Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This War Has Nothing To Do With Religion, Part II

Tony Blair believed God wanted him to go to war to fight evil, claims his mentor:
John Burton, Mr Blair's political agent in his Sedgefield constituency for 24 years, says that Labour's most successful ever leader – in terms of elections won – was driven by the belief that "good should triumph over evil".

"It's very simple to explain the idea of Blair the Warrior," he says. "It was part of Tony living out his faith."

Mr Blair has previously admitted that he was influenced by his Christian faith, but Mr Burton reveals for the first time the strength of his religious zeal...

"But Tony's Christian faith is part of him, down to his cotton socks. He believed strongly at the time, that intervention in Kosovo, Sierra Leone – Iraq too – was all part of the Christian battle; good should triumph over evil, making lives better."

Mr Burton, who was often described as Mr Blair's mentor, says that his religion gave him a "total belief in what's right and what's wrong", leading him to see the so-called War on Terror as "a moral cause".


Funny, that's exactly what Random said in response to my claim that religiosity and hawkishness are linked:
Well, if we're going to blunt about it, we could say that the real overlap is between religiosity and a clear and firm sense of right and wrong, and in particular the idea that evil should be fought and not relativised into something acceptable.


Yes, exactly.

And this is an interesting difference between the U.S. and Britain:

Mr Burton makes the comments in a book he has written, and which is published this week, called "We Don't Do God".

In it he portrays a prime minister determined to follow a Christian agenda despite attempts to silence him from talking about his faith.

"While he was at Number 10, Tony was virtually gagged on the whole question of religion," says Mr Burton.

"Alastair [Campbell] was convinced it would get him into trouble with the voters...

Tony Blair complained in 2007 that he had been unable to talk about his faith while in office as he would have been perceived as "a nutter".

"It's difficult if you talk about religious faith in our political system," he said. "If you are in the American political system or others then you can talk about religious faith and people say 'yes, that's fair enough' and it is something they respond to quite naturally. You talk about it in our system and, frankly, people do think you're a nutter."


In Britain being a religious nut is a liability while in America it's a requirement. Either way, we ended up with religious nuts in both countries at the same time and, as a result, over a hundred thousand people are dead. Yaaay God!

103 comments:

CyberKitten said...

Blair was always rather Messianic... and nuts of course. Being the UK though he did have to keep it mostly under wraps....

Sadie Lou said...

"Either way, we ended up with religious nuts in both countries at the same time and, as a result, over a hundred thousand people are dead. Yaaay God!"
- - - - - - -

That's a lame excuse for where responsibility for violence lies--which is mankind. Period.
In the meantime, people who are Agnostic or Atheistic get to raise their hands and say, "It's the religious nut jobs that are responsible for thousands of deaths"
Humph. A lofty position.
Oh, and disappointing!

Jewish Atheist said...

SL:

That's a lame excuse for where responsibility for violence lies--which is mankind. Period.Well, duh. I don't even believe in God. What I meant was, "Yaaay people who believe in God." I thought that was understood.

(Obviously, it's not all believers. It's mostly the hubristic ones who think they know what God wants and what God wants is for them to kill the other guys.)

Are you denying that atheists and agnostics in American and Britain are far, far, far less likely to have supported the war in Iraq?

CyberKitten said...

JA said: Are you denying that atheists and agnostics in American and Britain are far, far, far less likely to have supported the war in Iraq?

I think that people who gave the so-called reasons for Gulf War 2 more than 10 minutes thought are far less likely to have supported it. I'm not sure where the split religion or politics wise was though.... There was certainly a lot of religious sounding rhetoric regarding the war but as to whether that translated into anything more than that I don't know.

Scott said...

Are you denying that atheists and agnostics in American and Britain are far, far, far less likely to have supported the war in Iraq?Do you have some evidence about this? It's an interesting theory and I'm not saying it's false, just wondering if you're just saying or if there is proof to it. There are certainly many atheists and agnostics who are really very quite eager to kill Muslims in any war possible because they've bought into the Neo-Con's argument that this is a war against a religious ideology. Christopher Hitchens comes to mind, and I personally know a few atheists who believe this way.

Sadie Lou said...

"Are you denying that atheists and agnostics in American and Britain are far, far, far less likely to have supported the war in Iraq?"

Is supporting the war in Iraq really the issue?
Who is to blame for murder over the span of centuries? Can you honestly say that "religious people" are more to blame for murder across the board?
I'm more comfortable with just saying that each man is responsible for their own contribution to evil in the world rather than shifting blame to one people group or the other.


"(Obviously, it's not all believers. It's mostly the hubristic ones who think they know what God wants and what God wants is for them to kill the other guys.)"

Which is so hilarious to me that Christians are generally judged by those who don't even know what the word of God says or what God asks of His people, but claim to be a Christian.
It's like seeing a Broadway Musical and judging all the performers and the whole production on the guy back stage that mooned the audience. He's not even part of the show.
*sigh*

Anonymous said...

JA, is it your position that "good should triumph over evil". Is a false position, or that the opposite should be true? Do you believe that "evil should triumph over good"?

Because the only "religious" or "Christian" faith being expressed here, is a belief that "good should triumph over evil."

What exactly is wrong with that position?

Scott said...

What's wrong with that posistion is that everyone thinks they are the good guys fighting the bad guys. Hello? This is the history of war.

Geonite said...

Nice Scott.

The problem is that good and bad is subjective and not objective.

Religion breeds intolerance, intolerance breeds hatred and hatred leads to war.

E-Man said...

Hitler and Stalin were both atheists and they were possibly the biggest warmongers ever, no? The Iraq war was clearly for oil wasn't it. It had nothing to do with being a religious fanatic. The Afghan war definitely had nothing to do with religion, it was america striking out in order to avenge 9/11.

Also, if you look through history, most of the wars fought were between people of the same faith. They were territorial wars, not religious wars. True, there were the crusades, but these did not result in even 1% of all human deaths in war.

War is usually done because of the greed of the leaders. True, it might be said to be in the name of a god, but this is rarely the true reason. It is just used to get the countries support.

Geonite said...

Hitler used the historical hatred of Christians towards Jews to get the Germans to agree to the ghettos and other sanctions against the Jews. He would have never been able to rally the people if the hatred from the Church wasn't already there.

The Way said...

E-MAN, hitler's and stalin's goal was not to promote atheism, it was to control. (also hitler was lutheran)

But the problem is this, if someone believes in god, than the conversation is over. Everything they say and do and believe is true because of god. There is no argument because there is only one answer.As an atheist you have no crutch. If new data comes in you reasess. You decide good and bad more in terms of health or unhealthy situations and consequences all the time recognizing that you don't know more than you do know.

But going to war for god? conquering evil for god? thats a no-brainer. your god is good and you are right, so anyone who disagrees must be wrong and evil.

CyberKitten said...

E-Man said: Hitler and Stalin were both atheists and they were possibly the biggest warmongers ever, no?

Ah, I *love* that 'argument'. It's always good for a laugh.

E-Man said...

The Way said -
"But the problem is this, if someone believes in god, than the conversation is over. Everything they say and do and believe is true because of god. There is no argument because there is only one answer.As an atheist you have no crutch. If new data comes in you reasess. You decide good and bad more in terms of health or unhealthy situations and consequences all the time recognizing that you don't know more than you do know."

And if someone does not believe in G-D then they go to war when it benefits them. Like Stalin and Hitler. I know atheists like to blame G-D for the worlds problems, but isn't the truth that the evil people in the world will act evil whether they say they believe in G-D or not. If Bush didn't believe in G-D he would have made up some other reason to be in Iraq. Same with Blair. These people thought it was their duty to make this war happen, good or bad. They just happen to believe in G-D, so therefore it becomes their god's will.

It is funny that everyone seems to think that if no gods existed then the world would be a better place. If no god existed in anyones mind there would still be terrible people. Maybe some people use a god as their tool to create unity for a cause, but if they didn't have a god to quote then they would do it another way.

CyberKitten said...

E-Man said: I know atheists like to blame G-D for the worlds problems...

How can an atheist, who doesn't believe in God, actually blame God - who he doesn't believe in remember - for the worlds problems. That makes absolutely no sense at all.....

E-Man said...

Are you serious???? They blame the worlds problems on people that believe in a god. Hence, they blame some type of god for the worlds problems.

CyberKitten said...

There is a great deal of difference in blaming problems on peoples beliefs in something and blaming the thing itself. People hold many strange beliefs but I don't feel the need to believe in any of them to blame the belivers for their actions.

I for one do not think that many of the worlds problems have anything to do with religion, God or religious beliefs.

MrBucket said...

Hitler was no Lutheran. He might have been a Catholic (by name), but was certainly atheist in practice.

Why do we fight?

Arguing that most or all violence is the result of human nature, vs a consequence of religion/faith, can both be correct, to a certain extent.

Of course, at the core, it's human nature. The whole idea of "good vs evil" or wanting to "win" or have your opinions instilled in others, is part of being human. It's a flaw, no doubt, but it's prevalent in everything not excluding religion.

That being said, religion itself poses its own set of problems. It's true that most believers (in any religion) are not extremists, and in fact do not give a shit about the religion except when they're dying or somehow need help, but playing the God card s a very viable and "easy" method of getting somebody, or more significantly, a group of people, to follow you and do as you please.

With the native irrationality and idiocy of human nature and the fact that very large groups of people share one faith, there's no surprise for war or any of the countless smaller issues (rights, ethics, values, laws etc) we face, as one group tries to push its values onto others.

This all comes down to what The Way mentioned above. It's a great point - "If someone believes in [Gods], the conversation is over."

Although some of the most religious Muslims and Christians I know are logical and rational (and consequently peaceful and tolerant of other religions), this is a very small minority of religious people as a whole. I don't want to claim that people who believe in Gods have a low IQ (they don't, overall. I'm an atheist btw).

Atheism tends to harbor a more logical/thinking class of people. But for obvious reasons it also tends to harbor a lot of mentally fucked up people as well, which is probably the cause for the bad image atheism generally carries.

It's hard to think in terms of "good vs evil" when you're asked for support in going to war over money or territory. It's much easier to gain support from people who are told or believe that going to war is what their master (God) wants them to do.

It's even easier when most of the people making all these decisions never have to actually face war or a single stray bullet.

The truth is that religions could use an upgrade. They need better standards, so to speak. Imagine a legal document written in Biblical form .. very easy to misinterpret, providing many loopholes for any and all individuals and groups to exploit.

Religion is easy to exploit, and this is no doubt a huge source of problems. Is this fixable? Probably not. Atheism "wins" in this sense because it's much more objective.

MrBucket said...

You can't blame the tooth fairy, but you can certainly blame a belief in the tooth fairy. A "belief" is real. It's a psychological problem.

If I run children over with my car because an imaginary guy in a bunny suit told me to, I will believe I'm doing what I'm supposed to. Saving the world; Good vs evil etc.

But obviously the only person responsible here would be me. Me and whoever or whatever was responsible for making or influencing me to believe in imaginary people wearing bunny suits.

Atheists don't believe that God is responsible for war.. that's the silliest thing I've ever heard.

CyberKitten said...

MrB said: Atheism tends to harbor a more logical/thinking class of people. But for obvious reasons it also tends to harbor a lot of mentally fucked up people as well...

...and what 'obvious' reasons would they be exactly? [laughs]

E-Man said...

MrB -Atheists don't believe that God is responsible for war.. that's the silliest thing I've ever heard.

Fine, I will restate what I was saying in a way that you can appreciate it. A lot of Atheists blame a belief in G-D for war. Which I think is wrong because there are people like Hitler, stalin, etc.

CyberKitten said...

Probably the two main reasons for war are resources and ideology.

Religion *used* to be a major factor in pre-modern times but not really any more.

Comrade Kevin said...

Blair is such a contradiction, particularly for someone who in the beginning of his career went on the record as a confirmed socialist.

Random said...

Apologies for coming late to a thread where I get cited in the main body of the text, however...

Blair is a bad example of whatever point you are trying to make. To put it simply, he is the sort of "believer" who believes the universe would be a much happier and more logical place if only the Almighty thought a bit more like one Anthony Charles Lynton Blair (on these lines I have particularly fond memories of Blair loftily lecturing the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster on the true meaning of the eucharist, and claiming that Jesus would back up Blair on the subject). He is, to put it mildly, somewhat lacking in Christian humility.

One thing he is not however is a religious "nut". Don't forget after all that his government was the one that introduced civil partnerships for gay couples (as well as effectively legalising polygamous marriages for Muslims) and fought tooth and nail to prevent any tightening of Britain's extremely liberal abortion laws (he did however fail to show any distress when his education reforms were used to set up the first publicly funded schools to teach creationism in science class). Blair uses religious belief as a tool, he doesn't live it. Incidentally he has now moved on from protestantism to Roman Catholicism, I am sure that his much rumoured ambition to be President of the European Union (a plurality of who's member states are at least nominally Catholic) has nothing to do with this though.

Alaistair Campbell however (the one cited in the article, and for some years Blair's chief spin doctor and all round thug) is an atheist "nut" and this is probably the real reason for his stated comments. Campbell was also BTW the one responsible for the most shameless manipulations of evidence in the run up to the war (google on "dodgy dossier" for the story). The truth is really that whereas Britain expects it's leaders to show a mild sort of religious belief, the absence of it is not a drawback so long as this is also mildly expressed (probably the most straightforwardly devout person at a high level of public life in Britain is the Queen, and nobody think's she's nuts either). It is extremism of either sort that tends to get one labelled as nuts.

Sadie Lou said...

"It is extremism of either sort that tends to get one labeled as nuts."

Hi Random!!
((hugs))

I love that you said that because this is the truth. After we weed through all our arguments and biased reasoning, the very bottom line is that there are nuts from every people group.
Not one, single minority or majority can ignore that the nuts come from all walks of life.

and I just love this:
Geonite says...
"Religion breeds intolerance, intolerance breeds hatred and hatred leads to war."

What is that? Bumper sticker theology? Ridiculous.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Either way, we ended up with religious nuts in both countries at the same time and, as a result, over a hundred thousand people are dead. Yaaay God!"

Though the true irony is that neither Blair nor Bush was the real cause of so much loss of life. By wide margins, the civilian deaths were the result of fighting between local religious factions.


But, now taking different issue with your post, I think you fail to distinguish between the hubris of dogmatic ethics and the simple belief in an objective morality. Is there some moral error in foreign powers intervening to make people's lives better? In practice they are often clumsy and counterproductive, but that is most often due to errors in methods - in theory their decisions are valid.

As we discussed briefly in your previous iteration of like-posts, you did note the distinction between belief in dogmatic ethics and belief in objective ones in the comments, so I wonder why you haven't taken exception here when comments from people like Scott and Geonite are suggesting strong relativism.

Does anyone here think that Saddam Hussein was a good man? And does anyone think that if seven years ago the US had the ideal means to swoop in and remove him from power without unwittingly creating the chaos we have seen in the news all these years that the US should not have done so? If you do not believe this then you have acknowledged a form of objective ethics and do in theory support foreign intervention to enforce it.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: If you do not believe this then you have acknowledged a form of objective ethics and do in theory support foreign intervention to enforce it.

I actually had to read that paragraph 3 times.....

You appear to be saying that if a person does *not* support foreign intervention (the assassination/kidnapping/removal of Saddam Hussein) that they actually *do* support foreign intervention (invasion/war/chaos).

Sounds like a pretty good definition of twisted logic to me....

E-Man said...

"Religion breeds intolerance, intolerance breeds hatred and hatred leads to war."

I think this is like star wars. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to..... the dark side. Props on using star wars logic in this thread!

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

"I actually had to read that paragraph 3 times....."

Try again, maybe it'll finally click. Admittedly, there's a double negative in the paragraph, but you ought to be clever enough to figure out what that turns into.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: Admittedly, there's a double negative in the paragraph, but you ought to be clever enough to figure out what that turns into.

Why not just spell it out in plain English. It's late (here) and I'm tired.

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

Maybe you could have asked nicely first before getting snarky, eh?

What I meant was that if one does not believe that a)Saddam was a good man and b)that the US should not intervene [not/not = one does believe that the US should intervene] in the idealized scenario - then one does acknowledge some form of valid objective moral judgement as well as the theoretical validity of enforcing it.

CyberKitten said...

OK

I do *not* believe that Saddam was a good man

I also do *not* believe that he should have been 'taken out' even in an idealised situation.

I also do *not* believe in objective morality

Nor do I believe that there is any validity in enforcing our subjective morality on other soverign nation states.

So I *think* I disagree with your argument... If I now understand it - which I'm still unsure about.

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

"So I *think* I disagree with your argument... If I now understand it - which I'm still unsure about."

As stated, you do not meet both criteria I set out, but you have not commented here on the validity of the argument itself.


"I do *not* believe that Saddam was a good man + I also do *not* believe that he should have been 'taken out' even in an idealised situation."

Oh ok, so you believe bad men should be permitted to do as they please without consequence? Interesting.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: Oh ok, so you believe bad men should be permitted to do as they please without consequence? Interesting.

...and you think that we should invade any country we don't like the look of or simply depose any leader of any state that we don't like or disapprove of (unless he's 'fighting Communism' of course or anyone else who happens to have annoyed us lately. Then its ok for him to brutalise his own people....)?

Interesting......

What exactly gives us the right to choose the heads of state around the world? Surely it is the responsibility of the populations of those countries do do something about their leaders?

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

"...and you think that we should invade any country we don't like the look of or simply depose any leader..."

Come now, obvious strawmen will get you nowhere.

"What exactly gives us the right to choose the heads of state around the world?"

I never claimed such a right.

"Surely it is the responsibility of the populations of those countries do do something about their leaders?"

Surely - unless, of course, they are trapped by a despotic and cruel regime.

Here's a question: is there any foreign regime's actions or threatened actions for which you would be willing to have us intervene?

Scott said...

Oh ok, so you believe bad men should be permitted to do as they please without consequence? Interesting.lol.

Though CK didn't say Saddam was a "bad man", just that he "wasn't good".

But really, lol.

lol.

Scott said...

Indecently Orthopax, do you think United States officials that permit torture should be prosecuted? Or do you believe that bad men should be permitted to do as they please without consequence?

Orthoprax said...

Scott,

I didn't think it was a really a debatable point whether Saddam Hussein was a murderer of his own people or not, as well as a habitual and gross abuser of fundamental human rights.

The point is that Cyber Kitten was willing to permit him to continue doing as he was doing even if we had the power to stop him without any untoward consequences.

I fail to see the humor.

Orthoprax said...

Scott,

"Indecently Orthopax,"

Indecently? What do you mean by that?

"do you think United States officials that permit torture should be prosecuted? Or do you believe that bad men should be permitted to do as they please without consequence?"

Yes, speaking broadly, they should be prosecuted. 100%.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: Surely - unless, of course, they are trapped by a despotic and cruel regime.

You mean like the Eastern Europeans who overthrew their governments without the outside intervention of shock, awe, or targetted kidnappings/assassinations.....

Do you think that some/most populations are simply unable to decide who rules them and how they are ruled... so we have to decide for them? That sounds patronising at least and positively Imperial at worst.

Ortho said: Here's a question: is there any foreign regime's actions or threatened actions for which you would be willing to have us intervene?

Unless they threaten our national interests or national security - No.

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

"You mean like the Eastern Europeans who overthrew their governments..."

No, obviously I'm referring to people who were unable to overthrow their governments.

"Do you think that some/most populations are simply unable to decide who rules them and how they are ruled... so we have to decide for them?"

No, I think some populations are cowed into submission or are in any event physically unable to change the regime on their own. Or do you think the Iraqi people actually favored Saddam Hussein as leader?

"Unless they threaten our national interests or national security - No."

Including the likes of state sponsored genocide? I'm sure you can guess where this is leading.

Like I said - and now I really mean it - INTERESTING.

Random said...

Sadie Lou, Hug ya right back:-) Yes, it's the nuts who are the problem and need to be watched out for. As for Geonite - the guy who compared it to Star Wars hit the nail on the head. Whilst I do enjoy those movies (at least the ones that don't have jar Jar Binx in them...) I don't look to them for philosophy!

Been steering clear of the debate around CK's weird sit-on-your-hands sort of moral philosophy, but I have to take issue with this -

"You mean like the Eastern Europeans who overthrew their governments without the outside intervention of shock, awe, or targetted kidnappings/assassinations....."

Look up East Berlin, 1953. Or Hungary, 1957. or Czechoslovakia, 1968. Or Poland, 1979. Events such as those of 1989 only succeed when the people who have to do the shooting lose the will to open fire - and even in 1989 the East German government apparently seriously considered the "China Option" (think Tiananmen Square) for dealing with the protests, but pulled back when intelligence reports apparently showed that, in the event of such an order being given, the army would be more likely to shoot the government than the demonstrators (as they did in Romania when a similar order was given). So long as the regime retains the will to use force and the discipline to have it's orders obeyed, then it is almost impossible to overthrow an authoritarian regime by peaceful, internal means.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: No, obviously I'm referring to people who were unable to overthrow their governments.

...and why exactly are some peoples able and yet other peoples unable to exercise their self-determination? Are we then to step in and determine a countries destiny for it?

Ortho said: Or do you think the Iraqi people actually favored Saddam Hussein as leader?

Probably not - but surely it is for the Iraqi people to decide who their leader is - and not us.

Ortho said: Including the likes of state sponsored genocide? I'm sure you can guess where this is leading.

Yes to both questions. Presumably you mean things like Rwanda, Somalia and countless other places where States turn on their own populations? Throughout history there have been many such instances and in the future I imagine there will be many more. The question is: Is that a valid and sufficient reason to go to war with another soverign State? History, and ongoing events, appears to say 'No'.

Random said: steering clear of the debate around CK's weird sit-on-your-hands sort of moral philosophy...

So... You think that it is *less* weird (or more moral) to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries when they actually pose no direct threat to us or our interests? That we should attack other States or assassinate their leaders because we do not approve of their actions and where the local population seem unable or unwilling to do their own dirty work? Now *that* is weird.

Random said: So long as the regime retains the will to use force and the discipline to have it's orders obeyed, then it is almost impossible to overthrow an authoritarian regime by peaceful, internal means.

So you propose that we should simply overthrow objectionable States? I suppose it might be a good idea if you have shares in Arms manufacturers I guess, because I suggest that such a stratgey would inevitably make the world a *far* more dangerous place - and as Imperialist nations normally find out, blowback is a bitch.

Scott said...

And a note about Rwanda, specifically, which appears to be the only thing an interventionist needs to say to justify invading whichever country they want, the Rwanda genocide was SPECIFICALLY a result of the interventionist policies of the West prior to the act. Things like this don't happen in a vacuum.

Interventionism begets interventionism, and the increase in violence and death. Read about Rawanda. Read about Iraq for G-d's sake. Which is why the simplistic theory that if you don't intervene, you are letting dictators go unpunished is, at best, lol and simple minded, and at worst really rather evil.

Sadie Lou said...

CK said...
"Probably not - but surely it is for the Iraqi people to decide who their leader is - and not us."

Um...I think they just had that opportunity for the first time because they didn't have a choice before--well, before we stepped in.
:) I could be wrong, in which case--go ahead and tell me so.


Scott--
I always try to scale these issues down a little bit so that we can apply these principles to our own lives.
Do you think the bully on the playground is a parallel example of a scaled down version of intervention?
So, there is this bully at school that beats the crap out of weaker classmates every day. All the school children are scared of him. Nobody can successfully get control of the situation. This bully has every "BIG" child in his back pocket--he won't round up his gang and beat one of the big kids up if the big kids just stay out of his business.
Every time he starts beating on the children, the kids are helpless, the other children just stand around and watch because he would probably beat them up too.
Even the teachers just watch out the window because why should they step in? The children need to learn how to defend themselves.
The big kids could step in and stop this bully but that would just open a whole new can of worms for themselves and who wants that kind of negative attention?
There is nothing wrong with this situation morally, right?

Like in the Pixar movie A Bug's Life--those other species of bugs should have just let the ants fend for themselves against the grasshoppers right?
They should have never gotten involved and inspired the ants to band together and be stronger in number and stand up against evil dictators.
Man, all of our movies with heroic themes have been wrong all this time?
~Sadie

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

"...and why exactly are some peoples able and yet other peoples unable to exercise their self-determination? Are we then to step in and determine a countries destiny for it?"

I cannot believe you are so obtuse to ignore the reality that some people are persecuted or otherwise battered by those who are in charge. It's hard for a people to seek their own determination when they're busy looking down the barrel of an AK-47.

"Probably not - but surely it is for the Iraqi people to decide who their leader is - and not us."

Surely - which is why, in theory, we ought to give them the option rather than permitting an abusive thug to remain in power.

"Yes to both questions. Presumably you mean things like Rwanda, Somalia and countless other places where States turn on their own populations? Throughout history there have been many such instances and in the future I imagine there will be many more."

Ok, Cyber - can you just say for an easy soundbite that you'd be willing to allow a Holocaust to take place? It's a great showcase demonstrating the moral bankruptcy of your position.


Scott,

"Interventionism begets interventionism, and the increase in violence and death. Read about Rawanda. Read about Iraq for G-d's sake. Which is why the simplistic theory that if you don't intervene, you are letting dictators go unpunished is, at best, lol and simple minded, and at worst really rather evil."

Just like everything else in the world there are proper and improper forms of intervention. You are the one being foolish when you conflate the two.

In any event, I was arguing from a purely theoretically ideal case where there was no chance of any unforeseen consequences. And even then CK stuck to her strongly relativistic stance. Truly amazing.

Scott said...

His, but yeah I've made that mistake as well.

In any event, I was arguing from a purely theoretically ideal case where there was no chance of any unforeseen consequences.But that's just it, isn't it. The very nature of unforeseen consequences is that you can't say when there is no chance of them. And as for the two types of intervention I would think the one you are advocating would be the type that happened in Iraq, which has been an absolute disaster. At least for the average Iraqi citizen, which I would think is who you would be on the side of intervening for.

Orthoprax said...

Scott,

"The very nature of unforeseen consequences is that you can't say when there is no chance of them."

It was my hypothetical scenario, designed specifically to analyze one ethical question by separating it from confounding issues - I can make whatever hypothetical situations I wish.

So, I'll address you with a similar scenario: given a state leader who was undergoing an active genocide against his own citizens but which posed no threat to your country, and for which an intervention posed absolutely no threat of unforeseen consequences, would you intervene or not?

CK seems to say that sovereignty matters more than morality since morality is purely relative and our state's powers have no claim on anything that goes on within another country's borders. As a matter of PRINCIPLE, not of unforeseen complications, he opposes intervention. What do you say?

"And as for the two types of intervention I would think the one you are advocating would be the type that happened in Iraq, which has been an absolute disaster."

I have not here advocated any specific type of intervention. I have only asked questions related to the ideal type already discussed.

But if I were pressed, I of course would not advocate a redoing of the Iraq fiasco. In principle I do believe an intervention was valid, but the way it was carried out was (in understatement) messy and counterproductive.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: It's hard for a people to seek their own determination when they're busy looking down the barrel of an AK-47.

Firstly I do not agree. Some Iraqi's for instance seem to be 'seeking their own determination' whilst looking down the barrel of an M-16.

Second, even if your position is true what gives us the right, duty or obligation to determine their future for them?

Ortho said: Surely - which is why, in theory, we ought to give them the option rather than permitting an abusive thug to remain in power.

Why? Is it your belief that we should impose our system of government on the rest of the world at gun point? If after a free election they make the 'wrong' choice are you happy to live with that or shall we simply 'liberate' them until they make the right choice?

Ortho said: Ok, Cyber - can you just say for an easy soundbite that you'd be willing to allow a Holocaust to take place?

Yes. However, do you honestly think that if the Holocaust was only taking place inside Germany's borders that any country would have gone to war with them to prevent it? I would suggest that the answer would have been no.

Ortho said: It's a great showcase demonstrating the moral bankruptcy of your position.

You mean as opposed to your moral position that justifies 'intervention' in the affairs of other countries including assassination of heads of state and invasion in order to prevent things that their own people are quite capable of preventing? That we should impose our beliefs on other countries just because we can. Do you honestly think that we can create a better world if only we had enough cruise missiles to do so? Do you think that other countries would switch to better forms of government because we keep assassinating their leaders? Just how many people do you think we will have to kill in order to save lives? Isn't *that* idea morally bankrupt?

Ortho said: Just like everything else in the world there are proper and improper forms of intervention. You are the one being foolish when you conflate the two.

What exactly is a 'proper form of intervention'? You haven't really spelled that out yet.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: In any event, I was arguing from a purely theoretically ideal case where there was no chance of any unforeseen consequences. And even then CK stuck to her strongly relativistic stance. Truly amazing.

Because, as you very well know, such 'ideal' cases with no unforseen consequences only usually exist in the fantasies of US war planners. There are *no* ideal cases and *every* intervention has unforseen consequences. I find it truely amazing that you can put forward such a fantastic scenario and expect me to respond positively to it.

Here's a scenario for you:

The US President decides to save the world from itself because they have accumulated enough cruise missiles to do the job. Despite strong opposition the US decide to attack N Korea despite the fact that it has nukes as well as the ability and willingness to employ them. N Korea issues a warning that if a single cruise missile crosses their border they will respond by nuking S Korea and Japan. In order to stop this happening a team of Japanese Special forces either assassinates the President or destroys Congress whilst the President is addressing it. Is that OK with you - or can only the US 'intervene' when and where it likes?

Ortho said: I can make whatever hypothetical situations I wish.

Whatever makes you happy I guess. Personally I like to feel a little more in touch with the real world.

Ortho said: CK seems to say that sovereignty matters more than morality since morality is purely relative and our state's powers have no claim on anything that goes on within another country's borders.

...and how exactly would you respond if other countries intervened in *your* internal politics? Of course they'd be intervening from their own moral PoV which you may not agree with... but they have every right to do so.... don't they? Or is it a case that we only intervene in the internal politics of countries that are unable to resist us? Would you have poposed attacking the Chinese after Tianamen Square knowing that if pushed they could blow the world back into the Stone Age?

Ortho said: I have not here advocated any specific type of intervention. I have only asked questions related to the ideal type already discussed.

I did find your lack of specifics rather.... interesting.

Ortho said: But if I were pressed, I of course would not advocate a redoing of the Iraq fiasco. In principle I do believe an intervention was valid...

...and why exactly was this particular intervention valid knowing now that they never had WMD's which was (supposedly) the whole point for the invasion?

Scott said...

Ortho said: "It was my hypothetical scenario, designed specifically to analyze one ethical question by separating it from confounding issues - I can make whatever hypothetical situations I wish."


I see, I thought we were dealing in reality. If it's purely fantasy, I'm not sure what the point is. Why not just say the dictator dies of cancer, the oceans turn into lemonade while it rains candy, and the Cubs win the World Series. Then everyone's happy!

Yay fantasy!

Sadie Lou said...

Scott,
Ortho asked...
"So, I'll address you with a similar scenario: given a state leader who was undergoing an active genocide against his own citizens but which posed no threat to your country, and for which an intervention posed absolutely no threat of unforeseen consequences, would you intervene or not?"


I'm curious as to your answer (since my comment was basically talked around and ignored). I think you should answer this question morally--not economically, this time.
*wink*
~Sadie

Orthoprax said...

Cyber, Scott,

This is a question of morality. Of course in most situations there are going to be circumstances that ought to make us think twice or three times based on pragmatic grounds - is our intevention going to be effective? Who will be put in harm's way? Will there be unfavorable consequences? But the reason I have been dealing in hypotheticals here is, as already stated, to analyze the ethics of intervention absent confounders.

CK has already made his opinion very clear: there is no objective morality and therefore he absurdly finds national sovereignty THE unimpeachable moral principle. Based on what I have no idea, but in so doing he has made himself a friend to genocidal maniacs. As long as Hitler stayed in Germany, CK was willing to permit him however many murders he pleased. If this is not moral perversity, I don't know what is!

So, now, Scott - answer the question already asked. I'm curious, so I'd wish you'd stop evading it. It's purpose is to examine an individual's moral core, not outward policy decisions. Do you have moral principles?

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: So, now, Scott - answer the question already asked. I'm curious, so I'd wish you'd stop evading it. It's purpose is to examine an individual's moral core, not outward policy decisions. Do you have moral principles?

[laughs]

Are you implying that I don't?

[rotflmao]

What a *very* silly question.

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

"Are you implying that I don't?"

No, that was directed towards Scott.

We've already established that your "principles" permit genocide. Without doubt you are a paragon of virtue.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: We've already established that your "principles" permit genocide. Without doubt you are a paragon of virtue.

...and no doubt your principles would lead us into countless wars because of yet to be revealed reasons for an as yet unspecified level of intervention in the affairs of countries too weak to resist us...... presuming of course that your principles don't lead us into conflict with other nuclear states....

E-Man said...

HMMM, who's morals to agree with? The guy who wants to stop genocidal maniacs or the guy who says it is IMMORAL to stop a genocidal maniac? Which side to pick........

Orthoprax said...

Eman,

I've made the point many time on the blogs that true moral relativism makes one morally impotent and an enabler of evil, but I've never seen a person so willing to admit it as CK is! Most tend to obfuscate or duck the issue like Scott has been attempting. Permitting a Holocaust is a line even vouched relativists are loathe to cross.

E-Man said...

I agree with you orthoprax. The question I have for you now is how do you decide on objective morals? Scott has said in a previous post on this blog that he goes according to the golden rule. What do you think?

Orthoprax said...

Eman,

"The question I have for you now is how do you decide on objective morals?"

This is a separate discussion and I'd prefer not letting up on exposing moral relativism on this thread, but my method is mainly cause and effect. We know a principle is right (or less wrong rather) judging by its fruits.

Human suffering being an example of a given outcome to be assessed. When human suffering is reduced, we can conclude that the principles behind that outcome are morally correct. Generally this is easier to apply for what we *should not* do since it is immoral actions which lead to bad outcomes more readily than do moral actions lead to good outcomes (and which is also why the silver rule is in many ways better than the golden rule). Obviously this can get very complicated in many real-life scenarios with its nested egos and conflicting principles, which is why we need to learn from history, do thought experiments and generally do the best we can.

I don't know if we'll ever fully know ideal morality, which is why we ought to give different societies a good measure of moral autonomy, but we surely know by now a good deal about what *not* to do - genocide being an outstanding example.

CyberKitten said...

So.... if we were not already at war with Nazi Germany when the death camps were discovered you would have gone to war with them over that issue - starting WW2 which in this reality left 100 million dead..... and this is your idea of a moral decision on the grounds of consequences?

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

Your assumptions are not correct. Most of those deaths were consequences of German and Japanese aggression in terms of territorial expansion. If it was the same Nazi Germany running the show then they would have sought the same kind of world domination whenever they would've started the Holocaust. You cannot separate this.

Indeed, though, putting sanctions on Hitler after the first years of gross abuse of German citizens could have saved 100 million lives. If only, eh?

Sadie Lou said...

I just, simply, want to know how one can justify, MORALLY (not economically), not assisting a country that is being oppressed to the point of genocide. Why is it okay to adopt a position of "it's none of our business"?

Yeshivish Atheist said...

Funny how I agree with Orthoprax yet I can offer no solid justification for my beliefs on this issue, as I do not believe in morality...

I think the best justification I might be capable of offering is simply saying that in the absence of morality, the most logical way we can get what we want is if we all follow some form of "the golden rule" "I won't murder you if you won't murder me. If everyone thinks this way, no one will get murdered."

Perhaps this can be applied to this case:

In other words, if the US government was committing a state-sponsored genocide in which I was one of the citizens rounded up awaiting my imminent execution, I would want people from other countries to support invading the US and put an end to the genocide so that I can live.

So following some form of the "golden rule" I would support going to war with another country that performed a genocide for the purpose of saving those people.

Of course, this approach is not perfectly air-tight, as I think one can potentially poke some holes in this. But I do feel that at least something should be put on the table from my (obviously) morally bankrupt position.

Dan said...

Y.A.-
"Funny how I agree with Orthoprax yet I can offer no solid justification for my beliefs on this issue, as I do not believe in morality..."
- - - - -

You don't need to "believe in" morality, it just "is".
Morality is one being concerned with the principles of right and wrong and we are all concerned with that in one way or the other; you can't help it.
:)

Orthoprax said...

YA,

Believing in morality doesn't mean that you necessary believe it is something extrahuman and imposed on us. You can easily see it as that which naturally arises between us as derived from our natures.

People can act in innumerable ways, ways which have effects on one another - which ways are to be preferred? Hence morality.

CyberKitten said...

Ortho said: Indeed, though, putting sanctions on Hitler after the first years of gross abuse of German citizens could have saved 100 million lives. If only, eh?

If only indeed. I do admire the optimism of someone who thinks that the application of *sanctions* could have stopped both the Holocaust *and* WW2. Or would that be another one of your hypothetical situations?

Sadie said: I just, simply, want to know how one can justify, MORALLY (not economically), not assisting a country that is being oppressed to the point of genocide. Why is it okay to adopt a position of "it's none of our business"?

Because if you think it is justifiable to intervene in the affairs of other countries on moral grounds that where does it end? Presumably that morality is universifiable so that other countries are quite within their moral rights to intervene in *your* countries internal afairs if they feel the need to? It's easy to imagine - for example during the years of civil unrest of the Civil Rights movement that the Soviet Union might have considered it their moral duty to aid the oppressed workers of America. Would you have been OK with that?

Then of course there is the hypocracy of only 'intervening' in countries that are too weak to fight back. Would you have proposed some kind of meaningful intervention against China following Tianamen Square. Do you think its reasonable to risk nuclear war over the issue if it came to that? Where do you draw the line?

Speaking of hypocracy, I understand that its part of the UN Charter that if genocide is taking place then the UN is *obligated* to intervene - which is why the situation in the Balkans was reclassified as 'Ethnic Cleansing' and why the situation in Darfur is basically being ignored - because *no one* wants to get involved.

Countries tend not to get involved in others business unless their interests or national security is at risk, the result is likely to turn out positively or the risk of loss of life (at least on our side) is minimal. It is quite unrealistic to think that we would simply enter into a series of conflicts to right wrongs throughout the world - unless you really *want* to be at war across the globe for many decades to come.

I also find it rather disturbing that some people still seem to think that the world can be made a better place if only we could kill or torture enough of the bad guys to make it happen.

Sadie Lou said...

CK-
"Because if you think it is justifiable to intervene in the affairs of other countries on moral grounds that(sic) where does it end?"

Who cares?
I don't care to stand around speculating as the "logical end result" for every, single hypothetical scenario. All I care about is that we do something when the opportunity presents itself.

"for example during the years of civil unrest of the Civil Rights movement that the Soviet Union might have considered it their moral duty to aid the oppressed workers of America. Would you have been OK with that?"

How can I even answer that? I have no idea of the implications that would have had on the situation.
~S

CyberKitten said...

Sadie said: I don't care to stand around speculating as the "logical end result" for every, single hypothetical scenario.

So you would act no matter what the consequences?

Sadie said: How can I even answer that? I have no idea of the implications that would have had on the situation.

...and that is *exactly* the point that I'm trying to make.

Sadie Lou said...

"So you would act no matter what the consequences?"

What would be the consequences of doing nothing?

"...and that is *exactly* the point that I'm trying to make."

No, that is no point at all to make because the outcome could have been more favorable or less favorable--you have no idea. The real solution to these hypothetical situations is what is morally appropriate? After you can sleep at night and your conscience is clean--then you can weigh the consequences.
:)

Scott said...

Well it certainly is tough to keep up with all the comments and questions here. I'll try and backtrack, though it's a pretty far back at this point.

Sadie said: Scott,
Ortho asked...
"So, I'll address you with a similar scenario: given a state leader who was undergoing an active genocide against his own citizens but which posed no threat to your country, and for which an intervention posed absolutely no threat of unforeseen consequences, would you intervene or not?"
I'm curious as to your answer (since my comment was basically talked around and ignored). I think you should answer this question morally--not economically, this time."

I don't really know what you mean by economically, but the questions is quite literally unanswerable. It's purely fantasy, and worthless exercise in fantasy at that. It's asking something that quite simply, cannot be. There is no such thing as intervention without the threat of unforeseen consequences. And to *morally* answer the question of whether or not to intervene without taking into account the very real possibility, in fact the certainty, of unforeseen consequences, is pointless. You've taken something out of the nature of intervention that makes it not intervention anymore. You've debased it to the point that it is no longer even worthwhile in a hypothetical sense, it's nothing more than a tool for interventionists to make a slam dunk argument justifying whatever course of action they want, using comic book style black and white, good vs. evil, scenarios.

Ortho said: "So, now, Scott - answer the question already asked. I'm curious, so I'd wish you'd stop evading it. It's purpose is to examine an individual's moral core, not outward policy decisions. Do you have moral principles?"

Sure do. I just live in reality, rather than a comic book. I did rather enjoy Spawn though, when I was a kid. Did you like that one?

Saide said: "I just, simply, want to know how one can justify, MORALLY (not economically), not assisting a country that is being oppressed to the point of genocide. Why is it okay to adopt a position of "it's none of our business"?"

How do you know the genocide is really happening? Is this a genocide like in Kosovo where were led to believe mass killings were occurring, but we now know that we did nothing more than intervened in a civil war we had no business deciding? Or is this another fantasy scenario where we KNOW the truth. We KNOW which side is the good guys. We KNOW who needs to be taken out and who needs to be supported? Perfect knowledge of these types don't really exist in reality. And in reality, the intervening government usually propagates whatever truth they feel they need to intervene on the side of their preferred faction, rather than on the side of the just or moral.

Scott said...

Sadie said: "Scott--
I always try to scale these issues down a little bit so that we can apply these principles to our own lives.
Do you think the bully on the playground is a parallel example of a scaled down version of intervention?
So, there is this bully at school that beats the crap out of weaker classmates every day. All the school children are scared of him. Nobody can successfully get control of the situation. This bully has every "BIG" child in his back pocket--he won't round up his gang and beat one of the big kids up if the big kids just stay out of his business.
Every time he starts beating on the children, the kids are helpless, the other children just stand around and watch because he would probably beat them up too.
Even the teachers just watch out the window because why should they step in? The children need to learn how to defend themselves.
The big kids could step in and stop this bully but that would just open a whole new can of worms for themselves and who wants that kind of negative attention?
There is nothing wrong with this situation morally, right?"


Applying principles to your own life is one thing, applying it to a government is entirely different. What happens right in front of you, in front of your own two eyes, you can have some (not perfect, and I'll get to that in a moment) certainty of fact. But something that happens half a world a way, that you only hear from biased advocacy groups or biased news reporters (because EVERYONE is biased in some way) is not nearly the same. It's really not even comparable.

But taking your instance at face value, consider the sad case of David Packman, who intervened in a one sided fight between a man with a knife and an unarmed man. Read the story, it's heart wrenching, infuriating, and in the end totally a waste of the man's life. Because not only was he wrongly accused of the act of stabbing the man he was trying to save, and beaten by a crowd of onlookers for it to the point of permanent brain damage, but he also saved a man who was a white supremacist. In other words, he SAVED the bad guy, not the good guy. He saved Saddam when he thought he was taking him out, and lost so much in the process. It's a terrible story of intervention, on a personal level, or a scaled down level as you put it, gone terribly wrong. Many people THOUGHT they knew the truth that night, and the right thing to do, but they were all of them deceived even by their own eyes. What more damage is done when this type of mistake is brought to the governmental level? In this story, the victim was singular, but when we act in a corporate, as a State, the victims are numerous. Too many to count in fact.

Orthoprax said...

Cyber,

"If only indeed. I do admire the optimism of someone who thinks that the application of *sanctions* could have stopped both the Holocaust *and* WW2. Or would that be another one of your hypothetical situations?"

I know it's basically pointless to get into a WWII history debate, but it is well recognized that it was the West's willingness to accomodate to Hitler's early demands that gave him the mandate to act as he wished later on.

"Because if you think it is justifiable to intervene in the affairs of other countries on moral grounds that where does it end?"

If that's what you're afraid of then lines can be drawn. True there will debate, same as any issue really, but on one extreme of the bell curve lies genocide and there really should be no debate there. It's analogous to the abortion debate and the virtually unanimously accepted exception that abortion is ok if done for the sake of the mother's life.


Scott,

"I don't really know what you mean by economically, but the questions is quite literally unanswerable."

It's not unanswerable. You just refuse to answer it because you know that if you answer it one way it undermines your whole ideology and if you answer it the other way then it makes you an accomodater of genocide. Tough choice, I know - that's why you prefer to avoid making it.

How realistic is the scenario that ten people are tied to a railroad track with a train bearing down on them while a man fat enough to squash the train stands in front of you on a bridge that the train goes underneath? Scenarios like these are not designed to involve all the world's complications, they exist to explore the morality of a choice in the absence of confounders.

That you refuse to answer suggests to me that if you were ever posed with a scenario like the one being discussed, you would hide behind the numerous potential complications and the limits of knowledge to avoid action while permitting a genocide to take place.

The mere fact that knowledge is limited and consequences may be unforeseeable could be used as an excuse to never take any morality-based actions whatsoever. Why cure that man's cancer? If he survives he might end up killing his family! That David Packman made an error doesn't mean that the whole idea of intervening to save a man's life is wrong! You are promoting nothing less than moral cowardice!

Given such profound ignorance of what is morally right and of unknown consequences I don't see how you can justify living among men! Who knows what kinds of terrible consequences you are inducing by simply going about your business? Morally you should hide away in a cave somewhere and make as little effect on anything as you can.

Scott said...

er... don't be an idiot.

I'm "refusing" (lol) to answer the question for the very real reasons that I stated. It's a stupid question. Plain and simple. Think of a smarter question and I'll answer it. Heck, just take out the part of there being no chance of unintended consequences and I'll answer the question in the affirmative. Just don't make something up that doesn't exist and ask me to ponder it as if morals of any sort depend on it.

"The mere fact that knowledge is limited and consequences may be unforeseeable could be used as an excuse to never take any morality-based actions whatsoever. Why cure that man's cancer? If he survives he might end up killing his family! That David Packman made an error doesn't mean that the whole idea of intervening to save a man's life is wrong! You are promoting nothing less than moral cowardice!"

OMG EXCLAMATION MARKS! You must be so emphatic! David Packman didn't make an error you goof, that was my point. He made the morally correct decision based on Sadie's criteria, and I linked to the story to show that perceptions may not match reality, even when things are happening right in front of your eyes, let alone half way around the world.

You're so caught up in your fantasy realm that you're completely oblivious to real world examples. Your quite comfortable in claiming the moral high ground as long as it matches your hypothetical, regardless of what the real world consequences of those actions would be. Hilarious that you talk about it being well known that "The West" (was Germany in the far East back then?) willingness to accommodate Hitler was the reason for the holocaust, but of course you ignore (maybe ignorantly, maybe selectively) the fact that it was the American intervention into the first world war that led to such a one sided victory and treaty in Versailles, and ultimately the foothold for Hitler to come to power in the ashes of the Weimar Republic. Or did Hitler just come to exist in a historical vacuum, due to a bunch of poor Germans who were suppressed by the barrel of an AK-47?

Interventionism begets more interventionism and violence and death. There's not need to compare it to speeding trains and fat men. There's no reason meander on and on about moral cowardice or the countless instances of individuals acting to save other individuals. We're talking about military interventionism from one nation state on another. It's a very specific issue, with very specific consequences.

E-Man said...

Scott are you saying that if you could help this guy David Packman you wouldn't since intervention is evil? I wish there was something I could do to help him, but according to you, from what I understand, I should not even if I could.

Also, you would have preferred that the United States not enter world war 2? Are you talking about pacifism or something else?

Scott said...

No, I am specifically saying that military interventionism is not a good policy. I am saying that military interventionism by a nation state over another nation state is *NOT* the same thing as personal intervention from and individual to another individual. They are totally different things and to try and draw parallels between the two serves no purpose.

On the other hand, I am saying that if you want to talk about something as simplistic as individual interventionism, I am showing that even in those simplistic and boiled down terms, things are not as cut and dry as a hypothetical fantasy would suggest. Because in reality there is no perfect knowledge, not even with things happening right before our very eyes. That is the sole purpose of invoking the Packman story.

And no, I’m not a pacifist, I’m a non-interventionist.

Sadie Lou said...

Scott--I know you saida lot here and I appreciate you taking the time to answer me but this is the core of your beliefs that I really want to address:
- - - - - - -
"There is no such thing as intervention without the threat of unforeseen consequences. And to *morally* answer the question of whether or not to intervene without taking into account the very real possibility, in fact the certainty, of unforeseen consequences, is pointless."
- - - - - - -
You also keep saying something along the lines of "Intervention begets Intervention" Which is a phrase tossed around by non-interventionists all the time.

I'm really just wondering, at this point, how far you go with this. When a country experiences a major natural catastrophe, everyone does what they can to assist them. Would helping other countries like that somehow beget intervention? I mean, shouldn't their own country pull together their resources and take care of their own and the rest of us should just what? Empathize?
Our churches send money and extra man power to build Christian schools and churches in countries that do not support the Christian faith, is that kind of "intervention" going to have 'unforeseen consequences?'
If we adopted your beliefs, as Christians, we would have a moral conflict of interest. Christianity is outlawed in some countries so going over there and witnessing to people is not only intervention but it is going to beget more intervention (hopefully)!

I'm sorry but your belief ultimately leads to an attitude that steps away from the parable of the good Samaritan (The Samaritan saw the man that was robbed and stripped of his clothing and instead of passing him by on the road like the other "godly people" did, the word says he "he had compassion". He dressed the man's wounds, gave him clothes and food and then set him up at a nearby hotel and PAID for it) and away from our commands from God to bring the word of God to the nations. The human race belongs to Him, without borders--

Sadie Lou said...

I also wanted to step in and agree with Ortho here:
"The mere fact that knowledge is limited and consequences may be unforeseeable could be used as an excuse to never take any morality-based actions whatsoever. Why cure that man's cancer? If he survives he might end up killing his family! That David Packman made an error doesn't mean that the whole idea of intervening to save a man's life is wrong! You are promoting nothing less than moral cowardice!"

Scott, that was exactly my thoughts after reading your "example" of "reality"
We can each of us pull out a human story to further our points but I'm afraid you would be buried under the sheer volume of stories where people damned the consequences in order to make a choice they could live with. The worldly consequences do not matter to me--it's the eternal ones we give an account for.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie said: When a country experiences a major natural catastrophe, everyone does what they can to assist them. Would helping other countries like that somehow beget intervention?

What about the recent real-world example of Burma? They refused international assistence and threatened to shoot down any relief planes. Would you have suggested that we help Burma by force if necessary? Again the question is how many do you kill to save others? Can we *force* our assistence on others against their will? Is it the moral thing to do?

Sadie said: The human race belongs to Him, without borders--

So *you* believe. However, I'm guessing that the national air-defences of many countries would disagree with you.

Sadie Lou said...

"What about the recent real-world example of Burma? They refused international assistence and threatened to shoot down any relief planes."
- - - - -
Is this the exception or the rule?

Seriously Cyberkitten, this is ridiculous. Was it wrong for the US to offer food, medical assistance, money and man power to Burma?
No, it wasn't.
Burma rejected assistance out of fear of an invasion.
The US honored their resistance (because according to this real-life example, we weren't all about invading but all about offering relief) and made several attempts to get the Burmese government to change their mind. How does this scenario help your case against intervention? It appears that the States wanted to intervene on behalf of those in need and the government refused help despite the suffering. I see a clear right and wrong.
- - - - - - - -
"So *you* believe. However, I'm guessing that the national air-defences of many countries would disagree with you."
- - - - - - - -
The national air defenses of most countries also think "the infidel" should be destroyed. I believe we're all God's children--see the difference?

Scott said...

Foreign aid is not military interventionism. Why is it, that on the topic of military interventionism, we are offered every fantasy and alternate scenario (foreign aid, individual intervention) to the actual act of military intervention? The reason, of course, is that in real life military interventionism ends in disaster such as is the case in Iraq. Such as is the case in Pakistan where their country is currently being DESTROYED. Two million refugees. Where is the morality in this? Seriously.

sadie said: "The worldly consequences do not matter to me--it's the eternal ones we give an account for."

This statement leads to a real problem. What eternal consequences? Who determines these consequences? Who suffers these consequences on behalf of nation states? Do we all? Do all American's suffer for the damage done by the American government in Iraq? In the 90's, under Clinton, US sanctions against Saddam killed 500,000. Who pays for that intervention? What about the damage done to Afghanistan? In Pakistan? That's a heavy price to pay for something that I took no part in. Something I did not condone. How is this just? How is this fair?

Scott said...

And by the way, nation to nation foreign aid IS a bad policy. It's just not bad for the same reasons as using the military to overthrow dictators or some such thing.

Dan said...

"Why is it, that on the topic of military interventionism, we are offered every fantasy and alternate scenario (foreign aid, individual intervention) to the actual act of military intervention?"

Because you and other non interventionists claim "intervention begets intervention". So I asked you where you draw the line? You didn't really answer it.
The Burma situation CK brought up is the perfect example--Burma saw our willingness to assist as the negative-type intervention you're always describing and it wasn't.

I'm surprised you overlooked and didn't address my points that actually matter--the Biblical/eternal ones unless this...
"This statement leads to a real problem. What eternal consequences? Who determines these consequences?"

...is your response to them in which case, WHA--??!

Good Samaritan=God's Word=Eternal Consequences
- - - - -
"And by the way, nation to nation foreign aid IS a bad policy."

So what really weighs heavy with you, foreign policy or God's word?

Sadie Lou said...

Sorry, "Dan" is me--Sadie.

I need you to DRAW THE LINES for me, Scott. I didn't just mention foreign aid, I said Christian ministry too--are those typified as "intervention" in your book?

Scott said...

The line is quite simply the use of the military in a foreign nation state. Sanctions, bombing runs, boots on the ground. That IS what we have been talking about, right? Intervention to get rid of a dictator. Foreign aid is bad because it funds bad governments and supresses local economies. Church work that doesn't invlove the State is fine. Great even.

I think I didn't make myself clear in addressing you eternal consequences statement. I'm not debating you on whether or not eternal consequences occur. What I'm asking you is who pays the consequence for State actions? If we intervene, and hundreds of thousands die, what is the eternal consequence? Who pays it? The President? The populace? The soldiers that drop the bombs? Or are these murders forgiven because we meant well? Or if we don't act, what are those consequences, and who pays them? All of us, or just the ones who advocate against intervention like me?
I'm asking, if the good samaritan principle applies to nation states, how does it apply specifically?

Sorry if this is wrought with spelling errors, I'm posting from my Blackberry at my daughter's little league game.

Sadie Lou said...

Thanks for continuing this discussion with me Scott--honestly, I'm just trying to make sense of non interventionism because I really respect Ron Paul and people like you and Crystal and I'm just unsure how to reconcile those political positions with my faith.
Simply, if we (the US) see a nations with needs and we just say awww, that's too bad--we'll pray for you but then turn our backs, that doesn't sound like we're following the good Samaratin model--which might not always be the best model for a country to follow id it is concerned with self preservation--but that's not always the most important thing.
God's word says if we pour ourselves out like a drink offering, he will fill us up!
I think the reason the States is so successful is with God's blessing--we have been very generous with our resources.
~S

Sadie Lou said...

Hey "Random"
if you're reading this, I need your email again.
Email me at lollishops@gmail.com
~Sadie Lou

CyberKitten said...

Sadie said: Burma rejected assistance out of fear of an invasion. The US honored their resistance (because according to this real-life example, we weren't all about invading but all about offering relief) and made several attempts to get the Burmese government to change their mind. How does this scenario help your case against intervention?

Because several people in this debate seem to be arguing that in times of humanitarian crisis we are *morally obligated* to intervene in a countries internal affairs in order to save lives. If we decide that a country can simply stop this intervention by saying in effect 'Leave us alone' then the moral obligation doesn't exactly carry much weight or force. If, however, we feel that the moral obligation to help is the *primary* motivation and do nothing in the Burma case because of their threats then we are being hypocritical in that we are deciding who gets our help dependent on who we are willing to fight to get in through. Either we intervene everytime or we intervene when it is practical to do so. If we intervene only when practical then the moral elelement is no longer *central* to the argument. This is a much more reasonable response. Hence my point is made.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie said: the good Samaratin model--which might not always be the best model for a country to follow id it is concerned with self preservation--but that's not always the most important thing.

So.. as long as the US is 'doing the right thing' you don't mind if it results in the country being attacked or even destroyed? If a country is not "concerned with self preservation" and thinks that such an idea is "not always the most important thing" where does that leave you - again it seems that the possible consequences of your actions are being ignored. If you are attempting to reduce the amount of suffering in the world then potential consequences are surely a vital part of the process.

Sadie said: I think the reason the States is so successful is with God's blessing...

Well, He certainly seems to be looking out for your economy ATM.... [grin] Or maybe He just didn't have shares in GM?

E-Man said...

So how do all you feel about the US and other countries telling ISrael how to handle the Arab-Israeli problem? If you are for outside pressure then how do you reconcile your views with this specific idea? Or do you think it is up to Israel how it should defend itself and run its country?

CyberKitten said...

We can advise people how to run their countries all that we wish... The debate here has been about *intervention* - at least up till now.

Sadie Lou said...

"Well, He certainly seems to be looking out for your economy ATM.... [grin] Or maybe He just didn't have shares in GM?"

We have fallen far from where we once stood--morally.

CyberKitten said...

Sadie said: We have fallen far from where we once stood--morally.

Really?

Sadie Lou said...

uh huh.

CyberKitten said...

Such as.......

Sadie Lou said...

...everything our country use to protect and guard.
The Constitution/The Bill of Rights
The thoughts expressed in the Declaration of Independence
The way our government was designed to function...just everything is a mess, in my humble opinion.

:) I quote Roland in the Dark Tower Series by Stephen King,
"We have forgotten the face of our fathers."

Orthoprax said...

Scott,

"er... don't be an idiot."

Good one.

"I'm "refusing" (lol) to answer the question for the very real reasons that I stated. It's a stupid question. Plain and simple. Think of a smarter question and I'll answer it."

More evasion.

"Heck, just take out the part of there being no chance of unintended consequences and I'll answer the question in the affirmative. Just don't make something up that doesn't exist and ask me to ponder it as if morals of any sort depend on it."

Is there some difficulty with the hypothetical powers of your mind? Would it be "more realistic" for you if the question didn't require "no chance" but that "after a sufficient period of study by people of arbitrarily large intelligence of data with an arbitrarily high accuracy, it was determined that the chances of bad outcomes were insignificant"?

The question is not dissimilar from a question of: should we attempt to cure a hypothetical man's cancer? That's our moral question: is it right to attempt to cure cancer? The practical questions of whether specific treatments ought to be tried varies in terms of (minimally) their likely effectiveness and potential risks, but the moral issue is explored by offering a hypothetical treatment that offers a sure cure and no risk. Yes, it is obviously morally laudable to attempt to cure cancer; once that is established, it can be then argued that it should never be done practically because none of the treatments are known to work reliably enough or they are too risky or whatever. But you cannot categorically deny the morality of attempting to cure cancer just because practical issues don't match the ideal scenario.

"David Packman didn't make an error you goof, that was my point."

Of course he made an error! He killed an innocent man. It was an error founded in ignorance. Had he more knowledge he wouldn't have made the error.

"You're so caught up in your fantasy realm that you're completely oblivious to real world examples."

I'm not ignoring the real world, I'm attempting to explore categorical morality first without delving into particular cases. CK didn't disagree on practical isses - he categorically disagreed! Do you believe it is INTRINSICALLY wrong to intervene in another nation's genocide or do you merely believe that our intervention is likely to be worse than what we are intervening for?


"Hilarious that you talk about it being well known that "The West" (was Germany in the far East back then?) willingness to accommodate Hitler was the reason for the holocaust, but of course you ignore (maybe ignorantly, maybe selectively) the fact that it was the American intervention into the first world war that led to such a one sided victory and treaty in Versailles, and ultimately the foothold for Hitler to come to power in the ashes of the Weimar Republic."

By "The West" I was referring to all the major powers at the time that existed west of Germany: France, England, the US. Japan was sided with the Axis and the USSR actually argued for sanctions! But in any event, your generation-long series of indirect cause and effect that lead to the Holocaust is plain silly. We could also blame the first guy who discovered fire because without him the Holocaust would not have been possible. (In any event, the error was not the US for entering WWI, the error lied in the others enforcing a too punishing peace treaty.) There is, however, a relatively clear predictable series of events that leads from early non-response and appeasement to Hitler's attempts at making Mein Kampf a reality.

"Interventionism begets more interventionism and violence and death."

Do you believe this is categorically true? Or is it possible that sometimes intervention reduces violence and death?

Scott said...

ortho said: "More evasion."

Well no, not really. I think the issue has been beaten to death rather thoroughly in fact. It's kind of boring now since you just keeping asking the same question and I keep telling you it's a bad question and even offer alternative questions to it. The point is I don't support intervention because unintended consequences are inevitable. shrugs.

ortho said: "Of course he made an error! He killed an innocent man."

Hey, good job not reading a paragraph of the article your talking about. No one got killed, in fact. So yeah.

Ortho said: "Do you believe it is INTRINSICALLY wrong to intervene in another nation's genocide or do you merely believe that our intervention is likely to be worse than what we are intervening for?"

You mean alleged genocide?

orhto said: "There is, however, a relatively clear predictable series of events that leads from early non-response and appeasement to Hitler's attempts at making Mein Kampf a reality."

There's a clear and predictable series of events that connect WWI to WWII. This isn't really historically debatable.


orhto said: "Do you believe this is categorically true? Or is it possible that sometimes intervention reduces violence and death?"

Well maybe you could share a case that it did?

Scott said...

sadie said: "Simply, if we (the US) see a nations with needs and we just say awww, that's too bad--we'll pray for you but then turn our backs, that doesn't sound like we're following the good Samaratin model--which might not always be the best model for a country to follow id it is concerned with self preservation--but that's not always the most important thing.
God's word says if we pour ourselves out like a drink offering, he will fill us up!
I think the reason the States is so successful is with God's blessing--we have been very generous with our resources."

No one is suggesting the US or any country should turn their back on anyone. Quite to the contrary, I say share those resources through trade and charity. Our current policy is the one of turning our backs and isolation. For instance our trade sanctions with Iraq throughout the 90's that deprived the populace from food and medicine. Our so-called punishment for their dictator (the one, btw, that we propped up through... you guessed it! intervention the decade previous) was actually a punishment of the citizenry that we were purporting to help.

Sadie Lou said...

Scott--I'm getting it now.
So it's military boots on foreign soil that you disagree with as opposed to our wallets?
But you're open to exceptions?
Or no exceptions? I mean, war is an ugly, evil things and only crazy people *want* to go to war but war solves problems. It's just a fact.
If the US were to handle Saddam your way--and the way of non interventionists, what would that look like?

Scott said...

sadie said: "So it's military boots on foreign soil that you disagree with as opposed to our wallets?"

Yes, boots, bombs, bullets. That type of thing. But also economic sanctions which are an act of war. It's hard to invoke the good Samaritan principle when your killing people, no?

sadie said: "I mean, war is an ugly, evil things and only crazy people *want* to go to war but war solves problems. It's just a fact."

Well I'm so sure it is a fact. It sounds more like an assertion. For whatever problems it purports to solve, I think it creates a dozen more at least. War is the total failure of humanity.

sadie said: "If the US were to handle Saddam your way--and the way of non interventionists, what would that look like?"

Handle him? What do you mean by that? Well for one, we wouldn't support him and provide him with weapons and money so he can rise to power like the US did. Lest we forget.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r42oejmpkgw

Orthoprax said...

Scott,

"The point is I don't support intervention because unintended consequences are inevitable. shrugs."

Fine, but that doesn't morally absolve you of the clear consequences of not intervening - as well as the unintended consequences of not intervening. The spector of 'consequences' nets you nothing at all.

"Hey, good job not reading a paragraph of the article your talking about."

You're right, I only skimmed it and didn't read it very carefully. I apologize.

"There's a clear and predictable series of events that connect WWI to WWII. This isn't really historically debatable."

Yes, but it was not clear or predictable that the US entering WWI would lead to WWII. In fact, I don't recognize the two acts as directly linked at all. The US entering the war did not cause the Allies to form such a punishing treaty. And secondly, it was hardly predictable that even such a treaty would lead to the likes of Hitler coming to power.

"Well maybe you could share a case that it did?"

I knew you would ask that, but there have only been a handful of outright military interventions and their long-term outcomes highly debatable, though I think have been worthwhile. In a relatively simple case I think you would be willing to recognize that sanctions on South Africa brought the end of apartheid there.

However, it's not for me to give examples, but for you to justify your categorical assertions. Is it NEVER possible for a military intervention to be successful? Why not?

The argument could easily be made that humanitarian military interventions are complicated and we are on a learning curve to see what works and what doesn't. By 1950 there had never been a successful organ transpant - and every one that was attempted ended up failing or killing the patient, but does that mean that there was something intrinsically wrong with organ transplantation? No, it just meant that we had to learn how to refine our methods.

Anonymous said...

You know, Iran hated Iraq & now I've had many people in Iran saying that if Saddam was there, Ahmadinejad would never have won.

Fawzia