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Boy, is *this* guy out of step with St. Blog’s

While readers on FB and in my comboxes demand to know just when *would* I pluck up the courage to go to war, this wuss is suggesting we should be heading in the opposite direction in our inquiries on such matters:

“There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq,” he said on a press conference in 2003. “To say nothing of the fact that, given the new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups, today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’

Fortunately, of course, Benedict XVI is not laying down a dogma (which is Latin for, “the only thing you have to pay any attention to”).  But for those of us who think that the whole conversation the Magisterium conducts on the Tradition is of interest and not merely the bits useful to propping up pre-ordained commitments to ideology, his remarks, like his remarks on capital punishment abolition, or torture, or so forth, give you a sense of where the Church is and is not heading in its thinking.  Those who dream that the Church will return to the golden age of the auto de fe, or the ghettoization of Jews, or burning people at the stake, or the blessing of Crusades or the headsman’s ax or or the rack are simply delusional.  The Church’s teaching on the dignity of  the human person has already placed it on an irrevocable trajectory away from use of violence in all but the most desperate situations.  And increasingly, people like Benedict are now asking whether the appalling consequences of the use of violence (a “tool of Antichrist” is what he calls it) leave us with any wiggle room in claiming it as a legitmate solution to our problems.

Yes.  He is merely asking, not codifying.  Nor shall the Church ever codify this.  But it’s really pretty obvious that the question for the Church is not “How do we figure out as many rationales for the legitimate use of violence as possible without technically committing mortal sin?” but is, rather, how do we keep the choice for violence at bay as long as possible?  That’s where the momentum of the Magisterium is heading.  If you want to think with the Church about war and peace, start there, not with clever rationalizations for violence.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    “Those who dream that the Church will return to the golden age of the auto de fe, or the ghettoization of Jews, or burning people at the stake, or the blessing of Crusades or the headsman’s ax or or the rack are simply delusional.”

    A portrait of the Church’s history that sounds more like it came from Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris . I doubt people who who question recent changes in how we look at traditional Church teaching are necessarily pining for the good old days of witch burnings and Jew slaughter.

  • Kirt Higdon

    I’m certainly with the Holy Father on this one. It raises the question of whether even wars in national self-defense can be considered licit given the amount of destruction involved. It also raises the question of whether a central regime is justified in using force against groups which want to break away and gain independence. (I’m avoiding the banned s-word.) A savage resistance in Iraq and Afghanistan against foreign conquerers have restored the independence of the former and will do so once again in the latter, but at terrible cost. Here at the heart of the evil empire, there is much that can be done by way of resistance that is perfectly legal as well as non-violent. Contributions to pro-life charities and to those which aid the victims of US aggression abroad are often tax deductible, so they deprive the anti-life regime of resources even as they aid its victims.

    • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

      You don’t have to stay. Just leaving such an evil empire might be the best thing to do.

      • Kirt Higdon

        I certainly considered leaving and researched it a lot awhile back. There are countries in the world which are predominantly Catholic, pro-life, anti-sodomy and don’t send their armed forces all over the world to beat and bully other countries into submission. In the end, due to family considerations, I remained and that window of opportunity is now closed, probably never to re-open. But that indicates that it is probably the will of God, insofar as I can discern it, to remain here to build the culture of life. And that means also doing what I can to undermine the regime of death and help its victims both foreign and domestic.

  • http://raeblog.blogspot.com Rae Stabosz

    I would like to see the US move in a more peaceful direction. I have loved ones who think targeted drone warfare is legitimate despite the “collateral damage” — these insist that civilians are always killed in war.

    I can’t envision how this more peaceful direction would come about in today’s political climate . Our politics seem too broken to ever recover. I really wish I had some insight into how we could recover and govern ourselves again through our representatives. Do you suppose that the violence of our words to one another is as destructive, ultimately, as the violence of our wars against our enemies ? Does each American feel that he or she has so many enemies at home that there is no possibility of finding solutions to enemies abroad? Honestly, I am stumped. Completely stumped.

    • http://arkanabar.blogspot.com Arkanabar

      Rae, recovery from the murderousness of both our foreign and domestic policy depends upon conversion of heart, which depends on us living like saints. Mark rightly rails against alternative magesteria, and when he remembers, would caution you that he is absolutely not to be taken as such. I recommend reading on the lives of the saints, which are the very best means of interpreting scripture.

    • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

      ‘Do you suppose that the violence of our words to one another is as destructive, ultimately, as the violence of our wars against our enemies ? Does each American feel that he or she has so many enemies at home that there is no possibility of finding solutions to enemies abroad? ‘

      “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

      I think you’re onto something.

    • Dan C

      I think we are victims to a ginning up of political drama. Yes, there is structured divisiveness in this country. It is geographic, with clearly the midwest and the south believing differently than the Northeast and the West. There is sociologic division with urban/suburban areas thinking differently again than the rural areas.

      But this era functions better than the 1990′s. Clinton, over-venerated man he is as regards a unifying statesman, failed on a nationalized health care plan, had a full-on cessation of government, and was impeached. Obama and the Republicans have not shut down the government, have tried to solve the problem of national health care, but have participated in drama-induced increased ratings for Fox and CNN.

      I think we need to consider less narcissism as we determine [with hand dramatically placed on brow] how AWFUL it is.

      I am done with drama.

    • Kenneth

      I don’t know how we would complete this vision of yours, but I do know how it must be started. We must, all of us, do nothing less than abandon our tribes, and turn away from any and all sources of leadership that preach fear and who demand your money, your loyalty, your vote so that they can defend “your” way of life against “them.”

      We must break ourselves away from our own inbred news channels which reinforce our own preconceptions about the world and drag us into a feedback look of fear. This is a huge part of how we got to this point. We have hysterical talk of arming ourselves against each other and “the feds” not because of any reality on the ground, but what we “know” is going to happen next. “We know they’re going to come take all of our guns, and outlaw our religion.” Really? You know that? How do you know that? Because Rush Limbaugh or some gun industry gun who loves panic buying said so?

      We need to get over the hubris of telling ourselves that every public policy question is an existential one, and that we are the generation to save or doom America. World wars were existential questions. The Civil War was a matter of existential magnitude, which is why Mark won’t entertain talk of repeating that experiment. The Cold War and Bay of Pigs were existential battles. Gay marriage, a package of proposed gun bills, and Obama’s choice of inaugural speakers…..not so much.

  • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

    I don’t actually dispute that we really should be asking questions about the nature of just war and he brings up a very good point about the nature of modern weaponry. His question outlined above, however is not the only question we should be considering.

    Let me give you a scenario. At what point is violence appropriate in this chain of events?

    1. A muslim religious court constitutes itself and declares it has universal jurisdiction and the right to impose physical punishments up to and including the death penalty
    2. It declares that anybody who insults Mohammed shall die
    3. It finds out I say Mohammed is not a prophet and finds this insulting
    4. It issues a religious judgment that I am worthy of death
    5. Adherents of this court come and kill me.

    At every step in the process, the chance of avoiding death goes down. For me personally I’m between step 2 and 3 as are most christians. For some people, they’re between steps 4 and 5 and of course for far too many, they went through all 5 steps. When did martyrdom to the point of genocide become mandatory?

    • Kenneth

      Do you have a lot of Sharia courts and a huge population of radicalized, illiterate young Muslim men where you live? Is there someplace in the U.S. which is majority Salafist Muslim that I’m not aware of?

      • B-Rob

        Perhaps TMLutas is not being self-centered and thinking of all our Coptic/Maronite/Melkite, etc brothers and sisters being persecuted as we speak?

        • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

          I can’t claim to be entirely disinterested (see above) but I do have a soft spot for the Melkites, in fact. They trained my bishop. I like my bishop.

      • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

        If you are not aware, Sharia courts are universal jurisdiction courts so it is not really necessary for the local muslim population to be anything other than what they mostly are in the US, loyal citizens who don’t go in for salafist radicalism. I have corresponded with people who have had death penalty level fatwas issued against them. I am currently weighing a project which may very well put me into that select group. This sort of thing is not all that theoretical for me.

        Also, you’re dodging. Is it because you aren’t comfortable answering my question?

        • Kenneth

          To the extent that it’s not an imminent problem for anyone living in this country, it’s barely worth answering. Nevertheless, the answer is dirt simple. There is nothing in current just war theory or Benedicts recent musings that have any bearing at all on the personal self-defense scenario you outline.

          There is nothing in Catholic doctrine of which I am aware which says you can’t employ lethal force to defend your life, (if it’s done defensively and not a blood lust where you’re dreaming of the day you finally get to blast your enemy). Just war theory is really about the use of force on a macro/national level, which is also supposed to be done reluctantly and defensively, and not as a national sport and growth industry as we have made it. Benedict wonders if the nature of war has changed to the point where even current justifications pale before the offsetting factors of innocent death and suffering. That’s an unsettled question, but one certainly worth posing.

          So back to your point. If you say something about your faith’s position, or anything else that happens to infuriate some guys in the Muslim world, you’re entitled to means and use of self-defense. If you’re about to publish something calculated to provoke them and lure one of them into your sights, that’s a different deal, under Catholic doctrine anyway. Realistically, unless you travel there or some parts of Europe, I doubt your real risks will be any higher than the baseline of all of us. Muslim extremists pretty much have standing orders to kill Americans wherever they find us, due both to their own radicalism and, in no small measure, our “defensive” pre-emptive wars against them.

          • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

            I personally know someone who lives in this country (not a Catholic) who was told to vary his routine, that he was being targeted by some Yemenis. So this is not quite as hypothetical as you make it out to be. The fuller we live our lives in Christ on the Internet and seek to truly spread his message to all the peoples of the world, the less hypothetical it becomes.

            The promise of the US is that I wouldn’t have to self-censor, that living here meant that I am free to discuss, advocate, and inquire without having to worry about people coming after me. Even insult is generally protected. This is true for most situations. It is not true in the case of Islam. It is the job of the US government to fix that. In the modern era, is that justified under Catholic doctrine even if it cannot be done without war?

            I cannot discuss the projects I have dropped at the conception phase because of self-censorship. I just tried in writing this message and the potential consequences still give me the creeps so I erased the text, several times in a number of variants. Your threat assessment is tainted by the fact that you don’t know my projects and thus are, frankly, clueless on the subject.

            The US started taking significant action against Al Queda in a military fashion after 9/11/2001. Al Queda declared war on the US in 1996 because we supplied defensive troops to protect our islamic ally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia from invasion by Iraq. You can find the bin Laden text on Wikisource. How is our war on them pre-emptive?

            How can you possibly discuss the subject if you are this utterly ignorant of the basic facts? Your theology, however correct or incorrect, is useless if not applied to the world as it actually is. To the extent you apply it to a delusion of the world as it exists, you will generate wrong answers.

  • HokiePundit

    “new weapons that make possible destructions that go beyond the combatant groups”

    We are very, very blessed to have Benedict XVI as our Pope, but I’d argue that he’s drawing the wrong conclusion. Historically, wars involved collateral damage to non-combatants. To defeat your enemy, you captured or killed their king. To do that, you sent your army out against theirs, either in battle or in siege, and many people died. Very often, these were the people whose lands you raided for supplies, who starved within the fortress walls, or who were flat-out murdered by the invaders. Modern weapons tend to make the damage more localized: rather than having to wade through half a country to get to the enemy leader, we can now use smart bombs to blow up his car. There will still be innocents whose lives are lost, but it will be fewer than in the past.

    That doesn’t mean that we don’t need to be careful of our weapons, or that we should go to war under unjust conditions. It’s just an argument that things are getting better, not worse, on that score.

    • http://patrick-button.blogspot.com/ Patrick Button

      Excellent point. Modern wars, especially of the conventional variety, are actually much less harmful to civilian populations than wars of the ancient and medieval world. That doesn’t mean that we should rush into war or sustain unjust wars, but that it is entirely possible to fight a just war in the modern day.

      • Kenneth

        Modern war isn’t bad at all from the vantage point of a nice air-conditioned living room in middle America. The video of the precision strikes is nice and clean. Everyone killed are “militants.” We’re assured that democracy is moving along nicely under our occupation.

        Then again, we’ve never had to experience our clean war from the other end of the CNN camera. We’ve never had to climb out of the rubble of our building to find our 8-year-old daughter’s headless torso, courtesy of latest “precision strike.” Nor have we experienced the character-building joys of going for years without electricity, running water, sewage or feeding our families in a broken nation where the only economic activity is kidnapping and looting.

        • http://patrick-button.blogspot.com/ Patrick Button

          I don’t believe that either HokiePundit or I were saying that modern war was good or that a particular war was just, but rather that modern wars are often less deadly to civilian populations than wars centuries ago. Of course some modern technology, such as nuclear weapons, or even conventional bombing (see WWII), kill a lot of civilians. However, precision bombing and modern infantry tactics, though not always justly employed, are a lot better than the “kill everybody even remotely associated with our enemy” school of warfare often practiced by European Christians in centuries past. Again, I’m not saying that we should be blowing up random huts in Pakistan because they seem terroristy, but that we shouldn’t just embrace pacifism all of the sudden because modern weapons are especially powerful.

  • http://davidgriffey.blogspot.com/ Dave G.

    No just war would have to mean no war. And that sounds good. Who wouldn’t want that? But then, it has some buckshot to it as well. I think we hear this, and our first reaction is ‘that will keep those rascally Americans in line.’ But no war. No matter what. That’s a hefty sacrifice. That’s willing to stand by while innocents are butchered, our children and grandchildren slaughtered, women raped. Men raped. Death, massacre. It’s one of those things like ‘let’s all tolerate everything.’ Sounds great, until some wag says ‘does that mean we should tolerate the Holocaust?’ I’m not saying we can’t go there, but it would be a new level of devotion beyond anything the average 21st century Catholic living in America could probably comprehend, including me. That would almost have to follow ‘sell everything you have, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus…and we mean it!’

  • Tim S.

    I think that part of my big disillusionment with the Republican Party stems from their self-defeating history of pushing for dubious wars like in Iraq- costing up to a trillion dollars- but on abortion there is no interest in pushing the Life Issue like it was 9-11. This is why many ask the question like one of your previous com boxers brought up- do the pro-life politicians really believe that an aborted child is in fact a child? If 3000 murdered Americans on 9-11 unleashes the time and treasure of the political class- why not the killing of 4000 American unborn children yesterday, today and tomorrow? I say – if those Republican pro-life representatives who have nothing to lose by being openly pro-life- unlike pro-life Democrats- would just unleash the passion along with the facts- we would have ourselves a game-changer!

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      I campaigned for Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who pretty much did what you said and made a no-compromises advocacy of life that moved out ahead of the Overton Window of what is prudent to advocate in political terms. He lost. There is a lot of prep work that has to be done before we win this issue. The doctrine of the Church has support of perhaps 20% of the US population. The pro-life position that the GOP dares advocate holds a paper thin majority most days of the week. When the position of the Church holds a 40% minority, it will become safe to be full, no-compromise pro-life. The Church’s position will have hit the edge of the Overton Window. Prior to that, there’s a huge heap of prudential judgment that’s needed if we’re going to maximize the lives we can save this year.

  • B-Rob

    “But it’s really pretty obvious that the question for the Church is not ‘How do we figure out as many rationales for the legitimate use of violence as possible without technically committing mortal sin?’ but is, rather, how do we keep the choice for violence at bay as long as possible?”

    Why can’t we think of all scenarios, all situations, all logic and all reason regarding a topic? I understand that peace is the biggest priority, but a resistance to discuss all extremities of the argument leave people with an incomplete understanding. This is true in any topic. Discussing when any given act or idea (torture, war, revolt, sex, mathematical operations, etc) is allowed also enlightens us to when it is not (which may be 100% of the time). I discuss these things in an academic sense, but it seems that the trend on this blog is any discussion which merely questions about such things is shut down, as if people inquiring about such things desire to commit such things. Perhaps they do, but the discussion is part of the learning process on teaching them why they should not.

    • Mark Shea

      Yeah, yeah. Killing innocent is bad and all. But anyway, about getting to kill. How soon can we do that?

      • B-Rob

        Isn’t the very topic of guns inherently linked to “when or how to kill?” If you want to discuss peace, then discuss peace. No one has a problem with that. But guns are inherently violent tools, whether being used for good (self-defense) or used for bad (massacre). What do you expect when you bring up guns? It’s like bringing up condoms and then getting mad when people talk about sex instead of abstinence.

        • Mark Shea

          And the topic of sex is linked to fornication and adultery. But when you frame the discussion as “Under what circumstances might it be morally legitimate for me to sleep with my hot secretary and how far can I go with her before it’s technically adultery?” instead of “How do I strengthen my relationship with my wife?” one sort of telegraphs where one’s main interests lie. The urge to make the last resort the perpetual *first* resort topic of conversation says a lot.

  • Mike Petrik

    Regarding abortion, the GOP has consistently used its executive powers to the extent available to limit abortion. At the state level the GOP has overall been pretty aggressive about pushing for laws to limit abortion, mindful of the risk that pushing the envelope too far could entice the Supreme Court to re-affirm Roe directly thereby strengthing the opposition’s stare decises hand. Regarding the federal judiciary, the GOP has been consistent in its efforts to appoint textualist judges and justices who would be more likely to reverse or trim back Roe. That last process is imperfect insomuch as no one can predict with confidence what a judge will do some day in the future. While some additional comfort (though hardly certainty) could be secured by making repeal of Roe a litmus test, the application of such a test by the GOP (unlike Dems) would be met with national media derision and ridicule, making confirmation by a super-majority in the Senate impossible.

    Just sayin’.

    • Mark Shea

      Regarding abortion, the GOP just finished losing an election by telling prolifers to eat the crap sandwich of a candidate who endorsed abortion “for the health of the mother” (i.e. always).

      • Mike Petrik

        And here I thought they lost a Senate seat precisely because the candidate refused to admit a rape exception.

        And if you are referring to Romney his position was no abortion except in cases of rape, incest or if necessary to save the life of the mother; not mine and not yours, but not the position you asserted either.

  • “joe”

    “Those who dream that the Church will return to the golden age of the auto de fe, or the ghettoization of Jews, or burning people at the stake, or the blessing of Crusades or the headsman’s ax or or the rack are simply delusional.”

    and yet i have met them, in the blogosphere at least.

  • http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/ Martin

    Kenneth,

    If memory serves, TM Lutas is a Chicago School economist. They were the ones Pinochet parachuted into Chile to revitalise the economy while he was disappearing his people, so without visiting the sins of the intellectual fathers on the intellectual sons it might be the case that TM is approaching this issue as a properly trained economist would, in other words completely rationally. My own view on such thinking from economists is that it absolutely justifies Chesterton’s maxim that the madman can be said to have lost everything but his reason, but that’s just my view.

    Mark, what gets me about this is not the specifically American angle; where the Holy Father is bang on the money is on the question of the way in which war is waged nowadays. Just war doctrine was waged when war was waged by armies upon armies, a state of affairs that prevailed until roughly 1914. Nowadays, air forces wage war on civilians. There’s an old stat, I can’t recall its provenance, that in 1900 about 90% of war casualties were military, 10% civilian, and that by 2000 those proprotions had reversed. Theories of ‘total war’ must surely be considered unjust, as those who dissent from the waging of a war by their own nation are as likely to become its casualties as those who support it, or (letting my inner Marxist off the leash for a moment) in whose particular interests it’s fought; if you were an Andalusian peasant in 1704, it’s perfectly possible that the fact of whether your king was a Habsburg or a Bourbon would not have made the slightest practical difference to you.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      Your memory does not serve you well. I am not an economist, nor am I a terribly enthusiastic fan of the Chicago school, being much more interested in Austrian economics. But other than all your factual claims, you have got it right that I am approaching the question rationally. Should I be irrational? I can do a good rant as well as the next guy but what is it going to get us?

      Furthermore the technology of war (which is actually closer to my profession, though still pretty far off) is moving towards greater precision these days, not less. I am happy that we’re now doing one missile drone strikes instead of multi-plane dumb bomb area raids. I’m happier that we’re likely going to be moving to sniper style attacks that should largely eliminate civilian casualties. I look forward to the Church’s eventual recognition that the tide is turning towards weapons more compatible with just war theory.

  • Mercury

    Martin, the Thirty Years War, the Nine Years War, the sack of any given city at any time, and the Napoleonic Wars all had *massive* civilian casualties, and on these wars this was not primarily due to unintentional “collateral damage” but to rape, pillage, and vandalism directly encouraged by the leaders. The era of the “gentlemanly war” is sort of a myth.

    I agree that almost all wars can and should be avoided, but it’s hard to see how this could have happened in the past in many cases. What virtue would there have been if we avoided fighting Germany and Japan (of course jus IN bello in these cases was fraught with violations)? Or for France to have simply sat out World War I? What good would it have served to simply have turned a blind eye to Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in
    1991?

    Of course, a big difference today is that for the US and most major powers, we are hardly ever faced with a real, existential threat like we saw in
    the 40s, or like what those Christians who live on the Ottoman frontier faced for centuries. I doubt this is something we will see again. So the question is: what DO we do about something like 9/11 or genocidal maniacs slaughtering people in their own borders?

    I really do not have an answer there.

  • http://attheturnofthetide.blogspot.com Caspar

    It’s worth remembering that Cardinal Ottaviani rose and delivered a much-applauded speech at Vatican II calling for the Church to forbid modern warfare. Here’s a rather biased account of his stance: http://salt.claretianpubs.org/issues/chistory/peace.html

  • Mercury

    The Church DOES forbid the more horrid things about “modern warfare”, the WWII type stuff Ottaviani would have been referring to – indiscriminate bombing of cities, not distinguishing between combatants and civilians, nuclear attacks, etc.

    I doubt he actually believed a nation should simply not defend itself, or stand by and watch as another nation engages in genocide.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      You indirectly bring up a very interesting point. 1943 style mass bombings have gone out of fashion in favor of GPS guided strikes of one or a few bombs/missiles/rounds. Frankly, I view such strikes as belonging to a past historical period. At what point do these mass strikes cease to be part of modern war in the Church’s view and not what the Pope is talking about?

  • http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/ Martin

    TM,
    “I’m happier that we’re likely going to be moving to sniper style attacks that should largely eliminate civilian casualties.”
    I presume you are being ironic. Would you consider it to be unrealistic for us to perhaps consider moving in the direction of no type of attacks at all? I’m not at war with anyone, never have been, hope never to be. To paraphrase Michael Caine in ‘The Eagle Has Landed’, I have nothing either for or against Afghans or Iraqis personally. For the past eleven years, the country of which I am a citizen has been waging a war in a country in which it has already fought three previous wars in the past 170 years. It won none of them outright, so I can’t imagine why anyone thought this one would be any different, because it hasn’t been, not really. Oh, back in the 1840′s we were at least fighting to keep the Russians out, for the glory of Queen and Empire, all that sort of stuff; now we seem to be fighting for womens’ lib and cheap heroin. The guys we’re fighting now are the ones we actually armed and trained when the Russians did finally get in thirty years ago, which maybe goes to show that waging what you believe to be holy war does not necessarily automatically incline you to gratitude.

    Ah, but we’ve got getter technology now! The drones (in my view nothing but demonic toys, the product of high but perverted intelligence) help us to move in the direction of ‘sniper style attacks!’

    The number of people who have become radicalised towards jihad by the knowledge that their loved ones have been killed in one of those devastatingly accurate drone strikes before then being subjected to the indignity in death of being described as ‘collateral damage’ by those responsible might never be known. It seems that your philosophy of warfare is ‘kill as few as possible’; good for you, provided that you understand that although you might make fewer enemies, you’ll still make enemies.

    Hayek, the one who’s on record as saying that he didn’t think there was any such thing as altruism, was a good Austrian economist. I rest my case.

    Mercury, the involvement of France in WWI is not a good case to cite in arguments such as this. The quality of that conflict that shines out from all study of it is its pointlessness. As far as today’s wars go, one might consider that one of the things we might do to stop events like 9/11, or 7/7, or Beslan is to stop killing people from 40,000 feet and then expecting their relatives to love us as we are, or indeed for having done so. It’s those type of relatives who get mad and then get radicalised. The world will always have bin Ladens in it, demagogues intent on drawing out the worst from those who upon whom suffering has been inflicted, and our behaviours throw people into their arms. Those guys whose dwellings get blown to smithereens and whose families get killed for no discernible military reason, who lose home and family because someone six thousand miles away is manipulating a toy plane on a games console, are our neighbours too; and I find it revolting that anyone could seek to justify inflicting such losses on fellow human beings as being somehow a greater good than any notional alternative, no matter how fanciful.
    A guy called Shea has had a lot to say on a different strain of that type of thinking, usually reinforced by allusions to a TV show called ’24′.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      I was not being ironic that I am happier that fewer innocents are likely to be killed in warfare 10 years from now than 10 years ago. You seem to be a walking embodiment of the foolishness that the perfect is the enemy of the good. It is good that fewer innocents will be killed, that the war crime of using human shields will be rendered less effective in future.

      Your implicit timeline on the Taliban simply doesn’t work. They were formed too late to have been trained by the US. This makes the rest of your factual assertions shaky at best.

      Regarding Hayek’s “no altruism” position, I think you’ve got him wrong and I think he did a dumb thing by taking the moral (not the economic) position that he did. The nature of his error as I see it is mostly one of presentation. He seems to be arguing that classic, good samaritan style altruism scales badly and to accomplish a proper altruism beyond a certain societal inflection point it is necessary to adopt alternate means and modes to be truly altruistic even though such means and modes are not traditionally viewed as altruistic. I’m drawing from youtube here for my source material:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HhsWHfGRIA

      A presentation more compatible with a Catholic viewpoint would stress how perverse results can and do happen by attempting economic intervention to help locals. We see the good that is done locally but we miss the evil done to our brothers in far off lands. It is not properly Catholic or altruistic to save 10 local jobs and livelihoods by protectionism that costs 100 foreign jobs and livelihoods. That the hungry children are known personally to us in the case of the locals and not known personally to us in the case of the foreigners does not make it right to hurt those people by preventing them from earning a living by selling to you and your countrymen. So is protectionism altruistic? That question gets at the conflict he sees and the flaws in traditional conceptions of altruism that improperly scale.

  • Mercury

    Martin – my citing of France was more to do with the idea of an existential threat where an invader is actually on your soil. I didn’t mean to say anything about France’s role in pushing everything to the point that that disgusting conflict became inevitable. But even then, if Germany had won, it wouldn’t have meant the end of France. So even that wasn’t an existential threat as say, Lepanto 1571, Vienna 1683, or London 1940.

  • http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/ Martin

    TM,

    “Your implicit timeline on the Taliban simply doesn’t work. They were formed too late to have been trained by the US. This makes the rest of your factual assertions shaky at best.”

    Not correct, given that Al Qa’eda, the ones our countries invaded Afghanistan to eliminate (and what a successful job we’ve made of that, eh?) were the successors of the Western armed and Western trained Mujahideen.

    “He seems to be arguing that classic, good samaritan style altruism scales badly and to accomplish a proper altruism beyond a certain societal inflection point it is necessary to adopt alternate means and modes to be truly altruistic even though such means and modes are not traditionally viewed as altruistic” –

    Now you are being ironic- you must be! You’re pulling my leg! Having no desire to be the most learned moral theologian in the graveyard, and frankly being able to think of many more productive and fulfilling ways of spending my time than attempting to rethink the Gospels, I’ll kind of stick with the original.

    “It is not properly Catholic or altruistic to save 10 local jobs and livelihoods by protectionism that costs 100 foreign jobs and livelihoods. That the hungry children are known personally to us in the case of the locals and not known personally to us in the case of the foreigners does not make it right to hurt those people by preventing them from earning a living by selling to you and your countrymen. So is protectionism altruistic? That question gets at the conflict he sees and the flaws in traditional conceptions of altruism that improperly scale.”

    Save us, O Lord, from the wrath of the free-traders. I long ago gave up trying to work out why virtually incomprehensible analogies drawn in the early 19th Century by a Dutch-born London financier concerning the trade in Portuguese wine and English cloth should continue to exert such an iron intellectual grip in some quarters. Couldn’t care less, I really couldn’t. The best last word on free trade deserves to go to Bertrand Russell, who wrote that it’s intellectually inconsistent to say that you have free trade while any barrier might exist to the gaining of any commercial advantage (the analogy Russell used was the absurdist one of saying that you’re not allowed to murder your competitors, but it was a stylish point, and one quite well made). Anyway, I’d need to re-read Caritas in Veritate to answer that one properly. However is gratifying to see that you have given some thought to the economic wellbeing of your neighbours in far-off lands, as your previous comments seem to have centered around the finding means of killing them most efficiently, which in your view presumably therefore might be the most morally.

    • http://chicagoboyz.net TMLutas

      The Northern alliance were the successors to the mujahideen we trained. In many cases, they *were* the mujahideen we trained. The arab volunteers of whom some elements drifted afterwards to become Al Queda were a minor element against the Soviets and mostly sponsored by the ISI. Was there some slosh over? Who knows as the accounting in that war was never the best, funding being largely covert *because we wanted to avoid a nuclear war with the Soviets*.

      On altruism, I think that you will find that the Church knows quite well that altruism has an inflection point which is why the Church has a bureaucracy that would have surprised the apostles. That you prefer the written word to what the Church is making plain from its own organizational choices is almost protestant of you.

      You claim you’ve given up trying to make sense of free trade. That you fail to comprehend something that many others understand quite well is not proof of its incomprehensibility. Of course since you can’t understand it, you don’t care about it and reject any assertions that have anything to do with it. That is an interesting tack to take in a Darwin award sort of way if you generalize it to matters of engineering and not just economic theory.

      I would suspect that Caritas in Veritate is more my friend on the idea of valuing the ability of all men to earn a living than yours. But please, don’t let me stop you from reviewing it. You may learn something.

      As for the matter of war, wasn’t it Pope Benedict who was recently wondering about how area weapons’ inefficiency is calling into question the very idea of just war? I’m supporting the Pope’s point by trying to deprecate area weaponry in favor of more specific weapons which makes your attack on me, rather an own goal, if you’re a Catholic.

  • http://martinkelly.blogspot.com/ Martin

    “The Northern alliance were the successors to the mujahideen we trained. In many cases, they *were* the mujahideen we trained. The arab volunteers of whom some elements drifted afterwards to become Al Queda were a minor element against the Soviets and mostly sponsored by the ISI.”

    Time to raise, call or fold. Your sources, if you please.

    “On altruism, I think that you will find that the Church knows quite well that altruism has an inflection point which is why the Church has a bureaucracy that would have surprised the apostles.”

    For some reason, the only quote that immediately springs to mind in response to that is one from Eddie Murphy, so I’ll take a pass on repeating it. Nothing to see about rocks upon which churches are built here, folks, move along now. It’s interesting to see your suggestion that the Apostles would have been surprised by the bureaucracy of the modern Church. Then again, the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost, so there’s no real way of knowing what they might have been capable of imagining after that.

    “That you prefer the written word to what the Church is making plain from its own organizational choices is almost protestant of you.”

    My apologies for the appalling state of my catechesis. I was educated by the Jesuits.

    “You claim you’ve given up trying to make sense of free trade. That you fail to comprehend something that many others understand quite well is not proof of its incomprehensibility.”

    This is perfectly true, as I’m sure many Catholic husbands and fathers whose jobs have been outsourced while the executives who did the deed may have earned a bonus for having done the deed might agree. Attempts by outsourcing free traders to reconcile Hayek, Schumpeter, Friedman and James Buchanan with Christ founder immediately on the rock which is the nature of charity. Charity involves giving your own stuff away. There is nothing in that about having to be happy because bread is being taken out of your child’s mouth by someone else, one of the happenings that has always made socialism play well among poorly instructed Catholics. For sure, we must all trust in God’s providence – ‘The Lord has given, The Lord has taken away’ – but as the words suggest, surely this is a discipline for The Lord to impose, not some schmuck of an executive looking to impose it because he can. Are you seriously suggesting that God’s work has been being done in boardrooms only during the era in which outsourcing has become de rigueur? Or are you suggesting that His energies might have been taken up by the Cold War before that? I’m sorry if you aren’t, because that’s the only logical conclusion I can draw from your comment.

    “Of course since you can’t understand it, you don’t care about it and reject any assertions that have anything to do with it. That is an interesting tack to take in a Darwin award sort of way if you generalize it to matters of engineering and not just economic theory.”

    I happen to believe in a reverse version of ‘The Da Vinci Code”, in which Charles Darwin hooked up with Margaret Sanger and produced Richard Dawkins, so intellectual condescension of the type you’ve just attempted just bounces off me – dude.

    By the way, as a matter of interest I’ve noticed that a great many economists’ reputations are founded on the skills as debaters. This might be an aspect of your game on which you need to work.

    You take care, now.


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