Friday, October 19, 2007

The Argument Fails in Both Directions

In the build up to the Patreus Report, terrorists in Iraq killed a large number of people in hopes of influencing the reaction to the report. I argued that the left would make a mistake if they cited the spike in casualties in their arguments for ending the war.

For that matter, I noticed that most Democrats recognized the trap and avoided citing the atrocities despite the fact the spike supported their case. I applaud those who showed sense and restraint.

When you push radical theory to its natural conclusion, killing people is nothing more than a statement in a propaganda war.

Predictably, there's been a slight drop off in casualty statistics after the report. I've heard several conservative pundits trying to say that this drop off in casualties is proof that the surge is working. This is also a mistake. If one ignores the spike, the baseline of unrest is still high.

The casualty spike occurred to influence the Patreus report. Using the down end of the spike to argue the surge worked is as much a fallacy as it was to argue the up end of the spike prived the surge worked.

All the spike tells us is that terrorists have bought into the world view that sees killing large numbers of people as a political statement in a class struggle.

It is this world view that is the enemy.


Charles D said...

I would say that "the terrorists" are hardly the only ones who "bought into the world view where killing large numbers of people is simply a political statement".

The Iraq war itself is little more than a political statement in service of a warped and immoral foreign policy and economic ideology. Discussing the relative merits of an escalation of that conflict is tantamount to having a discussion about whether it is more effective to waterboard a suspect or run electricity through his genitals.

Once you have perpetrated a war crime, there are no valid arguments to make other than stopping it and prosecuting the criminals.

y-intercept said...

You are completely right. It is not the terrorists who invented and promote this world view. It is professors sitting in comfortable universities who like to live vicariously though the atrocities of others.

It also appears that the ideology for the terrorists comes from professors making comfortable livings in Madrassahs.

GW Bush and his merry band of neocons went to schools that teach this rubbish. Bush's shock and awe campaign was one of the worst examples of this type of thinking that I've seen in my life time. The whole idea of the shock and awe campaign was to make a statement so loud, that you might create a state change in radical Islamic thinking. The only bright side of the campaign was that it was designed to make noise and not to kill as many people as possible.

IMHO, the shock and awe campaign was a low point in our country's history. I did not think the statement would work because it simply reinforced the negative ideology that created the problems in the first place!

The problem exists on both left and right. It exists in religion and in non-religion. It exists in both the peace and the war movements. Above the ideas exists in minds of intellectuals making a comfortable living who enjoy engaging in negative ideologies because they find it scintillating.

Charles D said...

I challenge you to name one professor who has espoused the view that "killing large numbers of people is simply a political statement". Just because you would like to believe that your favorite bogeyman is guilty doesn't make it so.

I would also challenge you to name one reputable professor (of something other than Islam) who is working for a Madrassah. I thought so.

The purpose of "shock and awe" was to so cow the Iraqi people that they would meekly agree to the Bush regime's real agenda: turning their country into a "free-market" paradise so that US corporations could rape the nation of all its assets. It did not work, and although you ignore the fact, it was a war crime of the first order.

The idea that it is permissible to cause enormous human suffering in order to impose an economic ideology is common only to extremists who favor totalitarian government. Whether they claim to be "communist" or claim to be "free-market capitalists" is irrelevant. If you sanction the use of force on a civilian population in order to impose an ideology you are a terrorist as much an anyone who would use that force to impose a religion or hegemony of any kind.

What the Bush regime has perpetrated in Iraq and continues to perpetrate is terrorism, a war crime and they are responsible for 300 times more Iraqi deaths than the US lost in the 9/11 attacks.

You need to forget your intellectual theories and grab hold of the moral reality here.

y-intercept said...

Lets see, you just said that a system where people are free to make their own decisions is totalitarian. That really means everything is totalitarian.

Your indoctrination is complete.

As for naming names. David Horowitz took to naming names. That effort simply got him labeled a McCarthyist. His book, The Professors, is a sampling of current academic trends.

McArthy was another idiot whoe fell for the call to name names. He had one month where his gallup poll ratings were positive. Then people rejected him. He was completely destroyed as a political figure within months of taking the bait.

I would rather just stick to dead folks like the venerable Betrand Russell who advocated nuking the USSR as its thuggish brand of socialism was discrediting socialism in the eyes of the British.

Satre pushed out a whole bunch of garbage that forgave the crimes of the revolutionary.

Your view that the people who stand against a movement are guilty of all the crimes committed by the movement is quite common in leftist thinking. Bush is guilty of all the crimes committed by Radical. When you dupe people into believing it, you can generate a great deal of hatred.

I think you might be correct in your ascertian that all (if not most) of people who ascert Islamic supremacy in the Madrassahs are Islamic. However, I suspect that your ascertain that there are no scholars worthy of respect in these schools is incorrect.

Finally I am really not moved even the slightest by your accusation that I am immoral because I reject the totalitarian views.

We differ in that I see the morality of the individual as the primary concern. You seem to hold that the morality of the collective is more important.

The collective is an abstraction. You can make anthropomorphic statements about the group. But those statements will always reduce to abstractions themselves.

Since the collective will always be an abstraction, I think a philosophy should start with the individual and it should be aimed at empowering the individual so that they have the opportunity to engage in the world in a meaningful way.

If George Bush's blundering ends up creating an Iraq where people are free to make their choices, elect their leaders and make their individual moral choices, then, yes, I would be happy.

I dislike Bush. I was opposed to the ware. I think the way he went about it was wrong. The primary reason that it was wrong was because it created a pulpit for people like you.

Charles D said...

What I said was that in order to impose the so-called "free market", you have to take away freedom. That's the only way people will give up free health care, free education, and the opportunity to have a better life in exchange for an influx of foreign goods that will cost thousands of them their jobs, loss of capital controls that could make their currency worthless, and the selling of their cooperatively established government agencies to foreign corporations. No truly free people would ever agree to such a thing.

No one you or David Horowitz named advocates killing large numbers of people as a political statement. You might have suggested Milton Friedman but I suppose that would not make your point.

When moral people work together they are moral collectively - that seems to be the point of your other cooperation post but you fail to see how it applies here.

Your moral fiber shows through when you say you only oppose the Iraq war because it gave "people like me" a pulpit to oppose government policy. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of dead, never mind the destruction of a nation's infrastructure, never mind any of it. You obviously believe that if your pet political project is successful it is worth killing large number of people. What moral code is that?

y-intercept said...

The anti-Bush organization Iraq Body Count puts the death toll at the unacceptable number of about 83,000.

The numbers are still unacceptable, but my argument holds.

Bush's invasion of Iraq has created a structure where the terrorists are able to kill people in ways that resonate through the modern world.

Had Bush shown constraint and had we stayed in Afghanistan; the killings would have a harder time resonating in the press. The press would be attributing the killings to radical islam and not to the US.

Bush's blundered by creating a situation where the this negative method of discourse flourishes.

It has created a situation where a biased press can sell copy by atributing the murders committed by the extremist to the US and American scldiers who are actually trying to stop the killings.

Sadly, opponents of Bush are happy to spread this message. In the theory of hegemony, you have to attack the hegemon until your group gains hegemony.

This is essentially the same trap that the left was laid in Vietnam. The left found a way to accuse the US of all the atrocities of the Vietcong. The Vietcong would kill their enemies and we would be responsible in the mind of the world for the acts.

Wars are rarely the result of a single guilty party.

In this Iraq mess, we have multiple layers of culpability. Culpability lies in part with the people who laid the trap. It lies with Bush for blundering into the trap. It lies with people who cheered Bush on into the blunder. Above all, the people who are most guilty for the widespread killing of civilians in Iraq are the people who are out killing civilians in Iraq.

BTW, the radical Iraqis learned their deadly ways from Saddam Hussein. One perspective is that today's killings are a continuation of this legacy.

When you consider all of the wars and genocides of Hussein, he averaged well over 20,000 killings a year. He did so by pitting the elements of his country against eachother. This current generation of Iraqis learned to kill each other. So, they do it.

The world probably would have seen about the same number of dead Iraqis if we did not invade. The invasion simply made the killings newsworthy and switched the attribution of the atrocities to the United States.

As in all wars, you can assign guilt to people all over the place. Peace movements tend to speak at the wrong time. Good intentions go awry.

A very big part of this mess is our system of partisan discourse. It appears the right wanted to use the war to politically disenfranchise the left; so the left is content to watch the right choke on the bone it swallowed. Partisanship leads to irrationality.

Charles D said...

I agree that partisanship, particularly in it most radical forms, leads to irrationality. What we need is a different platform than right or left and different goals other than hegemonic control.

I would submit that the way out is a return to simple morality, human decency and the rule of law. Instead of asserting that one or another economic or political theory will solve all our problems, we need to ask "What solution to this problem has proven itself to be most effective in bringing the greatest benefit to the most people?".

In the international realm, we need to find a way to establish and enforce the rule of law in a way that every reasonable nation will view as fair and impartial. We will need to begin at home by calling on America's leaders to abide by established international law and punishing offenders. We cannot call on other nations to be peaceful and lawful when we refuse to do so ourselves.

As for Iraq, as I have said before, it is hypocritical for the United States to call on Iraqis to "stop the violence" or "get their act together" when we invaded and occupied their nation in blatant violation of international law. Bush did not merely make a mistake, he committed a war crime and should be made accountable for his actions. As for Saddam Hussein, he did not rise to power or remain in power or get WMD or attack Iran on his own, he was aided by the United States government every step of the way. We do not absolve ourselves by pointing out how bad Saddam was.