March 22nd, 2007

The ivory tower: clean hands and leading by example

I happened across the February 19th issue of Newsweek at the home of friends with whom I’m staying. Picking it up and thumbing through it (and how odd it seems to me nowadays to see a hard copy of a periodical anywhere outside of the doctor’s office) I saw a letter to the editors written in response to a review of Dinesh D’Souza’s new book The Enemy at Home.

I haven’t read D’Souza’s book, but apparently it has the singular distinction of having been panned by both left and right. So I’m not planning to discuss or defend it; what caught my eye was the text of the letter, which expresses quite well the abstractly idealistic point of view of many, if not most, of the liberals I know:

Taking a stand against torture, no matter the perpetrator; fighting for a belief in human rights and dignity for all, including women, homosexuals and others who are mistreated simply for how they were born; nurturing a hope that America will unswervingly uphold the principles of democracy and justice that it preaches to the rest of the world; tell Dinesh D’Souza I’m proud to belong to the “domestic insurgency” that holds these “decadent moral values.”

Who could argue with the general principles the letter-writer holds dear? Human rights, and upholding democracy as a beacon to the world? Certainly not most conservatives; these are their core beliefs, as well.

And of course those neocons—so widely excoriated by the Left (and hey, by much of the Right, too, if truth be known)—have as one of their basic beliefs the idea that peoples around the world are ultimately capable of democracy (which is the worst form of government except for all the others) and the preservation of their human rights.

So, what’s the problem? The problem is one of emphasis and absolutism.

When I read the letter what struck me first was the idealistic fervor and sense of righteousness there. What struck me next was an idea that seems to be implicit in the letter, the notion that what the US needs to do in order to be successful in these moral arenas in the political world is to lead by example, and others will follow.

It’s an old philosophical dilemma: can you help others before you can help yourself? And what standard of moral perfection of the self is required before one goes out into world to help others? And can this “help” ever be offered through force, or does one lead best by the example of one’s own life? And is there any responsibility to help at all?

There’s a certain type of argument prevalent on the Left that goes as follows: we must put our own house in order and become morally pure. Then other nations will look up to us and follow our example, and we will have the moral clout to speak on matters of human rights. Until then, we don’t.

There’s only one problem with this type of thinking, and that’s the fact that it ignores the way the world and the human beings inhabiting it actually work. In this respect it has something in common with absolute pacifism: adherence to an abstract principle of moral purity which has real-world consequences that could easily involve the triumph of those who would destroy human rights.

I’m not arguing against moral suasion as a force for possible good in leading by example. It tends to be more effective in the psychological and personal spheres, however, than in the political.

And even in personal terms it is hardly the answer to all problems. For example, when a parent manages to be exemplary in behavior, that’s no guarantee that the child will grow up exhibiting the same behavior. We like to believe that, if only we were perfect, the world would be a place in which force would not be necessary. But sadly, there are situations in which the only remedies involve a practical counterforce; that’s why we have police and jails.

No society can ever be perfect enough to lead all its citizens to righteous behavior, not only because we are flawed human beings who cannot always act morally, but because there are also poorly understood darknesses in the human mind and heart that mean that even the most perfect examples will not necessarily be followed.

If this is true for individuals, it’s even more true for political entities. A goodly part of what makes the political world run is power and force, and there is a place for using both to fight even worse evils. The fact that even so seemingly evil a thing as the use of torture (and its definition) can be debated by well-meaning people is proof that there are few moral absolutes in life.

The Newsweek letter represents a point of view I’ve described in my discussion of the contoversial debate about the use of torture, here, as “the ivory tower approach to the messy business of ethical decision-making.” In the world of the letter-writer, it appears that the most important thing is keeping one’s own hands perfectly clean. It is an almost faith-based belief system, a conviction that, if one could just be morally pure enough, the rest would somehow fall into place almost by magic.

Does anyone who takes a good look at the world truly believe that terrorists, those who follow them, or tyrannical third-world dictators are convinced of much of anything by our emphasis on human rights—other than that we are naive and weak? And, when the people of the countries involved are brainwashed by their own media, leaders, and clerics into thinking we are the devil incarnate, how could the word of our goodness get out even if we did achieve some sort of impossible moral perfection in these arenas? And what difference would it make if it did, if the rulers of those countries were determined to ruthlessly crush all opposition?

It’s important that we protect human rights, of course. But we cannot assume that if we do so it will have much effect on the way the rest of the world operates. Unfortunately, there are those who are far more ruthless than we and who have none of our respect for either human rights or clean hands. To fight such people effectively one can never remain morally pure, and to believe so is to believe a dangerous myth.

56 Responses to “The ivory tower: clean hands and leading by example”

  1. carol Says:

    The Catholic Church uses the same playbook. Instead of doing the hard work of active evangelism and apologetics, they tell us to set an example by our own Christ-like behavior–and everyone will want to be Catholic! Or something like that.

    I think it’s laziness and fear of confrontation.

  2. ramona Says:

    I do believe that what you’ve described is referred to in the psych world as “magical thinking”.

  3. TC Says:

    “So, what’s the problem? The problem is one of emphasis and absolutism.”

    Agreed. Like emphasizing an abstract idea to represent an absolute.

    Like saying that liberals believe America must be morally “pure” before it can criticize the actions of others.

    Which also happens to be mostly false, but there you go…

  4. Thomas Says:

    Does anyone who takes a good look at the world truly believe that terrorists, those who follow them, or tyrannical third-world dictators are convinced of much of anything by our emphasis on human rights—other than that we are naive and weak?

    A good example of this is China. Back in the 1990′s when Bill Clinton harped on them about human rights, and when Bush did it again, the Chinese were baffled. Genuinely baffled. They kept talking as though we’re after something else when we say these things. We must have an ulterior motive.

    I remember a German once saying something to the effect of, “You have the power. We understand your exercise of power. But when you keep sermonizing us, the world, about freedom, liberty and human rights, you just confuse the heck outta us! Use your power (that we can understand) or shut up!”

  5. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:

    Something worth noting about it is that it makes questions of conduct in warfare ones of pure moral agency. The kind of solipsistic view of warfare and actions between states exhibited in the letter, if I may paint with too broad a brush, seems to be strongly represented in those who tend to be most vocal in their opposition to the US invovlement in Iraq.

    This sort of equivalency and inward focus is as dangerous in discussions of the ethics and morality of warfare as it is in consideration of strategy.

  6. Synova Says:

    The problem with clean hands is that sins of omission are every bit as deadly as deadly force.

    What we *don’t* do has consequences.

  7. Bravo Romeo Delta Says:

    Actually, I’m listening to your KSM podcast, and I find it interesting that your discussion about how whether or not KSM should be tried as a combatant or a criminal still is redolent with kind of ethical solipsism in the face of conflict that you read in the letter in Newsweek.

    This isn’t to say that we should up and axe him right out, but the whole discussion immediately became inward focused, and very little of even that was with respect to the notion of a nation at war.

  8. gcotharn Says:

    Kudos. You understand the issue more completely than I understood it, before reading your post.

    When you say, in the last sentence:

    “To fight such people effectively one can never remain morally pure….”

    do you mean
    1) to effectively defend ourselves, we will likely be forced to break our own moral code,

    or, do you mean
    2) in effectively defending ourselves, we will inevitably be imperfect in our implementation, and thus disqualify ourselves for any “morally pure” status?

    or, do you mean something else? Thx.

  9. Ymarsakar Says:

    What struck me next was an idea that seems to be implicit in the letter, the notion that what the US needs to do in order to be successful in these moral arenas in the political world is to lead by example, and others will follow.

    Hey I got an idea Neo. If he wants to lead by example, he can be the first to charge the machine gun nests. If he survives, we’ll follow him. Deal?

    It’s an old philosophical dilemma: can you help others before you can help yourself?

    I think the military already solved this leadership question, Neo, whether pragmatically or philosophically. Hey, after all, they needed to solve it, or else they were all going to die in war without it.

    we must put our own house in order and become morally pure.

    But the Left would have to purge 95% of humanity before that occurs… is that their euthanasia plan perhaps?

    Then other nations will look up to us and follow our example, and we will have the moral clout to speak on matters of human rights.

    I don’t think people give a fauk what moral clout you have. When people and nations are faced with a pragmatic choice between slavery and life, or death and freedom, they are going to choose things that will benefit them. If you don’t offer them the Power and the support, they’ll just find it from someone else, or die in the trying. A leader with a nation that is about to be dead and destroyed, isn’t going to be too picky about the “morality” of any potential allies.

    This isn’t theory. Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iraq shows all this clearly, man by man, woman by woman, child by child.

    Until then, we don’t.

    I agree. The Left should keep their yap shut until they become pure. Everybody’s in agreement, yes?

    Use your power (that we can understand) or shut up!”

    Indeed, Tom. Do people really listen to telemarketers trying to sell them stuff? I’m talking about more than 51%. Why would you listen to somebody who you don’t know, trying to sell you things that they aren’t going to buy, but asking you to shell out money for? Why should people risk their lives for freedom or risk their lives to help the US, if we aren’t willing to do anything except talk?

    I think in a sense, Neo, the problem is with people who believe that they need only talk about their values, that they don’t need to shed blood or kill to defend their values. There is no belief that the tree of liberty requires constant blood from patriots and tyrants.

    It is a belief that you can be moral, while being apathetic and immoral at the same time. So it is a twist on what is.

    In the end, are we not reminded of Emperor Hirohito’s decision. Should he have done the right, but impossible thing, which was to keep on fighting and annihilate his country? Or should he do the pragmatic thing, the thing that gives hope on the ground, but yet at the same time is one of shame and immorality?

    It all gets down to what is the right choice and what is the wrong choice. is the right choice simply worrying about keeping blood off your hands? Is the right choice simply to focus on yourself and your feelings and fears, letting others sink or swim on their own? Is that really the right choice, Neo…

  10. goesh Says:

    gay rights, abortion, sexual liberation – yup, real examples to inspire muslims the world over

  11. harry Says:

    “Does anyone who takes a good look at the world truly believe that terrorists, those who follow them, or tyrannical third-world dictators are convinced of much of anything by our emphasis on human rights—other than that we are naive and weak?”

    C’mon up here to Oregon where many here absolutely believe this is the case. Ive heard it first hand from many people. I have a liberal friend whom Ive stopped having an e-mail discussion on the GWOT because there was no getting past the same assertions:

    1. We just creating more terrorists.

    2. We’re torturing people, that makes us as bad as them.

    3. More Iraqi civilians are killed by American soldiers than by insurgents. (No, it doesn’t matter how many news stories of terrorist acts in Baghdad you send his way).

    4. We are fighting the Iraqi people, not merely insurgents, just like the movie “Red Dawn”, they are the Americans to our Russians.

    5. If we left Iraq, the fighting would simply stop.

    This guy is a fairly decent and intelligent guy. Not a nut at all. There’s just no reaching him though.

    I guess some people dont understand, its not the west coast of the US everywhere.

  12. Mullah Cimoc Says:

    Cimoc say all ameriki nation destroy for iraq war. this him punish for the cruel.

    wishng ameriki man fight for destroy all israeli intel networks in usa.Israeli him for control the usa media and make sick the mind of the ameirki man. also the woman so slut with ‘LBT (low back tattoo) in all woman of ameriki girl like the prostitution.

  13. Assistant Village Idiot Says:

    Amen, sister. We live in the age of the false dichotomy, in which any tolerance of imperfection makes one a secret torturer and persecutor. It is ironic that those who disparage the black-and-white thinking of religious people are far more Manichean in their thinking. To many on the left, all greys are the same.

  14. Lee Says:

    Platitudes, false dichotomies, double standards; that’s how a leftie teaches a coward a lesson and wins a war.(with apologies to Arthur Penn, director or “Little Big Man”)

  15. A hermit Says:

    How lame. we can’t change the bad guys by being good, so therefore it’s OK to abandon our principles?

    Those principles protect us from ourselves. Abandoning them is a form of surrender to the people you fear so much. And that’s what this all about, really, your fear. I’m so sick of you “9/11 changed everything” types who have turned America into a nation of bedwetting cowards willing to surrender their most cherished principles if only the daddy state will make them feel safe.

    Never mind the practical arguments against torture; the idea that Americans, who survived war with Hitler and Tojo and faced down the Soviet Union and its nuclear arsenal should now be so afraid of a few religious fanatics that you should abandon all moral restraints is absolutely revolting.

    Shame on you. I used to look up to your country. Not anymore.

  16. Jimmy J. Says:

    “Unfortunately, there are those who are far more ruthless than we and who have none of our respect for either human rights or clean hands. To fight such people effectively one can never remain morally pure, and to believe so is to believe a dangerous myth.”

    The average American cannot begin to fathom the midset of these butchers. If they did there would be a paroxysm of fear sweep through this land. Unfortunately, most Americans are like sheep – gentle creatures that would not/could not harm another person, particularly in the barbaric fashion of the jihadi terrorists. And the jihadis seem far away since 9/11/2001.

    To see one of these animals up close and personal is a chilling experience. To look in their eyes and see the depths of hatred they carry is shocking to even strong men. Their attitude that of a “dead man walking.” In their minds they are already dead. Their greatest desire is to take as many infidels with them as possible. They are as ravenous wolves preying on harmless sheep.

    Fortunately, this country has men and women who have the instincts of the trusty sheep dog. They are capable of violence, but only in defense of the defenseless. They know that to defeat the jihadis they must be just as dedicated to violence and destruction as the jihadis are. And there’s the rub. Many of the citizen sheep find that frightening, not realizing that it is absolutely necessary for their defense. So the defenders are hamstrung and the animals that prey on the innocent are allowed to survive much longer than is necessary or practical.

    Unfortunately, it is only when the predators are close and the sheep feel the hot breath of their hatred searing their skins do they wake up and let the sheep dogs do their work unfettered.

    But that is the story of humanity and it doesn’t seem to change.

  17. » Blog Archive » Whackin’ on that straw liberal. Says:

    [...] Neo-neocon takes exception with a sentiment expressed in… aw hell, I’m not going to paraphrase her introduction: The ivory tower: clean hands and leading by example [...]

  18. Synova Says:

    Never believe someone who says they used to look up to the United States.

    It’s a sure tip-off that they’re trying to sell you something, namely, their approval. What coin for that approval (an approval the US has never had before in our history) why, the coin for that approval is to tolerate violence and evil.

    You want to know what American principles are? Read some Westerns. Violent literature filled with violent men. What virtues? Honesty. Bravery. Individuals standing for what is right even when it means facing their sure death. Defending the weak. Pulling your own weight and prefering not to accept help on the one hand, offering help, even to the point of self-sacrifice on the other. Bullies are reviled. Personal responsibility for deafeating them, lauded. Leaving others in the way of desperate, evil men, reviled.

    And on, and on.

    A national mythos, or a set of principles, of ideals NEVER represent the truth of things. They’re goals. They’re something to shoot for.

    Our American mythos, the picture we have in our head (to borrow something Ymarsakar said elsewhere) cheers when the taunt of “then you’ll be just as bad as me” is delivered, and the hero says, “No, I’m much worse.”

    Maybe it’s a child-like view of morality but it is not comprimised in the least when the good guys are willing to do the hard work of bringing some serious hurt to the sort of depraved evil that puts children into a car to get it through a US military check point and then blows up the car with the children still in it.

    It’s not moral by any fashion to equivocate that sort of behavior, that sort of depravity, to *anything* that our side has done.

    We’re big and bad and scary.

    And that’s a good thing.

    Because someone OTHER THAN the evil bastards who saw off the heads of journalists and evicerate female aid workers and routinely execute anyone they take a disliking to, gas markets, hide behind children and kill them, needs to be.

    The fact that it’s distasteful is just too freaking bad. People who don’t like it maybe ought to move somewhere and live the way you insist on leaving other people living. Do your perfect moral exampling there, if they let you live long enough.

  19. Lee Says:

    Well, Hermit, I don’t what country you’re from, but unlike yours and every other country, we at least TRY(and succeed most of the time). Oh, by the way, you’re WELCOME for the freedom and the internet that allows you to badmouth us when we f#&* it up sometimes(by the way, Iraq isn’t one of them). What’s YOUR country doing about the world’s prroblems, huh? Don’t need your support, don’t care about your “indignation”. We are not going to perish to uphold YOUR notion of OUR ideals. So, take your indignation and go see a Michael Moore movie or something.

  20. strcpy Says:

    The problem is that the ones that believe as you write are not really honest. They are the same ones that defend All Gore on his Global Warming stance and his life style. That is as hypocritical as *any* espoused by a republican mentioned (had he simply been and advocate instead of an evangelist I would agree with the “left”).

    They have decided the end game and work backwards from there with the end game being the *only* truth. As such, for mostly anyone that works from the data towards the endgame they make little sense. I do not see it as a “rightist vs leftist” argument as both sides have their adherents to that type of thinking, though I definitely see that leftist are much more susceptible to it.

    As such, there is almost nothing one can do to sway these people (again, same is true of those on the right that suffer the same thing). Reason was not used to come to the conclusion, reason will not change it. Nor is it confined to just politics, pretty much anything can have this issue (and usually anyone that is unrealistic on one is unrealistic on everything else).

  21. sergey Says:

    Why Victorian era gentelmen had no such problems dealing with barbarians? May be, they have more common sense and better grip of reality treating everybody according one’s virtues, without supposing quite out of thin air that “all people are just the same”? Fear to be called rasists or bigots urged modern westerners to believe in complete nonsense.

  22. jng Says:

    Beware the Left bearing protestations of morality.

    It’s a basic contradiction.

  23. sean Says:

    Jimmy J, so well put that even I understand. Analogies work so well with the simple minded, like myself. Thats why Jesus spoke in parables. Thanks for a moment of mental clarity.

  24. uhlenspiegel Says:

    America is not perfect, and that is also America’s secret. Revolutions generally try to create the perfect Utopia, but create the opposite. Those that try to tidy up the world, “begin as liberators and end in some sort of despotism.” Isaiah Berlin., The Roots of Romanticism. The French Revolution tried to create liberty and fraternity, but ended up by replacing a King with an Emperor. The Bolshevik revolution, aimed to erase economic distinctions, and ended up erasing entire classes of people. The Nazis sought to perfect the German race, and achieved the perfection of mass extermination.
    America has been much less ambitious. It is not founded on the principal of guarantying some utopian perfection, but on the “right to pursue happiness.” The difference between fighting for a right to be happy and a right to pursue happiness, may be slight, but it makes all the difference in the world. The French, British, Germans, Maoists, Marxists, or Fascists try to export their version of perfection. America exports its imperfection.
    This is why, paradoxically, America the ideal of any imperfect country, is so different and thus so perfect. The realization that you can strive to be better, but can not achieve god-like perfection, frees the spirit from the romantic cage that condemns anything less than perfect. Most progressives, and many traditional conservatives remain imprisoned by their romantic notions of perfection, whether future or past. Everyone and everything becomes their enemy, because everything, except their own mind, remains imperfect. For some that means they withdraw from this world and create their own, for others it means to act out, to cause violence and destruction for the sake of destroying this imperfect world.

  25. Ymarsakar Says:

    Synova explained things very well, hear hear.

    On a basic level of the person. The best way you can handle violence is to feel contempt for the violent evil doers. If you feel helpless, if you feel sad, if you feel guilt… then you are disarmed in the face of the more powerful. You are disarmed psychologically, are you made to be helpless, because you lock your powers within your own mind and create an endless cycle.

    That is why Tim Larkin, who instructs on death dealing techniques for self-defense, recommends that you treat violence with contempt, not by putting yourself in the “victim’s” role via role playing, but put yourself into the aggressor’s stance. Critique the aggressor’s execution technique and violence. Think about whether it is effective or not. Do not think of yourself as the victim, never do so, because you disarm yourself psychologically. Think of yourself as the predator, become the predator. Be better at it, use it to fullfill your goals.

    Fanaticism and power, strength and fury, these things can inspire fear in the best and most compassionate of us, as it did on 9/11. Suicide bombers… how many people asked themselves how could we fight against those who would willingly go to their deaths to take us down? How many?

    How do you combat it then? My personal way was in understanding that terrorists are human as well… and because they are human, they can be killed, they can be made to feel pain and terror as well.

    Jimmy wrote a gripping story about staring fanatical cultists in the face, the Islamic Jihad. And I think he saw the strength of the core beliefs of our enemy in their eyes, their unwavering determination, their absolute confidence in the truth and veracity of their values… So what. Do we not have our own beliefs? Do we not have our own strictures and values that we would slaughter countless millions for? Do we as Americans value something also more than life?

    Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness….. Those are just words. Just words. But the bezerker fury and ruthlessness that backs up those words are… something else entirely, I remind people. Something else entirely.

    I see it as a Call to Arms, when terrorists stare us in the eyes. It is a challenge. A challenge that says simply that they have the will to hurt and kill us, and that we are victims, that cannot fight, that would not fight back even if we were given the tools to do so…

    To that I say, no. They are not better at violence than I am. For every execution technique they have shown us on tv, I can think up of something crueler and more painful for them. For every act of defilement and cheering in the streets for dead Americans, my response is simple anger and a desire to wipe those smiles from their faces and replace it with terror, despair, and defeat.

    In the end, the philosophy is simple. For every point of damage you do unto me, I will return it unto you a thousand fold. Is the people of the United States going to role play the victim, go into a fetal position, and have the international crowd kick them until the world gets tired? Or are they going to bring out the knives and the battle fury?

    The US has power. The status of “victim” is not something inevitable, not like Darfur. We have a choice. We can choose to be powerless… or we can choose to use our power and attack. And that is at one time, a national choice, as well as an individual choice. The Left has made their choice already.

    There are two kinds of power. Physical and mental/spiritual. Only the mental and spiritual are the standards by which true courage is proven. Because as we all know, bullies have physical power, but they are not courageous. The US has physical power to destroy this world a few times over… and yet we are afraid of being hurt. We are afraid of being called as evil as the terrorists. We are paralyzed by our fear. To hear the Left say it, this is a good thing, it is a good thing that we are here paralyzed while they beat upon us and slaughter countless women and children, husbands and brothers.

    Psychologically speaking, if you think of yourself as a victim, you will be a victim, trapped in your own mind. Neo and her squad can perhaps shed more light on these psychological matters, if you wish to explore this issue more.

    In the end, this is why Thermopylae is important. As it inspired the Ancient World to conquer their fears and doubts… so it may inspire the modern world to conquer our fears and our doubts, born of a modern time.

    And that’s a good thing.

    Indeed it is, Synova, indeed it is. Fear is only as powerful as you allow it to be. But people misunderstand I think, it isn’t fear of terrorism that paralyzes us… it is the fear of ourselves and releasing our power that is our closest enemy. Because it is closest to the image of who we are. These are the limitations, if broken… that will spell the annihilation of our enemies, foreign and domestic.

  26. eddie Says:

    Let’s just pick one example of a moral code:

    “Greater love than this has no man than to give his life for another.”

    For you this would seem to be worthless. In your world, you would posit, “Greater love than this has no man than to risk his life by taking the lives of others.”

    If we are to have a positive morality (and not merely some rationalization for primitive survivalist instinct), then I simply cannot understand any of this apacolyptic clap trap. You feel mugged by 9/11 and feel some nostalgia for the “ideals” you once had. You then make this leap that its not the mugger’s fault and that we should not simply apply the normal solution: catch the mugger and punish the offender.; No for you the mugging was personal and iconic: it must be my previous beliefs that are the real cause of the mugging. So if I abandon them and create a new paranoid model of morality, then at least I won’t feel helpless with my high and mighty ideals, but empowered by my righteous smiting of the infidel.

    Now that’s what I call devolution.

  27. Synova Says:

    I’ve got no idea what you just said, eddie. Who is “you?”

  28. Lee Says:

    Eddie thinks we are the “Halkans” from Star Trek who were willing to die as a race and society to preserve their peaceful ideals. DYING doesn’t preserve ANYTHING! Tolerance of evil is not a virtue, Eddie. It seems to me that YOU are the one rationalizing to yourself.

  29. Ymarsakar Says:

    “Greater love than this has no man than to give his life for another.”

    But the Left isn’t worried about people dieing, they are worried about something called “rights” or “dignity of terrorists”.

    If the Left actually valued the lives of others by risking their own lives… then why do they show so much hesitation simply because they fear for their souls? Fear of your soul is an excuse to let others die but fear for your life is no excuse to allow others to die?

    Why is it that the Left says it is good to give up your life for others when they aren’t even going to fauking give up a piece of their souls for anyone else? Maybe cause the Left will never do anything to fight for what is right, they will never do anything to die for any belief, they will never kill for any belief. Because… they don’t believe in anything. Beliefs, like religion, to them causes war and suffering. And they wish to avoid that. They avoid that, curiously, by becoming fanatics. Fanatics that dont’ kill and don’t die… but still fanatics. Fake fanatics, maybe, but fanatics. Like Siggy said, at least the Islamic Jihad acts on their hate of America, unlike the Left which hates, but aren’t going to kill anyone (purposefully) over it more or less.

    I keep hearing from commenters here that say doing the “right thing” is to… believe as they believe. But that isn’t the right thing. Why is that doing the right thing? They can’t say, oh big surprise there.

    Synova, I guess the you eddie is refering to is Neo who said she was mugged by reality on 9/11. or something.

  30. Synova Says:

    Reminds me of that repulsive heap of excrement, the song, _Imagine_.

    I once tried to “imagine” what the song said and I ended up feeling like I needed bleach for my brain. Only someone drugged stupid would think that nothing to live or die for was a *good* thing.

  31. Badger Says:

    “You want to know what American principles are? Read some Westerns.”

    That comment is pretty revealing. The American West was never like the way it is romanticized in Westerns. Ask any historian.

  32. Hyman Rosen Says:

    I am confused how neo-neo can read that letter and see anything in there about leading by example and moral perfection. That letter is excoriating DD’S, and by extension the Republican administration, for seeking to destroy those enumerated principles which neo-neo finds so inarguable. Lies in the name of truth, imprisonment in the name of liberty, torture in the name of justice, that is what our government has given us, and many of you would gladly follow their banner over the edge of a cliff if only they would protect you from those evil Islamofascists with their dead eyes. How strange – we must not emphasize human rights, because what will the goyim think? We will lose in war if we refuse to torture prisoners? We should deny gay people the ability to marry in order to gain the respect of Islamofascists who hang them? Or we should just not worry about such things until the day the war is over? Notice that Israel, faced with the same enemies immediately next door rather than oceans away, is just building a wall to keep them out and otherwise is getting on with life. We would be much better off doing the same, and leaving them to drown in their own bile.

  33. Sally Says:

    Hyman “Christofascist” Rosen says he’s confused, and he is. But, as usual, he’s lying about the source of his confusion. For example, he simply makes up the idea that anybody is saying we “should deny gay people the ability to marry in order to gain the respect of Islamofascists who hang them”. And, of course, as neo points out herself, far from saying “we must not emphasize human rights”, an emphasis upon human rights, including democracy, is one of the defining principles of neoconservatism generally — which Hyman also knows very well, but deliberately reverses. In fact, he’s quite obviously exhibiting the same sort of obtuse and simplistic “perfectionism” that the post is talking about — in the face of a fanatic, globally infiltrated, mass-murdering enemy, supported by oil-fueled tyrannies, we’re apparently not supposed to allow the slightest alteration in our peace-time procedures against them.

    Which, when you stop to look at it, is just what that enemy themselves would have us believe, isn’t it? It wouldn’t win their terror campaign for them by itself, but it would certainly leave them with the advantages that they’ve been able to exploit up to now. And that might, in turn, give us a clue as to the actual source of Hyman’s confusion — and of the significant number who think like him. For them, the real enemy is their own Administration and of course all the “Christofascists” who vote for them. The people who fly jets into buildings, saw heads off reporters, blow up trains, subways, night clubs, shoot fleeing school children in the back, etc., etc., etc. — not important. Ignore them. Just build a wall. Etc.

    As much as he may think he’s above the terrorists and willing to leave them “in their own bile” — objectively he’s on their side.

  34. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “How lame. we can’t change the bad guys by being good, so therefore it’s OK to abandon our principles?”

    It’s actually worse than that. The bad guys are actually capable of using our own principles to kill us. Take the recent suicide bombing in Iraq, where the bad guys used children in the back seat of a car bomb to bluff their way through a checkpoint. This is an enemy who, on noticing our unwillingness to fire upon children, starts strapping babies to all their weapons.

    The only course of action that will not end in our own deaths, is to suspend our principles when dealing with such depraved people. It would also save the lives of their children, for if there was no profit in making armor out of babies, they would very likely abandon the practice in favor of more effective methods.

    Our principles protect us from each other, but they must not be applied to those who have none. Doing so leaves us no choice but to surrender our freedoms to anyone that does not hold those principles, and we thus lose both our freedom and our principles.

  35. susan Says:

    I don’t know since I don’t go to church or antything but I have to ay, to stick a tube at the nape of a baby’s (hanging halfway out of mommy’s vagina), then suck out the brains as to collaspe the skull is a rather terrifying concept to defend as a noble cause for human rights.

    Ugh…I loathe my revolutionized gender, creatures of such exrtraordinary evil.

  36. susan Says:

    would help my point if I previewed before posting

    It’s not my fault….is there some ‘right to privacy’ umbrella under which I can hide my hideous errors? Being an infantized victim and all.

  37. Hyman Rosen Says:

    The enemy has simply used classic guerrilla tactics, available to any group which is fighting on their home territory with support from the civilian population. The NY Times is reporting today that Sunni areas of Baghdad are a wasteland because the Sunni insurgents themselves attack people who try to come in and fix things up. Perversely, this causes them to get more support from the people they’re hurting – the government gets perceived as being ineffectual. Suspending our principles to simply debases us. It doesn’t lead to victory. It doesn’t scare the enemy. Although the enemy does seem to have scared quite a few people here really well.

    Oh, and here’s another example of the horrors of modern technology – a roomful of people eagerly await the delivery of a freshly-dead corpse, and cut into it, tearing out it’s heart, kidneys, lungs, and eyes. With hands bloody to their elbows, they send the dismembered parts to other such rooms where they are sewn into living bodies in the belief that the health of the corpse will transfer to them. When no more parts remain to be stripped from the inside, the skin is then harvested for more of the same.

    People who want to ban intact dilation and extraction want to ban all abortion and birth control. People who want to prevent children from accessing indecent material want to prevent everyone from accessing it. People who want to ban foie gras want to ban meat. People who want to “teach the controversy” want to teach Genesis. I have zero trust in people who want to tell others how to run their lives, and zero trust in people who want to make their religion my law. That’s why when the camel sticks its nose into the tent, it must be met by a sledgehammer.

  38. Hyman Rosen Says:

    And I forgot to mention, people who want to ban assault weapons want to ban guns.

  39. sergey Says:

    Most of the moral norms of any tribe are for intra-tribal use. They never were intended to apply to enemy tribes. So replacing these norms by ostensibly universal “human rights” is a bad bargain, a recipe for defeat.

  40. Richard Says:

    This is also the primary split among libertarians — between the purists who feel that everyone must exhibit a philosophy that is “pure” and derived from an axiomatic root proposition and the pragmatists who just want a government that is smaller in size and scope in its intrustions into our lives.

    There is also an analogy to the internet. The fundamental protocols governing most internet traffic were created in an environment where everyone could essentially be trusted to “be a good citizen”. Now that the unwashed masses have access to the internet, this assumption is no longer true, but we’re stuck with the permissive protocols that were created in the beginning and thus we continue to suffer the slings and arrows of spammers, password phishers and other Bad People who don’t give a damn about being a good net.citizen and are more interested in scamming some cash out of us, even if it means they have to annoy millions of people from whom they’ll never get any cash.

    In short, the honor system doesn’t scale. That’s why I’m a pragmatist libertarian that believes we’re unlikely to eliminate the need for policemen and the military. However, I’m perfectly happy to cut government spending and subsidies to things like agriculture before we need to square off with the anarchists in a big debate about whether police or militaries are needed.

  41. Lee Says:

    “Classic guerrilla tactics” don’t involve targeting and using children as shields. A “guerrilla” wears the uniform of the country he\she represents, attacks legitimate military targets, and observes the Geneva Convention. The enemy Hyman defends are “terrorists” employing “terror tactics”, who don’t even qualify for the label “partisan” like the Maqui, the Garibaldi Brigades, Tito’s and Stalin’s partisans. And even they would be considered “unlawful combatants” under the Geneva Conventions. So, Hyman, please, save your “romantic” vision of these criminals for the comic books.

  42. Hyman Rosen Says:

    Using pejorative terms for your enemy is good for stoking your anger, but not for much else. And I’m amazed at how many people are outraged, outraged, that the enemy has failed to follow the rules. (Which seem to be “Please stand still and get shot. America wins.”)

    Portions of the Geneva Conventions seem silly to me too, but one of the completely unsilly bits is that how you treat the enemy has nothing to do with how the enemy treats you. I don’t want my armed forces and my government torturing people, and locking them up without the ability to protest that their incarceration is unjustified. I don’t want that even if those people have been reliably accused of putting babies’ heads on pikes. And if I am in the minority on this, I want my armed forces and government to stand up and say that this is what they are doing instead of lying about it.

    Guerrilla techniques involve using agility, stealth, and deception against the enemy. Attacking using children for cover means that coalition troops will now be more suspicious of all civilian traffic, which will likely lead to more accidental civilian casualties. It will also lead to more problems at checkpoints, since fewer vehicles can now be assumed to be innocent just from inspecting the occupants, so things slow down and get more chaotic and awful for the people mixed up in it. It seems to me that this attack will accomplish exactly what the insurgents want, which is why they did it.

    So, is this an outrage? Sure. But going into battle counting on your enemy to follow rules is stupid. You have to go in believing that the enemy will be as wily and ruthless as possible, and be prepared to win on that basis. Our plan was that we would be met by flowers, and we had no backup plan. That’s why we lost.

  43. Lee Says:

    Thanks for the illustration, Hyman. What you “want” is irrelevant to what they(the terrorists) “deserve”. Notice how eloquently he(Hyman) rationalizes and DEFENDS the criminals’ use of CHILDREN as human shields? This over any other “fact” coming out of Iraq should be more than enough proof to ANYONE(except terrorist sympathisers and seditious a**holes like Hyman) that we(coalition) are WINNING, since they obviously didn’t NEED children to get through the checkpoints before now. Panties on the head: OUTRAGEOUS! Blowing up children: “Well, waddya expect; they’re desperate.”. So strap a bomb on YOUR kids, Hyman, and send them to the White House if you TRULY believe this crap. Because if you don’t, you’re just as much a hypocrite as you claim Bush is for not sending his daughters to war. Seditious loser.

  44. Lee Says:

    Oh, by the way, Hymie boy, you’re describing any number of sporting events, but you clearly have NO idea about “guerrilla warfare”.

  45. Lee Says:

    And let me apologize for playing with your name in a way that makes it look like a racial slur, won’t happen again, but I DO consider you to be a boy, which was my intent.

  46. Sally Says:

    And I’m amazed at how many people are outraged, outraged, that the enemy has failed to follow the rules.

    As usual, Hyman is amazed, amazed at phantasms of his own imagination. There is some anger, true, but not at the enemy for failing to follow “the rules” — it’s at apologists, like Hyman, for constantly playing the enemy’s game of double standards. Everyone else has a very clear and cold understanding of just how vicious this particular enemy is. Hyman affects to be quite blase about his claim that the enemy has already “won” by using tactics like making shields out of their own women and children — but if he’s okay with that, then he certainly can’t complain at the collateral damage such tactics cause. Doesn’t stop him from trying, of course, as we can see. But it should stop others from taking him — and the significant numbers on the left like him — at all seriously. In fact, it should help the rest of us to see them for exactly what they are: hypocritical and lying terrorist collaborators.

  47. Tatterdemalian Says:

    We’re not mad at them for breaking the rules, Hymen.

    We’re mad at you, for refusing to recognize that we must break your “rules,” too.

  48. Hyman Rosen Says:

    I don’t understand. Why must we break my rules? What have we accomplished by imprisoning people without a hearing, torturing them, and then lying about it? Have I somehow missed some great success? As far as I can tell, the only thing we’ve accomplished is to waste the good will we were shown after 9/11, and to finally get the American people to throw out the incompetents in charge.

    I’m also at a loss as to why anyone thinks I’m defending the enemy. I think that it’s a very bad thing that we have lost the war against them. It’s a sad contrast to the Carter era. Then, we appeared weak by being unwilling to fight. Now, we appear weak by losing the fight. It’s also unfortunate that tactics that we find morally repugnant have proven so effective for the other side, because it means that they will continue to be used.

    It’s an interesting moral calculus, by the way, that it is less wrong to blow up more people with lower probability than fewer people with certain probability. That is, the all out war that some people here are so eager to see would certainly cause the deaths of civilians, including more than two children, but no specific child would be certain to die. (And in fact, we have seen many such deaths already.) On the other hand, using two children in a suicide bombing makes those deaths certain. We consider the first an unfortunate but acceptable price to pay, while looking upon the second with horror.

    Oh, and I’m also puzzled about the claim that I’ve been complaining about collateral damage. Where did I do that?

    The only bombing that my kid will do to the White House will come in November of 2008, when he will come into the voting booth with me and push the lever for the Democratic candidate.

    And don’t worry about the “Hymie” thing. That’s been my nickname for a very long time (even before Jesse Jackson named my city for me).

  49. Sally Says:

    strategypage.comI think that it’s a very bad thing that we have lost the war against them.

    That’s what you call cheap lip-service — an easy line for any collaborator to type or mouth, and also, of course, a falsity. Note, by the way, the routine moral relativism of “tactics we find repugnant” — as opposed to tactics that simply are repugnant — juxtaposed with a trivial and obviously mocking regret that they’ve “proven so effective for the other side”. But if you really want an example of comical fake-innocence, take a look at:
    Oh, and I’m also puzzled about the claim that I’ve been complaining about collateral damage. Where did I do that?
    Well, how about the paragraph immediately preceding, where he compares the unavoidable death of children in war to the deliberate killing of children (often enough their own) by terrorists? It would be nice to think that Hyman and the like are merely confused, as he describes himself repeatedly, about this and so much else. But the evidence of his own writing indicates that his overt “confusion” is merely a pose — it’s a cover for his attempt both to condemn America for what he considers rule-breaking and at the same time to admire the terrorists for their adroit use of their own children for cover. A pretty vile underside of a faux-naive surface.

    Here’s an interesting little article from Strategy Page for comparison:
    Islamic terrorists are encouraging their supporters, who can write in English, to get on American web sites and pretend to be friends or family members of American soldiers or marines. The “media jehadis” are instructed to tell stories in line with the anti-war tone of American and European media.
    Now, Hyman isn’t pretending to be a friend or family member of American soldiers, it’s true — he’s no doubt acting on his own. But the deliberate collapse of any moral distinction between soldiers and terrorists is clearly in line with the information war objectives of an enemy whose viciousness is unlimited. So, though he may not be taking his talking points from Al Qaeda directly, he may as well be.

  50. Hyman Rosen Says:

    I said “tactics we find repugnant” because the other side apparently does not find them repugnant, since they are using them. In this instance, the tactic worked – the bombers were able to penetrate into a secured area. Since I would prefer that the enemy not be successful, I regret that the tactic worked. I’m not sure why you find my regret to be “mocking”.

    As far as the moral calculus goes, those “unavoidable deaths of children in war” are in fact quite avoidable; you could, for example, decide not to prosecute the war. When you do, you do so in the full certainty that you will accidentally kill some non-zero number of children, and in fact we have done so already. Now, for the most part, people react as you do – that these deaths are less morally repugnant than using children to guilefully deliver bombs. I just find that interesting. You wind up with dead children in either case, so why do you find one way less immoral than the other?

    As for myself, I’m generally pro-death (favoring abortion and capital punishment, against gun control, and initially in favor of attacking Iraq), so I’m willing to tolerate civilian casualties when necessary. I just don’t get all in a huff over how evil the enemy is. If the enemy were not evil, we should not be in the war to begin with. I see the denunciations of the evil enemy as a tactic to avoid acknowledging that we have lost the war. If enough outrage can be stirred up, perhaps the American people will not be so eager to have our troops leave Iraq.

    Oh, and as for blurring the lines between us and them, I apologize. I should have realized that our government is torturing people morally.

  51. Sally Says:

    As for myself, I’m generally pro-death (favoring abortion and capital punishment, against gun control, and initially in favor of attacking Iraq)…

    We’ve already been over the unlikelihood that Hyman here was ever in favor of attacking Iraq, so I think this is just his usual deception — the “pro-death” part, though, is no doubt true, especially given his fond regard for the death-loving islamist “guerrilla fighters”.

    … so I’m willing to tolerate civilian casualties when necessary

    Yes, exactly — further explaining his sympathetic portrayal of terrorist baby-killers.

    I see the denunciations of the evil enemy as a tactic to avoid acknowledging that we have lost the war. If enough outrage can be stirred up, perhaps the American people will not be so eager to have our troops leave Iraq.

    And now we see the point of his deception — what really has Hyman worried is the lingering fear that just maybe America won’t cut and run after all. I mean, his “guerrilla fighters” have slaughtered children, butchered Iraqis, blown up religious sites, used their own people as human shields, and used all sorts of similar “stealthy”, “agile”, “deceptive”, and clever tactics — surely, he’s thinking, Americans can not and will not stand up to such a ferocious and dedicated enemy. But … what if they do!?

    Well, that’s why Hyman’s here, isn’t it? Like so much of the left, whether consciously or not, he’s hoping that, in his own small way, he can contribute to what he earnestly believes will be a victory for the killers — in his case, by trying to tamp down American outrage, one blog at a time.

  52. Hyman Rosen Says:

    I can’t speak to how ferocious or dedicated the enemy is, but it doesn’t take all that much effort to plant bombs in the road, or to convince someone to be noble by blowing themselves up. We would be in much better shape if we could only be beaten by a ferocious and dedicated enemy. I’m afraid we’re being beaten by a merely competent enemy.

    The reason I’m concerned about staying the course is that we’re throwing good money after bad. We’re spending a great deal of money, we’ve overdeployed soldiers and the National Guard, and we don’t have a notion anymore of what victory even means in Iraq.

  53. Lee Says:

    Hyman, you’ve done NOTHING but tell us how dedicated and ferocious the enemy is, heaping praise and respect upon them all the while. And, in fact, it takes a GREAT DEAL of indoctrination to convince someone to suicide in a “noble cause”(hard enough to do it in the collective sense of a military where it is assumed “some” will come back). I also noticed that now, after being criticized for it, your tack has switched to how even more pathetic it is to be “dumber” than the backwards-assed tribals. Just talking out of both sides of your mouth for fun? Or just being your typical seditious jerk?

  54. Sally Says:

    I’m afraid we’re being beaten by a merely competent enemy.

    A normal response to such a situation, of course, would be to demand that we do better, not that we run away. And it certainly wouldn’t be to go on at great length about the tactical virtues of “attacking using children as cover”, or about the “stealth” and “agility” of such attackers.

    No, as I’ve said, what Hyman is really afraid of is that we’re not being beaten.

  55. Tatterdemalian Says:

    “… but it doesn’t take all that much effort to plant bombs in the road, or to convince someone to be noble by blowing themselves up.”

    And with these bizarre assumptions (Bombs are simple to make? The human will to live is easy to suppress?) Hyman finally severs all connections to the real world.

    Nothing more to discuss, folks, unless you want to see how bizarre a person’s delusions can get.

  56. Karin Says:

    The use of torture is a thorny and important issue. Too thorny, and too important, to be used as a plaything in a kind of paintball game of Right VS Left.

    The “you’ve got to break eggs to make an omelette” position is just as odious in its uselessness as the “you’ve got to be pure” position. Both are essentially NON-positions. One offers the thrill of faux-toughness, the other the thrill of performed rectitude.

    So what? Both have a tenuous connection to the execution of the actual task – extracting accurate information.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.


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