Patterico's Pontifications

10/18/2009

When Is It Right to Do to Your Enemy What He Did to You?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 1:17 pm



When your opponent/enemy does bad things to you/your group, when it is morally acceptable for you/your group to do the same thing back to your opponent/enemy?

Let me give you two concrete examples:

  • A man punches you. Is it morally right to punch him back?
  • A suicide bomber kills an innocent child in your country. Is it morally right to strap a bomb to your body, go to his country, find an innocent child, and kill yourself and that innocent child?

I offer these examples as illustrations of extremes, where the answer should be fairly obvious for most people: yes, you can punch the guy; no, you can’t murder the innocent child. The question becomes: what distinguishes them? What are the principles by which we decide that one action is acceptable and the other is not — so that we can apply those principles in cases where the line-drawing is more difficult?

By the way, it’s not certain that everyone will answer the above questions in the obvious way. As with any extreme, you can find people who will give you the nonintuitive answer. Extreme pacifists might tell you it is morally wrong to punch back in the first example. On the Internet, where people love to talk tough, you might find people who would tell you it’s OK to become a suicide bomber, to teach suicide bombers a lesson. It’s common on the Internet to find people who will literally stop at nothing to support the principle of “fighting fire with fire” — even if it means turning ourselves into premeditated murderers of innocent children.

But I’m not interested in the opinions of such extremists. If you answer “no” to the first question, or “yes” to the second, I don’t really care to discuss the matter with you. Your opinion is already known, and your answer to any question is predetermined. That’s fine; you’re entitled to your views — but if your answer is always the same, that doesn’t help those of us who are looking for ways to distinguish acceptable responses from unacceptable ones.

My target audience is the group I suspect most of you fall into. You will say “Hell yes!” to the first question. You will answer the second question “no” because you know that saying “yes” would look crazy. But in your mind, you want to expand upon that “no” because you are committed to fighting fire with fire in general . . . just not to the point where it turns you into a suicide bomber who murders innocent children. Your answer to the second question would probably read something like this:

No, of course I would not sanction murdering innocent children. However, I’m sick and tired of seeing weak-kneed leaders who won’t fight fire with fire. You can’t sit around and let the enemy do whatever it wants; you have to throw the other side’s vile tactics right back at them.

I suspect this is the overwhelming majority of you. Great; you’re who I want to talk to.

What distinguishes acceptable uses of bad tactics from unacceptable ones?

229 Responses to “When Is It Right to Do to Your Enemy What He Did to You?”

  1. Let me start the ball rolling with a few observations that I originally had in the post but decided to demote to the comments, to keep the post shorter.

    We have identified one situation where you agree that you wouldn’t find it justifiable to fight back with the exact same tactics that your enemy uses.

    I want to know if there is a way to set forth general principles that govern when it’s acceptable to “fight fire with fire” and when it’s not.

    I think the above examples show that the answer can depend on how you define the tactic in question. For example, in scenario #1, when you punch back at someone who punches you, are you really doing the same thing the assailant did to you? Yes and no. On a basic level, he’s punching and you’re punching. But what he’s doing is an unprovoked attack on you. You’re not committing an unprovoked attack on him.

    So really, the more proper analogy would be: if a man punches you in an unprovoked manner on Day 1, is it morally right to punch him in an unprovoked manner on Day 2? Day 100?

    It also matters, I think, whether you retaliate against the guilty party, or a member of the group of the guilty party. We often hear in political battles that “the Democrats” have used slimy tactic x, so we must use slimy tactic x against some other Democrat. Whether the latter Democrat has used slimy tactic x is generally held to be beside the point, though I’m not sure exactly why.

    In discussing these questions, then, some possible areas for discussion are: a) how is the tactic defined? b) is use of the tactic necessary for self-defense? c) is the tactic being used against the guilty party or simply another member of his group? d) is the tactic illegal, violent, or dishonest? and so forth.

    Too often, I feel that the method of analysis is as basic as this: person x did or said something we don’t like, and we consider that act or statement as an attack on us or our group. So we don’t like person x. Therefore, any tactic in the world is fair game against person x. Why, he brought it on himself.

    When you engage in this rationalization process, understand well: this is why person x attacked you (or your group). And believe me, he thinks he’s perfectly justified, for the same reasons.

    So one hypothetical answer is this: if you properly define the tactic in a way that shows why it’s a bad tactic (i.e. define an unprovoked attack as an unprovoked attack and not just as a “punch”) then it’s NEVER acceptable to use the same tactics you decry in your enemy. However, it is perfectly acceptable to defend yourself (responding to a punch with a punch). The question becomes when an action is self-defense and when it becomes a morally bad tactic.

    Patterico (64318f)

  2. So really, the more proper analogy would be: if a man punches you in an unprovoked manner on Day 1, is it morally right to punch him in an unprovoked manner on Day 2? Day 100?

    You’re right; this is the more proper analogy. Because, as you imply in your post, and more explicitly get to in your comments, self defense is a big part of the equation here.

    You say you don’t want to discuss w/ people who would say no to your post’s # 1.

    Well, I don’t know if I would say no. It depends on whether he’s still coming at you. It also matters whether (you imply this but don’t exactly say it) whether it’s you or someone else being attacked.

    (It also matters BTW whether you’re 200 pounds and a 125 pound man punches you, insulting you but not really hurting you, and you can really mess him up if you want to with one punch.)

    This is a fantastic topic of conversation and can’t wait to see the replies. My short answers, for the moment, would be that of course # 2 I’d say no to. To # 1 I’d say yes if he’s still coming at you and it’s a fair fight. If he’s attacking someone else all bets are off. No, it is not OK to go back and punch him on Day 100 if he’s not attacking anyone else. But if he’s a history/threat of punching you can restrain him or otherwise protect others on Day 100 or any other.

    Yes, part of this is unabashedly religious. Christians (am Catholic Christian) are supposed to forgive injuries to themselves, but self defense is OK, but vigorously defend others who are being attacked. Not to do so is itself very wrong and can even cost us our relationship with God – that’s how seriously Christianity takes this.

    Just as an example: we actually saw this, a bit, recently here on this site in the various discussions about Roman Polanski. A couple of people wanted him raped in jail. I didn’t and said so because raping people, even if they’re rapists themselves, still isn’t right.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  3. It depends…

    If you need the world to be a warm, fuzzy pink place where you are respected by people who think that fighting is A Bad Thing, then you have to fight…well, kinda like we do now.

    Other than that, nothing should be off limits. Seriously. If we could invent a time machine and go back in time to kill every jihadist, communist and fascist by strangling them in their bassinet, we should.

    This post is stupid, anyway.

    You know how you stop a war? You convince your enemy, whomever it is, that opposing you is the same as death. As certain as the sunrise, and death not for them but for their family, too. They can think nasty thoughts, and mouth nasty words, but as soon as they take any hostile action, you nuke them until they glow and shoot the corpses in the dark.

    Simply put, you don’t care what the Tranzis think and you out ruthless them.

    MunDane68 (54a83b)

  4. We see it all the time. Bloggers decry tactics engaged in by people whom they dislike and then engage in the same tactics. They encourage political leaders to smear their opponents with known lies, be dishonest/corrupt, etc.

    Patterico (64318f)

  5. Thought about whether to include this or not but what the hey: prolly the reason am taking such an interest in this post is that am dealing personally with this issue right now. Someone in my immediate family dealt me a very personal, large and undeserved rejection some years ago and this person has no idea whatsoever how upset I am about it, because I’ve never told them about it, feeling it was better to forgive and be friendly and kind. Now this person is in a position to be rejected in the same way, which would hurt them a lot without affecting anyone else (don’t ask) and though my principles haven’t changed, am internally really struggling with “Day 1000″ here of what would be a “perfect” major slap back at them. I won’t do it but it’s a tough ride.

    So…it’s human and understandable to want to punch back, even much later. But justice, and defense of others, while always appropriate, can morph into revenge really, really easily. And it’s always hard not to let it IMO.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  6. The objective should ALWAYS be to get the aggressor to stop doing what he/she does. Tit-for-tat is perpetual… a response should be carefully calibrated to make it too painful to for the aggressor to continue with the same behavior.

    Clark Baker (67f8fb)

  7. Hoo boy, is Patterico (and everyone reading this) going to be surprised!

    The first query is not a hypothetical for me. That very thing happened to me way back when I was in high school. And I am going to tell that story in full, later. But first, the answer to the second query: Suicide bombers are idiots and are all in hell the moment after they set themselves off. Period. End of statement.

    Now, on to my story.

    When I was in high school, there was an arcade in the middle of town, underneath the twin-theatre. Every friday night, they had an under-age dance-type-thing. You had to be under-age to enter.

    Well, I went in and, the wall-flower nerd that I was, found an out-of-the-crowd booth to sit in. Along came another kid who loudly declared I was sitting in his (previously empty) booth. So I used my hand to fan away the alcohol in the air that came from his breath and found an empty corner with a chair and sat down in it.

    He came over, along with a couple of his friends, and re-started to torment me. I totally ignored his (and their) presence. He wanted me to go outside to fight him. I ignored his presence. He punched me in the jaw a total of six times while I was seated peacefully and he was trying to make me go outside to fight him, and his friends were encouraging me to go outside to fight him.

    I totally ignored he and his friends even existed. I didn’t try to debate, I didn’t say a word, I didn’t show emotion. I totally ignored their existence, even though one punch actually chipped a tooth.

    I later found out (at school) that he had a bunch of friends waiting outside to beat the stuffing out of me and my choice of actions was right.

    Understand, I am definitely not a pacifist. But there are times when a punch in the mouth is best returned by a refusal to acknowledge the existence of the person who punched you in the mouth.

    Also note: preemptive defensive attacks against violent enemies are wholly reasonable. In fact, I call for them.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  8. Other than that, nothing should be off limits. Seriously.

    You believe we should go to the countries of suicide bombers and murder innocent children to teach the suicide bombers a lesson. I anticipated such responses in my post, because this is the Internet and people like to talk tough on the Internet. Especially anonymous people who can’t be easily held accountable for their idiotic positions.

    (Your philosophy of ruling out nothing, no matter how despicable, is the same as that of bin Laden, who is happy to murder children in our country. The only difference is the nature of the religion that each of you will use any immoral tactic to advance.)

    But I’m not really interested in your view. It doesn’t help me understand where rational people should draw the line.

    They can think nasty thoughts, and mouth nasty words, but as soon as they take any hostile action, you nuke them until they glow and shoot the corpses in the dark.

    That’s a different argument. It’s responding to an unprovoked attack with overwhelming force. Something like: if someone comes up and shoves you without cause, you shoot him in the head.

    That’s a different discussion from the discussion of whether or not to use the SAME tactics against an opponent that he used against you.

    This post is stupid, anyway.

    I invite you to go elsewhere, then. It’s a big Internet. Nobody’s forcing you to be here. I don’t particularly care to have you here. You think my post is stupid. So why not saddle up and ride off into the sunset, pardner?

    Patterico (64318f)

  9. If we could invent a time machine and go back in time to kill every jihadist, communist and fascist by strangling them in their bassinet, we should.
    Comment by MunDane68 — 10/18/2009 @ 1:46 pm

    You didn’t see Terminator 2, did you? LOL

    Seriously, ummm no. We don’t have a time machine (which is just another way of saying we are not God) and therefore we have no right to kill children because we think good may come of the killing. Abortion advocates think like this. No thank you; never.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  10. I’m with #2 above. It depends on the circumstances. Are they still coming at you? Is it a fair fight? What if it is a petulant child? Is it okay to hit them back (I realize you used “man” in your example)?

    I’m not a fan of retaliatory violence but recognize there is a time and a place. If there is a good chance that the perpetrator is going to come at you again, you might need to take them down. Sometimes it is not immediately clear that this is the case, so day 2 or day 100 would be acceptable in some circumstances.

    Gina (eb0d5c)

  11. John H.: I’m sorry that happened to you. It seems to me that you’re discussing tactics rather than morality. I asked the question to pursue the ethical discussion, but tactics can play into the the ethical discussion: if an action is pointless, why pursue it?

    Along those lines:

    no one you know: I face a similar dilemma as a blogger from time to time. While it may seem that I pull no punches in blog wars, there have been times when I have gotten into disputes where I had boatloads of evidence of utter hypocrisy on the part of my opponent, but chose not to publish it because I didn’t want the fight to go on.

    Blog fights tend to be bad for the reputations of both participants regardless of who is right. If you’ve been in a blogfight for a week and find a video of your opponent raping a chicken while chanting racist poems, your supporters will cheer, his supporters will find a reason that it was bad for you to post the video, and disinterested parties will wonder why you keep engaging in the pissing contest. There is literally no point you can score that will change that dynamic; rationality goes out the window and loyalty to one’s side is the order of the day.

    This, of course, is also a tactical discussion rather than a moral one: clearly disclosing my opponent’s rank hypocrisy would be morally justified. But tactically, while he/she pulled no punches, and this convinced some that I was a bad person, I still withheld my evidence of my opponent’s hypocrisy for the reasons I stated. And while I still get mad about it on occasion, on balance I think I did (and continue to do) the right thing.

    Patterico (64318f)

  12. in my old age, i play it out like this: you punch me, i call the cops, you go to jail and i sue you for everything i can. much more satisfying than getting into a scrum where the outcome would be, at best, murky.

    scenario 2: seek out, identify, and utterly destroy the C3I network responsible for the actual bomber, quietly and without press releases, photo ops and all the rest. extend the attack back beyond the actual players to whatever power, nation state or other entity, that is behind it, and make their life a hell to the point where they have neither the time, energy, resources or desire to instigate such an act again.

    redc1c4 (fb8750)

  13. You’re right; this is the more proper analogy. Because, as you imply in your post, and more explicitly get to in your comments, self defense is a big part of the equation here.

    Yeah, but a lot of people define self-defense as: someone from group x hurt me or my group, so I can do anything I like to any member of group x and call it self-defense.

    Make no mistake: this is how suicide bombers justify their actions. You think they realize how evil they are? No: every single evil act ever taken by a human being who wasn’t insane was first rationalized — usually in just this way.

    Patterico (64318f)

  14. I’m not sure people are all understanding what I’m asking. It’s not to respond to the two (obvious) hypos — the answers are should be clear. The question is: how do we articulate the principles that separate them? Why is one acceptable and the other not?

    Patterico (64318f)

  15. I’m actually not sorry it happened to me. Seeing as I have t-shirts from high school (obviously older than my daughter) and my daughter is of drinking-age, my HS experience is ancient history. But that particular experience I had, and the off-camera observers who saw my (lack of) reaction had much praise for me. They had a newfound interest in what made me tick and a newfound respect for me. It didn’t make me popular or even accepted in any social circles but it did make my own personal message more readily accepted. And, years later, I honestly believe it made a terminally-ill former classmate find salvation.

    So, all in all, I am not in the least bit sorry that happened to me. In fact, I am glad it did.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  16. When the USA usually kills innocents in Iraq or Afghanistan it is usually because the terrorists are hiding behind or among innocents.

    Stan Switek (d9d8ce)

  17. Stan,

    I completely agree.

    I doubt there is anyone here, in fact, who would disagree.

    But don’t you have a response to the post?

    Patterico (64318f)

  18. I think it is morally righteous to hunt down the cowards who have convinced the emotionally and mentally unstable to become suicide bombers and kill them and those who harbor them.
    Collateral damages are morally neutral as those who associate with these cowards do so willingly… the death of a child is on the parents.

    SteveG (97b6b9)

  19. War is not a ‘legal’ battle of proof, adversarial contest with a mediator and judgement of guilt or innocence at the end. War is a struggle for survival

    The minute you commit to waging war, which is the removal of a culture or nation from the face of the earth, legal arguments are for the panty twisters and a hankie-stompers, everyone else is fighting for survival.

    Civilization should say, “You can choose how we fight, but we use your methods against you.” Yes, we are not G-d, but war demands that we not only play His role, but that of His enemy as well.

    By not being ruthless enough you prolong a war guaranteeing that more will die over a long period of time than if it was quick, ruthless and final. And yes, this means our kids are worth more than “theirs” are, whoever ‘they’ are.

    MunDane68 (54a83b)

  20. Why is one acceptable and the other not?

    Heh. I think I crushed that hypothetical premise. 😉

    But, the underlying question is a valid one. A nation does not need to willfully take a beating. A nation does not need to allow terrorists to kill thousands of people without reproach. And a nation does not need to wait for it to happen to respond. Preemptive destruction is fully acceptable. Of course, that preemptive destruction should always be as surgical as possible.

    There is always collateral damage resultant from military actions. So what? The fact that the US, and most definitely Israel, takes so much effort to reduce collateral damage while enemies of freedom take so much effort to increase collateral damage should make a loud and clear statement.

    It’s the libturds who refuse to see this. Or, in the case of many libturds in power, work diligently to hide this.

    There is a huge, HUGE, difference between active self-defense with careful consideration of non-participants and active aggression with intentional destruction of non-participants. And any libturd who does not see this is an idiot.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  21. I think it is morally righteous to hunt down the cowards who have convinced the emotionally and mentally unstable to become suicide bombers and kill them and those who harbor them.
    Collateral damages are morally neutral as those who associate with these cowards do so willingly… the death of a child is on the parents.

    None of which has anything to do with what I’m asking in the post.

    Patterico (64318f)

  22. I’d modify this:

    No, of course I would not sanction murdering innocent children. However, I’m sick and tired of seeing weak-kneed leaders who won’t fight fire with fire. You can’t sit around and let the enemy do whatever it wants; you have to throw the other side’s vile tactics right back at them.

    My answer would me more like:

    No, of course I wouldn’t sacntion murdering innocent children. However, I’m sick and tired of seeing weak-kneed leaders who won’t fight fire with fire. You can’t sit around and let the enemy do whatever it wants. It’s obvious the enemy cares nothing for our children or theirs, but there is something the enemy does care about very much and I’ll bet we’ll find that it’s something we can attack without a single qualm. So let’s find that that thing and attack it relentlessly, without rest or apology until the enemy begs us to accept its surrender.

    Jimmie (9cbe3d)

  23. The problem in these scenarios is when one side draws the boundaries at a different place, or when one side is playing by a different set of rules. And allowing your opponent to set differing rules can be a recipe for a loss.

    JD (bdd997)

  24. War is not a ‘legal’ battle of proof, adversarial contest with a mediator and judgement of guilt or innocence at the end. War is a struggle for survival

    The minute you commit to waging war, which is the removal of a culture or nation from the face of the earth, legal arguments are for the panty twisters and a hankie-stompers, everyone else is fighting for survival.

    Civilization should say, “You can choose how we fight, but we use your methods against you.” Yes, we are not G-d, but war demands that we not only play His role, but that of His enemy as well.

    By not being ruthless enough you prolong a war guaranteeing that more will die over a long period of time than if it was quick, ruthless and final. And yes, this means our kids are worth more than “theirs” are, whoever ‘they’ are.

    Substitute “theirs” for “ours” and vice versa and you could be bin Laden. You’re defending murdering innocent children — not accidentally killing them as colleteral damage, as many pose here to avoid the question I’m actually asking, but MURDERING — because they are from the “culture” of your enemy with whom you are at war.

    That’s why bin Laden wants to kill YOUR children.

    I’m not even interested in arguing this point. If you want to defend suicide bombings against innocent children to show how you’re tough, do it somewhere else. I’m trying to have a discussion with people capable of seeing that’s wrong.

    Patterico (64318f)

  25. The problem in these scenarios is when one side draws the boundaries at a different place, or when one side is playing by a different set of rules. And allowing your opponent to set differing rules can be a recipe for a loss.

    OK, JD. That sounds nice as a generality, but in this post I’m getting specific. So let’s get specific. If your opponent’s rules that he sets for himself includes the right to suicide bomb and murder your innocent child, do you think you now have the moral right to go suicide bomb and murder an innocent child from his country — a child with no connection to any bombers other than that she lives in the same country?

    If you say no, then you’re forcing yourself to live by different rules than your opponent has set for himself.

    So do you answer yes or no?

    Patterico (64318f)

  26. Patterico, this is an awesome topic. A great subject, and the way you articulated the two positions has preempted my instinct with reason. For that, I thank you kindly.

    I have had a similar conversation with a tactical consultant who had a direct audience with Gen. David Petreus, discussing a practical application of tactics and morality. It greatly frustrated me, because my final position on choosing a higher morality actually decreased the percentage of a tactical win. And I am not sure that a loss is preferable, as long as a ‘moral victory’ is still a loss.

    Thanks for the subject, the site, and all your hard work over the many years. Cheers!

    TimesDisliker (5944e0)

  27. The question asks about tactics and timing and without context.

    The tactics used – along with the target(s) and the timing – should be sufficient to ensure the safety of yourself, family, friends and neighbors… no less than that, no more than that.

    Thus, punching someone in the mouth because they punched you is not acceptable, however, punching them in the mouth to prevent or deter them from trying to punch you again certainly is OK, just as would be punching them first to keep them from punching you even once. By this standard, it’s okay to punch a friend of the guy who punched you, if doing so keeps us safe from further attack. As for the second example, while I doubt this would ever be the case, if doing so kept your enemies from continuing to do the same to your family and there was no other, more humane tactic that you could use that would accomplish your goal, sure, go for it.

    It’s akin to the ‘ticking bomb’ scenario of torture: would you torture someone to gain information that would prevent the attack that would otherwise kill your family and friends? And the same holds here: who wants to be in situation where someone in their family dies because you didn’t want to throw a punch? Or launch a missile into a terrorist compound because there were ‘innocent’ kids around?

    steve sturm (3811cf)

  28. No, of course I wouldn’t sacntion murdering innocent children. However, I’m sick and tired of seeing weak-kneed leaders who won’t fight fire with fire. You can’t sit around and let the enemy do whatever it wants. It’s obvious the enemy cares nothing for our children or theirs, but there is something the enemy does care about very much and I’ll bet we’ll find that it’s something we can attack without a single qualm. So let’s find that that thing and attack it relentlessly, without rest or apology until the enemy begs us to accept its surrender.

    I recognize that it’s easier to reframe the question in such a way as to make it devoid of the difficult issues.

    But Jimmie, let me ask you: is the ONLY reason you wouldn’t murder the enemy’s children because you believe he doesn’t care for them?

    And anyway, I’m not even talking about murdering a suicide bomber’s children, but just innocent children from a country that contains suicide bombers.

    Patterico (64318f)

  29. I think you need to have principles and stick to them. One principle would be that you have to defend yourself because nobody else will, once you are an adult. You can call the cops (or the assistant DA) but they will punish the guy who killed you. Big deal ! That’s not much help except in a general way. That general way is important for society (See what happened when they quit in the 60s) but isn’t much satisfaction for the victim.

    How do you defend yourself ? There are fists, knives, guns and lawsuits. I thought it was hilarious in “Hook” when Robin Williams whips out his checkbook to deal with Captain Hook. Each has its place along with 911 calls.

    Nation states are a bit different. First of all, there are no cops. We killed millions of civilians in WWII because there was no other way to end the threat of the dictatorships. Was that moral ? I think so because it was part of a national strategy that tried to avoid the civilians (Although Dresden and Hamburg are not good examples) and focused on what needed to be done.

    We spent 50 years in a system called Mutually Assured Destruction that kept the peace. Somebody suggested recently that nuclear weapons are the most deserving Nobel Peace Prize candidate. Suicide bombers are a cultural phenomenon seen in the Muslim world and the Tamil Tigers (One killed Rajiv Ghandi and his mother was assassinated by her body guards who did not expect to escape).

    In the early days of WWII, Colin Kelly was thought to have crashed his B 17 into a Japanese battleship although it turned out not to be true. That was an interesting twist on the Kamikaze story later in the war. The Japanese have a tradition of suicide; we don’t.

    I would be willing to bomb the hell out of the hideouts but the ROE we currently require in Afghanistan are the best reason I know to pack up and come home. We have to decide on the rules and then do what is necessary. If those two choices conflict, we’ve got a problem. We have one now.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  30. steve sturm gives a rational answer: doing despicable things must always be justified by self-defense.

    Of course, that opens up the field for all sorts of sophistry and rationalization: why, I HAD to murder that innocent child because I decided that it was the only way to prevent the bad man from murdering mine!

    Patterico (64318f)

  31. Patterico, here’s an interesting query to go along with your query:

    Which alignment are you?

    I used to spend an inordinate amount of time playing that game. And there’s another alignment not shown in the list: dogmatic. It would be interesting to see what alignment people fall under.

    While I would like to consider myself “principled” I would have to go with “scrupulous” to describe myself.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  32. Is this kind of like the definition of pornography, you know it when you see it? Most can agree you can punch back at the time you are punched. Not so much if you walk up to the person 2 days later and jack them up. With the suicide bombers, I have no problem going after the group as opposed to the individual, especially in retaliation. Their group chose to play outside of the laws of man, and deserve no cover by not being the splodeydope that committed the actual act.

    JD (bdd997)

  33. I’m not trying to sound wishy – washy here, but I do think that the context of the events described is important. I was also going to bring up our bombing of Japan in order to force them to surrender, which saved millions more on both sides – but I know you don’t want that discussion here: but are we talking about a time of declared war between two countries, or is the suicide bomber considered to be acting mostly alone?

    I do believe that at times an overwhelming response to hostile actions against our country is the best deterrent, or at least the inherent threat of such actions are.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  34. With the suicide bombers, I have no problem going after the group as opposed to the individual, especially in retaliation. Their group chose to play outside of the laws of man, and deserve no cover by not being the splodeydope that committed the actual act.

    JD,

    Do you approve of sending our people into Arab countries, riding buses alongside old women and children, and blowing themselves up with the intention of murdering them?

    Yes or no? It’s not a hard question to answer; if you can’t answer it with a simple yes or no, in fact, that’s worrisome in and of itself.

    Patterico (64318f)

  35. P: I never said it was an easy decision.

    And while it may be off point, I disagree with using the word ‘murder’ to describe such situations. Doesn’t murder involve taking a life without permission from society? And in war, if society give its military permission to do certain things, such as situation #2, then it ain’t murder.

    steve sturm (3811cf)

  36. are we talking about a time of declared war between two countries, or is the suicide bomber considered to be acting mostly alone?

    Why don’t you give your answer for both situations?

    Do you approve of sending our people into Arab countries, riding buses alongside old women and children, and blowing themselves up with the intention of murdering them? a) We are at war with the country; b) we are not but the country has a lotta terrorists.

    Patterico (64318f)

  37. The suicide bomber is now dead in the hypothetical. If he was just some lone nut, “eye for an eye” retaliation is pointless (he’s dead–even if it was somehow “just” to murder his son he won’t be affected by it), and there isn’t much you can do. If he was a representative of a foreign country or a terrorist group, then that group presents a continuing, proven risk to you, your family, your neighbors, and your nation–and any measures you or your nation can take to utterly annihilate that organization, their members, and their allies is justifiable as self-defense. Obviously, that shouldn’t involve intentionally targeting innocents for the sake of killing innocent people (which is what the suicide bomber did), but if the terrorists/rogue nation leaders hide behind innocents, the responsibility for any deaths of innocents resulting from the deaths of those innocents fall on the terrorists/rogue nation leaders. A lot of innocent people died at Hiroshima and Nagasaki–doesn’t mean it wasn’t right to call in the nukes to end a war the Japanese Empire started.

    M. Scott Eiland (c552ec)

  38. Doesn’t murder involve taking a life without permission from society? And in war, if society give its military permission to do certain things, such as situation #2, then it ain’t murder.

    That’s too relativistic for me; under that argument, Palestinians don’t “murder” Israeli children because their sick society approves of suicide bombings.

    Patterico (64318f)

  39. I have no problem going after the group as opposed to the individual, especially in retaliation.

    I agree, but the devil’s in the details – for instance, we knew that the Taliban was allowing OBL to operate freely within it’s country’s borders, so a direct response against their rulers and military operations were warranted. But what of the civilians in harm’s way, do you turn them against you by inadverdently killing them? And what about our feckless turncoat “allies” in the House of Saud? Did they not play at least an indirect role via the use of their funding of radical madrasses that effectively spread this type of Moslem viewpoint across the Western World (like the hijackers not only being from SA, but also receiving much of their religious indoctrination while slumming in Germany)?.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  40. Man, I really want to write a response to this post, but I’ve got a class to teach in a few minutes and my answer is going to take a while to compose. One big difficulty here, Pat, is that you’re mixing up two different approaches to ethical decision making. Some of your comments imply that you’re seeking a moral answer, but others seem to be pragmatic.

    I strongly suspect this is not entirely hypothetical. And, now that I think of it, even if it is not prompted by an experience in the life of our host, I am sure it applies to most everyone else here in one way or another.

    Hope I can join you later… and that the thread isn’t defunct by the time I can get to it!

    Gesundheit (47b0b8)

  41. Obviously, that shouldn’t involve intentionally targeting innocents for the sake of killing innocent people

    I agree — but then the answer is: why?

    What distinguishes that from, say, defending yourself against a guy trying to punch you?

    Is it steve sturm’s answer — that you can only take those actions that are necessary for self defense?

    And you agree that, in this case, even if the enemy sets up one standard of conduct for himself, we must (in this respect) set up a different standard for ourself. Right?

    So, why?

    Patterico (64318f)

  42. Patterico – Of course, no. I would not advocate going splodeydope on other’s children and innocents intentionally as a retaliation.

    JD (bdd997)

  43. One big difficulty here, Pat, is that you’re mixing up two different approaches to ethical decision making. Some of your comments imply that you’re seeking a moral answer, but others seem to be pragmatic.

    No, let me be clear, as Obama would say: I’m talking about ethics and morals.

    John H. injected pragmatism into the debate and I think that’s interesting and potentially (marginally) relevant to the ethics, but again, I am seeking an answer rooted in questions of ethics.

    Patterico (64318f)

  44. There are obviously some things that are never acceptable of which your second example is one.

    And obviously, you punching me (or shooting at me in a more extreme example) entitles me, in that moment, to protect myself even if that means punching or shooting you.

    The line exists somewhere around vigilantism which is why I assume there are so many movies made about avenging someone else’s death. Not clear if that’s acceptable or not. At least in movieland.

    On a related note, I think it’s probably acceptable for us to call all liberals “child molesters” since they call all conservatives “racists”.

    we have as much prove of (A) as they do of (B).

    Rosetta (e3f265)

  45. Of course, no. I would not advocate going splodeydope on other’s children and innocents intentionally as a retaliation.

    So, your opponent has set up that standard for himself, and you would nevertheless insist that we set up a different standard for our own actions.

    Correct?

    Patterico (64318f)

  46. I would define the question as ‘When is tit for tat a morally acceptable strategy’? and would answer ‘When the retributive action (A) does not cause considerable harm to a third party and (B) has a purpose other than punishment–such as prevention.”

    This answer introduces the broader philosophical questions of retributive justice (‘eye for an eye’ vs ‘turn the other cheek’), when is evil permissible for the greater good (never vs sometimes), and individual vs group blame–each of which could fill a book.

    From a purely tactical perspective, tit for tat and “tit for tat with forgiveness” have been demonstrated to be the most successful strategies (see this article – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma).

    oneisnotprime (e25cc0)

  47. Yes.

    JD (a50cac)

  48. Why don’t you give your answer for both situations?

    OK – if we in a declared war with another country, then unfortunately all bets are off regarding civilian casualties. However, since our military takes an almost superhuman care not to kill/maim innocent civilians, I’m OK with their actions during times of conflict. The usual caveats should also apply – make it clear to the civilians that we are not at war with them, only their rulers who are advocating the hostilities. BUT – if a large majority of their population is in full support of their leadership, then we also make it clear that although our goals are not to directly attack them, they should abandon their leaders or else they may suffer the consequences inadverdently.

    As for the second question, no way in hell do we do that – one of the reasons why the US is still widely admired across the world is that we do not sink to the subhuman level of our adversaries. We don’t abduct enemy combatants and/or journalists and civilians and summarily chop their heads off, nor do we engage in terrorist actions directly aimed at the civilian population.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  49. I strongly suspect this is not entirely hypothetical.

    Well, it’s hypothetical in this post, but it’s terribly relevant to a million different controversies that we see every day, in all sorts of contexts. We constantly debate whether, for example, it’s OK to smear Obama with lies if one concludes that he has smeared our guy with lies. To take one example among a million.

    Patterico (64318f)

  50. BTW, I should clarify that this does not endorse any “special ops” that would also target civilians – not that we would ever do that in the first place.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  51. And I think, Patterico, that I provided answers to the ethics involved. I also provided a secondary set of questions (pick your alignment) to further quantify your query.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  52. Dmac,

    You redefined the question I asked, to answer one you preferred to answer.

    Let me ask it again:

    Why don’t you give your answer for both situations?

    Do you approve of sending our people into Arab countries, riding buses alongside old women and children, and blowing themselves up with the intention of murdering them? a) We are at war with the country; b) we are not but the country has a lotta terrorists.

    You answered b) but dodged a).

    Patterico (64318f)

  53. Woah, wait a minute: first you’re discussing situations involved with the potential killing of innocents, now we’re talking about political discourse? Count me confused here.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  54. We constantly debate whether, for example, it’s OK to smear Obama with lies if one concludes that he has smeared our guy with lies.

    It is never okay to lie. The fact Obama and the ObamaNation lie constantly (fact) does not mean we can do the same. It is never okay to lie.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  55. I mean, you’re using examples of widely varied gradations – right?

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  56. I would define the question as ‘When is tit for tat a morally acceptable strategy’? and would answer ‘When the retributive action (A) does not cause considerable harm to a third party and (B) has a purpose other than punishment–such as prevention.”

    This is the best answer I have seen. But then we get into sticky questions about how to define a third party, don’t we?

    Isn’t there an element of identity politics when we attack a member of a group because someone else in that group has attacked us?

    Patterico (64318f)

  57. Bill Whittle posted an interesting video October 5th at Pajamas TV titled “Game Theory and a Losing Strategy: Obama’s Bad Judgment With The Prisoner’s Dilemma”, I recommend it.

    He does a nice job of reviewing the well known “Prisoner’s dilemma”, which predicts how two parties will behave toward each other in a negotiation.

    The bare options are cooperation or betrayal.

    Essentially, in a single negotiation, to betray the other guy works best. Screw him and move on.

    However, the real world is a continuous series of negotiations, so the outcome of the last round affects the next round.

    In an iterated prisoner’s dilemma, the best long-term outcome is produced by tit-for-tat, punishing the other party for what they did last time.

    It is not best to be aggressive as your first move, but it is essential to cure the other party’s aggressiveness by retaliation.

    Retailiation is not revenge. It’s a price the aggressor must pay to limit his future aggression.

    After retaliation, forgiveness is applied to stop an endless cycle of revenge and counter-revenge.

    In your hypotheticals, I don’t think there is any question that retailiation is required in each case. The question is always: what is the appropriate retaliation and who should deliver it?

    Case 1: It’s ok (and arguably best) to do it yourself, right then. If you need help, your friends can help, right then.

    Didn’t the world laugh at and approve of the tranvestite cage fighters’ instant retaliation against those drunks in Wales a week ago?

    However, to be moral, the retaliation must be at the same level as the original aggression. The cage fighters did exactly that and we approved. If the cage fighters had seriously beaten, maimed or killed the aggressors, the retaliation would have been viewed as a new round of immoral aggression.

    If you cannot personally retaliate, or don’t want to personally retaliate, or time has passed, the moral choice these days is to outsource the retaliation to the police and courts.

    Case 2: Retaliation is still essential, however it has to be aimed at the aggressor(s), not innocent bystanders, children, or even families. The level selected needs to hurt the aggressor(s). If you cannot make a clear case who the aggressor was, then retaliation is not possible, not yet.

    In both Case 1 and Case 2, failure to retaliate invites the same aggression again.

    Don’t be the first to throw a punch, but be the last.

    I hope President Obama is listening.

    http://www.pjtv.com/video/Afterburner_with_Bill_Whittle/Game_Theory_and_a_Losing_Strategy%3A_Obama%27s_Bad_Judgment_With_The_Prisoner%27s_Dilemma/2523/

    Bill Lever (a16f35)

  58. Do you approve of sending our people into Arab countries, riding buses alongside old women and children, and blowing themselves up with the intention of murdering them? a) We are at war with the country; b) we are not but the country has a lotta terrorists.

    Fair enough – no to both questions.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  59. #

    Woah, wait a minute: first you’re discussing situations involved with the potential killing of innocents, now we’re talking about political discourse? Count me confused here.

    See if you can guess what the common connection is. Hint: it’s in the post.

    This is a topic that comes up in a variety of contexts.

    Patterico (64318f)

  60. Dmac: OK, now: the question is WHY you answer no to a.

    Do you EVER approve of doing something that you would normally consider wrong because your enemy is doing it?

    Let’s go back to political discourse. You see that Obama has smeared McCain. You have a chance to publish something that you know would be an unfair smear towards Obama, but you also know it will hurt him. Is it moral to do that to him?

    It is moral to unfairly smear another candidate — candidate NoSuchGuy — who is a Democrat but who has never smeared anybody? Because he is from a party that often smears people? And because he wants to do unwise things to the country?

    And please don’t answer that there is no such guy as a Democrat who never smeared anyone. That’s why I jokingly named him NoSuchGuy — to forestall the easy dodge.

    Patterico (64318f)

  61. It is never okay to lie.

    That’s very easily proved wrong. The robber at the door yells to his companion: “We’re going to kidnap everyone in the house!” and then turns to you and asks: “Is your wife home?”

    And she is.

    Patterico (64318f)

  62. It is never okay to lie. The fact Obama and the ObamaNation lie constantly (fact) does not mean we can do the same. It is never okay to lie.

    I think, to put it in Rush’s words, that it’s okay to draw attention to absurdity by being absurd.

    That was my thought in calling liberals “child molesters”. It’s a lie as offensive and horrible and calling conservatives “racist”. And as deserved.

    Are there conservatives that are racist? Of course. Are there liberals that are child molesters? Of course there are.

    *cough* Polanski *cough*

    Rosetta (e3f265)

  63. Corrie Ten Boom relayed a story about a friend of hers who said “It’s never okay to lie.”

    Nazis came into their house (her friend’s) and asked “Are there any Jews here?” And her friend answered, “Yes. They are under the table.”

    There was a trap door under the kitchen table. Opening that trap door would show Jews hiding in that house.

    The nazis laughed and left.

    It’s never okay to lie.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  64. JD,

    So what I find interesting — and I don’t have an easy answer, but I like that offered by oneisnotprime — is WHEN it’s OK to set up different standards for yourself than your opponent has set up for himself.

    I read on the Internet all the time that you have to fight as dirty as your opponent. Well, the prisoner’s dilemma stuff discussed here (more with a pragmatic bent than an ethical bent) all relates to the concept of returning to your opponent exactly what he gave you.

    Morally, I don’t see the problem with that, as long as it’s a) in reaction to an unprovoked attack; b) clear you’re doing it as retaliation; and c) the level is not excessive.

    As a practical matter, it’s difficult to put in practice when your opponent lies about you. Should you lie about him in response? I confront this problem in the real world constantly.

    Sometimes you can tell exactly the same kind of lie, while making it clear that you are not actually trying to propound the lie, but are merely illustrating by example what your opponent is doing. But that’s not doing back to him what he did to you, since he really tried to propound the lie.

    If you just tell the lie and try to get people to actually believe it, you risk your own credibility if it’s found out.

    Patterico (64318f)

  65. JD was the only one what used the word boundaries. That’s interesting. Your response needs to both communicate what your boundaries are and establish what the ramifications are for breaching them I think. The ramifications have to hurt without providing a justification of the original provocation.

    The important thing is to be creative. Have fun with it.

    happyfeet (f62c43)

  66. A story my daughter told elsewhere:

    Laura:

    ok now I have to say something. Blu, whoever you think you are, why don’t you go over there and see what really goes on in the American run Iraqi prison system. I will tell you, I worked in one for 15 months, and we got spit on, human shit thrown at us, attacked, and not once were we allowed to “fight back” let alone abuse our prisoners. We could subdue them, and that was all. I want to see you go over there and keep your composure, as you have shown you are too ignorant for already, while you are getting hit in the face with a steaming pile of human shit that some Iraqi who you saw footage of blowing up your comrades just grabbed out of the seat of his pants.
    The American soldiers you see on tape torturing prisoners? Some punk ass privates, you know somebody like them. There’s one or two in every crowd. You cannot sit there, from your lay-z-boy, with your McD’s in hand, while next to your family everyday, and say that you wouldn’t be the one to take your anger and rage out on people you know, KNOW, just blew up your best friend. You are basing your entire opinion of the prison system off of a few isolated incidents. Correct me if I am wrong, but that follows the exact same principals as racism, sexism, and all the other unjustified hatreds in this world.
    Women and children? Yeah, we had them, they were also involved in the infiltration of our FOB(forward operating base) when we arrested them. As for other children in the prisons, well you tell me… There’s no family, no orphanage, and we just arrested their mother and father, what would you have us do with them? Since you know everything there ever was to know.
    Arresting innocent people? I’m sorry, tell the bad guys to put a uniform on and fight us face to face to save us the confusion, then I promise you, no innocent people will be arrested. Some of them do wear uniforms though, they are the corrupt IP and IA, I have the newspaper article where 2 IA killed 5 of our guys with an RPG. Oh, yeah, and they are the ones who abuse prisoners, not us. And when we had prisoners with disciplinary problems, we threatened that we would send them to the IP and they calmed down, very quickly. Short story, in closing…
    I improcessed a prisoner once, as I did many times. We recieved him from the IP’s, he was in their custody for 60 days before being handed over to us. (Notice, the Iraqi Police were the arresting officers) He was STILL wearing the clothes he was arrested in. He had a broken foot, and a 60 day old bullet in his leg, neither of which had even so much as a scooby-doo band-aid on them. So, as SOP states, we held him for 14days, mandatory. We discovered, during his stay, that he had lived in a duplex, well the bad guys lived in the other half. THE IRAQI POLICE got the wrong guy, and beat the snot out of him for no reason. He was a school teacher, with 5 young boys and a wife who didn’t work. His family was left out to dry for no reason. We sent him home with $120( 1400 dinar per US dollar) a new pair of crutches, a mended foot and bullet wound, and new found faith in the Coallition. He cried while he thanked us for everything when we released him back to his family.

    So Blu, before you preach on something, you need to get your facts straight. Because I’ve been there, I’ve lived it, I know what it’s like. So until you do, what what you say because before you just looked stupid, now, you look like a complete idiot.
    26 September 2009, 12:58 am

    It is never okay to sink to their standards. But that does not prevent retaliatory self-defense measures or preemptive self-defense measures. It just means we are better than them and we don’t need to sink to their levels.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  67. Did I get caught in moderation?

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  68. The question is easier to answer if we don’t look at ourselves as gods or detached philosophers but as people with duties, sometimes conflicting, to our families, our society, and to all human beings.

    So the answer to Patterico’s suicide bombing question is: What duty do I have and to whom that is stronger than my duty not to kill an innocent child in a foreign country?

    nk (df76d4)

  69. The right and moral thing to do is use the minimum level of violence/force/coercion which will solve the problem. That can be a tit-for-tat response and can even involve an escalated response beyond tit-for-tat. My level of retaliation is not necessarily morally related to the level of the initial attack against me.

    In the first example, if there is a police officer on hand to arrest the assaulter, then punching him back is not warranted. If there is no police officer, and the assaulter shows no intentions of stopping, then using a weapon, even a lethal one, is morally permissible.

    In the second case, my response would be whatever is necessary to prevent a further attack. If I can do so without inflicting civilian casualties, I will do so. If the only way to stop another attack involves inflicting civilian casualties and is potentially suicidal to boot, then I’ll use that way.

    Civilis (1dd298)

  70. I agree — but then the answer is: why?

    What distinguishes that from, say, defending yourself against a guy trying to punch you?

    Is it steve sturm’s answer — that you can only take those actions that are necessary for self defense?

    And you agree that, in this case, even if the enemy sets up one standard of conduct for himself, we must (in this respect) set up a different standard for ourself. Right?

    So, why?

    The guy trying to punch you is right there–if you can punch back effectively, it can act as self-defense in two ways:

    –deterrence: if you hit him and hurt him, he might go away and leave you alone in the future;

    –incapacitation: if you hit him hard enough to make him unable to attack you, he can’t hurt you any more.

    In the case of the suicide bomber, he’s dead–you can’t deter him and he’s already incapacitated himself permanently. If he’s only a member of an organization, then blowing up his kid isn’t going to deter or incapacitate that organization, which makes it useless as self-defense (and therefore impermissible even though the enemy engages in it). However, if the organization is based in a city and carpet bombing that city will utterly destroy that organization, that could be considered self-defense if there as no other reasonable way to get at that organization, even if the result is thousands of innocent dead. It might be a bad idea from a pragmatic standpoint, but there is a moral defense for it.

    M. Scott Eiland (c552ec)

  71. nk, there is that famous question that goes something like this: if you could push button A and kill your child, or button B and kill everyone in South America, and you had to push one (call it Sophie’s Choice: if you push neither then both will be pressed), which would you push?

    I’ve never met anyone yet who would push button A.

    Patterico (64318f)

  72. I think my daughter’s words sent me into moderation. It’s not my fault! It’s someone else’s fault! The buck never got here!

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  73. In the second scenario, from an eye for an eye standpoint the conclusion seems valid, after all they killed an innocent child of my country, yet the rules seem to be different than the first scenario because a third party is involved.

    For example, let’s say I’m in the military and was in a battle where the enemy was shooting at me and my fellow soldiers. I wouldn’t be upset that an enemy was attacking me on the basis of war ideology…what I mean is to that person shooting at me I am the enemy by virtue of being on the side of the opposing militia, thus I must be killed. In this situation, the rules of engagement apply to me. But, if a person is not engaged in that war they are off-limits.

    You see, the innocent children are not the problem: it is the suicide bombers and their fellow attackers. I am not accomplishing anything by killing another innocent human being.

    I suppose the rules, for myself anyways, is any person involved in an attack are, by their actions, open to any retaliation on my part, but innocent bystanders are off-limits since they aren’t engaged in any sort of evil actions. The only offending person in the second scenario is the suicide bomber (and of course his commanders, comrades, and supporters).

    Hmm…I’m awake for day 2 trying to finish my college calculus homework for a test, so perhaps my logic doesn’t make sense…forgive that =)

    Audacity (2fd5ad)

  74. “We constantly debate whether, for example, it’s OK to smear Obama with lies if one concludes that he has smeared our guy with lies.”

    This goes back to “when is evil permissible for the greater good?”.

    Most of us would agree with telling a lie to save a life (even Rahab in the Bible is praised for this), and people are ideologically split on nuking Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end WWII. There is a ‘balancing test’ (as the man says)–but the balancing must be based on ‘the greater good’ sought, not any personal harm suffered.

    For example, it would have been acceptable to smear German Nazis to keep them out of power, even if they had done no harm against you (high greater good, low personal harm), but it would be unacceptable to torture an individual Nazi for revenge because they had tortured you (low greater good, high personal harm).

    oneisnotprime (e25cc0)

  75. A man punches you. Is it morally right to punch him back?

    Because of how this is phrased, the assumption is that punch back in question would be delivered right at the time of the punch received. Of course the answer is yes. Self-defense and defense of others is always morally acceptable. However, if it’s after the fact (days, weeks, etc.), then the motivation changes from self-defense to retaliation and/or revenge (which are exceedingly close in definition).

    A suicide bomber kills an innocent child in your country. Is it morally right to strap a bomb to your body, go to his country, find an innocent child, and kill yourself and that innocent child?

    My answer to this would be no. That would not be self-defense, rather it would be exacting revenge/retaliation, thus the blood of innocents would be on my hands. And that is not acceptable. Now if one were to go into that country and find the guilty suicide bomber, strap on a bomb that kills him, I would see that as morally just and a pre-emptive strike for the loss of further innocents.

    Motivations change and must be honestly confronted. It’s easy to justify revenge and/or retaliation but one ends up becoming what one disapproves of and judges as having been wrong in the first place.

    Dana (863a65)

  76. Heh, and I’ve never met anyone yet who could force me to answer that “sophie’s choice” type question. 😛

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  77. There is also a distinction between a suicide bombing that would most certainly not end any conflict versus dropping something as horrific as the atomic bomb which obviously did.

    There is a moral math.

    Killing tens of thousands of innocents is a morally just act if it prevents the death of hundreds of thousands of innocents.

    Rosetta (e3f265)

  78. Do you approve of sending our people into Arab countries, riding buses alongside old women and children, and blowing themselves up with the intention of murdering them? a) We are at war with the country; b) we are not but the country has a lotta terrorists.

    No in both cases, for reasons moral and practical.

    Deliberately targeting innocent people in wartime is barbaric and uncivilized. And old women and children per se are not the ones waging war or committing terrorism against the United States.

    Now it is true some of our actions against terrorists and enemy countries may kill old women and children, but it’s not possible to guarantee zero casualties and still fight a war. We should try to minimize casualties while fighting, still putting the war effort first. While some innocents will still die, that is fundamentally different from the actions of terrorists who strike unprovoked and whose stated intention and action is to kill as many innocents as possible.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  79. I see self-defense being justification for the punch, yet what if your person wasn’t in any immediate danger from the other persons punch? Do you still punch back?

    And when is excessive force okay, if ever?

    Audacity (2fd5ad)

  80. “Listen To Me” with Kirk Cameron, posed that type of “sophie’s choice” question but with a twist. Now, the twisted question I can answer. I will not torture to death a baby to save civilization. Civilization be darned if that is the solution.

    As I have said elsewhere, my daughter is in the US Army and spent 15 months in Iraq. And while she was in Iraq, I said I want the terrorists targeting our military instead of our civilians.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  81. That’s too relativistic for me; under that argument, Palestinians don’t “murder” Israeli children because their sick society approves of suicide bombings

    Yes, but so what? It isn’t the ‘murder’ (the tactic used) I object to, it’s that they’re trying to hurt me and the bottom line is I’m no less dead by a suicide bomber than I am from an declared enemy fighting by the so-called rules. People who try to hurt me are my enemies, and I don’t give them any brownie points for wearing uniforms or issuing declarations of war.

    steve sturm (3811cf)

  82. Hell yes to the first question. Slap the guy silly then let it go. Unless he mouths off, then give him the business again. Also, smirking is grounds for another whippin’.

    Hell no to the second question. It’s insane to kill innocent children. Filthy animals kill children, we kill filthy animals. I’m not sure there’s any one principle which applies to both situations. Maybe it’s like art or beauty, difficult to define with precision, but obvious when seen.

    ropelight (ca73a6)

  83. I also have a theory that the world would be a better place if, every year, you had to get punched in the head once and you got to punch someone in the head once.

    There are too many men that have never taken a punch in their lives although it’s been richly deserved.

    It’s not the end of the world for goodness sakes.

    Rosetta (e3f265)

  84. And when is excessive force okay, if ever?

    The theoretical answer is never, force in excess of the amount necessary for self-defense is wrong whether in war or civil society. Unfortunately, one never knows for sure and when it comes to protecting friends and family, I would err on the side of doing too much rather than too little. One bullet might be enough to stop an assailant, two makes sure. A 500 pound bomb might be enough to take out a target, a 2,000 pounder removes any doubt.

    steve sturm (3811cf)

  85. Political battles…
    I’ll stop telling the truth about my opponent when he stops lying about me.

    Self-defense…
    Someone pops you one: Why?
    Did you say something to provoke them? Your Bad!
    If it is a planned act of agression: Don’t bring a knife to a gunfight!

    Suicide Bombers…
    If my geo-political opponent wishes to use a tactic that depletes his arsenal and manpower, so be it.
    However, if this is the tactic of a group that can be tied to a nation-state, retaliation should be taken against that nation-state’s assets, to – as the old saying goes – bomb them back to the Middle-Ages (or before), so that they are not a threat to anyone, anymore. If it is a more amorphous group such as was Fatah when they killed the Israeli athletes in Munich, you deal with it as the Mossad did in hunting down each and every individual involved, and terminating them.

    BTW, the news reports mysterious explosions in Iran that have killed two (or more) prominant leaders…wonder what that’s about?

    AD - RtR/OS! (ca25a6)

  86. The ends never justifies the means. Using evil to fight evil makes you evil. Period.

    The 2 uses of the atomic bomb were used in conventional warfare, where carpet-bombing was necessary to destroy military targets. They were just amplified conventional warfare, and not using evil for good. All libturd suggestions to the contrary are idiotic and without context.

    Retaliation without moral justification is just as evil. Show me the moral grounds and the desired result and show me how your retaliation fits your morals. Else, become the evil you claim to be fighting.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  87. Comment by steve sturm — 10/18/2009 @ 4:10 pm

    What about the Israel-Gaza situation?

    TheAudacity (2fd5ad)

  88. Very simple. Israel retakes control of Gaza, as it is the rightful property of Israel. If Jordan refuses to allow the Palestinians to have their land, as was designed shortly after WWII, that’s Jordan’s and the Palestinians’ problem, not Israel’s.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  89. #87

    I think that is the easy way out. Bombing Hiroshima viewed as a standalone act (in a historical vacuum) would be morally reprehensible–women, children, and babies were killed. How is that not evil for the greater good? Let’s call it what it is. War is Hell.

    oneisnotprime (e25cc0)

  90. Bombing Hiroshima viewed as a standalone act (in a historical vacuum)

    cannot be understood. Thank you for playing.

    Next time, try context instead of context-avoidance.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  91. How is that not evil for the greater good?

    It’s perhaps, the lesser of two evils. The folly of man living in an imperfect world is that ultimately there can only this choice: which of the two are the lesser evil? It isn’t always a clear cut case, life is messy, and war is indeed, hell, and there are horrible decisions that must be made. If it were clearcut, if there never a doubt, then there wouldn’t be thousands upon thousands of veterans who have struggled with what they have done and the choices they were forced t make.

    Dana (863a65)

  92. 72.nk, there is that famous question that goes something like this: if you could push button A and kill your child, or button B and kill everyone in South America, and you had to push one (call it Sophie’s Choice: if you push neither then both will be pressed), which would you push?

    I’ve never met anyone yet who would push button A.

    Comment by Patterico — 10/18/2009 @ 3:49 pm

    Neither would I, but the person forced to push the button is beyond judgment. That falls on whomever set up the situation.

    nk (df76d4)

  93. It seems like you are redefining any evil legitimatized by the greater good as “not evil”, which seems to miss the point–an act (murder, lying, stealing) which is normally considered ‘bad’ but can be justified in some scenarios.

    How does “It is never OK to lie” square with “Hiroshima was justified” (paraphrase)?

    For the record, I personally feel that Hiroshima/Nagasaki were justified in retrospect, but would certainly deem them “evil for the greater good”.

    oneisnotprime (e25cc0)

  94. When my daughter was two or so, snow was a new and wonderful thing to her. We had a sprinkling on a November morning. The sun came out and started melting it. My daughter started crying and begged me to “turn off the sun”. “Daddy, please turn off the sun!” If I could have, I would have.

    nk (df76d4)

  95. Hiroshima & Nagasaki…
    Though there were admittedly lots of civilians within the two cities, the targets themselves were considered military since there were numerous high-value industrial targets contained within both cities.
    But, just as the Tokyo fire-bomb raids killed thousands more than either of these attacks, these were militarily justified due to the manner in which war-industries were dispersed throughout the nominally civilian sector of Japanese society.

    AD - RtR/OS! (ca25a6)

  96. If I were the father of a Marine wading up the beach of the Japanese home islands, I would have elected to nuke Hiroshima and Nagasaki too.

    nk (df76d4)

  97. And AD answered the question. They were legitimate military targets. And the collateral damage, while significant, was smaller than previous collateral damage wrought by other legitimate military attacks on legitimate military targets.

    Aside from that, anyone who is not an idiotic libturd or a person brainwashed by the idiotic libturd education establishment can see those bombings severely reduced the number of civilian deaths and military deaths of a wholly defensive war.

    Do try to keep up with facts.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  98. Killing tens of thousands of innocents is a morally just act if it prevents the death of hundreds of thousands of innocents.

    “…if and only if there is no way to prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocents that would only cost thousands of innocents their lives” would be my expansion on this train of thought.

    Using evil to fight evil makes you evil. Period.

    But this feeds back into Patterico’s original question, which could be asked “at what point does a tactic become evil?” How do you avoid the trap between “Because my opponent is evil, I can use any tactic to defeat him” and “There are some tactics so evil that losing everything is better than using them”.

    Civilis (1dd298)

  99. Patterico – When are you going to post the video of TBogg fucking a chicken?

    If TBogg fucks one of your chickens, is it OK to fuck one of his in retaliation?

    daleyrocks (718861)

  100. Yes, it was estimated that Japan would suffer between 5-Million and 10-Million casualties from an invasion of the Home Islands.
    That level of dead/wounded/missing was unacceptable at both the “Pentagon” and White House.

    AD - RtR/OS! (ca25a6)

  101. When I go to war and undertake tasks that put my soul at risk, if I survive I can always attempt to regain my soul; if I die due to forsaking tactics that would allow my possible survival, then I have lost everything, for Man’s primary duty is to survive.

    AD - RtR/OS! (ca25a6)

  102. Columbine murderers: Are there any Christians in this library?

    Girl (standing up): I am.

    Columbine murderers: BAM!

    Girl: dead.

    If only I were as strong as her.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  103. “It’s never okay to lie.”

    John Hithcock – If your wife/significant other/etc. asks you:

    “Does this dress make my butt look big?”

    Do you;
    a) tell the truth and say “It’s not the dress,” or;

    b) lie/dodge and say something like “Everything you wear makes you look beautiful.”

    daleyrocks (718861)

  104. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are interesting in this conversation.

    And the WWII situation is different only in scale to the waterboarding of KSM and the gnashing of teeth from the left in the debate over whether that was torture and whether it was justified.

    Perhaps we could we have gotten the information that we got from him with a group hug. Although I think we all know the evidence to the contrary. Too bad he wasn’t afraid of caterpillars.

    As faulty humans in both situations, we can never know the precise amount of force that we need to employ to save lives.

    However I do know that it’s more than the third chorus of Kumbaya and chairing a meeting of the UN Security Council.

    Rosetta (e3f265)

  105. Need to call my broker and buy more stock in “Jimmy Choo”.

    AD - RtR/OS! (ca25a6)

  106. What good is it if you gain the world but lose your soul?

    Don’t fear the one who can take your life. Fear the one that can send your soul to hell.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  107. Daley, read this and then tell me what my answer is. Note the date.;)

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  108. A person attacking someone, or a group of people, with explosives strapped to their body is committing an act of war, not a crime. War, by its very nature, is not a nice thing, nor is it subject to legal niceties like ‘evidence’ or ‘due process’. Americans have rules in war, and our military sticks to them for the most part. Those that violate them, get punished.

    But Patterico, let me ask you, in WWII, the men in the Planning and Operations that chose Dresden as a bombing target, were they monsters? The innocents in Nagasaki or Hiroshima, did they die to satisfy some primal bloodlust of MacArthur’s? Did the concentration camp inmates, ignored by Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin, and allowed to rot and die to support military objectives, do so out of perverted desire to change the world?

    War is not a nice thing. The fact that you see a suicide bomber as some quasi-legal issue is kinda naive. I really bless you that you have that kind of naivete still after all you must have witnessed. But I think, in some ways the paramilitarism of plice forces has gotten back the DA’s office.

    So let me say: You are not at war with gangs. You are not at war with drugs. You are not at war with poverty, child abuse, drunken driving or parking scofflaws. You are irked with them. War issues summary judgments with copper jacketed lead, octol, napalm and cordite. There is no trial in war. There is no due process. There are no citations.

    To take up your line of reasoning: Bin Ladin is trying to kill my child. Ahmadinejad is trying to make wife cover up her body and make her a second class citizen. Jemaah Islamiah would declare my life forfeit for I will not submit to shariah law or jizya. That I need to intimate that as the end aim of the suicide bomber’s sponsors…well, ‘naive’ explains a lot.

    MunDane68 (54a83b)

  109. The only reason for the US to stay in the UN is to have that security council “no” vote. Beyond that, no money to the UN and no US land for the UN. Go away, UN, you bother me.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  110. A suicide bomber kills an innocent child in your country. Is it morally right to strap a bomb to your body, go to his country, find an innocent child, and kill yourself and that innocent child?

    That’s a rather easy question for me to answer: No. If not, then one is well on his way to moral equivalence. Or truly a very perverse version of the road to hell being paved with a certain kind of intention.

    Mark (411533)

  111. “I will not torture to death a baby to save civilization. Civilization be darned if that is the solution.”

    – John Hitchcock

    I agree. If civilization has deteriorated to a point where you’re forced to make that decision in the first place, then (that) civilization is not worth saving.

    As to the two hypotheticals – and I’m fairly sure I won’t say anything that hasn’t already been said, to one degree or another:

    In the first instance, if you punch the guy, it should be as a means of deterrence – not threat neutralization (because the threat isn’t serious enough to warrant such a thing), not revenge (because vengeance is the Lord’s). If you don’t punch the guy, the intent of your restraint should be (and should be clarified as) the illustration of some greater truth (such as the potential power of nonviolence) or obedience to some higher dictate (i.e. “If someone strikes you on your cheek, turn to him the other also”). In any case, make your reasoning clear so that others might learn from your actions what you intend them to learn.

    In the second instance, you do not suicide bomb the children of your enemies for any reason: deterrence (because their death will not deter the actions of their Moloch-worshipping handlers), threat neutralization (because children are never the true threat), or vengeance (for the same reason as in the first instance). A “Tit-for-tat” policy cannot be morally justifiable because the motivation for such a policy cannot be pure. If the aforementioned motivations are the only possible motivations for action (and I could certainly be overlooking a few applicable ones), then the suicide-bombing of children can only be justified as vengeance.

    Finally, a note:

    In light of the whole Moloch thing (and something that just occurred to me): maybe it’s wrong for us to frame the death of our soldiers as “sacrifice”, either by them or their parents – especially their parents. Neither a soldier nor a soldier’s parents intend that the soldier lose his life in the course of his service – they accept the possibility of it. “Sacrifice” implies more intent than I think we ought to be comfortable with – that is, the parents of child suicide bombers sacrifice their children to an abominable cause in the name of a false god (hence the Moloch reference). Parents of soldiers in the US honor the autonomy and courage of their grown sons and daughters and pray with all fervency that they survive. So, in this sense, it seems more appropriate to couch the death of a soldier as “a mother’s incomprehensible loss” than “a mother’s sacrifice”, because the mother never intended such a thing to happen in the first place…

    None of which is to take anything away from the courage of our soldiers or the loss of their parents in the case of their death. It’s just something that occurred to me – I mean no offense to anyone.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  112. I agree that the “it’s never okay to lie” argument is a bit childish, no offense.

    Should you lie for personal gain or to take advantage of someone else? Of course not.

    To save someone’s life? Really? Would you not lie? To save a life?

    If it’s never okay to lie then it must follow that it’s certainly never acceptable to kill.

    Context exists for a reason.

    Rosetta (e3f265)

  113. What good is it if you gain the world but lose your soul?

    Ah, but the power of redemption is infinite.
    Soldiers in war lose their souls constantly, but, by surviving, acquire the possibility of redemption.

    I am reminded of that final scene in “Saving Pvt.Ryan” when Ryan turns to his wife and plaintively asks: Have I been a Good Man?

    AD - RtR/OS! (ca25a6)

  114. #21

    I think it does, but it is your mind and your blog and there’s no changing that

    SteveG (97b6b9)

  115. Hahahaha. This is a fascinating debate.

    Well done!

    Rosetta (e3f265)

  116. Rosetta, since it is a sin written in the Ten Commandments to lie, I suspect the act of lieing is a sin in every circumstance. And since Providence said it is a sin in every circumstance, calling my statement childish, well, …

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  117. AD, you missed my obvious references to the Bible, but oh well.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  118. MunDane68: You’re missing the bigger question of Patterico’s post. Notice his wording – it’s the specific targeting of children he questions, not their death as “collateral damage” (an unfortunately callous but accurate phrase) in the process of justified strikes against legitimate military targets. The question of such collateral damage is a question of the lesser of two evils, as Dana says above, and all of your examples – Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Dresden – illustrate the propriety of that concept. But Patterico’s not asking about the morality of a lesser of two evils approach – he’s asking about a tit-for-tat approach that subverts the lesser of two evils litmust test altogether.

    Leviticus (30ac20)

  119. No, I saw it.
    But, just as theologians can twist themselves into pretzals constructing and deconstructing “Just War” reasoning, I just take the position that I will do anything I have to to survive, and once that survival is assured, I can work on the rest.
    For, after all, it is all in our hands, is it not?
    Nothing Is Written!

    AD - RtR/OS! (ca25a6)

  120. John @108 – Sorry, but I don’t think your post answered my question.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  121. “But in your mind, you want to expand upon that “no” because you are committed to fighting fire with fire in general . . . just not to the point where it turns you into a suicide bomber who murders innocent children.”

    I think my answer fell well within this construct, but go ahead.

    SteveG (97b6b9)

  122. But, just as the Tokyo fire-bomb raids killed thousands more than either of these attacks, these were militarily justified due to the manner in which war-industries were dispersed throughout the nominally civilian sector of Japanese society.

    True, and it also bears repeating that the vast majority of the population were fully ready to fight to the death for their country, even if it meant casualties in the tens of millions (which it would have) – recent interviews with the survivors of the nuclear bombs have indicated that not only do they not blame the US for our actions, but that they readily acknowledge that without the two bomb’s devastation, the war would’ve continued until the entire country was basically defenestrated.

    Dmac (5ddc52)

  123. One of the biggest places where I find my faith weak is when dealing with the question of how Christian values apply on a governmental scale. Hypothetical questions that are very hypothetical (“torture one innocent baby to save one hundred million people”) are especially bad in that regards. I hope I am willing to turhe on tther cheek if it was a harm done to me, but implicit in these questions is the fact that the risk of harm is to many more other innocents if action is not taken. My conscience is settled with the general principles that I can’t turn someone else’s cheek, and turning my cheek in response to harm being done to someone else is neither moral nor Christian. Ultimately, on a case for case basis I must work towards the best outcome for all involved, even if that result is imperfect.

    Civilis (1dd298)

  124. From my article:

    I taught her there are things that are wrong and there are things that are right. There are things I don’t like and there are things I like. And whether I like things or not has no impact on the rightness or wrongness of things. It was very important to me that she know she could like things I didn’t like. And she learned that. I did most of the clothing shopping with her as she was growing up. She would try things on and ask my opinion of them. I was very honest. “I think that shirt is ugly.” “Well, I’m going to get it anyway.” “Alright.” I think she actually based her decision on whether to get clothing on whether I liked it. If I didn’t like it, that meant it was something to buy. Of course, there were those items where I said she couldn’t buy them. Things like shirts with a playboy bunny on them. Those were wrong things, not things I just didn’t like. It was important to me that she learned opinions are opinions and everyone has the right to his or her own opinion.

    That should make it clear. I don’t play the diplomatic game of dishonesty for peace. I am honest and straight-forward with facts and my opinion. Period. And the wife I used to have? She was a bad person.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  125. “What distinguishes acceptable uses of bad tactics from unacceptable ones?” In the case you describe if it’s one of sudden attack or a sneak attack the response is vastly different. The attacker has chosen to give no warning in attacking defenseless persons or society.
    How can the attacked settle for anything less than the submission of the attacker? What peace is possible with one who practices the art of sneak attack? An “eye for an eye” simply doesn’t apply. This is how I justify Hiroshima. It wasn’t a war crime or genocide, it was a justified response to a nation that began a war with a sneak attack.
    In the case where a sneak attack wasn’t the case, say in the case of a punch in the face between two men who agreed to “take it outside”, that is a case when purely proportionate response is the only morally correct way to go.

    richardb (592499)

  126. I may have missed the original wording, may have indeed. But I still say conflict in war is different than conflict in the legal realm.

    But i also need to apologize to Patterico. I made a personal attack. It was unwarranted, and un-necessary.

    I apologize, and beg forgiveness.

    MunDane68 (54a83b)

  127. MunDane68: not a problem.

    Patterico (64318f)

  128. Rosetta, since it is a sin written in the Ten Commandments to lie, I suspect the act of lieing is a sin in every circumstance. And since Providence said it is a sin in every circumstance, calling my statement childish, well, …

    John, please don’t take offense. I respect all ten of the Commandments but as I know God is a forgiving God, I would think that He would understand if you told a lie to save a life.

    Otherwise we were not properly tasked to carry out His will in this world.

    I honestly can’t imagine anyone, including good people like you, refusing to tell a lie if that would save an innocent life.

    An omnipotent and forgiving God would understand and forgive I believe.

    Rosetta (e3f265)

  129. I am glad that I am not the one tasked with drawing the boundaries of our responses, not that I would not know where I would draw them, but they are above my pay grade. Unfortunately, the dirty little socialist in the White House is too incompetent to make these kinds of decisions.

    JD (7a2548)

  130. 9. Ου ψευδομαρτυρήσεις κατά του πλησίον σου μαρτυρίαν ψευδή.

    You shall not testify falsely against your neighbor.

    The proscription is against prosecutorial perjury.

    nk (df76d4)

  131. I really don’t think the basic problem as put forth by Patterico is that difficult and I’ve given my response: You don’t deliberately try to kill innocents, ever. But killing innocents is acceptable to get the guilty, if you have no other way to get them, and make efforts to protect the innocent.

    The difficulty lies in real-world situations where the facts aren’t entirely clear. What degree of certainty do you need to strike a place where Al Qaeda operatives are believed to be, and where innocent civilians might also be? Does the degree of certainty required depend on how high-level the Al Qaeda types are? How many civilians? What about waiting to get the terrorists individually, which would spare innocent lives, but is less certain of success?

    Then imagine making all these decisions, which involve values that religions and philosophers have debated for centuries, on the spot — and knowing that whatever you do, your decision will be second-guessed by others who weren’t in your shoes. That’s what’s tough.

    Brother Bradley J. Fikes, C.O.R. (0ea407)

  132. Rosetta, I think my comments in 63 (65) and 102, provided moderation hasn’t changed those numbers of my posts, explains your concern and my answer. And 102, provided moderation doesn’t change that number, shows my concern for my own weakness.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  133. “I don’t play the diplomatic game of dishonesty for peace.”

    John – I thought you wrote a good article and read the paragraph you cut and pasted here. I didn’t think your paragraph addressed the question, which was not whether something was ugly or you liked it. The sentence you wrote above makes it clear, although I can’t recall one male friend using answer a) in my #104.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  134. I see that some of the issues with the two examples have already been addressed; I can punch a person in self-defense, but it’s usually inappropriate to do as revenge (the deterrent value would have to be fairly high.)

    I think the anticipated results have to matter. I think the harm to the people who are conducting the counter-badness has to be added to the harm to the people who the badness happens to. You’ve also got to look at the gains you expect: Is it really a deterrent to the behavior you want stopped?

    I think the harm done to the people engaged in counter-badness (like lying) is underappreciated by those who engage in it.

    In the prosecution business, the enemies (and a few of their attorneys) engage in all manner of badness. The system works fairly well, and fealty to that system (which requires honesty) is necessary.

    The differentiation between using the specific bad used by the enemy and some other bad that isn’t exactly what they do doesn’t strike me as particularly helpful. I think that use of otherwise bad practices doesn’t depend on whether they did the same at all.

    There are times to exit the system and do something that is judged bad – if Johnny Kidkill is on video snatching Jennifer, 8, and has streamed video of her in an airtight box, and he’s caught two hours later when we think Jennifer’s alive, Johnny may be treated anti-systemically. (Miranda’s legally unnecessary in that situation; I’m talking about rather more vigorous questioning)

    But as a general rule, engaging the enemy by the enemy’s standards is bad for your side, and for the person who engages in that. Plus, it’s very, very easy to self-delude to justify the use of unethical actions.

    There are plenty of honest, smart people on most sides of most issues; there are also outright evil organizations and people. Results matter – but you’ve got to consider all the results before you do some really crappy thing to some really crappy person. It’s probably a bad idea.

    –JRM

    JRM (355c21)

  135. The ends never justifies the means. Using evil to fight evil makes you evil. Period.

    With all due respect that’s the biggest pile of horse dung I’ve heard in years. Everything has trade-offs, so of course the ends may justify the means – or it may not, depending on what ends we’re trading for what means. If that trite phrase were worth the ones and zeroes it’s typed on, war would never be morally acceptable because it will always result in at least some innocent people dying who otherwise would not, an inherent injustice which no conceivable ends could ever justify (since, as you’ve stupidly claimed, no ends can ever justify any means).

    Returning to the original question, the easy answer is that revenge is always morally justifiable if it is both (1) in proportion to the original wrong and (2) taken only against the original wrongdoer. If some guy slugs me, I have every right to slug him. If he slugs my wife, I have no right to take “revenge” by slugging his wife – unless, of course, his wife put him up to it (and then I’d be taking my revenge against her, not against him). Going splodeydope on a room full of jihidists – and no one else – may indeed be morally justifiable. Going splodeydope on some other random group likely to contain more innocents than jihadists is not.

    The harder part is that, given that some desired ends do indeed justify otherwise problematic means, some collateral damage is inevitable. Can we go splodeydope on a room full of the world’s 100 most dangerous terrorists, plus one innocent waiter who couldn’t get the night off? Probably. A room full of people in a terrorist nation, few if any of whom are likely to be jihadists themselves? Definitely not. Exactly where to draw the line between these extremes is a tough question; presumably, the answer is pretty close to whatever the military uses to determine legitimate vs. illegitimate targets.

    Xrlq (9ba9f0)

  136. Wasn’t John Negroponte accused of using those kind of tactics against the Sandinistas, i.e., going after the families as a counter insurgency response. I hear it was effective, and if it was effective, doesn’t the decrease in hostilities justify its use?

    President Mop (44bf37)

  137. Interesting questions:

    A) Return a Punch? Yes – but only if immediate, to prevent recurrance of punch #2. (To present threat of stop force). No, if 1 or 2 or 200 days later. The difference is self defense versus revenge.

    One’s OK – the other is not – there are other remedies for revenge, i.e., legal remedies, sanctions, etc.

    B) Bomb an innocent? No – for the same reason. This could not be performed with the immediacy required to prevent the initial attack. Other means must be employed.

    If, however a nation-state, not an individual, initated the attacks, it’s a different ballgame.

    An organized attack invokes the Swordfish option:

    They bomb a church, we bomb 10. They hijack a plane, we take out an airport. They execute American tourist, we tactically nuke an entire city. Our job is to make terrorism so horrific that is becomes unthinkable to attack Americans.

    Different questions, depending on the actors.

    USCitizen (1ce41c)

  138. Rather that should read “to stop a present threat of force” – see above.

    USCitizen (1ce41c)

  139. 72.nk, there is that famous question that goes something like this: if you could push button A and kill your child, or button B and kill everyone in South America, and you had to push one (call it Sophie’s Choice: if you push neither then both will be pressed), which would you push?

    I’ve never met anyone yet who would push button A.

    Comment by Patterico — 10/18/2009 @ 3:49 pm


    Neither would I, but the person forced to push the button is beyond judgment. That falls on whomever set up the situation.

    Comment by nk — 10/18/2009 @ 4:41 pm

    Suppose I wouldn’t condemn someone who under extreme duress pushed Button B but I can say pretty definitely I wouldn’t do it.

    As was brought up above, we do not have a time machine. We have no way of knowing whether a killer who tried to force me to make that choice wouldn’t get shot to death by a rescuer at the last moment before pushing both buttons, or be able to be talked out of pushing both buttons, or when he went to push them something else happened that rendered them inoperable. Or that my sister etc. wouldn’t be killed ANYWAY – if someone’s willing to kill millions then a lie is a small thing to tell.

    I only know that NOTHING I can ever imagine would induce me to intentionally push a button that I thought or knew would kill millions of innocent people. Or thousands, or hundreds, or one. Does that mean that given the choice by a maniac I would refuse to push a button that would kill an infant if the killer promised my sister would be saved? Yes, I would refuse. If that makes me heartless so be it. I think it makes me someone who, if a killer wants to try to make me kill anyone he’s going to damn well have to do it himself.

    (Never saw the SAW movies BTW but read about one of the later ones where such a scenario was set up mid movie or something. If both people had refused to be the agent of choosing someone’s death then both would have been saved. Just popped into my head since we’re talking about homicidal maniacs and all.)

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  140. Skipping to the current end to answer the opening question: the moral solution seems to me to be that it may be proper to respond, immediately, with violence, upon a violent attacker. Wait, and you become the attacker, rather than the defender. Wait and target someone other than the attacker, and you become the attacker. There has to be a certain small amount of slop allowed for mistakes.

    Personal story. A couple of months out of the Corps, I wandered into the collateral job of Student Armorer for a production of Oklahoma! In this show, there’s a shotgun used for a stage effect. I gave repeated lectures on the dangers of unloaded guns. One evening, I was working in the shop with someone else, and — I’ll call him Dumbo — walked very quietly across the darkened wings, the main stage, and into a mostly dark stage shop (the other doors were open and well lighted.) Neither of us noticed him; we concentrated on the drafting table in front of us, Dumbo was behind us. The first I knew of Dumbo was when I felt the touch on my left shoulder blade and heard the click of the cocking hammers on a double-barreled shotgun. I remember that. The next thing I am certain that I remember was feeling my foot being shaken, and my study partner saying “safe, htom, safe. Save him for questioning. What’s the Corps safe word? Don’t kill him, htom.” I had disarmed Dumbo, taken him down without his saying a word, and was kneeling across him on the floor, holding the broken-open shotgun across his unconscious throat. I don’t remember doing that.

    Dumbo spent a couple of weeks in the hospital; the cops came, talked to me, my study partner, and a couple of other students whom he’d bragged about his plan to scare me. No arrest. For a very long time I was ashamed of having done this.

    htom (412a17)

  141. It is never okay to lie.

    Comment by John Hitchcock — 10/18/2009 @ 3:15 pm

    John Hitchcock,

    I really like your posts, and your principled stances, but IMO you are very much mistaken on this. To lie (whether by that you mean misleading by word games or direct lying) to save a life is OK to do.

    The woman in The Hiding Place was extremely lucky (or blessed) that the Nazi’s took her statement the way she did – and in any case, her intention was to mislead them. To tell the technical truth with intent to mislead is certainly a lie. She didn’t say, “they’re under the trap door under the table” she said, likely with a smile on her face, “They’re under the table.” (If she hadn’t they would have been likely very suspicious.) She did lie, even though she told the technical truth. She had no intention of really letting them know where her friends were.

    And if a kidnapper asked if your wife was home that’s a pretty cut and dried answer you have to give. No “she’s under the table” will do. Would you really say “yes?”

    Remember the parable Jesus told of the dishonest steward who sat down with his master’s debtors and said, “Make it 50, make it 80″ of the 100 owed? Jesus praised him for being savvy because he wanted to make a point that we should be as savvy for the kingdom of God as some are for their own welfare. Saving innocent lives seems to me to come under one of the kingdom’s goals.

    And….my last point, the Commandment does not say, “do not lie.” It says, “you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” In other words, do not tell an untruth that will bring harm to another.

    Yes, in other contexts Jesus does give high value to telling the truth straightforwardly as a general rule, but my point is this:

    if someone has no right to know a piece of information, and wants to harm someone by using it, then we are under no obligation to give it to them.

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  142. If she hadn’t = if she hadn’t smiled

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  143. Suicide bombers are spree killers with a single spree. Madmen running through the church striking down the worshipers. Ghandi was correct. Of neccessity, kill him.

    htom (412a17)

  144. My reference to “The Hiding Place” and Corrie Ten Boom was definitely intentional. Corrie and that woman indeed had an argument before that situation arose. Corrie was willing to lie, should the situation arise. Her friend was unwilling to lie, should the situation arise. They both had their Christian values as to their answers. Corrie was not tested in that manner but her friend was. Her friend passed the test and the Jews were saved despite the truth being told.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  145. Comment by htom — 10/18/2009 @ 7:22 pm

    Wow. Amazing story. But…why were you ashamed when you were defending yourself (actually on autopilot, it seems?)

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  146. What would I do if I had access to Top Secret information and I was directly questioned?

    It’s none of your business.

    When my daughter told me she and the rest of her company was given Secret information prior to their departure to Iraq, I told her she had better not tell me anything that might violate her oaths. While I wanted to know, I had no right, and she better not tell me.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  147. When my daughter told me she and the rest of her company was given Secret information prior to their departure to Iraq, I told her she had better not tell me anything that might violate her oaths.

    Very honorable (and must have been difficult since you wanted to know everything possible about how safe your daughter would be).

    So…if kidnappers asked if your wife were home, you would say, “none of your business,” is that right?

    no one you know (1ebbb1)

  148. I would either answer truthfully or say noyb, yup.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  149. Oh for pete sake, if I’m in a position to save the life of an innocent, I certainly hope at the very least I would lie to protect them; let alone actually do something that required real courage, like shielding their body with my own.

    We’re frail fallen creatures. God clearly knows that, hence the gift of Grace and His Mercies enduring forever.

    Dana (863a65)

  150. JH:

    Xrlq, which alignment fits you?

    Somewhere between principled and scrupulous, I think. I like principles in principle, but see little virtue at all in adhering blindly to a principle with no regard for the results, and none whatsoever in adhering to a principle that was a lousy principle to begin with. My late father in law often said “sometimes you have to abandon your principles and do what’s right.” I never much liked that saying, as it presupposes you subscribe to principles you know in your heart are wrong. I’d have much preferred “Sometimes you have to abandon your principles because let’s face it, your principles suck. If you had better principles, you’d never have to abandon them to do what’s right.” And any rigid principle that says no ends can ever justify any means is a prime example of a principle that sucks. I can’t kill one innocent person (an unacceptable means) to save 2,000,000 innocent ones (a desired end)? Why the frack not?

    Xrlq (9ba9f0)

  151. But not to worry, my daughter told me she wasn’t about to give me any information, other than the fact she knew a little bit of stuff people didn’t know. I could’ve given her a lambourghini and she wouldn’t have given me any info she was not permitted to give.

    To this day, I don’t know the exact location she spent her 15 months. But I did get a T-shirt from Hard Rock Kuwait and a T-shirt from Hard Rock Mosul to match my hats from Hard Rock Honolulu and Hard Rock Kailua-Kona.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  152. Artsy Dana, I’m more than willing to give up my life to save another life. That is a sacrifice I am willing to make.

    My principles, on the other hand, I throw away from time to time for worthless reasons. I have no class. I just hope when push comes to shove, I can hold onto the principles I already stupidly threw away.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  153. Raise Up A Child…

    Just a few meandering thoughts on personal family history.
    When my daughter was approaching her third birthday, we went down the street and filled two 5-quart ice cream tubs with buckeyes. Back home, I took 26 sheets of paper and made an alphabet, uppe…

    Common Sense Political Thought (73d96f)

  154. The main time that fighting fire with fire is acceptable is when there is no sovereign to enforce the law/norms. That is why the Law of War permits retaliation for violations, back before nation states tried to begin enforcing these laws with international criminal courts. Retaliation has its own strict rules, and even so, can easily spiral out of control; that is why the U.S., as a matter of prudence, has refused to permit retaliation even when justified, nay when necessary, to punish enemies who violate the law with impunity. As a result, unlawful combatants have become the norm as our enemy. Nevertheless, without a powerful sovereign to enforce the law/norms, the norm becomes what perpetrators have been allowed to get away with.

    Robert Bell (9b1fdd)

  155. A laboratory answers this question — Israel and the Arabs who call themselves “Palestinians”. The Israelis deal with this all the time, and get it wrong in that they are too lenient. If you don’t crush the enemy and make them cry uncle, you can get the type of situation you see in Israel.

    Of course the US and Europe could cause capitulation simply by stopping all aid.

    The world deserves the Israel situation. No one has the cojones to solve it by starving those Arabs for a while. Would children get hurt? Absolutely. But only until the Arabs cried uncle. And if they faked it, like they do? Starve them some more.

    Mick Langan (f1a0ff)

  156. Let’s put #2 a little differently.

    A suicide bomber blows up an innocent child in your country.

    Is it okay to go to that suicide bomber’s family, evict them from their house, and destroy all their personal possessions as a warning to all suicide bombers everywhere that something they hold dear will be destroyed after their death? That their crime will rebound even if they aren’t there to see it?

    luagha (579be8)

  157. I was ashamed because I’d done it on autopilot, rather than deliberately and intentionally. The rationalizing part of me thinks that I’m supposed to listen to my amygdala, not blindly obey it, and I saw this as a demonstration of how out of self-control I had been, and I was ashamed of that loss of self-control. It was only recently that I have seemed to hear what others said repeatedly that night, that his being alive — rather than dead — showed that I had been in control, and that the injuries he suffered were consequences of his actions, not my reactions.

    htom (412a17)

  158. If they arrived at the door and asked, “Are you hiding Jews here?”, I would point to the table and feel proud that it is still my Constitutional Right to shoot them in the head as they looked under the table.

    [note: fished from spam filter. –Stashiu]

    USCitizen (1ce41c)

  159. I think that’s the right way to view what happened, htom. Why do you think you resisted seeing it that way for so long?

    DRJ (f462b4)

  160. John Hancock–I don’t necessarily disagree with your view that any lie is sinful, but how would you explain Rahab (praised in the Bible for lying to protect the spies)?

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+2&version=NIV

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Joshua+6:17&version=NIV

    oneisnotprime (e25cc0)

  161. nonprime one, reading about Rahab from my Bible atm, but let me start by saying:

    If you believe it is a sin to eat turnips and then you eat a turnip, you sinned. If you believe eating turnips is okay and you eat a turnip, you did not sin.

    Now, off to my reading.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  162. Bunches of “reasons”, mostly irrational. Among them, excessive pride in my rationality and self-control, thinking that my preaching and teaching of firearms safety had been ineffective (since Dumbo had so obviously not learned it), I was responsible for the safe handling of the firearm, he was my student, … basically, I thought of the encounter as being my fault. Somehow I should have foreseen it, should have prevented it, …, should have handled it differently. There’s a long list of very irrational “shoulds”.

    He did something really, really, stupid, lived to tell about it, and I should stop beating myself up about it.

    htom (412a17)

  163. Patterico framed his questions in an interesting way. And it’s been interesting to see how commentators have responded.

    I’m no great thinker, so I’ll just throw this out.

    How an individual responds to a threat or an attack is personal. Usually, they have no time to analyze and engage in philosophical considerations. It comes down to: Do I attack back, or do I flee?

    However, when a government, or a collective state, such as Al-Qaeda, decides on a tactical course of action, they do so for an overall strategic purpose.

    In my mind, an individual responds to an attack by instinct. A government responds to the strategy and not the tactic.

    And, no disrespect to Patterico, but conflating the two makes for an interesting discussion, but they are not the same issue.

    Ag80 (2a7a2a)

  164. Hebrews 11:31

    31By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

    I read the passages you offered and that passage. I also noted Rahab was called a prostitute through the whole thing. She was protected by her faith in Providence, not by her life. I know somewhere else her faith was counted as righteousness. Surely her career choice wouldn’t qualify her. And she wasn’t privy to the Law, as it were. So, she wasn’t necessarily saved by her works.

    That does not discount your assertion but it doesn’t actually validate it in my mind, either. But I’m no Biblical scholar, either. I’ve been wrong once before. I could be wrong again.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  165. Mike Warnke explains things better than me.

    At the end of one of his thingamajigs, a 16-28 year old dude (dunno his age, or can’t remember) comes up to Warnke.

    Dude: Do I have to quit smoking marijuana to be saved?
    Warnke: No.
    Christians: GASP!!!!!
    Dude: No, you don’t understand. Do I have to quit smoking marijuana to be saved?
    Warnke: No.
    Dude: You don’t understand.
    Dude pulls out a joint rolled in a paper-towel tube and waves it in Warnke’s face. Warnke hadn’t been saved that long.
    Warnke to himself: I reject THIS in the name of Jesus.
    Dude: Do I have to quit smoking this to be saved?
    Warnke: No.
    Dude: I don’t think I understand.
    Warnke: Let me put it this way. Do you need to get cleaned up to take a bath?

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  166. Wow. You see, Patterico, I don’t think your original question can be answered correctly by anybody. The reason I say this is because the question of morality bumps right up against the question of tactics, and I doubt anyone can separate the two with any degree of clarity.

    For myself, at least, I’d have to say “Are you stupid? Of course I’m not going to wear a jacket made by DuPont and blow myself up!” But that’s not morality talking, that’s my common sense tactics.

    Now, if you asked me whether or not I can go and target (using a smart bomb, or a robot, whatever) a bazaar, or a mosque, or an Islamic madrasah or whatever, and blow it to smithereens (down to the last ‘child’, cat and cow), then I’d have to weigh the tactical and strategic advantage. And if the long-term tactical and strategic advantage was high enough, I’d go for it, no further questions asked.

    There is no morality in war. When God commanded the Israelites to make war against the Amalekites, He specifically told them to kill every living thing. Down to the last babe and mule. When God struck against Egypt through the Angel of Death, He made no distinction; every first-born male child (except the Israelites) died. No matter if they were just born, or they were friendly to Israelites, or they never heard of Israelites, or they were actively campaigning to free the Israelites from slavery – they all died.

    There is no morality in war.

    But there are often tactical and strategic issues to ponder, and always, always, there’s an ‘after the war’ to think about. Of course, if the idea is “Let none survive”, then turning your enemy land into pavement via a few ICBMs is the right thing to do.

    Gregory (f7735e)

  167. Thanks for checking it out…no definite answers on my part either (but you already knew that).

    oneisnotprime (e25cc0)

  168. htom,

    I find it’s hard to admit I’m not in control, too, although it’s getting easier the older I get.

    DRJ (f462b4)

  169. I went back and re-read the two questions and something jumped out at me.

    Let me give you two concrete examples:

    * A man punches you. Is it morally right to punch him back?

    * A suicide bomber kills an innocent child in your country. Is it morally right to strap a bomb to your body, go to his country, find an innocent child, and kill yourself and that innocent child?

    In the first case, you have an individual taking an individual action, ostensibly on his own behalf. Is it right to punch him back? Well, if it’s a one-off thing where the guy just walks up to you and cold-cocks you, then no, it’s not right to hit him back. You call the police and let the competent legal authorities handle the situation. However, if after the guy cold-cocks you, he tells you that he’s going to hit you again every day, then you should hit him back as hard and as often as you can to dissuade him from that notion. In that case, you probably don’t need to involve the police. You’ve handled the situation yourself.

    In the second example, the suicide bomber isn’t merely an individual acting on his own. He is part of a group backed, at least tacitly, by a national government. I don’t believe it would be right to specifically target another child, however, I do think it would be right to kill children of that country in the process of waging war on that country. In war, children do die. It’s regrettable, but it’s also unavoidable and sometimes it’s necessary but it’s important to remember that the children are not targets themselves because targeting them does not actually solve the greater problem.

    However, if the suicide bomber is a one-off thing, then we shouldn’t act at all. We don’t kill kids simply to kill kids or to fulfill some sense of vengeance.

    Jimmie (9cbe3d)

  170. I would either answer truthfully or say noyb, yup.
    Comment by John Hitchcock — 10/18/2009 @ 8:00 pm

    If you’re going to hold fast to the law, then it would seem that “noyb” is just a lie of omission.

    Dana (863a65)

  171. Artsy Dana, I have to say noyb is a refusal to answer. No information is passed whatsoever, and thus no disinformation is passed either.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  172. No, you must not use tactics which violate your own standards. Using the other side’s immoral tactics might even be counter-productive and inefficient.

    The universal answer is: an aggressor has created a problem that must be addressed. Step 1 is self defense/preservation so you can live to “fight another day”. You must use enough force to neutralize the threat so you can decide more long term plans, hopefully without having to use excessive/immoral force. However, if you in good faith miscalculate and use too much force, that’s tough luck for the aggressor. He shouldn’t have messed with you in the first place.

    After the initial confrontation, when there is time to think about next actions, there is a greater responsibility to choose completely moral means to deal with the problem. Balance this burden against the principle that there must always be an effective remedy imposed. If the aggressor has set up a situation where supposedly you can’t impose a remedy without causing violation to your moral standards, then you must choose the remedy that least violates your morals. An aggressor and anyone else observing must always be shown that it is a losing proposition to mess with you.

    I think the Israelis have the perfect response for suicide bombers: they bulldoze the house of their family. This doesn’t kill any “innocent” bystanders, but it imposes a consequence on people who presumably knew the plans of the bomber but supported him or did nothing to prevent it. No catch 22’s allowed.

    My discussion has been more about entities like governments as opposed to individuals. For individuals, after self preservation considerations, Christian principles should apply. However it is tough to be a Christian all the way and refrain from imposing consequences to teach a painful lesson. Exception: in some cases depending on the aggressor, imposing a painful (but no permanent injury) lesson might actually be the best favor you could do for the aggressor. For others, what John Hitchcock did would be better. You have to be a great Christian to have the discernment as to which reply is best for the sake of each particular aggressor.

    My statements imply the luxury of being capable of imposing a reply. I am biased by my 6’6″ 250 lb athletic size. Once I grew to that size, it was amazing how I never seemed to encounter aggressors! Must be something about that “force in being” theory that the military observes.

    Ken in Camarillo (aa2192)

  173. As a small female, my perspective is a bit different. I have had a guy punch me, and to punch him back never accomplished anything but making me feel that at least I didn’t grovel. As a weaker combatant, one has to put a bit more thought into it. The question is, is the guy likely to do it again? If so, tit for tat will get me nowhere. If there are other useful alternatives like calling the police, or staying away from the guy, they are better choices than punching him back. If no other alternatives exist, then a convincing escalation will do more to protect me than tit for tat, and if I have to wait a while to do it, if he is likely to punch me some more, it isn’t ethically reprehensible to use a deterrent whenever I am able to do so.

    The suicide bomber retaliation is senseless. Say instead that Mr. X of SomeCountry came over and blew up my family, and survived and escaped back to his own country. I am not justified in going and blowing up his family. But say Mr. X plans on returning and blowing up somebody else I am affiliated with. Here again, other alternatives should be examined, such as capturing the X family, protecting my affiliates, trying to capture or kill Mr. X. I think to threaten his family would be justified to protect his intended victims, if he seemed to care. Unfortunately, people who blow up others are probably unpredictable in how they value relationships, relative to their other motivations. I would prefer to examine his actual motivations, and threaten his true interests. Killing his family would render them useless as leverage, and would be unethical.

    It is easy to talk about saving the lives of ‘innocents’, but that isn’t really a useful term in many contexts. For instance, terrorists do hold innocents hostage, and practice extortion. But for every terrorist is a network of supporters, enablers, those who provide intelligence, materiel, cover, and support. Women and children can be useful in those capacities, and can proselytize. The point being that lives should be spared, when possible, if doing so does not threaten more lives, but that assumptions are not productive. (So I feel risking our soldiers in Afghanistan with rules of engagement sparing any and all civilians is misguided. Why are our soldiers not ‘innocent’, when you can’t really tell who the hell is a civilian anyway?)

    In general, I think tit-for-tat is probably unethical. Unless defender D has a decisive advantage over aggressor A (in which case it is not really tit-for-tat), tit-for-tat will probably just prolong the conflict. Ethics would only seem to apply if there is an objective which is also ethical. It seems more likely that D should either withdraw or escalate to stop the conflict.

    Most importantly, the objective must be considered. If it is moral, and D is moral, then maintaining or improving one’s moral condition is at least as important as the objective of the conflict. If D has ethical standards he has considered and values, one standard should only be sacrificed in the gray areas for the sake of a higher standard. i.e., a lie to save a life, take 1 life to save many lives, etc. For people with strong ethics, there are worse things than dying.

    So the hypothetical of the Republican slandering the Democrat doesn’t pass muster. It is squandering moral identity for convenience, which is a slippery slope and will have innumerable bad consequences, even though it may look tempting in a given situation. We may think we are going to save the country, but if we turn into sleaze-buckets too, we won’t. We are far from perfect, but can’t be effective or attractive by diluting what confidence we have.

    jodetoad (059c35)

  174. sigh… Last the party as usual. My class ran over and I was pretty pooped when it was done.

    No, let me be clear, as Obama would say: I’m talking about ethics and morals.

    Actually, Patterico, reserving the talk to “ethics and morals” doesn’t rule out pragmatism, because pragmatism is simply another system of ethics. A fine example is #57 by Bill Lever. In a Parade Magazine article several years ago, Carl Sagan laid out the same Prisoner’s Dilemma argument very carefully. Only he compared it directly with other ethical systems. He called them The Golden Rule, The Silver Rule, The Bronze Rule, and The Iron Rule (if memory serves).

    Sagan figured that he had “disproved” Christian (or Biblical) ethics by his Prisoner’s Dilemma experiment. That is, proven that it didn’t “work” as effectively as his method of decision making.

    What he (and many above) failed to show was *why* any one action was more ethical than another. He only demonstrated that one action might result in less harm to yourself and your interests. But here’s the problem: in Judeo/Christian ethics we are specifically called upon to value the lives of others above our own.

    To get to your questions in the post, your action would depend upon your understanding of how it would impact others. If my autistic neighbor punches me, I will not help him or myself by punching him back. He needs my compassion and help. On the other hand, if the neighborhood bully punches me (just like he’s been punching all the kids in the neighborhood), maybe if I punch him back I’ll be helping him to learn something from the consequences of his actions and also defending others who might otherwise be hurt by him (but now maybe he’ll think twice).

    The suicide bomber has deliberately targeted innocents in order to strike greater terror into the hearts of his enemies. But is there any scenario in which a Christian could deliberately set out to kill innocent people who were not harming anyone? They may be harmed because the terrorist lives among them and I attack the terrorist – but the harm they experience in the terrorist’s fault, not mine.

    Much more could be said. Books have been written on the subject. Thank you for raising an interesting, and I hope productive, discussion.

    Gesundheit (254807)

  175. P.S. Kudos to John for his “Raise Up a Child” post at Truth Before Dishonor. Fitting words aptly spoken are like apples of gold in a setting of silver. (Or something like that – Proverbs, I think)

    Gesundheit (254807)

  176. It was one of the boys at vodkapundit a long time ago that said that americans are basically “jacksonians.” we are honorable if we think our enemy has honor, but if they don’t, we get rough. in that he contrasted how we dealt with the germans v. the japanese in WWII. you might look up his argument on this point for insight.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  177. The first scenario:

    It is acceptable to respond (preferably in a violent enough way to end the attack), because in this case it is an unprovoked attack and you have no idea how far it’s going to go. While the Jesus did say something about turning the other cheek, His father also said a great deal about defending yourself against violence.

    The second scenario:

    It is unacceptable to respond in a like manner because strapping a bomb to yourself and killing innocent people is not something civilized people do. If it was acceptable, the United States would have used Kamikazes and Banzai charges. This is quite possibly EXACTLY what Jesus actually meant. The proper response to #2 is obvious to anyone who does NOT believe in moral equivalence. Seek out the network and kill it. Easier said than done, noted; but responding in like manner cheapens you as a human being and lowers you to the base level of your adversary.

    otcconan (06d0d9)

  178. Historical anecdote on suppressing terrorism…
    (if I can get this anywhere near the facts after all this time)
    During the Lebanese Civil-Wars a quarter-century ago, Western diplomats and/or spooks with diplomatic cover were kidnapped by various factions right and left, sometimes with less-than-satisfactory results for them (ie. Christopher Buckley, IIRC).
    One day, one of these groups decided to kidnap the Beirut rep from KGB/GRU.
    The Soviets responded by tracking down every individual they could find associated with that group and killing them, and their wives/girl-friends, parents, children, siblings, everyone.
    No further kidnaps were perpetrated upon Soviet/East-Bloc nationals during the troubles in Lebanon.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  179. Two wrongs can never make a right. You might get some initial satisfaction from revenging yourself but soon it is overtaken by regret and a sick feeling at the pit of your stomach. This is my first response. BTW, great post, P.

    The Emperor (1b037c)

  180. Well, here is something that should complicate the f— out of this discussion. Okay take option B. Let’s deconstruct that a bit, because there are two parts there: suicide bombing and killing an innocent baby.

    is it the suicide part that is offensive? Not so much. i mean it does make you question how much a person actually values life if they give their own so freely, but you look through the achives of our medal of honor winners, especially the posthumous awardees, and you will find alot of people fighting when it is suicidal, or falling on grenades and the like. in the right circumstances a suicide bomb isn’t a bad thing. i mean our action movies are rife with example after example of a guy setting off a bomb in order to kill alot of bad guys and giving his life in the process, and it was generally seen as a good thing, noble even.

    No, the offensive part of #2 is the fact an innocent baby is killed. Now patterico, you say you wouldn’t even want to talk to someone who thinks #2 is justified. But the fact is when you look at what is really offensive about #2, isn’t that exactly what we did to Japan at the end of WWII? Let’s face it, Hiroshima and Nagasaki (sp?) were essentially civilian targets.

    So if Truman was alive today, you wouldn’t talk to him on this subject? and if you would, how would you get around this apparent contradiction.

    Or do you feel that the suicide part makes all the difference? because like i said, i don’t really find that to be such a problem.

    and mind you there are arguments to be made about the bombing of hiroshima, etc. for one thing, the japanese army was one of the most savage forces ever to fight. Compared to what the japanese actually did in nanjing, an a-bomb seems downright merciful. this is a fact buried over time because we feel collective guilt over internment, which seems to replicate the exact same mistake the interners did: blurring the line between japanese civizen and japanese american. and it is worth noting that the japanese had moved to mobilize literally the entire civilian population of japan to fight the invasion. if they convinced that many people to fight it might turn out that more japanese civilians would have been killed in the invasion than were killed by the a-bomb.

    It is important to note that wars are not really about winning on the battlefield. it is about convincing the enemy to stop fighting. The chief method of persuasion is obviously to kill lots of their soldiers, but even then that wasn’t enough with japan. so we had to throw at them a level of destruction the world had never before seen–a true shock and awe campaign. and awe was as important as shock, so that they would realize that it really was a waste of time to fight us. Under those circumstances, one could almost argue that killing those children in Nagasaki was justified.

    Almost.

    But while i am far from a pacifist, i myself can’t justify it. mind you, if i was the president then i would say, “hell yes, and if you push us hard enough I would do it again.” Your nukes are not going to protect you unless you at least pretend you are willing to use them. but no, i think on balance we were wrong. although the argument on the other side is as powerful as it gets.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  181. The Empty Roar

    Okay, so chart out your morality for us. Killing an innocent child is wrong to you. having sex with a child against her will, then running out of the country… well, that is not okay, but you would prefer we just let it slide. oh, and descriptions of that rape are “stimulating” to you.

    Oh, and for bonus points, you also think it is okay to say you will leave if you are caught in a contradiction and then refuse to do so once you are caught. like when you said polanski shouldn’t be punished and then said you were not saying that.

    well, thank you but i think i will consult a person whose moral compass is not broken.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  182. Btw, Frank J. Fleming does a great parody of the left on these things. favorite line:

    > A great film — and we’re talking real art here, not some blockbuster with lots of explosions to entertain the yokels — means people are going to get raped.

    that is over at pajamas media right now. honestly if you didn’t frank, you might think he was serious. and an idiot.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  183. It’s a ridiculous notion, when you tell the truth about the Democrats, they and their media lackies
    regard it as a lie, and act accordingly

    bishop (4e0dda)

  184. A.W….the fact that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were military targets was discussed earlier.
    You might look up the history of Fuji Heavy Industries (you know, the friendly folks that bring you the Subaru) and what they did during the war, and where they were located.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  185. A man punches you. Is it morally right to punch him back?

    Punhc back until he stops punching you.

    A suicide bomber kills an innocent child in your country. Is it morally right to strap a bomb to your body, go to his country, find an innocent child, and kill yourself and that innocent child?

    No.

    The morally right thing to do would be to destroy his country’s fighting forces, as what was done to Japan.

    Just as an example: we actually saw this, a bit, recently here on this site in the various discussions about Roman Polanski.

    Give him a shiv and put him in the same cell as Charles Manson.

    I agree, but the devil’s in the details – for instance, we knew that the Taliban was allowing OBL to operate freely within it’s country’s borders, so a direct response against their rulers and military operations were warranted. But what of the civilians in harm’s way, do you turn them against you by inadverdently killing them?

    No more so that we turned Japanese and Germans against us by killing their civilians who were in harm’s way in Tokyo and Dresden.

    Is it okay to go to that suicide bomber’s family, evict them from their house, and destroy all their personal possessions as a warning to all suicide bombers everywhere that something they hold dear will be destroyed after their death? That their crime will rebound even if they aren’t there to see it?

    Yes.

    We destroyed a lot of German and Japanese houses.

    Compared to what the japanese actually did in nanjing, an a-bomb seems downright merciful.

    Indeed.

    Chinese and Koreans thinks Americans are pro-Japanese for using only two atomic bombs.

    Does anyone remember the violent reaction to the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed? At the time, I thought it would do no good. And yet, it worked.

    How does that fit into this? Most people believe that a violent reaction to publication of cartoons was wrong, and yet it worked. What does it mean for other issues, such as abortion or wrongful rescissions of health insurance policies? Would violent reactions work? Would they be ethical?

    Michael Ejercito (6a1582)

  186. Comment by A.W. — 10/19/2009 @ 9:37 am
    Hey AssWhole. I don’t give a *&&K what you think about me. So why don’t you crawl back into that hole you crept out from? Ok?

    The Emperor (1b037c)

  187. More Christian Charity from the Empty Roar!

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  188. AD

    Oh give me a break. The general ordering the bomb to be dropped didn’t consider it to be a military target. and you can easily destroy the military part without leveling the whole city.

    bear in mind, if anything i am more hard core than most people. For instance, the only way i want our soldiers to leave afghanistan or iraq is if they are going to Tehran instead. i am not doing this to sap our national will or anything like this, but saying nagasaki is a military target…? give me a break. we have to be honest with ourselves on this and speak honestly. white washing what happened in WWII doesn’t help the situation.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  189. The Empty Roar

    Did i say one word which was false? heh.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  190. Matthew 15:17-20 (New International Version)

    17″Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean.’ ”

    Matthew 5:27-29 (New International Version)

    27″You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ 28But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

    Lovey lies about what Lovey already said. Lovey slanders other commenters here. Lovey claimed to be “sexually virile” thus has been sexually immoral. Lovey got aroused by an account of rape of a 13-year-old, thus Lovey is guilty of raping a 13-year-old in Lovey’s heart. By Lovey’s own words, Lovey is in danger of spending eternity in hell.

    Matthew 7:15-23 (New International Version)

    15″Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

    21″Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Lovey claims to be a Christian but Lovey’s words and deeds are not the fruit of a Christian. And Christ will say “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer!”

    Of course, Lovey can still change its ways as long as Lovey is still alive and not comatose.

    Comment by John Hitchcock — 10/17/2009 @ 11:49 am

    There you go, Lovey

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  191. Btw, Frank J. Fleming does a great parody of the left on these things. favorite line:

    > A great film — and we’re talking real art here, not some blockbuster with lots of explosions to entertain the yokels — means people are going to get raped.

    that is over at pajamas media right now. honestly if you didn’t frank, you might think he was serious. and an idiot.

    Comment by A.W. — 10/19/2009 @ 9:45 am

    Thanks for the heads up – heading over there now. Hadn’t heard of him but sounds like he’s got his head on straight.

    no one you know (7a9144)

  192. Now to my second response:
    A suicide bomber kills an innocent child in your country. Is it morally right to strap a bomb to your body, go to his country, find an innocent child, and kill yourself and that innocent child?
    Yell no! You can’t do that. What you should do is to find out who is behind the attack. Who sent him. These types never act alone. If they are operating from here, it should be easy with effective intelligence. But if they are foreign, you take the fight there. This is not a war against innocent children. We are not terrorists. it’s a war against an ideology of hatred and mass murder. Killing another innocent to avenge the innocent they killed makes us no better than them. The target should be destroying the structure that sponsors such dastardly acts of wickedness.

    The Emperor (1b037c)

  193. The super battleship Masashi, sister to the Yamoto, was built at Nagasaki. Shipyards are in cities as they are needed to support the thousands of workers that build such ships. Bombing the docks is only a setback, destroying the city is needed to stop all construction. Speer acnowledged this when the British were bombing the German cities, The displacement of the population was more disruptive than the damage to the factories, which could be moved, dispersed, and hidden. You need the workers and the infrastructure provided by the cities, which can’t be so easily moved and hidden.

    If this city was not a military target then what could possibly qualify? Just wondering.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  194. Both H & N were on lists of militarily important targets.
    The fact that they were chosen for the drops of the bombs was, admittedly, a political decision, but one that needed to be taken to impress the Japanese General Staff with the fact that Japan stood on the brink of annihilation if they did not surrender, and this is what that annihilation would look like.
    Plus, Nagasaki was not IIRC the primary target for the second bomb.
    They could have dropped it on Tokyo if they wanted to completely wipe-out the leadership of the government.
    Other than that, using Tokyo as a target would only have resulted in “bouncing of the rubble”.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  195. There you go, Lovey

    Comment by John Hitchcock — 10/19/2009 @ 10:13 am

    john, we have heard the terrible things Jesus will say to “lovey” (your imaginary friend) on that great day of judgement. What will Jesus say to you, john, on that day? Can you honestly answer that question?

    The Emperor (1b037c)

  196. NOYK

    he runs the IMAO website. and head on straight? well, um, i joke his brand of satire is “certifiable.” The connections and jokes me makes sometimes makes you wonder if he is nuts. then rarely he gets serious and you realize it is all an act. i think.

    But once you get in the groove you can very much enjoy it. like that column has him pretend that he approves of Polanski, but if you have been following him long enough you know that its just what he is saying there.

    Like here he is being more straight on the issue of Ted kennedy:

    > We debate whether an adulterer should resign, but shouldn’t unrepentant manslaughter be beyond debate and partisanship? Wouldn’t someone with even the smallest amount of humanity and humility resign from public life after that? No one could be so egotistical and out of touch as to later run for president thinking: “Wow. The country sure could use someone with my judgment and moral fortitude to run it right now.” Right?

    it goes on in similar fashion. http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/elected-seven-times-and-committed-manslaughter-did-this-really-happen/

    So Frank J. is a nut, but he is fun and if you follow him long enough you realize his really silly stuff is just an act and deep down he is probably a really decent guy.

    I also recommend scott ott of scrappleface. his genius is siezing on people’s hypocrisies. for instance, on the Rush Limbaugh thing he wrote a fake article (think like the onion) saying toward the end:

    > Commissioner Goodell added that “If the NFL stands for anything, it stands for tolerance and harmony. When families come out to watch the Cowboys go after the Redskins, we don’t want them distracted by primitive racial or ethnic divisions.”

    In other words, he is giving them sh** for suddenly being all PC. Which is a valid pont.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  197. Machinest

    By that logic, the attack on the WTC was okay.

    Or if there was a problem it was in the choice of tactics, not the target.

    AD

    > but one that needed to be taken to impress the Japanese General Staff with the fact that Japan stood on the brink of annihilation if they did not surrender, and this is what that annihilation would look like.

    Yeah, not just a loss of the military, but the loss of everyone. Come on. let’s not sugarcoat this. We have to talk about reality as it is, not to hammer it into a shape that is pleasing to us.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  198. A.W.-

    I don’t agree and I don’t see how you could arrive at that equivalence. Nagasaki was a center for production of weapons being used in an international war, a strategic target. Do you know the difference between a military action and a terrorist attack? The fundamental difference?

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  199. The Japanese defense industry used thousands of small shops and factories that were dispersed in the city. This is a similar pattern to that in India when they had the pesticide leak. The public transit system did not allow commuting so residence and work were all mixed in the same area.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  200. Hey, I really don’t know what we are arguing about?
    Japan started the war (against us) with a sneak-attack while they were conducting “negotiations” in DC, and demonstrated their concern for human-rights by their conduct in China, and their tratments of POW’s everywhere.
    They got what they deserved.
    If we had had to invade the home islands, there would have been considerably fewer Japanese around in 1950 (the estimated date the invasion would be successfully completed) than there were absent that invasion (and there would have been considerably fewer Americans, and the offspring of those Americans – “…when you take a man’s life, you take from him all he’s ever been, or will be…”).
    They started this insanity, and we ended it with what we believed was the minimum amount of loss-of-life – on both sides!

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  201. not 100% of nagasaki was military. Give me a break. and again, no one pretended it was a military target in 1945. in fact few people did until after 9-11 and people became concerned about the equivalence issue.

    The real fuzzy thinking is the idea that what truman did somehow restrains us now. That is the mistake in logic plaguing those who say that because of what we did in hiroshima we can’t denounce bin laden now.

    My deep thought on this is that terrorists fundamentally disrespect the line between civilians and soldiers. They hide as civilians instead of wearing actual uniforms, and they target civilians. But bluntly that kind of thinking condemns truman, too. I don’t like sayign that, but you will find that i am nothing if not very principled. so even if my patriot heart aches to say it, yeah, i think truman was wrong to do it. and what really distinguishes him from a man like bin laden is that he really agonized about doing it, and would have been unlikely ever to repeat it. it was only in the extremis of facing a catastrophically bloody invasion of japan that he broke that taboo. And some people will be okay with him having done that. i respect those who feel that way. but i have to say that while i understand his motives, i think it was still wrong.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  202. BULL SHIT!
    “…not 100% of nagasaki was military…”

    Not 100% of anything is military.
    You need to crack a history book, and perhaps a few autobiographies by individuals involved with “Little Boy” and “Fat Man”.

    Also, I think you need to review the First Rule of Holes.

    [note: released from moderation filter. –Stashiu]

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  203. I would still like to hear what you would consider a military target. Nagasaki was a center of industrial production for critical war material. By the standards you are setting only armies in the field and away from cities and farms could be struck. This is a silly standard.

    The population of a country must share the consequences of the leaderships actions or replace those leaders. When a country starts a war then civilians will suffer, but this does not mean you target innocent civilians. You attack factories even though workers will be killed. You do not target schools and hospitals. If you live in a city making war material you are a target.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  204. Society-level “revenge”?

    Think Cannae – massive Roman defeat which led to the re-mobilization of Roman society – which for the Carthaginians ultimately paid with the entire destruction of their homeland (the Romans sewed salt in the earth so nothing would grow).

    Perhaps the question should explicitly denote person to person confrontations, foreign power “sniping” at other’s citizens versus a systemic assault upon a nation.

    Californio (08da63)

  205. I think you have a very unrealistic idea of the accuracy of WW2 bombing. The Eighth Air Force had a CEP (circular error probability, the radius within half the bombs would fall on average) of three miles, meaning half it’s bombs would fall within a six mile circle around the target. The 15th was about half this and the British, when their navigational aids were mature later in the war, could make about 600 yards at night. The idea that the war production facilities could be bombed from extreme altitude without harming civilians is impractical.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  206. Which is why Curtis LeMay dispensed with “precision” bombing and instituted the “fire raids” on Tokyo.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  207. Military attacks are made to render your enemy incapable of harming you. To target an innocent is dishonorable, at least to my “archaic antebellum idea of honor”.

    What made Ruby Ridge and Waco disgraceful was not the civilian deaths but the fact that innocent women and children were attacked when there was no danger to the public. Innocent lives were taken for a PR stunt. This did not, however, justify putting a bomb outside a day care center. An enemy can strike at you dishonorably, but only you can throw away your own honor.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  208. I think the British showed that precision bombing was possible with the right technology. It was the idea of self defending bomber formations that was the real failure. The compromises made to that end made our bombers much less effective.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  209. Until we took Iwo, the bombers attacking the Home Islands were their only defense, since all of those targets were beyond the range of escort-fighter aircraft.
    LeMay made the best of a bad situation to get the desired results.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  210. Agreed. I was thinking in terms of Europe. The B-29s flew higher and faster than the B-17s and B-24s and were much better able to reach the target. They also had much more advanced technology and I think they were more accurate but the higher altitude and speeds offset this somewhat. I agree they did the best they could and the B-29s were much less compromised than the earlier bombers.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  211. Machinist

    > I would still like to hear what you would consider a military target. Nagasaki was a center of industrial production for critical war material. By the standards you are setting only armies in the field and away from cities and farms could be struck. This is a silly standard.

    Not at all. Hit the factories. But use bombs that will only hit the factory. And don’t even care overly much about hitting the workers—they chose to work there, so tough on them.

    > If you live in a city making war material you are a target.

    So if there is a day care center on the opposite side of a city from a tank factor, throw an H bomb and level the whole thing? There is no in between?

    > I think you have a very unrealistic idea of the accuracy of WW2 bombing.

    First, accidentally hitting a school is different from aiming for it, or dropping an unnecessarily huge bomb that will inevitably strike the school. Or as Oliver Wendell Holmes put it, even a dog knows the difference between being stumbled over and being kicked.

    But if you think the atom bomb was meant to address the problem of inaccuracy of bombs…

    And of course our enemy has a duty, too. if you put your scud next to a school, don’t come crying to us when we hit the school while trying to destroy the scud. One of the elements of terrorism is that they blend with crowd, making it hard to pick out the enemy and hard to target only the enemy when you do so. It is part of their double dose of death offered and because of weak thinking in the west it works. One of the big reforms is we have to stop letting it work. When the Palestinians resort to terrorism we shouldn’t think they are scruffy underdogs, but instead barbarians. But unfortunately that kind of moral clarity is in short supply in America, let alone in the rest of the world.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  212. They would have loved to have “bombs that will only hit the factory” but they did not exist. See my comment about CEPs.

    “But if you think the atom bomb was meant to address the problem of inaccuracy of bombs…”

    You might note that bombs got ever bigger for this reason until the improvements in accuracy allowed them to do the job with smaller bombs. You seem to be saying we aimed to kill innocents and I disagree. The atom bomb was less destructive than the conventional raids on Tokyo. The devastating aspect was that it happened with one plane and one bomb. There was no way to stop this. Even so, the leaders decided to fight on after the first bomb and the second only brought them to a tie, which allowed the “Doves” to call in the Emperor to break the tie in favor of surrender.

    It would be nice to have bullets that would only hit soldiers and would only knock people out but this is fantasy, as are your bombs. The most humane weapon in terms of long term effects, was in fact the poison gas used in WW1, and we outlawed it. When a nation makes war the whole nation is at war, not just the soldiers. We still don’t target the innocent such as women and soldiers.

    Your post seems confusing and inconsistent to me so I may not be understanding you correctly. How was Nagasaki not a military target? The whole city was involved in housing and supporting those making war material. You could not end the production without destroying the city, even if you had laser guided smart bombs, unless you were to fight your way in over and over as the facilities were repaired. Is this what you advocate? Do you think such bombs existed then? Are you mixing today and WW2?

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  213. I don’t think you could say that the thousand bomber raids on the other Japanese cities had less collateral damage. I think the opposite might be true.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  214. The A-bomb was designed to address accuracy issues… or so you say.

    Give me a break. My grandfather helped build it, although he wasn’t allowed to know what it was going to be. They built it because they wanted to have the biggest bomb ever, for the psychological impact of having such a massive bomb. not to make dang sure they hit what they were aiming at. sheesh. Where do you get this stuff?

    And then they dropped it on those two cities because they wanted to show they were willing to do it, to kill indiscriminately, to kill men women and children. Babies in the crib. and to show them that there wasn’t a whole lot of hope of stopping them.

    That is why we didn’t follow ideas like setting the bomb off on a nearby desert island.

    what we threatened them with was complete anihilation. they didn’t drop the bombs on those two cities because they were important militarily. they were dropped there to impress upon the leadership how futile it all was. this was about a show of power primarily and any destruction of their military equipment was incidental.

    And why not just kill the leadership? because of the danger that the whole place would descend into lord of the flies chaos. they wanted those leaders alive to surrender because they hoped they would finally be responsible enough to do so.

    And to pretend this had anything to do with destroying the war making capacity of the enemy is just a post-facto gloss.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  215. Dropping the bombs on two cities only barely brought them to the point of surrender and you think we should have wasted one on a desert island? We only had two or three bombs. They could not be wasted. I say again that the earlier raids were just as deadly or more so to civilians.

    To fight wars this way is a crime against the soldiers that die as a result. In Vietnam we had jets flying past harbors with tankers unloading in order to risk their lives bombing trucks with a few 55 gallon drums on them. It is immoral to throw away soldiers lives this way. When Japan attacked us they brought the results of war down on themselves. We don’t target innocents but they share the consequences of their leaders actions, just as we share the shame for what the people we elect do, when they betray our friends or support evil.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  216. Are you saying we should give up all nuclear weapons as immoral?

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  217. Machinist

    > you think we should have wasted one on a desert island?

    That’s not what I said.

    > In Vietnam we had jets flying past harbors with tankers unloading

    And when did I say you couldn’t hit the tankers?

    > Are you saying we should give up all nuclear weapons as immoral?

    If you actually read what I wrote, you might figure out the answer to that question. But here’s a hint. No. and if I was the president, I would damn sure make everyone thinks I would nuke them if I felt like it. you don’t get peace by disarmament, but by making the other side understand that you are willing to visit destruction upon them.

    Oh, and by the way, keep those idiots in iran from getting one, too.

    But seriously, are you going to argue the other way. you know, we don’t know where bin laden is exactly but my understanding is we have a pretty good idea of the general area. So screw it. drop like 20 nukes on the bastard and be done with it. right? Right?

    If Truman did the right thing, then how come no one seems interested in following his example?

    A.W. (b1db52)

  218. http://history1900s.about.com/od/worldwarii/a/hiroshima.htm
    “…There had been four cities chosen as possible targets: Hiroshima, Kokura, Nagasaki, and Niigata (Kyoto was the first choice until it was removed from the list by Secretary of War Henry L. Stimson). The cities were chosen because they had been relatively untouched during the war. The Target Committee wanted the first bomb to be “sufficiently spectacular for the importance of the weapon to be internationally recognized when publicity on it was released.”3…”
    “…Unlike many other bombing raids, the goal for this raid had not been a military installation but rather an entire city. The atomic bomb that exploded over Hiroshima killed civilian women and children in addition to soldiers. Hiroshima’s population has been estimated at 350,000; approximately 70,000 died immediately from the explosion and another 70,000 died from radiation within five years…”

    These were demonstrations that the U.S. was serious about its’ demand for Unconditional Surrender. Strategic targets were selected since, with only two, maybe three bombs in its’ inventory, the luxury of a demonstration explosion was not one that was affordable, but it was argued foe – and rejected – at the highest levels of the Government in DC.

    AD - RtR/OS! (2f0f4a)

  219. “we don’t know where bin laden is exactly but my understanding is we have a pretty good idea of the general area. So screw it. drop like 20 nukes on the bastard and be done with it. right? Right?”

    No. He is not a threat to the USA in that way. I would say there is a better case for using them on Iran or N. Korea if conventional weapons can not do the job. I do not think these regimes should be allowed to use a nuke before they are stopped.

    “And when did I say you couldn’t hit the tankers?”

    They were restricted for fear they might damage the city.

    I am having trouble understanding your position. You seem to be on both sides of rather civilians bear the responsibility for their governments. It is OK for them to be killed, just not by nukes? You would use nukes but it was wrong to use them on Japan? I can think of no enemy today but Russia who poses as big a threat to us as Japan did. Our domestic enemies like those in the Whitehouse and Capital are a much greater threat than any foreign leader out there.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  220. “Is it morally right to strap a bomb to your body, go to his country…”

    So, are we to assume TSA is taking the weekends off?

    SteveG (97b6b9)

  221. “What distinguishes acceptable uses of bad tactics from unacceptable ones?

    Social and cultural mores… which in turn redefine a “bad tactic” as a good one.

    SteveG (97b6b9)

  222. A.W., your understanding of the accuracy of strategic bombing in WWII is most puzzling. You appear to believe that WWII bomber forces had an accuracy that is about three orders of magnitude greater than the historical reality. The fact is that in WWII, the practical accuracy of heavy bombers was measured in miles. There was no way to only hit “factories”.

    Further, Japanese war industries were, as previously mentioned, decentralized outside of centralized factories in small workshops scattered about city districts. There was no way to target them.

    Your belief as to the capabilities of USAAF bombers in WWII is simply a fantasy.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  223. Machinist

    > No. He is not a threat to the USA in that way.

    I bet pound for pound he is a greater threat to the United States than anything in Hiroshima.

    > They were restricted for fear they might damage the city.

    Great. And once again, when did I, A.W. say they couldn’t hit the tankers in that situation?

    > I am having trouble understanding your position.

    I’ve explained it. reread and reread until you get it.

    SPQR

    > A.W., your understanding of the accuracy of strategic bombing in WWII is most puzzling. You appear to believe that WWII bomber forces had an accuracy that is about three orders of magnitude greater than the historical reality.

    Once again it is complete bulls— to pretend that they developed the a-bomb to improve accuracy. That is after the fact rationalization.

    A.W. (b1db52)

  224. A.W. you were the one who made comments about avoiding hitting civilian targets in WWII. Machinist’s comment about improving accuracy is not an after the fact rationalization, rather it is a description of the effect – one that I would not necessarily agree with myself.

    The bottom line remains that your comments about not aiming at civilian targets, and your claim that the atomic bombs were intended to show a willingness to kill indiscriminately ( something already shown by the firebombing raids ) continue to show that you do not understand the historical events and actual capabilities.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  225. “I’ve explained it. reread and reread until you get it.”

    Thanks, but given the rather lame answers in your last comment and your lack of coherence I don’t think it’s worth the trouble. You just seem determined to wallow in self created quilt as an American. You might find Ward Churchill’s writings rewarding. Enjoy and good day.

    Machinist (79b3ab)

  226. […] I explored this the other day, but I want to ask the same question again in a different […]

    Patterico’s Pontifications » When Is It Right For You to do to the Enemy What the Enemy Did to Your Group? (e4ab32)


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