116 thoughts on “A Day for Collateral Damage”

  1. Display of unaccountability defines status as a member of the elite.

    In order to be unaccountable one must err or transgress.

    For unaccountability to be displayed error or transgression must be displayed.

    Genuine incompetence is the most reliable path to error and transgression and their display.

    Ergo: Given competition and over time the elite will approach and display complete incompetence in all its acts and their immunities.

    1. Ah! I appreciate the formal argument Eugene, that’s a rare sight in a comments thread.

      The first premise is perhaps correct, but unaccountability is not always the only or even the most efficient status enhancer among the elite (it’s a little unclear what you mean by unaccountability here, but if you’re equating it with discretionary power, the claim is trivial and the second premise doesn’t follow).

      Also, while incompetence is certainly the most reliable path to error, it is not the most reliable path to transgression–wanton disregard for the rules, or even setting out intentionally to break the rules is the most effective way to achieve transgression.

      Finally, even if the argument works despite those drawbacks, it isn’t clear how it’s relevant to the question of collateral damage. I suppose you’re insinuating that the elite are spurred, at least in part, to cultivate military incompetence or to transgress recognized rules of engagement (like minimizing collateral damage) because they want to put their unaccountability on display?

      That seems a little circuitous to me, so maybe I’m misunderstanding the connection you’re seeing. Perhaps you could clarify it for me.

      1. Apparently you cannot read closely or reason, nor appreciate such a seemingly simple construction as “error or transgression”.

        As for the rest, with eyes wide open and some real experience, you many be ready to read it again with understanding in five years.

        1. Did I offend you somehow? I offered some polite and tentative criticism, and you responded by calling me stupid, blind, and inexperienced. I won’t stoop to trading insults. Instead, I’ll dispense with the pleasantries and simply refute your argument.

          Your “simple construction” slips from “err OR transgress” in the second and third premises, to “error AND transgress” in the fourth. This poses a dilemma for you, because (a) if you mean to identify errors with transgressions then premise two is false, because intentional rule-breaking is another way to display unaccountability, or (b) if you think errors and transgressions are different things, e.g., if you take transgressions to be intentional rule-breaking, then premise four is false, because incompetence is not the best way to intentionally break the rules. Since your conclusion hinges on the truth of both premises, and since the only way to make them both true is to equivocate on the term “transgression” your argument is unsound.

          Even worse, your conclusion also depends on a suppressed and probably false premise, namely, that displaying unaccountability through error or transgression is the only or at least the best way for members of the elite to improve their status. Another, more obvious way for the elite to improve their status is to attain wealth and power. Now obviously wealth and power *allow* one a better chance to avoid accountability, but it is possible to have and use both wealth and power without avoiding or seeking to avoid accountability. If starting wars that have collateral damage is a way to obtain wealth and power–and it surely is–then we have no reason to suppose that competitive forces will increase general incompetence among the elite, rather than increasing their competence in obtaining wealth and power at the expense of collateral damage.

          I’m not sure what prompted your condescending little outburst, but I’d prefer that if you respond, you do so by showing me where my criticisms are misguided rather than telling me I need to be more like you in order to understand your argument. I’ll take anything less as a tacit admission that your argument fails.

        2. As I said, you apparently cannot read closely, including now both “or” and “and”.

        3. I note that you didn’t even wait long enough between postings to read and understand my criticism. Tacit admission noted.

  2. Thanks to Eric Garris above for putting the truth about what is really going on in the war zones we created, now, thanks to IsraelUSA, without any need for comment.

  3. As far as most neo-cons are concerned ” they were just Iraqis anyway”..You’re dealing with people who have a congenital hatred of arabs…

  4. We mistakenly took out a Chinese embassy in the Balkans under Clinton, and how many of you protested the act, again?

    “Legendary Bill” gets my vote for the most ludicrous–and indeed most predictable–response here yet. Small wonder you’re forced to sell designer coffee cups and tee-shirts in order to remain solvent as a website.

    1. “We mistakenly took out a Chinese embassy in the Balkans under Clinton, and how many of you protested the act, again?”

      This website was started as a protest to that war. Neocons just can’t fathom that there are people who choose sides based on facts, not political affiliation.

      1. Wrong again, Smarmy Barmi:

        This site has absolutely nothing to do with facts, only politics or political affiliation.

        I loathe Bush, the war, and the money men who daily promote it, but it’s safe to say that, perhaps to an even greater extent, I loathe those like you and ridiculous “Legendary Bill,” who ridicule the so-called war effort with all the intelligence a first-grader on a school playground, and then offer no real solutions to the problems inherent in the Middle East.

        And the idiotic meanderings of Eugene Costa? His “Born-Again Zionist” comment pretty muchs sums the extent of his own erudition. (Thanks, too, for the Hillary comment, my boy: That, too, pretty much confirms what I’ve said regarding the insufferably left-lean of this whole so-called “protest” page.)

        Only your combat man makes any sense here, if you can call his combat experience in Panama and elsewhere genuine “combat.” Big difference between bona fide combat and a fleeting, one-sided banana war, son.

    2. I protested. Some of us protest on the basis of right and wrong, rather than “if it’s the other party’s president it’s bad; if it’s my party’s president it’s good”.

  5. “Trace” is not worth responding to. Apparently he, she, or it is a latecomer, and not a subscriber to, say, Thomas Fleming’s Chronicles Magazine.

    His, her, or its absurdity, however, establishes quite clearly why Rove, the Neo-Cons, and the Born Again Zionists want to run against Senator Clinton in the Fall, if there is a Fall.

    Perhaps Anti-War can declare itself a religion, and apply for funds under Bush’s faith-based initiatives, yes?

    I am always amused by those, including some of the Paulists, who identify solvency as truth or ethics, and solvency and personal responsibility also as legitimately generated by government and tax-funded “enterprise”.

    So much worry about welfare, for example, and so little anxiety about the vast and fraudulent service industry generated by the Patriotic Act and its affines.

    Spitzer is apparently very solvent to be blowing $80,000 on petite hookers that perhaps remind him of his teenage daughters, eh?

    Ah well, the Old Testament is a bit ambiguous not only on the subject of genocide commanded by deity, but also on incest, isn’t it?

    1. A total waste of words, my boy. Had you erased everything after the first sentence, I might have loosely agreed with you, an obvious anti-Semite.

      You’re right, I don’t read Thomas Fleming exclusively. So what?

      1. And where is this “obvious” anti-Semitism manifest? What in Eugene’s post is directed at the Jews in general?

  6. Having been in combat twice, I can tell you there is NEVER acountability for the military or political elite. It just does not happen. The worst case that I personally wittnessed was the invasion of Panama. Our illegal invasion killed around 5-8 thousand civilians in the first night of bombing. We destroyed all of the military bases at the same time. We then went from town to town and police station to police station disarming both the civilians and the police.

    The media protraid this as an in and out operation with little damage. That is one huge lie. I was in country from the 20th of December till June 6th and it was still going on. As the South American press started to catch on to the collatoral damage the military started to crack down. They took our grenades, morters, and rocket launchers in an effort to stem the increasing civilian deaths. On top of this they started calling for accountability. What they actually did was take a few low ranking joes and charge them with murder. (one of my best friends recieved 7 years in prison for an accident)

    Accidentaly killing someone with a rifle is murder when they want it to be. However, we could have called in an airstrike and taken out dozens of people and that would be fine. Of course none of this would have happened if not for the illegal war. The ones who planned and started this horror were never held accountable in any way.

    For those who are interested check out the Panama Deception it does a decent job outlining some of the war. You can find parts of it on youtube or go to this link


    I could go on and on about the evils of war and how only the little guy ever gets punished. The true war criminals in our government always get to slide. It is one sad fact, but there it is.


    1. Brad:

      You’re right that the public relations perception created was that this was a surgical raid to nab a dictator and drug lord resulting in hardly any “collateral” damage. It was only much later that word leaked out about the thousands of civilian dead and the massive property damage.

      What I find puzzling is, if Noriega had to go, then why not simply assassinate him? The U.S. has many creative ways to do so and is never squeamish about employing them. What foreign policy objective was served by wrecking the country? Was there a pressing need for a show trial? Was Haliburton retained to rebuild the infrastructure?

      1. The Bush administration actually helped form a coup in which Noriega was captured. However, we didn’t follow through with it with the troops we had promised. All we had to do at that point was blockade his headquarters. It was quite obvious that the point of the war was to smash the entire Panama Defence Force (PDF), the police and make a change of the politicians.

        It’s hard to say exactly why this war was waged. However, if you follow the money it usually leads in the right direction. I don’t know who recieved the contracts for the rebuilding but it was substantial. Drug running through Panama tripled after the invasion. So there is a lot of money there as well. One good theory is put forth in Dinges, John. Our Man in Panama: How General Noriega Used the United States and Made Millions in Drugs and Arms. New York: Random House, 1990

        Basically it shows how the DEA was working closely with Noriega to eliminate compitition. This money was also being spent on arms for the Contras after the money had been cut off by Congress. In fact the final straw for Noriega may have been when he confiscated a cargo ship filled with weapons heading for the Contras.

        It seems that the complete destruction of the PDF and the police forces was needed so we could install another puppet when our man had cut his strings. We also got to try out all kinds of fun new toys like the stealth bomber. (small trial run before the Gulf War)

        It’s funny how many similarities there are between Hussein and Noriega. They were both our men who where used and then discarded. They were both given tacit permision to conduct illegal activities and then destroyed. This should come as a warning to future dictators that work with the US. When your bought and paid for you need to stay that way or else! Of couse we still reserve the right to bomb the hell out of you either way.


  7. We must not forget the trauma this causes to the soldiers we send over there. They bring that back home and it destroys their families, and with enough of it, it can destroy communities here as it does there. Dealing with having killed the ‘bad guys’ can be hard enough, having to deal with killing the innocent is something that can devastate even the toughest person.

    Collateral damage indeed.

  8. The death of even one innocent human being is a horrendous tragedy. Human beings should never be called “collateral damage.” But on the other hand, I don’t believe in the doctrine of “moral equivalence.” I think we can say that when an Islamic terrorist deliberately, willfully, and specifically targets innocent civilians, that is murder. It is pure evil. However, if Britain or the US or Israel are trying to kill a terrorist, as a matter of self-defense since he is likely to kill again, and they accidentally kill an innocent person, that is not pre-meditated murder. You might say that it is unethical in itself, and we can debate that, but I contend that it is not pre-meditated murder. One cannot say that it is morally equivalent to the terrorist that specifically sets out, ahead of time, with the a priori objective of killing as many innocent people as he can.

    1. Tim R. You are trying to justify the unjustifiable. When the US, Britain, and Isreal bomb a house filled with children to get at one terrorist it is MURDER. Two wrongs will not make a right no matter how much you wish they would. It is not an accident or even simple negligence when they use cluster bombs that they KNOW will kill civilians. I doubt if anything I say will change your mind, and I can guaranty I will not change mine. Bombing children is murder no matter who does it. The death and destruction that the US has brought with it’s illegal wars is murder and the murderers who have started these wars should be punished.

      I understand the reasons why so many people have been convinced of the rightness of these wars. It is fear, ignorance, and unjustified patriotism. The propaganda our schools, media and government spews out has twisted the minds of many people. You wouldn’t be the first or the last to fall for thier lies. However, if you would really like to know what our government is up to I would suggest reading some actuall history books on our recent wars. You should be able to break this hold they have on your mind and start to think for yourself.

      I too was an unapoligetic believer in the government. I could not fathom that our government would purposely kill civilians in the thousands. I joined the US Army Infantry, served with distiction only to realize that I had been lied to. I was used and tricked into taking part in mass murder. That is what war is when it is done for any reason other than defense. For those of you who read this and wonder what I am talking about I would ask you to look into the invasion of Panama otherwise know as Operation Just Cause. This was flat out murder with no congressional oversite, no moral justification, and little reason. It took me actually seeing it, smelling it, and looking for reasons why, before I woke up. I hope others will not need to see the horrors I have before they too can understand.


      1. To Brad Smith,

        Your points are well stated. I will have to think about some of what you wrote. Is killing a child always murder? I honestly don’t know. If it is to kill him for the sake of killing him, then of course it is. But if there is a terrorist mastermind in that house, standing next to the child, someone that has already killed hundreds of children and will kill more if we don’t stop him, is it murder to kill him? Even if it means that the innocent child will also be killed? If five grown men, terrorists, are coming at me to kill me, is it murder if I shoot them first? Even if innocent children are neaby and they get shot to? My purpose was not to kill the childen but to save my life, self defense.

        Nevertheless, I think you make some valid points, especially when it comes to cluster bombs and things like that. I kind of agree with you that we need to be a lot more careful and use every means at our disposal to minimize and limit the killing of innocent people.

        But my bottom line point is that the terrorists are specifically TRYING to kill innocent children. Most of the time the United States, Britan, etc are specifically trying to kill terrorists and innocents end up getting killed.

        1. Seeing as Israel is known it ignore the “civilian shield” tactics, a fact amply demonstrated in Lebanon, why do the “terrorists” continue with them? It isn’t remotely beneficial from a military standpoint and merely wastes infantry.

    2. When a suicide bomber drives his vehicle-borne bomb at a NATO/US convoy he knows full well he is going to kill innocents.

      When you knowingly drop a 1000lb bomb on a house you know full well it’s going to destroy and likely kill everyone and everything around it. Why do you think Israel almost always manages to kill more civilians than terrorists?

      So what’s the difference?

      1. Apparently, Tim’s comments have passed well over the scope of your antiquated radar, Mr. Greenjeans.

        Last I heard, Israel isn’t out to annihilate her Arab neighbors, merely survive their sixty-year onslaughts.

        1. Last I heard, Israel refuses to abide by international law, continues to bombard Gaza wantonly, and won’t extend the purview of the Law of Return to Palestinian refugees. I’m seeing a pattern here…

    3. Excellent point, Tim–but don’t expect the rationality of it to stick with the left-leaning, nappy-headed hos’ who’re presently inhabiting this webpage. Truth is, these guys don’t want to see any sort of success anywhere in the Middle East that might somehow make GW’s adventure appear prescient come twenty years’ passage and sound review by rational historians.

      1. Gee, Trace we “left-leaning, nappy-headed hos,” as you so uncreatively put it, are so blinded by leftist dogma that we demand that the U.S. quit murdering people and pissing away the national treasure in support of a nuclear armed, socialist Israel. We weirdly headed Marxists are so doctrinaire that we demand that American families be allowed to keep their own money and not be forced to spend it angering millions of people to support 700+ military bases all over the globe.

        If you measure success in the Middle East as, so far, spending $3,000 billion fighting and losing a rose petal showered war that we were assured would cost $50 billion max, then you’re probably a former money manager who proudly “invested” mega bucks of other people’s money in subprime mortgages.

        Since you’re so devoted to Bush’s holy crusade in the Middle East, I’m sure that you’re now demonstrating your fervor, by posting your remarks from your Humvee while on patrol in Bagdad. I also have no doubt that you’ve employed your powers of persuasion to convince your family, friends and coworkers to sign up and join the crusade.

        Forget what rational historians will be writing 20 years from now about George’s wonderful adventure in the Middle East to rid the world of imaginary terrorism. 200,000 years from now children’s books authors will be scaring their readers with horror stories of deformed monsters that roam the Middle East and the Balkans. These are the genetic mutants that will continue to be born there for all eternity. A gift of Bill and George’s playful romp with that fairy dust, depleted uranium. All for the sake of the children, of course.

  9. Tim R. writes: “However, if Britain or the US or Israel are trying to kill a terrorist, as a matter of self-defense since he is likely to kill again, and they accidentally kill an innocent person, that is not pre-meditated murder.”

    Which terrorist would that be? Sure seems the U.S. government isn’t all that interested in the one terrorist purportedly responsible for an actual attack on the United States.

    1. If you know precisely where that particular terrorist is presently hiding (alongside his kidney dialysis machine), ajax, then do feel free to phone the Pentagon. Otherwise, your guess is just about as good as a pile of….

      Thanks for the insight: I’ve read much more riveting stuff over at the “Cindy Sheehan for Congress” website, however.

      1. Were the US government concentrating its efforts on finding bin Laden rather than subjugating Iraq, your post might have a kernel of plausibility.

  10. At least four prime ministers of Israel were hands on terrorists.Ben Gurion,Shamir,Begin and Sharon.The whole Israeli state was founded on terror and is stll used as one of their main weapons against Arabs today.

    1. The latest Israeli state was indeed founded by men whom we can all agree were politically shady–so this, rightly, gives murderous Arabs full right to continually rattle nuclear sabers, laughingly call for Israel’s (nuclear?) annihilation, and routinely kill busloads of innocent Israelis? Am I reading you right, my boy?

      When you guys on the left call yourselves “peaceful,” you apparently do so with tongue-in-cheek and in the absolute loosest sense of the term.

      1. In what way is disputing the legitimacy of Israel tantamount to advocating attacks on innocent Israelis? Would you care to explain this little logical torsion, “Trace”?

      2. There is no Arab country with any nuclear capablities at all!So how could they continually rattle nuclear is beyond belief.This nothing but completly false.The one and the only country in the middle east that has nuclear weapons is Israel.

  11. Yes ” Israel ” ( it deserves quotations just for being founded by mostly non-semite Khazars fm Eastern Europe ) was created through: 1. relatively recent aggresive immigration ( the plan was always to build a racially, religously exclusive state which is something they condemn everywhere else-especially the official religion part..2. massacres and ethnic cleansing and 3. terror.
    Yes, Trace America First paleo-conservatives ( the only real conservatives ) were against the bombing of Belgrade, the bombing of the Orthodox Serbs for the benefit of the drug-running, gun-running KLA who were assassinating their Serb opponents and working towards secession..Another instance where propaganda was used to justify war, permanent military bases and the building of a pipeline..( similiar to Afghanistan-7 yrs and no Bin Laden but were still there..what say you Mr. Bush? ” I just don’t spend much time on him..”

  12. Good job Eugene..Us Paleo-conservatives were certainly against the bombing of Belgrade..

    1. Sure you were, Bill: And, of course, you were out protesting that particular travesty as well–right?

  13. This “Trace”, whatever it is, is not worth responding to–either abysmal idiocy and ignorance, or deliberate lying–what difference does it make?

    But for others interested in recent events, the preceding link.

  14. Just a stray example:

    “The Peace Coalition of Southern Illinois/Fellowship of Reconciliation opposes the NATO bombing campaign against Yugoslavia which began yesterday. We call for an end to the bombing of Kosovo and Iraq. To express our opposition to the horrors now by perpetrated by our country against the peoples of Iraq and Yugoslavia, the Peace Coalition will hold a silent vigil: MOURNING THE END OF PEACE TOWN CENTRAL PAVILION. [1999]

  15. Another:

    BOSTON SATURDAY, APRIL 17, 1999 1 PM: INTERNATIONAL DAY OF DEMONSTRATIONS! U.S. AND NATO OUT OF YUGOSLAVIA! STOP THE BOMBING NOW! MONEY FOR JOBS AND EDUCATION, NOT WAR! PARK ST MARCH TO GOVERNMENT CENTER to join 3pm RALLY FOR PEACE IN YUGOSLAVIA STOP THE BOMBING OF YUGOSLAVIA! MONEY FOR JOBS & EDUCATION, NOT WAR! FROM IRAQ TO YUGOSLAVIA, END THE BOMBING NOW! Called by the International Action Center, the Vigils for the Iraqi People, the Committee for Peace and Human Rights, Community Church of Boston, Jim Casteris, President, Veterans for Peace Boston, and others, as part of coordinated anti-war actions in over 100 cities across the U.S. and around the world. Speakers will include labor leaders, youth leaders, anti-war activists, religious leaders, and representatives of the Serbian-American Alliance of New England. For latest demonstration details, fact sheets on the war, updates and links: http://home.earthlink.net/~npcboston/yugo.htm

  16. It’s hardly surprising then why Strauss is so popular in an administration obsessed with secrecy, especially when it comes to matters of foreign policy. Not only did Strauss have few qualms about using deception in politics, he saw it as a necessity. While professing deep respect for American democracy, Strauss believed that societies should be hierarchical – divided between an elite who should lead, and the masses who should follow. But unlike fellow elitists like Plato, he was less concerned with the moral character of these leaders. According to Shadia Drury, who teaches politics at the University of Calgary, Strauss believed that “those who are fit to rule are those who realize there is no morality and that there is only one natural right – the right of the superior to rule over the inferior.”

    This dichotomy requires “perpetual deception” between the rulers and the ruled, according to Drury. Robert Locke, another Strauss analyst says,”The people are told what they need to know and no more.” While the elite few are capable of absorbing the absence of any moral truth, Strauss thought, the masses could not cope. If exposed to the absence of absolute truth, they would quickly fall into nihilism or anarchy, according to Drury, author of ‘Leo Strauss and the American Right’….

    [Jim Lobe]

    My only real disagreement with Lobe’s general apprehension of the Straussians is attributing them, or Strauss himself, any real intellect or acuity, or anything more than a desultory familiarity with the texts they often refer, from Plato to Macchiavelli.

    Which is to say, that they are also among the ultimate incompetents, not only politically but in their feeble attempts at a patina of erudition.

    It is easy enough to mention Thucydides, for example, and rip out a passage in English translation toward some polemical point in a newspaper article or in the pages of the Neo-cons’ various institutional rags.

    It’s much harder intelligently to discuss ta deonta, even without the name dropping.

    That might take years of serious work, and like all pathological liars, natural or trained, the Neo-Cons are mentally lazy.

    Polemicis, with no reference to inconvenient facts over time (thus to consistency or the past) or other than superficial plausibility, is fairly easy for the otherwise mindless, and eventually crashes on its own noetic chaos.

    The Fifth Century sophists, most of whom had some restraining ethics or aesthetic, did it better.

    The only real question about the Neo-Cons is how many other people they can take with them.

    Their efficacy over the short-term is mostly emotional–find out what the prejudiced want to hear, garnish with a name that suggests erudition, and manipulate “support” toward the next step in the program, however disastrous for the manipulated.

    Another thing seldom noted about the Neo-cons, which they have in common with the Born Again Zionists, is they are also universally incompetent in any sort of economics, as the present state of the US establishes.

    Oil at $200 per barrel anyone?

    At those prices, one doubts seriously that the United States, which is mostly a cultural wasteland and only the illusion of a vast and productive economy, will be able to muster the verve of Weimar.

    Personally I find the endless and empty polemic choruses of “Anti-Semite” and “Self-hating Jew” predictable and rather tedious.

  17. Merely by the way, there is an old tactic, illustrated above and fairly common, but without a Latin or Greek name, as far as I know, mainly because it is more tactical and psychological than rhetorical.

    I call it tentatively: admitting something bad (real or constructed) to conceal something worse.

    The Neo-Cons, in common with folks like Clinton, and powered by the flexibility of pathological lying and deception, often use a positive variation, also found in works of managerial rhetoric, such as, say, “How To Make Presentations And Get What You Want”.

    This hinges on saying something to the affect: “You make many good points”, then, ignoring any consequences of the points themselves, and moving back to the desideratum, open or concealed.

    This is, at best, also emotive and a manipulation–in fact just an argumentative form of stroking.

    Many examples above.

  18. Concession: “Yes, X was begun by shady characters”

    Desideratum: “Those who oppose the continuation of X are worse than shady characters.”

    Ergo: the concession has no force or relevance to the point at hand, which is the desideratum.

    1. Other variations: “That was then, this is now”.

      Often used to display another variety of unaccountability.

      1. Merely by the way, this is something subtly different from anticipating and admitting objections.

    1. If there is no obligation to respond, where the need to display or pretend?

      Do I owe you something, my dear fellow, including an answer to your childish misreading and supposed “objections”, and even more to your naively phrased pretenses at logic?

      “A suppressed and PROBABLY false premise”–you must be a college student, at best, chronologically or otherwise.

      I grant that that was amusing, and I almost commented on it earlier in that slight time in which you jumped to the conclusion that I had not had time to read your precious, clumsy prose.

      Fifteen years is probably not worth the wait.

      1. Well, what do you know. Again, you fail to engage. Now I’m childish, naive, immature, precious, and clumsy, and, still, you haven’t explained to me (or to anyone else still reading this far down the page after your eleven (!) consecutive posts) why my objections did not thoroughly destroy your argument.

        Obviously you have no “obligation” to respond. On the other hand, it verges on hilariously ironic that in a comments thread in which you extol the virtues of accountability, you arrogate yourself to a position of dialectical immunity by not only failing to respond to criticism, but by mocking those who disagree with you. It’s like you’re channeling the Bush Administration.

        Let’s just assume that it would take me an infinite period of time to understand why you think my objections fail without your explaining it to me, so that you can stop your little game of adding five years to your estimates in every post. Let’s also assume that it will take you an infinite period of time to disarm my objections by foisting on me ever more blatant and ridiculous ad hominems, so that you can stop dodging the question at issue.

        Explain to me, slowly and carefully if you think that’s what I need, why your argument holds up. Surely with your expert grasp of logic and your flawless prose this should not be such a difficult task?

        No doubt you hold the view that I am too stupid to understand any rebuttal you’d care to offer. But first, you haven’t even tried to reason with me yet–all you’ve done is call me names. And second, since you apparently have enough time to lavish on this forum that you can babble on even when no one is listening, so your excuse cannot be that. If you had offered me a response twenty posts ago, we would already be done with this. All you’re doing now is bragging about winning a fight you haven’t even fought yet.

        1. Why are you so concerned about what, after your phrase, your objections “thoroughly destroyed”?

          By the way, as you understand it, does the phrase “collateral damage” also cover missing the target completely?

        2. It’s not so much about the argument at this point. I liked that you set out a formal argument, and I wanted to engage with it more thoughtfully than I usually do with random threads on this blog. It seemed to me that you were someone able and willing to think critically about an interesting issue, but I also thought you were making a mistake. I wasn’t sure and I wanted clarification.

          Your first, somewhat defensive and thoroughly insulting, response surprised me. Not only were you not interested in receiving or responding to criticism–you were also going to be a dick about it. So I decided to take another swing, and my second look at the argument exposed a decisive flaw. Your continued failure to recognize the mistake, or to explain to me why it was not a mistake, coupled with your unprovoked insults were at first annoying, and finally amusing. That is what sustains my interest now, although your recently adopted less-abusive tone perhaps indicates that we can return to the matter at hand.

          Collateral damage, as the term is used among just war theorists and international lawyers, refers to unintended negative consequences of military actions. This includes civilian casualties that result from attacks that “miss the target completely.” But “collateral damage” is not a moral category. Whether or not the damage is ultimately justified–or perhaps “excusable”–is a separate question from whether it counts as collateral. My view is that sometimes collateral damage is excusable, and sometimes it is not, depending on whether the attack in question took due care to avoid those negative consequences, and the importance and justifiability of pursuing the intended military objective.

        3. Just war theory is rooted in the ancient Roman Fetial priests.

          It was a religious theory manifested ritually.

          It is not in origin Christian at all.

          It is closely connected to the service of Christians in the Roman Army in the Later Roman Empire, whether by virtue of conversion or actively enlisting.

          It is an interesting twist historically because earlier the main thrust of military thought upon Christians was the metaphor of being “soldier of Christ”, in faith not war.

        4. You’re right that just war theory did not originate in the Christian tradition, as authors were addressing the question of whether war could be justified long before Aquinas and Augustine and, in fact, long before the Romans rose to prominence.

          Contemporary just war theory, however, has been profoundly influenced by its appropriation by Catholic theologians, even though the re-secularization of the field began as early as Grotius. But in any case, I’m inclined to believe that the historical sources of key ideas in just war theory are less important than their moral accuracy and their practical application.

          Thanks for the interesting link. Probably the best online resource for historical and modern just war theory is here.

        5. And in case you’re interested:

          The best historical treatment I’ve seen of post-antiquity just war theory is Richard Tuck’s “The Rights of War and Peace: Political Thought and the International Order from Grotius to Kant.”

          Perhaps the best, not the most rigorous, though certainly the most interesting and influential contemporary treatment of just war theory is of course Michael Walzer’s “Just and Unjust Wars.”

        6. You’re right that just war theory did not originate in the Christian tradition, as authors were addressing the question of whether war could be justified long before Aquinas and Augustine and, in fact, long before the Romans rose to prominence.

          Contemporary just war theory, however, has been profoundly influenced by its appropriation by Catholic theologians, even though the re-secularization of the field began as early as Grotius. But in any case, I’m inclined to believe that the historical sources of key ideas in just war theory are less important than their moral accuracy and their practical application.

          Thanks for the interesting link. Probably the best online resource for historical and modern just war theory is here…

          The statements I might criticize are in bold.

          The first is misleading. “Just War Theory”, however understood, originates with the Romans. That is, historically the only useful statement on the matter.

          The analogy is mathematics, which is invented by the Greeks as a body of theory and proof, despite the fact that other peoples treated the subject matter earlier.

          So others earlier treated issues of justice and war and law before the Romans, but not in terms that can easily be called “Just War Theory”.

          One might, for example, include the Book of Jonah under the same rubric as subject matter, but it does not rise above myth and story to law or theory, or include an idea of international law or justice.

          In relation to the second passage in bold–you are entitled to your hierarchy of what one aspect is more important than another–“moral accuracy and practical application” specifically. I think that approach is naive, but I don’t have time nor interest to go into that here, since there are too many unconscious assumptions in your statement to bring out into the open before any real clarity in the matter might be possible.

          Aurelius Augustinus and Aquinas? Been there, done that, along with Al Ghazali and Ibn Khaldun.

          Aquinas always interests, as a systematic thinker whose ratio is long and rationalizing short, but that at bottom is his Aristotle, isn’t it?

        7. Incidentally, Jus Gentium is also a ancient Roman invention–in the Latin meaning of the term–and not Christian or Judaic in origin, and there, and also in Roman law, time is better spent than among the turgid and labored works of Grotius, who is at best, worth a quick glance here and there, mainly for his historical interest.

        8. I think you might be mistaking my mention of the Catholic just war tradition and Grotius for advocacy? I don’t have any strong commitment to a particular version of the intellectual history surrounding war, and my mention of pre-Roman inquiry into the subject was not meant to imply that these contributions were as significant as Roman law was–I simply think that the boundaries of what constitutes ‘just war theory’ are vague and ambiguous enough to accommodate different plausible interpretations (your certainty about the “only” useful historical statement on the matter notwithstanding).

          If I’m understanding you correctly, your rejection of the second claim is meant to imply that purely academic pursuits–like the intellectual history of the just war tradition–are more important than correctly evaluating whether particular wars should or should not occur, etc. (Alternatives readings take you to espouse some form of moral relativism or amoral realism, or simply and less interestingly, to believe that theory and history of theory are on equal footing.) You are as entitled to your hierarchy of values as I am, but that particular ordering seems counterintuitive to me. It would be like saying that studying the history of biology is more important than studying the nature of life.

          I am not saying that the study of the history of the just war tradition is unimportant (which would be naive), either in itself or in relation to–what I see as–the primary task of articulating an adequate morality of war. I believe that the study of the evolution of these ideas can help illuminate and eliminate cultural and institutional biases that inform just war theory. But it seems that being wrong about just war norms could directly lead to endorsing or even prosecuting unjust wars, at the cost of many lives, while being wrong about the historical development of just war theory could directly lead to… well, losing arguments about the historical development of the just war theory.

        9. What you submit above is a garble of presumptions labeled with your own Tendenz.

          Picking my way through the jungle would take too much time.

          I am perfectly willing to listen to you questioning your own presumptions, and commenting if there is something worthwhile to comment upon.

          Come now–“purely academic pursuits”?

          Were I to bite with the bite of an ancient Roman, I might ask what far province you hail from.

          Do you know the story of the young lady from Iowa who found herself at Radcliffe some many years ago?

        10. Old habits die hard, I see. As the phrase “If I’m understanding you correctly” implies, I’m well aware that I needed to make some presumptions in order to understand your obscure, ambiguous prose.

          You either think that the study of just war is worthwhile, or you don’t. If you don’t, well, we might as well stop this right now, and I’ll just chalk your half of the conversation thus far up to idle trolling. If you do, you have yet to explain why prioritizing the accuracy and application of just war norms over inquiry into their historical sources is “naive.”

          My original guess was that you’re a historically minded pedant, but it’s not as if I was betting the farm on that. The only other reasons I can think of for regarding the moral evaluation of war as unimportant were, as I said, some form of relativism or realism. Perhaps I am missing some other plausible view, and if so, I have no doubt that you can explain it to me. At this point I am not looking for your “commentary” on my thoughts; I’m merely looking for reasons to believe you aren’t (once again) resorting to insults and refusing to engage out of bravado.

        11. My dear fellow, you bring up Grotius and then have the audacity to talk about “purely academic pursuits” and “historically minded pedant”?

          Merely by the way, Grotius was trained in Roman law himself, so bringing him in brings in Roman law at one remove, does it not?

          Why not take your sources at the source and neat?

          Again, do I owe you anything in the way of an explanation that you cannot better do yourself?

          What am I supposed to be engaging, and why is it worth my time?

        12. Sigh. I’m not saying Roman law is unimportant or irrelevant, and I’m not advocating the study of Grotius’ theory of international law. Reread my previous posts if you have doubts about that.

          Why not take your sources at the source and neat?

          Why not learn mathematics straight from Euclid? Because Euclid didn’t do everything, and he didn’t do everything he did do right. A body of knowledge generally improves over time. Are you fool enough to think nothing has changed for the better in just war theory since the Romans?

          Again, do I owe you anything in the way of an explanation that you cannot better do yourself?

          Again, you don’t owe me anything. And I’m becoming convinced that I could indeed do a better job defending your position than you can. But I can’t read your mind and you have yet to explain yourself, so I’m busy guessing rather than debating.

          What am I supposed to be engaging, and why is it worth my time?

          You were supposed to be explaining why you think my view that getting the morality of war right and actually employing it in the real world is more important than studying the history of the just war tradition (which in your mind seems to boil down to Roman law) is naive. It’s worth your time because you’re wrong, and you have an interest in being right. I can help you with that, but not until I see the cause of your error. Maybe you should try another formal argument.

        13. and he [Euclid] didn’t do everything he did do right”

          If you are referring to so-called non-Euclidean Geometry, the view expressed is not correct.

          It is, admittedly, a widely current misapprehension that somehow non-Euclidean geometries “disprove” what Euclid did do.

          Just the reverse.

          Again, importantly but here merely by the way, Euclid mostly summarized and systematized what went before, but that is another question.

          I never undertook to explain to you why I consider your view of the precedence of morality and its implementation is naive.

          Again just the reverse.

          You apparently read neither what you or others write closely.

          Instruction is always valuable. Unfortunately the flaws in what you have written from the start are not promising of anything valuable of that sort coming from your direction for many years, if ever.

          You are invited once more to contemplate your own scattergun guesses and presumptions.

        14. I never undertook to explain to you why I consider your view of the precedence of morality and its implementation is naive.

          Since you seem determined against all evidence to believe that I’m not reading you carefully enough, you might want to take your own advice. I never claimed you had undertaken to explain yourself. Dur. That’s what I was complaining about.

          You insult others, pretending to have good reasons for rejecting their views, and then decline to say what those reasons are. Despite your frequent assertions to the contrary, you have yet to produce a single reason for anyone, let alone me, to believe that I have written anything incorrect. You have done nothing but insult and dodge your way through this entire exchange.

          As for Euclid, I suppose I should have known you’d fixate on the particular and miss the general point. Again, dur. I’ll spell it out for you: Euclid made some mistakes that were corrected by subsequent generations of non-Greek mathematicians, and neither he nor any other Greek invented calculus. In the same way that restricting yourself to the study of Greek mathematics would leave you a mathematical retard in those respects, so too would restricting yourself to the study of Roman law leave you (a prime example) a retard with respect to modern just war theory.

        15. One of the things Euclid did not do right was not to invent the calculus, you say?

          Your statement about restricting oneself to the study of Roman law leaving oneself lacking in regard to “modern just war theory” is debatable. Actually, the reverse might be true, but again I don’t have the time.

          Have you noticed how your own abusive vocabulary intersects with your accusations of abuse by others?

          Again I don’t have the time.

        16. One of the things Euclid did not do right was not to invent the calculus, you say?

          Sigh. Again you willfully misinterpret. What I said was, “Euclid didn’t do everything, and he didn’t do everything he did do right.” I wasn’t faulting Euclid for not inventing the calculus, merely pointing out that a purely Greek education in mathematics would be sorely lacking. Speaking of reading closely, sheesh.

          You don’t have the time? Sure you don’t. You’re too busy trying to score cheap points through sophistry and verbal abuse. If you’d spent half the time you spent heaping insults on me responding to my arguments instead, you, at least, would be much smarter by now.

          In the course of this thread you have, in so many words, called me stupid, blind, inexperienced, childish, naive, immature, precious, and clumsy. For you to criticize me for finally beginning to respond in kind five days after you started the abuse is the height of hypocrisy. Unless you count the comparison to the Bush Administration, which turned out to be even more apt than I thought at the time.

          If you really don’t have the time, then all you have to do is stop responding. I won’t mind.

        17. Score points?

          You might want to acquaint yourself with the distinction, as made by Plato and his Socrates, between dialectic and eristic.

          Not interested in the latter, nor in your imperatives.

        18. Not interested in the latter? That seems to be all you’re capable of. Dialectic is precisely what I was trying to get you to do, but aside from the first post in this thread, you’ve yet to make a single argument.

        19. Nor is dialetic debating, nor what lawyers, especially, American lawyers are trained to do, mostly adversarially.

        20. You might look back and consider all the unstated assumptions you made in your first comment.

          I can’t be bothered.

        21. You should have been more amused, period. I’m still laughing at “Dialectic is not argument, nor even making arguments.” I suppose ad hominems don’t count for eristic, either.

        22. What ad hominem may or may be used for, or whether eristic necessarily contains fallacies are actually interesting though distinct questions, excavated once more from your glib and conventional assumptions.

          Eristic need contain no fallacies at all.

        23. Oh no! Now I’m glib and conventional!

          Definitions of dialectic and eristic aside (you’re wrong about both, but to pull a page from your book, I “can’t be bothered” with this as it was a red herring to begin with), neither bald assertions nor ad hominems will pass for good argument. Nor will they save the one you accidentally tripped over 80 comments ago.

        24. Again I direct you to the unstated assumptions you made in your first comment.

        25. Merely by the way, the New Testament is an interesting locale to examine various uses of ad hominem, don’t you think?

        26. Perhaps you’re forgetting that in the first comment I was cordially asking for clarification. In the second comment, I did away with the assumptions and disproved your argument without them.

          Oh, that’s right. You didn’t even have time back then to read my objections. Now, days later, you’re still making the same mistakes.

        27. And, however amusing, I have no intention of engaging in eristic about eristic.

        28. What logical value is “cordially”? Is that perhaps like “aesthetics” in mathematics, or the nonsense of Occam’s–however one wishes to spell his name–razor?

        29. Well now, that’s eristic. From the fact that my cordial tone in asking for clarification had no logical weight, it does not follow that you can rightly forget that I asked for clarification.

        30. Now that I think about it, it doesn’t even follow that you can rightly forget that I did so cordially.

        31. First, a clarificatory question is not meant to be a full-fledged objection. Had I known you were going to be so defensive, I would have stated my assumptions. Second, you chose to insult me rather than clarify your view, which was bad form considering my initially cordial tone.

        32. Oh, right. And third, in my next comment I destroyed your argument without the unstated assumptions. No doubt you disagree, but that was the original question: why do you think my objections don’t work.

        33. Defensive? Cordial? Insult?

          At any rate, again you make assumptions.

          Bad form–surely not the same “Form” as in formal logic, correct?

        34. Yes, yes, and yes. What don’t you understand?

          What assumptions am I making?

          Surely not. Merely rude.

        35. “Full-fledged objection”, the other hand, has a touch of “fine-feathered”, don’t you think?

          I have never heard it applied to arrows, though I suppose in the course of his or her work an arrowsmith might possibly use it as a measure of his progress on a particular arrow, or group of arrows.

        36. As, just as a hypothetical example, say–“The arrows in bin 6 are not yet full-fledged.”

        37. Were nothing else available, one might even conclude something about the means of production from such a sentence perhaps.

          What do you think?

        38. It wasn’t a conscious choice. But I like how the f-sounds play off the hard c-sounds in “clarificatory/question.”

        39. What suppose you, after Pound, Dante meant by calling words “buttered” or “shaggy” or “pexa et hirsuta”.

          Pound seemed to think it had something to do with the noises made.

  19. Clinton’s travesty and aggression against the poor Serbs was so horrible and unnecessary it was shocking..The only NATO pilots who deserve praise were the one or two who refused to bomb Belgrade ( I remember one Spanish pilot who refused-similar to the one Israeli pilot who refused to attack the USS Liberty)
    Let’s not forget how Madeline Albright BEGAN the negotiations with the Serbs; she demanded that they accept the occupation of their country by NATO troops..She expected they would refuse but said that that was O.K. because ” they could use some bombing”..

  20. AP March 16, 2008: The Fed, using a Depression-era procedure, raced to Bear Stearns’ aid Friday along with JPMorgan Chase & Co.Bear Stearns had made a fortune in mortgage-backed securities but faced a possible collapse after those investments soured. Wall Street nose-dived as fears spread about whether other big firms were in jeopardy.

    “When you go through a period like this,” Paulson said, “policymakers need to balance various consequences.”

    Some critics contend that the Fed’s move was akin to a government bailout — something the Bush administration has repeatedly said it is against.

    “Well, every situation is different. We have to respond to the circumstances we’re facing today,” Paulson said. “And my concern is to minimize the impact on the broader economy as we work our way through this situation, and again, the stability of our financial situation.”

    Consequences? Consequences?


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