Friday, November 19, 2004

Human Conflict

Never have so many, fought so nobly against such evil only to be repaid with such ingratitude.

Uncle Mickey

I saw Uncle Mickey. He was standing in a slightly peculiar posture and before the fact had really registered with me I noticed his arm moving with an unnatural slowness. He was saluting Uncle Bob in his casket.

I always hate going home. I find that I feel somehow inadequate. I am among real men. I get these degrees or what not from school and even when I think finally I can hold my head up, I got into a great University, I finally finished my Ph.D. or I finally got a real professor job, something happens to make it all seem small again. I figured it out watching Uncle Mickey that always makes me feel inadequate when I get back to Dayton. These are real men. All of their lives are defined by duty, by what they have done for other people. I go back to the funeral and everything I see is what they have done, what they have made possible. The children and the families that are filling that room are all because of men like Uncle Mickey and Uncle Bob denying themselves, never doing what they wanted to do but always what they had to do, what they had to do for other people. All my artist type friends, we do what we want to do, we have some great project we are trying to complete or some book we are trying to write but it is all for ourselves.


Odd, isn’t it, that the fact that so few foreign fighters were found in Falluja somehow is taken to legitimate the enemy? The fact that the people we are fighting are from the Sunnis in Sadamn’s tribe and are therefore best seen as remnants of the old regime ought to strengthen our resolve and make us more confident in its rightness, not less.

The marine

The defenses of the marine are the worst thing. His defenders are using the exculpatory arguments that validate the wrong premises. The fundamental thing wrong is the unit of analysis. The unit of analysis is not the individual but the side.

The Americans fighting the Japanese had a problem with fake surrenders. The solution was to machine gun the wounded. There was no outcry at the time. And you don’t hear the Japanese whining about it either. The reason is that the object of justice in this case, the like which should be treated as like, is the group. The group that uses the other side’s willingness to care for enemy wounded as a way to kill has no claim on that willingness. At the individual level it might be very unjust—there were plenty of Japanese that wanted to surrender as much as their American counterparts but were never given a chance—but that is irrelevant. War is about justice between groups, not individuals. The individual soldier has nothing against his individual enemy. It is a relationship between two groups, not a individuals. The Japanese side was not extending the rights of soldiers to our side and was abusing the privilege on theirs and therefore had no claim on the right themselves. To their credit the Japanese have seen it largely that way (or at least I haven’t heard otherwise if they don’t).

By defending the individual marine on the basis of these individually exculpatory factors like how tired he was or how he had been wounded are in fact reinforcing the very premise that will damn him.

What is the real problem is that the other side are not seen as moral agents. What they do is not something they are responsible for and therefore they are not help liable for the clear consequences of their actions. They are allowed to breach the rules of warfare all they way with not consequences. The world that is so quick to judge us has no interest in the torture chambers that were uncovered, the dismembered female bodies that were found in the lair of the scum. Only the actions of Americans are liable to moral condemnation because only they are moral agents. They rest of the world is just a passive victim and any atrocity committed by them is merely evidence of past or current American mistreatment.

Attempting to extend the rights accorded civilized combatants to a side that is systematically exploiting these rights for military advantage is going to result in dead Americans. The only question is how many dead Americans you think the rights of a side to surrender to kill soldiers are worth. In the eyes of the world the answer is apparently quite a few. In mine it is none. The only crime committed there was that they didn’t machine gun those bastards the moment they walked into the place, like they used to in WWII. But of course in that conflict the freedom of Europe was at stake. Now it is only the freedom of Iraqis and the lives of Americans, two commodities which Europe is willing to spend freely.

It is wrong to extend the protections of civilization to combatants who don’t respect them in return. Not just morally but practically. The incentive to follow the rules is lost if you get the benefit of the rules whether you follow them or not.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Gelerntner on Truman and Bush

Great paragraph from David Gelerntner in the Weekly standard:

“We underestimate the extent of Truman's Christian, Bible-centered piety--in part because historians underestimate it. But if you listen to Truman, the Bible is there on the soundtrack. (He ended his first talk to Congress: "I humbly pray God in the words of King Solomon, 'Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern good and bad: for who is able to judge this Thy so great a people?'" He concluded his opening message to the brand new United Nations: "May He lead our steps in His own righteous path of peace.") Bush's piety will always be remembered in terms of Al Gore's disgraceful description of the president's faith: "the American version of the same fundamentalist impulse that we see in Saudi Arabia, in Kashmir, and in many religions around the world." But for Truman and Bush both, faith counted heavily when the storm broke and they had to steer straight in mountainous seas.”

The culture war is not about the right rising up by about the left leaving the center. The Bible centered morality of the Republicans is not there invention, it was just common sense before the 1970s. The fundamentalism that Gore derides was the common language of the US up until the candidacy of the George McGovern.

And talk about bigotry? Nuance? Bush=Komehni because they are both religious? How about Kerry=Stalin because they are both secular?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Thanks to James Taranto for that quote I have been trying to find all week:

"I don't know how Richard Nixon could have won," the late film critic Pauline Kael is said to have observed after the 1972 election. "I don't know anybody who voted for him."


Who was divisive? Who would be dumb enough to bring up an issue that alienates your own swing voters? Only lawyers could be stupid enough, be so utterly lacking in political acumen as to make gay marriage the issue of the day. But that is what the Massachusetts Supreme Court did. The intelligentsia had tried their engineering game one too many times. “Of course we won’t force it on any state, just because we have stated it is clearly a fundamental human right there is no need to worry about us imposing it on anyone.” The crusading spirit that animates the bench caught up with them as people caught on. They have noticed that the bench is quite uncompromising in its crusading politics. Minor limitations on the right to have the brains sucked out of a child’s cranium? No, any protections of the, what, mass of cells that temporary inhabit the womb of an expectant mother would be an admission that there could be another interest at stake, a rights bearing entity that might throw the legitimacy of the whole engineering project into question. Out with its head! Find that a bit brutal? Well, serves you right for insisting on thinking about things your betters have already gently informed you are outside your areas of competence.

Gay marriage? The triumph of ideology over any kind of practical politics. Where is the flood of gay marriage applicants now that it has been legalizes by Judicial fiat in Mass.? Nowhere. The issue is about ideology. One ideology wants the subject of human society dis-gendered. A fundamentally gendered relationship, a plan imposed by a higher authority than the individual’s hormones, an institution that puts society’s claims over the individual’s needs however the individual defines them, an institutions that defines our obligations as being something more than just handing over money. It is an affront on a ideological level.

And notice who is coming to the other side of the net. Kerry actually used the words almost plaintively: “The President’s position and mine on gay marriage are the same, the same, we have the same position.” Meet the me-to Democrats. The moral issues are at the center of politics because the Democrats in the 70s lead where no one, or at least not a Presidential election winning majority, would follow. Now they are stuck there trying to sidle back into the mainstream of the electorate. Problem is the legal wing of the party hasn’t gotten the memo. They keep yanking their electoral brethren back out to the left wing of the stage just when they had gotten the voters to think of something else. No sooner has their pleading to not think of an elephant receded in memory enough so that people actually stop thinking of the elephant than the elephant shows up flapping its ears and asking if anyone has any peanuts.

Broder ends his column: “a nation still deeply divided, one where most women, city dwellers and minorities voted against the president.” Now needless to say if the Democrats had won with a minority of men, rural people and whites among their voters we wouldn’t have to listen to this solemn lecture about divisiveness. Their voters are the morally entitled, ours are the people who should be reflexively ashamed of themselves. This is what is meant by being divisive. What they really mean is that we are behaving like we won the election.

That's the spirit

Peter Beinart in the new republic on what the democrats should do about the gay marriage issue:

"The fact that it is widely unpopular cannot obscure the fact that it is morally momentous and morally right."

I see a long string of Republican victories ahead.