Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Morality of War and the Anti-War Movement

The essence of the left's political grip on three generations has been to distill completely irrational ideas into short catchy slogans. The slogans take about two seconds to recite and about five minutes to properly disprove. This intersection of advertising logic and propaganda has enabled the left to pollute our political culture with dangerously insipid slogans, many that impact our moral justification for defending ourselves such as, "We need to be better than them", "War is never the answer" or that all time classic, "The ends can never justify the means."

Popularized by Aldous Huxley, whose mix of psychedelic drugs and anti-war activism showed that he was a man truly ahead of his time, the slogan argues that all war is wrong. Huxley took this literally boldly addressing large anti-war rallies in England, not long before Hitler rendered the point moot by demonstrating that no matter how much one side may not want a war-- sooner or later when confronted by a ruthless enemy it will have a choice between becoming slaves or fighting a war.

So do the ends justify the means? If we take the negative literally, all force is immoral. If a burglar ties up and threatens your family, you have no right to shoot him. After all the ends don't justify the means. To the pacifist, to argue otherwise puts you in the same category as the goosestepping stormtroopers who marched into Poland.

As irrational as the pacifist premise that all force, all resistance, all war... is immoral; it is at the heart of most anti-war arguments. The entire system of philosophy, the works of Tolstoy, Gandhi, Bertrand Russell, are built on arguing that all force is immoral... whether in self-defense or out of resistance to evil.

Of course no nation, no people, could survive for very long on such a philosophy. But nevertheless the opposition to America, Israel or any other country acting in defense of itself is based precisely on the argument that all violence is wrong, whether it is a policeman shooting an armed gunman, or a Predator drone targeting a terrorist's vehicle or the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks being waterboarded in order to gather intel about Al Queda's future plans.

But even those who do not go that far in their thinking, nevertheless accept the original premise, that force is a bad thing. Now that might be true if we all lived in a non-violent utopia where no one ever harmed anyone else. But we don't, and aren't likely to anytime soon. That leaves violence as a fundamental and important tool for both individuals and civilizations.

And here we come to the fundamental breach in the moral wall of the anti-war left. When Huxley campaigned against war by England, he was making it easier for Adolf Hitler to conduct war against Poland and Czechoslovakia... and eventually England as well. When Gandhi counseled England to surrender to Hitler, he was doing the same exact thing, only more directly.

Tolstoy put it most plainly when he described his philosophy as "Non-Resistance to Evil through Force". But of course the failure to resist evil in meaningful ways perpetuates evil and force as well.

When Gandhi blamed the Jews for asking for help, rather than going to the gas chambers willingly, in the hopes that this would make the Germans feel bad about what they were doing... he was putting forward the idea that people were not only accountable for their own violence, but for how they react, even passively, to the violence of others. Yet that same accusation finds its target much more fittingly at Gandhi's own door, and that of the entire philosophy of the anti-war movement.

By failing to directly resist and prevent evil by force, they perpetuate a far greater evil and a far greater force. By denying that the means of preventing greater violence sometimes requires lesser violence... they bring about that greater violence.

The Anti-War movements remain fundamentally complicit in causing many of the very wars they complain about. Their non-violence causes and creates violence by preventing the use of force that would nullify that violence at a much lesser cost. By failing to make those distinctions, their ignorance reaps a blood price from their host societies and from other vulnerable countries as well.

Worse yet it cynically ties the hands of those who might stop the violence, while giving a green light to those who actually perpetuate the violence. The left puts forward arguments that delegitimize acts without context in simplistic slogans to avoid serious discussion of the necessity of those acts.

The left's moral argument against the War on Terror rested on both delegitimizing the acts regardless of context as unacceptable, and of the United States as an immoral entity who was permanently in the wrong.

This same two sided blade approach is routinely used against Israel and in the domestic policies of many European countries. It argues both against the specific action and against the moral legitimacy of any First World nation as a colonialist entity that has no right to exist.

Thus the United States is "wrong" for torturing terrorists, because torture is always wrong. And it is wrong because United States foreign policy is to blame for terrorism... not the terrorists themselves.

Similarly the death penalty is wrong because killing is always wrong and because crime is the product of social conditions and racism created by the authorities and perpetuated by law-abiding Americans.

In the case of Israel, the same argument is applied as-- Israel's targeting of terrorists is collective punishment and therefore wrong, and Israel in any case has no right to exist because it is a colonialist entity.

That is why debating the specifics of a particular action with the anti-war left is always a losing proposition. It doesn't matter whether it's killing terrorists, imposing sanctions or even condemning terrorism. The left cannot be convinced because it rejects the legitimacy of the system that applies the actions themselves.

War however is contextual. By deciding that the stronger is always the perpetrator and therefore the illegitimate originator of the violence, the left substitutes strategy for morality, and ignores the true context of the situation, reshaping history until it fits a neo-Marxist narrative. By dividing action from reaction and aligning in a pattern of responsibility that links to the strongest side, the Anti-War left repeats the same moral follies and intellectual fallacies which caused them to help pave the way for Nazi terror across Europe in WW2.


Jewish Survival said...

Well done, but please correct the typo "pretending" to "preventing" (next to 2nd photo).

Exposing the fallacies of pacifism is of the utmost importance, especially at this time, simply because those fallacies can get us all killed. Kudos for a first-rate analysis.

Sultan Knish said...

Thank you for both the spell check and the compliment

Anonymous said...


Yochana said...

Makes me glad I was raised with the philosophy that war is the best answer for solving problems like: commies and their kin, and that torture is a good thing.

The best thing that could happen right now, is to ship the current government to Gitmo and start over. :)

ranter said...

I want to play "Devil's Advocate" here. Assume the phrase, "absolute power corrupts absolutely", and that individuals and groups will always seek more power. Now, let's say a powerful group in the US makes a power play for, say, oil in the middle east. While I won't argue with the moral quagmire that pacifism creates, I will argue that supporting a pacifist movement within the US might be strategically advantageous to thwarting that power play, and the concomitant corruption.

Sultan Knish said...

Gitmo's too good for them, no Harry Potter novels or gourmet meals for them

Sultan Knish said...

Pacifism does not abandon power, it simply gathers it in for other purposes and agendas. Opposing war does not mean that those who oppose it do not want to rule.

Keli Ata said...

Great analysis.

For what it's worth, I do believe many lefties are against torture and the war because they feel the US brought terrorism (9/11) upon itself and the terrorists are poor, misunderstood victims of US aggression.

Then others simply don't give a damn in S. Hussein tortured and murdered 200,000 Iraqis. For all of the liberalism of liberals they frankly couldn't care less if people are tortured.

And then you have the true pacifists who are so luke warm in their emotions and thoughts that they can't feel strongly about anything. They tolerate all, including evil.

Anonymous said...

A very thorough analyses and very vey true. Failure to resist evil brings indeed greater evil which then becomes nigh impossible to eradicate. I include a quote from Sir Winston Churchill: "One ought never to turn one's back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half."

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