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Pre-emptive War: e.g. Should we nuke Tehran?

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Using maximum force will always be effective, fast, and probably cheaper.

I don't think this is true. It really depends on what you mean by "effective". If the use of "maximum force" eliminates the immediate threat, but causes several other threats to arise (like other nations declaring war against us), then it wasn't "effective".

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Are you asking for an exhaustive list, or a general characterization? I assume you know what "threat" means; then threatening the US is making a threat against the US (in part or in whole). For exampl

I'm aware of most of those imaginary claims you consider "knowledge of the situation". I just happen to know they're not real, so I don't consider them when passing judgement on Iran.

If this was true it would be an easy matter to overthrow oppressive states. This won't work because you have reversed cause and effect. Philosophy is what drives history. It is the funda

I don't think this is true. It really depends on what you mean by "effective". If the use of "maximum force" eliminates the immediate threat, but causes several other threats to arise (like other nations declaring war against us), then it wasn't "effective".

This was basically my argument against nuking Tehran.

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Exhibit A. I never said anything about Objectivists. I said "people on this board." Unless he completely neglects my meaning of the word "uninvolved," this sort of tactic is morally indefensible.

I know how BD feels, I never thought I'd be that hawkish either (crimeny, I was a pacifist Christian in my teens).

Care here. BD used the term "uninvolved" and you use the term "in the way". THese are very different.

So let me see if I can come up with a litmus test. Do you think the people of Hiroshima were "in the way"? Hiroshima was an immoral act then?

Exhibit B. This is an example of saying that it is immoral, only because it is impractical. No consideration is given to the rights of the toddlers and/or puppies who have been needlessly slaughtered.

But wait, it is immoral, according to Dan. That's the key point here. The implication is not that, as your example states, the use of gratuitous force is moral. The use of force is bounded by the morally sanctioned objective. That is the distinction you're missing.

History is rife with examples of the use of gratuitous force, by agressors. When you look at "rationally motivated" defenders however, you don't see gratuitous force (except as isolated incidents - if you can show me gratuitous force as a point of military policy then I'd be happy to discuss it). Sherman did not use gratuitous force, in fact, he used very measured force. But it is in the interest of two type of people to characterize what he did as gratuitous: a. the agressors themselves (who need to cover up the fact of their agression), and b. those who wish to blur the moral distinction between the two and hence destroy the whole ethical concept (such as just war types).

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I know how BD feels, I never thought I'd be that hawkish either (crimeny, I was a pacifist Christian in my teens).

Care here. BD used the term "uninvolved" and you use the term "in the way". THese are very different.

So let me see if I can come up with a litmus test. Do you think the people of Hiroshima were "in the way"? Hiroshima was an immoral act then?

Yes, the people of Hiroshima were in the way. That is precisely why it was not immoral. The people of My Lai were not in the way. That is precisely why it was immoral.

But wait, it is immoral, according to Dan. That's the key point here. The implication is not that, as your example states, the use of gratuitous force is moral. The use of force is bounded by the morally sanctioned objective. That is the distinction you're missing.

History is rife with examples of the use of gratuitous force, by agressors. When you look at "rationally motivated" defenders however, you don't see gratuitous force (except as isolated incidents - if you can show me gratuitous force as a point of military policy then I'd be happy to discuss it). Sherman did not use gratuitous force, in fact, he used very measured force. But it is in the interest of two type of people to characterize what he did as gratuitous: a. the agressors themselves (who need to cover up the fact of their agression), and b. those who wish to blur the moral distinction between the two and hence destroy the whole ethical concept (such as just war types).

I know he said it's immoral, but he thinks that it is immoral only because it is not tactically/strategically wise. While this is certainly true, I am arguing that it is immoral also because it violates the right to life of people who did not need to die.

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My usage of the concept of rights is based on Rand's explanations. I am familiar with what she said about this topic (as we have discussed this before) but I have to understand for myself how she went from A->B. This is the explanation for which I am asking.

That's a tough issue for sure. I think B follows rationally from A, but it may be an issue of method in the analysis.

To say that if the cause if moral (which of course it is in this case) then the means of achieving such cause are automatically moral is equal to saying the the ends justify the means, the notion which we know is incorrect because any act is both an end, meaning it is the end of what went into that act and a means to the effect of that act. In essence, the means are not exempt from moral evaluation.

This is not pragmatism. The biggest bit of honesty I had to deal with myself is making sure I didn't think that I was inserting pragmatism into the justification. This is not a case of ends justifying the means, but part of hte issue here is in your incorrect assumption that highest force is always the most rational means to the end, which is equivalent to saying that any ends justify the means. Military science tells us the nature of things. That is, given moral ends, military science tells us which means will be effective in acheiving those ends. This is the function of all the sciences.

Given that I must nourish my body to flourish (prolong my life) that does not somehow imply that any form of nourishment and in any quantity is good. The nature of my physical body, as described by biology and physciology tell me what regimen will acheive the ends of nourishment.

Gratuitous force, just like gratuitous eating are not morally justified. But that is NOT the same thing as discrimination. If I want to train for a marathon it is a given that I will have to increase my caloric intake, and it is even acceptable then to eat foods in greater quantities that in a more sedentary context would be considered "bad". That is not gratuitous however. It is a different context given already pre-justified moral objectives.

I disagree - for reasons stated above. Motivation is a desired outcome which does not mean that any means of achieving it will automatically be moral - even if effective - as evaluated by psychology. You can not place psychology (or any science) above philosophy.

I didn't say that either. But I don't think that history shows us that rational defenders used "any" means, but rather the proper means to acheive their ends.

The effectiveness of a method of achieving your desired moral goal is not the only criteria when the concept of the rights of others is relevant. I can come up with many scenarios in which, I have a moral right to achieve a particular goal and the most effective way of achieving it (fast, cheap) - is not a moral method because it clashes with the rights of others.

I can too, but they all involve objectives that aren't already intertwined in the securing of rights. This is what bothers me about the analysis. The rights issue and the moral responsibility for any collateral damage was defined already by the original initiation of force. To bring rights back in "last minute" to demand discrimination given proper objectives strikes me as troubling.

Yes I know that to go arround the problems created by the first issue (highlighted by me above) you have to say "but there are no innocent".

You mean to knock down the strawman you put up, didn't you? ;)

Yes, absolutely, they do have rights by the fact that they are human (see my post earlier here which explains where rights come from - if you would like an elaboration - I will gladly do so). Like I mentioned, two people on an island would have rights. They have rights even if their rights are not respected.

It is not true that you only have rights - if you can secure them. If you can not secure them - it just means you can't prevent others from violating them. You still have them though. So when someone takes an action against you - they can't pretend they are not violating them.

I am not implying that your rights don't exist if you don't secure them, but they must secured none the less. If you fail to secure them, and end up in a situation where you are killed, that does not however confer moral responsibility on me. You are still responsible for the cause and effect of the world going on around you. If you cannot come to the proper udnerstanding of cause and effect and choose to remain in a place that is unsafe for you, that does not confer moral obligation on me if I am following properly sanctioned objectives in defending myself. It is tragic, yes, but that does not confer moral responsibility on me. If you evade cause and effect and stay inside a country that is violating rights on that scale, and initiation force on that scale, even though mind your own business, then your death is also not my responsibility. The state of nature argument cuts both ways. Did you forfeit your rights because you didn't secure them? No. But because you didn't act to secure them, in accordance with reality, with the reason you have rights and the reasons they must be secured, then you will tragically die. Just as if you choose not to eat regardless of the requirements of your body, then you will die, ignorantly yes, but die none the less. THis confers no moral responsibilty on the food, just as it confers no moral responsibility on anyone rationally securing his own rights.

Emotionally, I really languished wanting this not to be the case for a long time. I think it was Peikoff's concentration camp examples in Ominous Parrallels that helped me get my psychology straight. If offered the choice between which son to have die by my captor, my choice is amoral. All of the moral responsibiltiy lies with my captor, no matter the anguish I will feel at either's death. When rationally securing my rights from an agressor nation, the responsibility for ALL collateral damage in the rational pursuit of that objective belongs with the initiator. This does not mean that force will escalate to the highest level (military science will tell us the tactics that acheive those ends), and I believe history shows just that. That is the fallacy that makes us want to include discrimination.

You mean before the start of the war right? Well how effective are Objectivists in correcting systematic flaws which need correcting when it comes to your government - especially considering the fact that US enjoys free speech (and most dictatorships don't)?

But my moral evaluation had nothing to do with the effectiveness of the struggle. You don't have to succeed to be moral. You just have to attempt to flee or fight. Doing nothing and knowing the evil of the govt is immoral. Doing nothing and being ignorant of the evil is tragic, but not my moral responsibility. My conscience is very clear about that.

I know he said it's immoral, but he thinks that it is immoral only because it is not tactically/strategically wise. While this is certainly true, I am arguing that it is immoral also because it violates the right to life of people who did not need to die.

Then that is not evidence for your proposition.

Yes, the people of Hiroshima were in the way. That is precisely why it was not immoral. The people of My Lai were not in the way. That is precisely why it was immoral.

My Lai was immoral, but it was an examle of a single group of soldiers going "off the reservation", that is violating policy, which I've already conceeded is possible. It is not an example of the situation you think we're at odds on.

All you've done on Hiroshima by inserting this distinction this discrimination is open yourself up for a long and unneccessary debate with a Just War type who will argue the details that Hiroshima was a war crime. It is an epistemological trap for you. Good luck with that. Rands conceptualization already takes care of most of hte issue you think are issues without opening up that mistake.

Was Hadditha immoral?

Edited by KendallJ
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So let me see if I can come up with a litmus test. Do you think the people of Hiroshima were "in the way"? Hiroshima was an immoral act then?

I think Hiroshima was probably excessive force, since Japan was on the verge of surrendering anyway and there was nothing at that stage of the game that you could have accomplished with nukes that you couldn't with regular fire bombs. If anything I think the United States wanted to show off to the Russians. But of course, this is under the assumption that we would not have needed to invade and occupy Japan in a land war for them to surrender. If you honestly believe the 60 year old story that it would have cost us 100,000 American lives to win against Japan, then Hiroshima can certainly be justified.

NAGASAKI though I consider out right immoral. There definitely wasn't any objective military goal that you could accomplish with two nukes that you couldn't with the first one. As far as I can tell there seems to be no rational reason what so ever as to why we dropped the second nuke, outside of perhaps a sense of vengeance or simply to see how the other nuke design works.

The first bomb was a knock out punch. The second one was dragging the unconscious man to the side of the road and then curb stomping him.

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NAGASAKI though I consider out right immoral. There definitely wasn't any objective military goal that you could accomplish with two nukes that you couldn't with the first one. As far as I can tell there seems to be no rational reason what so ever as to why we dropped the second nuke,

...except for the fact that we asked for unconditional surrender after the first bomb and were flatly refused? ;)

I would really like to see you and Moose debate this, now that we have someone who will take the opposite, just to illustrate the epistemological mistake that he has made by holding onto the anti-concept of discrimination.

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This is what bothers me about the analysis. The rights issue and the moral responsibility for any collateral damage was defined already by the original initiation of force. To bring rights back in "last minute" to demand discrimination given proper objectives strikes me as troubling.

This is an important point. However since moral responsibilities should have been assessed already prior to the initiation of force, you're not bringing rights back in the last minutes since since it's already built into your methodology for achieving your objectives.

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That's a fair criticism. Maybe I'm not expressing it well. I am troubled by the introduction of rights at what I see as two different heirarchical levels of the analysis. I believe the original anlysis as I've presented it, accounts for many of the strawmen that others have posed, but provides moral clarity. While the 2nd level doesn't really do much else other than muddy the waters (in exactly the way you are showing us it does by your response on Hiroshima). It's not an argument, but more of an intuition. It's sometimes indicative of a mis-integration.

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...except for the fact that we asked for unconditional surrender after the first bomb and were flatly refused? ;)

I would really like to see you and Moose debate this, now that we have someone who will take the opposite, just to illustrate the epistemological mistake that he has made by holding onto the anti-concept of discrimination.

From Wikipedia:

"In 1945 Secretary of War Stimson, visiting my headquarters in Germany, informed me that our government was preparing to drop an atomic bomb on Japan. I was one of those who felt that there were a number of cogent reasons to question the wisdom of such an act. During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives."

"The Japanese had, in fact, already sued for peace. The atomic bomb played no decisive part, from a purely military point of view, in the defeat of Japan." Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

"The use of [the atomic bombs] at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender." Admiral William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to President Truman.

"Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated."

But I mean, it's still a controversial issue. Whether the atomic bombing was a moral act really depends on the context -- which in this case is disputed. Personally I believe that Japan would have surrendered anyway, therefore the atom bombing was probably immoral. The only thing they really held out on in terms of surrender was to have the emperor retain his title, even if it meant that he remains only as a figurehead (which, ironically, we ended up allowing them to keep anyway).

I don't think there is really much left to debate, considering this debate has gone on for the last 60 years. You can look up the arguments in any number of books or online resources. I once wrote a research paper on this issue years back, and nothing has really changed since. Unless more relevant facts were released, the issue will remain likely divided.

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That's a tough issue for sure. I think B follows rationally from A, but it may be an issue of method in the analysis.

I have yet to see it being clearly explained. I only see assertions based on already reached conclusions - it is begging the question.

This is not pragmatism. This is not a case of ends justifying the means....

You have made this statement in your post #207:

... morality can define the proper objectives of a defending army, and military science decides if a particular tactic is effective in acheiving them.

My point was in response to this and your hierarchical comment about morality of means vs. ends.

The methods with which we chose to defend ourselves (the means) are not exempt from moral evaluation even when the ends are moral.

but part of the issue here is in your incorrect assumption that highest force is always the most rational means to the end, which is equivalent to saying that any ends justify the means.

Aren't you arguing that a free country always has a moral right to use maximum force regardless if such level is actually needed to properly defend itself?.

The fact that tactically it may not always be a good choice is irrelevant here. We are debating morality.

Military science tells us the nature of things. That is, given moral ends, military science tells us which means will be effective in acheiving those ends. This is the function of all the sciences.

I have already addressed that. Our choices are determined by philosophy. Not every method discovered through science is/will be a moral method of achieving a moral goal.

Given that I must nourish my body to flourish (prolong my life) that does not somehow imply that any form of nourishment and in any quantity is good. The nature of my physical body, as described by biology and physciology tell me what regimen will acheive the ends of nourishment.

Exactly. And given that we must defend ourselves during war does not somehow imply that ANY method of defence we chose will be moral.

Gratuitous force, just like gratuitous eating are not morally justified. But that is NOT the same thing as discrimination. If I want to train for a marathon it is a given that I will have to increase my caloric intake, and it is even acceptable then to eat foods in greater quantities that in a more sedentary context would be considered "bad". That is not gratuitous however. It is a different context given already pre-justified moral objectives.

First, this is a different scenario because the rights of others are not relevant here.

I am not suggesting to judge the means out of context. What I am saying that every step you take toward your pre-justified moral objective must be morally evaluated as well.

I can too, but they all involve objectives that aren't already intertwined in the securing of rights.

I have already responded to the issue of "securing" rights. Human baby can not secure its rights either. From your perspective you can't pretend that the baby does not have rights because it is helpless.

This is what bothers me about the analysis. The rights issue and the moral responsibility for any collateral damage was defined already by the original initiation of force.

Yes, collateral damage when you use minimum force (or close) necessary for you to defend yourself properly based on rationally/objectively defined military objectives. When excess force is used - this does not apply anymore - because you did not need to kill those "extra" people to properly defend yourself (the 'excuse' does not apply)

To bring rights back in "last minute" to demand discrimination given proper objectives strikes me as troubling.

This is not "last minute" - the issue of individual rights was always there.

I am not implying that your rights don't exist if you don't secure them, but they must secured none the less. If you fail to secure them, and end up in a situation where you are killed, that does not however confer moral responsibility on me.

If it was you who violated my rights then you are morally responsible (the fact that I could not secure my rights - does not relieve you from moral responsibility if you are the violator). We don't violate others rights not because we can't, not because they are "secured" - we respect them for different reasons.

If you cannot come to the proper udnerstanding of cause and effect and choose to remain in a place that is unsafe for you, that does not confer moral obligation on me if I am following properly sanctioned objectives in defending myself.

"Choose to remain in a place" when talking about a dictatorship?

How would you leave US if:

-you did not have a passport (standard in a dictatorship)

- could not buy a flight out of the US unless approved by the government (again standard)

-could not cross the border unless approved by government (standard) - and borders are usually very secured in such case

- any attempt at the above without permission means death

Your property rights are being violated yearly when you pay your taxes - how effective have you been in "securing" your right to your property against your government (a body which has a monopoly on the use of force) eventhough you enjoy free speech? How effective have you been in convincing others of your point of view eventhough speaking against taxes does not mean death?

Now, imagine living in a dictatorship just for a second.

I think it was Peikoff's concentration camp examples in Ominous Parrallels that helped me get my psychology straight. If offered the choice between which son to have die by my captor, my choice is amoral. All of the moral responsibiltiy lies with my captor, no matter the anguish I will feel at either's death.

Ahh, but what is the principle behind it?

Philosophically what makes such choice amoral is the fact that there is no moral option available to you. NO moral option must be available - for your choices to be amoral.

When rationally securing my rights from an agressor nation, the responsibility for ALL collateral damage in the rational pursuit of that objective belongs with the initiator.

Same thing here. Collateral damage from actions in which there was NO moral choice available.

Doing nothing and knowing the evil of the govt is immoral.

I did not imply that they doing nothing - just that they don't have a duty to do the things which would get them killed.

------------------------------------------------------------------

I don't want to go over the same arguments. I would like someone to address my question, to address the issue of inalienability of human rights. It is already established that the means must also be morally evaluated.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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I do not believe that respecting (...) the social needs of civilians in the enemy country should factor into this equation at all.

By 'social needs' - you mean individual rights, right? (Were you uneasy to use a proper term? - I mean I would have choked on it as well)

Edited by ~Sophia~
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Yes, collateral damage when you use minimum force necessary for you to defend yourself properly based on rationally/objectively defined military objectives. When excess force is used - this does not apply anymore - because you did not need to kill those "extra" people to properly defend yourself.

Whether or not killing "extra people" is needed to defend your country is a difficult thing to ascertain in the context of war. Decisions are made by mortals with specific sets of information. No general principle of how many deaths are morally acceptable can be ascertained. To hob leg soldiers, generals or presidents in any way, is, I believe, a tremendous mistake.

As was brought up earlier regarding nuking Japan, the question of its morality hinges on whether or not Japan was going to surrender and whether or not it would cost up to 1,000,000 American lives, (as some estimates suggest). If Truman chooses one way or the other, and it turns out to be wrong, it is at worst a strategic error and not immoral. You could argue that the absolute objective reality of a situation is that they were going to surrender, which might even be obvious in other circumstances when looking at it with 20/20 hindsight. The reality of the circumstance at the time though is that "prediction is very difficult, especially about the future" and that the objective truth of the present is difficult to ascertain and understand while you're in the middle of it. It isn't like a court case where we can sit down and figure out exactly what happened. It is a game of probabilities and prediction where we try to ascertain what might be the case now and in the future.

So in the current circumstance, we don't really know how serious of a threat Islam might be. We could wake up tommorow and watch New York, LA, and Chicago burn in a mushroom cloud, or we may never see another terrorist act here again. It is the job of political and military leaders to determine the likelihood of either of these possibilities and everything in between and act in whatever way is necessary to make it end more in our favor. Any details of that process are not moral except insofar as they pertain to that one proper goal.

It must be remembered that the only consistent factor in war is that one group of people wants another group of people dead. It's a very simple circumstance. If someone wants you dead, then the fact that you're still breathing at the end of the day means that you acted morally. An army's objective is to defeat the enemy and protect the citizens of its country. That's it. Nothing else. How they achieve that end is moral only in the sense that some methods will be more effective to their one end in particular circumstances then others. The only moral decision is whether or not the country is in danger and if that danger necessitates the cost of a war.

Sure:If a group of rational individuals represented by a government (e.g. the US) has the right to defend themselves, does it equally follow that a group of rational individuals misrepresented by a government (e.g. rational fishermen in a tyrannical land) has the right to defend themselves?

I would guess that they will defend themselves, but in so doing they put themselves on the side of the agressor nation. This is of course by force, since they are rational. That force, as has already been claimed, is the force of the tyrannical government they live under and not the rational government preserving its own interests.

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Whether or not killing "extra people" is needed to defend your country is a difficult thing to ascertain in the context of war.

Yes, usually it is and I am not asking for a number. But if you use maximum force (as in contrast to minimum required to achieve the same goal)- then it is safe to say that you have killed more than it was necessary.

With our current technology - not nuking them does not imply the cost of 1,000,000 American lives. The context has changed.

It must be remembered that the only consistent factor in war is that one group of people wants another group of people dead.

First, I am debating a general principle not specifically about Islam. People living under a dictatorship may not want you dead - so it is not a consistent factor.

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To say that if the cause if moral (which of course it is in this case) then the means of achieving such cause are automatically moral is equal to saying the the ends justify the means, the notion which we know is incorrect because any act is both an end, meaning it is the end of what went into that act and a means to the effect of that act. In essence, the means are not exempt from moral evaluation.

It isn't the same as the ends justifying the means. It is more that errors become errors of knowledge because all actions are taken toward one single goal and no one has an infallible line of information from which to make their judgements about which path is best. The decisions(all of them to some extent) in war must be made with in an artificially limited time frame so they are all subject to errors of knowledge. Many errors can be made in a war, but when your job and purpose is to make other people dead, morality in the normal sense no longer applies. I think war becomes a big long emergency scenario.

We could make up hypotheticals where it would be immoral, but the assumption here is a rational country acting in it's best interests. Individual people might make decisions which seem senseless or ended in bad results, but it would not be correct to call a general who makes a bad decision immoral. He might just be a bad general.

Yes, usually it is and I am not asking for a number. But if you use maximum force (as in contrast to minimum required to achieve the same goal)- then it is safe to say that you have killed more than it was necessary.

With our current technology - not nuking them does not imply the cost of 1,000,000 American lives. The context has changed.

First, I am debating a general principle not specifically about Islam. People living under a dictatorship may not want you dead - so it is not a consistent factor.

You have no way of being certain which want you dead and which do not. You also can't be certain what the "minimum" amount of deaths to your enemies must be to secure your own interests and lives. Your position assumes not just that there is an objectively right answer, but that someone in a position to make decisions can and should know what that right answer is. I maintain that that is an impossibility in most circumstances of war. A general principle about how much death is acceptable and what amount of carnage is moral cannot be had.

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How would you leave US if:

-you did not have a passport (standard in a dictatorship)

- could not buy a flight out of the US unless approved by the government (again standard)

-could not cross the border unless approved by government (standard) - and borders are usually very secured in such case

- any attempt at the above without permission means death

What part of "you have the right to fight a dictatorship, leave it, or die trying" didn't you understand? If a country becomes a dictatorship, it threatens your life: be it through the gestapo or through the firebombing which will justly come to its cities. It is the dictatorship which does this - and if you choose to stay then you have chosen to risk that form of death versus the death by the machine guns of the border guards. Either way, it is the dictatorship which killed you. The point is that while you have a right to shoot at the border guards, you do not have the right to shoot at the American bombers. So you'd better goddam shoot at those border guards. Notice that if the majority of the people in the dictatorship recognized this moral imperative rather than succumbing to cowardice, there would be no dictatorship.

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It isn't the same as the ends justifying the means.

When it comes to moral standing - it is.

It is more that errors become errors of knowledge because all actions are taken toward one single goal and no one has an infallible line of information from which to make their judgements about which path is best.

But we are not discussing moral standing of actions which are result of errors of knowledge.

You have no way of being certain which want you dead and which do not.

When you carpet bombed them - you certainly did not consider that as relevant at all.

You also can't be certain what the "minimum" amount of deaths to your enemies must be to secure your own interests and lives.

I was not asking for that number - I was refering to the level of force used once the objective has been determined. The amounts of deaths is relevant I am sure but not the only measure of ensuring victory.

Your position assumes not just that there is an objectively right answer, but that someone in a position to make decisions can and should know what that right answer is.

That is correct. As in any other complicated aspect of life.

I maintain that that is an impossibility in most circumstances of war.

Objectivity ought to be the goal. We should try to be as objective as possible within the context of our knowledge which includes moral principles.

A general principle about how much death is acceptable and what amount of carnage is moral cannot be had.

Obviously we disagree - I have already stated the principle of what can be justified when acting in self defence.

What part of "you have the right to fight a dictatorship, leave it, or die trying" didn't you understand? If a country becomes a dictatorship, it threatens your life: be it through the gestapo or through the firebombing which will justly come to its cities. It is the dictatorship which does this - and if you choose to stay then you have chosen to risk that form of death versus the death by the machine guns of the border guards. Either way, it is the dictatorship which killed you. The point is that while you have a right to shoot at the border guards, you do not have the right to shoot at the American bombers. So you'd better goddam shoot at those border guards. Notice that if the majority of the people in the dictatorship recognized this moral imperative rather than succumbing to cowardice, there would be no dictatorship.

Inspector,

The context of my comment was pre-war.

It is true about the majority - also notice that if the majority of Americans opposed taxes....

Since when individuals are morally responsible for what the majority does or does not do? (We are discussing morality here)

Edited by ~Sophia~
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When you carpet bombed them - you certainly did not consider that as relevant at all.

That's correct. Because it is not determinable in most circumstances of war. Also because no obligation can properly be imposed on a free country protecting itself from a tyranny to look out for the interests of anyone else.

Objectivity ought to be the goal. We should try to be as objective as possible within the context of our knowledge which includes moral principles.

Obviously we disagree - I have already stated the principle of what can be justified when acting in self defence.

Could you restate it or direct me to where you did directly state that principle. I am not certain what you are referring to.

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That's correct. Because it is not determinable in most circumstances of war. Also because no obligation can properly be imposed on a free country protecting itself from a tyranny to look out for the interests of anyone else.

We are not talking here about looking out for their interest.. we are discussing not violating rights. The second is not in your interest as a rational being - war or no war.

Could you restate it or direct me to where you did directly state that principle. I am not certain what you are referring to.

Sure.

What is justified under the original initiation of force principle?

Any collateral damage when you use minimum force (or close) necessary for you to defend yourself properly based on rationally/objectively defined military objectives is justified. The moral responsibility fully lies on the side of the agressor. This defines what you had to do to defend yourself. (This is in no relation/proportion to what they dish out at you - what is relevant is what you objectively needed to do to defend yourself).

When excess force is used to achieve the same military objective knowing that it will result in more collateral damage - you share moral responsibility for some of the collateral damage.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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...Knowing full well the inherent risks involved in that decision.

Yes, exactly.

Since when individuals are morally responsible for what the majority does or does not do? (We are discussing morality here)

They're responsible for what they do: which is, stay in harm's way and/or support a warmongering dictatorship through their taxes, etc. The dictatorship is responsible for killing them.

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Whether or not killing "extra people" is needed to defend your country is a difficult thing to ascertain in the context of war. Decisions are made by mortals with specific sets of information. No general principle of how many deaths are morally acceptable can be ascertained. To hob leg soldiers, generals or presidents in any way, is, I believe, a tremendous mistake.

Yeah it's true that it's virtually impossible to come up with an exact figure of minimum acceptable casualties, but I don't think it would be a "tremendous mistake" to set an upper limit to the amount of force depending on the nature of the mission/objective. For instance, when you're patrolling a street, there is almost no reason for you to call in an air strike or detonate a tactical nuke. Hence the existence of rules of engagement in the military. Furthermore, it isn't as if these guidelines are fixed. If there is an actually need, a soldier does have the option of relaying requests for the use of additional force up the chain of command.

Bottom line is given that information is limited and men are not infallible, it is generally a good idea to provide a general (moral) guideline of what is and isn't permissible during a war, and to judge or discipline violators accordingly. The fact is given the nature of war (and the nature of men?) you cannot realistically expect every soldier or field commander to always act rationally constantly, so it is necessary for those in a command position to decide, given the long term objective goals, what is and isn't acceptable. Essentially you are sacrificing some short term efficiencies for long term rational goals.

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We are not talking here about looking out for their interest.. we are discussing not violating rights. The second is not in your interest as a rational being - war or no war.

It absolutely can be when their "unalienable rights" are in conflict with your own. War is by defintion the circumstance where this conflict of interests exists on a grand scale.

Sure.

What is justified under the original initiation of force principle?

Any collateral damage when you use minimum force (or close) necessary for you to defend yourself properly based on rationally/objectively defined military objectives is justified. The moral responsibility fully lies on the side of the agressor. This defines what you had to do to defend yourself. (This is in no relation/proportion to what they dish out at you - what is relevant is what you objectively needed to do to defend yourself).

When excess force is used to achieve the same military objective knowing that it will result in more collateral damage - you share moral responsibility for some of the collateral damage.

Ok, I see.

Two different paths, one using excessive force and the other not, will not achieve the same results. The question of which path is correct comes one step before that when deciding how much of a threat that country is. Maybe they need a light spanking or maybe they need four nukes. It is still a matter of military strategy and not a particular principle. Do they need to lose their factories or does the will of the whole population need to be broken? If the rational president of the rational country decides their will needs to be broken, then he has no moral responsibility for their deaths. None at all. His one and only responsibility in war is to protect his country. The dictatorship is responsible for every single body on both sides.

I will say that if he thought that two incredibly different actions would yield the same response, he was a bit daft. But that is a mistake of knowledge and not immorality. In a rational country, I would hope someone of that level of intellectual weakness would not be in charge. We could as easily say that in a conflict where there was a rational country being attacked by a dictatorship, the rational country's president was an idiot and decided to target only owners of rug dealerships and camels. In that case the question of whether or not the one country is rational becomes suspect. You are defining the argument in a closed syllogism of sorts.

Broken down, your argument is resting on the assumption that the "rational" country, did irrational things. Quite obviously one "rational" country invading another rational country for the purpose of genocide is not properly identified as rational.

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Yeah it's true that it's virtually impossible to come up with an exact figure of minimum acceptable casualties, but I don't think it would be a "tremendous mistake" to set an upper limit to the amount of force depending on the nature of the mission/objective. For instance, when you're patrolling a street, there is almost no reason for you to call in an air strike or detonate a tactical nuke. Hence the existence of rules of engagement in the military. Furthermore, it isn't as if these guidelines are fixed. If there is an actually need, a soldier does have the option of relaying requests for the use of additional force up the chain of command.

Bottom line is given that information is limited and men are not infallible, it is generally a good idea to provide a general (moral) guideline of what is and isn't permissible during a war, and to judge or discipline violators accordingly. The fact is given the nature of war (and the nature of men?) you cannot realistically expect every soldier or field commander to always act rationally constantly, so it is necessary for those in a command position to decide, given the long term objective goals, what is and isn't acceptable. Essentially you are sacrificing some short term efficiencies for long term rational goals.

It is important to seperate tactical decisions(like whether an air strike is needed) from moral principles. The mission is to protect your country. What is required for that is anything that the decision maker thinks might work. The morality of your actions in war is derived from the right to defend your own life, not from how well or poorly you treat your enemies or the people living mixed up with them.

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