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topic: War
first in thread: mindgrope, War, 2001, 10, 09:08:26, Open Letter to Andrew Sullivan
10 09:08:26Open Letter to Andrew Sullivan
(mindgrope)
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next in thread: tom2001_10_10:08:50
Andrew,

I agree that the anti-capitalist, anti-globalist left is making a fool of itself. However, I believe that you are unjustly conflating (perhaps unintentionally) those who are skeptical of the utility of this war and who demand a re-assessment of American foreign policy with the retrogressive forces of the left. You must be aware of the classical liberal tradition of non-intervention, now most consistently espoused by certain libertarians, who are nothing if not pro-capitalist and pro-globalization.

According to the non-interventionist view, we must avoid unnecessary foreign entanglements, and we must act abroad only when it is on the whole very clearly in the national interest. I have no doubt that seeking out bin Laden and his associates, and even certain targeted attacks, is in the national interest. However, I am very skeptical that a protracted "war" against terrorism is in our interests, and I fear that such a "war" will produce yet more dangerous entanglements and will be deleterious to freedom.

It is correct that the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks are ultimately responsible for what they have done, and it is correct to assign them the blame. However, an exploration for the attackers' reasons and motives is not inconsistent with the recognition of their free agency and moral culpability. It is entirely pertinent to ask whether they chose to attack the U.S. (as opposed to other countries) because of certain U.S. policies. If it turns out that our policies, when combined with beliefs common in some parts of the world, provide grounds for aggression (according to the people who hold those beliefs), then it would be dangerous and neglectful to refuse to re-examine those policies.

Think of an analogy. If a young women goes to a frat party drunk and wearing next to nothing and gets raped, then the rapist, of course, is ultimately to blame. However, she would be seriously irresponsible if she refused to consider the role of her provocation. She surely wasn't "asking for it," but neither was she doing enough to avoid foreseeable consequences. There are multiple layers of different kinds and degrees of responsibility here, and it does no good to reduce the complexity to the point where one party is entirely on the hook and the other entirely off.

Now, if it turns out that we are loathed simply because we are rich, free and good, then our policies make little difference. But I suspect the "resentiment" explanation is at most an evasive and dangerous form of self-congratulation. Yes, let the left self-immolate, and capitalize on their fecklessness if you must. But please don't turn a blind eye to the follies of our foreign policy and the dangers of war to liberty. And please don't confuse those of us with open eyes and a love for the progressive forces of capitalism with the anti-liberty forces of darkness.

Sincerely,

- Will Wilkinson
10 10:08:50re: Open Letter to Andrew Sullivan
(tom)
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next in thread: mindgrope2001_10_10:09:54
(previous in thread, mindgrope) : ~
~
~ Think of an analogy. If a young women goes to a frat party drunk
~ and wearing next to nothing and gets raped, then the rapist, of
~ course, is ultimately to blame. However, she would be seriously
~ irresponsible if she refused to consider the role of her
~ provocation. She surely wasn't "asking for it," but neither was she
~ doing enough to avoid foreseeable consequences. There are multiple
~ layers of different kinds and degrees of responsibility here, and
~ it does no good to reduce the complexity to the point where one
~ party is entirely on the hook and the other entirely off.


In a short word: Bullshit.

A woman should be able to walk down the street at 2 am naked and not be touched. How can I say this? Because I wouldn't touch her, and I'm damned if I'll fail to take credit for that. Anyone who would touch her is a degenerate loser with no right to the name of human.

To do anything less than condemn such animals would be to piss on my own virtue, and anyone who says, "she should have known better" is saying that my virtue counts for nothing, that I have no reason to be virtuous, because I should be treated as a moral degenerate "just in case." They are saying that character is not real--that all men are at all times to be treated as rapists, and no matter how decently and respectfully a man behaves, he is to be considered a monster underneath.

Well I am not a monster, and I'll not be lumped with monsters for the sake of anyone's argument.

What Will is saying is that we should acquiesce to evil. Women should modify their self-expression (perhaps they should go veiled?) so young men won't have to do anything unreasonable, like respect the rights of another human being.

I do not think it is too much to ask of men to respect the rights of others. True, this would be easier to do if we respected the rights of men--the rapidity with which conscription has become a question in the current conflict is a measure of how little we respect the rights of men. Both men and women have rights. I respect them. I expect others to do so as well, regardless of race, gender or religion. If they don't, then in a free society they have to take sole and entire responsibility for not doing so.

The United States is a free society. There are endless ways of modifying U.S. foreign policy that don't involve killing thousands of innocent people. The assholes who were responsible for 9/11 did not choose any of those endless ways. To carry Will's analogy through: if you meet a drunk, scantily clad woman at a frat party, there are endless things you might do toward the end of having sex with her. If you choose rape, you are a monster and deserve to be subject to behavior modification.

Osama bin Laden chose rape, and the Taleban stood around cheering him on, and now their apologists are saying, "She should have known better--this was a foreseeable consequence of her actions."

One might argue, rather, that it was a foreseeable consequence of letting Osama bin Laden, and those who have given him material support, live and go free. That is an oversight that will be remedied soon enough.
10 10:09:54re: re: Open Letter to Andrew Sullivan
(mindgrope)
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(previous in thread, tom) : ~
~ ~ href=http://www.supersaturated.com/journal/mindgrope/2001_10_09:08:
26Open+Letter+to+Andrew+Sullivan.html target=\"main\"> (previous in thread, mindgrope)
:

Tom's reply to my analogy is exasperatingly dense.

First, he seems to miss that I explicitly argued that the rapist, like the terrorists, were fully morally responsible for their actions and are properly condemned. Nothing the victim does is exculpatory.

Next, he fails entirely to comprehend the very simple way in which victims can be responsible, in a different sense, for what befalls them. Let's think about it more formally. If I wish circumstance C to obtain, and I know that if I perform act A, then there is a serious probability that C will not obtain, and then if I do A, I am irrational and thus blameworthy.

If I live in a high-crime neighborhood, and I wish to maintain posssesion of my bicycle, I am irrational if I leave my bicycle unlocked in my front yard. Being rational is my responsibility, and if I am irrational, I'm being irresponsible.

Tom's mad bluster about morally degenerate monsters just misses the point completely. The free will of other people is entirely irrelevant to this kind of responsibility. When choosing a course of action, we have to decide on the basis of our best evidence about the local regularities of the world. If nine in ten people in my neighborhood have their unlocked bikes stolen, then I should take it that there is a 90% chance my bike will be stolen if it is left unlocked. Even if I have every right not to have my bike stolen, that doesn't change the odds that it will be. So, if I value the continued possession of my bike more than I disvalue the bother of buying and using a good lock, or taking my bike inside, then I'm flat out irresponsible if I fail to take measures to prevent its theft.

In fact, my bike was stolen recently, and the cop scolded me for having a cheap chain. His blame was not misplaced. Yet, at the same time, this does not at all get the bike thief off the hook. If the policeman catches the guy, he's not going to let him off due to my carelessness. He's fully responsible for making an illegal and immoral choice.

If I build my house in a spot where there are even 30% odds that it will get badly flooded, then I'm being irresponsible. Now, if I do get flooded, the water cycle bears no blame, because the water cycle did not choose to flood my house. That's the difference between human and non-human cases.

If one followed Tom's reasoning to it's conclusion, then if the U.S. government presented a nuclear warhead, as a gift, to Saddam Hussein, say, and then Hussein exploded the warhead in the middle of New York City, the U.S. government would bear no kind of responsibility for the devastation, since Hussein, who is a fully developed volitional agent, is the one who freely chose to use the bomb. But that's just absurd. Indeed, I'm sure Tom would agree that we would be badly irresponsible if we did not jealously protect our nuclear technology, even though he does "not think it is too much to ask of men to respect the rights of others."

My point was that bin Laden and friends can bear full moral responsibility for their atrocious acts, while the U.S. govt. can at the same time bear a different kind of responsibility for needlessly creating conditions that made that sort of act more likely. This is a good point, and I stand by it.

Last, Tom should cool his jets and be more careful. When he says, "One might argue, rather, that it was a foreseeable consequence of letting Osama bin Laden, and those who have given him material support, live and go free. That is an oversight that will be remedied soon enough," he seems to forget that the U.S. government for a number of years gave bin Laden material support. But I assume that Tom does not promote the death or imprisonment of the U.S. government.
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