Torture Part II: Practical Advice and Future Warning

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Mon, Jun 29 - 9:00 am EST | 2 years ago by
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    “[W]ithout torture the F.L.N.’s terrorist network would never have been overcome.… The ‘Battle of Algiers’ could not have been won by General Massu without the use of torture.”
    ~ Edward Behr, French war correspondent and no fan of torture1

    Lines of Departure - Torture

    We ended last week with a couple of examples of what people in certain quarters don’t want to admit to, that torture can work, effectively and reliably, to gather useful intelligence.2 Though certain intellectually dishonest lefties might sneer at a mere two examples, two is sufficient to prove the point, which is limited to, “Yes, it can work.”

    This is not the same as saying that it always works, that all other methods, always fail, that it or anything else is or even can be a panacea, nor even that it should be used, generally, if it is to be used at all. The point is that it can work, that, in its simplest terms, the fear of pain and death can very frequently or even usually cause cooperation. Indeed, as the quote given above illustrates, during the Battle of Algiers, during the French-Algerian war of 1954-1962, widespread use of torture was so effective that the enemy organization within the city of Algiers was effectively destroyed.3 One has to be a bizarre fantasist, or – Lord, forgive us our redundancies – a certain kind of lefty, to believe that pain and fear cannot be reliably and effectively used to elicit cooperation.4

    How does it work, then, to elicit that form of cooperation we might call, “giving up the truth?” After all, “people will say anything under torture.” But then, isn’t “anything” a big enough category to include “Truth”? Of course, by definition it is. The trick is filtering out the lies from the truth.

    There are several ways to do this. One is inherent in the nature of the lie; it is a made up, usually hastily made up, untruth, that has no particular support in the real world, is not a matter of personal experience, and requires vast concentration to keep straight. It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway for the more despicable of lefties – the kind for whom the lie that advances the cause is always preferable to the truth that hinders it – that it is hard to concentrate to keep the lie or the series of lies straight when in agony or terror. When failure to keep them straight means continued agony and terror, the temptation must be there to tell the truth, which doesn’t require much concentration, in order to end the pain and fear. Some will resist that fiercely, even so. One doubts that many will.

    The danger in this – I speak of danger to intelligence gathering here, not of the danger to souls – is when you grab someone who really has no truth to tell. This is especially a danger when it’s a lie that you want him to convince you is the truth. In effect, that was frequently going on with regard to, say, sundry witchcraft hysterias and the Spanish Inquisitions.5

    A better way, generally, where practical, is dependent on good bureaucratic procedure in keeping and organizing known information. By this I mean that a prisoner is questioned about things that you know and have good reason – yes, having good reason is important – to believe that he knows, too. The objective there is to catch him in a lie, then apply duress. (Duress is a euphemism for, “Oh, my God! Stop! Stop! Please, stop!”) Do that a few times and he, not knowing what you do know and do not know, will be inclined to tell the truth.

    A third way is useable when you have two or more people you know have the same information. Think here of a safe house, somewhere in Baghdad. That safe house is fed from another series of safe houses. You’ve arrested two brothers who are running the Baghdad house and know where the other houses are. When the brothers are separated and the stories match, you probably have the truth. How do you get the stories to match if the brothers don’t want to cooperate? See the euphemism above.

    A fourth way involves immediate feedback. That’s the essence of the “ticking time bomb scenario,” which the left likes to deprecate or insist has never happened. Their deprecations and insistence would be much more telling were it not for the two instances I cited to last week, both of which involved immediate feedback and one of which was, in fact, a case of a ticking time bomb. To paraphrase the technique in extreme form:

    “The pain stops when we have the bomb, Achmed, or when it goes off. If it goes off before we have it, the pain will stop, but we have a gender reassignment surgical team standing by to turn you into a girl, and an execution team to nail you to a cross – strictly in accordance with Sura Five of the Holy Quran, as related by the Prophet, PBUH, of course. We also have your DNA analyzed and your family is going to join you on crosses, too, if the bomb goes off. It takes a really long time to die on the cross, my friend, and we will not be as merciful as the Romans were and break your legs after three days.”

    Fortunately, so far as we can tell, simply severe torture or even threat of death – see last week’s examples – is usually sufficient for the ticking time bomb scenario without resort to really barbarous measures.

    *****

    And now for the downsides, in both directions.

    A friend of mine, one LTC (Ret.) James S. Corum, fine historian and author, and former Dean of the Baltic Defense College, in Estonia, wrote a really good book, which I commend to you, Bad Strategies: How Great Powers Fail in Counterinsurgency.6 I have my issues with the book, mind you, notably that X was “often” able to acquire Z intelligence without torture, isn’t the same thing as “torture never works,” which is what Jim probably wanted to say but knew better.7 But he did hit on a point that I tend agree with, namely, that torture isn’t effectively useable by some societies, because the open knowledge that those societies are torturing will so undermine the domestic front that the war effort, the willingness to continue the war, will simply collapse. That’s the other lesson of the Battle of Algiers; yes, the French won the battle and torture enabled them to do but, but the price was that they lost the war. They didn’t lose the war because the fact that they used torture motivated the Algerians to resist the better and more fiercely. The lost because the self-image of France as torturer, so soon after four years of torturous Nazi occupation, was more than the French public could deal with.

    I can’t say that was noble on the part of the French public because I don’t think it was. I think they just were too weak to know and accept the truth or rather, the truths. These were that, sorry, but the Nazis were by no means unique, nor was France all that special, and, sad to say, if you lose the war, a lot of things much worse than torture – oh, and along with a great deal of torture, too, of course – are going to happen. I rather like the French, actually, but I cannot respect the motive that amounts to nothing more than, “Don’t upset my complacency.”

    On the other hand, were the French any worse for that than we are? No.

    Still, Corum’s point remains; if your society will not stomach torture, you are going to lose – to give up on – the larger goal if you engage in it.

    Even that, though, doesn’t resolve the question, because unwillingness to engage in or support engaging in torture isn’t an absolute, fixed for all times and all circumstances. Neither law nor custom are quite that strong.

    Let us lose a city to a nuke. Let some especially virulent strain of smallpox be released into the population. The America that is revulsed by torture now is very likely to become, in either of those cases, the America that will stop at nothing. You can see in the Senate bill I mentioned last week, and the timing of it, how long it’s taken to even go half way to making a law forbidding torture. I guarantee you, in the event of an induced plague or nuking, one that torture might have prevented, that the overturning of that law – even should it pass, which is by no means certain – will take somewhere between two and three weeks. Thus, interestingly, it may happen that a ban on torture will lead to much more torture than if there had never been a ban. Life’s funny that way.

    So, my recommendations? Write your congressional representative and encourage him to kill this amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill and then for the House to really think about what we’re going to do in the future on a question that’s more complex than people want to admit, rather than just reacting, and that with Feinstein’s ovaries.

    __________

    1 http://warontherocks.com/2014/12/torture-in-a-savage-war-of-peace-revisiting-the-battle-of-algiers/?singlepage=1

    2 I write here of what we might call “active torture” as opposed to the generally heightened level of cooperation we get from the more passive fear of torture and death our captives bring to captivity with them.

    3 See, generally, Paul Aussaresses, The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Algeria 1955-1957

    4 There is, of course, at least one other kind of lefty. This is the kind who knows it can work reliably but will simply lie about it, spew irrelevancies, throw out smoke, divert the eye from evidence, or use any other means whatsoever rather than leave a weapon in the hands of his political foes. Note the frequency with which lefties of that sort, once in power, resort to terror, murder, and torture en masse. Their opposition is neither principled nor moral, but merely tactical. Given the kind of regimes these sorts bring about, and the sheer immense scale of the terror, torture, and murder those regimes engage in, keeping them out of power, using “any means necessary,” is an inherently moral act of self-defense. By the way, ever notice how very little outrage any of them showed about the kidnapping, torture, and breaking of CIA Agent William Francis Buckley, or how very effective it seems to have been in getting him to reveal his network of agents? See: https://www.commentarymagazine.com/2011/07/11/engaging-hezbollah-or-hezbollah-controlled-lebanon/

    5 A point often elided over, however, is that Spain for much of that time was under threat from Moslem forces, and did have substantial numbers of hidden Moslems inside it, always believed to be ready to spy, to support a raid, to rebel, or to join in an invasion. There was a fair amount of evidence to support those beliefs, too. One notes that in getting rid of the internal threat, Spain managed to preserve itself from a resurgent Islam, and to provide the largest contingent by far at the decisive Battle of Lepanto, AKA Corvalis.

    6 In fact, I recommend everything Jim’s ever written and he’s written nearly as much as I have.

    7 Jim’s very bright. Others – morons, by and large – can cite to “proper police work” as a panacea; I’m pretty sure he knows there is no panacea, even if he wishes there were.

    Tom Kratman is a retired infantry lieutenant colonel, recovering attorney, and science fiction and military fiction writer. His latest novel, The Rods and the Axe, is available from Amazon.com for $9.99 for the Kindle version, or $25 for the hardback. A political refugee and defector from the People’s Republic of Massachusetts, he makes his home in Blacksburg, Virginia. He holds the non-exclusive military and foreign affairs portfolio for EveryJoe. Tom’s books can be ordered through baen.com.

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      • Justin Watson

        I got disciplinary action and n F for pointing this out in an ethics class at West Point.

      • Jack Withrow

        Sir, are there going to be more columns in this series on torture? If so, while you have hinted around the edges on this, I would suggest you really hammer home that any nation’s highest moral imperative is to survive and prosper. And throwing away any method that hinders or destroys that is the height of immorality. Of course a lot of people don’t know the difference between individual morality and national morality, so expect the firestorm to start shortly afterwards.

        • Steven Schwartz

          “I would suggest you really hammer home that any nation’s highest moral imperative is to survive and prosper.”

          I have argued, in many places, against Wars on Abstract Nouns (Poverty, Drugs, Terror, etc.).

          Here’s another good place to avoid wars on/with abstractions — national morality.

          There is nothing “moral” about an imperative to survive and prosper — as a psychological/political imperative, sure, but no “moral” element applies there. Insofar as a nation, as an abstract political entity, can have a morality, it applies to the quality of life of the people who make it up — and there one can certainly argue that, for example, a nation which treats torture lightly, while it may suffer — key word *may* — less from external terrorist threats, is worse for its citizens than one with a hard line against it.

          “And throwing away any method that hinders or destroys that is the height of immorality.”

          So throwing away the ability to say “We don’t torture — that makes us better, and less frightening, and more civilized, so people should support with us.” in order to torture is the height of immorality? That is the flip side of your argument, after all, and equally valid.

          Taken to its logical extreme, your view — “any method” — justifies any level of torture, police-statish-ness, or genocide. Is this really what you want to claim? Or are you merely being overzealous?

          A nation which will do anything to survive has betrayed its citizens, who suffer the results of its self-protection.

        • Tom Kratman

          A nation that won’t do anything to survive has betrayed its citizens, One which will has betrayed only you and those like you, who are questionable citizens, at best.

        • Steven Schwartz

          “A nation that won’t do anything to survive has betrayed its citizens,”

          I think you’re confused here, given your next sentence, so:

          I am asserting that there are things which a nation should not do to survive.

          Your sentence, taken grammatically, implies that you thought I was saying a nation should do nothing to survive.

          See the difference?

          A nation which will do *anything* to survive is likely to bring down the wrath of other nations upon its citizens — who are the real people, with real loss, in this circumstance.

          And in the category of “questionable citizens”, I’m not the one who’s going around advocating violating due process of law as part of short-circuiting the democratic process while living in a democracy.

          And let’s be clear, here: the “nation” has only notional/psychological existence within the minds and hearts of its citizens independent from its governmental structure. The government of a nation does not have perpetuating its own survival at the expense of its citizens as a “moral imperative”; it has it as a matter of political power and desire to maintain same.

        • Tom Kratman

          No, Steven, what you are saying is that a nation can only do what you deem acceptable to survive. Who made you judge or dictator I am not sure of; I must have missed the memo.

        • Steven Schwartz

          I think a nation has to decide what’s acceptable, and what’s not; I think there are things that should be pushed beyond the bound of acceptable, which, apparently, you and Mr. Withrow do not. Or at least Mr. Withrow doesn’t, with his “highest moral imperative.”

          So, care to respond to anything else, or did you just wish to erect another Straw Steven and have at it for a while?

        • Tom Kratman

          I think you mean should not be pushed.
          if so, your authority to decide or judge?

        • Steven Schwartz

          “I think you mean should not be pushed.”

          Wow. Your nitpickiness knows few bounds. Would you prefer “should be placed”?

          “if so, your authority to decide or judge?”

          In this country, precisely the same as yours — I am a citizen, I get to vote for representatives, and hold opinions. That you feel some citizens are lesser than others just shows that you don’t understand how this country is (in theory) supposed to work.

        • Tom Kratman

          Not nitpickiness, Steven, precision. There were two possible meanings to the statement, one of which seemed quite contrary to what you intended.

          You can certainly hold an opinion. I may spit on it but it is at least as valid as my dog’s and at least as entitled to respect. On the other hand, you’re not entitled to your own facts. You’re entitled to lie, but not entitled to get away with it. You’re entitled to claim that your opinions and fantasies are valid and must be given weight. The rest of us are entitled to sneer at that.

        • Steven Schwartz

          “Not nitpickiness, Steven, precision. There were two possible meanings to the statement, one of which seemed quite contrary to what you intended.”

          Then perhaps you should have asked which I meant; or, since it was fairly obvious which one I did mean, go with that.

          As for the rest; it’s OK. We’re allowed to sneer at your opinions, and many of us do, from your fellow servicemen, to people on many forums you’ve attended.

          Indeed, you’re entitled to lie as well, which is a good thing, because you do it so often, either by omission or by direct falsehood.

          I do note that, as usual, you’ve gone from detailed nitpicking to simple insults, while, as usual, I try and answer your substantive points. Hm. Wonder why that might be? (Not really; it’s quite clear.)

        • Tom Kratman

          No, Steven, you don’t try to answer substantive points. You are, as you have always been, an intellectual skunk. While the skunk sprays his stench as a defensive measure, you spray an idiocy that is psychologically painful to anyone who is not an SJW or idiot, to the tiny extent those may differ.

        • Steven Schwartz

          No, Steven, you don’t try to answer substantive points.

          I encourage anyone reading this to go look at the discussion with Rick Randall above, and see how Tom’s statements hold up.

          you spray an idiocy that is psychologically painful to anyone who is not an SJW or idiot, to the tiny extent those may differ.

          If it is painful to you, that is only a side-benefit.

          So, let me ask: Since the same arguments that you’ve presented in favor of unbanning landmines and torture apply equally well to, say, biological and chemical warfare (and genocide, for that matter), do you stand in support of those as well? (We already know you don’t believe in the rule of law in a democracy, since, as you put it:

          “keeping them out of power, using “any means necessary,” is an inherently moral act of self-defense.”)

        • Tom Kratman

          You really lack the technical expertise to discuss bio and chem. Since you don’t understand what I have argued here it would seem unprofitable to defend or expand arguments you don’t understand or even see in the first place.

          In any case, I have no moral problem with chem, but note that it is operationally nearly as much of a pain in the ass to the user as to the ones it is used on, that it usually gives no advantage unless the other side can’t use it, and that is it often quite moral, as in hostage rescue and riot control. Bio we should keep up to date in case someone else has it and uses it on us, but would be unwise to use first since it really cannot be controlled well enough. If it could be controlled well enough it wouldn’t bother me either, except for the prospect of retaliation / reprisal.

          Rule of law, Steven, doesn’t mean turning over the reigns of power to the ultimately lawless, which your side invariably is. Democracy is not actually one man, one vote, once. Democracy is often enough two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner. Frankly, as a red, you have no grounds to argue for or even about democracy.

          Speaking of democracy, by the way, do you remember how Allende got into power in Chile and who asked for him to be removed? And why?

        • Steven Schwartz

          “except for the prospect of retaliation / reprisal.”

          Why am I not surprised you have no problem — except when someone else can do it to you. It fits in with your entire viewpoint, up to and including the “it’s self-defense to kill socialists.” It’s fine if you do it — it’s even moral — but you’re scared of the consequences if someone else does it.

          As usual, your tough talk masks cowardice.

          “Rule of law, Steven, doesn’t mean turning over the reigns of power to the ultimately lawless, which your side invariably is.”

          What was that bit about not being allowed your own facts?

          “Frankly, as a red, you have no grounds to argue for or even about democracy.”

          While as a “timocrat” and fascist sympathizer, you have even less, given that your politics range from the fantastical to the merely anti-democratic.

        • Tom Kratman

          As usual, Steven, you’re an idiot. War operates by its rules, and cares even less than I do for the sentimental fantasies you and yours would like to be rules.,,and I care not at all. Also, your definition of “fascist sympathizer,” is lacking. It seems to be, in your vile universe, defined as, “someone who refuses to except the tacit left wing argument that a fascist is whatever a given leftie wanted a fascist to be, today,” Note, idiot child, seeing fascism as more logical than socialism because it is more closely based on man as he is rather than as a fantasist would like him to be is not actually sympathy. But that’s your lack of integrity talking, so I won’t take it too personally.

          Oh, and your side being lawless? Those are the facts.

        • Duffy

          No, No, No, they are not Lawless, they love Laws, they make Laws about everything. Like selling loose cigarettes, can’t have that. So when, as invariably happens when there are so many laws, you can then have selective enforcement. And use the Laws to punish those you do not like. But, as also invariably happens, something goes wrong, like sending men and women with guns to enforce those laws (Because that is how you enforce Laws), someone gets hurt. Well, it is everyone’s fault, except the Social Justice warriors who made the laws. Because their intentions were good. Yeah, Social Justice Warriors love Laws, but hey, they are not bound by them, because their intentions, and the righteousness of their ideology, and their overall intellectual superiority, puts them above any laws. This gets them forgiven of any sin, ask Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton. They know that Laws are for little people and political oponants, like morals and standards. Nothing they ever have to apply to themselves.

        • Tom Kratman

          Duff, that IS lawless.

        • Duffy

          I will defer to the one with Law Degree, I am always oversimplifying shit, I just can’t see it as “Lawless”, it seems to be far to mild. Criminally Unjust might be better but still not quite reaching a good definition. I think Lawbreaker is certainly more apt, because they do love to make laws.

        • Steven Schwartz

          “So when, as invariably happens when there are so many laws, you can then
          have selective enforcement. And use the Laws to punish those you do not
          like.”

          And this is somehow a unique quality of the Left how?

          You seem to want to divide “selective enforcement” from the people actually enforcing those laws and, you know, making the selections as to what to enforce, or not?

          And as for the remainder, there’s a reason that the term IOKIYAR entered the political vocabulary. Politicians of both sides manage to do a fine job of discrediting themselves, dishonouring themselves, and violating laws, oaths, etc. Again, pretending that’s a trait of the Left is a case of massive blindness.

        • Duffy

          You mean officer discretion, right? How much discretion could the NYPD use when the Mayor’s office ordered the Brass at 1 Police Plaza to go, and specifically, arrest Eric Garner? How much responsibility did Bernie Sanders take for his office doing that? Or for passing a law which created the whole situation where a man, a non-violent offender, a public nuisance, is arrested 8 times for a
          petty offense, the last time using a plainclothes detective. I hear the lefts outrage against the Police, against Bernie Sanders and the Politicians that made it a crime, to be enforced by armed police officers, to sale loose cigarettes?

          Or how about States Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who specifically directs counter drug operations at a given location, and then indicts the Cops when a Known Drug Dealer dies under apprehension claiming that he had committed no crime.

          IOKIYAR? Give me a specific example?

          You know like Bill Clinton and adultery, Ted Kennedy and Manslaughter by DUI, Hillary Clinton and setting up a Private Server for Official Business then destroying the E-mails?

          “It’s OK If you’re A Republican” if you’re a republican? A
          republican would have been hounded out of politics by his base if caught doing that. A Democrat gets lionized and placed on a pedestal.

          Unless that Republican had bent over to reach across the
          aisle often enough to be considered pliable and easy. IOKIYAR is the product of your own guilt, show me where it actually exists. And you never admit, no matter how obvious it is, that you screwed up or that you actually caused and increased the negative effects of the problems that result from your actions.

          It is like your support of treaties against landmines, you
          really do not give a crap if they are used, you are just looking for another club to use against people who disagree with you.

          I disagree with Tom Kratman, you are not Lawless, your just criminals, and like Gruber said, relying on the stupidity of the average American (Your fault as well, the left completely trashed the education system in this
          country) to keep them from lining you up and killing you.

        • Steven Schwartz

          You’ll need to supply some documentation for blaming a Senator from Vermont for instructing NYPD officers.

          Oh — and considering that the officers on the scene used a hold that had been banned since 1993, blaming the higher-ups for that seems rather…pointless.

          As for IOKIYAR: Well, if we’re going to get on Bill Clinton for Adultery, how about still-serving Sen. David Vitter? Or how about, if we’re complaining about emails, George W. Bush doing exactly the same thing? Or how about the Bush administration blowing a CIA agent’s cover for political reasons? (Or, for that matter, lying to the American people.) We can go further back — how about North and Poindexter?

          “It is like your support of treaties against landmines, youreally do not give a crap if they are used, you are just looking for another club to use against people who disagree with you.”

          Since you’ve obviously decided you can read my mind (when actually all you’re doing is constructing strawmen) — I’ll leave you to it.

        • Duffy

          I am sorry I get old well of Socialist posers mixed up. Whoever the Dill weed that is now running New York into the ground. That Mayor.
          IOKIYAR: Apparently a term Social Progressives come up with David Vitter and George Bush have been accused of sexual assault by several women? You will of course have to provide documentation to support that assertion. I do not believe that Bush blew the cover of a CIA agent, since her Husband listed her occupation in “whos who” prior to that whole steaming roll coming out. Not to mention the fact that bothe Plame and her husband lied before Congress about the whole “Operation” that allegedly kicked off the dispute. And of course there was the Prosecution of Libby, I would like to point out that in 27 years of Law Enforcement I have found that if you repeatedly interview someone over the same issue years later, you can pretty much expect contradictions. Cope learn to avoid those things, Lawyers seem to sow them. Particularly in a case where you already knew who committed the offense and decide not to prosecute that person, and instead go after a political target. Yopur pretty good at constructing Strawmen yourself, I can see why it might offend you to think I might be reading minds. That having been a superpower Social Progressives reserved for themselves.

          I will leave you with this, as it demonstrates my point about the left, Bill Clinton literally accomplished nothing. He had no major international accomplishments, and everything the left likes to attribute to him, was nothing he (or his supporters) ever set out to accomplish. Indeed, all these great things you attribute to the Clinton Administration, were done by Newt Gingrich (another turd, but at least one who could accomplish things). The only thing you can give Clinton is that he got caught with his pants down, and allowed Gingrich to shove his arm shoulder deep up Clintons rear and use him like a meat puppet. That is the depth of left wing accomplishment. Without a willing media, how long would Clinton actually last? and at some point in time, we will find out who the current puppet master is.

        • Tom Kratman

          You know, Steven, recovering liberal Professor Jonathan Haidt, in his The Righteous Mind, observes that the right understands the left a lot better than the left understands the right. This is something of an illustration of that.

          I’m not sure what dictionary you’re using, but you have just described as cowardice wanting to spare from harm others for whom one is responsible. Sadly, for your theory, cowardice is rather a personal thing. The husband who shields his wife from the robber’s bullet, for example, is not a coward. The soldier who puts his life on the line in his country’s and people’s behalf is not a coward. The soldier would would face gas but spare his people from the gas is not a coward.

          You, however, are a coward, a moral, physical, and intellectual coward, projecting your cowardice on others.

          I think this comes from your, and the left’s, general solipsism, rising to sociopathy. Though you may prattle and preen yourself on your inestimable – because non-existent – virtue and altruism, in fact you cannot even imagine a selfless act. Everything anyone does must be only for themselves, because you assume that, like you, they live in the fantasy universe of the plays they write in their minds for themselves to star in. You know the play; your version is “The Virtuous Adventures of Steven Schwartz, Comrade Worker, Hero of the Yearning Masses,” the one where all the rest of us are just stage props in that play.

          That kind of projection, along with that kind of sociopathy, is what makes you incapable of even imagining that someone may actually care about certain others; you’re incapable of it so no one else can be capable of it. If you, for example, defended or explained the uses and limits of torture, surely it could only be because you, you personally, wanted to play Marquis de Sade in your own little dungeon. And, small minded and intellectually deficient amoral child that you are, you cannot imagine that what is true for you might not be true for others. After all, those others don’t even really exist for you, as mentioned, they’re just stage props. You don’t care if the stage props are murdered en masse, so long as you are safe and your all important fantasy untrammeled.

          All these deficiencies found in yourself you project to others.

          In short, you’re a liar, a hypocrite, a sociopath, and a fool. Steven, you are disgusting.

        • Steven Schwartz

          ” observes that the right understands the left a lot better than the left
          understands the right. This is something of an illustration of that.”

          Which, of course, someone on the right would believe. Having seen the numerous straw-men of the right, I am inclined to believe otherwise.

          “I’m not sure what dictionary you’re using, but you have just described
          as cowardice wanting to spare from harm others for whom one is
          responsible.”

          I describe it as cowardice because you have no problem with it when it’s *you* doing it to someone else — but if someone else might do it to you, then you have issues.

          That is the hallmark of the bully.

          “The soldier who puts his life on the line in his country’s and people’s
          behalf is not a coward. The soldier would would face gas but spare his
          people from the gas is not a coward.”

          The soldier who would gas others, indeed find it a moral duty to do so, but would not face the gas himself, or would decide it was time to reconsider gas warfare only then, is a coward — and that is the position you have taken.

          You’re the one who said: “A nation that won’t do anything to survive has betrayed its citizens, ” while also saying “[biological warfare] wouldn’t bother me either, except for the prospect of retaliation / reprisal.”

          So; a nation that has a biological warfare capacity that doesn’t use it is betraying its citizens, according to you — and the only thing that might stay your hand is the prospect of someone else doing it to you.

          I repeat: bully and coward.

          “in fact you cannot even imagine a selfless act. ”

          Excuse me while I boggle, and then roll on the floor in laughter. All I need to do is look at the people who put a tremendous amount of time, and effort, into helping other people who come from the Left, and the laughter starts up again.

          “Everything anyone does must be only for themselves,”

          Well, when people like you come along and argue that it’s OK if you do it, but if other people do it, it’s not OK — or it’s a moral monstrosity, or, at *best* justification for doing it to them first, because they willdo it to you — it does tend to lend support to the belief that *you*, specifically, and the people who agree with you, are in that boat.

          As for the rest, I congratulate you; you’ve plyaed the “You’re projecting” card, to immunize yourself from the same charge.

          I leave it to other people to see whether the person who cares about other people is the one who wants to see those things that disproportionately harm civilians (and, in many cases, the soldiers carrying them out) taken out of the realm of the acceptable or the person who wants to kill people he disagrees with politically and accepts any form of warfare as OK so long as only his side is doing it.

        • Tom Kratman

          No, actually Haidt made this observation while he was still on the left. You, of course, add more evidence that he was right.

          Actually, Steven you – all lefty like, which is to say incapable of seeing anything outside your own little solipsistic and sociopathic universe, your own all important fantasy – are again attributing to me arguments that don’t apply, except in your fantasy universe. When did I say I have issues with it? I understand fully, because I don’t live in a fantasyland as you do, that the other side is entitled to try to win, to advance his cause, and secure his civilization and people. he’s not entitled to win anymore than I am, but he is entitled to try. It is right and proper for him to do so, just as it is for me.

          And the above paragraph suits your third comment, as well. I have no moral problem with the enemy trying. That’s just you projecting your lack of values, lack of insight, and general sociopathy and cowardice on others.

          See, Steven, you dolt, from the beginning you have been projecting onto me things that are true of you and your sort.

        • Steven Schwartz

          “When did I say I have issues with it?”

          “biological warfare wouldn’t bother me, except…”

          The “except” part of that sentence. It appears from your behavior that any kind of laws of war, you think, are irrelevant/unimportant, but that, right there, is an issue.

          “that the other side is entitled to try to win, to advance his cause, and secure his civilization and people.”

          And people on many sides of many different conflicts have decided that certain means of doing so are beyond the pale — but apparently, their judgment doesn’t matter to you. As with Ming, above, you appear to be conflating governments and nations with the people who live in them — and even some governments have decided certain means are unacceptable.

          And if you have no moral problem with people killing each other, pre-emptively, in a democracy, because they don’t like the other person’s politics, then it is you who are the threat to such a democracy, and to all governments where people try to rule themselves without killing each other.

          So, since you’re supposed to, IIRC, protect the Constitution against all enemies, foreign *and domestic*, what are you going to do about yourself? Luckily for you, speech doesn’t actually count much when it comes to treason trials, otherwise you’d certainly be deserving of one at this point, Mr. Kratman.

          Or, of course, by your own logic, any loyal-to-the-Constitution American could just kill you, as self-defense and protection of the Constitution.

        • Tom Kratman

          You’re still stuck in your little SJW fantasy world, Steven, the one where you, Comrade Worker, Hero of the Struggling Masses, think you understand things you have no clue to.

          As a matter of fact, no, I believe in customary law of war, but not in statutory laws of war that have no basis in reality, mere fantasies coined by the ignorant. The mice can vote to bell the cat, but without being able to bell the cat their vote is precatory bullshit, ineffective in and irrelevant to the real world of conflict.

          This, Steven, is just like your Pauline Kaelesque inability to understand or deal with a different viewpoint on social contract. It is your narrow and inadequate mind in operation, not reason or facts.

          Kill you and yours? Sure, _if_ you or yours ever get close enough to the reigns of power to become a threat, Pure self defense, thus inherently moral.

          In any case, Steven, face up to it; you have a narrowly constricted mind incapable of seeing or understanding any viewpoint that isn’t within your very narrow intellectual ability, self filtered experience, or the SJW echo chamber cum fantasy world you inhabit…just as Haidt predicts.

        • Steven Schwartz

          “, but not in statutory laws of war that have no basis in reality, mere fantasies coined by the ignorant.”

          Well, since “customary” laws of war have no legal standing save in those who elect to believe in them, that renders the whole notion of, say, war crimes and associated tribunals irrelevant, doesn’t it?

          ” ineffective in and irrelevant to the real world of conflict.”

          Well, now, here’s the thing; unless the military rules the people, that conflict will sometime come to an end; and unless the military wants to take over, they are going to come under the rule of the people. So, no, it’s not “irrelevant to the real world of conflict” — it’s outside the temporary state of war, which is not the same thing.

          “Kill you and yours? Sure, _if_ you or yours ever get close enough to the reigns of power to become a threat, Pure self defense, thus inherently moral.”

          Balderdash. (And worth noting that we have an explicit democratic socialist running for President — is that close enough to be a threat to you?)

          You do not get to make the judgment about “self-defense”, especially before anyone has actually threatened you. I have made no threats to you that you have not made first — and since I do not believe in the death penalty, your “threat” is not a credible one. Your life is in no danger from me; but, apparently, mine is from you.

          Fortunately, since from previous statements you’re unwilling to travel where you can’t go armed (or at least were not willing to risk meeting someone you’d argued with in such a state), and I’m not likely to be traveling near you, it won’t be an issue.

          As to the rest; your Truth by Blatant Assertion may fool some; they’re the ones who already agree with you. You have nothing but insults and imprecations — which anyone, right or wrong or utterly irrelevant, can employ.

        • Tom Kratman

          Again, you demonstrate that remarkable inability to understand anything outside your very small experience. The statutory law of war can only be demonstrated as working or having worked when it is is mere codification of the customary laws of war. This is because it has been tested in war and found, by the practitioners of war, to do them and their cause no harm while reducing unnecessary suffering and loss. (Necessary is code for advantageous. Unnecessary suffering is only suffering that is excess to the advantage you wish to gain.) Thus, for example, treatment of parliamentaires, though it appears in codes, long predates those codes – indeed predates them by at least several thousand years – and was found to work, having been tested. The codification doesn’t change their customary nature. Reprisals, too, which are war crimes but which was war crimes that become legitimate to enforce the laws of war, long predate any codification. Conversely, when statutory law of war – conceived of by the ignorant to suit their fantasies, but untested in actual war – tries to limit reprisal, what it is doing is facilitating the crimes that reprisal is meant to deter. For example, if the enemy were to threaten to shoot some of your people he is holding prisoner, modern statutory law of war would forbid your reprising, hence deterring, his murders by threatening to, and if necessary carrying out, executions of his people you hold. This is, of course, preposterous, one of the better examples of the failure of codification of law of war by the ignorant.

          Steven, what seems to happen with your side is that, beginning with the political fantasies you believe in completely, you – ignorantly as dirt – assume that the fantasies are real and must work. They don’t. They fail. They always fail miserably. Since neither you, your co-lefties, nor the fantasies can be blamed, it must be the fault of others, “wreckers,” say. They get the chop. And then there are those who would resist you. Why should you wait? Kill them, as your side always does. And then there’s the programs that are doomed to fail. People resist. They must be killed. And then the economic failure and starvation from the programs….no, no. There is no need to wait. As soon as you get close to power you may be killed in self defense, since your side _always_ ends up committing mass murder. You’ve had all the chances you deserve – no, many, many more than you deserve – and ended up as bloody handed mass murderers every time.

        • Steven Schwartz

          Shorter TK: “Soldiers do what they feel is right, and the rest of you should cope, because soldiers know what’s right, because it’s how they’ve done things.”

          There are many reasons why armies are made subordinate to the states they are raised by. One of them is that armies, like any political entities, have their own interests, and act according to those interests, which often are *not* correlated with the nations/governments they’re representing.

          As for the rest: That you can’t see your “kill them first, before they get into power!” is a self-fulfilling prophecy for the kind of killing you claim to need to kill to avoid…well, I can’t help you there.

          Because guess what? A nation, at war — as you so loudly proclaim — is supposed to take any steps needed to ensure its survival; and if a part of that nation declares its inalienable right to destroy the government if it goes one particular way, what does that make them? Enemies of the nation, if the nation, as a body, chooses to go that way.

          There are mass murderers from many different sides — the ones on the Right tend to start their murders before they go off and invade other countries — though not always — while the ones on the Left tend to start their rule already at war with the people who want them destroyed.

          I despise Stalin and Pol Pot — likely just as much as you do; they are to be learned from, not emulated, though you may not see the distinction.

          But rest assured, TK, if you keep promising to kill people for their politics, if those people ever come near power, they’ll be well within their rights to have you watched, and incarcerated. After all, it’s just self-defence, right?

        • Tom Kratman

          Steven, you just continue to demonstrate how hopelessly ignorant you are. There’s not sense in wasting time on you; you’re just too arrogant and stupid to educate. God knows; I’ve tried.

        • http://batman-news.com Rick Randall

          If it brings down the wrath of other nations, and so the nation ceases to exist, then torture wasn’t doing “anything to survive”, by definition.

          See Tom’s point about the French…

        • Steven Schwartz

          “, then torture wasn’t doing “anything to survive”, by definition.”

          You’re confusing means and ends here. No one tortures because they expect it will bring down the wrath of other nations, etc. The moral question (as opposed to the strategic and tactical ones) is “Are we a nation that believes torture is justified for our survival.” — or for much lesser reason, as in some of Mr. Kratman’s examples.

          For example, the uprising in Algeria was not an existential threat to the French; yet they decided that it was, and then was not, worth torturing for.

          I would not consider it worth authorizing torture to hold onto, say, Texas if it decided it wanted to secede.

          Under very specific circumstances, the tactical justifications for torture can make sense; they are often strategically disastrous, and neither of those affect the moral question.

        • Steven Schwartz

          Oh, and I’ll be getting back to you on the post in general, have no fear ;) — I just need to get to my reference books for quotes.

        • Jack Withrow

          What a world you must live in. As it bears little to no resemblance to the real world, I do not even know where to begin to phrase any type of reply to you. Your reality and mine are so far apart there is nothing to be gained by having any type of discussion with you.

        • Ming the Merciless

          If the nation doesn’t survive, then your highfalutin’ “moral standards” are irrelevant. (Not least because the nation will likely be conquered by a nation that does not mind getting its hands dirty.) A nation that won’t do what it takes to survive has betrayed its citizens.

        • Steven Schwartz

          Let’s define terms here; what is “the nation”?

          Because unless you are talking about a genocidal opponent, I submit there are many things a government shouldn’t do in order to remain in power — which is one normal way of defining a “nation”.

          For example, a government that attempted to remain in power by scorching the earth, harming its own citizens, and engaging war crimes against the invading forces, causing brutal reprisals, would be doing its citizens no favors in trying to “survive” — especially if it failed, and brought down the full wrath of the other nation’s government upon its former citizens.

          (Because any action taken during a war in the name of “survival” has to take into account the possibility that it won’t work.)

        • Ming the Merciless

          unless you are talking about a genocidal opponent, I submit there are
          many things a government shouldn’t do in order to remain in power

          First you need to make a convincing case for why your definition of “should” supersedes anyone else’s. There is a far better case to be made for “the government should do whatever it takes to win, period.” It is simply irresponsible to risk the people’s lives and treasure and not go all-out to win.

          a government that attempted to remain in power by scorching the earth,
          harming its own citizens, and engaging war crimes against the invading
          forces, causing brutal reprisals, would be doing its citizens no favors
          in trying to “survive”

          If that is what it takes to defeat the enemy invasion, then yes indeed the defending government would be doing its citizens a favor by taking these brutal measures. The citizens who are harmed by these measures have to take one for the team, but the nation writ large survives and endures. There are abundant examples of governments scorching the earth, harming its own citizens, and provoking reprisals against non-genocidal enemies. The governments in question would have regarded your point of view as insane, defeatist, and irrelevant.

          especially if it failed, and brought down the full wrath of the other nation’s government upon its former citizens.

          If you are fighting an uncivilized enemy, then taking brutal measures that provoke his wrath won’t make any difference. If you lose, he is going to brutalize you anyway.

          If you are fighting a civilized enemy, then taking brutal measures that provoke his wrath only risks, in the event of your defeat, war crimes trials against your leadership. Since the enemy might well be invading you in order to effect “regime change”, then as the government you lose nothing by taking brutal measures (and you stand to gain a great deal if you defeat the enemy).

        • Steven Schwartz

          “First you need to make a convincing case for why your definition of “should” supersedes anyone else’s.”

          I offered it as my comment; I hope to persuade others. That’s all I need in this case.

          “here is a far better case to be made for “the government should do whatever it takes to win, period.”

          Then present it, rather than simply assert it exists.

          “It is simply irresponsible to risk the people’s lives and treasure and not go all-out to win.”

          You seem to think all wars are wars of choice — while I strongly suspect the vast majority of wars of national existence are anything but.

          The above statement *might* be true in a war with unlimited ends, against a genocidal opponent. Such is not the general run of warfare, historically.

          “If that is what it takes to defeat the enemy invasion, then yes indeed
          the defending government would be doing its citizens a favor by taking
          these brutal measures.”

          So, for example, the Iraqis should have reduced their own country to rubble, used WMDs (had they had them) on the United States, and deliberately engaged in war crimes in order to preserve their regime? Do you believe that Saddam Hussein would have been doing citizens a favor in such cases?

          “The citizens who are harmed by these measures have to take one for the team, but the nation writ large survives and endures.”

          At what point do the citizens of a nation count for more than the notional “nation” itself?

          “The governments in question would have regarded your point of view as insane, defeatist, and irrelevant.”

          Ah; so now you are holding up as examples we should follow Stalin, Pol Pot, et. al? My point remains: the interests of the government, especially the individuals who make up the government, and the interests of the people do not always coincide — as we’ll point out in more detail later.

          “If you are fighting a civilized enemy, then taking brutal measures that
          provoke his wrath only risks, in the event of your defeat, war crimes
          trials against your leadership.”

          Nonsense. Part of the justification for Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that the measures taken by the Japanese military would make unacceptable losses among American troops. There are regular calls for massive reprisals — or even first strikes — against the Middle East. Part of the reason such things have been *avoided* is because of the efforts of people like me, who do not hold with the “anything goes” view of modern warfare.

          However, this points something out — the people making the decisions as to what constitute “acceptable losses” vs. “reasonable risks” are the people who stand to lose the most should the risks not pan out — and who are not the ones who have to pay the losses. They’re gambling with the people’s money, in many cases, to save their own skins. And this is some kind of moral imperative? That the government is to sacrifice the lives of its citizens to preserve its own members’ skin?

          As I said — it boils down to what we consider a “nation”. (And, of course, depending on that definition, you are on the brink of legitimizing terrorism, because, well, it’s a matter of national survival or existence.)

          (As a further addendum, I will note that once again, we are talking wars of national existence, which are being used as justifications for “anything goes” morality in other, far less serious cases; rather like using “I might need an automatic weapon to save myself against a horde of attackers” as a justification for being allowed to carry one into the local supermarket.)

        • Ming the Merciless

          Then present it, rather than simply assert it exists.

          If mere assertion was good enough for you, it’s good enough for me.

          “It is simply irresponsible to risk the people’s lives and treasure and not go all-out to win.”

          You seem to think all wars are wars of choice — while I strongly suspect the vast majority of wars of national existence are anything but. The above statement *might* be true in a war with unlimited ends, against a genocidal opponent. Such is not the general run of warfare, historically.

          Nope. The statement is true whether it is a war of survival forced on you, or a “war of choice”. Either way, it behooves you to use overwhelming force and secure a decisive victory as rapidly as possible.

          “If that is what it takes to defeat the enemy invasion, then yes indeed the defending government would be doing its citizens a favor by taking these brutal measures.”

          So, for example, the Iraqis should have reduced their own country to rubble, used WMDs (had they had them) on the United States, and deliberately engaged in war crimes in order to preserve their regime? Do you believe that Saddam Hussein would have been doing citizens a favor in such cases?

          By your logic they should have quit and cooperated enthusiastically with us. You’ll notice that they didn’t, which highlights the irrelevance of your line of thinking.

          In fact, the Iraqis did deliberately engage in war crimes during the invasion, and continued to do so during the occupation. They resisted as strenuously as they could, no doubt under the correct assumption that we’d eventually get tired and go away.

          And yes, the people of Iraq would have been better off if they had repelled our invasion and remained under Saddam’s leadership. Heck, even the USA would have been better off if we had left Saddam in power.

          “The citizens who are harmed by these measures have to take one for the team, but the nation writ large survives and endures.”
          At what point do the citizens of a nation count for more than the notional “nation” itself?

          That is a calculation each national leadership has to make for itself, based on the prevailing circumstances and their understanding of their own national character.

          Ah; so now you are holding up as examples we should follow Stalin, Pol Pot, et. al?

          Nope, not just them. There are plenty of examples of non-totalitarian governments scorching the earth and sacrificing their own citizens to hinder an invader.

          My point remains: the interests of the government, especially the individuals who make up the government, and the interests of the people do not always coincide — as we’ll point out in more detail later.

          Your point remains stupid, irrelevant, and wrong. It is never in the interests of the people for their own nation to be defeated in war. It is always the duty of the government to make hard choices and, if necessary, sacrifice civilian lives in order to achieve victory just as they sacrifice military lives to achieve victory.

          “If you are fighting a civilized enemy, then taking brutal measures that provoke his wrath only risks, in the event of your defeat, war crimes trials against your leadership.”

          Nonsense. Part of the justification for Hiroshima and Nagasaki was that the measures taken by the Japanese military would make unacceptable losses among American troops.

          We were systematically burning their cities to the ground long before there was any concern about them taking “brutal measures” to resist invasion. If we hadn’t had the atomic bombs, then Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have gotten the same napalm treatment we gave Tokyo. So the Japanese didn’t take any “extra punishment” just because they were preparing a strenuous invasion defense. The only thing that they risked was what they got — postwar war crimes trials. And even then, plenty of Japanese war criminals escaped a well-deserved execution.

          There are regular calls for massive reprisals — or even first strikes — against the Middle East. Part of the reason such things have been *avoided* is because of the efforts of people like me, who do not hold with the “anything goes” view of modern warfare.

          Smug idiots like you are the reason the region is falling apart and we are doomed to defeat. An all-out approach to warfare is exactly the kind of language Arabs understand. They (quite rightly) regard your ideas as contemptible weakness.

          However, this points something out — the people making the decisions as to what constitute “acceptable losses” vs. “reasonable risks” are the people who stand to lose the most should the risks not pan out — and who are not the ones who have to pay the losses. They’re gambling with the people’s money, in many cases, to save their own skins. And this is some kind of moral imperative? That the government is to sacrifice the lives of its citizens to preserve its own members’ skin?

          Geez, grow up already. The duty of the government is to the nation writ large, not to any specific individuals or groups of individuals.

          As I said — it boils down to what we consider a “nation”. (And, of course, depending on that definition, you are on the brink of legitimizing terrorism, because, well, it’s a matter of national survival or existence.)

          Ironically enough, terrorism exists and flourishes because of smug idiots like you.

          (As a further addendum, I will note that once again, we are talking wars of national existence, which are being used as justifications for “anything goes” morality in other, far less serious cases; rather like using “I might need an automatic weapon to save myself against a horde of attackers” as a justification for being allowed to carry one into the local supermarket.)

          I will note, once again, that EVERY war – whether of “choice” or of “national survival” – demands, as a moral and practical imperative, the employment of overwhelming force to secure a decisive victory as rapidly as possible.

        • Steven Schwartz

          OK. I think we may be getting somewhere, but let’s see:

          Nope. The statement is true whether it is a war of survival forced on
          you, or a “war of choice”. Either way, it behooves you to use
          overwhelming force and secure a decisive victory as rapidly as possible.

          Ideally, yes. But, for example, nuclear first-strike capability is “overwhelming force”, and would, for example, have ended our war with Iraq even more quickly than the actual war did, with fewer casualties — at the cost of making us instant international pariahs.

          What is militarily correct, what is diplomatically correct (and I subscribe to Clausewitz here), and what is humanely correct are not always in alignment — and when the three conflict, especially when civilians are involved, I submit it’s the first that needs to bend, save in the rare cases of genocidal wars.

          By your logic they should have quit and cooperated enthusiastically with
          us. You’ll notice that they didn’t, which highlights the irrelevance of
          your line of thinking.

          Funny — that’s what Donald Rumsfeld *expected* them to do; “greet us as liberators” was, I believe, his line.

          There is plenty of middle ground between “surrender immediately” and “fight using every conceivable method”. Governments’ interests, as I pointed out, often differ from the population’s interests in where that middle ground is found.

          And yes, the people of Iraq would have been better off if they had
          repelled our invasion and remained under Saddam’s leadership. Heck, even
          the USA would have been better off if we had left Saddam in power.

          That’s orthogonal to the point — had Saddam been able to use WMDs to strike the U.S., should he have? Would it have been to the benefit of Iraqi citizens, given what we’ve seen from people like Mr. Kratman here, to give the U.S. reason to retaliate more?

          That is a calculation each national leadership has to make for itself,
          based on the prevailing circumstances and their understanding of their
          own national character.

          And the national leadership of many nations has decided that some things, like biological warfare and land mines, are beyond the moral pale for their citizens and their nation. And yet, somehow, that is immoral (as I understand it), while fighting to the bitter end to preserve their government is not?

          It is never in the interests of the people for their own nation to be defeated in war.

          Nonsense. A military defeat has helped topple more than one despotic government — and more than a few merely incompetent ones.

          “Nations” are legal and quasi-geographic entities; people can definitely benefit from their loss, or their rearrangement. We need only look at the breakups of some of the major polyglot empires at the start of the 20th century for examples.

          We were systematically burning their cities to the ground long before
          there was any concern about them taking “brutal measures” to resist
          invasion.

          We were, for the most part, systematically hitting military targets. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hit with nuclear weapons deliberately to break the will to resist with the new weapons — it was not merely ‘Oh, they’re next on the target list, let’s use the new bombs on them instead of the old ones.’

          Smug idiots like you are the reason the region is falling apart and we are doomed to defeat. An all-out approach to warfare is exactly the kind of language Arabs understand. They (quite rightly) regard your ideas as contemptible weakness.

          I do not believe we are “doomed to defeat” — though we have managed to do a pretty damned bad job there, starting with invading back under Bush II in the first place. It’s very easy to do poorly when you start a war you shouldn’t have, with unclear goals, unrealistic expectations, and insufficient domestic support.

          “The duty of the government is to the nation writ large, not to any specific individuals or groups of individuals.”

          Heh. I find it amusing that you’re the one telling me to grow up, and then presenting the idealistic model.

          My point was that governments, like any other organization, have as their primary underlying drive their own survival; whether they believe it’s for the best, or it’s to keep themselves in a position of power. And so it’s quite easy for governments to make decisions that aren’t in the citizenry’s best interest, because they increase the chances of perpetuating the *government*.

          We can see this most clearly back when autocrats were in power; what did it matter to the Tsar if thousands of his people died and a city of his burned so long as Napoleon was turned away, and he remained in control of Russia? And this still remains a dynamic in existence today.

          Ironically enough, terrorism exists and flourishes because of smug idiots like you.

          Considering that I’m not the one justifying “anything goes” tactics as a moral imperative, I’m really curious as to how you got here — is it because we don’t go for massive reprisals as an effective technique for squelching it?

          I also do not accept that it is a moral imperative to act as vigorously and decisively as possible in furtherance of a possibly immoral act, which is what your statement about EVERY war implies.

          A war over border disputes or water rights (and such things certainly have happened, and, I’m sure, will continue to) are not best served by massive escalation; the cost of the war can, in such a case, rapidly outweigh any conceivable benefit. You may argue then that such a war shouldn’t have been started — but come on and be a grown-up ;) — and admit that wars get started for many, many reasons.

          I might be able to accept — and I wonder if you can as well — that it is a moral and practical imperative for a nation in a war to do the utmost it can for victory without disproportionately endangering its citizens. Then we can argue about what constitutes “proportionally”, but at least we’ve started from a common ground.

        • Ming the Merciless

          Ideally, yes. But, for example, nuclear first-strike capability is “overwhelming force”, and would, for example, have ended our war with Iraq even more quickly than the actual war did, with fewer casualties — at the cost of making us instant international pariahs.

          Apparently you are so ignorant that I need to explain that “overwhelming force” is calibrated to the opponent in question. “Overwhelming force” against Grenada, Panama, or Iraq has different requirements than “overwhelming force” against China or the USSR.

          What is militarily correct, what is diplomatically correct (and I subscribe to Clausewitz here), and what is humanely correct are not always in alignment — and when the three conflict, especially when civilians are involved, I submit it’s the first that needs to bend, save in the rare cases of genocidal wars.

          No. They are always in alignment. Overwhelming force is militarily correct, and also diplomatically and humanely correct, because a rapid and victorious end to the war (a) minimizes casualties, and (b) impresses other nations with your power. Prolonged and indecisive wars are the ones that result in humanitarian catastrophes and degrade your diplomatic credibility.

          Funny — that’s what Donald Rumsfeld *expected* them to do; “greet us as liberators” was, I believe, his line.

          And you don’t even see that this proves you wrong. He went in with minimal force, and tried to conduct a nice, humane occupation, and the result was a military, humanitarian, and diplomatic catastrophe. If we had gone in with overwhelming force and established a no-nonsense occupation regime, the result would have been far different.

          There is plenty of middle ground between “surrender immediately” and “fight using every conceivable method”. Governments’ interests, as I pointed out, often differ from the population’s interests in where that middle ground is found.

          The population’s interest is exactly the same as the government’s — i.e., the prompt and total defeat and destruction of the invader.

          That’s orthogonal to the point — had Saddam been able to use WMDs to strike the U.S., should he have? Would it have been to the benefit of Iraqi citizens, given what we’ve seen from people like Mr. Kratman here, to give the U.S. reason to retaliate more?

          If he had WMDs, he wouldn’t need to use them, because we’d be deterred from invading. If I had nukes and you invaded my country, I would most definitely nuke your invading forces. If you retaliated against my cities, I’d hit yours. You’re better off not going down that road in the first place.

          And the national leadership of many nations has decided that some things, like biological warfare and land mines, are beyond the moral pale for their citizens and their nation. And yet, somehow, that is immoral (as I understand it), while fighting to the bitter end to preserve their government is not?

          I don’t argue that biological weapons or land mines are immoral. Neither is fighting to the death against an invader.

          It is never in the interests of the people for their own nation to be defeated in war.
          Nonsense. A military defeat has helped topple more than one despotic government — and more than a few merely incompetent ones.

          Every single one of them, without exception, would be better off if their nation had won the war than if they’d lost it. And yes, that means the people too, not just the government.

          “Nations” are legal and quasi-geographic entities; people can definitely benefit from their loss, or their rearrangement. We need only look at the breakups of some of the major polyglot empires at the start of the 20th century for examples.

          No nation (or empire) defeated in World War I benefited from that defeat, idiot. The people of those defeated nations/empires were FAR worse off after that defeat and the installation of successor governments.

          We were, for the most part, systematically hitting military targets.

          Nonsense (to use your favorite word). It was pure city-busting. The people and their houses were the targets. The a-bombs were just a more efficient way to do what we were doing anyway. The March 1945 raid on Tokyo was, in fact, more destructive and lethal than either atomic attack.

          I do not believe we are “doomed to defeat”

          We are if we play by your rules.

          though we have managed to do a pretty damned bad job there, starting with invading back under Bush II in the first place. It’s very easy to do poorly when you start a war you shouldn’t have, with unclear goals, unrealistic expectations, and insufficient domestic support.

          I agree. That’s why, if you’re determined to start such a war, you need to use overwhelming force and to secure a rapid, decisive victory.

          My point was that governments, like any other organization, have as their primary underlying drive their own survival; whether they believe it’s for the best, or it’s to keep themselves in a position of power. And so it’s quite easy for governments to make decisions that aren’t in the citizenry’s best interest, because they increase the chances of perpetuating the *government*.

          I only wish that governments (and specifically, our government) acted from the prime objective of national survival and maximizing national power. For many years now, our government’s prime motivation both in domestic and foreign policy has been crazed idealism — and that’s the most flattering interpretation. A less flattering interpretation is that our government is bent not on national survival, but national suicide. There is evidence aplenty to support that view.

          We can see this most clearly back when autocrats were in power; what did it matter to the Tsar if thousands of his people died and a city of his burned so long as Napoleon was turned away, and he remained in control of Russia? And this still remains a dynamic in existence today.

          The interests of the people and the Tsar were perfectly aligned. Neither one benefited from Russia’s defeat and occupation by the French. Are you forgetting that Napoleon was as much of an autocrat as the Tsar?

          Considering that I’m not the one justifying “anything goes” tactics as a moral imperative, I’m really curious as to how you got here — is it because we don’t go for massive reprisals as an effective technique for squelching it?

          Kratman already answered this.

          I also do not accept that it is a moral imperative to act as vigorously and decisively as possible in furtherance of a possibly immoral act, which is what your statement about EVERY war implies.

          If you are going to do a bad thing (e.g., an unprovoked aggressive war of conquest) then you only compound the immorality by conducting it in a weak and indecisive manner, thus prolonging the conflict and inevitably causing more casualties on both sides.

          A war over border disputes or water rights (and such things certainly have happened, and, I’m sure, will continue to) are not best served by massive escalation; the cost of the war can, in such a case, rapidly outweigh any conceivable benefit. You may argue then that such a war shouldn’t have been started — but come on and be a grown-up ;) — and admit that wars get started for many, many reasons.

          No. The cost of the war is far more likely to outweigh the benefit if you are weak and indecisive than if you secure a rapid, decisive victory through the application of overwhelming force. A war over something trivial better not have the major costs that are certain to accrue if you go in weak and the conflict is prolonged.

          I might be able to accept — and I wonder if you can as well — that it is a moral and practical imperative for a nation in a war to do the utmost it can for victory without disproportionately endangering its citizens. Then we can argue about what constitutes “proportionally”, but at least we’ve started from a common ground.

          Any self-imposed restraint that hinders rapid, decisive victory will disproportionately endanger your citizens — especially the ones wearing your uniform.

        • Steven Schwartz

          “Overwhelming force” against Grenada, Panama, or Iraq has different requirements than “overwhelming force” against China or the USSR.

          Well, given that we managed to do a pretty good job of wearing out large chunks of our army using what, accourding to you, wasn’t “overwhelming force” against Iraq, it makes me wonder what you think we needed to use?

          “No. They are always in alignment. Overwhelming force is militarily correct, and also diplomatically and humanely correct, because a rapid and victorious end to the war (a) minimizes casualties, and (b) impresses other nations with your power. Prolonged and indecisive wars are the ones that result in humanitarian catastrophes and degrade your diplomatic credibility.”

          You seem to presume that “overwhelming force” does not include, say, massive civilian casualties — if you mean that, then say so, and feel free to argue against bombing of civilian targets, land mines, etc.

          A decisive victory achieved through methods that others find inhumane/etc. will neither minimize casualties or impress others positively.

          “He went in with minimal force, and tried to conduct a nice, humane occupation, and the result was a military, humanitarian, and diplomatic catastrophe. If we had gone in with overwhelming force and established a no-nonsense occupation regime, the result would have been far different.”

          Ah — and here we have it; “no-nonsense” meaning *more* torture, I presume? Reprisals? What, pray tell, was the “nonsense” involved in the reconstruction of Iraq that was too lenient?

          “I don’t argue that biological weapons or land mines are immoral. Neither is fighting to the death against an invader.”

          No, you argued that *banning* biological weapons or land mines was immoral, because it was not fighting to the death.

          “Every single one of them, without exception, would be better off if their nation had won the war than if they’d lost it. And yes, that means the people too, not just the government.”

          You realize you’re arguing that things would have been better for, say, Germany under Hitler or Cambodia under Pol Pot?

          “”No nation (or empire) defeated in World War I benefited from that defeat, idiot. The people of those defeated nations/empires were FAR worse off after that defeat and the installation of successor governments.”

          Tell that to the Czechs. Or the Hungarians. There’s a reason those polyglot empires broke up. Or, for that matter, ask the Poles.

          Or didn’t they count as “people” of the Austro-Hungarian or German empires?

          “I only wish that governments (and specifically, our government) acted from the prime objective of national survival and maximizing national power.”

          The two of those are a) not always compatible, and b) do not always reflect the will of the people behind them, which gets us back to the people/government distinction.

          “The interests of the people and the Tsar were perfectly aligned. Neither one benefited from Russia’s defeat and occupation by the French. Are you forgetting that Napoleon was as much of an autocrat as the Tsar?”

          Oh, good grief; not all autocrats are equal. For example, a Frenchman did ahve more rights than a Russian, even with Napoleon as Emperor; furthermore, one can easily argue from the point of view of a Russian ex-peasant that it was better to be French than dead.

          The ideal outcomes from the Russian peasant’s POV were either a: no war, b: a swift French defeat, or c: a swift Russian defeat, all of them without scorched-earth tactics.

          “No. The cost of the war is far more likely to outweigh the benefit if you are weak and indecisive than if you secure a rapid, decisive victory through the application of overwhelming force.”

          1) There is a difference between “weak and indecisive” and “not engaging in total warfare”. You appear to be missing this.

          2) You also presume from this that both sides in a limited war will view “fight to the very last man” as a moral imperative, when, in fact, governments in the past (and presumably in the present) are capable of making calculations like “No; that province isn’t worth it” or the like?

          “Any self-imposed restraint that hinders rapid, decisive victory will disproportionately endanger your citizens — especially the ones wearing your uniform.”

          The ones wearing the uniform have been paid to risk their lives in their nation’s service; if I had the choice (to pick a number at relative random) of sacrificing a thousand soldiers to save a hundred thousand civilian citizens, I would.

          And in the current international climate, any country that would sacrifice a thousand enemy civilians to save one soldier’s life would rapidly find itself isolated — and that isolation would put at great risk the entirety of the citizenry.

          So, no; self-imposed restraints serve a diplomatic and humanitarian purpose,, which, when looking at the larger picture, can save more lives than they cost in the short term.

        • Ming the Merciless

          Well, given that we managed to do a pretty good job of wearing out large chunks of our army using what, accourding to you, wasn’t “overwhelming force” against Iraq, it makes me wonder what you think we needed to use?

          Easy. 20 troops per thousand people is the well-known (even before 2003) rule of thumb, i.e., about 500,000 troops. We had that force in Saudi Arabia in 1991. Too bad we didn’t use it then, eh?

          You seem to presume that “overwhelming force” does not include, say, massive civilian casualties — if you mean that, then say so, and feel free to argue against bombing of civilian targets, land mines, etc.

          If massive civilian casualties are required to make the enemy surrender, or no real way exists to minimize civilian casualties, so be it. In WW2, overwhelming force was required, and massive civilian casualties were unavoidable.

          Today it is possible to employ overwhelming force with many fewer civilian casualties than in the past. Unfortunately, the Left defines “massive civilian casualties” as whatever level of casualties the American military is currently inflicting…

          A decisive victory achieved through methods that others find inhumane/etc. will neither minimize casualties or impress others positively.

          The world was very, very positively impressed with the decisive victory imposed on Germany and Japan.

          The world was (and remains) very, very unimpressed with our indecisive floundering in Iraq and Afghanistan.

          What constitutes “inhumane methods” is a matter of opinion and should be ignored.

          Ah — and here we have it; “no-nonsense” meaning *more* torture, I presume? Reprisals?

          Different torture, anyway. I got the impression a lot of it was inflicted not for any serious purpose, but due to boredom and indiscipline. And yes, hostage taking and reprisals, certainly.

          No, you argued that *banning* biological weapons or land mines was immoral

          Where did I do that?

          You realize you’re arguing that things would have been better for, say, Germany under Hitler or Cambodia under Pol Pot?

          (shrug) The Germans would undeniably have been better off if they’d won the war than if they’d lost it. The conquest of Germany involved millions of deaths, mass rapes, mass starvation, mass enslavement, ethnic cleansing, destruction of their cities, redrawing of their national borders, and many other horrors.

          “”No nation (or empire) defeated in World War I benefited from that defeat, idiot. The people of those defeated nations/empires were FAR worse off after that defeat and the installation of successor governments.”
          Tell that to the Czechs. Or the Hungarians. There’s a reason those polyglot empires broke up. Or, for that matter, ask the Poles.

          LMAO, you are welcome to believe that the history of Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary was “happier” (especially for the “average Joe”) from 1918 to 2015 than it was from 1815 to 1914.

          “I only wish that governments (and specifically, our government) acted from the prime objective of national survival and maximizing national power.”
          The two of those are a) not always compatible, and b) do not always reflect the will of the people behind them, which gets us back to the people/government distinction.

          Yes, they are always compatible. How are you going to maximize your national power if you don’t survive? When and why would the will of the people be opposed to national survival? Though in recent years I’ve been getting the strong impression that the governments and peoples of Europe and North America do not, in fact, wish to survive.

          Oh, good grief; not all autocrats are equal. For example, a Frenchman did ahve more rights than a Russian, even with Napoleon as Emperor; furthermore, one can easily argue from the point of view of a Russian ex-peasant that it was better to be French than dead.

          Absolute crap. The people of Europe didn’t believe it at the time! Millions of them gave their lives to avoid being French!

          The ideal outcomes from the Russian peasant’s POV were either a: no war, b: a swift French defeat, or c: a swift Russian defeat, all of them without scorched-earth tactics.

          Napoleon chose to invade, and Russia self-evidently could not prevent it, so (a) is off the table.
          The Russian Army was incapable of defeating the French Army rapidly, so (b) is off the table.
          The Russian peasantry did not believe that (c) was good for them, and neither did the Tsar or the army, so (c) is off the table.
          Last but not least, the peasants actively cooperated with the scorched earth strategy – they burned their homes and farms, and harassed French troops – indicating that your view of the “ideal outcome from the Russian peasant’s POV” simply has no basis in reality.

          1) There is a difference between “weak and indecisive” and “not engaging in total warfare”. You appear to be missing this.

          If you fail to apply overwhelming force to secure a rapid, decisive victory, then you are by definition weak and indecisive.

          2) You also presume from this that both sides in a limited war will view “fight to the very last man” as a moral imperative, when, in fact, governments in the past (and presumably in the present) are capable of making calculations like “No; that province isn’t worth it” or the like?

          The moral imperative is to apply overwhelming force to secure a rapid, decisive victory. This is not necessarily the same as “fight to the very last man”. If you want “just a province” then it behooves you to take it quickly, not least because that is more likely to convince the enemy that fighting for the province isn’t worth it. If you are the defender, then you need to apply overwhelming force and decisively repel the invader. If either strategy fails then the opponents have to reconsider their options.

          The ones wearing the uniform have been paid to risk their lives in their nation’s service; if I had the choice (to pick a number at relative random) of sacrificing a thousand soldiers to save a hundred thousand civilian citizens, I would.

          All soldiers, at all times, are paid. Even conscripts are paid. Therefore that they are “paid” is meaningless. Furthermore, they are uniformed citizens, and thus their lives have no less value than those of non-uniformed citizens. If you were sitting in the President’s chair, you might well consider, depending on the circumstances, that the value of a trained soldier was 100x that of a civilian. Such calculations have been made many times, and were not always wrong.

          And in the current international climate, any country that would sacrifice a thousand enemy civilians to save one soldier’s life would rapidly find itself isolated — and that isolation would put at great risk the entirety of the citizenry.

          Nah. It would only matter if the “naughty” country in question was weak enough that the “international community” could punish it. Strong countries are never punished, unless they decide to punish themselves (as we so often do).

          The actual threat (as opposed to your fantasy threat) to our safety is from self-imposed restraints that prevent us from acting effectively and achieving rapid, decisive victory.

        • Tom Kratman

          I was only going to do these two, Jack. Outside of those who would prefer maintaining _their_ standard of morality (at least what they claim it is until they gain power), most of our citizens can look at their friends and families and say, “fuck foreigners and traitors.”

      • Mike Harris

        It’s only torture if there’s no safeword. Otherwise, it’s a fetish.

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