10
   

Ends/Means and History

 
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 6 Sep, 2010 02:25 pm
Good afternoon,

After a recent declaration by U.S. President Obama that combat operations have ceased in Iraq, the idiot news outlets have cranked up their opinion round tables; many batting around the question: Was it worth it?

What I found perplexing from these mental powerhouses was an almost spontaneous answer from at least 2 major outlets; their answer, we don't know, that's for historians to decide. Followed out to its logical conclusion, this would mean that all the deaths to state sponsored forces (as well as the 100,000+ documented civilian deaths), could be worth it - depending on "how it all turns out".

I believe one of the buildling blocks of any society that can even remotely be called 'civilized' would necessarily be that it not see human beings as a "means to an end". Even in the morally-problematic arena of war, the question that lingering on remains:

Is there any outcome - any possible beneficial result - which might make that loss of life justifiable? If so, what might that be?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 10 • Views: 2,613 • Replies: 33
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Caroline
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Sep, 2010 03:14 pm
@Khethil,
It depends what war you're talking about yes? What I mean is WW2 was about fighting for our freedom, loss of life was inevitable for the sake of our freedom.
Thanks.
0 Replies
 
Intrepid
 
  2  
Reply Mon 6 Sep, 2010 03:20 pm
@Khethil,
War does not determine who is right - only who is left.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Mon 6 Sep, 2010 05:39 pm
@Khethil,
Was the US Revolutionary War worth it? The French Revolution? The US Civil War? I guess it depends on which side you were on. Is fighting the Taliban worth it for the Pakistanis? Wouldn't there be less loss of life in the short term by just allowing them to subjugate the rural areas of the country?

No one goes into war planning to kill lots and lots of people. Any society that can even remotely be called 'civilized' sees war as unfortunate and works to prevent civilian casualties to the maximum extent possible. Personally I think history will be very harsh to the instigators of the Iraq war. That doesn't mean that all wars are judged by history as the greater of possible evils.
0 Replies
 
Khethil
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 07:57 am
There are times a nation confronts where war is unavoidable (except for the ever-present option of surrendering their autonomy).

The Iraq war, specifically, is what I'm curious about. The distinct impression I got from that "news" broadcast - and others - is that it could be judged as 'justified' or 'worth it' upon future examination. If we admit to this possibility, we'd necessarily have to admit that those lives could be used were a means to <some justified end>.

Lets try this approach: Does anyone here feel that the Iraq War was an unavoidable conflict where defensive interests justify loss the use and disposal of so many lives?

I just don't see it and would like to hear the "why" from those who might.

Thanks

engineer
 
  2  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 08:18 am
@Khethil,
I've already said that I think "history" will not look kindly on Bush and his pre-emptive war, but for the sake of argument, it's easy to make up a future where the war is a pivotal moment. Just ask Bush, democracy building was his whole argument for war under the WDM stuff. Suppose the war allows Iraq and Iran to join into a broad Shia theocracy. Combined, they use their extensive oil wealth and geopolitical position to exert financial control over the Middle East while using their newly developed nuclear capability to deter military action. The terrorist Sunni groups like Al Queda are brought to heel as their financial and political support dries up. Their pursuit of common economic interests with China allow them to form a political bloc that can completely balance Western Europe/North America while stranglehold over oil induces rapid energy technology advancements in the West. In this scenario, the fracturing of the small rival state system that existed in the Middle East and the resulting rebalancing of politics and economices could well be seen as a positive.
jgweed
 
  2  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 08:24 am
It is not the historian's job or goal to justify anything, but to examine the data available, and perhaps to give an account of the complex of causes of an event. As more and more perspectives about an event (or related chains of events), it may be possible to make an ethical or political judgment about it.

More often than not, after historical explanations have been marshaled, and after all the complex of motives and events have been studied, it becomes more and more difficult to either blame or praise the event or its participants. At the present, all we really have are conflicting opinions based on extremely simple analyses (if that word can be applied meaningfully).
0 Replies
 
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 08:24 am
@engineer,
I had the same thought as folks predicted that Iraq as a democratic nation would be a flop. The only Iraqi I've ever known was a Bell Labs designer. Salt of the earth. I thought that if there were many more like him back home, the US just created the embryo of a significant competitor.
0 Replies
 
Intrepid
 
  2  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 08:36 am
@Khethil,
Based on the facts, as we know them, I would say that the war in Iraq was completely unjustified. It came about based on lies and deceipt. What benefit has been gained to justify the lives of the Iraqis, Americans and those of other nationalities that have died.

This is the legacy of George W. Bush and I see many distancing themselves from this legacy. History will record the truth and the truth ain't pretty.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 08:55 am
@engineer,
engineer wrote:
Suppose the war allows Iraq and Iran to join into a broad Shia theocracy. Combined, they use their extensive oil wealth and geopolitical position to exert financial control over the Middle East while using their newly developed nuclear capability to deter military action. The terrorist Sunni groups like Al Queda are brought to heel as their financial and political support dries up. Their pursuit of common economic interests with China allow them to form a political bloc that can completely balance Western Europe/North America while stranglehold over oil induces rapid energy technology advancements in the West. In this scenario, the fracturing of the small rival state system that existed in the Middle East and the resulting rebalancing of politics and economices could well be seen as a positive.

You forgot the part about the rainbows and lollipops and everybody getting a pony.

I suppose there's a distantly remote possibility that everything you described would actually take place. Even if it did, however, that doesn't provide a justification for the war. A nation's leadership is simply not allowed to start a war and then hope for the best, no more than an ordinary citizen is allowed to blow up a dam with the thought that "everything will somehow work out in the end." The Iraq War may indeed usher in an era of unexampled peace and prosperity to the Middle East. That still wouldn't make it justifiable.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 09:55 am
@joefromchicago,
Justification isn't the application of some philosophical detergent. It's a matter of discovery. An action is justified if it compares favorably with the ideal version of accomplishing a certain goal.

I don't understand this statement:

joefromchicago wrote:

A nation's leadership is simply not allowed to start a war and then hope for the best, no more than an ordinary citizen is allowed to blow up a dam with the thought that "everything will somehow work out in the end."
Not allowed by whom? What authority does this entity have and how does it enforce its will?
joefromchicago
 
  2  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 10:02 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

Justification isn't the application of some philosophical detergent. It's a matter of discovery. An event is justified if it compares favorably with the ideal version of that event.

You'll need to explain that better. Suppose I stab you in the eye with a fork because I think that will cure you of your migraine headaches. Amazingly, it does cure you. Given that the event (stabbing you in the eye) compares favorably with the ideal version of that event (a stabbing-induced cure), was I justified in stabbing you in the eye?

Arjuna wrote:
I don't understand this statement:

joefromchicago wrote:

A nation's leadership is simply not allowed to start a war and then hope for the best, no more than an ordinary citizen is allowed to blow up a dam with the thought that "everything will somehow work out in the end."
Not allowed by whom? What authority does this entity have and how does it enforce it's will?

In the case of the Iraq War, the US was constrained by the treaties it had entered into and by the maxims of international law that it has accepted. You can find out more here.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 10:56 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

You'll need to explain that better. Suppose I stab you in the eye with a fork because I think that will cure you of your migraine headaches. Amazingly, it does cure you. Given that the event (stabbing you in the eye) compares favorably with the ideal version of that event (a stabbing-induced cure), was I justified in stabbing you in the eye?


You know, I immediately edited my sentence to say more of "an action is justified if it is seen to be a good way to accomplish a certain goal." I did that before you posted. Unfortunately my sloppy expression stands unedited. Damn!

I'm a nurse. I hurt people for a living. And the mind bender is that I work in pediatrics, so my victims have no legal right to say no, as they would if they were of age. My actions are based on the relationship between MD's and the legal guardians of my patients. Where the rubber meets the road though, I have to understand that my actions are the best way to accomplish a certain goal. That's worked out in my relationship with the MD's. I'm also implicitly a patient advocate.


joefromchicago wrote:

here.
Thanks, I'll check it out.
kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 11:12 am
@Khethil,
Khethil wrote:

Good afternoon,

After a recent declaration by U.S. President Obama that combat operations have ceased in Iraq, the idiot news outlets have cranked up their opinion round tables; many batting around the question: Was it worth it?

What I found perplexing from these mental powerhouses was an almost spontaneous answer from at least 2 major outlets; their answer, we don't know, that's for historians to decide. Followed out to its logical conclusion, this would mean that all the deaths to state sponsored forces (as well as the 100,000+ documented civilian deaths), could be worth it - depending on "how it all turns out".

I believe one of the buildling blocks of any society that can even remotely be called 'civilized' would necessarily be that it not see human beings as a "means to an end". Even in the morally-problematic arena of war, the question that lingering on remains:

Is there any outcome - any possible beneficial result - which might make that loss of life justifiable? If so, what might that be?


When the Chinese leader, Zhou Enlai was asked about what he thought was the effects the French revolution had on the contemporary world his reply was:

"It is still too early to tell".

If Iraq became a civilized place, and became the second democracy in the Middle East, and if that was the beginning of changing the neighboring countries like Iran, or Syria, or even Pakistan into democratic states, and, as a result there was peace and prosperity in the area, then yes, I think it would have been worth it. But, whether that will happen, or is likely to happen, well, remember what Zhou said.
0 Replies
 
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 11:21 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:
You know, I immediately edited my sentence to say more of "an action is justified if it is seen to be a good way to accomplish a certain goal."

Well, a good way to get some money might be to rob a bank, but I'm not sure you'd say that I would be justified in doing that. Of course, "good" can be construed as either efficacious -- in which case robbing a bank might indeed be a very good way to get money -- or moral -- in which case it wouldn't. But then "justification" already has a moral component, so if you adopted the latter alternative you would end up with a sort of bootstrapping argument.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 11:36 am
@joefromchicago,
joefromchicago wrote:

Well, a good way to get some money might be to rob a bank, but I'm not sure you'd say that I would be justified in doing that. Of course, "good" can be construed as either efficacious -- in which case robbing a bank might indeed be a very good way to get money -- or moral -- in which case it wouldn't. But then "justification" already has a moral component, so if you adopted the latter alternative you would end up with a sort of bootstrapping argument.
The person who robs the bank is obviously convinced that it's a good/better/best way to achieve his goal. I say he's wrong.

Examine the difference between defining good as efficacious versus morally right. When do we say an action is one but not the other?

kennethamy
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 11:50 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:

joefromchicago wrote:

Well, a good way to get some money might be to rob a bank, but I'm not sure you'd say that I would be justified in doing that. Of course, "good" can be construed as either efficacious -- in which case robbing a bank might indeed be a very good way to get money -- or moral -- in which case it wouldn't. But then "justification" already has a moral component, so if you adopted the latter alternative you would end up with a sort of bootstrapping argument.
The person who robs the bank is obviously convinced that it's a good/better/best way to achieve his goal. I say he's wrong.

Examine the difference between defining good as efficacious versus morally right. When do we say an action is one but not the other?




Yes, a person who robs a bank believes it is a good way of getting money, and if he gets away with it, then he is right. But the issue is, I thought, whether such a person is morally justified in robbing the bank, and that has nothing to do whether robbing a bank is a good way of getting money.

As Aristotle pointed out, a person can be a good poisoner (good at poisoning someone) and a bad person (bad at being a person). In fact, Aristotle thought that the former implied the second. The very same is true of being a good bank robber, and being good person.
Arjuna
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 11:55 am
@kennethamy,
KA, we were discussing action.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 11:58 am
@kennethamy,
I think that if George Washington had robbed a bank to fund the Revolutionary Army, history (at least US history) would call that justified and not pegged him as evil because of it. If it was a British bank and he killed a few of the king's guards and a patron or two, I think that would be viewed sympathetically as well.
joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Tue 7 Sep, 2010 12:12 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna wrote:
The person who robs the bank is obviously convinced that it's a good/better/best way to achieve his goal. I say he's wrong.

Wrong? In what way?

Arjuna wrote:
Examine the difference between defining good as efficacious versus morally right. When do we say an action is one but not the other?

Whenever we believe that the facts and circumstances support that distinction.
 

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