On Libya and the Moral Case Against Intervention

~by E.C. Gach

a U.N Security Council resolution has been agreed to, and now all that remains is its implementation.  Perhaps the only thing more difficult than getting consensus on a resolution is coordinating its execution, and these unfolding events have left many with a staggering number of questions.

Andrew Sullivan asks several:

“If the no-fly-no-drive zone fails to protect Benghazi from Qaddafi, are we then obliged to intervene on the ground? What the UN Resolution seems to require is protection of civilians. But if the methods authorized fail to do so, do we then just give up and give Qaddafi not just a victory against his own people but also against the West?

On the other hand, what are the US’s obligations if the protection of Benghazi is successful? Are we required to provide food or arms to the rebels? And if the UN Resolution passes, hasn’t the US essentially told the rebels to fight on? Having done that, do we not have a moral obligation to support them in an open-ended civil war?

How much is this estimated to cost? What programs are being cut in order to afford this?

It seems to me that this new war ignores every single lesson of the recent past. There is no clear goal. There is no exit plan. The American public opposes it. However tarted-up the coalition is, in the end, we all know that this will become a US responsibility. And we do know that if we break it, we own it, do we not?

If we are prepared to do this in Libya, why not in Congo, where the casualties and brutality have been immensely greater? Or Zimbabwe?

In endorsing the rebels, have we not forgotten the nonviolence that was the core mainspring of the Arab 1848 and legitimized much more divisive means of regime change?”

Earlier this week, Ross Douthat put many similar questions to the more interventionist among us:

“Does anyone seriously think that the United States bears just as much responsibility for the horrors of the Congolese civil war (which we “let fester,” in Feaver’s phrase) as it does for the post-invasion violence in Iraq? As much responsibility for the casualties in, say, the various India-Pakistan wars as for the casualties in our own war in Vietnam? As much responsibility for the deaths in Europe from 1914 to 1917 as for the deaths in the Philippines during our occupation of those islands? We may bear a shareof responsibility for casualties that result from our inaction rather than our actions, but the two ledgers aren’t comparable.

To  argue otherwise would be to multiply American obligations beyond reason. At a time when one of our closest friends, Japan, is reeling from natural and nuclear disasters and requires aid that only our military can provide, and another important ally, Saudi Arabia, is testing our alliance by sending troops into a neighboring country to squelch popular protests, the idea that the American government should also be held directly responsible for failing to prevent the casualties being inflicted by Muammar el-Qaddafi in Libya’s civil war strains credibility.”

And this is the real moral question: how far does our responsibility to others extend?   The calculus Douthat is using focuses on an understanding of responsibility that is loosely dependent on some cost/benefit ratio AND whatever agreements exist between the interested parties. The U.S. is a powerful nation, meaning we can often affect change at lesser cost, and so have a responsibility to alleviate problems greater than countries with less ability to do so.  This seems intuitively correct.  A rich person can sacrifice some of their wealth at less (relative) cost to themselves than a poor person.  Hence the saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
But though I agree in part with Douthat, Peter Feaver, to whom Douthat is in part responding, has a point when he says, “Doves are right to raise tough questions about any proposed military action in the Libyan crisis. But many similar tough questions need to be asked about the policy of inaction.”  In a material sense, Douthat’s worry about the uncertainties of military action is valid, but one does not often do moral things based on how likely they are to succeed (i.e. it could still be moral for me to attempt to save someone’s life even if I did not succeed).

This is what I’m not hearing from those railing against the U.S. intervening in Libya.  I understand, and I think most would be hard pressed to refute, the arguments stating the absurdity of starting a protracted conflict in a third Muslim country, our inability to afford any kind of substantive campaign, and the lack of clarity among all the major players as to what the goals are and what the end game is.

But what about the moral side of the ledger?  If those  are the material reasons  against intervention, premised on national interest, what are the moral ones?  While Douthat is arguing that it’s not the consequences in and of themselves that matter but whether we are meeting our obligation.  Sullivan reiterates the material questions with urgency, but won’t attend to the more difficult moral ones.  If Obama were to turn over a contract of sorts laying out in rather precise detail what the costs would be for this excursion, its strict goals, its limits, and the probabilities associated with various outcomes, what would his argument be then?  There is a moral argument to be made against intervention, I can feel it lingering in the abstract ether waiting to be realized in the prose of some writer or speaker, but as of yet this hasn’t really happened.

If the discussion surrounding this intervention is to be fruitful at all, it must work to separate our material concerns from our moral ones.

This from Creon Critic yesterday:

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.”[22] Instituting a norm of humanitarian intervention would help realize this goal; I’d argue Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative, John Rawls’ veil of ignorance, and Peter Singer’s drowning child thought experiment all point to a case for the morality of humanitarian intervention. From this perspective, humanitarian intervention resituates the individual as the center of interest in international relations, de-centering the state. That is to say, human security would be reinforced with a norm of humanitarian intervention. State sovereignty would be circumscribed in ways that favor the individual, possibly deterring leaders considering pursuing gross, widespread violations of human rights as a tactic for staying in power. A norm of humanitarian intervention acting to deter gross violations of human rights would make the international system a more humane and safe place for its ultimate end, the welfare of individual human beings.”

Whether or not one finds that argument agreeable or not, it does address that moral side of the equation.  Does Douthat, who thinks we do have some responsibility to Libya as the most powerful single nation,  think this duty is expunged at the first sign of inconvenience?  And this is critical.  If we have no duty to any other country that is one thing.  If we only have duties to those peoples with whom we have entered into a an international agreement that is another.  But if we do have some sort of obligation (in the moral sense), to all instances of humanity we encounter,  we need to be clear about why these obligations end where they do, and if there is a “morally” defensible reason for that, or if it is simply that moral action is a luxury we can not always afford.  I am extremely favorable toward this latter view, that the price of morality is sometimes unaffordable, and that this is one of those circumstances.  But being clear and upfront about these things now is central if we are to avoid BOTH future protracted military engagement (which is never good for anyone, except private “contractors”) AND future preventable mass violence.

Creon mentioned Peter Singerin his post and I will use him here as well.

Imagine your adopted child has fallen into a shallow pond and begun drowning.  You have on an expensive suit but wade into the water anyway to save her.  Did you have a responsibility to save the child’s life?  Of course.  And Douthat and Sullivan would agree.  She is your adopted daughter after all.  You have an explicit responsibility to her.  But what if  instead it wasn’t your adopted child, or even a relative or friend, but in fact a complete stranger that you have never met and know nothing about?  And they weren’t drowning but were being abused and assaulted by men with handguns?  And you weren’t alone but were with a bunch h of your buddies back from hunting?  You’ve lost your cell phone signal and there is no one else you can call to come deal with this?  You outnumber the men and have superior fire power, but there’s no telling what might happen and injuries and perhaps even a casualty are more likely to occur than not?
This example may seem ridiculous, but I think it’s as analogous to intervening in Libya as possible while still preserving the flavor of the Singer thought experiment.  And the question it asks is, at what point do the potential costs of intervening absolve one of the moral responsibility to do so?  At what point does the power differential become too small and the costs too high in relation to the ease of success?  Douthat provides an insight but not an answer or even a workable mechanism.  If those who support intervention need to answer the logistics of our mission, how we will measure achievement, and what the limits of engagement our engagement will be, the skeptics and realists need to provide a moral framework for discussing this issue, or if their concerns fall outside the purview of morality, admit that and make clear why our material interests trump our moral ones.

Douthat and others want to call foul on the interventionists for doing the moral math without accounting for “conditions on the ground,” but indeed fail themselves to account for why exactly the U.S. is only slightly obliged toward human beings in Libya. Asking why we shouldn’t involve ourselves in this instance unless we are willing to do it always and forever is like saying that no one should ever feed a homeless person unless they are willing to commit themselves to alleviating hunger everywhere, all the time.  My own view is that there is a strong case to be made for not becoming involved.  Whatever the costs, I can think of a much more self-interested way for them to be paid.  And I myself would not take up a gun to fight with the Libyan rebels.  The costs would be  large, and the risks high, and I can think of a million and one things I would rather do, and that would make my life better and those of my loved ones better.  But that kind of tribalism is not self-evidently moral, if it is moral at all. And making the case AGAINST intervention should go further than just skeptical inquiry and logistical ambiguities.

 

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225 thoughts on “On Libya and the Moral Case Against Intervention

  1. Isn’t the burden on those arguing for intervention to answer the questions Sullivan and Douthat raise? I’ve read/heard several enthusiastic supporters eagerly call for U.S. intervention, but I have yet to see those vital questions answered. That’s been one of the major problems with our recent foreign escapades. There has been no debate where these type of questions are answered. They’ve been too easily swept away.

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  2. Could, and was, every single one of these arguments about our responsibilities given as justification for our Liberation of Iraq?

    I remember people pointing out the “excesses” of Saddam, and Uday, and Qusay… torture chambers, rape rooms, and political prisoners.

    Surely we had a responsibility to our fellow man to put an end to rape rooms, no?

    (It was the WMDs that got all of the play after the fact but, in the build-up, there were plenty of arguments in defense of Human Freedom… “greeted with flowers” was a phrase used un-ironically.)

    And so, once again, here we are.

    People oppressed by a madman and his cronies. Citizens treated horribly. Responsibilities thrust upon those whom have been given much…

    I don’t understand why we expect it to be different this time than last time. Is it that, unlike Saddam, Kaddafy is really, really bad? This time, he’s really, really a dictator? This time, we really, really will be greeted with flowers?

    Or do the consequences not matter as much as the need to respond to a deeply immoral act and engage in some “altruistic punishment”? Or, perhaps, it’s not about them as much as it is about our need to live up to our idea of ourselves?

    Because I do not see why it is necessary for *US* to do this. Can’t England? Can’t France? Can’t the Arab League? And if they can’t… why can’t they? Is it because our busybodyism has arrested their development and while we’ve been buying guns, they’ve been buying butter, and while our people have been crying out for Universal Health Care, we’ve been picking up the responsibility of the one country capable of helping countries like Iraq be reborn as Democracies?

    There are a lot of things going on here. There are a lot of dynamics. Not all of them strike me as particularly sustainable.

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      • I’m saying that we imagine rushing in and saving the day like we were SuperJesus returning and making everything right and wiping every tear away and our moral calculus weighs the cost of *NOT* doing that rather than the more likely cost of us occupying the Middle East and having IEDs blow up and helicopters kill wedding parties and little girls being pulled from freshly painted elementary schools that have been bombed by Freedom Fighters Fighting For Freedom.

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        • That’s perfectly valid and agree with you. But it’s one thing to make the argument that by becoming invovled we’d actually do more harm than good (i.e. increase suffering/decrease moral agency) vs. the argument that seems to be more prevelant which is it would be costly and require sacrifice and be uncertain.

          If other people are making that moral argument, please point me in the right direction.

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    • > I don’t understand why we expect it to be different
      > this time than last time.

      Actually, flip this and I agree with it. I don’t understand why we presume to have any particular expectation out of military intervention. They’re *all* different.

      That’s the actual sticky widget. You can never tell, going in, if it’s going to be a relatively easy shot and cheers and skittles… or if it’s going to turn into a long slog of hunting guerrillas in the mountains or jungles. Your enemy will not respond to your intervention in the way you predict. The people you are trying to protect will not respond to your intervention the way you predict. The interaction of those two will affect how you *can* execute your intervention.

      > Is it that, unlike Saddam, Kaddafy is really, really bad?
      > This time, he’s really, really a dictator?

      Saddam was something of a sociopath and certainly a dictator, but the good Colonel is also batshit crazy. Let me put it to you this way: if you’re talking about badness of despots, rate them according to “how upset you would be if they got a nuclear weapon”. Saddam would probably be somewhere in the middle. Kaddafy would probably rank up there in the top somewhere. I could see him setting it off for a much wider range of reasons.

      This in and of itself isn’t an argument for intervention in Libya vs. Iraq, just pointing it out.

      > Or do the consequences not matter as much as
      > the need to respond to a deeply immoral act and
      > engage in some “altruistic punishment”? Or,
      > perhaps, it’s not about them as much as it is
      > about our need to live up to our idea of ourselves?

      I think these are both pretty highly motivating factors. Plus, I believe that those that will push military intervention also honestly believe that their goal is to make things better. I’m just completely unconvinced that their belief is enough to get the job done properly.

      The minute you decide to go to war, you must (in my opinion) acknowledge that what you are about to do is something deeply, tragically immoral. You do not reach for the gun without knowing that it is going to result in the deaths of the innocent as well as the guilty. You do not call out the troops without knowing that many of them will die, and many more of them will be put in situations where they will be forced to choose between their own lives and the lives of their comrades and the lives of innocents. Some of them, if not most, will suffer for decades for the decisions that they make and for the things that they did… and for the things that they did not do. You are going to be ruining several thousand lives, and ending several thousand more.

      There is no way to perform cost accounting for this. I cannot judge whether the death of 2,000 civilians and several thousand soldiers and the ruination of thousands of soldier’s lives is worse or better than the death of 4,000 civilians and an ongoing despotic rule. You can’t possibly know that the outcome is going to be better.

      The only reason to ever go to war is because you have no other choice. And then you fight as savagely as you can, as brutally as you must, to end the thing as quickly as possible. Because while it is going on, everything is evil.

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      • I pretty much agree with Pat’s sentiments here. War should be the option when it is the realistic choice that is least bad, and that ought to take a fairly extreme set of circumstances.

        While each situation is different, the moment of vulnerability for Qaddafi appears to have passed already, so now we’re looking at a repressive and hostile dictator doing very bad things to his own people. We look the other way at that sort of thing all the time elsewhere in the world; Libya has oil but then again so does Iran.

        I’m not convinced that going to war with Libya is the least bad option.

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      • I agree with what you’re saying about war. But, just to clarify, are we talking about having a dictator in charge of a repressive state or having a failed state descend into civil war? Because there are different dangers involved with each of those.

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        • From a purely self-interest standpoint, it’s very dependent upon the capabilities of the country in question.

          I’d be *way* more worried about a civil war in Pakistan than I am about one in Libya. They actually *have* nukes there.

          But, from my humanitarian approach (accept refugees), civil war is preferable to a dictator. Dictators usually don’t allow people to leave, in civil war many people *do* leave.

          On the gripping hand, I have to accept the political reality that many people in this country don’t like immigrants, and would fight tooth and nail to keep them out, so there’s that.

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        • Damn, Rufus—busted! Yep, Tranny Annie Heidegger. Got to give me credit–the ruse lasted pretty long, no?

          Now you got me to thinking. Can extremely good computers trick you and make you think you’re talking to a real human being when in fact you’re only talking to a computer(or a tranny). That would be borderline consciousness. Imagine if they could build fake/synthetic neurons, take all of your real neurons out and stick them into a box somewhere, and then replace them with 100,000,000,000 brand spanking new synthetic ones. Now comes the real task/fun–makes Camus’ Sisyphean struggle look like a day in the proverbial park. You have to put every one of the synthetic ones back into the brain. But in the process of replacing each neuron, you have to determine the precise time and moment when consciousness arrives. How would that feel? Would it be an entirely different “I” or “Self”? What could the blooming of consciousness possibly look like on an MRI or PET machine? Between 1 and and one hundred billion neurons and get this, 5×100 to the 14th power of synaptic connections in the brain–that a cool 500 trillion! synaptic connections–that’s Oh, the number of glial cells is 50 times more than neurons. And all of this somehow just randomly, haphazardly came into existence. And all because of dinosaurs. too! How does an atheist explain away the origin of matter, gravity, anti-matter, electromagnetism the strong and weak forces of atoms, human existence, 12 dimensional vectors. Oh well, off to eBay to find a hundred billion neurons. Hey, any wagers on how many will need to be inserted into the brain to generate consciousness? Ponder this: let’s just say at the 5000 neuron level, consciousness comes into being. What do you suppose might have happened at 4999, 5000, and 5001 to give birth to consciousness? What possible neuronal activity could possibly have happened to spawn the emergence of our own entire being.

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    • Why does the buck stop here? Kant, Rawls, and Singer aside, because the US has the capacity to act fairly quickly in every region. Or at the very least, the US has the capacity to intimidate more than US allies. I’ve read that aircraft carriers may not figure prominently in Libya, so only to illustrate, the number of aircraft carriers in service, Brazil, France, India, Russia, Spain, Thailand, and UK have 1; Italy has 2; the US has 11 (Wikipedia). Using that figure alone as a shorthand overstates the relative strength of the US military, but underscores point that the US does have a lot of tools at its disposal to focus the minds of Libya’s leadership. I can’t remember the exact wording, but I think one US Quadrennial Defense Review said the US aimed to have so much military power that other nations would not seek to attempt to match US capabilities – preemptively quash arms races. Seeking to credibly threaten and then possibly deploy force in a given circumstance, why would those advocating intervention take the most powerful military off the table? What’s more, publicly do so!

      Your point about sustainability is a fair one, NATO requirements on defense spending as a percent of GDP deserves attention. But for the foreseeable future, the US military is going to be the major power. If I want to try and bully a dictator into compliance with international law, I’d want the US onside.

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      • Don’t count on the Americans intimidating anyone anymore. The world has seen how we fight. We can knock things over but lack the skills, especially the language skills, to find the bad guys in a crowd. We resort to corrupt English-speakers as satraps. The satraps tell us what we want to hear, all the while stealing our money and re-corrupting the nation. That’s why the new revolutions don’t want our troops anywhere near them.

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      • Brecher can be a major ass, but this is good reading:

        http://exiledonline.com/the-war-nerd-this-is-how-the-carriers-will-die/

        Also here: http://www.exile.ru/articles/detail.php?ARTICLE_ID=6779&IBLOCK_ID=35

        “It all comes out of the “Millenium Challenge ’02” war games we staged in the Persian Gulf this summer. The big scandal was that the Opposing Force Commander, Gen. Paul van Ripen, quit mid-game because the games were rigged for the US forces to win. The scenario was a US invasion of an unnamed Persian Gulf country (either Iraq or Iran). The US was testing a new hi-tech joint force doctrine, so naturally van Riper used every lo-tech trick he could think of to mess things up. When the Americans jammed his CCC network , he sent messages by motorbike.

        But that was just playing around. They wouldn’t have minded that. Might’ve even congratulated van Ripen, bought him a drink for his smarts, at the post-games party.

        The truth is that van Ripen did something so important that I still can’t believe the mainstream press hasn’t made anything of it. With nothing more than a few “small boats and aircraft,” van Ripen managed to sink most of the US fleet in the Persian Gulf.

        What this means is as simple and plain as a skull: every US Navy battle group, every one of those big fancy aircraft carriers we love, won’t last one single day in combat against a serious enemy. ”

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        • Ressurect the Bismarck! Or, The Fighting Lady!

          Hey, what the hell am I talking about–the Brits sunk the Bismarck, rather handily if I remember correctly. The Great Bismarck had one operation then down she went. Better to resurrect what ever ship sunk the mighty Bismarck. So, along with the “1000 year Reich”, and the “unsinkable” Bismarck, Hitler had a bit of a propaganda problem. Leni to rescue? Think Goebbels must have been totally mad by this point.

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        • This is a brilliant point Pat. I first learned about it from Gladwell’s book “Blink.”

          On on pragmatic grounds I think the problem of chance and uncertainty are enough to defeat a proposition of war in most cases.

          But what about on moral grounds?

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          • > But what about on moral grounds?

            Well, that gets back to the calculus. How are you going to reasonably claim that what you are about to do is going to make things better? If you can’t make things better, doesn’t the “moral grounds” question basically boil down the assessment that it is more moral to do something to stop immorality than to do nothing, regardless of the actual outcome?

            I’m not sure I like that assessment of morality. It defaults to “do”, rather than “don’t”, always.

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            • Pat, forget the injection of morality into the equation, can you think of a single, possible operation that is now under consideration that would in fact not make things “better”?

              That being said, Iraq should be a lesson to never try and rebuild these horrific, god-awful cesspools of intolerance and hatred. I always thought Ann Coulter’s statement was quite to the point and very reasonable: “First we need to invade their countries, kill their leaders, then convert them to Christianity.” Why all the brouhaha? Can’t we try it with one of their little countries and if successful, move on to the next.

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                • Okay, Jaybird, I just know what’s coming.

                  You know who else was a failed painter/artist?

                  And Rufus, you are most decidedy NOT a failed artist! Thanks for posting your paintings–they’re quite beautiful!

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                  • Mr. Tom, never forget, law, laws, Sharia laws are inseparable. There is no political class separate from religion. Which is why you have hot headed Taliban psychopaths blowing up thousands of years old Buddhists statues carved into mountains.

                    Can we please just cut through all the bs, and acknowledge that Islam inevitably is a fascist structure and is incompatible with Western civilization? There are no separate entities between religion and state–everything overlaps into the black hole of Islamist ideology. Which is why total conquest of this barbaric tribal religion is Western Civilization’s only hope. They have infinite patience. It’s only a matter of time before we see Alah’s flags flown throughout Europe.

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                    • While it’s true sharia law is of religious origin, there was a period where sharia evolved into fiqh something even you would consider justice.

                      Imagine that the precursors to our jurisprudence and philosophy as embodied in English Common Law and the Scholastics had frozen in place at Aquinas. Roger Bacon would never go to Oxford. Magna Carta would never have been signed. Our society would have a distinctly medieval flavor and that’s where sharia remains, not so much a religious thing as an solidified, mummified artifact.

                      Until Ghazali, Islam had ijtihad, a thriving system of legal precedent, inquiry, a spirit of reform. If that spirit could be revived, the moribund legal system of Islam would be recharged, someone could start the engine. It would roar to life in a mighty belch of smoke, the hidebound fundies and sheikhs and imams would be chased off by the noise and the Islamomobile would chunter down the road again after a millenium on the cinder blocks of history

                      of al-Ghazali

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              • > Can you think of a single, possible operation
                > that is now under consideration that would
                > in fact not make things “better”?

                For whom?

                I can think of several things that probably won’t make much worse, but that’s hardly a recommendation. But let’s pass on what I would do, given my druthers, ’cause I ain’t gonna get it.

                Let’s say I’m stuck as part of a losing coalition (likely), and we’re going to do *something* (also very likely). If I’m stuck doing something rather than nothing, the something I would do is pick a port, dock a bunch of transports, and tell anyone who is a civilian that we’ll ship you out of Libya and give you a place to go (defaulting to here). I would then establish a zone around that port and blow up everything that looks like a military object inside that zone. Give everybody a week to get on board the boats, and then ship them somewhere.

                If that’s not feasible (and it’s likely not), and I’m still stuck with us doing something, the next least worst option is just to lay waste to every established military base in Libya, and every military-grade target. Bomb the crap out of anything that looks like a tank, APC, military aircraft, machine gun nest, or anything that looks like that’s where you park tanks, APCs, or military aircraft. A week of removing military capability. Then go away, and let whoever is left fight it out.

                If it comes down to people fighting with small arms and sticks, it’s less likely that some authoritarian prick will come out on top than if there’s military ordinance to use.

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                • Hey Pat, great to hear from you and thanks for the reply!

                  I very much like your hypothetical insofar as you make every conceivable effort to minimize and prevent civilian casualties. Excellent work!

                  And your escalation of the conflict, by necessity, again addresses the civilian issue with you taking every possible precaution to minimize civilian casualties. Actually, your ideas are so good, I wonder why they haven’t been tried before–at least I’m not aware they’ve ever been tried. Evacuate civilian areas and then rain absolute hell on military targets, military installations, ammo dumps, possible WMDs sites, etc. Okay, you’ve done so well being Sec. of Defense, I’m going to kick you upstairs and you are now the President of the United States.

                  President Cahalan, I’ve got very bad news for you–somehow, someway, suitcase nukes penetrated security and were detonated in NYC. The situation looks very grim–over one million immediate deaths near the ground zero of both thermonuclear explosions. Manhattan is effectively destroyed. We’re talking yields of 4-6 megatons. Temperatures reaching thousands of degrees and blast winds several hundred mph—effectively crushing the brain and lungs immediately.

                  President Cahalan, you are faced with a situation in which you have very strong evidence that Pakistani intelligence was directly involved in the acquisition of enriched uranium and plutonium by al Qaeda operatives. Also, strong evidence that security at NY ports was compromised by recent hirees from several different Mideast countries. What do you do? Immediately detain every Mideastern male between the ages of 20-40? Close every mosque? Make the practice of Islam immediately illegal? Of course, now, such actions seem terribly overactive. But that’s now. You’re president. Some one’s going to pay dearly for this attack and I don’t think going door to door mirandazizing Middle Eastern men is going to do it. Nor am I advocating these kind of emergency measures. Games on, Mr. President. Please save the United States. Now that I think of it, it would also be very interesting to hear President Blaise’s response to such an attack of such magnitude.

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                  • You don’t want to know what I would do in such a situation, my friend.

                    FWIW, I’ll lay you odds that your nightmare scenario (modified) occurs within 50 years. I give absolutely zero chance that anything that we do, as policy, significantly lowers the probability of the next use of a nuclear device against a civilian population.

                    However, it is very, *very* unlikely to be a high grade device. A 4-6 MT device is enormous, I don’t know if the Russians even still have many of these available. The SS-18s have largely been decommissioned (they were 20MT monsters) and replaced by Topol-Ms that are just 550KTs. The W87 warheads that are the mainstay of the U.S. arsenal are 450KT. Pakistan has no demonstrated thermonuclear capability, it’s likely they only have pre-hydrogen bomb devices. The biggest thing detonated by India was 58KT, I don’t think the Pakistanis have ever set off anything close to that large. So maybe 8-9KT. It’s also not going to kill a million people (ground detonated nuclear weapons have a much lower kill yield than air bursts).

                    For your edification:

                    http://www.fas.org/programs/ssp/nukes/nuclear_weapon_effects/nuclearwpneffctcalc.html?formAction=297&contentId=367

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                    • Also:

                      Pakistan isn’t going to give one of their nukes to a nut. I imagine most Pakistanis feel about Al Q the way most Irish felt about the IRA, all willing to sing the old songs and hoist a beer over the raising of the pikes, but once you start blowing up school buses they get sour on the whole deal and just want everyone to get along. Keep at it too long and you get embarrassing. Too much longer than that, and they’ll start arresting you and throwing you in the hoosegow.

                      That aside, I don’t see it very likely that a Pakistani bomb would be disassembled, shipped out, and set off in New York. They don’t have many of these things, and most of the Pakistani army is more concerned with India and the nukes that are right across their border: if a bomb went missing in Pakistan because some crazy religious nut in the military handed it to a buddy, dollars to donuts we’d know about it within a couple of hours, as everyone else in Pakistan would want to disavow whatever happened when that bomb actually went off. *Especially* if it went off in Mumbai, which is a much likelier place for it to be detonated than NY.

                      As Blaise points out, uranium is traceable. Nobody wants to be involved in the supply chain of any device that goes off anywhere. The repercussions are likely to be pretty bad.

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              • Putting aside the idiocy of actually converting the population of Iraq to Christianity, a bit of history might be applicable here.

                The Sunni / Shiite split began in Iraq. Here’s how you can think about it, from a Christian perspective. Let us imagine the Kingdom of Jesus Christ was not in the hearts of men as he said, but an actual kingdom. Muhammad the Prophet became a king on this earth and he did as kings do: he waged wars, made laws, variously executed and pardoned his enemies, married, had children. And like Jesus Christ, he was recognized as a prophet and had disciples. And like Jesus, he died early, leaving his followers in disarray.

                Open war broke out between the disciples and the children. The historical divisions between Protestants and Catholics don’t begin to compare to the viciousness and length of this division.

                Baghdad has been burned to the ground four times by the Shiites of Persia. Once the heart of Islam and its intellectual center, Baghdad was reduced to a shell of its former self. Think of the burning of Atlanta at the hands of Sherman, only the Carpetbaggers stayed and reproduced like rabbits. When the “Confederacy/Sunnis” retook “Atlanta/Baghdad”, the descendants of the ‘Carpetbaggers” became a hated minority, subject to all sorts of abuse.

                The same problem emerged in Egypt. The Abbasids were Shiites and harshly governed Egypt’s Sunnis.

                Most of the Muslims in the world are Sunni. The Shiites are hated right down to their bones. To make matters worse, the Shiites feud endlessly among each other.

                Trying to confine the Sunni and Shiites in any one state is a serious mistake. KSA has sent troops into Bahrain to protect a Sunni regime from its numerically superior Shiites. KSA backed Saddam back in the day, for the same reasons.

                Solution: separate the Sunnis and Shiites.

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                • Baghdad has been burned to the ground four times by the Shiites of Persia.

                  Baghdad was first sacked in 1258, by the Mongol Il-khans, who were, if anything, animists. It was sacked again in 1401 by Timur, who was not a Shiite and certainly not a Persian.

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                    • Blaise, it appears someone else has a different historic version of these events:

                      The ‘Abassid dynasty (750-945 AD / 132-334 AH) originally began as a revolution in favor of Shi’ism. When the ‘Abassids came to power, though, they turned to Sunni Islam and began themselves to persecute Shi’ites. It is during the ‘Abassid persecutions that the last Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, goes into hiding permanently (874 AD / 260 AH). After the Occultation of the Twelfth Imam, the Shi’ites seem to be living in a religious community that the call the Imamiyya; Sunni Muslims called them Rafida or “Rejectors” (referring to the Shi’a rejection of Abu Bakr and the remaining Caliphs). The strongest Imamiyya communities were in Kufa and Qumm in Iraq; Qumm had become the central capital of Imamate theology and philosophy.

                      The second wave of Mongol invasions occurred under Timur, the great conqueror who rivalled his ancestor, Genghis Khan. Timur invaded Iran and took over territory controlled by Shi’ites. ALTHOUGH TIMUR WAS A SUNNI, he was very sympathetic to the Shi’ites and allowed Shi’ite nobility to retain their power and lands as long as they became his vassals. The Timurid period (14th-15th centuries AD / 8th-9th centuries AH), was a period of relative calm in Shi’ism that saw its dramatic growth throughout Iran.

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                    • Timur was a Shiite and the Shiites have told me so, for he was buried with his Shiite advisor. It may well be he wasn’t.

                      This much we can say of the Mongols in Baghdad, they were highly intolerant, thoroughly orthodox and completely Persian-ized by the time they arrived and had no love for either Christians or their fellow Muslims. This is a trait of the Shiites, not the Sunni. The Sunnis view theological infighting as crass and un-Islamic, calling it takfir.

                      Google doth make every man a genius. Baghdad was burned four times by the Persians and if a few Mongols were involved, they were speaking Farsi by the time they arrived.

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                    • It’s perfectly obvious the Shiites burnt Baghdad at least twice and if I claim it was four times, what the fuck are you trying to say, Mike? That Shiism hasn’t become a fundamentally Persian thing since ancient history? Iraq has all Shiism’s holy cities and it’s controlled by the Arabs, who have no love for the Persians and they’re fighting over control of them.

                      This began with Heidegger observing we might experiment by converting them to Christianity. Northern Iraq was Christian until Timur murdered them all.

                      Making shit up. You little googlepedant, I’m quite willing to be wrong. There’s a difference between you and me. I don’t have to google up what I know and have been told.

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                    • Hulagu wasn’t a Muslim, much less a Shiite. Timur was tolerant of both Sunni and Shiite figures, but that doesn’t make him a Shiite. Observe that the Timurids were a Sunni dynasty. Neither were Persians: Hulagu was a Mongol (a grandson of Genghis Khan), and Timur a Turk (who also claimed descent from Genghis Khan.) Neither sacked Baghdad out of religious animosity. Hulagu destroyed the Abbasid Caliphate as part of his subjugation of the Near Wast; For Timur, sacking cities and killing vast numbers of their inhabitants was what he did for a living.

                      And I don’t in any way dispute your willingness to be wrong.

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                    • From your own (conveniently uncited) source:

                      The Mongols, it seemed, were more sympathetic to Shi’a Islam than to Sunni Islam. The first Mongol ruler to convert to Islam was Ghazan, who ruled from 1295 to 1304 AD. He converted to Sunni Islam, but his brother and successor, Oljeitu, who ruled from 1304 to 1316, converted to Shi’a Islam and took the name Khudabundha as his Arabic name. From that point on, the Islamic territory became a Shi’ite state and Shi’ism was declared the state religion. Khudabunda’s son, Abu Sa’id, however, was a deeply committed Sunni and the universal Shi’a state ended as soon as it began.

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                  • The first Mongol ruler to convert to Islam was Ghazan, who ruled from 1295 to 1304 AD.

                    Not terribly relevant, since Baghdad was sacked in 1258.

                    Abu Sa’id, however, was a deeply committed Sunni and the universal Shi’a state ended as soon as it began.

                    He was the last of the Ilkhans, dying in 1335.
                    Timer, who sacked Baghdad in 1401, first served and then ruled the Chagatai descendants of Genghis Khan, not the Ilkhans.

                    Feel free to cite more irrelevances, if you like.

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                    • I’d think the gentleman’s point about Sunni and Shia holds or doesn’t regardless of a single 700-yr-old historical factoid.

                      I recall the Iraqis called mixed marriages between Sunni and Shia “sushi.”

                      If the saw “Me against my brother, my brother and I against our cousin, our clan against the Arab, the Arab against the infidel” holds, Saddam’s equal-opportunity oppression may have been a moderating force.

                      Absent a common enemy—we see Shia Iran supporting Sunni Hamas against Israel—the schism may be intractable and they’ll be at each others’ throats at every opportunity. But this may not be of much help in the current crises.

                      And neither is it impossible that Sunni and Shia can one day—or soon—share a state as long as there’s a sharia as the guiding rule of law. This is being sold by some Muslim reformers, and is quite a reasonable Islamic alternative to Western-style secular democracy.

                      With a number of Muslim nations are deciding where to go from here, this is more a live option than it seemed a year ago.

                      It’s been my view that non-Arab Turkey’s militantly secular Western democracy was always a false skin for a 98% Muslim country, and unlikely to hold, or that we could reasonably expect that it would go any better in the Arab world, where blood and Islam are so thoroughly intertwined.

                      Tribalism and religion are each mightier than the sword—put them together and…

                      Oy.

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                    • And neither is it impossible that Sunni and Shia can one day—or soon—share a state as long as there’s a sharia as the guiding rule of law.

                      I thought I heard that Shia and Sunni versions of sharia are incompatible once you get down to actually using it as a legal system.

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                    • Ah, but in the presence of a man who knows his Mongols well enough to opine upon the Shiism of ancient times, I fully goddamn well expect you to inform us of these things, indeed, that you have not done so disappoints us all. I dub thee Mahdi Mike, the Schoolmarm Shiite.

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                    • Tribalism and religion are each mightier than the sword—put them together and…

                      You are now sing the same song the Pan-Arabists sang all those years ago. We’ve been down that road. It’s a charming thought, been tried over and over, never worked.

                      That’s the problem with being Americans, we’re 235 years old as a country. History didn’t happen here. Here, people can reinvent themselves. We think everyone should think like us. Except we completely wiped out all the cultures that came before and can’t even remember that untidy and genocidally-tribal fact.

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                    • My point, my contrarian and contrary friend BlaiseP, is 180 from that: take sectarian strife and multiply it with tribalism, and you get chaos and violence. This is the Muslim equation at present, with some tenuous exceptions in the non-Arab Muslim world [Turkey, Indonesia].

                      The closest analogue in the Christian world is Northern Ireland, and what ended it [for now] was simply getting sick of the violence. Per Golda Meir, to love one’s own children more than they hate the enemy. But we do not see the pressure for peace in much or most of the Arab world, authoritarianism and equal-opportunity oppression being the only moderating cure. [Scare quotes for moderating and cure.]

                      Still, Northern Ireland at present cannot be seen as unity, only a detente under an agreed-upon formula of law, sort of what I ventured above, and also resembling Lebanon’s power-sharing in its more functional days.

                      Pan-Arabism? It is to laugh.

                      But a sharia-lite, a “secular” body of law consistent with Islamic sensibilities? Doable, perhaps, and perhaps the only authentic alternative to authoritarianism or Western style secular democracy. This is the “third way,” the authentic Islamic way, and what’s being pushed by “moderates” like Tariq Ramadan.

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                    • You are preaching to the choir, Mynheer van Dyke. Yet consider the problem created by the Pan-Arabists, the Strong Men, among the most ridiculous figures in history. They thought they could suppress these divisions. Like the idiot Communists, they thought those frameworks would fade away and lions would lie down with lambs and they would all eat grass together and a little child shall lead them. They didn’t fade away: nothing energizes a movement so much as a good solid persecution. Otherwise-silly persons are thereby promoted to martyrs, and a martyr only dies once.

                      Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, it’s the same old sad story, first as history then as farce then as sheer barking madness as those idealistic young Saudis commandeered those jets and brought down the World Trade Center. The Strong Men merely turned the doubling cube over: a fight suppressed is not a war avoided, not while the underlying issues remain in the Tupperware of History.

                      When they debride his burn, the patient screams like the damned of hell, a terrifying spectacle. There is no other way. It must be done. These revolutions are entirely necessary: they have been postponed for five, six decades and the gangrene has nearly killed the patient. Things will get worse before they get better. The only way out now is the way through. We cannot foresee all outcomes, but there is no return to the fatuous happy horseshit flapjaw about Can’t We Just All Get Along. No they fucking well can’t get along. Europe fought for century after century, culminating in two hideous world wars and millions died. At the end of each war, the combatants swore this had to be the last war. No it fucking wasn’t. The mask was torn away in Yugoslavia as it had been torn away in 1930s Germany. The veneer of civilization is very thin and regimes can only continue while the subject peoples subscribe to the principles of that regime. All else is madness, hopeless delusion. Though war is terrible, war is bound to us as surely as our teeth erupting in our jaws as children, and like those children we cry.

                      In darkest moments, when things got really bad, I had an insight, a sort of terrible enlightenment. They call it PTSD now, but then they called it shell shock. Those who have endured the so-called madness of war are the only the sane people in the equation. Their anomie and dissociation arises from the One Eyed Man surviving long enough to return to the Land of the Blind.

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                    • Close enough, BlaiseP, but not quite my argument/clarification.

                      I too blame Ghazzali for turning Islam away from Aristotle and reason itself to fideism; however the correct timeline has the Magna Carta coming before Aquinas, and indeed it’s Aquinas picking up for Christianity and Western Civ the Greek tradition what the Islamic world squandered.

                      The rest is history. Further, via Brian Tierney’s work, we see medieval canon law as the missing link in the evolution of rights and liberty as we know them. It was Aquinas and Aristotle that put us on the right track, just as the Muslim world got off it.

                      Back in the real world, my previous point and related to your “intelligence” dictum in your latest—the problem has been that the West hasn’t known the Muslim mind, what the people on the “street” are thinking.

                      But that’s because they don’t know what they want either, in any sort of consensus. Hence, many or most of the authoritarian regimes have indeed had a certain consent of the governed, the alternative being sectarian and tribal war.

                      [I would not attempt to “preach” to you, sir, choir or otherwise: we have established that there is nothing to be said that you do not know, no thought that hasn’t occured to you and been rejected or perfected. Our colloquy is for the lucky readers.]

                      An article in the Ottawa Citizen that saves me the trouble of attempting to clarify further: some good stuff on Just War per Augustine and Aquinas, and my previous point that the West has knee-jerked against the devil we know, Qaddafi. The devil we don’t know is yes, tribalism and religion:

                      http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/03/20/barack_obama_united_states_libya_war_109284.html

                      “Sarkozy’s France has, without consulting her European allies, already recognized the rebels in apparent control of Benghazi as an alternative government. No one else knows whom they are supporting, and in point of fact, the most promising internal opponents of Gadhafi’s regime are thuggish tribal chiefs and Islamist ideologues we have no reason to prefer to the monster with whom we are overfamiliar.”

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                    • Heh. It’s all history. If Aquinas would have been as far as we ever got, we’d look like KSA, too.

                      There’s no order to any of this. I put in Magna Carta because it’s how our government’s relationship to power evolved and Aquinas because that’s how religion’s relationship to the state evolved. Islam did shut the doors on ijtihad, the spirit of inquiry which defined its early successes died. If Aquinas was still our model, we’d be executing heretics and you know it, just like Islam is doing.

                      As for the Devils known and unknown, one of the titles of the Devil is the Prince of Lies. There’s no liar quite so pathetic as the man who lies to himself, for such lies are believed, preferentially even to the truth itself. The tribes and suchlike, well, they constitute the real world, the one we can’t lie about. We can’t just shove them back into more of the Tupperware of History and hope they die. They won’t.

                      Yes, it will be terribly confusing and violent for a good long while, but it’s these insane national borders which don’t represent actual constituencies. Think of it as a redistricting. That’s all the Bahrainis were asking for, by the way, to quit gerrymandering Bahrain so the Sunnis got all the seats in the National Assembly.

                      Think of the tribes like political parties, sorta goes down easier that way. True, they aren’t, just now, they more closely resemble ancient street gangs, but that’s because they have been in the Tupperware so long without actual mandate.

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                • Okay, Blaise—the shit has finally hit the fan. Deep do do. Unusual circumstances have made you Commander and Chief–yes, you are now to be addressed as President Blaise P., president of the United States. Congratulations Mr. President!

                  Well, here’s the rub. President Cahalan, I’ve got very bad news for you–somehow, someway, suitcase nukes penetrated port security and were detonated in NYC. The situation looks very grim–over one million immediate deaths near the ground zero of both thermonuclear explosions. Manhattan is effectively destroyed. We’re talking yields of 4-6 megatons. Temperatures reaching thousands of degrees and blast winds several hundred mph—effectively crushing the brain and lungs immediately.

                  President Blaise, you are faced with a situation in which you have very strong evidence that Pakistani intelligence was directly involved in the acquisition of enriched uranium and plutonium by al Qaeda operatives. Also, strong evidence that security at NY ports was compromised by recent hirees from several different Mideast countries. What do you do? Immediately detain every Mideastern male between the ages of 20-40? Close every mosque? Make the practice of Islam immediately illegal? Of course, now, such actions seem terribly overactive. But that’s now. You’re president. Some one’s going to pay dearly for this attack and I don’t think going door to door mirandizing Middle Eastern men is going to do it. Nor am I advocating these kind of emergency measures. Game’s on, Mr. President. Please save the United States. Now that I think of it, it would also be very interesting to hear President Cahalan response to an attack of such magnitude. Do we take such an attack without any retaliation, send Noam Chomsky on a worldwide peace shuttle mission to deliver 1,000 apologies to the terrorists, thug leaders, gangsters drug dealing lords, and other kinds of sordid, reprobate, noer do wells? Chomsky has the distinct honor of saying he disagreed strongly with comparisons of Nazis and the US–he said we were much WORSE than the Nazis, killing many more innocent civilians (guess 6,000,000 Jews don’t count in Chomsky World.”) Might be fun to make an amusement park called “Chomsky World”–if you don’t throw up, you get your money back. I have all sorts of ideas for such a park.
                  How did I ever in the world get into this subject?
                  Good luch, Mr. President!

                  If anyone else feels up to this challenge and would be comfortable in the Oval Office to weigh in on this emergency, I’d love to hear from you. Our country’s at stake and time’s not on our side.
                  Viel Glück!

                  This music might just give you the proper inspiration!

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                  • Well, which is it? President Calahan, or President Pascal?

                    First thing I’d do is have my intelligence operators write separate reports. No Groupthink allowed in these sitreps. I want every possible viewpoint. I’d do my own analysis and take on two advisors, an American and a Pashtun advisor, both would be completely fluent in Urdu and Pashtun, for my revenge would not be immediate. I would produce a solution which would put the fear of God in every human heart.

                    Al Q is just a brand name, sorta like a Tea Party. As you know, they aren’t closely aligned and nobody enforces the trademark. These people have real names. Learn those names. Work back to their families, their handlers. This attack wouldn’t have been directed by the Pakistani government, they have too much to lose: uranium can easily be tracked by its chemical signature, as easily as a vintage of wine can be tracked down to the hectare of slope on which it was grown.

                    Then I’d start recruiting an askari army of adolescent boys. I wouldn’t even consider a revenge attack for at least two years. Every Pashtun is for rent, they have no love for the Pakistanis. Pay the families of these boys exceedingly well, train them, give ’em cell phones so they can call home anytime, bring their families over for visits, indoctrinate those little bad boys in pashtunwali, make them kill everything they’re going to eat and give them a respectable Islamic warrior-scholar to give this askari an imprint as legible as Mullah Omar’s du’a on the Taliban. They’re going to become America’s Janissaries, a special Foreign Legion. They will become the terror of the world, our special emissaries to Islamic terrorists, everywhere. They wouldn’t really be ready for action for quite some time, it would take three years to do it properly. But once it was raised up, I’d turn my little terrors loose on the Pashtun and let them tear up jack however they saw fit.

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                    • Whoaaaaa. That’s damn good, Blaise. Sorry, but you’re going to have to be called in–you know, national security and all plus a very strong military background–intelligence perhaps or Drill Sergeant.

                      The only problem I have with your very well thought out response, is time. Do you think the populace would ever tolerate a response time of 3 years before military action was taken? The cry of vengeance would be deafening. I certainly understand your reticence in beginning an immediate response–training, training, training–but we could easily descend into total anarchy because of a complete breakdown in civil authority. This is crazy, but would consider declaring a temporary police state? Incarceration “swarthy” “suspicious” looking young males? I absolutely understand your reluctance to go down that road but it might help to at least quiet the tribes who are growing more and more unreasonable by the minute.

                      A+ Mr. Pascal! Can you please Mr. President, not send Ambassador Wilson to find the yellow cake!
                      (Teasing Blaise, just teasing.)

                      This could be a great movie, come to think of it.

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                    • Well, act in haste, repent at leisure. The masses are asses, they’ll believe any goddamn thing you tell them, if you put it to them the right way. It’s doubly helpful if you tell them the godshonest truth in such circumstances.

                      People want hope more than bread or victories, hope is the vital ingredient to get them through hard times. They want their leader to set the goal and explain how we’re going to get there, and why the sacrifices are needed.

                      The last thing they need is some jumped-up jackass standing on top of the pile of smoking rubble with a bullhorn saying he’s gonna get the bastards who did this. Bush43 got caught with his pants down and wasn’t paying attention, patent dereliction of his duties as Commander in Chief, all laid out for him in the PDB and that little butt boy went off to play Moah Golf.

                      Quick revenge is the high road to hell, false cheer, whippin’ up the rubes, the vial of crack the crackhead does not need but just feels sure he does.

                      When you’ve been whacked, first thing on the agenda is to admit it, regroup and define what Done means in this situation, like FDR did in the Map Speech.

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                  • My approach has the following benefits:

                    1. Al Q is a magnet for alienated boys who are hell-bent on finding some heroic fight. I’d give them an alternate magnet. My askari would be equally Islamic, truthfully more Islamic than Al Q.

                    Embedded within Islamic doctrine is the concept of al-ummah, the equality of all human beings before God. Can’t get any more democratic than that. It doesn’t take much Islamic scholarship to derive a fundamentally democratic, tolerant model from its doctrines.

                    There’s another two concepts within Islam, din, matters of faith and dawlah, matters of the state. Now secularism has acquired a bad name within the Islamic community, but there’s a boatload of hadith to say even Muhammad the Prophet didn’t have all the answers and relied on representatives of the people for advice and consent, and even the Prophet encouraged dissenting opinions.

                    And what prohibits America from engaging in Islamic debate, putting forward our own Islamic scholars to shout at the Islamic scholars in the employ of dictators and bad guys? I just don’t understand it, I swear to God, this is our greatest failing in the War on Terror, that we haven’t backed our own American Muslim scholars in the theological debates. Instead, we haul them out of the line in airports and treat them like scum.

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              • And right now who is the one advocating the forced conversion of people to their religion????

                Its like the old story:

                During the reign of emperor Akbar the Great, there was a man who was a well known jinx. People who saw him first thing in the morning often got into minor mishaps. It happened that one morning Akbar woke up and saw the jinx (lets call him Salim) in his bed room changing the oil in the lamps. (Salim was a servant who worked in the palace). Akbar promptly stubbed his toe. Now he was pissed and he called Salim to court. Akbar was considering what to do to Salim.
                1. If he fired Salim, it wouldnt be fair to the townspeople.
                2. If he threw him in prison, it wouldnt be fair to the warden who would have to see him everyday.

                So Akbar decided to have him killed. At this point, Birbal (his famous witty courtier) stepped in.

                Birbal: What did your duties this morning consist of?

                Salim: Changing the oil sir.

                Birbal: So where did you go first?

                Salim: To the emperor’s; he wakes up the earliest and would need the use of his lamps first.

                Birbal: Was anyone else awake when you did this?

                Salim: No

                Birbal: So the emperor was the first person you saw?

                Salim: Yes

                Akbar: Bribal, where is this going?

                Birbal: Oh Jahanpanah (A title for Akbar meaning Refuge of the World. Usage similar to Your Majesty) this man, Salim, according to you deserves death for being the first person you saw and causing you to stub your toe. But what should we do with you, O great emperor, for you are the first person he saw and now he is going to die.

                Akbar saw the foolishness of his decision and rewarded Birbal and Salim.

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        • Don’t count on Brecher for any insight. The US Navy is no longer just a blue water carrier enterprise, it is superbly adapted for littoral warfare. The US Navy does not operate in isolation: it works with both the SEALs and the US Marine Corps. It had the whole of the Vietnam War to work out how such things are done in brown water and has shown itself inventive and resourceful controlling the many waterways of Iraq.

          It may well be the carrier has outlived its original purpose, but it has adapted. It has become the Island of Laputa, with the ability to cast a long shadow over anywhere, to the consternation of our enemies. Yes, it can be hit, and many missiles have been built capable of taking one out, but this is true of any weapons system.

          Missiles have one signature weakness: it’s easy to spot their command and control facilities. The Chinese built a huge missile defense system for Saddam, ringing Baghdad as Stalin had ringed Moscow. It was just the fanciest, most up to date, chrome plated thing, all linked up with fiber optics and fuck all money got thrown at it. Bill Clinton waited until it was almost finished, then of a Friday afternoon when all the Iraqis had gone to prayers, he bombed all their command posts, with the Chinese workmen still inside. The Chinese were annoyed, but not much, because they’d been paid for everything up front.

          In short, the War Nerd never wore a uniform. He talks tough, but he’s an armchair warrior.

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          • > The US Navy does not operate in isolation: it
            > works with both the SEALs and the US
            > Marine Corps.

            That’s true, and it’s a persistent hole in his thinking because he *really* has a dislike for the Navy.

            > It has become the Island of Laputa, with the ability
            > to cast a long shadow over anywhere, to the
            > consternation of our enemies.

            Yeah, it just seems to me that it does not in fact cause much in the way of measurable consternation. The U.S. carrier group did in fact do that back when attacking the U.S. carrier group was going to open you up for nuclear retaliation. It’s probably of some sort of use to keep China from invading Taiwan, how much is itself debatable. I don’t see it having much of an effect on anybody else, though. Certainly not anywhere *near* enough to justify the cost, IMO.

            Plus, having the surface fleet does have a tendency to lead us to consider options that we might otherwise discard as untenable. We’d probably be much less likely to bomb stuff if we couldn’t move ordinance around like we can now.

            The Millennium Challenge isn’t the only indicator that there are serious problems with our military calculus when it comes to the surface fleet.

            > In short, the War Nerd never wore a uniform.
            > He talks tough, but he’s an armchair warrior.

            That doesn’t mean that he’s wrong :) He can still be wrong (and I don’t agree with all of his writing in any way), but I haven’t ever seen anything that refutes his assessment of surface fleet warfare that I personally find credible.

            Most of our military construct is based upon risk calculus that no longer applies (or never really did).

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            • All sound points, almost nothing to disagree with there. Qadafy remembers the last time he tried to mess around with US air power. The rest of the local pukes remember the US carriers pounding Iraq and the Taliban.

              Seen from far away, arguably the only valid viewpoint for any war, here’s my take on US power projection, as seen through the eyes of the Local Pukes. It is a credible threat, not so much because we succeed, but because we can overthrow any of their regimes.

              BlaiseP as Machiavelli says the first instinct of every dictator is self-preservation. Not his regime, not his family even, himself and only himself. See, an elected dude depends on coalitions, pitting factions against each other, crafting solutions, trying to stay elected. Mr. Madison understood the various sorts of scum seeking power and made sure they were all chasing different aspects of power. With a dictator, all roads end at his front door and everyone is scheming to replace him. You’re not paranoid if they really are out to get you.

              So yeah, a carrier makes a perfectly crafted solution to the dictator: it’s just been misapplied for a while, pulling our punches, attacking his troops. No. To make the carrier a credible threat, we attack the dictator. So what if our military can’t produce a good outcome. Frankly, we shouldn’t much care. The best outcomes arise from within, they cannot be imposed.

              China, ecch, the stronger they get, the better. I like the idea of a strong China. They’ll have to stand up and behave like a superpower. They’re all grown up now, time to treat them as an equal. As an equal, they’ll provide some badly needed balance in the world. Give them some respect, who knows, they might prove themselves respectable.

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      • Country P says “X needs to be done!”
        Country Q says “X needs to be done!”
        Country R says “X needs to be done!”
        Country S says “Can’t someone else just do X?”

        Obviously, we need to criticize Country S for not getting with the program rather than countries P, Q, and R for not just doing X.

        (Now, in this particular case, it looks like countries P, Q, and R *ARE* doing X. More power to them. Let’s hope that they learned a thing or three from watching Iraq and compare/contrast with the thing or three that they learned from watching Bosnia. I don’t see why S is required to be involved.)

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        • But the argument for them doing X vs you doing X automatically de-legitimizes itself.

          It’s like one roommate not doing any dishes cause the other won’t do any dishes. Especially in this case when there are many logistical facts pointing toward the U.S. being responsible for more action than these other places (great power/great responsibility).

          Really, all this talk about “if YOU care, then why don’t YOU do something about it,” is perfectly reasonable but devoid of any moral value.

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          • See it as analogous to the “chickenhawk” argument then.

            If you want blood and treasure poured into North Africa, pour your own.

            When you, yourself, don’t have to pay any price, it’s easy to make an analogy to someone saving someone else’s life at little to no cost.

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          • I don’t quite understand you Jaybird. Are you making any room for a moral framework, or just scrapping it all together? That’s fine if you are, but that really narrows the kind of appeals you can make, and a great number of people aren’t going to wana follow you off that cliff.

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            • When we make room for a moral framework, the cost of not doing anything is weighed against the wonderful outcome of going in there like White SuperJesus and yelling “Peace Be Still” and having everybody actually listen and hold hands on their way to a drum circle.

              And then people ask, pointedly, “Don’t you think that people *SHOULD* hold hands and go to a drum circle? Instead of killing and raping each other?”

              The drums are over there, E.C.

              Hop to it. I’m sure you’ll be greeted as a White SuperJesus.

              Yeah, I know. You didn’t mean “you”. You meant me.

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      • Yes, NOW, E.C. The game’s up. The jig’s up. After hundreds of billions of $$$, the loss of almost 4,400 soldiers, 33,000 injuries, it’s Sayonara suckers. Settle your 1300 year old scores amongst yourselves. We’re finished. Our military is to be used for one reason and one reason only–TO DEFEND THE UNITED STATES. You attack or mess with us, you’re as good as dead. We will administer the harshest most lethal punishment possible. You started this damn war, and we’re going to finish. You, inexcusably and viciously attacked your liberators–time for you parasites to suck the blood of some other civilized nation. In the future, be forewarned, we will do anything and everything to to minimize our casualties and maximise yours. Your corrupt thugocracies, kleptocracies, theocracies are simply are not worth the loss of one more drop of American blood or one penny from our Treasury. For almost 1300 years you’ve wrought sorrow, misery, mass graves, torture, bloodshed. Even the use of chemical weapons to kill your harmless, unarmed, women and children. Yes, Halabja—the aerial bombardment using chemical agents such as mustard gas, and the nerve agents SARIN, TABUN and VX–resulting in thousands of civilian casualties–it was the largest chemical attack against a civilian population in history.

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    • Drill Instructor McFarlane’s Law: Wars start when politicians stop doing their jobs and they end when the goddamn politicians start doing them. In the mean time, the in-between time, it’s our job, gennemens.

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  3. It strikes me that speaking of moral imperatives in this case misses the point. I think the American military, in this situation, is in much the same situation that first-world consumers are in relation to the rest of the world. On a purely utilitarian basis, it’s hard to argue that the money I spent for this computer couldn’t have been spent on far more morally praiseworthy, not when that money could buy the supplies to shepherd a few kids safely through some of the most dangerous years of their lives. Yet I bought the computer, and few believe that I was immoral to do so. When I eventually do decide to open my wallet to Doctors Without Borders, no one accuses me of hypocrisy, even if I also decided to donate to a less worthy charity at the same time, like an opera house.

    While there are certainly compelling moral arguments to the effect that such behavior is irrational, I don’t think it’s the only gloss you can put on such facts. Rather, I think it reveals a common moral intuition that self-sacrificing behavior for the sake of others is always morally praiseworthy, but rarely morally required. The United States, in its charitable military interventions, cannot afford to help every single nation embroiled in a civil war, as I cannot help every person in sub-Saharan Africa without a malaria net. But when the political will at home is just so, the opinions of the international community just right, and the state of our military is in a position of strength, we can pick our moments of charity and do some good for the world.

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    • “The United States, in its charitable military interventions, cannot afford to help every single nation embroiled in a civil war, as I cannot help every person in sub-Saharan Africa without a malaria net.”

      But that is not an argument against helping any single country at and single time. A lot of people including Sullivan and Douthat have been making this claim that since we are not willing to help at all places in all times, there is not requirement that we assist at this time. You might call it the negative Categorical Imperative: Don’t do anything for which if you willed it to be a universal law you could not always follow it.

      I’m more sympathetic toward arguments that say taking sides in a civil war could actually lead to more violence. That Civil wars are never about one military vs. another, but about citizens fighting each other with horrific carnage ensuing.

      So there are moral arguments for and against action.

      And material arguments for and against action (i.e. it is or is not in our “national interest”).

      But as of yet no one seems willing to try and negotiate between these two objectives, the moral and the material, in order to formulate some cogent case for which one counts more and which should govern our action.

      And that is the problem for me. Fundamentally it looks like we’re in the fix of acknowledging it would be moral to intervene through the United Nations, but at the same time saying that it is not morally REQUIRED simply because it seems to go against our material interests as a nation.

      And my feeling is that, if that is the case, no moral action would ever be required except those that force the moral agent to make an extremely limited sacrifice of their own time, resources, or safety.

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  4. There is an old joke.

    If you are someone who wants the government to meddle domestically but not internationally, you are a liberal.

    If you are someone who wants the government to meddle internationally but not domestically, you are a conservative.

    If you are someone who wants the government to meddle domestically and internationally, you are a moderate.

    If you don’t want the government to meddle anywhere you are an extremist.

    Weel, in the past few months, we’ve seen Congress’s Affordable Care Act, the Union Thingamabob in Wisconsin, and “unrest” in the Middle East with an added bonus of a third country in which we are officially lobbing missiles.

    Moderates ought to be pleased.

    In any case, I’m someone who doesn’t much like Congress’s Affordable Care Act, Public Sector Unions, or using the military the way I cheered it when I was cheering on Iraq (hoo, boy)… but when I think about the positive/negative rights argument we’ve been having and the whole moral obligation thing and the example of someone drowning and whether we save them at little to no cost to us, it seems like killing a dictator who is killing his own people is the most obvious analogue to helping a drowning man out.

    If you could kill someone who is murdering people at little to no cost to you, would you?

    (Now, of course, the punchline is that we won’t end up only playing a limited role. We’ll have boots on the ground before long and “little to no cost to you” means about the same thing as when someone says it in a commercial.)

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    • Wouldn’t it be nice if we had some sort of system with courts and judges ‘n all that Law ‘n Order stuff for use in situations like Libya and Iraq and Afghanistan and Bahrain and all these Trouble Spots?

      Oh, that’s right. Conservatives are all about Intervention, just not so much on akshul Law ‘n Order. That’s why we don’t subscribe to international treaties which might subject Our Fightin’ Men to any code of conduct but our own.

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        • Somehow we got away from the fundamental concept of ‘stayin’ home and minding our own bidness?’ This was a smart and enjoyable conversation, from all sides, but isn’t anybody going to point back to that old, reliable founding dictum? I mean our society is in a condition of disorder but, my goodness, that part of the world you’re discussin’ here exists in the maw of chaos. Stay the hell away from these clowns, they’re not worth sacrificing our sons, daughters, and treasure for. Let them kill each other off, stand back and watch and for cryin’ out loud, don’t let these people immigrate to our country.

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          • Heh heh. Foreign Entanglements. I seem to remember a few idealists back in the 1770s making those noises, right up to the point where the Barbary Pirates started taking advantage of this tendency in our leaders.

            That’s the trouble with being a Paleocon. They forget the airplane got invented, that national borders are largely irrelevant.

            We left Gadhafi to his own devices and that Pan Am rained down on Lockerbie and those poor bastards got killed in that disco in Germany. If a few American bombs rain down on him, this is hardly anything new from his perspective. The problem isn’t going there, it’s knowing what works and how to find our way out. Note I did not say find our way home. The world is our home.

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            • Chris, you make ignorance and intemperance a career goal. Last I heard Muslims were members of all races. You played the race card way to early.
              Bp, you back doin’ doobies? Dude, staying home and minding our own bidness doesn’t mean we don’t defend ourselves (like I told you, every once in a while you gotta knock these clowns back to the 7th century), though not with some half-assed plan to strap c-4 on the ass of some ten-year-old Palestinian kid and tell him to go forth for Allah.

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              • If all we can do is periodically “knock them back into the 7th century”, that’s proof enough this knocking strategy isn’t working.

                And I’m not sure you understand the principle of the suicide bomber. We play this game differently than they play it. Their rules aren’t our rules. Let me try to explain this to you, and please don’t get outraged when I try, because it goes to the heart of the matter. Yes, a suicide bomber is deeply outrageous, to you and me and to many Muslims as well. But not to all, and you have to understand their reasons.

                We put a Purple Heart on the coffins of our war dead. We award Medals of Honor to those who sacrificed their own lives for their fellow soldiers. We award Gold Stars to the mothers of our war dead. The principle of sacrificing one life for the many is not unknown to us.

                There are men in the Fukushima reactor buildings this minute who are sacrificing their lives to save others.

                Our enemies don’t have guided missiles to crash into their targets. They use human missiles and they honor their bombers as we honor those in our camp who sacrificed themselves.

                It does no good to harrumph in high dudgeon and shake our fists and declare them inhuman: we don’t give a fuck about those people’s complaints and outrage until they do something so terrible, so freaky, so utterly outrageous we are forced to pay attention to them. Who’s being inhuman now? We, with our robot jihadis, slamming into bunkers, or them, with their human jihadis?

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                • Blaise, okay, paper bag in hand, moved to mouth, breath deeply, breathe deeply, breathe deeply….that’s a little better. Banish outrage, banish outrage…..

                  Seriously, I’m just plain old flummoxed by your comments, but because they are coming from you, whom I sincerely have great respect for, I must try and see it through your eyes. I’ll be honest, I can’t, at least not now. You know what a real battlefield looks like. You know what it feels like, smells like. You’ve experienced the heartbreaking reality of seeing fellow soldiers not ever again being able to make it back home.

                  But here is where you lose me: are there no longer any more good guys and bad guys? Is everything, all morality, all human behavior just a matter of who’s looking through the lens? People who strap themselves with c-4 explosives and blow up a school bus filled with 10-year old girls–are you really drawing equivalence between that and what our soldiers do on the battlefield every day? I’m sure you’re not. At least I hope you’re not but to be honest, it sure reads like you are. I’m not saying you advocate such barbarism, but merely offer it a an example of what goes through the minds of the bad guys. And most painful of all, is your last sentence which absolves entirely such acts, even putting them on an even keel with us killing terrorists with drones. Does slaughtering 3000 innocent (not if you’re Ward Churchill or Chomsky)–“little Eichmanns) human beings just a “cry to be heard”? And this is to be justified because they don’t have the means or wherewithal to acquire Tomahawk missiles? What is to be “heard” from these monsters? That all Jews and Christians need to be exterminated–okay, all Jews are to be exterminated and all Christians to be slaves under Sharia Law. Just a week ago, a Jewish family of 6 was slaughtered while they slept. Three hooded (such courage!) Islamist murderers broke into a Jewish house, armed with machetes and proceeded to butcher the entire family–parents, three children. One of the children was 3 years old, the other was 3 MONTHS OLD. They repeatedly stapped to death a THREE MONTH OLD INFANT with an 8 inch knife all the while screaming Allah Akbar. Come on, Blaise, what monster stabs to death an innocent 3 month old infant? For whom? For what reason? Because again, they need to recognized. Your comments are profoundly depressing. Especially if you’re right.

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                    • Okay, BSK–here’s your on example.

                      Brave Jihadi Bombers in Daring Takedown of School Bus
                      January 4th, 2011

                      Quetta, in the Pakistani part of Balochistan, a jihad-ridden region of Pakistan, which also straddles Iran and Afghanistan

                      (H/t The Jawa Report). Jihad bombers blow up school bus – just how low can Muslim terrorists go? Oh, much much lower than you ever thought…

                      Quetta, Balochistan: A bomb blast tore through a school bus on Tuesday, wounding at least five children in the insurgency-hit southwestern province of Balochistan on the Iranian border, officials said.

                      The bus was taking more than 30 children of paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) fathers to a school in Turbat town, near the Iranian border, police and military officials said.

                      A remote-controlled bomb exploded when the bus neared Ata Shad College, about 550 kilometres (344 miles) west of the provincial capital Quetta, an FC spokesman told AFP.

                      “Five children were wounded, three of them are in a serious condition,” he said.
                      Police said more than a dozen children, aged eight to 12 years, were wounded but most of them were discharged after receiving first aid at hospital.

                      Balochistan, which also borders Afghanistan, is gripped by violence blamed on separatist insurgents and Taliban militants.

                      Hundreds of people have died since rebels rose up in 2004 demanding political autonomy and a greater share of profits from the region’s natural oil, gas and mineral resources.

                      In October, Amnesty International called on Pakistan to investigate the alleged torture and killing of more than 40 Baluch political leaders and activists against a backdrop of Pakistani military operations in the province.

                      Elderly, disabled, young, vulnerable? It doesn’t matter to the armed wing of the ‘Religion of Pieces’. All are fair game in their quest for Islamic domination and Sharia.

                      How can something purported to be a ‘religion’ produce adherents as depraved and perverted as this?

                      [Source: Tribune Express/IHT]

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                    • BSK. My apologies about the school bus victims being all girls. Probably got it mixed with the firemen who let young girls to burn to death inside their school
                      because they weren’t wearing the proper “headgear”.

                      The Mecca city governor visited the fire-damaged school

                      Saudi Arabia’s religious police stopped Fire Rescue.

                      The Mecca city governor visited the fire-damaged school

                      Saudi Arabia’s religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress, according to Saudi newspapers.
                      About 800 pupils were inside the school in the holy city of Mecca when the tragedy occurred
                      5 girls died in the blaze and more than 50 others were injured

                      According to the al-Eqtisadiah daily, firemen confronted police after they tried to keep the girls inside because they were not wearing the headscarves and abayas (black robes) required by the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islam.
                      One witness said he saw three policemen “beating young girls to prevent them from leaving the school because they were not wearing the abaya”.

                      The Saudi Gazette quoted witnesses as saying that the police – known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – had stopped men who tried to help the girls and warned “it is a sinful to approach them”.

                      The father of one of the dead girls said that the school watchman even refused to open the gates to let the girls out.

                      “Lives could have been saved had they not been stopped by members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,” the newspaper concluded.

                      Relatives’ anger

                      Families of the victims have been incensed over the deaths.

                      Most of the victims were crushed in a stampede as they tried to flee the blaze.

                      The school was locked at the time of the fire – a usual practice to ensure full segregation of the sexes.

                      The religious police are widely feared in Saudi Arabia. They roam the streets enforcing dress codes and sex segregation, and ensuring prayers are performed on time.

                      Those who refuse to obey their orders are often beaten and sometimes put in jail.

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                    • Heidegger-

                      I get it. Some Muslims have done some really, really fucked up shit. So have some Americans. And Christians. And Italians. And Australians. And Somalians. And atheists. If we want to go tit-for-tat and list terrible things, we could go on all day. But you have yet to demonstrate why the ugliness of Muslims and/or Middle Easterners is quantifiably different than our own ugliness (or anyone else’s ugliness).

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                  • War is monstrous. People get killed. We want nice sanitary wars where blood only gets on uniforms, like so many tidy women menstruating on sanitary pads, discreetly disposing of the evidence in the wastebaskets of history. For godsakes don’t show those coffins at Dover, don’t show any civilians weeping over the enemy dead. Just today, fresh news of American troops proudly posing with their kills like so many Wisconsin hunters with a dead deer.

                    Civilians do die in war. If you consider how many Germans and Japanese civilians died under our bombers, the totals dwarf the Hiroshima and Nagasaki kill totals combined. The Tokyo firebombing completely obliterated the homes of 1.5 million people in a phosphorus firestorm. How dare anyone say we don’t kill civilians, we have, we do, it’s a fact of war and let’s not pretend otherwise. Aerial bombardment of civilian centers was prohibited by the Geneva Convention. We did it anyway because the Nazis did it to London. It did not and does not justify the deaths of those civilians.

                    Want to really piss off a given population? Bomb them from the air.

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                • I think your problem is, you’ve gone native. Not an uncommon event among the imperial travellers of yore, and totally your bidness. The thing about knocking these sanguine folk back to the 7th century is that it generates peace for a couple of hundred years or so.
                  Sadly, this generation has given us the progressive, and he is ill equipped to deal in reality. As such it is possible the West will be done in by its own pusillanimity.

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                  • You can’t knock somebody back into the 7th century when they have local resources that people want (be it oil or poppies, there’s addicts out there and they pay top dollar). They pay for it. Speculators build out capabilities. And the locals get money, which they can use to buy stuff.

                    And once they get some stuff, they wonder why they don’t have that other stuff. And they wonder why the oil or poppies that are pulled out of the ground sell for millions elsewhere and they make not-millions.

                    So then they buy guns.

                    This cycle takes a lot less time than 100 years, unlike 500 years ago.

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                    • Pat, interesting comments, however I think, and I may be wrong, that the issue centers on the will to victory, or at least survival. In the cyclical or historiogenetic nature of societies they seem to reach a point where a spiritual dry rot begins. Perhaps that’s where we’re at when we see some rather ‘intelligent’ individuals talking about a relative ‘equvilancy’ between the gnostically/pneumatically deformed Muslim and the West, now suffering by the inability/refusal to participate in the noetic analysis of reality.

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          • Chris, is this what you are referring to as being “racist”? I’ve read it very carefully, and don’t see a racist word, thought, concept, whatever. Are your sensibilities so sensitive that to characterize terrorists as “clowns” is offensive and racist? Bob–“Stay the hell away from these clowns, they’re not worth sacrificing our sons, daughters, and treasure for. Let them kill each other off.” Who could disagree with that? It sounds like a splendid battlefield plan to me, but I’ll defer military battle plans and strategies to our honorable soldier, Mr. BlaiseP.

            Without the help of our good and very helpful friends, the Native Americans and French, our own Revolution and Independence would have taken a much, much longer time.
            In any case, I’d bet my life that deep down, there is probably not a single word you’d disagree with. It’s a shame that someone with such a gifted intelligence as yours, has to be so intractably enslaved by political correctness. I really can’t recall as single time where you’ve strayed off the politically correct reservation. Ever. Don’t you ever get bored by being so predictable? A very sorry case of thinking inside the box. And could someone PLEASE tell me what is racist about advocating letting terrorists killing each other off. I think it would make a great pay-per-view “reality” show.

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            • Why it may not have been explicitly racist, it was pretty ignorant and biased and demonstrated a tendency towards “otherizing” those who are different. It’s only a small hop, skip, and a jump from there to blatant racism.

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              • BSK–does any bad thing happen in this world of ours that does not have a racial component? I really don’t think I can find an example where you don’t play that tire, old, race card. And what’s with this “we” and “they” business? Can you provide an example where we deliberately target civilians–from the air, sea, or land? I think you see EVERY U.S. soldier as a Lt. Calley.

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                • When we dropped nuclear bombs (the only usage of them in the history of warfare) on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. These were primarily residential cities. Upwards of 244,000 killed.

                  Now, I could certainly find more contemporary examples, but I think these examples are most important because A) they demonstrate the sole use of the most powerful weapon known to man, B) the targets were chosen as an explicit and fundamental component of America’s War policy… these were not the actions of rogue soldiers or generals, and C) we conveniently ignore it far too often.

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              • (roars of laughter) Heidegger, every war resolves to Us and Them. Where do you get this insane notion a munition discriminates between combatants and civilians? How many goddamn Woopsies do we need in Afghanistan before we’re not seen as Liberators anymore?

                Do you think the combatant isn’t a human being? Do you think his death is any less significant than a civilian’s death, that his family won’t grieve for him, that his brother won’t run down to the corner to enlist to revenge his brother’s death, that his sister won’t go off to make sure his name is written in big letters on the Wall of Martyrs? Killing begets more killing. There is no end to revenge.

                Look, if you’re going to wage a war, better realize one thing up front. The goal of war is to terrify your enemy into submission.

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                • “Roars of laughter”—Hey, that even made me laugh!!!

                  Gentlemen, my bags are packed and I’m off to join a Trappist Monastery.

                  Stop by sometime–you’ll love the music or at least Monsieur Pascal will. And we can make honey like no one else.

                  And regrettably Blaise, I really do believe in good guys and bad guys. Always will. And I really do believe that this great country of ours is God’s gift to humanity. And I don’t think for a second, that any of you guys don’t believe the same thing re USA, especially, Mr. Blaise. (Mr. Blaise I wish you were just a tad more idealistic) But hey, maybe you’re right. I just don’t like to believe in the worst of people even if it turns out true, which I guess would give you the last best laugh!

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                  • I believe in Good, just not in Good Guys. Ditto for Bad. Anyone who resorts to a gun where politics might have a solution, well, war isn’t so much immoral as amoral. I’ll go with the politics where it’s possible. Wars don’t solve problems.

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                    • Americans are dirty little evil devils who want to enslave the whole planet and have even recently developed genetic nerve agents that have the power to paralyze an individual with unbearable phobias. Just look at me—I woke up this morning shaking uncontrollably with a rare case of barophobia–an intense fear of gravity. The only thing that neutralized this sinister little devil in my body was to get down on the floor and do the Curly Shuffle. You think you know fear and ridicule? Try having to do this at work. (Do you think they might even have have 12-Step programs for Barophobia?) If anyone else has had this insidious disorder please let me know. Thanks to the League of Truly Extraordinary Gentlemen!

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                    • I just did respond but it appears to have vanished. Okay, regarding the difference of these murderers—that’s easy enough: Americans kill civilians because of accidents–they do not do so deliberately. Terrorists kill civilians purposely, the younger the better. Sort of like the butchery of the terrorists last weekend–you know, mercilessly, carving this family into pieces because they were Jewish. A THREE YEAR OLD INFANT CARVED INTO PIECES. Did you get that? You will undoubtedly blame the US because of our treatment of Native Americans, the Vietnam War, CO2, the grassy knoll 2nd assassin, the Carlisle Group, the incarceration of H. Rap Brown, Hurricane Carter, the CIA selling cocaine to minorities, fluoridation of water, our fake landing on the moon, and god knows what other fanciful idiocies bounce around that brain of yours.

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                    • Guess what, Heidegger: the munition doesn’t care. It’s terribly democratic. It’s like these dumbass Gun Nuts tell us all the goddamn time, guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

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                    • So when we dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that was an accident?

                      And why do you refer to every crime committed by a Muslim as an act of terrorism? How do you know the brutal crime you refer to wasn’t simply a murder-robbery? Because those happen in brutal fashion all the time in America. Is it because the assailants were Muslim? Or because the victims were Jewish? Perhaps there is more to the story that indicates why this a terrorist act but you have not offered that. Instead, it just seems to fit the terrible American trope of assuming that our enemies are purely evil monsters and every action they take is intended to further that evil while we are humane, good people and any non-human, non-good action we take is an accident or an aberration.

                      You are still yet to offer a quantifiable or qualitative difference between us and them. Saying we don’t target civilians is patently false. And if you do believe it, then you are ignoring history AND are showing yourself to buy the government spin hook, line, and sinker.

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                    • And, as someone else (BlaiseP, I believe) attempted to point out, you have to try to understand the perspective of the perpetrators of these civilian-targeted attacks. As far as they are concerned, there are no innocent civilians. They do not view this as a war in the traditional sense, with two organized fighting forces lobbing bombs at a distance. Many of them view it as a clash of cultures or civilizations. Many of them see the American lifestyle and how it directly or indirectly impacts them and their families and friends. They don’t see the people in that building as non-combatants. By engaging in the American, Western lifestyle, one that they feel is directly antagonistic and destructive to their own, they presume them to be direct combatants.

                      Do I agree with this? No. But the fact remains is that is how many of them feel. Their mindset, as you attempted to describe it, is not, “Let’s slaughter the innocents!” It’s, “Let’s kill the people who are ruining our lives!” Obviously, they are greatly misinformed. And it does not excuse their actions. But it certainly offers a better understandings of their ideology and, consequently, their methodology.

                      Now, if you are as opposed to nuance as you have demonstrated thus far, I doubt this will resonate with you. But if you think that their actions should be judged without context, then mustn’t our own? The people getting blown to bits in Iraq or Afghanistan and now Libya don’t care if it was an accident. They see assholes flying jets over their cities and dropping bombs indiscriminately on folks. Or targeting children from gun ships. If we want them to accept our explanation and perspective on events, must we not also accept theirs?

                      Oh wait… they’re DIFFERENT… I forgot…

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            • This old dude would like to observe this business of Leaving Them Alone has never worked. These are people, not clowns, with the right to self-determination.

              For many decades, we have not left Gadhafi alone: he has the oil and we have the cars and we’ve shined on a lot of his shit and taken his money in exchange for the lives of all those people aboard that Pan Am flight. Not a wise policy, and I don’t think anyone here would say it was.

              But the USA has resolutely backed Israel in the face of manifestly racist policies. The very idea of a modern nation state being created for the benefit of a single ethnic group…. say what you want to about how Israel has tried to deal with the Palestinians or how racist the Arabs were and are, Israel is the #1 foreign recipient of American tax dollars and anyone who says anything about that little factoid is called a Hater of Israel. If anyone deserves to be Left Alone to kill each other off, it’s the Israelis and the Palestinians. Just get it over with, do as every other conqueror has done, push the natives off their lands and let subsequent generations apologize for it. If Qadhafi backed the terrorists, we back our own. The French only backed us because we had a common enemy, the British.

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              • Blaise, okay, with that, I surrender. If self-determination is a justifiable reason to slaughter innocent human beings, I raise the white flag. I need to go back to college–and not as a piano major. I need to get a degree in nihilism and how to view the world through the eyes of cold, black, evil.

                Any recommendations?

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                    • Even for you, that’s obtuse. Walt Whitman was a great man and the wounded soldiers he cared for loved him.

                      Sneering at Whitman’s sexuality, well, you must know it makes you look like a bucktoothed bigot. In those days, men did have deep and abiding friendships: life was shorter and therefore more intense. Whitman claimed to have six children.

                      Whitman saw both sides of the Civil War, I’ve studied his life. Whitman interviewed many Confederate soldiers for pardons, it was part of his job at the Attorney General’s office.

                      At any rate, I thought better of you than that.

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                    • Bob, anyone who loves God HAS to love Whitman. He has to be one of the most beautiful souls to ever live. I’ve loved “Leaves Of Grass” since I was a child. I don’t think he has a depraved drop of blood in his body. He’s a deeply soulful, transcendentaly beautiful, melancholic and spiritual man. His inspired utterances speak of a longing for God, as well as an experience of God. As well as a deep love of humanity. I simply could never be convinced otherwise. Please try and read him again–I think you might change your mind. And he’s simply beyond all considerations of sexuality. As in.. who cares? He’s a national treasure that we should all be proud of.

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                    • Bp, dude I do love ya and I hope you get that place in the Louisiana but as far as PC, the dog ain’t never gonnna hunt. Walt was homosexual-not that there’s anything wrong with that-and a gummint apparatchick-and yes, there’s plenty wrong with that, at least ususally, or sometimes, and a Lincolnite which ice’s the proverbial cake as far as morals, ethics, and character are concerned. You may feel free to get all misty eyed over his perverse inclinations, I don’t.

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                    • Mike, as always thanks for your insightful input. My interest in the South is an appreciation of a unique conservatism that, had it been permitted to develope, may have rendered great assistance to the ongoing chaos. In it’s efforts to cling to the salvational Jesus, the South refused the linguistic deformations in the Hegelian synthesis and embraced the orthodoxy of the possibilities of the experiential Christ. All of which, as you I’m sure you expect, strengthened not only the family but those ‘little platoons’ so popular among a society that correctly questions the viability of the librul inclination to demand ‘rights’ sans responsibilities established on the proper understanding of human nature. The Southerner then offered us our best chance to find the middle ground between economic librul statism/parasitism and ‘unbridled market capitalism’ in the possiblility of agrariansim, grounded on a non-ideological Burkean conservatism that acknowledges the social contract between God and man, the planet, and human relationships.
                      The South proffered a counter to the Enlightenment ideological distortions: Rationalism, Sentimentalism, and Utilitarianism and looked to common sense, experience, and wisdom to stand against the utopianism of the ideologist, that always and everywhere brings misery upon the people.

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                    • The reality of the South’s religion, speaking as the son of a Southern Baptist minister and a regular attender of Baptist churches all my life, was never much on true salvation so much as on a frenetic and ultimately fruitless cycle of remorse and repentance. The endless choruses of Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling, the fretful calls for those who weren’t saved to come forward and accept Jesus…. it was all a horror.

                      There was never any advancement in these people’s spiritual lives, no continued search for enlightenment, no sense of their place in the world at large. The world was divided between the Saved and the Unsaved. If Jesus was in their hearts, he sure had a funny way of showing it as these people iterated over the first few baby steps of the spiritual life, never transcending their racism and their hatred of anyone not just like them. Their ministers knew next to nothing, their preaching was as spiritually nourishing as a mouthful of gravel.

                      Revelations 3:17: You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

                      The South became a parody of itself as the lynchings of the 50s gave way to the Librul 60s with those pesky voter registration Jews and Catlicks trying to register those Nigras. The 70s and 80s gave us the Stars ‘n Bars Southern Boy and hillbilly chic, abandoning all pretense of an actual Southern literary or cultural aristocracy. General Lee became a car and not a general and the transformation was complete.

                      As for the 90s, the Oughts and today, the only thing the South has given us is two terms of an imported Connecticut Yankee affecting a Texas Twang name o’ Dubyah Bush. And NASCAR, currently on hard times.

                      But still those Baptist churches remain, their pews no longer filled sweaty, guilt-ridden bumpkins wonderin’ as to their status with the Lord. Air conditioning may have arrived but the Nigrahs have not. Church is a social gathering, so’s the Lilywhite Christian Academy next door, blessedly nigra-free, though we don’t talk about that subject, wheah ah yoah manners, dahlin’? The South has resegregated with a vengeance. Now comes a whole host of these historical amnesiacs, recycling the politics of their Klansmen grandfathers, fine encomiums to Society and the Plantation and the Perils of Experimental Jesus. I have lived long enough to have seen it before, that Confederate Claptrap doesn’t work on this child of the South.

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                    • As the grandson of a Presbyterian (Frozen Chosen) Yankee minister who practiced along the border I find your confession interesting. Apparently, it wasn’t all that much fun to sit in paw’s pews and somehow this upbringing, or was it some unstated aspect of modernity, has us wandering the globe yearning for a catfish farm in Louisiana. You may have looked ‘inward’, I don’t think you discerned much.
                      A true story: A black friend of mine from Mississippi worked his father’s farm until he went off to college. During harvest, he told me, the farmers in the neighborhood went around and helped each other, black and white, bring in the crops. In town he knew who the racists were and avoided their company. By contrast, he said, when he came North to work, he would have whites pat him on the back and act like a friend but in reality do their best to cause him to fail. In this fellow’s opinion the Northern version of ‘racism’ was much more virulent than the South’s.
                      Of course, his story and yours are both anecdotal, a small fragment of the truth. My analysis was intended as a generalized speculation of political-social possibilities. But, you knew that.

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                    • Don’t kid yerself about racism in the South, Robert. There’s racism and tribalism everywhere, no doubt of it. But your lofty platitudes about the virtues of the South are lost on me. I emerged from a deeply racist tradition on my father’s side. Trouble is, when my Dad got saved, he went off to Columbia Bible College and became enlightened to the Bible’s posture on racism.

                      My grandfather on my mother’s side started Carver Bible Institute, now Carver College, in an abandoned pool hall in East Point Georgia. It was a school to train black ministers and he suffered the full brunt of Georgia racism. Crosses were burned on his lawn, my mother was called a nigger lover, the family was physically attacked. The county tried to have the place closed down with the fire code: demanding an iron door be put on a wooden building.

                      My parents met at Columbia Bible College. Black people attended their wedding. My father’s people were so offended they wouldn’t speak to him until I was born.

                      So all your palaver about the South and its intrinsic virtues, its adherence to the important values, it’s all so much glib hooey. You didn’t live this stuff. My parents went off to France and Africa as missionaries and I came back to Atlanta and Columbia at four year intervals. Tribalism I’d seen in Africa and I interpreted the racism of the South as just another sort of ugly tribalism.

                      Don’t even try to defend the virtues of the South to me. I like Louisiana because the Cajuns like me, and the Cajuns got shit on by the White Society you praise to the skies. The rest of the South can go fuck itself, pretentious, lowlife cracker trash, all of it.

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                    • Mike, my reference point unless otherwise stated is post-war, post-African Chattel Slavery. My economic point of reference would be the Nashville Agrarians/Fugitives.
                      Bp, dude, great histories. The one thing I do notice is that you appear to suffer from a certain reverse prejudice and I find that singularly fascinating simply because prejudice, as I’m sure you know, is a spiritual cancer, no matter which way it cuts.

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                    • …. says the man who calls Walt Whitman a light in his loafers Lincolnite. The very idea of you trying to pin bigotry on me is bizarre. I take people like I find ’em. My French sounds like an African speaking French and I got no end of guff on that count from the French, everywhere except Louisiana, where I was taken in as one of them, the only place on earth that ever mistook me for one of their own. The French language is wasted on the French people, much as the message of Jesus Christ is wasted on the bigots of the South.

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                    • Mike, my reference point unless otherwise stated is post-war, post-African Chattel Slavery.

                      Using “Lincolnite.” as an epithet is otherwise stating. And your objection to the language of rights suggests that your agrarian fantasy might be post-slavery, but it’s bang in the middle of Jim Crow.
                      I have no idea what you mean by “reverse prejudice”, but if it includes disgust with the Confederacy and the peculiar institution it stood for, guilty as charged.

                      But I am very touched by your story of the black man who got along fine because he knew what his place was.

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                    • Yes, ‘Lincolnite’ is defined as ‘statist oppressor.’
                      “Reverse prejudice” can manifest itself, in one form or another, as self-hate.
                      Yes, my olde Mississippi friend told me that Northerners were, by far, more racists than Southerners. He retired, moved back to the family farm-his home ‘place’-and ended his days working his hands in the soil.

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                    • Wa’al, Jim Crow sure looked like Statist Oppression to me, with emphasis on the States managing it. If the Civil War was the triumph of Federalism, we still have a few minging, stinky weasels in the woodshed, crying out for the good old days where Society (read White Society) and its values were paramount.

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                    • Yes, of course Jim Crowe was just such and example of illiberality of gummint and so was them thar a-theivin’ “Yankee Carpetbagger’s” and Confederate disenfranchisement that birthed ol Jim in the perfervid rage of revenge and hatred. Let me recommend RPWarren’s essay in “I’ll Take My Stand.” Your people was sure literate.

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                    • Don’t kid yerself. That old cheeze-eater Robert Penn Warren would later have cause to eat his racist words when he was just getting started. Like I always say, no zealot like a converted zealot from the other side of the fence.

                      All those maudlin Agrarians and Southern Renaissance bozos were in love with a culture that never was. Like the Renaissance itself, it never made it down the hill from the castles and palaces into the lives of men. Like the Renaissance, it prospered in a few centers of learning, with deep dark forests of ignorance all around.

                      That old pish-posh Wendell Berry is the last of that breed, living in his castle in the clouds up the river in Port William, just like the Liberals have Lake Wobegon. Where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average, and Pickett made it up that ridge.

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                    • All those maudlin Agrarians and Southern Renaissance bozos were in love with a culture that never was.

                      Even the antebellum ones — as Mark Twain pointed out, they lived in a world where Sir Walter Scott wrote history, not romances. Not surprising that their idea of honor was beating an unarmed man half to death while holding any potential defenders off with a gun.

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                    • Here you olde Rebel, read this: http://www.clemson.edu/cedp/cudp/scr/volumes/scr_39-2.htm

                      Yes, Mr. Warren’s daughter told me that he’d ‘grown’! I took it to mean he’d become yet another benighted progressivist, become a member of the unnamed crowd.
                      BTW, Lincoln didn’t restore ‘federalism’ rather he brought forward the American unitary state; he was to America what Lenin was to Russia.
                      Yes, Lee should have gotten between Meade and Washington City and forced the Yankees to assault the abatis.

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                    • Mike, you bring back the ‘good old days’ when canning Yankees in the congress was a Southern sport!
                      Bp, you’ll continue to wander the globe, like the ghost seeking his kin, seeking his ‘place’ to rest, and Wendell will still be keeping his stock in good fresh.

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                • There are two ways to look at Cold Black Evil. One is to get all hot and bothered, but evil can absorb all the heat you can generate. It’s not a battle you’re going to win, evil thrives on people getting bothered. Makes them stupid and angry and prone to violence.

                  Then there’s another way. It’s also congruent with any winning strategy in war: understand your enemy. Nobody thinks he’s evil. We all make excuses for what we do, often excellent reasons for some temporary transit from Go Along and Get Along. We assure ourselves this particular incident justifies some intervention, some taking of sides. Coalitions must be formed to spread the mess around a bit on the toast before the Eggs must be Broken and the missiles must be fired are actually broken and fired.

                  So rather than look at all this as Evil, look at the blame spreading mechanisms on both sides. Don’t be Evil says Google, and if you ask anyone, he’ll tell you he’s not.

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                  • Bob, I think when it gets to art, music, painting, whatever, sexuality MUST not ever be a consideration of the worth or lack thereof of these geniuses—these guys slaved and worked and spent every moment of their very difficult lives giving us these beautiful paintings, sculpture, novels, poems, music, music, music!! Could you imagine a world without Tchaikovsky?!! These geniuses are at another level, an incomprehensible level–we must, as a society, do everything possible to keep their work alive. They literally build that bridge to God. Music, more than any other form of art, is the most powerful connection to God we will ever experience!

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                    • Oh well, Mike, like everything else in this universe, it all depends on who’s looking through what lens. I very much love his music, top to bottom–he’s not in my top 5, but he is without question, a great, great composer. He’s also close to the ending of that miraculous rainbow of sound starting with Bach and ending thereabouts with Richard Strauss/Mahler/Stravinsky. I don’t know if you’re a Mahler fanatic (I am), but if not, you literally have the great fortune to discover an entirely new musical universe! Music will never let you down.
                      The joy/beauty payback is at the very least about a 20/1 ratio.

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              • “The very idea of a modern nation state being created for the benefit of a single ethnic group….”

                Blaise, that’s just a kick-in-the- groin statement. You mean you can’t find it in your heart to extend a little mercy and allow these people to a little sliver of land in a desert? God, that’s cold. I’d like to see you sit through a film about the liberation of Bergen-Belsen and come back and make such a truly mean-spirited comment. And who would have thought you and Helen Thomas would share similar opinions about the Jewish people? She said they should all be shipped back to Germany and Austria to live. Or something very similar. Do you ever think about how much talent the human race lost in those ovens? I’m simply stunned speechless by your deeply heartless words.

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                • Look, Israel is what it is: a Jewish State. I don’t like Islamic Republics either and I’ve said that as well, not that it seems to register as an equivalence. How is one any better than the other? When the Jews of Baghdad and Alexandria were murdered and evicted by the Muslims, they ran for Palestine.

                  Don’t try to equivocate. Europe didn’t have to reabsorb the Jewish survivors. They politely apologized and off those Jews went to Israel.

                  In my Arabic-speaking identity, I hear the same crap from the Arabs. I say to them “you know, if you hadn’t driven them out of Baghdad and Alexandria and Hebron and Cairo, where they’d been living peacefully for many centuries, you wouldn’t have the Jews in Israel. Your fathers were unrepentant Nazis, they did as their friend the Fuehrer told them, you destroyed your Jewish communities in violation of the Prophet’s historical truces with these Jews and Israel is the punishment for your fathers’ crimes against those Jews and against Islam which told you the Jews were also People of the Book.”

                  Look, I really am a heartless dude. If I stopped to cry about the stuff I’d seen in refugee camps I’d be in a mental institution. I just can’t cry anymore. You can call it some form of repression, slap whatever label on it you like, I soldier on in my own little way, trying to do the will of a merciful God in a most unmerciful world. If there was any justice in the world, we should all be found guilty.

                  So don’t ask me to put Jews in front of Palestinians in my heart: neither has shown much mercy to the other. And if you want to see the world aright, don’t you put any one race or creed in front of anyone else.

                  Israel has made its bed hard, well, they made that bed and I cannot tell them to return the land they stole and tear down the walls and checkpoints and release all those prisoners. If Israel wants peace, it will either come to terms with the Palestinians or kill them all. There are no other options.

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                  • My support for Israel over the Palestinians has to do with stuff like:

                    Which country has medicinal marijuana?
                    Which country has civil unions for same-sex couples?
                    Which country allows me to write an editorial screaming about corruption in the ruling party? Heh, no. I’m just kidding about that one.
                    Which country allows me to buy an issue of Playboy?

                    It seems to me that Israel is a lot more “rock and roll”.

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                    • Yeah, well, Israel has a whole class of Resident Crazies too, the Haredim. I’m plenty sick of those bastards. Jewish Taliban is what they are, trying to stop everyone else from having a good time.

                      How did Twain put it? Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion–several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself and cuts his throat if his theology isn’t straight. He has made a graveyard of the globe in trying his honest best to smooth his brother’s path to happiness and heaven….The higher animals have no religion. And we are told that they are going to be left out in the Hereafter. I wonder why? It seems questionable taste.

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                    • Jaybird, again, you utterly and completely amaze me. Do you realize what you have just done? With a wave of the hand, you totally demolished the Left’s wacky history of Israel and all of their crazy nonsensical rhetoric. And With three levels of different meaning. One of the more brilliant take downs I’ve ever seen. Well done, Sir well done. Would you mind if I, with full attribution to you, send this to few friends?

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                    • Blaise: I am no fan of the religious nutters who do not believe in my right to be wrong. Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Miscellaneous, I am happiest when they have a voice but not a deciding vote.

                      Heidegger: I said similar once on Redstate and got dogpiled. You wouldn’t believe it. Send it to whomever. Don’t be surprised if you hear that I am a “libertine”.

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                    • Yeah, well, when the entire reason for your country’s existence is predicated on Being Jewish, it does tend to conflate this business of Religion and Nationality just a bit when you let the Haredim define Jewishness, especially marriage.

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                    • Well, this goes back to the reason behind the reason for the country’s creation. It was a people’s genocide based on Being Jewish by a bunch of folks who conflated Religion with Nationality.

                      Hey, if it were up to me, we’d kick some Indians off of a reservation and give that land to the Israelis. Move them all out of the Middle East and give them some crappy land around a crappy river in New Mexico or something.

                      Then we could see the Middle East finally flourish free of the oppression of a bunch of religious wackos in the one spot in the region that doesn’t have any oil.

                      Or we could see how nothing much changes over there and, hey, at least we’d finally be able to get a decent latke in the Rocky Mountain West.

                      I suspect that the Israelis *AIN’T* the problem and since their civilization is relatively compatible with mine, I’d think we’d, at least, not be worse off for them being over here and, more likely, everybody would be better off.

                      And when the Middle East is *UNCHANGED* even with all of those Israelis gone, maybe we can discuss what the problem in the Middle East *REALLY* is.

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                    • All this is so much fun, but going back to the original premise, what’s the case for intervention, anywhere? We’d like to think it’s to abolish some unrepresentative tyrant who’s stinking up the joint and causing more problems than he solves, replacing him with some more representative scheme where the ordinary people have a say in the form of government which shall represent them, give voice to their various factions and the like, Federalist Papers, Anti-Federalist Papers, Locke, Rousseau, Hume, all this is laid out and I presume we’ve all studied this stuff.

                      Especially Hume — why do men argue so passionately about politics? It’s mostly religious differences that get us going. All these idiotic axioms get in the way of men going about their lives, going along, getting along…. I mean really, how can a country based on an axiom like Being Jewish be anything but a reservation, a cloister, a nasty little club, by invitation only? It’s not a real nation by any definition, not when your genes dictate whether or not you get a passport.

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                    • I believe that the case for intervention, anywhere, is predicated on the same assumptions of theodicy.

                      1. America is omnipotent.
                      2. America is omnibenevolent.
                      3. Evil exists.

                      We know that 3 and we know that 1, so the question comes: if America had the power to prevent the murder of a single small child in Libya… *WHY* wouldn’t it do so?

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                    • Much like with the other theodicy argument, you can rely on “powerful enough to make a difference” and “the difference we make will be a good one rather than a not-necessarily-evil one”.

                      If you’re using primarily moral arguments, anyway. Pragmatic ones don’t have that burden.

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                  • Intervention isn’t a question of Evil or Good. That’s absurd. Now here’s how to measure the efficacy of intervention, it’s strictly consequentialist.

                    Not intervening has consequences. Evil prospers while good men do nothing, etc.

                    Intervening has consequences: he that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.

                    To justify intervention, you must demonstrate the efficacy of your intervention and the lawfulness of that intervention. In a domestic battery situation, we don’t want anyone but officers of the law involved in breaking it up. Why don’t we want anyone but an officer of the law in there? Because according to BlaiseP’s Law of Bar Fights, the guy who tries to break up the fight is the first guy in the ambulance.

                    Muhammar Gadhafi has shown himself a manifest tyrant who shoots his own people. This doesn’t justify intervening from the outside, on its own, because we can’t demonstrate how our intervention will improve that situation beyond the immediate consideration of him shooting his citizens from the air. And that’s all we’re justified in doing right now. Removing him from power is not currently justified.

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                    • Intervention isn’t a question of Evil or Good.

                      Dude, *I* know that! But you didn’t ask “what does nutball Jaybird think?”

                      You asked: “All this is so much fun, but going back to the original premise, what’s the case for intervention, anywhere?”

                      The arguments for intervention are echoes of 2002-2003. Which were echoes of 1995. Which were echoes of 1991. It’s a damn echo chamber.

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                    • 52K dead in Korea.
                      55K dead in Vietnam.
                      To keep the statist commies in check while statist commie-dems run things here?
                      We ain’t the policemen of the world. If we must war, then we do it like we did it to the Japanese/Germans e.g. nothing is left, millions die, the odor of rotting flesh permeates the aire and teaches all of us the horror of war unleashed.
                      We ain’t the policemen of the world, that’s madness. How many times do we have to repeat this crap until people like you figure it out?

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    • Jaybird– “using the military the way I cheered it when I was cheering on Iraq (hoo, boy)…” you were cheering on Iraq? Iraq over the US? You words certainly suggest it, but I’m 99% positive you must have meant something else. Maybe cheering on Iraq’s demise. “On” is a tricky preposition when used in this context, though.

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      • No, Heidegger. I was cheering on Operation Iraqi Freedom. I was arguing that we, as a society, have a responsibility to others. We have a responsibility to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to midwife the birth of a self-determined country (rather than the tyranny that existed) because the desire for Human Freedom beats in the heart of every man and we, as a society, have a responsibility to free slaves wherever we may find them.

        Hoo boy.

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        • Phew. That’s a relief, Jaybird. Maybe with a gun to your head, you might make a statement that you were cheering on the Iraqi “insurgency” but but such a remark would be so out of your character it just couldn’t possibly be believed. I’d have to call the FBI and report that a terrorist abduction had taken place.

          While I agree wholeheartedly with your comments, and very noble sentiments–very nicely articulated, by the way–we simply lack the resources to be the Top Dog Protector of the rest of the world. That mission is over. Let Europe deal with it–they’re the ones who are soon going to be called to prayer 5 time a day. We’ve been defending them for about 60 years now plus, they have more than enough manpower and weaponry. Also, that red phone in Obama’s bedroom is never going to stop ringing if we have to tackle the lists of things you’ve written.

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        • Jaybird, you’re on fire today! And I, for one, find your solutions extremely interesting and quite workable. I know you were probably being sarcastic, but I find it something to be taken seriously. The land we could them in the Wild Wild West would be at least 10 times larger than their country in the Middle East. If problems arose about the topography of their new state, we could probably hire set specialists in Hollywood to make an identical copy of the real Israel complete with all Holy sites. Are you with me, here? Good. Of course, you know what would happen next. Mark my words, the Palestinians would all of a sudden, develop an interest the “New” Israel Yeah, the same old crap, “right of return”, they’d claim they’ve been in the New West for the last 10,000 year and want right of access to visit all their “holy” sites. Since none exist, they’d claim Mohammad wrote the Quran in the Grand Canyon and received “divine” apparitions from that area. The only problem was, since the Quran was in fact, written by a Jewish Rabbi scribe–Muhammad was totally illiterate and could not read or write a single letter. So after the Quran was finished he beheaded the Jewish Scribe (a very common practice in the religion of peace) ) Muhammad then decided to head to Vegas, hang out in a few brothels, impregnated about 600 hookers, and then said, “I’m getting the hell out this Zionest Jewish nest of corruption and devils.” Those winged horses then swooped down, picked up the prophet and then, for good measure, unsuccesly tried to fly the winged chariort into something resembling two “death spires”. An there you have it, the beginning of Islam. Such a long, long way we’ve travelled. Hard to believe this religion of peace would ever be capable of commanding some of their followers to slaughter 3000 innocents. (Sorry Ward–meant “little Eichmanns”.

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          • Sorry for the second posting-have no idea why that happened–Blaise was no doubt muttering, H,once is more than enough. Can’t we ban this crazy SOB once and for all?? This a great site with the exception of that mentally unbalanced crackpot.

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        • Jaybird—-

          Jaybird, you’re on fire today! And I, for one, find your solutions extremely interesting and quite workable. I know you were probably being sarcastic, but I find it something to be taken seriously. The land we could them in the Wild Wild West would be at least 10 times larger than their country in the Middle East. If problems arose about the topography of their new state, we could probably hire set specialists in Hollywood to make an identical copy of the real Israel complete with all Holy sites. Are you with me, here? Good. Of course, you know what would happen next. Mark my words, the Palestinians would all of a sudden, develop an interest the “New” Israel Yeah, the same old crap, “right of return”, they’d claim they’ve been in the New West for the last 10,000 year and want right of access to visit all their “holy” sites. Since none exist, they’d claim Mohammad wrote the Quran in the Grand Canyon and received “divine” apparitions from that area. The only problem was, since the Quran was in fact, written by a Jewish Rabbi scribe–Muhammad was totally illiterate and could not read or write a single letter. So after the Quran was finished he beheaded the Jewish Scribe (a very common practice in the religion of peace) ) Muhammad then decided to head to Vegas, hang out in a few brothels, impregnated about 600 hookers, and then said, “I’m getting the hell out this Zionest Jewish nest of corruption and devils.” Those winged horses then swooped down, picked up the prophet and then, for good measure, unsuccesly tried to fly the winged chariort into something resembling two “death spires”. An there you have it, the beginning of Islam. Such a long, long way we’ve travelled. Hard to believe this religion of peace would ever be capable of commanding some of their followers to slaughter 3000 innocents. (Sorry Ward–meant “little Eichmanns”.

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      • Blaise, again you toss the whole racial mix in a cauldron, vigorously stir it, dump it out and hope there no wise guys that print a sign that says, “Arbeit Macht Frei”.

        Are you saying Palestinians are, in effect, living on a reservation? (this reminds me of one of Groucho’s great line: he was bringing his nephew to a club and was told Jews were’t allowed to use the pool to which he replied, that is nephew was only half-Jewish and would it then be alright for him to swim in water up to his waist.) I think you’d be hard-pressed to convince the one million Arabs living in Israel proper that they are living on a reservation. They are the most free, prosperous, happy human beings you’ll ever find in that part of the world. Citizens of any race are afforded the exact same human rights and legal protections every other Israeli citizen receives. Something’s just not right here. You usually are meticulous in your logic and reasoning but when this subject comes you suddenly morph into a Ward Churchill. And I for one, have know idea how or why this happens. Could you possibly have been rejected as an art student in your younger years? Did dancing Palestinians in the streets on September 11 at least make you question your beliefs at all? Did the Palestinians passing out sweets to passing cars to celebrate the slaughter of that poor Jewish family a couple of weeks ago do nothing to shake up your grotesque template that always finds you siding with the Palestinians? And you go on and on about Israel and the money they receive from us, money that is largely used for their national defense–with nary a single word about the hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars Palestinians receive for food, security, all of which seem to end up in some corrupt Palestinian’s pocket then laundered to European bank accounts with not a penny going to help those that need it–read refugees. With all money they have received, they should be living in something resembling Monaco instead of a squalid, disease infested, filthy ghetto. Yeah, I know, I know, it’s about Bush, his ranch, chopping brush, Katrina, Halliburton, the Israeli “Lobby”. You inexplicably have a very difficult time assigning responsibility of any kind to the “downtrodden”—as in the Palestinian Authority and their poor victims who pretty much never see a penny of foreign aid. We are at a moral and philosophical impasse. We’re are both convinced we’re both right. God, no wonder this issue is so difficult to resolve.

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        • Insofar as the Arabs of Israel are systematically denied the right to live among Jews, yes, I do consider the Israeli Arabs second-rate citizens in their own country. After the Israeli Supreme Court said Adel Kaadan, an Israeli citizen, could build a house in Katzir, here’s how the Israeli Land Authority reacted. We are talking about a seriously fucked up society here, Israel has lost its mind. Though its own courts say every citizen is equal, and good on ’em for saying so, Israeli bureaucracies are are resorting to Jim Crow tactics to keep Arabs from any semblance of equality.

          Adel Kaadan observes such prejudices are only making the Palestinians ever more nationalistic, far more than they would be otherwise.

          Do you think I’ve dropped off my usually-meticulously thought-out turnip truck here? I know perfectly well what’s going on in this situation, you do, too. Israel is schizophrenic: it wants to be a real nation but it can’t while these racial zealots repress any semblance of justice for the Arabs. I told you from the start, I don’t take sides. To me, Israelis and Palestinians are the same, they’re just people, they all have their prejudices and fears and preconceived notions.

          Now why the fuck should I take you seriously, when you take sides against the Palestinians and the Arabs, with all this knee jerk bullshit about Arbeit Macht Frei? Europe didn’t have to face the consequences of evicting and murdering its Jews: a few Nazis were hanged but the Jews didn’t return. They were politely herded off to Israel and even then the British wouldn’t let them come. A refugee doesn’t have a nation, Heidegger. You get off your high horse and come to terms with your own biases and prejudices about Arabs and Muslims and quit this knee-jerk defense of the obviously indefensible position wherein the Jews do all the suffering and the Palestinians are baby killers.

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  5. EC Gach, Jaybird, & James Vonder Haar, I think the issue is that deontological ethics is unforgiving. Once you’ve accepted certain propositions, I’ll lump into “human dignity” and our capacity to intervene, one is set on a track that finds us deficient. Reminiscent of the issues that Kwame Anthony Appiah raises in his Washington Post op-ed, What will future generations condemn us for? And not just a little morally deficient, white non-slaveholder in antebellum American South deficient (Pogge).

    The alternative set of propositions I haven’t seen advanced here, but that could fit into a non-consequentialist based approach is pure pacifism as moral justification for not intervening. If centering moral philosophy on the obligation not to take life in all circumstances, then one could pass the strict non-consequentialist’s test. Otherwise, we have a whole lot to answer for. But for some people, bringing consequentialism into the mix changes the picture a great deal.

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    • The problem with Deontology *IN PRACTICE* is that it presents functionally identically with not actually having to do anything but merely saying that somebody should.

      And once one has communicated that something ought to be done, one can then shrug as if one has done one’s part.

      Indeed, it is not works that saves us but *FAITH*.

      Meanwhile, Martha’s the one in the kitchen cooking and everybody’s mooning over how devout Mary is.

      Feh.

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      • As you describe it, doesn’t any normative ethic face this hurdle?

        I don’t really agree by the way, if I’ve understood your use of “in practice” correctly. Isn’t the point of things like the categorical imperative or the drowning child thought experiment to help guide our behavior? Or at minimum, helping us to assess the moral case for or against a certain path of action? (As per the original post, “the moral case against intervention”)

        When someone argues, we’re invading another Muslim country (as if the religion of the country matters to the moral case), or we ought to stay out of Libyan’s business (as if sovereignty is a shield against scrutiny), or that this is a war of choice (as if every war doesn’t constitute choice), in part I’m framing what is important and unimportant through a system of normative ethics, casting common humanity as important and the Libyan government officials’ status as state agents as far less so.

        Which is not to say I don’t appreciate the points being made by those who’re looking to consequences, exits, and so-called endgames. But I’m also interested in EC Gach’s question, what moral case are Sullivan and Douthat making? How far does our responsibility to others extend? And why that far and no further?

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          • Just to be clear, I fall into the Yes, but why??? camp in this cartoon (the box near to the lower right hand corner). I understand that not everyone cares though, maybe all the moral philosophy talk is just so much “positive visualization”. But be forewarned of a world where, “Right, as the world goes, is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must”

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            • Well, this is why I put so much emphasis on negative rights and hedge oh-so-much about positive rights.

              Which, of course, brings us back to weighing the differences between “provision of affordable health care” and “stopping a murderer from killing men, women, children”… my inclination is to say that *IF* we have a positive duty to do anything, we have a positive duty toward the latter.

              But how does the world work?

              Did our attempt work in Iraq? If not, why do we think it will work here? Making appeals to the right thing to do without taking into account past performance is negligence at best.

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              • This isn’t meant to be obnoxious, but I think moral philosophy has been here before, is–ought problem.

                Ignoring the whole is-ought thing, the domain of applicable cases for study extends beyond Iraq. My reaching for this excuse is probably predictable, but the Bush administration was so negligent, so incompetent, that they would make a mess of anyone’s preferred policy positions. Were Bush & co. libertarians, they would’ve championed the closure of fire departments and reinstitution of child labor and left the war on drugs alone – that’s the level of incompetence they displayed. A vivid for instance,

                What happened was that the hiring was done by the White House liaison to the Pentagon, an office of the Pentagon political appointee. This office served as the gatekeeper. Instead of casting out widely for people with knowledge of Arabic, knowledge of the Middle East, knowledge of post-conflict reconstruction, they went after the political loyalists and canvassed the offices of Republic congressmen, conservative think tanks and other places where they knew they would find people who would be unfailingly loyal to the president and to the president’s mission in Iraq. …
                The hiring process involved questions that would have landed a private-sector employer in jail. They asked people what their views on Roe v. Wade were, whether they believed in capital punishment. A man of Middle Eastern descent was asked whether he was Muslim or Christian. People were asked who they voted for for president. … (Rajiv Chandrasekaran Frontline interview)

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              • “‘stopping a murderer from killing men, women, children’… my inclination is to say that *IF* we have a positive duty to do anything, we have a positive duty toward the latter.”

                Is that latter not what the *ideal* of liberal interventionism is all about?

                I agree, the difference is possibly like the difference between a no-fly zone, (limited positive duty), and nation-building (the Affordable Health Care equivalent of broad positive duty).

                Again, I’d ask you to parse between whether something will work, and whether it ought to be attempted. If our police said, well we would have gone after the criminal, but it would have been dangerous and costly, and there was only a 50/50 chance of actually catching the bastard, would we feel the system was working correctly.

                With regard to the whole, if you care so much why don’t you go spill YOUR blood and treasure over there, I completely agree, which is why I’m against a standing army to begin with, and think there should be national service training and no all volunteer force.

                But having the standing army as we do, that is volunteer and organized as such, I think that acknowledging the moral demands incumbent upon such an arrogant and dangerous enterprise (enterprise = our military industrial complex), would help us be more clear about the costs and benefits of trying to project power here, there, and everywhere.

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                • If P has not worked the last X times it has been attempted, it seems to me that the argument that we have a moral responsibility to P is really saying “we have a moral responsibility to fail to P!”

                  Given our track record, we’re downright incontinent.

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                  • By which measure shall we say P failed? Surely if there are X runs of the experiment, we will have some sort of distribution.

                    Our intervention in Iraq was a great failure insofar as it merely created another Islamic state, a Shiite state to be precise. But Iraq is mostly Shiite, how bad can that be? Very bad as it turns out, because Saddam was a secularist and far more of his Ba’ath Party enforcers were Shiites than Sunnis. He did repress religious and ethnic violence, with tremendous harshness. We ended up doing exactly what Saddam did, right down to abusing prisoners in the prison he built at Abu Ghraib.

                    We failed in Iraq because we didn’t believe our own rhetoric about Democracy and the Rights of Man. We allowed a tyranny of the majority to form in Iraq: the resulting nation was stillborn and buried with Shiite rites. The net sum of our endeavours in Iraq is to wrap it up and give it to Iran, a precious gift. We killed or bought off all the Sunni opposition. The Kurds, well, they had time to form up a working regime under the northern No Fly Zone, their economy is doing quite well, they do have a working government. The Shiites in their Southern No Fly Zone, they had time to form up their own political parties.

                    Each test run through the P Experiment will vary. It seems to me the success or failure of each military intervention depends on what follows that intervention. Bush43 is a great hero in Kurdistan and they have put up a large statue of him.

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                    • So we get rid of Quaddaaffii. (Let’s say a missile kills him.) He’s gone. Poof.

                      We go in with “advisors” to help midwife the birth of the democratic nation that will magically arrive the moment the ballots are counted after the first election that wasn’t rigged by bad people.

                      Will that election result in an Islamic government?

                      I bet you a quarter it does. (Twenty-five cents, American.)

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                    • Erm, if we did go the Advisor Route, I’d be against it. We don’t seem to be going that route with Egypt or any of the others. Bahrain, well criminy, we’re evacuating military dependents out of there right now. The whole Fifth Fleet is there, be awful tough on us, geopolitically, to have the Shiites shove us out of there.

                      Yemen, well hell, we do have advisors there and look how wonderfully that’s going.

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      • Deontology is less about telling people what they should do than recognizing certain moral duties as truths.

        So person A telling person B that the “moral” thing to do is X, is simply stating a fact, or stating a proposition that is true or false.

        They are not commandments.

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  6. If we want to play morality games, there are moral arguments for intervention and moral arguments against intervention.

    Want to rehash them? No? Okay, fine.

    So let’s look at the cynical and pragmatic arguments for and against intervention.

    Against, we’ve got stuff like the cost, the fact that we’re currently engaged elsewhere, mission creep, and how it will all end in tears.

    What are the cynical and pragmatic arguments for intervention?

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      • Those arguments are neither cynical nor pragmatic. Instead, they seem pretty idealistic.

        Well, maybe 3 is a bit pragmatic, but it seems to be a pragmatic case for nonintervention — if they can do it, why the hell do we need to get involved?

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        • They’re completely pragmatic. We didn’t go after Hizb’allah after they blew up the Marine Barracks in Beirut. Reagan flinched. Now look at that situation.

          Number 2, when a dictator starts shooting at his own people, it’s time to get on the side of the angels before the people win. Vox Pop means they’ll accuse you of ignoring them in their plight. Contrary to your assertion about Idealism, this is the way shit gets done. Traitors do never prosper and what’s the reason, Should they succeed, none dare call it treason.

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    • Jaybird, regarding “morality games”, I want to highlight this point I made earlier, “I understand that not everyone cares though, maybe all the moral philosophy talk is just so much ‘positive visualization’.” No one is saying you have to be convinced by moral philosophers’ arguments and thought experiments, you can treat them as so much irrelevant abstruse pontificating by professors in ivory towers – it is a final vocabulary (forgive the Rorty) that you do not find convincing, fair enough. I’m really pleased that EC Gach raised the questions, though in the comments it appears not to be an effort to buttress my case that intervention is morally justifiable if not morally required (E.C. Gach March 20, 2011 at 9:29 pm). I’d also say that I’m not a card-carrying deontologist, it’s just one dimension of examining the question for me.

      On to your call for the cynical and pragmatic. Speaking as a realist now, the answer could be oil and empire management. The relative power of the US is on a downward trajectory. While the US is relatively powerful its advisable to deploy its power to shape the world in ways that create an environment sustaining a continued privileged position in the international state system. Given the uprising, Libya’s current leadership does not fit that picture. Rule based mechanisms and stability further that end of predictability in the state system and imperial management. Now is the US’ opportunity to shape an important state in North Africa, another outpost in global empire. Call intervention the beginning of a negotiation where Tomahawk missiles speak volumes, speaking both to Libya and to other recalcitrant states, an object lesson in disobedience. Additionally, sending a message to US client states around the world, tow the line or this could be you. In Libya the US can assess the various rebel factions and attempt to shape the situation where the most innocuous rebel group (to US interests) has a larger say and let the rebels do the difficult spadework of deposing a disliked figure who has been troublesome for American interests in the past. One never knows when oil producing client state will come in handy, why not add Libya to the pack? Once again, all that is my attempt at realpolitik. There are a number of reasons why I find realism an inadequate optic for foreign policy and, obviously, morally suspect, but that’s beyond your specific call for both the cynical and pragmatic.

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      • I refer to them as “morality games” because I can quite easily put together a moral argument for doing X… and quite easily put together a moral argument against doing X.

        And, having done that, it’s exceptionally easy to pull a “HOW DARE YOU SIR” attitude with both of them.

        Here’s the argument for:
        We, as a society, have a responsibility to others. We have a responsibility to provide for those who cannot provide for themselves, to protect those who cannot protect themselves, and to midwife the birth of a self-determined country (rather than the tyranny that existed) because the desire for Human Freedom beats in the heart of every man and we, as a society, have a responsibility to free slaves wherever we may find them.

        I can then grab the name of someone (let’s call him “Mohammed”) killed by Libyan forces in the last day or so and ask “would you have saved Mohammed’s life if it meant abandoning your political attitudes toward non-intervention?”

        You frame it like that and the question becomes all about you, personally, and whether you care more about your political opinions than the lives of others.

        See? Fun.

        Of course, the other argument is the one that discusses the children that we will end up killing (perhaps use the names of folks we accidentally killed in Iraq… “Mohammed”, say). Then reframe the question as one of whether you would have saved Mohammed’s life by only demonstrating the restraint required to *NOT* send cruise missiles into an occupied building.

        Once again, making it about you, personally.

        I’ve seen the morality game played often enough to find it bemusing rather than amusing.

        The cynical and pragmatic arguments? That’s where the interesting stuff can still happen. The moral arguments are just people puffing up their chests and taking turns screaming “HOW DARE YOU SIR?”

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          • No, that’s the dichotomy I’m trying to set up.

            The moral vs. your own self-interest.

            Would you save Mohammed’s life, Stillwater? Or are you more married to your beliefs? Would you say that his life is not worth you changing your mind?

            It’s a simple question.

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            • I see the point you’re getting at. But I guess I reject that the scenario you outline constitutes a reductio for moral theory generally. I mean, look: you have a moral theory, of some kind (meager tho it may be :) ), and it includes principles that act as normative constraints (as in ceteris paribus conditions) for what you think constitutes good, or moral, behavior. That I (or you) could come up with puzzles in which those principles break down doesn’t necessarily refute the principle. It merely shows that the principle can be trumped by other moral considerations. I mean, is it OK to lie to the Nazi’s about whether or not you’re hiding Jews in your basement?

              No moral theorist thinks that there is – as a matter of fact – a system of incontrovertible and mutually consistent principles that act as a guide for moral behavior, since the situational nature of decision-making is incredibly complex. But they all agree that the basic framework in clear cases suggests that there is a burden to meet in contravening that principle.

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              • It’s really, really, really easy though to come up with a normal, coherent moral argument *FOR* intervention.

                It’s just as really, really, really easy to come up with a normal, coherent moral argument *AGAINST* intervention.

                And after you lay out your moral case, anyone who disagrees is somewhere between “mistaken” and “immoral” on the scale.

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                • That I’ll agree with. Personally, for purely political reasons, I’m a little bit repulsed and pukey that intervention in Libya is being sold as a humanitarian cause. I mean, we go in there to save people by killing others. So yeah, that’s a bit weak.

                  But I think that merely recognizing this leads to some moral clarity on the issue (eg, will intervention prevent or exacerbate that death tolls?) can overcome some of the pragmatic considerations. I guess that’s a way of saying that ought implies can: if you cannot actually accomplish your intended goals then you ought not pursue them. And I think that’s an issue of pragmatics, and how pragmatics can inform, or reign in, an otherwise purely moral position.

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            • And I see I didn’t answer you question. One thing to say is that a justification for moral behavior is based on the evidence available at the time. That’s an epistemological constraint that we all face in lots of types of decision-making. I don’t think that believing X was morally right at time T, but believing that not-X is right at time T2 when more evidence comes in is at all inconsistent. But the moral here (see what I did there?) is to be cautious when choosing what to do, especially in cases like you outlined.

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              • Of course I’m not going to answer the question.

                In both cases, my thumb is on the scale. It’s a loaded question. It’s, as they say, a trap.

                It’s a bludgeon to be used against people who disagree. After all, I’m on the side of Go(o)d and you’re deceived. Or worse.

                If we start talking about available information and interpretation and perspectives and cultural biases and cynicism and pragmatism and realism, we have situations where you’re right to have reached your conclusion *AT THE SAME TIME* as me being right to have reached an entirely different one (the opposite one, even).

                Personally, I don’t think we ought to interfere. I think we’ll end up making things worse in the long run at the cost of watching pain in the short run. At the same time, it’s tempting to think that we could get lucky and kill Qaddafi and make everybody stop killing each other for a couple of days.

                It’s a tough situation. If I imagine myself in Libya, I can imagine wanting any of 40 things to happen. Some involve the US interfering. Some don’t.

                It’s tough.

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                • Damn dude! You didn’t even acknowledge my meta-morality pun! And those are damn hard to come by.

                  Is it weird for me to say I agree with you here? If the only consideration at play in the US intervention in Libya were moral ones, then I think given what we know, at this time, the best thing to do is not militarily interfere (tho other forms of engagement would be ok).

                  But as it turns out, there’s lots more issues at play than merely saving innocent Libyans (?) from Qaddafi’s guns.

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                  • My opinion of puns is very, very low.

                    I thought that the point of having only moral considerations would be that we’re able to ignore stuff that we know, at this time.

                    We can just make sweeping statements about the importance of saving Mohammed’s life.

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                    • Well, maybe for some, but not on my understanding of morality. What we happen to know is always a very real consideration in taking moral actions. As well as what we can reliably predict, given what we know. But as for forming a determination given these constraints in the real world, moral judgments are always based, at a minimum anyway, on the ceteris paribus conditions that reveal the moral principle as being correct. As more variables enter into the mix, obviously the more complex the final determination of a moral position becomes.

                      But insofar at it’s a moral decision, it’s still based on those principles. And of course, sometimes moral principles conflict. But that doesn’t mean that those principles are wrong.

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  7. I find it hard to take the argument that he’s killed enough Americans to die a violent death seriously, as a pragmatic argument, when the Americans were killed some time ago. It’s a revenge argument.

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      • Eh, we should probably give a wee bit of leeway when we go around killing so many other people. If we reserve the right to kill the leader of nations with our blood on their hands, then we must also grant that right to the nations whose blood is on our hands. And my hunch is that there are far more of the latter than the former.

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        • I just can’t get on board this Sackcloth and Ashes bandwagon, sorry. I’m an American. I travel overseas a lot. I remember standing in customs in Niamey as a little boy, with my father and mother. The douanier casually said, in French, to us: “We really ought to kill you here and now, but the American military would come in to kill us.”

          Sorta leaves an impression on a little boy. Sure does.

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        • If we reserve the right to kill the leader of nations with our blood on their hands, then we must also grant that right to the nations whose blood is on our hands.

          It’s just this kind of thinking that will keep you from getting a position at the CFR.

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    • Chris, my friend, I’m stumped. See, y0u’re not THAT predictable because I have no idea where you stand on the death penalty.

      Are you against it under any circumstances or are there certain thresholds–number of killed, the way they were killed, the ages of the victims killed, the demeanor of the killer, etc. that would incline you to favor the death penalty. I’m almost certain you’re pro-choice, so do you find yourself in a bit of a moral quandary by saving the life of a–let’s just for discussion’s sake, a serial killer. A killer who tortured and mutilated his victims. Are you saying a serial, mass murdering piece of human garbage, has a greater right to life than an innocent, unborn, embryo? You can’t phrase this question any other way–it will always come up with one or the other having a greater right to life. And for good measure, the murder of a pregnant woman is always tried as a double homicide.

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  8. Here’s part of an email I sent to an old friend from years gone by…

    I’ve taken to watching Al Jazeera through the Net: the amriki never give us anything but earnest rephrasings of the Pentagon pronunciamentos. I’m glad enough to see that bas Gadhafi get a beating. Not so glad the Libyan Heroic Opposition was sending its fighters to Iraq to shoot amriki, but it’s an understandable emotion, nobody likes to see foreigners in his country. Ah well, the Arabs have been busily reproducing, if their young men have reached the age where placards must be waved and rifles shouldered, it’s a necessary phase, like that part of the nature documentary where David Attenborough provides the mellifluous voiceover as the crocodile pulls the groaning wildebeest under the water. La jeunesse… how we ever survived our 20’s I will never know.

    Nothing good will come of this Libya business, though you didn’t need to be told. Here’s how it will all end up: Libya comes apart in three sections: the east, that’s Benghazi, the West, that’s Tripoli and the interior, those are the Berber tribes. In Niger, we used to call them the Tamashek, and there’s a strong City versus Country sentiment among them. Gadhafi has dragooned lots of country boys into his wretched military, many of them are actually Nigerois who came north looking for work and found themselves taking the Colonel’s Shilling so to speak.

    Gadhafi’s not really an Arab, he’s Berber, and Gadhafi is the name of his tribe. The reason his name is spelled so inconsistently is because it also looks and sounds goofy in Arabic, with that doubled dhal in the middle, which might make it look like Gadhdhafi transliterated directly. Part of his charm, shared by Saddam Hussein back in the day, is his ability to keep the Berber hinterland somewhat loyal to him.

    In short, the Heroic Opposition is Eastern City Boys. If they win, they automatically make the backward Country Boys and very likely the Western City Boys their enemies, and well do all sides understand this fact. The Romans had a separate province for West and East, Tripolitania and Cyrenaica respectively. But to the lasting contempt of the Country Boys, Gadhafi has been calling himself an Arab, which of course he isn’t, so don’t count on them to come to his aid beyond a certain perfunctory level of obligation.

    Everyone is sick of Gadhafi’s shit, Arabs, Berbers, the West, everyone. He’s had everyone baffled, simulating insanity for all these years. He’s clever, is Gadhafi, but in his dotage he has started to believe his own lies. This will go down very much like the Balkans, perhaps even Rumania, with someone dragging Gadhafi out into the courtyard and shooting him like that madman Ceausescu. More likely, he will stay in Tripoli, among those who have the most to lose when he’s down, as the Serbian war criminals are still doing.

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  9. I’m going to paste a comment a friend of mine wrote on facebook not because I’ve got a clear opinion on it yet but to see how other people react and it seems kind of relevant.

    SERIOUS CONCERNS ABOUT THE NEWS MEDIA:

    my brother just told me that there is a real sense of anger among people in tokyo at the way the western media is getting some weird onoristic pleasure out of playing up the threat from the nuclear crisis and the plight of the japanese in the aftermath of the quake and tsunami. i don’t know what has happened to the news media but looking at some reports these days you can’t help but feel it has lost touch with reality.

    in libya, for example, no one even seems to be considering the idea, as we gear for yet another “war for democracy,” that ghaddafi may be telling the truth when he says that al qaeda are helping the rebels, and that the so-called revolution is in fact being resourced and supported by western intelligence services.

    maybe he is talking nonsense but since libya does have the largest oil reserves in Africa it seems rather lazy journalism to simply accept – hook, line and sinker – the claims of your overlords that ghaddafi is the new satan and that a civilian protest managed to take over half the country in a matter of days. add to this the fact that the same governments who are now telling us this man is Resident Evil were selling him weapons a few months ago, then it’s hard not to be a little skeptical. why is this skepticism not reflected in the reporting of the story?
    anyway. just needed to get this off my chest.

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    • Again, may I apply BlaiseP’s Law of Refugees here. The refugees aren’t running into other regions of Libya, they’re running into Egypt and Tunisia.

      Apply Ockham’s Razor. There is no conspiracy. It’s just stupidity. Gadhafi has run out of time and has run out of options. For decades now, he’s intimidated his people into singing his praises. Well, now a good many of them have stopped.

      There comes a time during a long bombardment where the people just can’t be terrified any more. They’ll get up and shuffle through their lives, come what may. A terminal fatalism seizes them, they develop a sense of humour about it all. A little ditty cropped up in Germany during the worst of it “Lass den Mut nicht sinken / Hangt dem Arsch zum Fenster raus / Zeigt Eier, Wurst und Schinken” = Don’t get depressed / just hang your ass out the window / Show ’em eggs and sausage and ham.

      There’s plenty of skepticism in the reporting. Al Jazeera as much as called Libya’s PR campaigners a pack of liars. That compound where those cruise missiles apparently hit? No smoke, no fire, such as you’d see for quite some time if it were real.

      As for the Japanese getting all concerned about being gawked at, while I was in Japan, I’d go out in the rural communities and they’d gawk at the gaijin. I never took it the wrong way, they’d just never seen anyone like me, so what. The Japanese were always a bit too priggish for my tastes.

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    • Your buddy raises some good points.

      The problem with the Western Media is that Mencken is dead and has been since 1956.

      Additionally, there’s this whole “monetizing” problem when it comes to the news. People tune in to watch Michael Jackson on trial. They don’t tune in to watch a discussion of dynamics between Serbs and Croats and Muslims in Bosnia. Where the hell is Bosnia, anyway? So we see news reports about Michael Jackson, missing blond chicks, and how nukular power will melt all of us like that one guy in Robocop because people tune in and you can sell ad space based on the number of eyeballs tuning in.

      Discussions about the different kinds of radiation, the realistic problems likely to happen due to nuclear exposure of the core, and so on and so forth is a boring topic. Fewer eyeballs.

      As for Libya, the problem is that Qaddafi and the US have a history. Hell, the Middle East and the US have a history. We’ve been playing the “realism” game for so long that it’s not about good guys vs bad guys but our sonovabitch and theirs. And he’s no longer useful to the USG.

      Why is skepticism not reflected in reporting?

      Because it’s complicated.
      And complicated is boring.

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      • Because it’s complicated. And complicated is boring.

        Well, complicated may appear to be boring, but the reality is that complex systems, and especially systems with a built-in uncertainty based on human psychology, which inherently compounds difficulties in ascertaining relevant variables in determining accurate analyses, let alone reliable predictions, ….. (snore).

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    • There certainly is reason to be skeptical. It’s all about the narrative, baby! That’s the role of the media in the US anymore. To make sure that people are distracted from real issues as a day to day concern, and to make sure that we vilify the right people for all the wrong reasons.

      But I do think it’s surprising that the media has really pounded on Japan, or at least got so much of it wrong. Don’t understand that. And it’s not isolated. The prevailing view of the Lost Decade in Japan that’s been trumpeted to the point of CW has been pretty well disproven.

      Must be about the narrative again.

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    • I’m not sure about the general consensus. I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that so many of the arguments against intervention are rooted in tribalism, that is, you don’t count for much if you aren’t part of this country, rather than some more rigorous explanation of when intervention just goes too far.

      My feeling is that it’s important to get the reasons straight, and that they are right or wicked only in so far as we use them to justify some other course of action.

      You’ve been bringing up the Affordable Health Care act plenty Jaybird, and I think the analogy is important. Because all those on the Left screaming against this will then turn tail and say we need to intervene in every AMERICAN’S life in order to “provide affordable health care.” And no one seems to feel the need to articulate just what that difference for them is. Is it strictly monetary costs? They get to high? Is it endangering oneself? Whatever the difference is, every op-ed and blogger rant regarding the Libya issue that doesn’t either say why morality IS important in deciding and tell how we should weigh it, OR why it ISN’T important (or even a false concept to begin with) and our national interests trump.

      I’m much more comfortable with the realist who argues that to apply “morality” to IR is to misunderstand the extent of the concept, and that the only thing we should take into account is strategic national interest. Sullivan et al. seem keen on using moral language in issues from abortion to gay marriage to safety nets or lack thereof, but now all of the sudden any moral argument is on it’s face suppose to seem ridiculously naive, unmanageable, or irrelevant.

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      • It’s because the fundamental problem with moral arguments is that someone just a little bit more eloquent than you (not *YOU* you, but, the person making the argument) can come up with another moral argument on the opposite side and now, guess what? You’re the immoral person making the immoral argument.

        By making a moral argument in the first place, it’s pretty much conceded that this is *NOT* a matter of taste but a matter of morality. Surely a moral person would want to stand on the side of Right, Justice, and Goodness… wouldn’t you?

        So then when person just a little more eloquent shows up and points out that, nope, the Right, Just, and Good position is the one that says that we, as a society, have a responsibility to protect those who cannot, for whatever reason, protect themselves… you’re suddenly the jerkwad who is arguing against that.

        And, as you’ve pointed out, we’ll see arguments used just days before in favor of *THIS* policy being abandoned only to be picked up by the opposition to be used in favor of *THAT* policy. Today we take the side of the weak against the strong in the name of the higher moral duty of intervention, tomorrow we take the side of the strong against the weak in the name of the even higher moral duty of non-intervention… and, soon thereafter, we question the bona fides of those who would question whether we’re playing fast and loose with moral arguments.

        “No, I asked how dare you first.”

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  10. Why don’t we all admit that there is no consistent method by which decisions to intervene are made? Nice to see Obaam and Biden are hypocrites for bashing Bush and then intervening without congressional approval.

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