Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Trying to See the Principle

Incoherence happens, one might say. But when it happens in the social context, the cause can usually be traced to muddled principles. Having said this, let me sort out my own reactions to the pending U.S. intervention to punish Syria for using nerve gas in its civil war.

At the basic level it seems to me logical to assert that deadly violence is deadly violence no matter how it is applied to a target. The weapons system that produces it—be it bullets or grenades or IUDs, artillery, bombing, drones, gas, or atomic bombs—is therefore a secondary consideration. Under what principle, therefore, is gas attack so much more heinous than the conventional killing that has already taken place?

Yes, I know. I was a child through World War II; the use of gas in WW I was then a still fresh and horrid collective memory. But WW II produced its own mass killings of civilian populations; atomic bombs on two Japanese cities are but the most awesome examples. Does it matter whether you convulse to death or die by having your flesh melt off your bones?

Under what principle may one sovereign attack another if no state of war exists between the two? Is that the principle of Might is Right? Is there a principle under Natural Law that makes one country Cop of the World? The principle of collective self defense is present in that law, not selective and you might say boutique attacks with missiles and such in certain carefully selected cases to justify threats made in speeches in order to deter Syria from using nerve gas—the threats themselves not justified except by might. That might also guarantees our own fairly certain invulnerability to a response.

Yes, incoherence happens. I note that wherever it happens, it also sets the stage for random violence in other venues as well. The young are hungry for rhyme and reason. When it is denied by the society as a whole, by the family structure, it can sometimes burst into a kind of madness we’ve come to call “going postal.”

1 comment:

  1. Painful and true. It is this sort of case, what to "do" about Syria, that makes me want to teach my nieces and nephews that there are logical ways of making decisions. Are these "rich" examples being used in their school rooms?

    What is clear is that the fancy arguments being made on all sides to justify one action or another are, while clever and often well articulated, truly incoherent. Is it the need to make those arguments in a Titter size statement? No, it's more, the Twitter universe just complicates things a bit.

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