Saturday, December 02, 2006

Self Defense & Just War

The reality on the ground, vs. the bullshit in the air.

Those of you who automatically think Ayn Rand is a looney and dismiss this article,"Just War Theory" vs. American Self Defense without reading it...what are you thinking?

For example, the authors quote from a 'Just War' theorist, one Michael Walzer, author of Just and Unjust Wars this statement:

"According to Walzer, “In our judgments of the fighting, we abstract from all consideration of the justice of the cause. We do this because the moral status of individual soldiers on both sides is very much the same: they face one another as moral equals.”

Smoothingplane-Do you agree or disagree with that? How about this, by the article's authors:

"According to rational egoism, the greatest threat a rational man faces to the achievement of his goals—and the greatest threat to a harmonious, prosperous, free society—is the initiation of physical force by others. In justice, when someone initiates force against an innocent man—whether by violence, theft, or fraud—the initiator of force deserves to be met with retaliatory force."

Or this, from the book Just War Against Terror, by Jean Betheke Elshtain:

"Just War Theory regards all noncombatants as “innocents” with “rights” to be respected. We must, according to Elshtain, “make every effort to avoid killing noncombatants . . . women, children, the aged and infirm, all unarmed persons going about daily lives, and prisoners of war. . . .” To those who would reject such imperatives in order to defend one’s own people, Elshtain replies: “The demands of proportionality and discrimination are strenuous and cannot be alternatively satisfied or ignored, depending on whether they serve one’s war aims.” Smoothingplane-the authors follow on:

"Observe the inversion of justice here. Benevolent, individualistic, life-loving Americans, and death-worshipping, collectivist, nihilistic Arabs—such as the dancing Arabs who celebrated 9/11—are regarded as equally worthy of protection by the American military. The exception is if the American is a soldier and the Arab is a civilian, in which case the Arab’s life is of greater value.
The requirements of “proportionality” and “discrimination” are deadly to the nation that takes them seriously. A nation fully committed to defending itself must value the lives of its citizens more than the lives of its enemy’s citizens; it must be morally confident in its goodness, in its right to exist, and of the rightness of killing whomever in enemy nations it must to preserve the lives and liberty of its citizens. Self-defense may well require killing more of the enemy’s citizens than the enemy has killed of ours."

Smoothingplane, (quoting J.S. Mill)-"War is an ugly thing, it is not the ugliest thing." Who among of us prefers more of our civilians and soldiers to die to preserve moral clarity? Will they volunteer their necks to the knives, for the sake of clarity? Here's some moral clarity to swallow:

"All aggression, including terrorism, is fueled by hope—the hope of success in achieving some irrational goal or furthering some irrational cause. For a nation like the United States to be secure from threats for the long term, its enemies must know that initiating force against it will bring nothing but their own destruction. Supporters of any cause that seeks the destruction of the U.S. must be made to realize that that cause is doomed.
Acts of aggression left unpunished can lead only to further acts of aggression. Appeasing the initiators of force, as we have seen throughout history, leads to more and greater violence. Thus a proper, rights-respecting government does not appease its force-wielding enemies; it acts to eliminate them. Such action, when executed consistently in self-defense, will not only destroy the particular initiator of force; it will also deter other such threats. Indeed, it is America’s reputation for appeasement, for being a “paper tiger,” that fuels the belief of Islamic Totalitarians that they can bring down America."

Smoothingplane-Hold on to your hats, I'm going to bring in Ayn Rand's name. (I'm agnostic about Rand, but reasoned argument is reasoned argument. Call me names if you like. Break into my house and see what my response will be.)

"Rational self-interest holds that every individual ought to live his own life for his own sake, by his own independent effort—without sacrificing himself to others or others to himself. It holds that the individual’s self-interest is achieved, not by doing whatever he feels like doing, and not by placing his goals in opposition to his neighbors’ freedom, but by living a life of reason, productivity, and trade.

In the egoistic approach, the need for individuals to be free from the initiation of force necessitates the existence of governments—and the option of war. A proper government places the retaliatory use of force under principled, objective control. A proper government is founded on the principle of individual rights—the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights sanction the individual’s freedom of action; they recognize the right of eve­ry individual to pursue his own goals by his own judgment: to produce, trade, speak, write, love, and live as he chooses, free of the threat of force. A proper government is the agent and servant of its citizens. It exists only to protect their rights by forbidding the initiation of force and by retaliating against those who initiate it—whether the aggressor is a criminal at home or a nation abroad."(snip)

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

"To fight and win a proper war of self-defense requires two basic courses of action: (1) objectively identify the nature of the threat and (2) do whatever is necessary to destroy the threat and return to normal life, with minimum loss of life and liberty on the part of the citizens of the defending nation.
The specific identity of any given threat and what is necessary to destroy it is not the province of morality; it requires specialized cultural and military knowledge (whereas morality applies only to the basic principles governing human life). But the morality of rational self-interest provides crucial, principled guidance in identifying and then destroying a threat. It holds that the identification of a threat, just like any identification, can be achieved only by means of a scrupulously rational process—unclouded by considerations such as an unwarranted affinity for religion, or the desire to be liked by foreign leaders, or the dogma that all cultures are equal. As for what to do about any given threat, egoism gives the crucial sanction, in enemy territory, to kill and destroy whomever and whatever needs to be killed and destroyed in order to end the threat to the victim country. Such a policy, contrary to Just War Theory, upholds both the principle of justice and the principle of individual rights. Depending on the circumstances, legitimate targets can include the leaders, soldiers, and civilians of the enemy nation."

Smoothingplane-To me the phrase "What is the situation on the ground?" epitomizes "specialized military knowledge..." I'll tell a funny story. A battleship cruising at 16 knots sees a flashing light ahead. They receive a radio transmission, "Battleship, turn 8 degrees to starboard!" An Admiral replies, "Unknown light, I'm an Admiral, we're a battleship. You turn 8 degrees to starboard." Unknown light, "Battleship, I'm a lighthouse."

When Ayn Rand wrote about the moral code she originated, the code of rational self-interest, she stressed that morality is a matter of life and death. The right ethics, she held, leads to individual (and societal) survival, prosperity, happiness; the wrong ethics leads to misery, poverty, death.
This is true in every field but is especially true in the realm of war, as the present struggle has made clear. We are losing the war on Islamic Totalitarianism because our leadership, political and military, is crippled by the morality of altruism, embodied in the tenets of Just War Theory. The moral code inherent in Just War Theory defines rules that undercut, inhibit, and subvert any hope of success in war, because it demands that one regard one’s own life as the sacrificial object of others. The moral code of rational self-interest, by contrast, defines principles to attain the values that one’s life and happiness require—including success in war and national self-defense. Altruism is the morality of defeat, and rational self-interest is the morality of victory.
America faces a choice between two irreconcilable foes: self-defense or altruism—which are but forms of the basic choice we all face: life or death. Let us choose life."

Ayn Rand sounds a lot like Old Hickory. Choose to read the whole thing. Or call me names, and don't. I don't care.

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