Saturday, March 27, 2004

The Right Methods and The Right Results

I just finished reading this post: Pejmanesque: "THE HOLOCAUST SHRUG". Once I get more than a few minutes of breathing time I'll read the whole articles. What I have seen so far reminds me of the post I made below. Who do you reconcile "War is NOT the Answer" with the potential that Iraq now has? I can allow that some people truly believe that Bush is a fascist thug who is looking to crush rights all over the world. I would ask those people, can you not agree that at least the lesser of two evils won?

In philosophy, there are two positions that are opposed to one another, two positions that describe the divide I see in civil discourse. The first is the Categorical Imperative, the most visible portion being that it is immoral to treat another person as a mean to an end rather than as an end in and of themselves. We often see this expressed as "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." "War is NOT the Answer" also derives from this. It is a necessity of war that one kills the other side and any other poor slob who gets in the way. The Categorical Imperative would hold that one must not seek out the right ends in a way that exploits or infringes on the rights of others: If one can secure the health and well being of all the world at the cost of the life of one innocent new-born infant, then the Categorical Imperative would say that that is too high of a price.

The opposing view is derived from Consequentialist Utilitarianism, so long as an act creates a net increase of good as opposed to bad, then the act was moral. The articles in the top referenced link take the Utilitarian view. In the first season of The Shield, a police officer beats a kidnapping suspect in an interrogation room until the suspect confesses where he is keeping his victim. Given that the girl would have eventually died where she was buried, the Utilitarian would have said that it was moral to have beaten the man to save the life of the girl. One can look at the necessity of paying taxes at the simple end, to the extreme of saying that it is allowable that 51 people, to ward off starvation, kill and cannabalize 49 others.

My philosophy is of the utilitarian avenue. I come to it because I have learned that to choose not to act is still a choice that will lead to real consequences. To categorically deny that a method is absolutely wrong is dangerous.

That last sentence was difficult for me to write. That is because I want to be able to say "Terrorism can never be a right means." Terrorism is a means to an end. Al Qaeda and all of the terrorist organizations have goals, from get money to remake the world into an Islamic world. That is why the War on Terror is unlike any other ever fought. We are not at war with any individual or group, we are at war with a method. If we capture Osama bin Ladin and every other person in the world who has ever applied the words Al Qaeda to themselves, the war would still go on, because there would still be conditions in which the means of terrorism would still be attractive.

That is why I supported the Invasion of Iraq. Iraq is the means to end the conditions that push people to terrorism. With Iraq fallen, Saddam Hussein is no longer paying the families of suicide bombers in Palestine, he is no longer bribing UN officials in charge of the Oil-for-Food program (indeed, the sanctions aimed at him that were hurting his people are now gone, a plus for the people of Iraq), and he is no longer torturing and murdering his own people. All of these would have continued if the US had not invaded.

MAYBE Bush lied, full-on knew-it-wasn't-true-but-said-different-anyway, lied about Iraq having stockpiles of WMD. If he did, I would feel very indignant and deeply offended. Is that indignance and offense enough to offset the good that has come about due to the war? I hardly think so.

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