Friday, April 28, 2006

Iran or ... Darfur?

Lawrence F. Kaplan, a senior editor at The New Republic, fears that the left’s opposition to Iraq will prevent it from supporting unilateral military action to save those dying in Darfur. As he points out, those on the left who advocate intervention in Darfur are for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq regardless of the bloodbath that would ensue. He sees a contradiction here. I don’t.

For the left, the sin of intervention in Iraq isn’t “going it alone,” “being pre-emptive,” or using military might. In Kosovo, we acted without the U.N. and before the anticipated genocide; and we bombed Serbia—a nation that had no WMDs or history of anti-American terrorism. The sin of our Iraqi policy, in the eyes of the left, is that we acted out of self-interest. Thus, Kosovo and Darfur do not resemble Iraq and Iran.

Kaplan quotes the Bible as it implores us not to “stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.” And while generosity and decency may motivate this honorable impulse to rescue those under siege, running the world and settling disputes in every corner of the earth is clearly an impossible burden to bear. The left, however, is not inconsistent: they want our priorities to be inverted. To the degree that we have no interest in this region is the degree that we are duty-bound to help.

In the comment section of my last post, I argued that the left has secularized the most abject altruism while the right, with its explicit commitment to religion, has retained a skepticism towards a foreign policy driven by the devotion to serving the needs of those who’s values and disposition are inimical to our interests and, indeed, in many cases inimical to our very existence. I wrote:

Since Kant secularized abject altruism (which holds that one’s duty is to sacrifice for others no matter whom they are and what they value) it is found more on the left than the right. Prior to Kant one often read about the right to self-preservation in British philosophers from Hobbes to Locke that clearly and proudly upheld the ultimate right to defend one’s life and protect one’s family.

Kant’s duty-bound categorical imperative disparaged self-interest and the common sense notions of self-preservation to absurd extents. The moral became a commandment—to be blindly followed. There’s Kant’s well known example against lying even if a craven killers asks you where to find his intended victim. Of course, Kant throws in the improbably idea that something unexpected may keep the killer from carrying out his plan. But what sane person would not lie under such a situation? It’s not as if people will hold you as untrustworthy because you lied to a deranged killer.

Far from being an academic exercise we see this principle operative today. The left talks as if we have to wait until we’re hit by a nuclear attack. “How do you know Saddam has WMDs? How do you know Ahmadinejad will use those nukes?” (Read Steyn on that one.) The benefit of the doubt, not matter how unreasonable, must go to the enemy no matter how deranged they are. The left will tout categorical imperatives of “international law” and argue against pre-emption. However, if the purpose is altruistic, as it was in Kosovo, then all of a sudden pre-emption is fine, international law is inconvenient, and the preponderance of the evidence mandates our military action. Iraq was motivated by defense and it is self-interest which poisons the cause for the left as it would for Kant.”

Let me now add that the right is vulnerable to the moral attacks made by the left. As D. Eastbrook points out in my comments section of the last post: “Iraq was based on many self-interested premises. But notice how Bush is really not capable of stressing those. As time has passed, all he really is capable of praising about the campaign are its selfless elements; the liberation of the Iraqis and their power to vote in elections.” I fear that our President may want to prove his altruistic devotion by committing troops, either directly or through the U.N., to Darfur as he’s done in Liberia and Haiti. All the while, the threat of Iran looms.

The need for a coherent and proper self-interested foreign policy is greater than ever. We are drifting without a clear idea of our principles, the enemy’s nature, and the proper order of our priorities. Mr. Kaplan doesn't help. But neither does Mr. Bush. While both may be well-meaning gentlemen, they are bound by tacit cultural assumptions they are unable to explicate and question. We need new leadership in both word and deed.

Update: TNR continues to beat the war drum for Darfur.

32 Comments:

Anonymous Ronald Burpee said...

ACCORDING TO JASON ONLY MUSLIMS CAN BE SUICIDE BOMBERS NOT THOSE PEACEFUL HINDUS OF TAMIL TIGERS IN SRI LANKA WHO ACCORDING TO ROBERT PAPE ARE THE MOST COMMON SUICIDE BOMBERS. I GUESS IT IS TIME TO GET YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS, JASON papASS AND PLUG INTO THE WORLD:


Sri Lankan Bomber Was Pregnant After All

By DILIP GANGULY, Associated Press Writer
20 minutes ago



COLOMBO, Sri Lanka - The Tamil suicide bomber who targeted Sri Lanka's top general used her pregnancy to meticulously plan the attack, an investigator said. Officials previously said the bomber had only pretended to be pregnant, but the investigator said hospital records showed she actually was.
Her attack Tuesday killed 11 people and wounded army commander Lt. Gen. Sarath Fonseka and 25 others. It unleashed fighting between government troops and Tamil Tiger rebels that has posed the most serious threat yet to a four-year cease fire.

The military launched two days of air strikes against the rebels on Tuesday and Wednesday in apparent retaliation for the suicide bombing. The rebels say the strikes killed 12 and sent thousands fleeing their homes.

The bomber identified as 21-year-old Anoja Kugenthirasah used her pregnancy to conceal explosives and get inside a maternity clinic in the army's heavily fortified headquarters where she attacked the commander, said the investigator, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The woman is believed to have been a member of the dreaded Black Tigers suicide squad.

Fonseka, a battle-hardened soldier with 35 years in the infantry, was appointed to the military's top post after President Mahinda Rajapakse took office in November. He became a formidable enemy of the Tamil Tigers.

The investigator said Kugenthirasah had fake identification showing she was the wife of a clerk working for the Sri Lankan army and indicating she was pregnant.

Every Tuesday, the military hospital inside army headquarters in the capital Colombo holds a maternity clinic, and Kugenthirasah had visited three times, getting to know the guards and learning Fonseka's routine, the investigator said. The general went home for lunch around 1:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, Kugenthirasah arrived a half-hour ahead of the clinic opening and stood in front of the hospital, which is beside the road that Fonseka took when he left the headquarters.

As the general's car approached, she moved closer. One of Fonseka's motorcycle escorts shouted at her to get away, but she detonated the bomb shortly afterward. Five of Fonseka's escorts were among those killed in the blast.

Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said he was aware of the initial findings of the bombing investigation but declined to comment until it was over.

The Black Tigers are renowned for their skill at suicide bombings against military, government and civilian targets. Victims have included former Sri Lankan President Ranasinghe Premadasa and former Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The Tiger rebels have fought the government since 1983 to create a separate state for ethnic minority Tamils, accusing the majority Sinhalese-dominated state of discrimination.

On Dec. 4, the Tigers carried out the first major attack since the 2002 cease-fire, killing 12 navy sailors. Dozens of rebel attacks followed.

Sri Lanka's military at first exercised restraint, but Fonseka urged retaliation and the military began to return fire when attacked.

In a sign that tensions may be easing, however, the military said Thursday it would halt airstrikes if the insurgents stopped their attacks. On Friday, the government reopened roads linking rebel-held territory with government-controlled areas.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said between 7,000 and 8,000 people were displaced in the recent air force bombing of rebel bases. The agency asked for immediate access to affected villages.

"The loss of life, the new displacement of families, the destruction to businesses and property, as well as threats to humanitarian workers, are creating a climate of fear and tension for civilians," Jan Egeland, the U.N.'s Emergency Relief Coordinator, said in a statement, calling on both sides to "to ensure full protection of civilians."

Norwegian mediators said Friday the Sri Lanka government and Tamil rebels have agreed to meet for peace talks in Geneva, but no date has been set. The two sides had been set to meet in the Swiss city earlier this week, but the rebels backed out, citing attacks on Tamil civilians and other disputes.

"Both parties have in principle agreed to a Geneva meeting" as soon as possible, Norway's International Development Minister Erik Solheim said.

The European Union, the United States, Norway and Japan are co-chairs of the peace process.

___

Associated Press Writer Chris Brummit contributed to this story.

4/28/06, 11:25 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

It’s not the tactic but the goal. Islam is an imperialist warrior ideology with worldwide ambitions of subjugation and domination. Only Muslims suicide bombers are motivated by Islam. And Islam is the problem.

4/28/06, 11:46 AM  
Blogger beakerkin said...

Ronnie

Why shouldn't others imitate the tactic. The world cries for fake indigenous people but spit on the real ones. The moral of the story is kill civilians and no matter how marinal and false your claim is you will be hailed in the Salons of Europe and Unveristies around the globe.

4/28/06, 12:10 PM  
Anonymous Bilwick said...

Hey, Jason, I missed the part (so cleverly pointed out by Mr. Burpee)where you wrote that only Muslims can be suicide bombers. Maybe Mr. B. can give us the exact quote; I'd be interested in seeing it. Mr.Burpee's post causes me to reflect on a problem almost as great as suicide bombers and terrorism: the stupidization of the Left. I'm old enough to remember when the Left was witty, sophisticated and literate. They even had the facade, at least, of being rational: their premises were irrational, but they could at least make more or less rational and logical-sounding arguments from those premises. Now we seem to get mostly people like Burpee and Ducky. Is it all part of the general dumbing down of America, or is it that the most rational part of the Left became Neo-Cons, leaving behind only the semi-literate ranters and ravers? Or were the semi-literate ranters and ravers always out there in vast numbers, and had to wait until the Internet came along to make their presence known and felt? Food for thought.

4/28/06, 12:33 PM  
Blogger Iran Watch said...

Tough choices Jason. In my opinion, unless we are acting in our own interests then we need to stay out of other people's affairs. This goes back to being the world's policeman. I don't think this is the job of America. I'm sure a lot of people who disagree with this but like I said, it's just my opinion

4/28/06, 1:36 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Jason, I especially love this part:

"Kant’s duty-bound categorical imperative disparaged self-interest and the common sense notions of self-preservation to absurd extents. The moral became a commandment—to be blindly followed."

"Blind" is it! And the use of "duty" as a fundamental moral value is one of those things that cause people to say "I was just following orders" as they push the Jews into the ovens.

I have always called Kant, Hegel, and Marx the "Three Stooges of Philosophy." Kant was especially nastyl, because he kept using words like "reason" and "freedom" as a means to disguise his attacks on both.

There are actually people around who think he was a great guy!

4/28/06, 1:38 PM  
Blogger Cubed © said...

Sigh. "...nasty..."

4/28/06, 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kant was a man who had to find a firm place upon which to rest his mind. He found it.

-FJ

4/28/06, 2:02 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Kant, of course, was a classical liberal and has expressed many worthy thoughts on politics. But what worries us, FJ, is the foundation he choose to erect his conceptual structure. As you know, FJ, he sought “a firm place upon which to rest his mind” but he found it in the mind. And while he claimed the constructions of the mind can be relied upon, his trust was misplaced. Did he not open the door to subjectivism even if he claimed otherwise?

However, it is his meta-ethics that is of concern in the above article. While he often came to conclusions that are palatable, his reasoning divorces ethics from its purpose in furthering human life. Most find his version of the Golden Rule innocuous but he is saying much more than “act on principle.” He introduces the notion of the deontological (i.e. duty-bound) commandment that is divorced form purpose as is commonly assumed. His normative notions may at times be palatable but his meta-ethics is cause for concern.

We have a similar concern with Utilitarianism. While the conclusions were often exemplary in terms of policy (J.S.Mill makes many wonderful points) the meta-ethics leaves much to be desired. Despite all the assurances, approaching ethics with the disposition that other people’s lives may be disposed as suit the utilitarian needs of society is a frightening notion.

These are, of course, false alternatives. The Greek philosophers saw ethics as both purposeful and ennobling. Indeed, it couldn’t be one without the other. I’m told that there is no word ‘duty’ in Ancient Greek. They had concepts of honor, magnanimity, etc. But they could not conceive of a blind duty, or commandment, that is divorced from purpose.

That is something Objectivism shares with the Hellenic outlook and, in my opinion, solidifies in a more integrated manner. But judge that for yourself.

4/28/06, 3:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not going to defend Kant's categorical imperative except to say that it is occassionally "usefull". And Kant himself would be the first to point to its' deficiencies... his "Critique of Pure Reason" comes to mind.

I admit to not having read "much" Kant. But what I have read of his, I have found extremely compelling ("Observations on the Beautiful and the Sublime").

And the elements of "duty" to which Kant feels obligated arise from the "perfect freedom" his "categorical imperative" lend him. It's a case of perfect freedom becoming absolute slavery... devoid of out-side influence... hence he tells the truth to a sadistic killer... no, it doesn't seem to "make sense" to a rationale thinker... but then again...

-FJ

4/28/06, 3:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...he now had "duties" to fullfill.

-FJ

4/28/06, 3:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and I think you ignore that some Hellenes had other "1st principles" as well. Socrates' comes to mind.

-FJ

4/28/06, 3:58 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

To get into details, I, too, would have to re-read Kant. And he is a tough read. But I hope I conveyed some of my worries about his approach while still being within commonly accepted interpretations. I hate to refer to Kant because it leads to a detailed exegesis. And if I have time, I’d rather read any Ancient Greek or Roman even if I’m not sympathetic to their philosophy.

4/28/06, 4:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

...if there were an "infallible" approach ANYWHERE, I'd love to hear about it, rather than wallow in my own perpetually ignorant existence.

-FJ

4/28/06, 4:11 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

According to Jason trying to stop a genocide is not a moral imperative.

It's hard for someone like Jason to evolve into a complete human being while the devil Rand has his soul.
Maybe this will help:

“In Praise of Dancing”
by St. Augustine

I praise the dance, for it frees people from the heaviness of matter and binds the isolated to community.

I praise the dance, which demands everything:
health and a clear spirit and a buoyant soul.

Dance is the transformation of space, of time, of people, who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling.

Dancing demands a whole person, one who is firmly anchored in the center of his life, who is not obsessed by lust for people or things and the demon of isolation in his own ego.

Dancing demands a freed person, one who vibrateswith the equipoise of all his powers.

I praise the dance.

O man, learn to dance, or else the angels in heaven will not know what to do with you.

--------------------------------
Jason can't dance.
N.B. "who are in constant danger of becoming all brain, will, or feeling."

That's why well formed humans don't want anything to do with Randbots.

4/28/06, 4:37 PM  
Blogger Mr. Ducky said...

"However bad the situation is in Darfur, it pales in my mind by comparison to the danger to the USA."

What danger is that diaper pisser?

Can we get a rational assessment? I know it's tough for you little weasels to actually reason rather than just strut with your little Randbot disguise but give it a try.

What threat? A few guys with box cutters and an airline industry so set on Randoid profits that it had to be compelled to harden cockpit doors.

What danger George? Spell it out.

4/28/06, 4:56 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I inferred from TNR article that, for the left, Darfur is more of a concern than Iran just as Kosovo is considered a moral action while Iraq is considered evil. Our resident Leftist, Mr. Ducky, just confirmed that that is not only the case but it is emphatically the case. Work done!

4/28/06, 5:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jason,

I loved the post. I agree with your assessment of Kant. Kant is not an easy man to make sense of. He is perhaps the worst writer in philosophic history; run-on sentences, parenthetical clauses modifiying nothing, subjects without objects, objects without subjects, etc. Also, I can't help feel that he was deliberately dishonest; its as if he knew he was playing a game. And after all, Kant was the model for Ellsworth Toohey from the Fountainhead; the only thing is Kant could never articulate himself so precisely as Toohey (who had the benefit of Rand writing his lines).

Rand's and Peikoff's opinions of Kant are, of course, not the mainstream, and I wouldn't expect non-Objectivists to agree with them. You would really have to understand Objectivism before you could fully see what is wrong with Kant. And these last two posts have shown the reasons. On more derivitive branches of philosophy (ie politics and law), Kant draws many better conclusions. Believe it or not, he is widely credited with the retrobutionist approach to criminal law as opposed to the Utilitarian. (That is he advocated actually punishing criminals instead of reforming them.) This may seem suprising when you understand his ethics, which as Jason stated is deontological and enshrines self-sacrifice.

In short, Kant reached conclusions that he had no business reaching. If I had to guess why I would say that the Enlightenment influenced even him. Its true that he is most responsible for ending the Enlightenment (and reversing it). But some of it penetrated his thick hide by osmossis I guess.

And to be sure, his is the major cultural influence today; especially when it comes to foreign policy. Darfur is just the latest manifestation of his ethics. Iraq and Afghanistan are like feeble attempts by a wounded man desperately trying to beat off the beast that is killing it without knowing how and barely being able to stand on his feet. Its really sad in so many ways.

D. Eastbrook

4/28/06, 5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What threat? A few guys with box cutters and an airline industry so set on Randoid profits that it had to be compelled to harden cockpit doors."

How many evasions can you pack into one sentence?

* Is there a free market in Aviation?

* How many thousands of regulations govern the building of planes?

* Are Airlines allowed to arm their pilots without goverment permission? At all?

* Can a private company truly insulate itself against acts of war by enemy aggressors or is that the province of government to defend them?

* Does Ayn Rand's philosophy govern today's business world? Can you say that with a straight face?

* What of the ideology of Islam?

* What of the worldwide aggression and violence displayed by muslims everywhere?

* What of Islam's history of violence?

As I said in another post: I am grateful for Ducky's presence here. It is a constant reminder of the massive default on rational thinking by today's Left. It is also proof that humans really don't have a survival instinct. Ducky is an example of a human who engages in such suicidal evasions that I am begining to wonder if on some deep level he actually covets death; perhaps the responsibility for human cognition is too great and the effort is too daunting?

I am seriously wondering.

D. Eastbrook

4/28/06, 6:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mr ducky,

Am I this much of a pompous ass? How do you put up with me?

-FJ

4/28/06, 7:18 PM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

Last night at the symposium, Dr. Walid Phares spoke of the interconnection between what most Westerners perceive as differing jihadist ideologies. He specifically addressed Africa as the next field for the spread of Wahhabism and pointed out the Sunni presence in the Sudan.

According to Dr. Phares, the Hezbollah arm of Iran is already in place to execute attacks throughout the world, including Latin America. Hezbollah has a strong presence in Brazil and in Argentina, for example.

There is a lot more to what I learned last night, but I don't have time now to elaborate as it's almost time to get ready to go to today's presentations. Suffice it to say that what I've learned so far points out the West's unwillingness to recognize the gravity of the threat. In fact, the trouble has just begun!

Final note...Dr. Phares pointed out last night how important it is to study what OBL laid out in his last audiotape. OBL's speech is very revealing as to the all-encompassing aspect of what the West is up against. This article is one that I have on hand and which bears studying, IMO.

4/29/06, 6:10 AM  
Blogger Always On Watch said...

I have to make time to say this...

Kenneth Timmerman pointed out last night that our State Department is missing the boat as far as supporting the right group in Iran (the group which might overthrow Ahmadinejad). Rafsanjani (sp?) was also working on a nuke weapons program, and Ahmadinejad stepped in and took it over after an election in which only 8%-10% of Iranians voted.

And according to Dr. Phares, the Hezbollah push to dominate has been stepped up because of the Cedars Revolution in Lebanon.

Generality: The web of different terrorist ideologies may have some differences amongs them, but none of what I heard bodes well for the future of Western civilization.

Gotta run!

4/29/06, 6:23 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

Thanks, AOW, that's a useful link. I haven't had time to read that website recently. Iran and Al Qaeda are at war with America and the rest of the world. They have positioned their covert operations to strike and they will do so. As we respond to their aggression we will flush these operations into the open sooner rather than later. There no reason to wait until they are stronger let alone wait until they have nukes.

4/29/06, 8:13 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

You’re right, Eastbrook, that the full Objectivist critique of Kant is not a widely known or a widely shared viewpoint. However, his notion of the deontological is understood by many who admire it and those who criticize it. Talking about Kant can sidetrack the discussion so I hesitated to mention his influence before. But his notion of duty and the categorical imperative can be introduced without controversy. I’m introducing it to comment on the paradox that has the secular left as the main advocate of “turning the other check,” “loving one’s enemy before one’s self,” and finding any concern for our self-interest as a moral disqualifier.

Most people recognize this as “politically correct” nonsense. I’m just spelling out the left’s view of correct in the phrase “politically correct.” I should have used the phrase itself to bridge these less colloquial notions of deontological and abject altruism with the way people talk today.

I hope that the average reader picks-up the different dispositions of pro-defense advocates who see our defense coming first (without apologies) and those who are always putting “the other” first no matter what their values, how they threaten us, or the cost to us of blindly fixating on their desires and demands. Thus, I’ve introduced our audience to some notions that they may want to think about in the future. But I’ll leave the whole history of philosophy debate to another time.

4/29/06, 8:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooops,

You snuck one in one me Jason...

-FJ

4/29/06, 8:39 AM  
Blogger George Mason said...

Interesting set of comments, Jason. Clearly there are two groups: one logical, the other paralogical. A number of adults are making some good comments, and it is very good to read what they have to say and to know they are out there. The paralogicals act like kids in a sandbox, long in need of a nap. Not a one of this set can speak to the issues or stay on the subject--thus they speak past the truth, not recognizing it as they go by. However, I am glad they are there too. Everyone needs to see and experience the contrast and get an existential feel for who is winning and why.

4/29/06, 12:20 PM  
Blogger kevin said...

Burpee,
Islam is the only religion I know of that elevates suicide bombers to the spiritual level of martyr. Islam's only prophet was a terrorist himself.
Jason,
great work as always

4/29/06, 1:33 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I’ve deleted the above posts to allow the readers to avoid the vitriol and get back to the topic at hand.

There is something about the internet that seems increase the risk of a slug-fest. I’ve been in a few myself. However, most fights start over Bush or Clinton and their policies. I take it as a perverse compliment that on my blog people duke it out over Kant and his moral philosophy. Nevertheless, let’s get back to the relevance of this deontological turn to the nature of leftist politics today.

I remember reading that William Clinton presided over 36-38 foreign military interventions-more than any other President. Bosnia, Kosovo, and Haiti are just a few that I remember. Nevertheless, I also remember Madeline Albright say that prior to the Islamic attacks of September 11th, it would have been impossible to send our military to Afghanistan. Why?

Afghanistan was the sponsor of Al Qaeda and Bin Laden publicly declared war on America. He had attacked American soil and American troops through out the eight years of the Clinton administration. Clinton’s minor bombing of an aspirin factory and lobbing a few missiles into Afghanistan pales in comparison to his invasion of Serbia and bombing of Belgrade. Our Islamic enemy was in Afghanistan, yet Clinton invades Serbia, which was no threat to us. Clinton invaded the wrong country. Why would it have been unacceptable to send troops to Afghanistan but not 36-38 other locations?

4/30/06, 8:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to have gone off the deep end Jason.

I apologize to all members of this forum whom I have offended. I hope you will forgive me for having behaved badly. I know that Kant would never have done so, and so I should have stayed in character a little better. Sometimes my Nietzsche get's the better of me.

But...

I know you wish to return to the deontology. I simply raise the objection, as I have in the past, about "cafeteria" approaches to philosophy, and I know cubed will object. But Kant/s ethics formed a complete "system", including an ontology, and an epistemology that drove all deontologies. To take the left's propensity to behave altruistically out of its' "context" and address a subset of it polemically is, I believe, a major mistake.

There. I've said my piece/peace!

-FJ

4/30/06, 3:26 PM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

I agree, FJ, that Kant presents an integrated system. Indeed, it is hard to read Kant because one almost has to understand the whole to understand any paragraph. In the process of reading Kant I often have to go back and question my initial interpretations of the preceding paragraphs, which I understood in one sense when Kant meant them in another sense.

But while I agree that Kant’s political conclusions were often reasonable (see my post above starting “Kant, of course, was a classical liberal …”), I believe his foundation is problematic. I argued that that is also true of the consequentialist approach (for example, utilitarianism) that is often seen as the antithesis to Kantian inspired deontological meta-ethics. I see these as false alternatives.

Besides Rand there are others who reject this false alternative. Notable academic critics of deontological ethnics who don’t embrace consequentialist pragmatism include Anscombe (whose 1958 essay is reprinted in Virtue Ethics and here is a page on Amazon) and Bernard Williams. Richard Taylor goes further and rejects morality itself as deontological. But he has merely redefined the word in a restricted sense as he champions an ethics that is non-deontological. Thus, there is a large disparate group of critics who believe Kant made a wrong turn that was compounded by the mistakes of his successors.

5/1/06, 9:29 AM  
Blogger Jason_Pappas said...

There is interesting commentary in today’s New York Sun on Darfur.

Their editorial says “the Darfur rally yesterday helps to illuminate the hypocrisy of some of those on the left. They want military action now to oppose a genocidal regime in Sudan and to protect its victims. Yet they opposed military action in Iraq to oust a regime, in that of Saddam Hussein, that had engaged in ethnic cleansing of Iraqi Kurds and Shiites and had rained scud missiles on Israeli cities.”

In response to the many speakers who compared Darfur to Nazi Germany, they add: “But when the Holocaust is invoked to protect Africans by those who counsel inaction, retreat, or disarmament when Israelis and Americans are threatened or attacked, one wonders about a double standard. … when one considers that a similar rally against the Iranian president's vow to wipe Israel off the map attracted but a few hundred participants, it's unnerving.”

Thus, a right-leaning newspaper is just as puzzled as the left-leaning editor from the New Republic. Hypocrisy, of course, is an inconsistency between principles and practice. But this involves an assumption about the principles. And both editors are too generous in this regard.

The rally united Nancy Pelosi and Condi Rice, George Clooney and George Bush, etc. However, as Robert Kagan has pointed out, regime change in Iraq was the policy of the Clinton White House. You can be sure if Bush took action in Darfur it would soon be called: “wrong action, wrong time, wrong place.” The President has a finite amount of political capital. The choice is: Iran or Darfur, as the title of my piece suggests. Does our self-interest come first or do we risk nuclear terrorism to save everyone else?

5/1/06, 9:52 AM  
Anonymous Grant said...

I agree that the Iraq war was motivated by a sense of self-interest and that the opposition by the Left comes from their sense of it. But a sense of self-interest is not necessarily the same thing as actual self-interest. There are a number of plausible reasons for Bush's invasion - all of them seemingly self-interested. The more honorable one is the one we hear about: that a free Iraq helps defeat terrorism and secure America. The less honorable one is that an invaded Iraq enriches Western business.

This is a shining example of Bush's philosophy as well as that of the Neo-Conservative movement at large. A kind of pragmatic self-interest that, when practiced, ends up hurting everyone involved. This is because there is no such thing as pragmatic self-interest. To compromise in this case means to include a little bit of what isn't in your self-interest in your definition of what is and means a recipe for disaster.

The key point I'm making is that neither explanation for the invasion, if objectively evaluated, serves the self-interest of Americans united as a nation nor as individuals - rich or poor. If all of the relevant facts are considered, it becomes quite apparent that no matter what the immediate reason for the invasion was, the geo-political climate that made it possible was born out of a wide-spread aversion to self-interest as a principle; most crucially at home in America.

The self-sacrifice as self-interest approach, supported by so much of the public (and, tellingly, much of the reason for Bush being elected), has already been discussed in the post, so I will only focus on the other reason for the invasion. Besides, given Bush's connections with Cheney, the Saudis, and history in the oil industry, there is alot more evidence that it's the correct one.

When America needed oil to fuel it's industrialized civilization, would a consistently self-interested American take more than one look at the political elites in any Middle-Eastern country at any point in their histories and conclude that trading with them would bear fruit? Would he take the "practical" route and pretend that a Shah or a king or a military dictator is as valuable to him as a fellow producer? Would he really expect that in the long run these people would behave towards him any differently than those whom they terrorize on a daily basis to maintain their positions?

No, instead he would have nothing to do with them, and if he still wanted what they held, he would take it by force - just as they did to get their power.

But Bush did do that. He took Saddam's power and he took his oil. So what disqualifies him from being truly self-interested? The means by which he did it. He did it through the use of a military which he controls but does not own. He has no Constitutional nor moral right to use one scrap of that military power for anything other than protecting America's sovereignity. Of course, pre-emption can be part of this if there is a tactical advantage to doing so, but not to facilitate economic vitality.

An industrial civilization is not a proper function of government. No matter how much he attempts to stretch the word "protection", taxing, deploying, and endangering Americans to ensure that the lights stay on and there's gas in the car are not the actions of a limited government. Instead they are the actions of a government that rules over a culture that believes that community, security, and plenty are imperitive if a free society is to remain.

9/11, the Iraq War, and the looming threat from Iran are are all the result of generations of Americans acting in any manner other than their self-interest and telling themselves that they were.

4/14/07, 7:55 PM  

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