Saturday, February 4, 2012

He he he

Seriously, though. I do think people are too quick to declare themselves "anti-war" when there are a lot of good reasons to consider war. War is pretty good at stopping militant fascism. It's one of the only things that can stop militant fascism.

But unless you're fighting for you own freedom and democracy, it's not a very good way to spread democracy. You can kick out someone else's fascists. You can't make them form a functioning liberal democracy. That's tough - it's up to them - and we should never make policy under the illusion that we can achieve such a feat.


  1. For the record, I think we have militant fascism right now. I mean, I've heard there are actual pictures of our armed forces busting down people's doors.

    And it's so commonplace at this point, people actually think it's funny. It's not a sobering, "Yes, war is hell, but sometimes it's an unavoidable evil" kind of thing. That's what a fascist country we've now become.

    1. And you, Bob Murphy, can tell from a picture of a soldier kicking in a door that he's a militant fascist?

      That's impressive.

      I couldn't tell that just by looking at a picture. I wouldn't know if it was a legitimate instance of kicking in a door, an act of excess on the part of a particular soldier, or a broader fascist action.

      How can you tell which it is?

      Because I certainly wouldn't want to cast such aspersions unless I was sure that's what it was.

    2. "And you, Bob Murphy, can tell from a picture of a soldier kicking in a door that he's a militant fascist?"

      But Bob didn't say that. I mean, how do you know every soldier in the Wehrmacht was a "militant fascist"?

      "Because I certainly wouldn't want to cast such aspersions unless I was sure that's what it was."

      So, the proper reaction to the poster is "hey, that's out of line...we don't really know why that soldier is kicking in that door".

      That seems a rather literal take. I don't think the poster was meant to cast aspersions only on the actual soldier kicking in the door. I think its message was a bit broader than that.

    3. You're right - it's broader than that. I'm still not quite sure about this connection between door-kicking and fascism.

      I always thought there was a little more to it than that.

      Then again, when taxation to avert an asteroid is an issue of contention, I shouldn't be surprised that door-kicking and fascism are so closely associated.

    4. Right - the ideology of 'spreading democracy' to other countries by invading and occupying them is the broader concern. That involves more than just kicking down doors. I think that's Bob's real concern.

      Personally, I have always thought it unfair that fascism gave goose-stepping a bad name. A group of soldiers just can't goose-step down the avenue anymore without looking like a bunch of fascists. And, they aren't even breaking anything (though, being funded by tax dollars, that would just make raising additional taxes for asteroid defense that much more contentious).

  2. Oh crap!!! ;)

    I do find the twisted humor of the picture amusing, but humor is often to be found in the twisted reality of the world around us. IOW, there is a lot of truth to that picture.

    I do agree with you last paragraph, though. You can't impose your own beliefs, culture and systems upon somebody else without meeting opposition, especially not when guns and bombs are involved. I have found that, for the most part, the majority of people have a great deal in common in the general sense. Most of what ails society is political in nature, and for outsiders to attempt to change that political order is always bad news, because it presupposes an ideal that has not arrived naturally through the culture of a particular region-- you just end up looking like an imperialist douche.

    It's kinda like Dr. Phil barging into your home and declaring that he's going to impose his whole system of beliefs upon you and set up your life to correspond to what he thinks is right. Whether his beliefs, if practiced, are better or worse for me is of no consequence. I am still pissed that he busted down my damned door and is attempting impose his beliefs on me. My first response would be to turn his fat ass around before he gets 3 feet past the threshold. If that doesn't work, or he is intolerably persistent, then I'd probably punch him in his fat, mustachioed face.

    Who knew that Dr. Phil could be used for an analogy on foreign policy?

    1. There's a great Michael Moore rant - one of the few of his I liked - where he talks about this issue with Iraq. I think it was on Bill Maher but I can't find it. Anyway, he brings it back to the French involvement in the American Revolution. He says basically that it was great that the French could help us. Insofar as we assist people aspiring for democracy around the world in overthrowing tyrants - that can be genuinely good. But you can't imagine American democracy unfolding the way it did if, after the battle of Yorktown, Rochambeau marched up to Philadelphia and dictated how we would live free of the British.

      That's not entirely analogous to Iraq, and I don't want to pretend that it is. But it's still the idea that overthrowing a tyrant and nurturing a democracy are two entirely different propositions.

    2. Oh, man. We go from one big, fat blowhard to another big, fat blowhard. You leave me no quarter, Daniel.

      Well, you'd have to assume that democracy is the desired system then, wouldn't you? What is desirable to us isn't necessarily what is desirable to those that must live under such a system of governance. Certainly, democracy (in its limited capacity of republican government) was a great leap ahead for humanity and freedom in the late 18th century. I don't think that this proves that democracy (even if limited) is the ideal form of governance, nor does it prove that it is the only form of governance to be chosen; it's merely the best that we've been able to manage thus far.

      I think that French support for American revolutionaries at the time had far more to do with trade and political considerations of the monarch than any real considerations of freedom for people in general. Sure, liberalism was growing quite rapidly during that time, but I don't think that the King of France had this in mind, I think that his aim was to increase his own position. Even during their own revolution and the years and decades afterward, you never got the sense that freedom was the aim. Rather, you got many imposing powers attempting to get hold of the trough of power, and this continued into the 20th century.

      History is what it is, and nobody can change history. However, I cannot help but think that the American Revolution would have eventually ended up without an English monarch whether France intervened or not. If not in 1781, then at some point afterward. Basically, their were enough people in support of it to make it happen, and much of the modern world at that time was hoping that it would happen, and that the Constitution was crafted in much the same way that new nations are born today (with a lot of outside influence and agreements). I don't think that France's involvement really changed the end result, it only helped to make it occur at an earlier time than it otherwise would have. On the global scale, the pieces were already in place, it was just a matter of making it happen (sooner rather than later).

    3. re: "I think that French support for American revolutionaries at the time had far more to do with trade and political considerations of the monarch than any real considerations of freedom for people in general."

      Oh absolutely. His point was just that we couldn't conceive of the modern United States if France had done such a thing.

    4. The past is what it is, it cannot be changed. It also cannot be speculated what would or could have happened if events were slightly different. To say that one event was the defining moment, or any such thing, is ridiculous. It happened the way that it did, innumerable variables played their part, and that is all there is to it. Who knows, if France didn't intervene, maybe our current world would either be 1000 times better, or maybe even 1000 times worse. There is no way of knowing.

    5. That's a little pessimistic for my tastes. Of course we can speculate - and speculate intelligently - on this stuff.

    6. Daniel, it isn't about being optimistic or pessimistic, it's about being realistic. Sure, we can make claims such as, "In a time of need, the French Navy helped the new American nation fulfill its revolutionary war of independence". However, we cannot make such claims as, "in the absence of the aid of the French Navy, the American war of independence would have been lost".

      I haven't watched the interview, but it seems to me (from what you're saying) that Moore took the latter route of reasoning, which is entirely speculative and without intellectual merit. In my recollection, Moore holds his intellectual salt just as well as the local wino at the corner bar.

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    8. I'll add that my above statements are also speculative. It is merely my opinion that the colonies would have become independent from England at some point, whether France was involved or not. However, if I were to put the two position upon a scale; "American independence possible without French help" vs. "American Independence only possible with the aid of the French", well I'd have to say that the scale would be leaning more to the left. In fact, Iraq and many other past wars of aggression are good examples of the dynamic that would tend toward this position.

    9. Lets not forget that with France intervening and loaning us money during our Revolutionary War, they went into debt big time. It was pretty much the final straw for Louis XVI and the French Monarchy. So then you have a bloody and ruthless uprising in France, followed by the dictator Napoleon. I'm not saying that the French monarchy would have eventually sucumbed or their transition wouldbe peaceful if they never intervned in America (the French already had terrible fiscal habis), but its easy to see how one intervention had a huge snowball effect...literally.

      France burdened itself with debt by trying to spread democracy....America burdens itself with debt and war trying to do the same thing....

    10. Well - burdened itself with debt to work against the British. I don't think France of 1776 had high-minded principles in play.

      And they were great at helping to displace the British. But they could not have founded an American democracy (even if they were interested in such a thing).

    11. Daniel, we are certainly speaking the same language here (your above statement). People often forget that the French Monarch was essentially a property owner in that all that he staked would come out of his pocket first (and, if it didn't work out, then it would come from future taxes). So, yeah. There was certainly the political and personal wealth expectations of Louis that played a part in why he chose to devote French resources to America's revolution. I don't think I need to tell anyone how all of that turned out, now do I? Let's just say that a lot of people were a little lighter on top...

  3. Daniel,

    Despite considering myself anti-war I've always thought that a war that was stopping militant fascism was a justified war. The problem, of course, is that not many wars are fought to stop militant fascism or even to (potentially) prevent worse things. Hell, even in World War II the allied power that took on 80% of the Wehrmacht was a rotten dictatorship in its own right (and the western allies were far from saints themselves in their own conduct).

    The benefit of hindsight helps a lot, admittedly, but even when using a basic test such as the above to decide whether a war was justified most wars would come down pretty squarely on the wrong side of the ledger.

    "But unless you're fighting for you own freedom and democracy, it's not a very good way to spread democracy. You can kick out someone else's fascists. You can't make them form a functioning liberal democracy."

    I think West Germany was a pretty well-functioning (relatively) liberal democracy. Some people would point to certain prohibitions on freedom of speech there to dispute the use of the word liberal to describe it, but I think they still count as a liberal democracy essentially imposed from the outside. Certainly a lot of former colonial nations have had democracy imposed on them to an extent, but they may not be what you have in mind by "well-functioning".

    In general, however, I think your correct that its not an easy feat. A lot of the various regimes the US propped up post war were certainly very far from being liberal democracies at the time (Taiwan, for example, was a one-party dictatorship with a minor personality cult) and only began liberalizing by their own accord.

    It is also worth pointing out that democracy is not really an end in itself and the alternative in many of these cases may have been worse.

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    2. re: "I think West Germany was a pretty well-functioning (relatively) liberal democracy."

      Oh I agree. But the Allies couldn't have forced West Germany to be a well-functioning democracy. They could provide some preconditions for a well-functioning democracy to flourish, but you can't really compel a people to accept a free society.

  4. Daniel

    You win the super bowl award for being shallow. You don't win wars by kicking down doors. You do it by making the all the other guys die for their country.

    That means you have to kill a lot of people, which sometimes is not acceptable. During WWII we killed lots of the enemy. In fact we killed almost all of the Japanese Army under our unstated take no prisoners policy.

    This subject is well studied and it is generally understood that you need to kill up to 20% of the adult male population, which was the death rate for Germany in WWII.

    Obviously, in our two wars over the last 10 years we have not killed at these rates, which accounts for our lack of success. Whether we should have tried is not the subject of this post.

    1. Ummm... if you think I'm somehow under the impression that war does not involve killing and that killing isn't "sometimes" (I would have said "very often", but I'll use your words) an unacceptable approach, then you've misread me. I am well aware of both of those things.

    2. it's not a very good way to spread democracy

      this shows how unaware you are.

      killing people is the only way to spread democracy where it is opposed.

      Look at Egypt now and contrast it to Japan at the end of WII and consider what one would have to do to establish democracy in Egypt with a secular gov't of laws not based on the Koran and that includes religious freedom. Remember under Islam, apostasy is punishable by death.

      "One man, one vote, once" is not democracy

    3. It's a good way to clean out the rot, yes.

      I'm not sure that's the same thing as saying that we can spread democracy at the tip of a sword.

    4. " I am well aware of both of those things."

      Well, I should hope so. Otherwise you'd be nothing other than a lout. You're certainly not a lout, but your concept of aggression and where the threshold of defense becomes just; well, it is quite a bit different from my own interpretation (that's for sure). Where you are more lax regarding collective concerns, I am more stringent regarding individual concerns. Further, where you are more stringent with direct force, I am more lax (only striking when actually struck upon or direly threatened).

      Essentially, I do believe that words can often be far more powerful than swords, and that cooperation and diplomacy are the best routes of resolving discrepancies in most cases, and that such cases often end up in mutually beneficial circumstances through diplomacy. Of course, this should not be confused with any pacifistic proclivities, rather it is the most logical path of resolving differences in my estimation.

      Don't get me wrong, if you raise a fist to me I'll bust your F-ing lip without hesitation. ;)

  5. "It's a good way to clean out the rot, yes."

    Well, aren't you a charmer? A few bodies here, a few there; hey, it's all for the better good, right?

  6. Daniel, let's just review what has happened here. You post a picture of US troops kicking in a door in a country we "liberated," and your title is "He He He." Then someone tells you that for these things to work, it's necessary to kill 20% of the male population of the countries involved, and you agree, "It's a good way to clean out the rot, yes."

    Then, in the same comments, you run to the referee and complain that some people have the audacity to claim that you don't really care much about the deaths we are imposing on these people.

    So at this point, let me ask you: Where is your line? What does a commentator on US foreign policy have to say, in order for me to be justified in saying, "That guy doesn't care about collateral damage"? Does he have to be on YouTube, stroking a black cat and laughing maniacally? Because no one is going to actually say, "I don't care about dead Afghan kids." They are all going to pay lip service to the sanctity of life, as they proceed to advocate policies that kill a bunch of people.

    1. The man raises a good point, and one that is very parallel to my own. What say you, Daniel?

    2. Where's your line Bob?

      I mean really - I say that there are people out there that we ought to be willing to wield military force against, and this upsets you. You think I'm callous towards Afghan children (I have no idea where the hell that came from - that's certainly not what I think of when I think about "the rot" that gets cleaned out in wars against an aggressor). I've given you no evidence to think that, so I'm not sure how to answer you.

      But I can turn the question back on your - where's your line? When do aggressors maim and oppress enough Afghan children that you'd consider taking up arms against them?

      What about the children Bob?

      I mean seriously - I recognize we have real disagreements and differences in how we see things, but I'm not saying "bomb Iran!", "bomb Syria!" here. Why do I get asked this stuff by people that don't even try to justify the lip service they seem to pay to the sanctity of life.

      I try not to say it that bluntly to you two usually because I trust you are sincere even though I don't agree with you.

      I'll think harder on how to answer "where's your line?" when I get an answer from you two on that same question. I've tried to give you guys an answer on this on more than one occasion, so I don't think that's too much to ask.

    3. Obviously, I cannot speak for Bob, he is an admitted pacifist (I am not). To answer your question as to where I would personally draw the line with regard to taking up arms, I only take up arms against those who are taking up arms against me. 99% of the time I can talk my way out of a physical conflict, I draw the line when somebody raises their fist to me-- I've had more than enough problems attempting to back-up my friends.

      Obviously, the circumstances must be clear, especially on the national level. If our military is ever to engage in force, then it must be as the result of a declaration of Congress. Simple as that.

    4. then it must be as the result of a declaration of Congress.

      how naive

      and don't give me some Constitution says crap

      really great acts by our Government are rarely if ever Constitutional. Lincoln freeing the slaves is just the first, followed by many many others. Lincoln, for example, authorized the shooting of Confederate prisoners of war from time-to-time.

      they just drew lots and shot the number needed to be killed in retaliation for confederate murders of union troops.

      Lincoln killed hundreds of thousands of rebels to form a nation. read a little history.

      War is hell, but it works when you put your mind to it

  7. BTW, except for the referee reference, the above statements are all true. I know Daniel that you weren't laughing at the door-kicking per se, and that you weren't advocating killing 20% of the male population. Even so, my description is true, and so maybe you can stop being baffled about why people think you don't really lose sleep at night over civilian casualties in the Mideast.


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