On the uneasy morality of violence

This article from Vincent Browne does eventually wind up comparing the killing of Louis Mounbatten to the Nazis in a roundabout way, but his attempt at working through his logic should be appreciated rather than scorned. Many on this site profess a moral certainty in their favoured direction over the Troubles that I have never been able to possess. Vincent takes the argument from one direction, but I have always found it as easy, if not easier, to arrive at the same unease no matter where I take as my starting point.

    Would it be justifiable to fire a rocket at the boat to kill Hitler, and thereby very probably save the lives of millions, knowing that the innocent child would be killed as well? The logic of my argument is that it would be unjustifiable and no utilitarian calculus can rescue that. Hence my unease.

    This may seem a long way from Mullaghmore on August 27,1979. But if it would be justifiable to kill the child on the boat with Hitler, then what was so heinous about killing Paul Maxwell, Nicholas and Geraldine Knatchbull for someone who believed it was justifiable to kill Mountbatten?

NOTE: Keep it clean and civil, kids. Edit: Slight typo fixed there lol! H/T willis

  • Observer

    DC

    “And, yet, their destruction did not damage the Japanese will to fight.”

    I think the intention was to destroy their ability to fight, but what do I know.

    Not all Americans agreed with your analysis.
    I took the liberty of copying these quotes from a similar debate on another website.

    “During his recitation of the relevant facts, I had been conscious of a feeling of depression and so I voiced to him my grave misgivings, first on the basis of my belief that Japan was already defeated and that dropping the bomb was completely unnecessary, and secondly because I thought that our country should avoid shocking world opinion by the use of a weapon whose employment was, I thought, no longer mandatory as a measure to save American lives. It was my belief that Japan was, at that very moment, seeking some way to surrender with a minimum loss of ‘face’. The Secretary was deeply perturbed by my attitude…”

    – Dwight Eisenhower, Mandate For Change, pg. 380

    “…the Japanese were ready to surrender and it wasn’t necessary to hit them with that awful thing.”

    – Ike on Ike, Newsweek, 11/11/63

    ADMIRAL WILLIAM D. LEAHY

    (Chief of Staff to Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman)

    “It is my opinion that the use of this barbarous weapon at Hiroshima and Nagasaki was of no material assistance in our war against Japan. The Japanese were already defeated and ready to surrender because of the effective sea blockade and the successful bombing with conventional weapons.

    “The lethal possibilities of atomic warfare in the future are frightening. My own feeling was that in being the first to use it, we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages. I was not taught to make war in that fashion, and wars cannot be won by destroying women and children.”

    Well, there we have it.
    I think I’ll let Ike and Leahy have the last word.

    Greenflag

    “That’s just it- all of us don’t . In warfare the major choices are made from the top down and if you don’t obey orders there’s a nearby wall and a firing squad .”

    Fight for them, fight against them, run away, etc.
    There are always choices. Just because they don’t involve going home in the evening doesn’t rule them out.

  • Brit

    Just when I thought I was out….you drag me back in.

    “I guess the ‘chosen’ people in Israeli as in elected are not that much different from the chosen people in Washington DC or in the Dail or in or at Westminster.”

    Just do us a favour and drop that terminology. It is a part of Jewish theology (though not in a supremacist sense) and has nothing to do with the secular Israeli state or its largely secular population. I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that Israelis were superior in moral or other ways to other human beings and corruption is just as much a feature of Israeli life as it is the US, Ireland or the UK. Israel has a vibrant political culture which is pluralist and very argumentative and most Israelis are just as suspicious of politicians as us in the West.

    “There needs to be a two state solution in the Middle East . Longer term that’s the best bet for the Israeli State . You don’t win friends by smacking them in the mouth whenever they open it !”

    I agree as do most Israelis and Zionists. Unfortunately HAMAS (and many of their supporters in the muslim and arab world – and indeed on the Western kitsch anti-imperialist left) do not.

  • Brit

    And for RS, and anyone who might fetishise anti Imperalism as the principal political obligtion of progressives in the realm of foreign policy I would strongly recommend the piece by Norm available here http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2009/08/antiimperialism-or-human-rights.html

    Money quote:

    “anyone who views anti-imperialism as their primary philosophical commitment is no liberal if they also take this commitment to mean that human rights are secondary to a principle of universal non-meddling in the affairs of other countries, no exceptions made. And in order to cover the fact that many anti-imperialists wouldn’t call themselves liberals in the first place, I would want to add to this suggestion a second one: namely, that anyone on the left who views anti-imperialism as their primary philosophical commitment is of the part of the left that is verkrappt if they take this commitment to mean that human rights are secondary to a principle of universal non-meddling in the affairs of other countries, no exceptions made.”

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Observer: “I think the intention was to destroy their ability to fight, but what do I know.”

    The Japanese strategy at that late stage of the war was to outlast the Allied will do fight. Allied morale, with the victory in Europe was brittle.

    Observer: “Not all Americans agreed with your analysis.”

    Observer, not for nothing, I wasn’t quoting American comments on the Bomb, but Japanese analysis on the bomb. Who should I believe on the role of the bomb in the Japanese ability to surrender, Japanese leaders?

    As for your quotes, Eisenhower, being fully employed in the European war, did not face the Japanese and would not have had the same experiences as those officers in the Pacific theater. Likewise, at least one of those quotes come after his political career, making his motives at least a trifle suspect.

    As for Leahy’s comment, it is, again, false on its face. There has been no repetition of the use of the nuclear bomb.

    Observer, you’re trying to bootstrap an emotional argument with a handful of quotes that, while well intentioned and perhaps even heart-felt by their speakers, are matters of hand-wringing hind-sight.

    The fact of the matter is that the you’ve no credible alternative that would have ended the war as quickly and with as low a death toll. I know it isn’t a popular argument, but the numbers don’t lie — the atomic bomb, compared to the alternatives on the table, saved far more lives than it took. The Japanese, by their own words and deeds, were not planning on folding their tents and surrendering anytime soon, but were bunkering down to inflict as much damage to the Allies as they could.

    In response to the facts and quotes from primary sources involved in the Japanese decision processes of the moment, the best riposte you can muster is some post-war hand-wringing from Eisenhower nearly two decades after the fact and a paper sailor whose belief that the atomic bombs would have no material effect on the war with Japan were proved wrong by the facts.

    I don’t deny that the atomic bombs were wrong. They were just the least wrong option in the scenario.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “The USA now has new weapons of mass destruction. They are far better than nuclear weapons. They destroy people while leaving property undamaged .
    No not the neutron bomb but Wall St and the Private Health Insurance gangsters and their criminal backers in the large drug companies :(( ”

    Seeing as the drug companies just paid off Obama 80 billion or so in tribute, I’d say your analysis is a trifle out of date.

    As for the the rest, Wall Street is suffering the damage of the socialization of the mortgage market inflicted upon them by government, so some sort of retaliation is to be expected, is it not?

  • kensei

    DC

    Do you swallow every right wing talking point whole? It wasn’t Fannie and Freddie.

    http://seekingalpha.com/article/97290-again-it-wasn-t-fannie-and-freddie

    That’s not to say mismanagement there didn’t contribute. As most sane commentators admit. It’s just that all those private companies did much much worse. Pay attention to the graph here:

    http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2009/01/supply-curves-slope-up-demand-curves-slope-down.html

    What happens to Fannie and Freddie’s market share for the years prior to the collapse? Whoops.

    But hey, I don’t expect you to do much morethan what I’ve highlighted below here. This is more for everyone else’s benefit, so feel free to save your breath.

    In response to the facts and quotes from primary sources involved in the Japanese decision processes of the moment, the best riposte you can muster is some post-war hand-wringing from Eisenhower nearly two decades after the fact and a paper sailor whose belief that the atomic bombs would have no material effect on the war with Japan were proved wrong by the facts.

    This is basically man playing, rather than delaing with the arguments presented, DC. I do not approve. Nor I particularly approve of you dismissing achievements of people simply because they disagree with your arguments, anyway.

  • Greenflag

    Brit ,

    ‘Unfortunately HAMAS (and many of their supporters in the muslim and arab world – and indeed on the Western kitsch anti-imperialist left) do not. ‘

    And would that include former USA President Jimmy Carter ?

  • Greenflag

    ‘Seeing as the drug companies just paid off Obama 80 billion or so in tribute’

    I guess coming up with 80 billion is not all that tough for some eh ?. Having extorted by price gouging and worse over several decades the drug companies are running scared of a single payer health care system and we all know why ? Thus the offer to reduce the price of drugs to american seniors on medicare .

    ‘Wall Street is suffering the damage of the socialization of the mortgage market inflicted upon them by government’

    Very naive DC . The world and his aunt know the root of this crisis and although it started in the USA the accomplices in the mass theft are to be found in many of the western capitals particularly in New York and London.

    Go read Kevin Phillips – ‘Bad Money’ and educate yourself in how the USA economy was gouged out by the money men and their supporters in Washington DC.

  • Brit

    No he is a supporter of a two state solution.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “Do you swallow every right wing talking point whole? It wasn’t Fannie and Freddie.”

    Ooooooooh… a link to a *blog.( Such persuasiveness.

    Fannie and Freddie created a push in the market-place, esp. when combined with political pressure on lenders to make riskier loans. Mortgages were sold to the FM twins to relieve the lenders of liabilities so that, under Federal regulations, they could make more loans. This permitted the banks to accede to political pressure to make riskier loans in the name of “fairness.” The lender could then, in turn, sell the loan to the FM twins, get the risky loan off their books and move on to the next one. Lather, rinse, repeat. Lenders weren’t worried, since they could sell their loans to FM2. Borrowers weren’t worried, since they could always sell the house. FM2 weren’t worried, since they knew their status as a “private entity” was a polite fiction and that with a hot lending market and hot housing market nothing could go wrong… go wrong… go wrong…

    FM2 was the first domino. Yes, businesses who were emulating FM2 were harder hit and more badly damaged, but you end up with a chicken vs. egg argument — without FM to liberalize / socialize the mortgage markets, this particular disaster wouldn’t have happened. Without the political pressure that led to the formation of the two “private” entities, mortgages would have stayed boring old 20% down, 15 or 30 year cookie cutter loans.

    Likewise, the fella seems to fundamentally misunderstand / misstate the role of FM in the market. They were politically generated entities with a mission to liberalize the mortgage market. The author essentially absolves FM2 on the grounds that they were doing exactly what they were created to do, without regard to their unwillingness to manage responsibly. Likewise, the politics of Congress prevented any tightening of regulations within the two entities.

    Without that financial push created by FM2, the market wouldn’t have gone that nuts. And the fact you have to write that much over what was plainly a smart ass rejoinder to Greenflag’s smart ass rejoinder, along with your immediate playing of the man re: “Do you swallow every right wing talking point whole?” suggests you’ve been in the kool-aid yourself.

  • kensei

    DC

    No DC, a link to data. Which you appear to have missed. And missed out entirely in your response. As I said, I didn’t really expect much from you othe than whatever you got off Fox News this week. Bye.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Greenflag: “I guess coming up with 80 billion is not all that tough for some eh ?. Having extorted by price gouging and worse over several decades the drug companies are running scared of a single payer health care system and we all know why ? Thus the offer to reduce the price of drugs to american seniors on medicare .”

    More likely, worried that his plan won’t pass on its merits, Obama is, in the greatest of Chicago political traditions, willing to be bought off.

    As for Medicare, trust me, the provider community are getting just as hosed as the senior citizens. Frankly, I’d like to get my hands on the legislative aids who thought that “Medicare HMOs” were a good idea…

    Irony — HMO’s were created by politicians in 1972. Now, having discovered that legislation is usually its own punishment, politicians rail against HMOs, having discovered that their political solution only created more problems.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    kensei: “No DC, a link to data. Which you appear to have missed. And missed out entirely in your response. As I said, I didn’t really expect much from you othe than whatever you got off Fox News this week. Bye”

    Why so crabby — your copy of Pravda late?

    Data is not information.

    Likewise, you can find an economist to back any opinion — the old rhubarb is that the way to get three opinions is to ask a question of two economists.

  • kensei

    DC

    I’m loaded with the cold and fairly cranky. Neither am I a marxist nor in any need of feeling like I’m at a Republican rally. Just stay away from the Town Hall meetings with the assult rifle, m’kay.

    Data may not be information, but it’s the starting point there of. And you still got none. You are once again evading the points made and replying with “Oh a blog” or “Oh an economist”. I know that works wonders in the US, but it is insufficient for this site. As you well know.

    From link above.

    Hmmmm. The loan performance on Fannie’s book of business is substantially better than the overall mortgage market. And starting in 2002, Fannie Freddie (pink line, click on chart to enlarge) lost market share to ABS (light blue line). [The data underlying the graph is from the Federal Reserve, Table 1173. Mortgage Debt Outstanding by Type of Property and Holder.]

    See links for graphs. It really is a hard ask to pull off blaming this one on the GSEs and of course, of course, the Dems by proxy. Oh – and the reason why the GSE book was substantially better than the overall market? That’d be because they were much more heavily regulated. The GSEs were irresponsible with regards to subprime. But there were largely irresponsible trying to keep up with the private sector.

    Some further discussion here:
    http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2008/09/it-wasnt-fannie.html

  • RepublicanStones

    “On another thread RS by Paddy OReilly and Greenflag. Paddy ticked most of the usual boxes but Greenflags was, I am sure, an unconcious misuse/misunderstanding of the “chosen people” theological concept.”

    I don’t recall seeing these comments from either Paddy or Greenflag. And in the fairness of it all, its only tennis if you can reproduce them instead of insinuating them.

    ‘I don’t think anyone has ever suggested that Israelis were superior in moral or other ways to other human beings’

    Not Israelis, but just like other religions, judaism has its fair share of nutters too, who do espouse the idea that they are superior to gentiles.

    And as regards your ‘fetishise’ comment. Whilst I dislike imperialism, I do not subjugate my humanist desire for justice and equality to that tendency. Therefore I do not singuarly deny the concept of intervention, so long as its guided by altruistic and not materialistic ideals. Unfortunately its usually more the latter and less of the former. And Im sure if you look back you’ll see that whilst i use the term colonisation in relation to the creation of the Israeli state (and correctly so), it was you who introduced the word imperialism several times….usually preceeded or followed by the word ‘kitcsh’.

  • Observer

    DC

    You still talking about the war?

    “The fact of the matter is that the you’ve no credible alternative that would have ended the war as quickly and with as low a death toll. I know it isn’t a popular argument, but the numbers don’t lie—the atomic bomb, compared to the alternatives on the table, saved far more lives than it took.”

    What “numbers don’t lie”? You are confusing fact with fantasy, again.
    The only “numbers” involved are those murdered by the bombings. Any other numbers are hypothetical, guesses arrived at on the basis of pure speculation, made up guff to support agendas etc.
    What the hell are you talking about?

    I’m glad you put me right on Ike. I thought he may have had some insight into military matters. Silly me.

    Bit of a waste of time, isn’t it?
    You don’t seem able to discuss the topic, answer questions or respond to points other than those related to wikipedias entry about the nuking of Japan.
    Your are able, it seems, to keep on arguing long past credibility without giving it a second (or, indeed, first) thought.
    Perhaps if Truman had applied this tactic on the Emperor, the Japanese would have surrendered without needing a nuclear reminder.

  • Brit

    RS, I have not desire to reopen old wounds and no inclination to spend time digging up Paddy’s comments but they were clear and I expressly called them at the time (it was on the thread about the IRA/Nazi collaborator statue if you really want to look back through historical comments).

    In any event I was pleasantly surprised to read:-

    “And as regards your ‘fetishise’ comment. Whilst I dislike imperialism, I do not subjugate my humanist desire for justice and equality to that tendency. Therefore I do not singuarly deny the concept of intervention”

    The kitsch terminology is not mine btw but comes from the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty who come closest to a proper Marxist analysis of the I/P dispute (which though not one I support is two peoples/two states in its conclusions) and whose critiques of the “Sharia” socialists of the SWP and the old Respect party are good value.

  • RepublicanStones

    Brit you cannot in all good conscience accuse somebody of making anti-semitic remarks and then not provide evindence. I don’t recall seeing such remarks from Paddy at the time tbh.

    I don’t know why you’d be surprised to read that I value justice and equality over anti-imperialism. Anyone who supports the ideals of justice and equality can’t help but sympathise with the palestinians in the I/P conflict….after all didn’t Ben-Gurion himself admit zionism was the agressor 😉

    As regards a marxist analysis, I put little import into that or any kind of analysis which seeks to view the conflict through a politically biased telescope. The historical reality and bare facts are easy enough to read without putting any particular slant on them or indeed bring any particular slant to them.

  • Brit

    I accused Paddy at the time and referred to the evidence on which I relied. I’ve no obligation or desire to relocate it for you.

    “The historical reality and bare facts are easy enough to read without putting any particular slant on them or indeed bring any particular slant to them.”

    The trusty sword of truth, how touching.

    Marxists would, of course, contend that their analysis (using the helpful model that bequeathed by aforementioned German bloke) was helping them to identify and uncover the truth.

    To the limited extent that I am still any kind of Marxist it is very much the ethical Marx for whom justice and equality were central precepts.

    Although it may surprise you I very much sympathise with the plight of the Palestinians (as do many Zionists) I just view the conflict, and attribute blame, in a different way to you.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘I accused Paddy at the time and referred to the evidence on which I relied.’

    Referring to isn’t really showing is it?

    ‘I’ve no obligation or desire to relocate it for you.’

    Well if its ok to accuse then its the accusers obligation is it not?

    ‘I just view the conflict, and attribute blame, in a different way to you.’

    Indeed, you view the conflict through a pro-zionist lens. But if you merely sought justice and equality (which should be a default position of all people claiming any kind of moral fibre) in the issue, you would not view it so differently.

  • Brit

    My most bitter arguments are with Zionists or de facto Zionists who blame Israel both now and historically for the problems (but who now accept the legitimacy of a jewish state in Israel on the 67 borders).

    Whilst I disagree more profoundly with the anti-Zionists and Likudniks/Revisionist zionists I find that debate with them is usually supremely pointless.

  • Greenflag

    Dread Cthulhu ,

    Looks like Pfizer are able and willing to be paid off as per this report just in!

    Well, it looks like today is the day Pfizer, the world’s largest drugmaker, will pony up around $2.3 billion to settle federal charges related to alleged marketing excesses.

    The US Justice Department will announce terms later today, the Associated Press reports.

    The news isn’t exactly a surprise because Pfizer said it was putting aside the money in January, mostly to cover allegations the company went way too far in selling Bextra, a painkiller taken off the market in 2005.

    Still, the $2.3 billion figure was buried in an earnings release issued the same day Pfizer said it would buy drugmaker Wyeth for $68 billion, so you might have missed it.

    No matter how you slice it, $2.3 billion is a lot of money to pay the government to put an end to legal headaches. Just about every major pharmaceutical firm has paid up in recent years, but the next-closest settlement in size is $1.3 billion paid by Lilly earlier this year to settle charges related to the antipsychotic Zyprexa.

    What did Pfizer allegedly do wrong? You can get a flavor from the guilty plea by a former regional sales manager for Pfizer in late March. The Justice Department said the woman “had her sales staff of approximately 100 employees sell Bextra for precisely the uses FDA refused to approve.” Those included touting Bextra for the relief of surgical pain. ‘

    Pfizer is just one of many ‘looters’ feeding off the present chaotic waste of money that is the present US health insurance system .

    It’s obvious DC that you have sold hook line and sinker by the gangsters of the medical /pharmaceutical and private insurance lobbies 🙁

  • Greenflag

    observer ,

    ‘Perhaps if Truman had applied this tactic on the Emperor, the Japanese would have surrendered without needing a nuclear reminder’

    Deicide is a no no .Killing the Japanese Emperor would have been even more destabilising for the Japanese State . Which is why the American political authorites did not abolish the office of Emperor but amended it’s powers to thos of a constitutional monarchy .

    Truman had much greater difficulty when he tried to bring about a system of National Health Insurance in post war USA . The right wing ‘nut ‘ jobs railed that if he did so the Red Army would be marching down Pennsylvania Ave the following week .

    So what’s going on in the present health care debate in the USA has a long pedigree . Simply put the ‘haves ‘ do not want the have ‘nots’ to share in the American ‘dream ‘ i.e nightmare 🙁

  • Observer

    Greenflag

    I wasn’t suggesting Truman kill the Emperor, simply talk him into submission ala Dread.
    However, he might wish he were dead after a few days of that.

  • RepublicanStones

    It blatanty obvious Brit that you would disagree more profoundly with anti-zionists. People who supported apartheid would have disagreed more strongly with those who were anti-apartheid.

    But btw, most of the zionists I argue with, don’t blame Israel now or historically for the problems, in my experience, they tend to blame the victims (palestinians).

  • Greenflag

    observer ,

    ‘he might wish he were dead after a few days of that.’

    Well perhaps . I tend to agree that the bombs were the quickest way to end the war and probably saved more lives than they took. This is also the considered view in retro of some of the top Japanese military generals of the time .

    There was no doubt an element among the USA military who were desirous of seeing how their new tool would work in real life /death 🙁

    But overall it was a calculated political and tactical decision at the time calculated primarily to reduce the number of american casualties ( 1 million plus ) that would have resulted from a D Day like conventional invasion .

    The Japanese remain the only nation so far to have an atom bomb dropped on them.
    They may not be the last if the Middle East and Pakistan continue along the destabilisation route underway since 2000 with the advent of a more bellicose USA under Bush /Cheney 🙁

  • Rory (not of south derry)

    Fact: the nuking of Japan saved lives (japanese and US)

  • Observer

    Greenflag

    There is no way of knowing if it saved lives.
    Prior to the first use of the bomb, all Japanese calculations were based on a conventional war. After the power of the bomb was revealed, those calculations went out the window.
    To assume they would have remained unaffected is insulting to their intelligence.
    Had the bomb been used on a purely military target (fleet assets or something similar), there is no telling how they would have reacted, either the military or the Emperor.
    Kinda like shooting a suspect in the back and saying “I didn’t shout a warning because he was unlikely to pay attention.”

    At this point, I’m happy to agree to differ;)

  • Brit

    Probably because you use the term Zionist not to mean a supporter of the existence of a Jewish state in Israel but someone who supports all or most Israeli policies. I can support the existence of a Russian state but be critical of almost all of its domestic and foreign policies. There is nothing contradictory in being a passionate Zionist and, for example, a passionate opponent of the building of settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.

    In my view the larger part of the blame for the conflict resides with the Palestinian leadership (now and throughout history), and the broader policy and perspective towards a Jewish State which exists amongst arab and muslim governments and societies world wide. Signficant blame also lies with Israeli state. Israelis and non-Israeli Jews have also been victims of the conflict.