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August 27, 2008

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The weaker the U.S. becomes, I'm afraid, the more the people will equate strength with belligerence. Bombing things is our psychic consolation for our national decline, which, of course, McCain will greatly accelerate.

Good post. While the reporting from Georgia has been far too poor to draw any reliable conclusions about chronologies and details of deployments etc., it seems possible to me that the Bush administration's decision to make a big show of sending a US military presence there escalated things. It's curious that the most bellicose Russian acts seem to have happened after that point, rather than during the fighting proper. Holding the port, arresting Georgian security personnel etc. - the whole point is to show who's in charge.

(Although a lot of it has to do with the Ossetian/Ingush/Chechen militias running wild, although the regular Russian army does seem to have been making genuine efforts to rein them in).

The weaker the U.S. becomes, I'm afraid, the more the people will equate strength with belligerence.

Very true, a great many wars are started by powers in relative decline, which the US has been for 60 years. The Cold War triumphalists don't seem to have noticed that that decline was reversed only with regard to Russia.

You know, there was a period in John McCain's life in which he wasn't able to bomb country's. Let's give him a little slack, he's earned it - don't you agree.

A sad state of affairs.

Eric,

IMO, you and Matt are in good philosophical company, if I understand your points correctly. Written over 20 years ago:

"To set prudence and justice so radically at odds, however, is to misconstrue the argument for justice. A state contemplating intervention or counter-intervention will for prudential reasons weigh the dangers to itself, but it must also, AND FOR MORAL REASONS, weigh the dangers its action will impose on the people it is designed to benefit and on all other people who may be affected. An intervention is not just if it subjects third parties to terrible risks: the subjection cancels the justice." (emphasis in original)

-- Michael Walzer, JUST AND UNJUST WARS, p. 95.

Brilliant point, and one that should be reflexive in public debates over the uses of the Big Stick. Yet I’ve protested wars since 1967, and it’s new to me.
Its relationship to the familiar recognition, that the bombing crew are doing their violence at such a remove from its effects as to feel nothing, is worth observing.
Because, consistently, bombing is what the self-proclaimed moral philosophers demand as their due. This is obviously moral philosophy for bullies.
To resort to mythic metaphor, an ancient franchise headquartered in Hell.
Yet its advocates pose as humane children of the Enlightenment.

For some reason or other, video games involving shooting and bombing are more popular than those which deal with humanitarian aid, or rational resource management, or health care. As long as people can draw a line to distinguish between "us" and "them," they are going to want to kill off the "them" group.

Human beings are not going to change, and at the present time there are just too many of us. But don't worry! That problem will fix itself.

It's nice to be a utilitarian and all, but I think you paralyse those who must make moral choices if you insist that they will be held responsible for all consequences, and not just those that could be reasonably foreseen. I know that this shifts the argument to discussion of which consequences *could* be foreseen, but I think that's preferable. Otherwise, you are open to the argument that, for instance, it's okay that we started an immoral and illegal war against Iraq because look! we got rid of Saddam, a tyrant, and Al Qaida have been weakened sufficiently that they have been unable to strike the States since 2001. IOW, that kind of consequentialist argument is precisely what war supporters now use, and it's a dangerous place to pitch your moral tent.

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