Patterico's Pontifications

10/20/2009

When Is It Right For You to Do to the Enemy What the Enemy Did to Your Group?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 9:13 pm



Yes, I explored this the other day, but I want to ask the same question again in a different way.

If the enemy does something morally wrong to someone in your group, does that make it morally acceptable for you to do the same thing back to someone in the enemy’s group?

Let’s make the example concrete, if hypothetical. We all know these examples happen in real life, but . . . just keep it hypothetical for now:

If someone from the enemy’s army tortured your people to death, does that make it morally right for us to torture to death someone from the enemy’s group?

If someone from the other guy’s party takes your candidate’s comments unfairly out of context, does that make it morally right for your party to take the other side’s candidate’s comments unfairly out of context?

If someone from the opposing political party deliberately lied to federal authorities, would it make it right for members of your party to deliberately lie to federal authorities?

I’ve heard people on our side say that the other side’s bad actions entitle us to throw the rule book out the window.

Are they right?

72 Responses to “When Is It Right For You to Do to the Enemy What the Enemy Did to Your Group?”

  1. Kant’s categorical imperative answers this question for me.

    Beldar (9e2a1b)

  2. Once an enemy chooses to use torture as a technique, they subject their own to reciprocal treatment.

    As to the political question: if I am not savvy enough to reveal my opponents’ mendacity, and/or the electorate is bound and determined to be willfully ignorant of such (as the American voters were last November) I need to place my faith in divine providence. I don’t respond in kind.

    Ed from SFV (4b493e)

  3. Well, since Kant was a a real pissant who was very rarely stable, I’ll have to go with my thoughts.

    No, No and No. You have to stand for something, or you stand for nothing.

    It’s always tempting to throw the actions of your opposition back in their faces. I’m sure I’ve done it here and at other places, but we can argue endlessly from our safe havens of commentary on a blog.

    In a real-life situation, my answer might vary.

    That’s why I always find arguments about torture and “waterboarding” or abortion, for that matter, so tedious.

    Most people have definite opinions about various issues based on a whole hell of a lot of factors.

    For example, in real life, I don’t argue with my friends about politics. It’s not that I don’t have opinions. It’s not because I think they’re not smart or have well-grounded opinions.

    It’s because it will only invite acrimony and tears as they try to tell me why I am wrong. But, I value my friendships over my politics.

    So, in my personal life, I vote to make my viewpoint heard. And I work and try to live a life that makes my politics valid to those who disagree with me.

    I figure if Carville and Matalin can do it, so can I.

    Ag80 (2a7a2a)

  4. Ed from SFV pushes situational morality in one instance and switches to morality in another.

    There are absolutes. Morality is an absolute. “Situational morality” is self-defeating.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  5. Yes I did, John.

    I admired Kant when I studied some of his writings back in college, but I determined that imperfection simply must be factored into any philosophy involving man. Man is imperfect. Always has been, always will be.

    Once war is declared upon me, and in this hypothetical is clearly was, my moral imperative is to survive, and to take out the evil other(s).

    In the political realm, it is enough for me to shout out about the evil, but it is not on me to eradicate it.

    Ed from SFV (4b493e)

  6. What’s this rule book that is referred to here? I’d like to read it. And who wrote it?

    FrankM (bbdff3)

  7. Man is imperfect. That is very true. But morality is an absolute, despite man’s imperfection.

    And surviving and killing your enemy is exclusive of torturing your enemy to death. There is a wide chasm there that should never be crossed.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  8. John, I would remind you that “the Constitution is not a suicide pact”.
    Plus, I don’t think Ed was talking about “torture”, but survival.

    AD - RtR/OS! (3b92f0)

  9. Once an enemy chooses to use torture as a technique, they subject their own to reciprocal treatment.

    Sounds to me like he was.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  10. And your reminder had as its premise a straw man.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  11. John

    Explain Hiroshima

    EricPWJohnson (49a22d)

  12. The answer is no to all of your hypotheticals. It is never right for an individual to break moral law.

    That said, governments have the right, and I would argue sometimes the moral imperative, to do things that would be morally wrong for an individual to do. For example, it is wrong for any person to kill another unless it is done as an act of defending himself or another. That means that you or I may not kill someone unless that person is attacking either of us and there are no better way to defend ourselves, and even then we are morally required to limit our actions to the people actually attacking us. Governments are not so constrained and may, for example, in time of war kill members of the enemy state even though some or all of them may not have actually been involved in attacking us. To illustrate that, it was morally acceptable for the U.S to bomb Germany and Japan during WW2, including the use of atomic weapons, even though many of those killed were not guilty of actually attacking us. To give another example of a state’s right. A state has the right to execute people whom its society deems dangerous enough even though that person is not actually inflicting damage on anyone at the time of his execution. In short, a state has the duty to protect its citizens and is granted far more leeway in how it does it than an individual can be granted and, depending upon the circumstances, may even be morally justified in taking actions that are normally repugnant such as enhanced interrogations. Even states are not allowed to cross the line between enhanced interrogation and physical damage which would make the actions torture.

    All of the above assumes that both sides have moral codes that agree. The only place I see a grey area in this is when two societies have differing moral codes and one advocates actions that would be morally wrong in the other. For example, I am not sure whose definition of morality should be used when one side advocates an action, such as civilians participating in suicide bombing, and the other side thinks such actions morally repugnant. I’m very undecided on how such a situation should be handled and am thankful that I’m not the one who has to decide it, but were I placed in that position my first requirement for deciding would be to determine what is in the best course for keeping the citizens of my country safe. Once that part is determined, I would think the answer would be obvious in most situations. Even so, answers to those types of situation would require a lot of soul searching.

    Fritz J. (49662d)

  13. What Hiroshima? The military target Hiroshima? Or was there another Hiroshima? The “save civilian lives” Hiroshima? Or a different one? The “save US lives” Hiroshima? Or a different one?

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  14. Once an enemy chooses to use torture as a technique, they subject their own to reciprocal treatment.

    This is a good example of why I posed the question.

    Did anyone say anything like that in the other thread, where I linked an example of the U.S. torturing someone to death, and asked if that would justify the enemy torturing our guys?

    Did anyone give the virtual shrug and say, hey, sure. If we tortured, then they’re of course entitled to torture us.

    ?

    Patterico (64318f)

  15. Hiroshima was the site of biological warfare agents to be used by Japanese against the US. Intent was to contaminate landing beaches and US occupied territory with nuclear waste (like a dirty bomb) as well as with biological agents that had been tested against Korean people. This plan was known by two sources, one was documents captured on Okinawa, another was MAGIC decrypt data from the Japanese diplomatic codes.

    One way to sterilize a biological agent is to pass it once through a nuclear fire. The Hiroshima bomb was the simple Uranium only device that was most sure to work.

    Does that help?

    Don Meaker (9ceac6)

  16. no it isnt ethical to do any of these things. However, when the other side takes things you say out of context, it is not only acceptable but a moral obligation to name them as the liars they have shown themselves to be. And if we do those things, ti is perfectly acceptable for them to label us as such as well.

    Dan (d10944)

  17. John – create any unlikely circumstance you can where there are two people, yet only one can survive given the sustenance at hand.

    Is the moral absolute to survive, or is the moral absolute to not harm another? In other words, should one do what he can to survive at the expense of the other, or should both die sooner than one othwerwise would?

    The problem with moral absolutism is that at some point, morals come into conflict. Or, if you prefer, “Goods” conflict. If there is a “ranking” of Goods, there must be, therefore, a relative code of Goods (morals).

    Ed from SFV (4b493e)

  18. Values Clarification courses were lies. Those were values modification courses, straight up.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  19. John – create any unlikely circumstance you can where there are two people, yet only one can survive given the circumstances at hand.

    Is the moral absolute to survive, or is the moral absolute to not harm another? In other words, should one do what he can to survive at the expense of the other, or should both die sooner than a solitary survivor otherwise would?

    The problem with moral absolutism is that at some point, morals come into conflict. Or, if you prefer, “Goods” conflict. If there is a “ranking” of Goods, there must be, therefore, a relative code of Goods (morals).

    Ed from SFV (4b493e)

  20. And no, I did not see any of the “Saw” movies. Not worth my hard-earned money to see that rubbish.

    John Hitchcock (3fd153)

  21. Here is the answer:

    Let us suppose a military person from a friendly NATO country who is stationed in America (as part of the liaison office) is caught in the act of raping an American girl.

    The people catching the rapist would be well within their rights to bludgeon the nithing to death and then set his corpse on fire as an example to all who are tempted to rape girls.

    They would not be justified to gang rape a girl from the nithing’s country of origin.

    Michael Ejercito (6a1582)

  22. That said, governments have the right, and I would argue sometimes the moral imperative, to do things that would be morally wrong for an individual to do.

    Governments are a legal invention, just like corporate persons. They have no natural existance apart from the individuals that comprise them. Anything done by governments is in reality done by and at the behest of individuals.

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

  23. Also, Michael Ejercito at #21 said it perfectly.

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

  24. If the enemy does something morally wrong to someone in your group, does that make it morally acceptable for you to do the same thing back to someone in the enemy’s group?

    Or put another way, “Does having something morally wrong done unto you magically transform it from being morally wrong to morally acceptable in a different context?”

    I say, no.

    Tom (69f10e)

  25. When the threat of similar reciprocal treatment is credible, it can deter our enemies from carrying out their planned “morally wrong” action against our people.

    Perhaps the most clear-cut example dates back to World War I, when American Doughboys were using 12 gauge riotguns to clear German trenches. The buckshot loads were devastatingly effective at close range, so much so that the Germans let it be known that any American captured with a trench gun would be summarily executed.

    The Americans responded that German POWs would be killed in return.

    The Germans backed down and chose not to carry out their threat.

    The New York Times reports on the German threat and the U.S. response:

    “The German Government protests against the use of shotguns by the American Army and calls attention to the fact that, according to the law of war (Kriegsrecht,) every prisoner found to have in his possession such guns or ammunition belonging therero forfeits his life.”

    American Secretary of State Robert Lansing saved the turnabout-is-fair-play for the end of his reply:

    “[I]f the German Government should carry out its threat in a single instance it will be the right and duty of the Government of the United States to make such reprisals as will best protect the American forces and notice is hereby given of the intention of the Government of the United States to make such reprisals.”

    I’d say that this is a real-world example of being prepared to use the same tactics as the enemy in order to protect your own people. It was justified, it was effective, and it was right.

    Mike Lief (670fe3)

  26. “If someone from the enemy’s army tortured your people to death, does that make it morally right for us to torture to death someone from the enemy’s group?”

    No.

    “If someone from the other guy’s party takes your candidate’s comments unfairly out of context, does that make it morally right for your party to take the other side’s candidate’s comments unfairly out of context?”

    Yes. In academia, this is called “exegesis.”

    “If someone from the opposing political party deliberately lied to federal authorities, would it make it right for members of your party to deliberately lie to federal authorities?”

    Yes. It’s always right to lie to HUAC, ATF, IRS and thousands of other illegitimate federal authorities. In case any authorities are reading this, I would never lie to a governmental authority of any kind from fear of punishment. It’s just not always possible to do right.

    tehag (d11af3)

  27. I think the answer to all of your hypotheticals is not merely “no” but “obviously no.” I do think it’s appropriate to use one’s opponents arguments against them but that’s just to show that they don’t hold themselves to the same standards they hold others to. So when one political group condemns another it is valid to apply the standards they’re using to them to say they don’t meet those standards either. If a Freudian or a Marxist says beliefs are suspect because they’re the product of psychological dysfunction or social conditioning, I immediately ask if this includes her belief in Freudianism or Marxism

    Jim S. (a58d1b)

  28. The simple answers to all the hypotheticals is “no.” Sometimes, however, it depends on who the “someone” is. With that being said, the comments of Michael Ejercito (21), Tom (24), AND Mike Lief (25) are ALL correct.

    Ira (28a423)

  29. My “moral law” as a mother is that I will do anything to protect my child and family. My father’s generation (WWII)also complied with this law when it came to defending the country in which they and their families, lived. They realized this was a life and death matter. As for the high ground that the liberals claim, watching them operate in the manner they have since being elected to “rule” us, they don’t have a leg to stand on.

    J (2946f2)

  30. As to Hypo #s 1 & 3, absolutely not.

    As to Hypo #2, I say yes. First of all, the example in hypo #2 is not sanctioning a crime. Second, the example in hypo #2 is a lot more slippery than hypo #s 1 & 3. Just what exactly IS taking something unfairly out of context? And whose standard do we use to judge that?

    The only caveat is that the out of context comments must have actually been, you know, uttered, and not made up out of whole cloth (eg Rush Limbaugh).

    Sean P (50f5d9)

  31. The difference is that WWII was a defensive, rather than an offensive war – and no, I don’t want to get into a debate about Iraq here. We didn’t fight Japan and Germany (and, no the Italians don’t even count in my book) for territorial gain or empire.

    By and large our soldiers, with few exceptions, have always behaved in a moral fashion and have always taken pains to protect civilians. They’re trained that way and we’ve come to expect this level of integrity from them.

    The difference between that and political dialogue is that political dialogue, going back to the founding of our country, has never been polite. It has always been a go for your opponent’s throat sort of thing, even back to Jefferson and John Adams (they hated each other).

    It seems lately, to me anyway, that the difference over the last few years has become the intransigence of both sides. Before it was ‘well, okay, we’ll take our half a loaf and hope for better next time’, whereas now it seems both sides have a take no prisoners attitude.

    BTW, that’s what I don’t like. In America things have almost always been about compromise, and now neither side is willing to budge. People in the middle, like myself, are disparaged because we don’t take a side or don’t take that side all the time.

    And yes, the libs are just as bad, and yes, I do post things like this on dailykos & rawstory.

    JEA (b29a48)

  32. Manadei al Jamadi, was an insurgent leader, setting off weapons against our troops, he forfeits Geneva protections, and well things
    get rough, and he died.

    Now a real life version of this, is a worthless wastrel like Steve Green, did rape an Iraqi girl,
    which became the subject of Brian Depalma’s
    “Redacted”. As a result, the local insurgent leader, Abu Tunissi (not an Iraqi) in Mahmoudiya, had several soldiers, Tucker and Menchaca, kidnapped, murdered and then mutilated them horribly. Abu Tunissi, later met a curtailed life, probably because his practices probably
    didn’t agree with the people’s sentiments

    bishop (996c34)

  33. I’m going to pose another example in this vein. In the hijacking of the Achille Lauro, US Citizen, Leon Klinghoffer, was killed by the hijackers for no reason other than he was a Jew. If the US knew the flight crew of the airliner carrying the hijackers were members of the hijackers’ terror group, instead of escorting the airliner to Italy, would the US been within their rights to just shoot down the airliner with the terrorists and terrorist crew on board?

    PCD (1d8b6d)

  34. If an enemy tortures your people, they remove themselves from Geneva convention protection. Waterboard them and shoot them in the head.

    If they take you out of context, that is the same thing as hitting you with a barstool in a barfight. Pick that barstool up, crack their skull, then slice them with a broken bottle. Ask them in public how they like that.

    If they lie to the feds, you expose the lie, you sue, you publicly demand that the feds prosecute, and when they don’t, then the rule of law is obviously no longer an issue. Go after them and their fed buddies in any way you can, including illegal.

    Laying down and crying while they *$#& you hard is for victims.

    SMARTY (eed5d4)

  35. I wonder about the % of Christian vs. Jews who say fight back no matter what and “Oh no, that makes us as bad as them”.

    I would rather choose resistance now vs. hoping for a position as SonderKommando later…

    SMARTY (eed5d4)

  36. #22 Brother Fikes wrote

    Governments are a legal invention, just like corporate persons. They have no natural existance apart from the individuals that comprise them. Anything done by governments is in reality done by and at the behest of individuals.

    Your statement is accurate which leaves me wondering what your point is. Are you arguing that a state must follow the same moral code that an individual follows and that an individual is therefore allowed to do anything that the state is allowed, and that a state is forbidden doing anything that an individual would not be allowed? Or did you have something else in mind?

    Fritz J. (69e2ba)

  37. The pilots would’ve been killed too if there were civilian pilots flying it. I don’t quite remember if the terrorists were planning on flying the plane.

    JEA (9f9fc9)

  38. 35, JEA, read and understand completely before formulating your reply. I cut this quote from my proffered example and bolded the relevant piece for your understanding. “If the US knew the flight crew of the airliner carrying the hijackers were members of the hijackers’ terror group“.

    Get it now? I was not including an innocent flight crew.

    PCD (1d8b6d)

  39. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    Torture, which I consider inflicting permanent physical harm on a prisoner, is wrong. Neither water boarding nor sleep deprivation are torture.

    In 1972, some NVA soldiers in Laos captured, tortured and executed a friend of mine who had ejected from his F4E. It made me extremely angry and afterwards, I killed NVA troops in large number without remorse. NVA acts were wrong; mine, vindictive but amoral.

    As for Hiroshima, the idea was to end the war. There are arguments that the Japanese were ready to surrender and had made contact with the Russians. If correct, it would be immoral to use our nuclear weapons. Absent that evidence, and in light of Japanese tactics on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, our invasion of the home islands would have caused 7 millions US killed.

    The WWII logic was expressed by Maj Gen Curtis LeMay, “If you kill enough of them, they stop fighting.” He was certainly correct.

    If your candidate is quoted out of context, you should clarify, but not respond in kind.

    Making a false official statement to federal authorities is not only wrong, it is a crime.

    Arch (73e14a)

  40. It depends on *which* rulebook.

    For the rules of good and evil, no; an enemy’s infliction of evil on you does not permit you to inflict the same evil on him. No torture.

    For the rule of mutual commonly applicable law, no; an opponent’s commission of a criminal act does not excuse you from breaking the same law.

    For the rule of simple good manners… well, I have to admit: When your opponents can win an election more effectively by disingenuously, unfairly misrepresenting you, and you have to choose between losing nicely or winning nastily, sometimes a little bit of sauce-for-the-gander isn’t out of place.

    Stephen J. (308ea7)

  41. If the US knew the flight crew of the airliner carrying the hijackers were members of the hijackers’ terror group, instead of escorting the airliner to Italy, would the US been within their rights to just shoot down the airliner with the terrorists and terrorist crew on board?

    Of course.

    Michael Ejercito (6a1582)

  42. My answer: no, no, no.

    In regards to the second question, it would be better to instead of taking your opponent’s comments out of context to highlight that person’s disengenuity, unreliability or dishonesty. A variation of the same thing pretty much applies to the third question.

    Mark (411533)

  43. Michael Ejercito, in comment 39, is correct again. I hope we would have the fortitude to actually do so and be prepared to combat the terror group and its allies with respect to the further “reprisals” sure to be attempted.
    Arch, in comment 37, echoes the LeMay remark about killing enough of “them” to make “them” stop. The definition of “them” in WWII could be a whole lot broader than the the definition of “them” with respect to terrorist organizations.

    Ira (28a423)

  44. Rather than say that once you subject your enemy to torture, you subject your soldiers to torture, it may be put this way: When you deny your prisoners of war Geneva Convention protection, your soldiers become illegal compatants who always denied Geneva Convention protection.

    One famous example of reciprocal treatment: When Rommel became aware of British orders to deny POWs water in North Africa, he gave orders to deny British POWs water until the order was recinded. The British changed their orders/policy quickly.

    It is morally wrong to let evil win. To proud to fight guarantees a loss for the good guy.

    Don Meaker (9ceac6)

  45. Rather than say that once you subject your enemy to torture, you subject your soldiers to torture, it may be put this way: When you deny your prisoners of war Geneva Convention protection, your soldiers become illegal compatants who always denied Geneva Convention protection.

    One famous example of reciprocal treatment: When Rommel became aware of British orders to deny POWs water in North Africa, he gave orders to deny British POWs water until the order was recinded. The British changed their orders/policy quickly.

    It is morally wrong to let evil win. Too proud to fight guarantees a loss for the good guy.

    Don Meaker (9ceac6)

  46. Ethics in war? War IS hell. That’s why we always have the obligation to try to make it swift. Hence the obligation to make it as violent as possible — insuring victory ASAP.

    I’ll choose to act violently if I need to defend my home or homeland — but not because I’d justify it with the “other side’s” actions. Drop one bomb on the Naval Station at Pearl Harbor and the US should and would respond with the full might of the military.

    ukuleledave (45df76)

  47. JEA #31, at no time did Japan or Germany have the capability to invade the United States. Nor did the US ever believe that they could. There was no “defensive” component to our involvement in WWII. In both cases, the United States was intervening in “foreign” conflicts. In the case of Japan, we intervened in their conflict with China. In the case of Germany, we intervened in their conflict with Britain/France/Soviet Union.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  48. SPQR,

    We were very unprepared for WWII. With a standing military of only 1.45 million men (same as today) there was considerable doubt about our ability to defend the country. By war’s end, we had 8.3 million men under arms.

    The waters off the East Coast were prime Wolf Pack hunting ground with merchant ships bound for UK sunk within sight of land.

    The Germans landed commandos on Long Island, where they were turned in, imprisoned, tried as spies and executed.

    After Pearl Harbor, the California was shelled by a Japanese submarine.

    The Japanese invaded Alaska and occupied islands in the Aleutians.

    In 1941, Germany and Japan were more of an immediate threat to us than we were to them.

    Arch (73e14a)

  49. Ira:

    “Them” to LeMay meant “Japanese.” From April until August 1945, LeMay’s bombers dropped thousands of tons of incendiary munitions on Japanese cities constructed of paper and wood. Of the million who died in these raids, most were civilians.

    During WWII, war propaganda was rampant in America. The next time you are in a large library, go back into the stacks and look 1943 and 1944 issues of Life, Look or Time Magazines. Japanese are always pictured with buck teeth and glasses. It’s absolutely racist.

    Arch (73e14a)

  50. Arch, you are greatly exaggerating the threat of Japan and Germany to the US. In the first place, the shelling by a Japanese submarine ( near Santa Barbara ) did virtually no damage. “Invaded Alaska” while technically correct is a great exaggeration as only a couple of islands in the Aleutian chain, closer to Japan than to Alaska, were involved. The landing on the Aleutian islands was nothing more than a feint to draw out the US Navy as part of the Midway operation. Japan reluctantly attacked us only because of our embargos of raw materials they needed.

    While German subs were sinking ships off the East Coast, US Navy ships were attacking German subs without any declaration of war. We were a large, active, military threat to their war with Britain.

    Your conclusion that Japan and Germany were greater threats than we were to them is simply false.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  51. I’ve heard people on our side make such arguments too, and I reject them. After attending the 9/12 March I saw a lot of people who weren’t there claiming things that were obviously untrue (like that The Mall was filled, when in fact organizers had no permit for it, and it was thus off-limits), when I tried to correct them I was given variations of “the left lies all the time, we have to do it to keep up!” Disgusting.

    The exception I can think of is when mimicking your opponents actions has a good chance of discouraging your opponent from doing it further. An example would be prison. We violate people’s rights to liberty when they violate other people’s right.

    Brian G. (4fbdf1)

  52. If someone from the enemy’s army tortured your people to death, does that make it morally right for us to torture to death someone from the enemy’s group?

    If someone from the other guy’s party takes your candidate’s comments unfairly out of context, does that make it morally right for your party to take the other side’s candidate’s comments unfairly out of context?

    If someone from the opposing political party deliberately lied to federal authorities, would it make it right for members of your party to deliberately lie to federal authorities?

    No,

    no,

    and no.

    Mike D (b28b9d)

  53. SPQR,
    Last I checked, Hawaii and Alaska were the sovereign territory of the US in 1941. The Philippines were still the territory of the US, scheduled for independence in 1941. Guam was US territory. Wake Island was US territory. The soldiers, sailors and civilians were – in many of these places – citizens of the US who were attacked – without declaration of war – by a foreign power – Japan. Germany declared war on the US.
    The level of the threat to the US was unknown. Many of the early battles in the war were defeats. Many of the victories were close run things.

    The assumption that the people knew then, what we know now makes no sense. Japan, for example, had quickly invaded and over run much of the Pacific. We should have known they couldn’t put troops ashore in California because. Nazi Germany controlled all of the resources of the Europe. Only mismanagement – along with their insane racial theories – keep them from using these resources efficiently. We were to assume the Nazis couldn’t throw a couple of Panzer divisions across the Atlantic because? The US army could have successfully defeated them? Read An Army at Dawn and remember that Operation Torch took place almost a year after Pearl Harbor

    Mike Giles (39c34b)

  54. In any case:

    Prop. #1 – To obtain vital information – yes. Simply to revenge one of your own who was tortured – probably not.

    Prop. #2 – No. It’s more useful to show the opposition to be a bunch of liars.

    Prop. #3 – No. 5th Amendment. Just refuse to answer anything – unless they give you immunity on everything.

    Mike Giles (39c34b)

  55. FDR had quietly begun ramping up recruitment and military before we entered the war, but even so we weren’t nearly ready for it when the Japanese attacked.

    As for the depictions of Japanese and Germans during the war, I’ve seen them, and yes, they are quite racist. That was part of the war effort. It’s quite easy to criticize decades later, but I think, Brian, you really need to keep history in perspective of the times in which it occurred.

    And I’ve heard arguments aobout the incendiary bombings in both Germany and Japan, as well as Hroshima and Nagasaki. And my counterargument is always the same: the Japanese and Germans, who started the war, were also busy committing hideous atrocities that were vastly worse than anything we did to them.

    JEA (cfcb76)

  56. That you ask the question, and that it gets debated, shows how small you folks are.
    Nearly 4,000 years ago the code of Hammurabi tried to temper unjust and immoral punishment (by that day’s standards) — over the top retribution — by making it fit the crime.
    For example, if a man hit a pregnant woman and caused her to miscarry, then the assailant’s daughter would be put to death.
    It had clean logic in a society in which a whole family might get wiped out over such a deed.
    But it doesn’t look right from where we stand, or at least most of us. It was an improvement, a civilizing one, on how various crimes, trespasses and slights were handled. The most noted example from the code is an eye for an eye.
    You guys are devolving and seeking the way of Hammurabi — an uncivilizing venture.
    And for you, specifically, Patterico, your question concerns the rule of law. That raises questions about your own guiding principles, understanding and motivation. You might ask your boss if it’s OK for you to throw a case against a murderer who is an otherwise upstanding citizen and happened to get angry and blow away a bunch of street toughs who looked at him menacingly.
    Unless your boss is drinking the same Kool-Aid as you, I expect I know the answer you’d get.

    Larry Reilly (45c8f2)

  57. Mawy obviously cannot read for comprehension. And appears to be completely unaware of the rule against dragging the host’s job into this.

    JD (07f478)

  58. Larry Reilly, you come in here, generalize and insult everyone for having a philosophical discussion, and then miss the entire freaking point.

    Your historical points are banal and obvious.

    I didn’t have anything to contribute to these debates because I don’t meet the initial criteria (I am not sure it’s always OK to punch someone who punches me). At least I had the decency to not come in here and bash everyone who trying to enjoy an intelligent discussion.

    What’s wrong with people like you?

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  59. Dustin, in response to Mawy, says :

    What’s wrong with people like you?

    I have to assume that was rhetorical, as Mawy’s problems are quite obvious.

    JD (07f478)

  60. Mike, the vulnerability of the Phillipines was known in advance of WWII. In fact, US Army plans were to abandon the Phillipines, a plan that MacArthur foolishly countermanded in his arrogance. Nonetheless, no one in the US military believed that Japan could operate against the US mainland.

    FDR knowingly provoked Japan. Likewise, FDR knowingly provoked Germany by intervening in the Battle of the Atlantic without legal authority from Congress and without any declaration of war.

    The racism of the Pacific War was on both sides. The Japanese exhibited just as much racism toward the Chinese and toward their Western enemies as was directed to them.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  61. LOL, just as much racism, SPQR? I think the Japanese were far, far, far ,far ,far worse towards their racial enemies than any other state in WWII, except for Germany (and then, they are still worse, just not much worse)

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  62. Larry – If ignorance is bliss, why are you always so unhappy?

    daleyrocks (718861)

  63. I don’t have time to look it up now, but I don’t think that reference to Hammurabi is correct; memory suggests there was a fine, not a death.

    htom (412a17)

  64. I think you’ve mixed up the death of the unborn with the death of the woman.
    Hammurabi at Fordham:

    209. If a man strike a free-born woman so that she lose her unborn child, he shall pay ten shekels for her loss.

    210. If the woman die, his daughter shall be put to death.

    211. If a woman of the free class lose her child by a blow, he shall pay five shekels in money.

    212. If this woman die, he shall pay half a mina.

    213. If he strike the maid-servant of a man, and she lose her child, he shall pay two shekels in money.

    214. If this maid-servant die, he shall pay one-third of a mina.

    (I’m not a lawyer, whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know.)

    htom (412a17)

  65. When Is It Right For You to Do to the Enemy What the Enemy Did to Your Group?

    That reminds of the Shogan Paradox

    When is it permissable for a Vassal to betray his Lord?

    The answer to both questions is

    When you Win

    Dan Kauffman (3c9c17)

  66. Dustin, the Germans just industrialized their racism.

    SPQR (26be8b)

  67. When you deny your prisoners of war Geneva Convention protection, your soldiers become illegal compatants who always denied Geneva Convention protection.

    How many detainees in the War on Terror are entitled to POW protections?

    Michael Ejercito (6a1582)

  68. Detainees of ours: ZERO!

    AD - RtR/OS! (748050)

  69. I think the comparison of these to the prior set is quite interesting.

    Prior: return a punch/return a suicide bombing
    Current: torture for torture/misquote for misquote/lie to Feds for lie to Feds.

    The first set are direct reprisals, but the second set are things that might be done in the course of some other cause by and for themselves. If you need information quickly, even the most saintly among us might have torture cross his/her mind. In a world of soundbites, it’s tempting to clip one down for maximal effect, even though context may allow for a completely different interpretation. And, of course, considering how many of citizens’ interactions with the Federal government are pleasant and productive, it’s practically a civic duty to send them off on some snipe hunt where they won’t bother people.

    Knowing that “the other side” might have done something first would help erode any resistance there may be to the act — in a “two dogs will do things one dog won’t do” sort of way. But it’s not a direct tit-for-tat. It is a revulsion against torture, misrepresentation, and lies that is being overcome even more than it is about torturing the enemy, misrepresenting the opponent, and lying a patsy into federal trouble. As such, it really comes down to the external issues, e.g.: they tortured our soldier to make propaganda, we would never do the same for propaganda…..but if it’s for 100,000 lives in a city, where do I plug in? The prior torture might weigh into the calculus slightly — before: “oh, it’s a dozen people in a subway car? Well……torture is baaaadd…..” after: “oh, it’s a dozen people in a subway car? Strap him in, his buddies were doing worse for giggles last month.”

    And this throws a brighter light on the previous questions as well. Suicide bombing because someone suicide-bombed your side? Eh, not really….but, looking at the popular culture in such films as Star Wars or Independence Day — weren’t these both essentially suicide bombing missions, that through some deus ex machina ended up being survivable? Weren’t these portrayed as noble and heroic? Isn’t it a little bit hypocritical to say, “no, nohow, noway, not in a million years” when you’ve just cheered thousands of “bad guys” getting blown to smithereens by a plucky lad with a lucky shot?

    So it all comes down to The Cause. Blow against Evil Empires, yup. Saving humanity from extinction, yup. What the heck — thwarting renegade Maiar in their jewelry choices, yup. All good causes for suicide missions.

    By contrast, you have: global Caliphate, nope. Blessed afterlife, nope. Modification of election results, nope. Propaganda and recruiting, nope. Simple vengeance, nope.

    And that’s where it ends up, I’m afraid. Much as I hate the term “situational ethics”, it seems that you get as dirty as you need to if there’s enough of a reason to accomplish something.

    cthulhu (ca0fc5)

  70. It depends…

    …are we killing them too? That matters.

    likwidshoe (dd05e1)

  71. SPQR, yeah, the German’s indeed were very systematic and official about their hatreds back then.

    I was not only referring to Japanese atrocities in China, that were often sanctioned but not really industrial. Korea has had entire millenia long dynasties completely erased by Japan’s former love of being idiots.

    I think you had a point about FDR, especially with racism. I guess I just think it’s strange so many Americans don’t know much about the true stakes of not having strong british style democracies dominating the world. Even today, those stakes are enormous, in my opinion.

    Enough to pay tit for tat? Of course not… that’s the whole point.

    Dustin (bb61e3)

  72. No (torture) — if the rationale is simple reciprocity, what’s the point other than simple vengeance? Japanese atrocities in WWII are a good analogy. The US didn’t respond to treatment of its prisoners (starvation, bayonet practice, beheadings) recriprocally, we responded by not taking prisoners at all (not that the Japanese surrendered often), pitilessly torching their cities when our bombers could reach the Japanese homeland, and trying and hanging their war criminals. The Japanese have been reliably pacifist since then — lesson learned.

    No (out of context) — if one’s opponent is that sloppy or heedless, one would have enough ammunition to target the opponent in context. Besides, reciprocating would simply open oneself to scrutiny either from one’s opponent or the press, wasting yet more cycles in “setting the record straight”.

    No (lying to fed’l authorities) — that is, unless one wants to share a cell with one’s opponent in a minimum security federal prison.

    The problem with reciprocity is that, like with cheap shots in a football game, the referees almost always miss the first punch, but catch the retaliation.

    furious (71af32)

  73. You’ve missed the point about reciprocity entirely, furious.

    SPQR (26be8b)


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