Saturday, May 06, 2006

Terrorism, fear, and fighting amongst ourselves

Yesterday, commenter "sally" posted this on the Zarqawi thread:

Something to bear in mind in all of this is that terrorism itself is a purely ideological and propagandistic form of warfare. Sudden, random, and otherwise pointless acts of mass slaughter are an extremely effective way of, first, getting everyone's attention, and second, "persuading" the more impressionable and easily frightened (e.g., the indecent left) of the value of your cause.

A fair amount of contention over sally's message followed in the comments section.

Do I agree with sally? To a point, but not entirely.

One assumption that I don't think can be disputed (although no doubt someone, somewhere, will try) is that terrorism is an excellent way of getting attention, and that this is one of terrorists' main goals.

In addition, I think nearly everyone would agree that terrorists seek to foster fear in the populace, and often succeed in doing so--although, like civilian bombings in conventional wars such as WWII, terrorism can also foster solidarity and resistance in those who are its intended targets.

And I'm not at all sure that what sally refers to as "the indecent left" (I'm assuming she means that segment of the far left that makes excuses for and/or sympathizes with terrorists) is the most frightened part of the population. No, I don't believe the far left's particular response to terrorism come mainly from fear; rather, it comes from a world view that follows the PC Commandments (see this for the Commandments, and pay particular attention to my number 12).

When sally states that pointless acts of mass slaughter are a way of persuading those who are easily frightened of the value of the terrorists' cause, what could she possibly mean? Isn't it counterintuitive to think that horrific violence would foster sympathy for the cause in whose name it is perpetrated (the Rolling Stones notwithstanding)?

One mechanism by which such sympathy can occur is Stockholm Syndrome, in which, paradoxically, a bond is formed between a captive and his/her hostage-taker. But Stockholm Syndrome is generally limited to a situation of very close contact and vulnerability; the hostage is under the total control of the hostage-taker in that situation. Terrorism doesn't generally have these characteristics.

Does terrorism sometimes result in more sympathy for the perpetrators, and, if so, why? One example of terrorism that seems to have worked in this way was the Munich massacre, which not only increased the visibility of the Palestinian cause but gave it more supporters. The old saw about children--that even negative attention is sometimes sought, because negative attention is better than no attention at all--seems true of those who turn to terrorism. Sometimes, it works.

Who says so? Surviving Munich terrorist Jamal Al Gashey, for one:

"I'm proud of what I did at Munich because it helped the Palestinian cause enormously," he says.

"Before Munich, the world had no idea about our struggle, but on that day, the name of Palestine was repeated all around the world."


And only two years after Munich, Yassar Arafat was considered an acceptable and legitimate enough world leader to address the UN. It's no accident that he tried to wear his pistol during the speech he gave there (he ended up with an empty holster, instead). It seems Arafat already understood the value of wearing his gun on his sleeve, as it were.

So, why do some people end up sympathizing more with terrorist causes as the outrageousness and offensiveness of the terrorist attacks escalate? Perhaps it's a combination of the aforementioned PC commandments, an attenuated Stockholm Syndrome, and the sort of inverted logic that goes like this: anyone desperate enough to commit an act as evil as the Munich Massacre must be sorely oppressed by circumstances. Therefore, the more terrible the terrorism, the more the cause must be just--as long as it's against the West, especially the US or Israel.

Sally has more to say:

But in this case the murderers are counting on their opponent -- that is, the West generally -- being fundamentally soft and weak, enfeebled by decadence, riddled with self-doubt, fractured into squabbling factions. Against that kind of target, acts of mass carnage have the force of a spectacular propaganda display, and can induce a degree of internal collapse that leaves the target an empty and effectively paralyzed shell.

Are the US and the West already that soft? I think the jury is still out on that. But the last few years have made it abundantly clear that our society is, as she says, "riddled with self-doubt, fractured into squabbling factions."

The terrorists and their supporters have known this for quite some time, and count on it. But don't take my word for it, let's turn to those of that prescient and wily old adversary of America, Ayatollah Khomeini (remember him?), who said as much:

In recent days an old slogan of the Khomeinist Revolution has made a spectacular comeback on city walls throughout the Islamic Republic: "America Cannot Do A Damn Thing!"

The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini launched the phrase in 1979, as he played Tom and Jerry with the clueless Jimmy Carter who, at the time, acted as President of the United States.

At the time many in the ayatollah’s entourage believed that he was being unnecessarily provocative. Khomeini, however, was dismissive. “America, “he told his secretary, a mullah called Ansari Kermani, “may have a lot of power but lacks the courage to use it.”

According to Kermani, who wrote a hagiographical account of Khomeini’s life in 1983, the ayatollah “always counted on America’s internal divisions” to prevent the formulation and application of any serious policy on any major issue. The ayatollah believed that the American political system was clear proof of the saying attributed to Jaafar al-Sadiq, the Sixth Imam, that “God keeps the enemies of Islam fighting among themselves!”

70 Comments:

At 12:42 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous TalkinKamel said...

Our society certainly is riddled with uncertainty, and self-doubt---and a great deal of self-hatred, too. Are we past the point where we're too soft to defend ourselves? I think the jury's still out on that one.

One thing I am sure of---whatever the pyschological causes: Stockholm syndrome, a belief that terrorists are somehow oppressed, self-hate translated into hatred of one's own country, i.e., America or some twisted identification with evil, a great portion of our society pities, sympathizes with and identifies more, with the terrorists, rather than their victims. Just look at some of the indignation expressed on the Zarqawi thread, when you suggested ridicule as a good weapon to use against him, and other terrorists!

Whatever the reason, terrorism has been a great propaganda coup; it hasn't made us hate terrorists; it's made too many of us like them.

 
At 1:01 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger flenser said...

Isn't it counterintuitive to think that horrific violence would foster sympathy for the cause in whose name it is perpetrated

It is to me, but clearly not to everybody.

There are a great many people who, confronted with "horrific violence", instinctively ask what could have drive the perpetrators to such acts. This occurs not only with regards to terrorism. It can be seen in the attitude which the same people bring to bear on regular domestic crime.

The thinking seems to be that people are intrinsically good, so if they do something bad we ought to ask what external forces drove them to it. By definition those who behave badly are "victims".

I blame the mental help professions for fostering this mentality. ;)

 
At 1:02 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

anyone desperate enough to commit an act as evil as the Munich Massacre must be sorely oppressed by circumstances.

It's too bad they don't apply that to America and other liberty defending civilizations when we take drastic measures. Then it is a mark of insanity and "extremism". Or they start accusing us of racism or believing all Muslims are terroists, or some other non sequitor tu quoque ridiculous arguments.

 
At 1:02 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Baron Bodissey said...

I think you're right about how the psychological process works -- "Anybody who can get that mad at us must surely have a just cause." It's what gives the most ruthless and violent people an extra advantage over us.

But we're not willing to grant that advantage to just any violent extremist group. The neo-Nazis, KKK, and so on certainly can't count on obsequious treatment by the press like the Islamists can, nor can they induce any significant portion of the public to consider their cause a just one.

No, first the terrorists have to be part of The Other. That's a prerequisite. The Other is so different, so utterly alien, that dealing with him is impossible. We must placate him, and maybe he will go away and leave us alone.

Another factor to consider is how the violence of the Islamofascists enhances their cause, and attracts like-minded folk to it. Violent, hardened criminals turn to radical Islam in part because it is a violent and criminal religion, Allah's Mafia, as it were. Terrorism on behalf of the Islamists can draw in people who say to themselves, "That's a righteously mean outfit. I'd like to be part of that and get a piece of the action."

I'll be posting eventually on matters like this at GoV.

 
At 1:07 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

There are a great many people who, confronted with "horrific violence", instinctively ask what could have drive the perpetrators to such acts. This occurs not only with regards to terrorism. It can be seen in the attitude which the same people bring to bear on regular domestic crime.

I don't particularly have any problems with that kind of mentality. The means is never the problem, the goal always is. If the goal of someone is to protect women and children, then horrific violence is justified. Asking whether someone's goals are justified, to justify horric violence, is natural and a good habit.

The problem isn't an honest seeking of a solution, the problem is a never-ending loop and rope a dope, where the conclusions are already known and the justifications only remain to be fabricated. Thus is the problem we see with people in America and the world.

When you derive your beliefs from fundamental axioms independent of corrolary logic and evidence, most of your energies go into taking such logical axioms to their logical conclusion. In this case, if your axioms are wrong, you're going to go off a cliff, but not without taking a long time about it and not without taking a lot of people with you as you dragnet them with the logic field.

I always like to know what motivates people to do violence, or just what motivates them to be hostile, envious, jealous, and disagreeable. Because once you know the motives, it becomes so much easier to destroy that person's goals, and his very soul.

You have little chances of destroying the enemy if you know little about him. And yet, it does not matter how much you know or think you know about the enemy, if you are unwilling to defeat him, or you believe the enemy is your current ally against a greater Foe, the Great Satan or some such.

 
At 1:08 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Baron Bodissey said...

BTW, the CIA - Porter Goss - Negroponte brouhaha really illustrates the "fighting amongst ourselves" aspect of this.

 
At 1:16 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous TalkinKamel said...

"Sympathy for the Devil"---or for the terrorists, is a mixture of many things. Some of it is fear, I'm sure; and, like flenser, I also think the mental health professions and the whole therapeutic mindset are partially to blame; there's no such thing as a bad boy, just a boy who hasn't been psychoanalyzed properly!

And I do think much of it is pure, human evil; I believe many of those who admire terrorists see them as being powerful, and envy them their ability intimidate others, and to induldge their volent impulses so easily.

I'm honestly less interested in the WHY of it than I am in the WHAT of it---as in WHAT should we do about this?

Because as long as this romance with evil, and the over-idealization of terrorists continues among us, we're going to be fighting with one hand tied behind our backs, as their supporters among us attempt desperately to convince us that fanatics like Khomeini are "holy men", gangsters like Arafat are "heroes", tyrants like Saddam are "feminists" and muderous fools like Zarqawi are tough, capable leaders---and accuse us "Islamophobia" or "hating all Moslems" if we dare point out that the Caliph/12th Imam/Second Saladin is, sadly, parading about sans clothing.

Oh, and I'd like to state for the record once again that I agree with sally.

 
At 1:17 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Neo--like the PC Commandments list and your additions to it a lot.

Believing in an overarching conspiracy that explains everything is so comforting: no more need to think and you can always fit anything that happens into the conspiracy. Absent such a conspiracy, I think the West and America are caught in the confluence of many different trends-demographic, religious, political and societal--almost none of which are good for our survival. We've been dealt a shitty hand.

Oil wealth and the writings of fanatical Islamaist thinkers make Islam again a force to be reckoned with and what do we have to fight it with? The PC commandments have taken their toll, its hard to even talk about some of the necessary subjects in public without starting a fight, our military is in bad repute at home, hell, anything military is in bad repute, they're practically selling banners saying "Islam is the Religion of Peace" on street corners and, all the while, the MSM keeps referring to terrorists as militants, dissidents, insurgents,or just fighters. I would imagine that if you lack what has been called "civilizational confidence" the impact of the terrorists terror is magnified and your will to resist dwindles. I think that the poster's observation thay we're fighting among ourselves is an understatement. But, I don't see any clear statement of principles and goals, anyone or any institution out there, yet, that could be a rallying point around which a unified, realistic and very, very, tough national policy to fight Islam could be based on. Its going to take a real sea change in public opinion for any candidate espousing such a tough, realistic policy to get elected and then to have the legislative and public support to implement such a policy.

P.S. On the "Conspiracy"--I once saw a letter from someone who believed that the Nazi's really won WWII and were behind the scenes in the U.S., controlling everything. The proof this man believed confirmed all this was Henry Kissinger's German accent. I saw this and it all became clear; that's why they kept serving hot dogs and sauerkraut in my high school cafeteria all the time!

 
At 1:29 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger flenser said...

Yamarsaker

The means is never the problem, the goal always is.

To echo the noted philosopher John McEnroe, "You cannot be serious!"

I'm pretty sure our main beef with Al Queda is their means. Everyone is entitled to their own goals.

 
At 1:45 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

No, the means are never the problem. When the Iraqis beat up on people to secure security and peace, that is justified because human rights do not exist without security.

The separate argument, that terrorism does not achieve your goals, is a separate one from your goals should not be achieved in the first place

You can never really justify being against means, because you can never really justify why terrorism independent of its goals, is a bad thing by itself.

Evil is defined by choice, and choice has to do with specific means and specific goals chosen.

Hiroshima was not evil, precisely because there were no other better options, and choosing the best option is never evil. People say it is a necessary evil, but their epistemology is rather cracked and not very valid.

I don't really have a problem with terroism's means. Why do you expect me to advocate a better means for the terroists to accomplish their goal? That is what you are implying. That if we don't like terroism's means, we should change them. Change them to what? HAMAS's strategy of winning through poles? Osama's strategy of welfare and propaganda and occult/fanatical charisma?

Why should we change the terroist's means to something more efficient, so that their goals (which is what I am against) are accomplished faster?

It doesn't really matter what the terroist's means and tools are, because it is their goal (Shariah and Domination) that we should fight against.

Anything "Else" and you're basically doing as the Coalition did pre 2004, which is to try to fight an insurgency using bad tools, methods, methodology, and means. If you just try to stop terrorism's Means, that becomes only a short term solution.

You have to prevent terrorism from achieving their goals. And while it may seem that terrorism's goals are anarchy for anarchy's sake, that's really true when you take a few details down.

Everyone's is not entitled to their own goals, now when their goal is to kill me and dominate the world as a Iranian superpower.

 
At 1:47 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

really not true, given the intended political ideology Zarqawi allied to Al Qaeda produces.

 
At 2:06 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Promethea said...

My simple take on things--not directed to any particular poster . . .

1. The Islamic religion attracts psychopaths like Moussaoui and Mr. Mohammed, the Washington,D.C. sniper. (Maybe Amedinnerjacket is one of those.) A lot of headchoppers in Iraq are basically mass murdering serial killing types who are directed toward a cause.

2. Many Westerners are truly clueless as to the viciousness of the Islamic conquests. As I've written several times on various blogsites, everyone must skim through Andrew Bostom's "The Legacy of Jihad."

This book is a large collection of primary sources and historians' essays showing the millions of people killed by rampaging Muslims. This part of history is almost unknown to the average reader.Check out the section on India, for example.

The MSM has not been *helpful,* and most Americans and others don't seek out this kind of reading material unless they already have reason to suspect that there is some "history" behind the spread of Islam.

3. There is an important element in the West that finds decadence attractive. This has been called "la nostalgie de la boue"--the longing for degradation. A simple example would be the kind of middle-class twenty-year-old who goes in for tattoos and multipiercings and dresses like a slut or nazi. Over time, many of these types gradually clean themselves up and rejoin the middle class from whence they sprang. Some of them stay in the mud, where it's comfy and "edgy."

4. The most common defense of terrorists come from people who don't know how things work, where their food comes from, what evil looks like up close and personal. These are the LLLs that I know (I'm the only neocon at various gatherings). These LLLs get their info from the NYT and NPR.

My conclusion? Well, I guess many people won't wake up until something really terrible happens, and let's hope it doesn't happen.

 
At 2:08 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Timothy said...

Neo,

Modern terrorism in Iraq, Nigeria etc is often more about system disruption than it is about scaring people or building fear.

System disruption means that your fear (or lack thereof) is of no importance--what's important is that the power is off and the economy non-existent.

I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and I have to say you and your readers are missing this point completely.

 
At 2:09 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger camojack said...

A certain sector of Americans do play into the terrorist's hands with their self-loathing "guilt trips"...I don't know that we can properly blame "mental help professions for fostering this mentality", (as suggested by TalkinKamel) but have absolutely no problem blaming it on mental health issues.

 
At 2:35 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger flenser said...

Yamaskar

you can never really justify why terrorism independent of its goals, is a bad thing by itself.

I think most people would agree that hijacking a civilian airliner and crashing it into an office building is a bad thing in itself, irrespective of what goals the hijackers have. The same applies to taking over a school and murdering the school children. If you really want me to, I can indeed justify that position.

Some people would disagree, but I think they are mostly on the fringe left. Which is not a place I think you want to be.

 
At 2:46 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are we past the point where we're too soft to defend ourselves?
Europe certainly is. Read Mark Steyn's many columns on the subject.

Is America?
I give it 50/50 odds.

Since the 70s The Left has been telling us that Western Civilisation has no value.

 
At 3:50 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

I've been reading your blog for quite some time now and I have to say you and your readers are missing this point completely.

Given that to make people act irrationally and keep the power off, you have to use terror to get them to do what you want because it is obviously not in their interests not to turn on the light, or not to buy generators, or not to have a job at the electric company to improve electrical infrastructure.

If the point is that terrorism only uses systems disruption instead of terror as a means to an end, that point is bogous. If the point is that terrorism seeks anarchy through systems disruption and has a goal of power through anarchic disruption of civilization caused by terror, then that point has already been made here, people just weren't paying attention. Terror is the means, power is the goal, and anything in between is both an inter-mediate goal and inter-mediate means.

Saying people don't understand that to get a car to start, relies upon the presence of gas, a workable engine, foot on the accel, and key turning because it is about turning the key is not a good argument. Excluding different steps of a goal or limiting the interpretation to specific instances, excludes full comprehension.


I think most people would agree that hijacking a civilian airliner and crashing it into an office building is a bad thing in itself


Flenser. What they don't explain is why it is bad or evil in the first place. Emotional attachments and beliefs are not epistemologically sound ethics.

Obviously a lot of people are emotionally attached to the belief that 9/11 was evil, but I do not really hear them explain why, and when they do, they explain terrorism as the deliberate targeting of civilians to get political objectives. The morality of that is not full proof. There are a lot of times in which military objectives are chosen to end the war sooner, and ending the war sooner is a political objective. Thus it is rather hard to justify things by a process basis, instead of analyzing the risks and rewards and actual results.

It's not about justifying terrorism. It's about explaining why events are evil in themselves regardless of the goals it was for. Judging evil by the methods used, is about the same as saying Anger leads to the dark side or guns kill people. It's a logical argument that procedes from bad premises.

There are two criteria that you can use to judge the ethics of an action. Whether that action contributes to the goal or whether it does not. 2 slots in the matrix. And, where the goal is justified by a higher cause or whether the goal is justified by it self. ANother 2 slots. So you have 2 x 2 matrix. There are more options, but this is a basic starter to determine the ethics of the matter.

9/11 as a specific scenario, is not justifed under one or the other. It does not accomplish the goal of the caliphate and the caliphate is not a just nor an ethical goal. Even if you take the position that Osama intended 9/11 to make the United States react, Iraq and Afghanistan still are not contributing to the caliphate goal.

I just really don't think there's any use to saying a tool that humans use is evil regardless of the ends to which it is used. It's sloppy epistemology and it produces bad ethics.

Which is not a place I think you want to be. Philosophy and Truth is independent of political affiliations. If it wasn't, Spank and Anon's facts would be right, irrespective of the different interpretations on those facts.

To encapsulate the counter-argument to timothy in a short sentence,

if making sure the power is off and the economy non-existent is important, then the means to accomplish those objectives is even more important.

 
At 4:13 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Tom Grey said...

"riddled with self-doubt, fractured into squabbling factions"

I don't actually believe in the self-doubt aspect -- the Lefties I read (like Marc Cooper & David Corn; should do more TPM; just hate DailyKos) do NOT have any self-doubt. (OK Sullivan is full of greatly written self-doubt; but he was for the war before he was against it.)


Yes, our civilization is fractured and squabbling, but actually both pro-war & democracy Reps and anti-war "better way" Dems don't have many doubts. In fact, both sides have too few.

On the pro-war side, how many Americans need to be killed before it's too many? 50 000, like in Vietnam? No discussion of numbers. On the anti-war side, how good does Iraq have to be before it's a big Bush success? Without finding WMDs, Iraq can't be a success, etc.

It's the lack of self-doubt which makes the internal fight so vicious and disabling; and we on the pro-democracy anti-terror side need to learn how to change more minds on the Left. How to increase their self-doubt.

That 10 plus 4 PC commandments of a year ago holds up well, and complements the Euston Manifesto well. The EM is part of the way to get more on the Left to change their mind, without admitting they were wrong.

I'm now calling the Reps, whom I generally favor, incompetent & corrupt -- and admitting to the Left many of their criticisms on arrogance. (For me they've been incompetent at reducing spending; for the Left, incompetent in Iraq. I don't yet point out the differences much.)

I do point out that loud Bush-hate noise drowns out constructive criticism, which has helped insulate Bush but also allow more mistakes.

 
At 4:18 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger flenser said...

I just really don't think there's any use to saying a tool that humans use is evil regardless of the ends to which it is used.

The deliberate murder of innocent people is a tool which people use.

The deliberate murder of innocent people is evil regardless of the ends for which this "tool" is used.

If you want to contine the discussion, kindly point out an example of a scenario in which you believe that the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians for murder is justified. What end, in your mind, justifies it? Because you keep suggesting that some ends do justify it.

 
At 4:22 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Tom Grey said...

There is also the fact that myths and stories thru the West often include a Good King, but somehow weak, letting the evil get in behind his back;
or a Strong King, but somehow no long so good.

[Or else there's no "story", at least nothing epic.] The existence of the terrorist is proof that the World's Sole Superpower is either not that good, or not that strong, or both.

Just like the existence of evil justifies many non-philosophical atheists' disbelief; God can't be so good and strong and let X happen.

On Winds of Change there's a story of Gudrun who feels internally unworthy of being loved because of the Holocaust, despite having absolutely no responsibity for it.

These kind of folks really are full of self-doubt.

 
At 4:28 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous Spanky said...

Flenser,

Was dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end the Second World War morally justifiable?

 
At 4:35 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger flenser said...

Spanky, why are you trying to change the subject? Other than that is what trolls do.

 
At 4:52 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Lots of posters on various blogs have said, in effect, that 9/11 wasn't a strong enough stimulus to wake enough people up and keep them awake and committed to the "Long War" to do any good. Im afraid they're right and,that I agree with many posters who think it is going to take something a lot more frightful to do the job. I devoutly wish it weren't so, but I think it is. I'm just astounded that people can't see the threat to not only their existence and their personal freedom but to every element of our society rushing towards them. But then, as they say, denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

 
At 6:44 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous dicentra said...

Was dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end the Second World War morally justifiable?

I'm not a SpankyFan by any means, but I do think that this question is germane to the argument.

You can construct a good argument for Nagasaki and Hiroshima being morally justifiable. It comes under the heading of "lesser of two evils," which is the only kind of choice you have in a war. (See The Price for Keeping Our Hands Clean.)

The other option we were facing at that time was to invade the Japanese mainland. Given that we had struggled mightily to win Okinawa and other outer islands, it was obvious that the casualty rate of such an invasion would have been extremely high. Unacceptably high. Perhaps high enough that we would not be successful.

We had already fire-bombed parts of Tokyo, which killed civilians aplenty. (We were aiming for the military factories, and the civilians who lived in the papery neighborhoods next to them were immolated as well. Personally, I'd rather die in a a-bomb than a conflagration.) The military says we have a superbomb ready that can wipe out a city in one quick blow. Do we use it?

Well, we did. And we achieved our goal, which was to Win/Stop the War. You can argue that it was wrong for us to choose killing Japanese civilians over losing American soldiers, I suppose, but I don't know how that would have helped win the war. See the clean hands thing again.

I tend to believe that the current horror we feel at having dropped the atomic bombs arises in part from the legacy of the cold war: if we hadn't developed the a-bomb, we wouldn't have spent all that time living under the threat of MAD.

And some of the horror over Hiroshima and Nagasaki comes from the fact that the bombs were nuclear to begin with, and nukes are scary, what with all that radiation and stuff. The 60s and 70s were rife with anti-nuclear hysteria (which prevented more nuclear power plants from being built). If we had obliterated those two cities with conventional weapons, would their destruction be held up as an example of How Horrible We Are?

But I digress. This is a discussion on means and ends, and whether there are means that are evil regardless of the ends. I don't believe that there are, in any absolute sense. However, I think that there are plenty of means that are evil in 99.9999% of cases, which means that you'd have to think of a truly dire situation to justify them. Flying planes full of passengers into buildings is one of those types of means. Doing so justifiably would be a one-in-a-million situation. Most likely, such a situation would never arise at all.

 
At 7:07 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Jack Trainor said...

Well said, dicentra.

My father trained as a paratrooper towards the end of WWII. Because of Hiroshima and Nagasaki he went to Japan as a part of the occupation forces, not the invasion. I probably owe my existence to that fork in history.

Nonetheless, prior to 9-11 I was a leftist who considered Hiroshima and Nagasaki to be prime examples of how horrible America is.

Since then I've recalibrated much of my thinking. Our choices are usually not between utopia and oblivion, but between alternatives that are unpleasant but still much better than whatever the current flavor of fascism offers.

 
At 7:14 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous Sally said...

I appreciate the thoughtful discussion of my comment, Neo, by you and others here.

I did want to try to clarify my point regarding the persuasive power of fear, which, as you say, seems at least counterintuitive. That's partly why I put the word "persuading" in scare quotes initially, since any of us can be "persuaded", but only in a limited and ironic sense, by someone holding a gun to our head, for example.

But there's a much deeper and more subtle sense in which fear can seep into our consciousness as well, and one which is more difficult to detect. When fear derives from threat, we can feel ashamed of it, or humiliated by it, to such an extent that we will look desparately for ways to deny it. And one fairly obvious way to do so is simply to go over to the side of the threatener -- not because we're afraid of him, we can tell ourselves, but because we agree with him. I think, in fact, that something like this is involved in common, garden-variety bullying, and at least partially explains how bullies obtain followers or sycophants. And I think it's involved, as well, in the famous Stockholm Syndrome, which -- and here I may disagree with you -- I believe may be extendable to a much larger and more varied situations than ordinary hostage-taking. There's really a sense in which terrorism on the sort of global scale we're seeing clearly only now is attempting to impose something similar on an entire society or culture, taking everyone hostage, in effect, to their threats of violence and mass murder. If you think that's far-fetched, look again at the astonishingly near-universal response of the famously irreverent Western media to the Mohammed-cartoon issue -- organizations which had had little if any qualms about offending the religious sensibilities of devout Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etc., suddenly found themselves so very sensitive to a particular religion that they couldn't even report on it properly.

 
At 7:43 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

dicentra

we wouldn't have spent all that time living under the threat of MAD.

That of course makes no sense, given that Hitler and Stalin already had nuclear programs and would have developed it even had the US refused to. There is a clear argument that the two nukes dropped on Hiroshima stopped Stalin from lobbing nukes at any other target, because he feared retribution. This delay gave us enough time for a more "sane" leader to get in charge, and thus MAD had a chance.

If we had obliterated those two cities with conventional weapons, would their destruction be held up as an example of How Horrible We Are?

That's pretty demonstrable since the fire bombing of whatever in Japan killed lots more than nukes, and nobody really gives a damn now about them. Nobody's outlawing fire or anything. But it is really situational. They for example, always talked about napalm in Vietnam and it being bad, but it never was really as broad spreaded as nuclear fears.

You can get a lot of effect by focusing on human misery, it doesn't matter what caused that misery. If you can portray the misery as being caused by "X" you achieve a propaganda victory against "X".


Since then I've recalibrated much of my thinking. Our choices are usually not between utopia and oblivion, but between alternatives that are unpleasant but still much better than whatever the current flavor of fascism offers


Jack,

I tend to think that there are people who are willing to do evil or appear to do evil, for the cause of Good. Those who have a personal honor and integrity, and will sacrifice their soul because they believe what they are fighting for is worth it. They are the ones who will take the decision to drop nuclear bombs, because they made the Command decision in their time and place, and no one can doubt that decision because no one will ever be in that exact situation to complain. It was true of Truman as it is true of Hirohito.

Then there are people who aren't willing to decide, choose, or do anything at all. They waffle, they flip fop, they procrastinate, they make excuses over and over again like Clinton did about not blowing up Saudi officials because Osama was meeting with them, so don't do the assassinate Osama mission.

They don't act until the very end, until it is too late, when the preventive measures are no longer able to cope with the cancer and the magligancy, when the problem ahs grown so huge that drastic and desperate measures must be applied, at the cost of other people. This is assuming when they do act, they choose the right course of action. We're not asking for perfection, simply something other than diaster and the worst consequence.

Flenser

If you want to contine the discussion, kindly point out an example of a scenario in which you believe that the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians for murder is justified. What end, in your mind, justifies it? Because you keep suggesting that some ends do justify it.

I take issue rather, with your methodology. I really can't justify murder of your wife and children. But I could justify you killing a man who attacked you, because of self-defense. Describing something as a murder of "innocent civilians" is a value laden statement. Thus it is about as epistemologically accurate as saying unjustified killing is justified. Logical inconsistency.

That was never my point or my intention, to say that Evil Things are Not Evil.

To reduce things to their basic axioms, and shift out all the incomplete debris of logic and rationales. We get one simple premise. Killing civilians. That's what it all comes down to in the end, on 9/11. Killing civilians. Independent of what goal you wanted, we'll talk about that later.

Thus, what event was justified for the killing of civilians? Hiroshima and Nagasaki and anything that falls under "military expediency" in war. Military expdiency as I define it, I think it is a rather accurate one, is whatever means will accomplish the goal of ending a war decisively in order to reduce casualties on both sides. Thus the nuclear bombardment of Nagasaki and Hiroshima were justified by military expediency. It was expedient, because the military goal is to make the war end as soon as possible. When two sides match such goals, the stronger,wiser, and more determined side wins.

I won't get into the 2nd Punic Wars, History channel had an excellent segment on Hannibal during Hannibal's entire life, but suffice it to say that war has an ethical component and part of that ethical component determines who wins or who loses. While victory does not make you right, it contributes a great part to being right.

Aside from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which I believe was justified. There are other scenarios which you might think are "terrorism" related, that are also justified. (Air Wing firestorm bombardment through incendiary bombs produces a heat and a sucking vortex, which is just as terrifying as any "nuke". Look up Air Fuel Bomb or what was it air dispersal bombs, using atomized combustion compounds that float in the air and then get lighted up)

One scenario. If a repressive regime was systematically killing your people and your family, and blowing up the civilians who make food for the killers is the only way to slow down the systemic program of death, then the targeting of civilians would be justified.

Most of the justifications and reasoning and rationales aren't discussed by you flenser, and I won't do it because it takes too long. So suffice it to say, that there are specific reasons why you believe the targeting of civilians is murder, as on 9/11, and therefore justified. But that you don't explain your reasoning in any coherent whole, and because you do not explain your rationales, your system of belief does not apply consistently to any other realistic model of any other affairs. For example, deliberate targeting of civilians in government, because those civilians are corrupt or in league with the occupation or are in charge of death camp policies, are obviously justified. If your goal is justified in turn. When you, flenser, say that the deliberate targeting of civilians is never justified, you're on this plateau of perfection that will never sustain itself, because you will always lose if you limit your options and give yourself a "handicap".

In chess, that might be fun and educational. Playing without the queen, or with one rook or one knight. But wars done by handicap are not games. It's a serious business. If you believe your cause is just, as Americans and Jihadists both believe, then you should be willing to do whatever it takes to complete those objectives. This is irregardless of who has to get killed.

As I told you flenser, and you ignored, there are two categories to judge ethical actions. You should apply them to your scenarios, and tell us the answers, and do some deep thinking and consideration of the options. There's really nothing more to communicate from my perspective.

 
At 8:01 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous Trimegistus said...

Anonymous demonstrates something about terrorists we tend to forget. He's not really trying to persuade us or change our minds, he just wants to spew his idiotic hatred. Similarly, the terrorists just like to kill people. Mostly Jews and Americans.

 
At 8:22 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous Richard Aubrey said...

Many years ago, a group of journalists were on television discussing coverage of Israel vs. Palestinians.
One question presumed most journalists favored Palis--this was not disputed--because they were romantic.
Flashing eyes, long hair, brandished weapons. The Israelis, uniforms, trained, efficient professionals. Booooring.
It's almost sexual, identifying with the guy who doesn't give a damn, will do anything he chooses, not restricted by any petty scruples.
Nothing to do with ideology at all.

 
At 8:33 PM, May 06, 2006, Blogger Jack Trainor said...

It's almost sexual, identifying with the guy who doesn't give a damn, will do anything he chooses, not restricted by any petty scruples.
Nothing to do with ideology at all.


There's something to this. Revolutionaries do have a certain sex appeal. Le Carre's Little Drummer Girl described it well with respect to the Palestinian cause. Then there is the cult of Che...

 
At 9:28 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous TalkinKamel said...

Again, Sally, I've got to agree with you. Up till now, we've only seen Stockholm Syndrome in a very limited context, but now, it does seem to be spreading---and the who Mo-toon controversy is a perfect example of this.

Look how many newsapers, magazines, T.V. shows, etc., backed away from even showing the terrible Toons; the mere threat of violence was enough to make them back down, burbling about how they wanted to show respect towards religion---a respect they certainly don't extend to, say, evangelical Christians, or Jews.

I think terrorism is changing the way we react to things.

 
At 9:29 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous TalkinKamel said...

Trimegistus

Yes, and Anonymous also demonstrates the futility of arguing with terrorists, or trying to reason with them.

These people cannot be appeased.

 
At 9:58 PM, May 06, 2006, Anonymous Spanky said...

Some people here have said some really dumb things. And I could spend lots of time explainign why they are dumb, but I won't. You people need to find better things to do with your weekends.

Cheers!

 
At 9:31 AM, May 07, 2006, Blogger Jack Trainor said...

I have a friend who is convinced that Stockholm Syndrome is involved in the response of many Westerners to Islamic terrorism.

That's a stretch for me. The people I know in the SF Bay Area who take this terrorism in stride mostly seem to be in denial.

They consider Islamic terrorism a strictly fringe phenomenon, and the real enemies are those closer at hand: Republicans and conservative Christians. This is basically how they see the world with or without Islamic terrorism.

 
At 10:31 AM, May 07, 2006, Blogger Jack Trainor said...

I suppose I should have included neocons in my list of those whom people like anon consider the real enemies.

Bin Laden has declared that it is the religious duty of Muslims to kill American civilians whenever and wherever they can.

Yet, for anon et al, the real enemies are other Americans who deserve all the withering sarcasm that can be mustered.

 
At 10:32 AM, May 07, 2006, Anonymous grackle said...

Was dropping nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in order to end the Second World War morally justifiable?

The bombs were militarily justifiable because they assured the defeat of Japan. I believe they were also morally justifiable, primarily because the bombs enabled a victory with the least loss of life for both sides, perhaps even the poster’s own father or grandfather. The poster may even owe their existence to Truman’s decision. Both sites, by the way, were important locations for the Japanese war effort, as were most cities in Japan. Armament factories and troop centers are rarely located in isolated, non-populated areas.

But isn’t all this heated debate about what constitutes terrorism irrelevant? Isn’t the important point is that there is a cluster of groups that have killed Americans and intend to kill more Americans. These groups cut across national borders, reside in many countries and are employed, assisted and given safe haven by several regimes. We who are concerned about these facts are not obliged to define this group’s chosen method or to prove the group’s methods have less moral justification than past episodes of(supposedly) war-time atrocities by the US before taking action to defend ourselves, beyond simply noting that the group’s self-acknowledged goal is to destroy our culture along with our persons. Despot-toppling in Afghanistan and Iraq is a start on a solution, but there’s much more to be done. Iran, Syria and perhaps Pakistan must also be tended to. Groups dedicated to killing Americans will have a much more difficult time implementing their murderous goals if their state sponsors are eliminated.

 
At 11:05 AM, May 07, 2006, Blogger snowonpine said...

Grackle--

I agree that the Hiroshima & Nagasaki morality issue is a total Red Herrring, a distraction from the main thread which you have identified. Very simply, Islamic fundamentalists have declared they want to destroy us and have taken concrete steps to start the process. They and their enablers, wherever situated, are are targets.

 
At 12:01 PM, May 07, 2006, Anonymous Spanky said...

Actually, I thought that one of the questions posed was: is intentional violence against innocent civilians ever morally justifiable?

Making the question about Japan rather relevant.

Anyway, Unknown Blogger: do you have a blog of your own? Are you interested in one?

 
At 12:10 PM, May 07, 2006, Blogger Jack Trainor said...

It's interesting to read through the reader reviews on Amazon of United 93. Those who dislike the film head usually give it one star on partisan grounds and criticize it as fantasy.

Some head straight into what they claim is the real truth: that Bush & Co. were behind the 9-11 attacks. I hear this from people who otherwise seem sensible.

Talk about "fighting amongst ourselves"!

 
At 1:50 PM, May 07, 2006, Anonymous Moscowite said...

Problem of PC Commandments is only the top of iceberg. Moral weakness of the West goes deeper. It results from a gross misunderstanding shared also by decent Leftists and many conservatives: all human are basically alike, all cultures are equally valuable, any doubts about these principles are racist bigotry and totally unacceptable. You can't win propaganda war (and any other war) until you drop this nonsence entirely and find way to convince people that western civilization is better, higher and morally more advanced that all forms of barbarism. And Islam in all its forms and manifestations, not just military islamism, is pure medieval barbarism.

 
At 2:22 PM, May 07, 2006, Anonymous Moscowite said...

To neo: Please, comment on the following opinion on Moussauy trial by Mark Steyn:
America "lost" for a more basic reason: turning a war into a court case and upgrading the enemy to a defendant ensures you pretty much lose however it turns out.

 
At 4:30 PM, May 07, 2006, Blogger Jack Trainor said...

Copperheads nominally favored the Union but they strongly opposed the war, hated Blacks, blamed the abolitionists, demanded immediate peace and resisted the draft laws.

They wanted Lincoln and the Republicans ousted from power, seeing the president as a tyrant who was destroying American republican values with his despotic and arbitrary actions.


That sounds familiar!

Well, the sort of good news is that Americans have always been a fractious, squabbling lot. Nonetheless, we won the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, WW I and II, and the Cold War.

I am convinced that we will win this one too because either the Muslims will see reason and back down, or they will continue with terrorism. One more spectacular action like 9-11, and it won't matter how many people oppose the war in San Franciso or Boston.

 
At 4:49 PM, May 07, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

And I could spend lots of time explainign why they are dumb, but I won't.

Let's all give Spank a round of applause for (fill in the blank).

Besides, given that Anon "I'm a cowardly keyboard operator" is doing Spank's job for him, I suppose there really is no existential motive to continue on. So there you go.

You people need to find better things to do with your weekends.

It wouldn't really matter if you stopped reading this blog, what people did with their free time, now does it?

It angers me to see that these INECENT LEFTIES (yes, that's you spanky) still don't get it. 9/11 CHANGED EVERYTHING! At least as far as this proud neocon is concern.

Pre 9/11 I thought the best and most effective way to deal with any problem, no matter how grave it may be, was to get at the root cause of it, to try to "understand" it if you will.


Most Neo-Cons, at least of the true liberal persuasion pre 9/11 and voted for saving animals and planets, realized after 9/11 what the true root cause was, and that's why they supported Iraq and Afghanistan and invasion of the Middle East. It's one of the clues early on for the satire (inanity) that Anon scribbles out.

But isn’t all this heated debate about what constitutes terrorism irrelevant? Isn’t the important point is that there is a cluster of groups that have killed Americans and intend to kill more Americans.

Well, I wouldn't really care, but I'm showing my "street creds", and demonstrating through subtlety and action why Anon and Spankers are wrong about the Neo-Con philosophy. You know, the Oblique Approach.

I care insofar as I want to hit the right target, and you can't do that if you don't plan ahead. Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Some people probably would benefit from that before opening their mouths and putting their fingers on the keys.

I'm not truely worried about the military succombing to immorality and undisciplined rampages like African troops. Statistically, the military is much more stable and honest as an institution than lawyers, judges, politicians, or bureacrats combined. The American people agree time and again in polls, the military, doctors, etc are very well trusted. Showing our best face, not our worst through State bureacrats, CIA I Spy agents, Congressmen on meetings, is very very important in the Honor culture of Islam. If we don't show our best, then the MidEasterners will neither trust us, respect us, nor fear us. Then we're pocked.

What did that book say, Imperial Grunts, that our military were our ambassadorial wing to the rest of the world rather than our diplomatic corps?

Yes, you're absolutely right! It takes a true neocon to see that the actual point of my post was to point out that the INDECENT LEFTIES regard neocons as the "real enemies" and not Bin laden and his ilk.

What indecent left, you were talking about the inecent left.

Yes, the very fact that they don't denounce Bin Laden in any and all their arguments is prima facie evidence that they approve and therefore sympathize with his cause...despite their laughable assertion that harping on how evil Bin laden is is as useful as telling a drunk he has had too much to drink.


I think Anon proves the point. Like the Democrats, Anon puts most of his energies in attacking Americans and neo cons and people like that. Do they devote one iota of that energy, scorn, and hate towards the Islamic Fascist enemies? Are they afraid of doing so? Is because it would make them feel guilty for "collaborating" with the Republicans?

It is a sad day when Americans believe working together is collaboration with the enemy, something to be avoided as shameful.

a proud neocon,
...because I think Bin laden is evil and those INDECENT LEFTIES don't.


Speaking as one propagandist to another, Anon. I suggest you 1. stop believing in your own propaganda and 2. make it a bit more honest and effective. It is rather glaringly ugly and unworkable at the moment.

 
At 6:10 PM, May 07, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

yrmadwnkr is really king of the trolls
I owe it to spank, he gave me a free power leveling package, and I got to be King Troll Slayer, so I made a new character for World of Warcraft.

Regardless, I vote that anon's latest comment be deleted because it's just pasting what other people here said, with no format, no "quotes", no bold, no italics, and no sense.

 
At 10:44 AM, May 08, 2006, Blogger Goesh said...

Sally should get the taliban to endorse what she says about us being so weak and filled with self-doubts, then she could get the jihadis in Iraq, what's left of them that is, to also endorse what the taliban tells us about US weakness and lack of resolve.

 
At 11:03 AM, May 08, 2006, Blogger David said...

"fighting among ourselves"...Wednesday will be the 66th anniversary of the German attack on France in 1940. Many of the German generals were very nervous about this project, having personally experienced the fighting qualities of the French Army in the previous war. One thing that gave Hitler a lot of confidence was the extreme and vitrioic level of factionalism that existed in French politics.

After the German attack began, Georges Mandel, the courageous Minister of the Interior, observed a Deputy (legislator) whose district had been bombed by the enemy...he went about the lobbies (of the Chamber of Deputies), screaming "I will interpellate the government on this outrage as soon as the Chamber meets!" Mandel remarked to his friend, the English General Edward Spears, about the disconnect of this behavior from reality. "Paris is bombed by the Germans? Let's shake our fists at our own Government."

It is easy to imagine this scenario happening in America today.

 
At 1:16 PM, May 08, 2006, Blogger The Unknown Blogger said...

Interesting post, Neo.

Although I am not convinced that the left's response to terrorism comes from a list of "12 PC commandments," I will say that the question of the results terrorists achieve is an interesting one.

I have to take issue though, with your conclusion:

"Therefore, the more terrible the terrorism, the more the cause must be just--as long as it's against the West, especially the US or Israel.

I would say that when reflecting on the history of terrorists acts which gained worldwide notoriety for a terrorist cause, and ultimately legitimacy for its leadership, one might also mention the 1946 bombing of the British Headquarters at the King David Hotel.

Conducted by the Zionist terrorist group Irgun under the leadership of Menachem Begin, the bombing killed 91 people and shocked the British and the world.

Less than 2 years later Israel was recognised by the UN. (The UK abstained.)

Menachem Begin would be elected Prime Minister of Israel in 1977.

Then there was Yitzhak Shamir,
who in the 40's was leader of the LEHI.

During Shamir's tenure, his group was responsible for the assassination of a British official, a UN mediator, and the massacre of civilians at Deir Yassin.

Prime Minister Shamir remained unrepentant for these terrorist acts, as demonstrated in a 1998 interview with Middle East Quarterly:

MEQ: How do you reply to those who accuse you, on account of your role in LEHI, of being a terrorist?

Shamir: My reply is that had I not acted as I did, it is doubtful that we would have been able to create an independent Jewish State of our own.

 
At 1:47 PM, May 08, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

The fact is that some terroists are freedom fighters while other terroists really are terroists. It's a hot potato in propaganda terms, and people who try to use debate techniques against propaganda techniques usually end up confused and befuddled.

In the end, the basic question (out of several) is only whether the means justify the End. Specifically and epistemologically speaking, whether an action will actually contribute to the goal or not. The end goal, the ultimate, not an "intermediate goal" btw. If the means contribute to the goal, then it is justified. If it backfires, it is not justified. Victory has a thousand claimants, while defeat is an orphan.

The American Revolution would not have been justified if it had failed, that is pretty obvious. Things that don't work, have no chance to justify themselves, because they would not exist metaphysically speaking. People proposing plans to their boss, knows this instinctively, yet they cannot apply that common sense against terrorism and propaganda. That's sad and unfortunate, but what you can do.

 
At 3:07 PM, May 08, 2006, Blogger David said...

"like civilian bombings in conventional wars such as WWII, terrorism can also foster solidarity and resistance in those who are its intended targets"...this raises an interesting question. It's true that WWII conventional bombing did not lead to the civilian panic confidently projected by its advocates, and that solidarity on the part of the victims was a common reaction. But I've also read that the attacks on London by the V-2 missile brought people much closer to panic, even though the aggregate damage was much less. (The V-2 flew faster than sound, so you couldn't hear it coming..and it couldn't be shot down though it often missed its target by literally miles.) I wonder if terrorist attacks are more like the V-2 in their psychological effects than they are like conventional bombing.

(The reaction from the public might have also had something to do with the initial policy of the British government, which was to keep the existence of the V-2 secret and claim that the explosions were the result of "exploding gas mains" or some such.

 
At 10:11 PM, May 08, 2006, Blogger Sally said...

One more thing:

I wanted to say a little more about my use of the phrase "the indecent left" -- by which I wanted to distinguish between those on the liberal left with whom it's possible to carry on a rational and civil debate (typified by the signers of the Euston Manifesto, who differ among themselves, it's unfortunately necessary to repeat, on every aspect of the invasion of Iraq), and those with whom, sadly, it's just not. Neo objected to my characterization of the latter group as an example of the "more impressionable and easily frightened" among us, and I take her point -- no doubt they have other motivations than fear driving them, though I continue to think it likely that they also have more than their fair share of the fear-ridden among them. But other factors would include a sort of hyper-partisanship -- those who would rather see America lose than see a Republican President "win" in any sense of the word; ideological opportunism -- those who seize upon the terror attacks as a means of pushing their prior agendas (as in: "this only shows what comes of X", where "X" can be anything from globalization to SUVs); and certainly the sort of simplistic political fundamentalism of those who adhere to the "PC Commandments" neo mentioned.

Regardless of what motivates them, though, the tactics of the indecent left are easy to recognize. One is the "Terrorism is bad, but --" formula, followed by the usual and endless litany of how much worse is Bu$h, America, and the West. Another, though obviously related one, is the impulse to change the subject whenever anyone says anything bad about Islamist terrorists -- if you refer to a video that mocks a vicious Islamist murderer, for example, these guys will put up a link showing a video they think mocks the American President, as though somehow providing a needed "balance"; if you attempt to analyze Islamist terror in any way, they'll search for historic instances of Israeli terror, as though one somehow justifies the other. It's true, of course, that few of these people are so far gone that they'll actually approve of Islamist mass murder, and few will even dare to be explicit about the moral equivalence they so clearly want to imply -- it's just that their political thought has become so atrophied it's been reduced to the level of reflex: they'll oppose anything Bush favors, for example, before his words even reach their brains.

 
At 11:44 PM, May 08, 2006, Blogger The Unknown Blogger said...

Well all I can say is probably the only thing lower than an ad-hominem attack is an ad-hominem attack that is just too afraid to come right out and attack.

UB
Proud to be a charter member of Sally's "indecent left" fantasy

 
At 1:36 AM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Sally said...

Well all I can say is probably the only thing lower than an ad-hominem attack is an ad-hominem attack that is just too afraid to come right out and attack.

Well, first of all you flatter yourself, Ubee. Second, and more important, you don't understand the notion of "ad hominem attack".

Nice to see you've retained some self-esteem though.

 
At 12:14 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Some people believe ad hominem attacks are saying someone is (name X) and that makes them wrong, discredited, or not believable. It's basically what lawyers do cross-examining a witness, don't believe him because he is a shitty (fill in blank).

Other people believe that ad hominems are when people apply labels, definitions, and names to the subject that they are talking about, which precedes an analysis of the specific behavior and beliefs and logical consistencies of the subject.

What this ends up is, people who call people names and use that as a justification for why they are right and everyone else is wrong, become offended and accuse others of using ad hominem against him, when they call him on his attack tactics.

People who use exact methodology and explain why groups or persons are wrong in their beliefs, are accused of using ad hominem. When in actual fact, the reason why the Democrats are wrong is not because they are Democrats, but what the actions of the Democrats are.

You can call people names, that's not ad hominem attacks, so long as you say that a person could be right, even if he is (X).

You would never a lawyer say that in court when the witness is not theirs.

 
At 5:57 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Jen said...

I find Ymar's (good lord, why did you pick such a difficult name?) discussion of why the ends justify the means - at least in military terms - very interesting. In a sense, maybe the point is that war is, in itself, the worst possible means. Civilized nations, one presumes, would therefore not start a war without a damn good reason, a goal so compelling that it must be achieved at any cost. Or to put it another way, would we rather lose to Islamofascists then, say, use nuclear, or even chemical and biological weapons on them, it that were our only way to win?

But if that is the case, what is the point of the Geneva Convention? Is it possible to even have rules of war, and is it desirable to do so?

I think that, Ymar aside, it is clear that we prefer to set limits on what we will do, even in war. But it is also clear that we do not see ourselves as being in a position where our only choices are between violating those rules or losing.

The terrorists, however, do see themselves in that position, so telling them that they can't use those means amounts to telling them that they can't achieve that end. Which is fine with me, either way, as long as we stop them.

So what really matters and what we as a nation really need to discuss, is what we are willing to do to win. Or is there a point at which we would say, "sorry, I'd rather lose." I think many Americans already reached that point at the invasion of Iraq. That's becuase losing doesn't mean anything to them, it just means we stop fighting.

Clearly, until it can be shown to most Americans that losing would be really bad, it seems pointless to discuss the means of winning this war, since going to war itself already crossed the threshold for too many Americans.

I'm sorry that this is off the topic a bit, but it is a really interesting discussion to me.

 
At 7:38 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 7:53 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

So we have to have blogger accounts to post now, huh? Is this part of the WAR ON TERROR and will make us all more secure? Okay. My new account is tequilamockingbird555. Any of you who want to impersonate me, my password is fuckyouyoucocksuckers. (I really should come up with something shorter, but then it'd be harder for terrorists to penetrate, wouldn't it?) We all have to do our bit.

 
At 8:05 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

neoneocon: I'm sorry I read this thread. It diminishes my respect for you. PC Commandments? With all due respect (a lawyer's term of art meaning "with derision and contempt"): Horseshit.

To set up 10 or 14 derisory positions and then totally demolish your straw opponent may be good fun for you, but it hardly advances your position. Forget the PC Commandments cartoon you've presented: What about the people who disagree with you but are honest, patriotic and principled? Or does your apparent warped worldview not allow for the existence of such people? If they don't agree with you, they swallow the PC Commandments line?

This rubbish is unworthy of you. I'm disappointed.

tequilamockingbird

 
At 8:23 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

(good lord, why did you pick such a difficult name?)

So many people are curious about that, that I wrote a post about it.

Short answer is that it is a combination of Yamamoto and Sake. I like Japanese culture, what can I say. Ever since they gave up the "Death is lighter than a feather, duty heavier than mountains", it's been an interesting challenge to try to see how they think. Former US mortal enemy, to US ally. What human experiences would result from such a transition? Sorta like the transition frome Democrat to neo-con after 9/11, very interesting.

Go here for more info on why ymar

So we have to have blogger accounts to post now, huh? Is this part of the WAR ON TERROR and will make us all more secure?

Yes. Blogger makes us more literate, and it gives us National Identity Cards. (I'm joking of course)

My new account is tequilamockingbird555. Any of you who want to impersonate me, my password is fuckyouyoucocksuckers.

So it is like man on brokenback man sex, with oral and anal, but it is us using ad hominems? Okay.

It's not okay in the military sense, but it is okay in the sense that "it does not matter".

In a sense, maybe the point is that war is, in itself, the worst possible means.

As they say, war is a waste. But if you're happy with the Brits pocking you over the barrel with taxes and unreasonable search and seizures, then you wouldn't be willing to go to war to stop it anyways.

If you're happy with your situation, and like the status quo, war is OBVIOUSLY not your piece of cake.

But if that is the case, what is the point of the Geneva Convention? Is it possible to even have rules of war, and is it desirable to do so?

It is desirable for both sides, if both sides desire prosperity and safety for their citizens. An enemy that doesn't give a dick who they kill, rape, or mutilate is a dishonorable enemy that I will lay waste to.

But all in all, if both sides agree to rules of war and laws, it is much better. It is far better to war with the Germans than with the Japanese, because being taken prisoner by the Jerries is so very different than the Japs.

I think that, Ymar aside, it is clear that we prefer to set limits on what we will do, even in war.

I'm okay with limits. But it has to be reciprocated. War isn't welfare for the dishonest. I'm not going to subsidize my enemy.

Most people don't read or think a lot about war, but I do. And I've always come to the conclusion that limited wars are very good, if you have to have any wars in the first place. But if your enemy has taken off the gloves, then you are required to win, you are required to win because if you don't your entire family and everyone you protect will be defenseless against the barbarian horde. What will you say to your ancestors? Sorry, my bad, I screwed up?

But it is also clear that we do not see ourselves as being in a position where our only choices are between violating those rules or losing.

Desperation is not something we can make up or get people to believe in. Propaganda can alleviate desperation, but it cannot produce it. Not by itself at least.

As for American morale and what not, I tend to think it is quite malleable and fluid. Your morale can up or down or sideways, or whatever, at any given point in time.

Propaganda is the technique of persuasion, persuading people not to give up hope, persuading people to give up hope, persuading people that they should scared of shitless of us if they harm their prisoners, and so on.

Thus, victories create good morale, as it did in Afghanistan. Defeats, do not create good morale, BUT, there is something very weird that occurs in defeats, strings of them.

If you study Grant's campaign and Lee's campaign in the Civ War, you will notice that people loved Grant because he gave them victories while the soldiers of Lee loved Lee because...? Lee didn't have a lot of victories, so why did his soldiers love him? Because the more you see defeat, the more you are beaten into the crownd and have had your honor and pride besmirched, the more easily you can believe in hope and improvement.

Thus they had their hopes on Lee and their morale was GOOD simply because it was so LOW. Low as in, expectations are low, which means morale becomes GOOD if there is any victory at all. A difference I make between Good/Bad morale and High/Low morale. For some reason a Low morale can actually be a Good morale while a High Morale can be Bad Morale.

You see the same thing happening on a field of battle. The army that thinks it will win, has high morale. But if you crush that army and inflict psychological shock and physical casualties by pushing them back, their morale will BREAK like iced figurines.

This is what freaking happened the first year of the Civ War and in Iraq as well. The newspapers in the North reported VICTORY after VICTORY. And then when Lee kicked their asses back to the borderlands, all of a sudden it is GLOOM and Doom, and it's what the hell is wrong with these people?

What is wrong is that people with a high morale can fall farther and people with low morale don't need all that much to raise their morale to Good.

They call it by many names. Over-confidence. Victory disease. Taking victory from the jaws of defeat, taking defeat from the jaws of victory.

Neo-NC worries too about American morale and willpower, but I think it is agreed that if the situation gets more desperate, then America will automatically get the will.

The question, what are we going to do in the meantime? Keep getting Iraq up, obviously. It wouldn't matter to iraqis what the morale of Americans are so, so long as they can defend themselves.

It diminishes my respect for you

Why do people act as if their respect for Neo-Cons (which is 0 btw) has been lowered by something they disagree with, and that this actually matters in any important way?

*scratches head*

What about the people who disagree with you but are honest, patriotic and principled?

I disagree with Neo on a lot of things. I also disagree about Bush when talking to most Republican loyalists.

People don't seem to realize that Republicans will disapprove of Bush because they can honestly understand if he is doing a good or bad job. While Democrats will ALWAYS approve of Clinton because they don't care if he does a good or bad job, and will never disagree.

Not even using that to justify WMDs worked, because it just went over their heads and they compartamentalized their minds. Clinton was right about WMDs, Bush lied about WMDs, End of Story.

I tend to think that when supporters of Bush began to criticism him for not doing enough, this means the supporters of Bush have a certain intellectual honesty. Democrats see this as meaning Bush is bad, as they always believed.

People like Tequila never believed Bush was good, so why does that make them more honest when they don't change their minds as the facts change?

As Churchill said in response to the challenge of why he changes his mind so much, "When the facts change, I change my beliefs as well, what do you do dear?"

Pretty amusing.

 
At 8:31 PM, May 09, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

Ywhatsit: Thanks for your typically clear and cogent response. You're a helluva typist.

tequilamockingbird

 
At 12:36 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger Sally said...

tequila: Horseshit.

You know if you think about it -- or even if you don't -- that's a pretty good one word answer to anything, isn't it? Conveys a kind of tough, plain-talkin', tell-it-like-it-is attitude in just two syllables -- and the best thing is, you can be thick as a plank and it works just as well! Maybe better!

Of course, if you're not quite that thick you might want to read what you're describing before using it. In this case, for example, had tequila actually read the post that occasioned his bitter disappointment, he would have realized that the "PC Commandments" remark was directed at a particular group of people that I'd labelled the "indecent left", and that neo had interpreted as "that segment of the far left that makes excuses for and/or sympathizes with terrorists" -- which leaves a fairly wide swath of ground for ample disagreement, especially from people who are "honest, patriotic and principled". But, of course, such a basic exercise in reading comprehension would leave no room for the exercise of righteous indignation, and where's the fun in that? Nah, forget about it.

Here's the thing, though: explanations are superfluous and can make you look silly -- next time just stick with the one word epithets.

 
At 12:46 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger douglas said...

Re: killing of innocents by islamofascist terrorism vs. Hiroshima/Nagasaki:

It's tactical vs. strategic. The behadings and bombs of the terrorists, even 9-11 are purely tactical events- they fit within a strategic framework, but these tactics, in and of themselves can never bring them victory. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were a strategic decision/goal, and produced victory and all that entails, including the likely saving of millions of lives. At a bare minimum, tens to hundreds of thousands in occupied China/SE Asia while the war ground down conventionally.

I think that illustrates the point well enough. There is no upside to the terrorists tactics (in and of themselves).

 
At 8:03 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

'The "indecent left", and that neo had interpreted as "that segment of the far left that makes excuses for and/or sympathizes with terrorists"' -- ah, yes, of course. You don't mean the 68% and climbing percent who feel W is doing a bad job; you don't mean those of us who feel that history will judge W as the worst president in history, and that the invasion of Iraq was the worst military decision since Japan invaded Pearl Harbor; you don't mean those of us who would like to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rove, Perle et al waterboarded until they tell us what they knew and when they knew it. You mean a handful of certifiable lunatics no rational person could possibly defend. I see.

(BTW, 7 December 1941: a day which will live in infamy? Apparently not. By the standards of Bush & Co., it was an entirely justifiable preemptive attack by a world power that saw its interests in the Pacific being threatened and decided that war would be necessary and therefore should be fought on Japan's terms -- unfortunately for them, the smoking gun did indeed turn into a mushroom cloud).

tequilamockingbird

 
At 8:57 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger Sally said...

tequila: You mean a handful of certifiable lunatics no rational person could possibly defend. I see.

I think there's a few more than a handful of you, tequila, unfortunately, and I think you're more neurotic than certifiable. So I doubt that you actually do see, but you're right at least about the rationality part -- no rational person, for example, could possibly defend a comparison of a surprise attack by a fascist disctatoship on a democracy to a response by a democracy that had already been attacked to a terrorist-sheltering dictatorship that was under world-wide censure. Your waterboarding fantasy is a nice additional symptom too.

 
At 9:04 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

Thank you for your kind words.

 
At 10:46 AM, May 10, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

Ywhatsit: Thanks for your typically clear and cogent response. You're a helluva typist.

'The "indecent left", and that neo had interpreted as "that segment of the far left that makes excuses for and/or sympathizes with terrorists"' -- ah, yes, of course. You don't mean the 68% and climbing percent who feel W is doing a bad job; you don't mean those of us who feel that history will judge W as the worst president in history, and that the invasion of Iraq was the worst military decision since Japan invaded Pearl Harbor; you don't mean those of us who would like to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Wolfowitz, Feith, Rove, Perle et al waterboarded until they tell us what they knew and when they knew it. You mean a handful of certifiable lunatics no rational person could possibly defend. I see.

Isn't tequila really clear in his prose? I mean, who can not understand his above... um sentence? I mean, how could such clear and cogent analysis produce any doubts or questions?

People talk the talk but not walk the walk. That's okay I guess, for um propagandists and con-artists.

I recommend people read Admiral Kimmel's accounts of Roosevelt and Pearl harbor. It is more similar to 9/11 than you will ever have guessed.

Kimmel's story

My new account is tequilamockingbird555. Any of you who want to impersonate me, my password is fuckyouyoucocksuckers.

I think we should all thank Tequila for his kind mocking words as well.

 
At 6:52 PM, May 10, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

x

 
At 7:25 PM, May 10, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

I apologize for my intemperate remarks. An itchy "publish" finger is an excuse, but a poor one. Sorry.

sally: "I think there's a few more than a handful of you, tequila" -- that of course is your point. You're professing to attack a few radical indefensible weirdos, "the indecent left", when really you are lumping in everyone whose political views are opposed to your own. I repudiate entirely any effort to associate me with those juvenile, cartoonish "Commandments". I do, however, think the present administration is an unmitigated disaster. It's tragic for the world that the U.S. has experienced two presidential terms of a feckless, unqualified know-nothing president doing his feeble best to learn on the job and failing miserably.

Tell me, sally, how do you define "the decent left"?

 
At 9:46 PM, May 10, 2006, Blogger Sally said...

tequila: I apologize for my intemperate remarks.

Okay, thanks, and I'll withdraw my classification of you with the "indecent left".

You're professing to attack a few radical indefensible weirdos, "the indecent left", when really you are lumping in everyone whose political views are opposed to your own.

No, I'm really not. Like neo, most of the people I know have political views opposed to my own. With some, it's unfortunately true that we can't have a civil conversation about politics, but with others, including some of my oldest friends, we have regular debates and arguments, which I think are good for us all and are certainly helpful for me.

I do, however, think the present administration is an unmitigated disaster.

I don't, but that's just a difference of opinion. I do think that much depends on the tone of this difference, however -- I think there's a whole block of the current "angry left" so over the top in their rhetoric about Bush that their entire political judgement gets called into question, much as the political judgement of significant portions of the right was damaged by their rabid hostility to Clinton during his presidency.

Tell me, sally, how do you define "the decent left"?

I've used the people behind the Euston Manifesto as my example of what I see as a "decent left", but it's certainly not limited to them. So far as the war on Islamist terror is concerned, one test for decency on any wing would be someone who could feel quite comfortable saying "terrorism is a bad thing, period, full stop, no 'but's'", and leave the litany of faults on the part of Bush, America, and/or the West for another time.

 
At 6:19 AM, May 12, 2006, Blogger tequilamockingbird said...

My last post didn't appear to get published for quite some time, and I assumed I had been bounced (justifiably).

Sally, perhaps you and I are not that far apart; we certainly have some areas of agreement. I'd like to know, for instance, how many of those who are horrified by stinging criticism of Bush's policies are among those who tried to crucify Clinton for his sexual activities.
Sauce for the goose? Not even that, I think; I think Bush is far more deserving of public outrage for his policies than Clinton for his sex life.

"Terrorism is a bad thing, period, full stop, no 'but's'" -- another point on which we agree.

I haven't yet come to a conclusion about the Euston Manifesto.

You have a point about Pearl Harbor, but I believe I do too. I think that waging aggressive war -- which the Bushies give the mealy-mouthed weasel-word term "preemptive" -- which was pronounced by the Nuremburg Tribunal as being the basic war crime within which all other war crimes are contained, is indefensible. You seem to be saying that aggressive/preemptive war is justified if it's waged by the good guys, as defined by you; I think the waging of that war in itself, not to mention the secret renditions, secret prisons in Eastern Europe, full-bore support for torture to be allowed by the CIA in certain circumstances, the stain of Gitmo, and the secret illegal wiretapping pretty much forfeit any right for this administration to call themselves "good guys".

tequilamockingbird

 
At 4:57 PM, May 13, 2006, Blogger Ymarsakar said...

My last post didn't appear to get published for quite some time, and I assumed I had been bounced (justifiably).

Tell that to Bookworm and mention Ymar being blocked.

 

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