans brought disease that decimated the local population, the Europeans fought several engangements with them and pushed them past the Appalachians (King Phillips War and Bacon's Rebellion being two of the major ones). The Indians saw their entire civilization going down in very rapid decline as ever more and more of the white men came to enslave them or push them off their ancestral lands. Yes, at the beginning they did not understand property rights, and they took some trinkets to say, sure you can build houses and farms there and we will leave it alone. But the Europeans did not respect the boundaries they set and continued to grab land. I'd fight back too, don't make it sound like they were the initiators and got what they deserved.

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Lathanar, I don't know what in the world you are objecting to. Maybe you can elaborate on how your post relates to what I said in the part you quoted, or anywhere on this forum. And please remember to avoid sweeping generalizations about Europeans and Indians. Remember that "rights" is an individual concept, not a collective one. That's why there are different answers to questions that you might pose about the Cherokee and the Lakota.

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So ownership is a subjective concept? It is based on the way one "views" it?
Since the answer is stated in "The Objectivist Ethics" and Capitalism, The Unknown Ideal, I will allow you to see why you are completely wrong on that point, and to understand how the concept of "recognition" is essential to the concept of ownership. That's really not a question you should have to ask, if you have acquaintance with the fundamentals of Objectivism pertaining to "rights".
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It really is pretty irrelevant to try to trace back the historical owners or sovereigns of a territory back past a certain point. Regardless of how it was obtained, the law (both domestic and in international law) is eventually going to "forget" about the past and require that the current borders or owner should stand.

A good example is that the borders established by colonial powers in Africa are still the established borders of many independant African states. The same can be said of the US/Mexican border, or the territory of the US in general vis a vis the Indians.

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  • 3 months later...
Regardless of how it was obtained, the law (both domestic and in international law) is eventually going to "forget" about the past and require that the current borders or owner should stand.
Laws are man-made and not always rational. The issue is how to determine which party is retaliating (and morally right). It is impossible to know which party is retaliating unless you are able to identify the initiator. Two individuals, (two families, two tribes, two countries, or two planets–it matters not) – each party to the feud believes he is retaliating (because the feud survives long after the first initiators and first retaliators are dead. The initiator is wrong; the retaliator is right—but no one is able to determine which is which. The feud could go on indefinitely each party retaliating against the other; each party believing he is right.
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