Monday, September 24

War in a World Without Borders (via Matt)

This is a good essay which, among other things, examines the difference between war and crime, war and police action. Are we going to proceed as if this were a war (eg, civilian casualties and collateral damage are accpetable), or a crime?

But Bush has also sworn, much more broadly, to eliminate
evil from the world. That is quite a goal.

Yes, too big a goal. I trust Bush was using hyperbole here. However, it points toward the potential for abuse of such goal. We don't want to sign a blank check here, financially or morally.

What if, by "war", he means a broader spectrum of actions -- not just bombing and shooting
but psychological warfare, political and economic warfare, a full
spectrum of everything that the US can do to people or countries,
much as in the Cold War, but even more diffusely and with even less
geographical constraint?

This is surely what is intended, as Rumsfeld's press conference yesterday made clear.

Of course, the history of the CIA suggests
that quasi- and sub-military operations are going on all the time.
But perhaps the point of the present "war" is to massively escalate
that steady background of intervention in other societies, and to
institutionalize it by requiring that every government choose between
openly supporting it and being an object of it.

I don't think this this is the point. However, again, this bread mandate could be so interpreted. We must be cautious as we move forward. 'Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.' Add to that the Law of Unintended Consequences, and this baby begins to look like it could produce seriously scary results.

It is good to keep this in mind, because questions of right and wrong
in the aftermath of the east coast attacks can be very complicated.
Who is responsible? One answer is that the people who organized and
executed the attacks are solely and completely responsible, and that
nobody else's actions, right or wrong, have any relevance. Another
answer is that context is everything: the United States, it is argued,
created these extremists and contributed to the oppression and anger
that helped them grow. The proponents of these two answers, it is
fair to say, hate one another. In part they are simply politically
polarized: rightists reflexively supportive of America's pursuit of
its interests versus leftists reflexively opposed. But on another
level their positions are two sides of a coin. The coin arises from
a confusion about right and wrong. We need to distinguish two kinds
of responsibility, moral and practical. The bombers have absolute
moral responsibility for their actions: they committed mass murder.
But that fails to answer some important questions: what could we have
done to keep the disaster from happening, and how can we keep it from
happening again? These latter questions have their moral components,
in that certain policies might be deemed culpably reckless, but they
do not assign moral responsibility for the bombing as such. We are
responsible for our actions in helping to create the context, and they
are responsible for theirs in acting on it.

This analysis of responsibility is right on.

The rest of the article is really long, but I recommend it if you have the time and gumption. Or scan for the parts you find most useful (quick lesson in efficient reading there :-).
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