Archives for posts with tag: War

Youtube’s algorithm recommended me a clip from the television show Mr. Inbetween. Given that my life is an empty husk papered over by the addictive black hole of video social media, I watched it. In the clip, there is the character Ray sitting in what I assume is a court-mandated anger management class – I haven’t seen the show, I am making this assumption based on the context given in the clip. Ray is nonchalant about his violence, and sees himself justified in it as the people whom he is violent toward “have it coming.” He describes beating the shit out of two young men who swore at his daughter after knocking her ice cream off the cone, an almost cartoonish stereotype. Yet Ray is the hero of his own story; he is providing the just desserts that society no longer feels comfortable distributing. The group facilitator, whom I take to be the personification of society in this clip, doesn’t care to have looked into the full story of Ray’s assault, and can only pipe up strawman assumptions that everyone would agree are morally impermissible. Ray gently corrects him, and in the end, the facilitator – somewhat sardonically – thanks Ray on behalf of society for his service in ensuring consequences for the assholes among us. We are left with the impression that Ray is in the right to have used violence to resolve his conflict, and while society may not believe he is right, it is left without an argument against it. That impression is reinforced by the ubiquity of agreement with Ray in the Youtube comment section.

I’m not going to lie, I would probably enjoy the show if I watched it. It’s rated 8.6 on IMDB!

As hopefully everyone reading this knows, stories aren’t reflections of reality, but manifestations of the perception of reality of the people who produce them. There is ideology behind every piece of media, not just the endless emesis of woke remakes. The ideology behind this scene is actually pretty straightforward: might makes right. It might be argued that the show is trying to portray an absolutist sense of “right” that needs “might” to defend it against the decaying moral fabric of society brought on by decadence and degeneracy, but it’s… not. I mean, it is in the sense that it’s trying to put forward that position, but it’s not because the core of that argument is still that might makes right.

Ray’s position is that the two young men have touched a hot stove and will now think twice before doing so again, but that’s a false analogy. Ray’s argument that it’s wrong to swear at little girls isn’t an immutable objective fact like the searing heat coming off a lit stove, it’s a proposition only backed up by his physical dominance. All it takes for his argument to flounder is those two men jumping him in an alley with baseball bats, and all of a sudden it’s okay to swear at little girls again. He’s not “right”; he won a fight. He becomes wrong again immediately after a successful retaliation. The argument is only valid so long as he possesses the capacity for violence necessary to defend it. The lesson learned isn’t likely going to be that it’s wrong to swear at little girls; that is not the inherent consequence to losing a fight. The lesson could easily be that additional violence is necessary to retain ideological dominance.

An excellent point, sir! Now for my rebuttal.

This fa├žade of justified violence to prevent social decay is endemic beyond the ideology of an individual bluffing his way through an anger management class. It is the ideology of Tough On Crime: criminals are the perfectly unreasonable; they are diametrically opposed to rational argument, and therefore can only be confronted and cowed by violence. It’s the only language they understand, dontcha know! When people demand Tough On Crime policies, they are demanding the irrefutable argument of violent state power. The reality is that it’s actually the abandonment of rationality because as discussed above, this approach is only a simplistic manifestation of might making right. It only appears more defensible because the government has a monopoly on violence – you can’t jump the State in a back alley if you disagree with your arrest.

This is only justifiable if we agree that people who commit crimes aren’t actually human in the Aristotelian sense. It necessarily demands the inherently flawed black and white thinking cognitive-behavioural therapists call a “cognitive distortion.” We must “show strength” against Russia because Putin is an unthinking monster and diplomacy is a waste of time! But in following this line of thought, we have to abandon our own rationality in order to justify it. We abandon our own humanity in order to pursue only the shakiest form of ideological dominance. Is then Putin not justified in his aggression against the West because we have ourselves become the unreasonable? How this self-perpetuating cycle of unexamined brutality has lasted throughout history is tragically obvious. The moral righteousness of imperialism always seems to have been determined by who has more guns.

It’s also how we determine which culture is more civilized!

Violence as an epistemology is a failure of civilization. Asserting its value as a first resort, as in Hawkish ideology or Tough On Crime rhetoric, is like beating the shit out of a waiter because your order was wrong. Even violence as a last resort is somewhat dubious in its discursive value. It’s anti-democratic in the sense that collective will and wisdom are secondary to the ideology of those directing the thugs with the batons. If you can’t convince or compromise, physically dominate.

The “why” behind someone’s actions matters. Even if the young men never verbally abused a child again, doing so out of fear of violence is the stupidest possible reason in the world. The rationale behind our actions, and the rationale behind our change, matters. When Ricky Gervais tweets about the absurdity of God’s threat of eternal punishment being the only inhibitor to social devastation, he’s making this same point. We have ways of measuring what is socially beneficial and destructive now, and it turns out that corporal punishment is quite categorically on the destructive side! Punishment does not deter crime; accountability does. It is measurably better to treat children with communal love and kindness because we know of its positive benefits to both the child and society – we’re far more likely to be accountable to that maxim if we are convinced of its merit.

Weirdly, there are some rather mainstream circles that decry that we’re not being violent enough in our noble pursuit of truth, with some even thinking it is the bedrock of discourse. Without the threat of violence, how will we even know how to behave rationally!? I guess fear drives rational thought better than a logical argument. Of course this is all nonsense, but the lamenting over the “pussification” of men and its impact on society at large has infected much of the right-wing discourse. Mr. Inbetween, at least in that one scene, is overt right-wing propaganda for exactly this. The facilitator, wanting to talk about feelings, fails to undermine the sanctity of violence as an epistemology. It is a celebration of posturing over reason. The strong construct castles of reality and defend them jealously and without thought, and this is encouraged. If someone says that maybe talking about your feelings is a good thing, punch them. Our castle walls must remain strong.

All in all

This is a crisis of masculinity. Society does not see violence as a particularly feminine trope, so its cultural obsolescence is only a threat to the men who don’t have anything else going for them. No one expects women to defend their ideas with violence; the sophists of violence don’t particularly expect women to have ideas worth defending at all. There’s a reason it’s called social pussification: the sacrosanct epistemology of masculine violence has been defiled by feminine influence. Personally, I’m offended, nay, triggered! that my gender has been inextricably associated with the laziest form of argument. The criticisms against feminists for their hysterical misandry pale in comparison to the notion that men need to stoop to the discursive style of chimpanzees in order to be considered men. Talk about an own-goal.

We don’t commit crimes or break social mores when we don’t have reasons to. When we understand those reasons, we’ll probably be a lot bettered prepared to actually address them. If we think we can fix complex social issues by beating up all the assholes, we ourselves have, by definition, become an asshole. If you can’t come up with a convincing argument as to why verbally abusing a child is wrong, then maybe you shouldn’t be chiming in at all.

The war in Afghanistan began with the oppressive, theocratic Taliban in power, and ended with the oppressive, theocratic Taliban in power. Sisyphus rolled his Katamari Damacy boulder up the mountain, and it rolled right back down again. The absurdity of the war is obvious on its face, but there is a desperation to find meaning within it that would make Camus blush. Though it’s somewhat old news by now, during the American withdrawal, there was all sorts of noise about how Western forces were abandoning their Afghan comrades to the brutality of the Taliban.

I am not trying to diminish the severity of what the Taliban has done and will continue to do with those dissenting under its rule. My glibness comes as a result of the crocodile tears shed over the bodies of those slain during the withdrawal from the war that ignore the over a hundred thousand bodies that accumulated preceding it. Losing a war is bloody; that’s the reality of war. If you don’t like it, maybe question the war itself rather than the means of its end.

The realities of war

The tears come from the bipartisan desire to create meaning in a pointless war: if there are good Afghans to save, it means that the war produced good Afghans worth saving. Nobody would have given a shit about them otherwise; the West would be much more inclined toward taking refugees if there was a heartfelt belief that we need to create a safe haven for those fleeing violence and persecution. The sad irony is that those whose freedom from the Taliban was being demanded were those who had aligned themselves with the invaders, cementing the linking of a “good” Afghan with their complicity in the war.

Another central tenet that the war in Afghanistan was meaningful is the women’s liberation that the war provided. Some women were able to go to school, and therefore 20 years of death, torture, and war crimes are vindicated. Those women are worse off now than they were before; again, no argument, but finding miniscule acts of success to justify what is otherwise 20 years of pointless war is incredibly ignorant. In actuality, using war to generate feminism is more likely to produce a nation of incels who see feminism as cancer than an Islamic Feminine Mystique.

Thanks, Betty Friedan!

Using feminism as justification for the war in Afghanistan, and gesturing loosely toward the mostly urban women who benefited, pointedly ignores the majority of women who live in rural settings where most of the war took place. Afghan women were certainly not benefitting from the war when they and their families were dying from it. The quick rise of the Taliban points to a nation hungry for incel-logic; Afghanistan may actually be worse off than it was 20 years ago from the perspective of democratic and liberal reformation due to the brutality used allegedly in its name. Sisyphus’s boulder fell back down the mountain and into a ravine. The West tried to viciously impose liberal secularism in Iran with the Shah, and he too was violently overthrown by a virulently religious fundamentalist group. Any positive regard held for Western ideals is just as dead as all the rest of them.

The war made Afghanistan worse, and for what? The bipartisan narrative adopted in much of the media paints the picture of a blundering but ultimately benevolent force trying so hard to do good but occasionally failing in simple but horrific ways. Like if Rocky Balboa knocked out Apollo Creed in the first round, but because his eyes were all bruised up and he couldn’t see, he wandered into the crowd and begun striking civilians at random. At home we’re watching and thinking, no! Rocky! If only Mickey had cut you so you could see! We are helpless as Rocky bludgeons old women and children in his missteps. Then, after the crowd boos too loudly for too long, we lament Rocky leaving, shaking our heads at the blows he receives on his way out the door. Meanwhile, Apollo Creed has gotten up and dusted himself off, and being the only one left standing in the ring, claims victory.

YO AMERICAAAAAAAA!

We could still love Rocky after such a blunder. It’s forgivable. But that’s not how war works. The better analogy would be if Rocky was at a bus stop where Apollo Creed was reading a newspaper, and Rocky was like, “I heard you hate women!” and then pulled out a gun and shot him. Then he wandered away from the bus stop to a nearby wedding reception and shot up the guests. And he did so with eyes wide open.

The West knew what was going on in Afghanistan. They’re actively preventing themselves from being held accountable to international law. We’ve had whistleblowers point out the war’s criminality to us repeatedly and they’re all being punished for it by both American political parties. And for what? For what? For literally no reason. Terrorism didn’t go away; Al-Qaeda evolved into ISIS-K. Afghanistan is fully red pilled. America wanted war instead of justice, the rest of the West went along with it, and this is what we’re left with.

Cartoons make the villains easy to spot!

I’ve purposefully avoided talking about the military-industrial complex and how the reason for the war is obviously all the money that was made by the defense contractors and weapons manufacturers. It’s not that I disagree, it’s that we don’t have a smoking gun pointing to that level of Machiavellianism, and I want to be as convincing as possible. The war is provably pointless in a way that ought to make us reflect on why it ever happened in the first place. When there is no justification for a war, it’s a lot easier to compare it to straight-up murder. The war in Afghanistan was criminal. Those who participated in it are criminals. Anyone saying otherwise is covering up a crime.

You know how murder is wrong, and how every single religion declares that it is wrong, and how every moral philosophy uses it as their go-to for extreme thought experiments to showcase how their theories would hold up under the most dire circumstances (would it be okay to lie to prevent a murder, for example)? Of course you do. “Murder is wrong” is quite possibly the least controversial statement. Well, it turns out that people have been killing each other en masse for thousands of years in the form of war, and everyone generally seems to be okay with that, despite how uncontroversial being against killing is.

Why do people go to war? Well, people start wars almost exclusively to attain a greater degree of power, but since they can’t use that as an excuse, they need to justify it in other ways. People who start wars don’t typically fight them, so they need to convince those who do that killing and dying to enrich the already powerful is the right thing to do. Enter the Just War theory, to relieve people from the hypocrisy of condemning killing but supporting a war.

Just War theory was developed during the Roman Empire, and then revitalized during the Crusades. Christians were beginning to suspect that massacring Muslims might go against God’s very specific decree to not kill, and so the thinkers of the day had to come up with ways to justify how an ideology based almost entirely on love and forgiveness could slaughter people by the hundreds of thousands.

What makes a war just? Regaining what was stolen or repelling an attack from the enemy are typically perceived as the conditions for a just war, though there are some stipulations on top of these. For example, if someone steals your watch, you are not justified in murdering that person, since to be just there requires a degree of proportionality. It should also be the last resort, since there can often be other means to regain stolen property or repel an attack.

Beyond the intention of the war, there needs to be the right kind of authority at the head of it. A private individual cannot exact vigilante justice, for example, whereas the leader of a nation can. It is assumed that a private individual can go to a higher authority to arbitrate justice, whereas there is no higher authority than a King. War becomes the negotiating tactic of rulers to settle their differences. Peasants are under moral obligation to their lords, and so are obligated in turn to kill for them. They become morally excused due to that hierarchy, and the legitimacy of murder comes from the rank of the King.

Of course, during the Crusades, there was a higher authority than the King, and that authority was God. The Pope, being the representative of God on Earth, dutifully fulfilled that authoritative role and decided to use that authority to, as was already discussed, slaughter a bunch of Jews and Muslims. These apostate religions constituted an attack on the Christian faith by their very existence, and so war against them was inherently justified. Hm, non-Christian religions that by their very existence are a threat to the properly civilized, thus legitimizing violence against those religions as a moral duty, hmmmmmm. I’m struggling to find a modern parallel.

Anyway, Thomas Aquinas decided that there were three foundations of a Just War: proper authority, as already discussed, proper reasoning, as the common good must be at its foundation, and proper intention. Aquinas’s theory of intention created the Doctrine of Double Effect. This doctrine allows that if our intentions are noble, then the consequences of that action cannot be tied to it. For example, if during a war a munitions factory is bombed and civilians die in the blast, the death of those civilians is acceptable since the intention was not for them to die. Eggs and omelettes metaphors apply.

This brings up criticisms of proportionality, for if our intention is noble but the consequences are catastrophic, then is it truly a just act of violence? Can we bomb an entire city to kill one terrorist? This begets a debate between deontological ethics and consequentalism, but we can try to understand Aquinas from his contemporary predicament: actions had inherent moral value during the Middle Ages, so finding a way to justify murder was his goal, consequences of that justification be damned.

Understanding Just War theory is imperative. During the trials of Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, instigating a war of aggression was seen to be the greatest offense. To quote the tribunal, “To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” All the bad things that happen in war are the result of there being a war in the first place, so starting a war for the heck of it is appropriately labeled as being “The Worst.” So if someone says that the war in Iraq was a war of aggression, that means that all the consequences from that war, like say the rise of ISIS, are at the feet of those who started it.

Critics even say that soldiers participating in an unjust war are culpable, denying the previous justification to celebrate soldiers of every stripe, regardless of how many atrocities they commit. An example is given of a burglar entering someone’s home, and the homeowner getting into a fight with them. If the homeowner kills the burglar, it is self-defense, but if the burglar kills the homeowner, it is murder. If the burglar was ordered to enter the home, does that mitigate or multiply the responsibility for the actions they commit while inside of it? If someone asks you to do something and threatens you if you don’t do it, violence committed against a third party while following through with that order is still burdened on you. Being bullied does not justify murdering someone uninvolved in that bullying.

Wars are no longer fought at the behest of God… generally. However, they are still sold to the public under the guise of defending civilization so as to demonize the enemy who is using the same justification for their own aggression. The greatest military in the history of the world with the wealthiest populace is apparently under huge threat from militarily insignificant countries like Vietnam, Panama, El Salvador, and of course Afghanistan and Iraq. This laughable narrative is crucial since a threat must exist for self-defense to be feasible, as we all must avoid being labeled “The Worst.”

Is the West engaging in a Just War in the Middle East? Of course not. It invalidates every principle. There are higher authorities, the United Nations and the International Criminal Courts, which could be used to arbitrate justice between nations which were ignored. The Middle East does not possess property of the West that the West is entitled to use violence to reacquire. I suppose if you believe the Crusading myth about existential threats against civilization itself from small groups of individuals with hand-me-down guns and MacGyvered explosives, then sure, but then you’re also a fucking moron. Looks like we got to my thinly-veiled modern parallel after all!

The more intriguing question would be, are terrorists engaging in a Just War with the West? The higher authorities have been shown to be ineffective in keeping back the aggressors. Land and resources are being stolen out from under them. Violence and threats are being instigated against them pretty much at random, so self-defense could also be argued.

Here is where I believe Just War theory falls apart. In order for terrorism to be justified based on its qualifications which do by all accounts fall under the purview of Just War, the West would need to be a unity that could be attacked, but it’s not. The West is not The West, it is a collection of diverse people, opinions, and actions. #NotAllWesterners. Blowing up an Ariana Grande concert is not an attack on “The West,” it is an attack on children dancing to their favourite singer. Terrorism cannot be justified because it is not an attack on those who are responsible for their tragic situation, because those people commit their deeds with the bravery of being out of range.

Were German soldiers representative of a Nazi unity during World War 2? Possibly. It is often said that soldiers have more in common with each other than they do with those who are giving them the order to kill one another. Arguably the resistance in France could be justified, but what about the firebombing of Dresden? Or the atomic drops on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? When both sides act viciously and amorally against one another, can we call it a Just War? The complexity of even “The Best” of wars are such that making a justification for the whole is impossible.

Being that no war can truly and completely fall under the definition Just, there cannot truly and completely be a Just War. War becomes just as reprehensible as murder. Murder, as established, is wrong. Maybe let’s not do it so much.

Post-script: A lot of my non-referenced information came from here: https://historyofphilosophy.net/just-war