Kill 'Em All, Let the Law of Identity Sort 'Em Out


William Raspberry marvels at the bloodthirsty bellicosity of some speaking in Ayn Rand's name, who advocate the ruthless elimination of more Iraqi civilians as key–and the proper moral pathway, at that–to U.S. victory.

NEXT: Susan Sontag, R.I.P.

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  1. An Ayn Rand fan sounding like an amoral ass? Wow, talk about something TOTALLY lacking in historical precedent!

  2. my wife worked in a small firm whose prez was a self-described randian. this fellow was just as outrageous. good call jennifer. sorta like what you noted a few weeks ago about the “might makes right” argument.

    off topic from lileks (thought it was kinda cool),, talking about jurassic park’s anniversary:
    Hard to believe it?s been over 10 years since “Jurassic Park” came out, he said, desperately looking for a peg on which to hang remarks about a movie he saw the other night for no particular reason. It still looks fine, even though the choice of actors is amusing (Newman as the turncoat nerd, Samuel L. M. F. Jackson as a chain-smoking & utterly disgusted badass programmer) and the technology amusing. They ran JP on Macs, for one thing. I’m was happy to see it, but why? Because of the large number of amusement-park security systems written for that platform, I suppose. In retrospect it?s horrifying: my GOD, our safety depends on a 233 mhz from the inter-Jobs era? We?re SO DEAD. Later the machine turns into a Unix workstation with an interface a child can, and does, figure out in a second. Another movie where a fifth-grade “hacker” shows up the adults by typing really fast. If anything dates the movie, it?s the little girl?s delighted squeal when she gets into the Land Rover and sees a video screen. ?Look! It?s got a CD-ROM!? Interesting how there’s no modern analogue – not because we have less technology, but because we have so much more, in such amazing variety.

  3. I’d be curious to hear why, exactly, Brook thinks we’re in Iraq in the first place. Let’s see, ‘A is A’ equals ‘pre-emptive war is self-defense.’ Or something.

  4. Like Jimi Hendrix, the brilliant artist who inadvertantly inspired AWFUL metal bands in the ’70s and ’80s (See: Iron Maiden. See also: Ratt.), Ayn Rand was an interesting libertarian thinker who spawned an entire subculture of degenerate hellbeasts.

    Now, while I disagree with most of Rand’s ideas (especially her contempt for working-class people), I think (or at least hope) she’d be appalled by the intellecutal inanity of her modern disciples (Peikoff, Luskin, etc.).

  5. i’m far more appalled at your lack of respect for THE MAIDEN.

  6. Raspberry is one exceedingly dumb guy. He says, as part of his silly critique:

    “Perhaps some of Brook’s advice would have made sense when the primary objective was to defeat Iraq. Surely an argument could be made for doing whatever it took to achieve a military victory — leveling neighborhoods or even whole towns, if it came to that.”

    Can he be so stupid as to not see that the war is still on?

    The funny thing about Brook’s advice is that it *will* be followed, sooner or later, most likely sooner. The insurgents are going to keep brutally murdering everyone in sight until they are crushed, and they are intentionally blending in with the population. The Bush admin wants to kill the terrorists while sparing the civilians. It would be fine if that were simply harmless wishful thinking, but the reason why people like Brook advise as they do is because it’s worse for everyone the longer a “soft” policy is pursued.

    No one gave a second thought to bombing German cities in WWII even though the vast bulk of the deaths were civilians. That’s because holding populations hostage is *what criminal regimes do.* It is the criminal regime that necessitates the deaths. An unyielding, crushing force applied early on will save lives and resources in the medium and long term.

  7. I just read Atlas Shrugged last month. The writing wasn’t as bad as I’d expected, and I thought she did a BRILLIANT job of explaining the full implications of the phrase “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” Problem is, she seems incapable of considering that any profit-driven person might possibly be evil.

    She also lied in her one-page autobiography, when she said she did it all by herself, with no help. Except for the help from her family when they gave her a free place to stay, and wrote her letters of recommendation to get a job with some Hollywood mucky-muck.

    And help from Frank O’Connor, who married her not out of love but because otherwise she’d be deported back to Stalinist Russia. Very altruistic of him.

    I find it hilarious that Randism, which treats altruism as the greatest of human sins, would not exist without it! I imagine anti-altruist Randians are kind of like anti-divorce Anglicans.

    By the way, Bugging Atlas–do you think Hussein’s Iraq was as great a danger to the world as Hitler’s Germany? Your post implies as much.

  8. No wonder the O’ist movement remains a bowel movement despite some real brilliance on Rand and a couple people after (sciabarra and branden comes to mind).

    The ‘kill’em all to make’em free and us safe’ argument didn’t work so well in other places like Viet Nam (2 million dead civilians +/-, a couple million in the Phillipines) its also astonishing that Rand herself opposed US intervention in the European theatre of WWII, Korean War, Viet Nam, etc. but the O’ists of both the reform and orthodox camp jumped into the pro-war camp without much of a second thought and dismissed serious anti-war O’ists as ‘Saddamites’.

    Combine this with just stupid advocacy such as a piece on (supposedly a site of fun lovin’ O’ists) that said Mandela was rightfully imprisioned, a piece which got more support than abhorrence in the comments section show that Rand’s legacy will live on only despite her followers and not because of them.

  9. Clarification: When I said “did it by herself,” I meant “become successful,” not “write Atlas Shrugged.”

  10. I don’t recall getting any insight into foreign affairs from Rand. But the suggestion that the iron fist will bring us security? Oh yeah, that’ll work.

    Speak not of that which you know so very little.

  11. Warren:

    Chris Matthew Sciabarra posted an essay on Rand’s foreign policy views at the Liberty & Power group blog, which you can read at

  12. Y. Brook says:

    …but to do so we must make the insurgency’s complicit civilian population — those who harbor and support the insurgents — pay for the violence that they abet. We must enforce their complete surrender to our presence…

    Well, lordy me! Why didn’t we employ this strategy earlier? I know it has worked so well for the Israelis. Those Palestinians seem to be falling right in line.

  13. Looks like Rand and Jesus have suffered the same fate: as the worst thing about Christianity is Christians, so too….

  14. Here’s Peikoff’s call for the obliteration of Iran.
    I happen to agree with him here.

  15. BTW, I would like to cast serious doubt over Rand’s potential hesitancy in espousing this war or barbaric tactics to acheive victory.

    Her first interview on the old Phil Donahue show, a copy of which I own, was enormously illuminating, inundated with insight, and truly touching: Rand called all Arabs “savages.”

    Sure, Rand didn’t marshal any evidence for this outlandish racism (no, I do not buy the claim that Rand was adamantly opposed to racism, the litany of her contentions to the contrary notwithstanding), but it’s Ayn F-ing Rand, so I guess I can’t argue against that sort of exhaustive science.

    There will always be a battery of apologists employed to combat Rand’s complete buffoonery on matters she was woefully unqualified to opine, i.e. anything, but only a bona fide imbecile cannot see her foreign policy prescriptions were thoroughly bankrupt.

  16. Per Jennifer’s post about profit-makers in Shrugged. There are more businessmen “bad guys” than there are good guys in the book. Just about every “looter” in the book is in it for profit.

  17. Jeff-
    But the evil guys weren’t the ones who MADE the profits; they were the ones who used government to steal them from others. I think one of Ms. Rand’s characters spent about a hundred and ninety-seven pages explaining this at a dinner party or something.

  18. Jeff,

    That Peikoff “article” calling for the obliteration of Iran was, at the capmag page itself states, an advertisement and you really expect me to read that without laughing?

    This should tell you how this clown of a human being and philosopher (I shudder using that word with his name) is perceived by his intellectual peers that he, this esteemed intellectual heir to Ayn Rand’s throne (well, not really since N. Branden likes to fuck other women so Peikoff was the default choice, but who’s counting?) cannot even get an op-ed published in the New York Times.

    I cannot believe in this, the twilight of 2004, people still take foreign policy suggestions like this seriously.

    The next time Peikoff delivers a lecture, I expect him to walk onto stage with big red shoes on his feet and pies in his hand. He can really bring the point home by slipping on a banana peel.

    If that were the case, I’d go to that lecture. Until then, he’s little more than Gallagher sans the sledgehammer.

    P.S. Anyone who has studied Iran with even a cursory attention span can tell you that, in part, the U.S. has guilt to atone for with respect to the establishment of a theocratic Iran. Prof. James Bill of W&M details this nicely.

  19. That Peikoff piece was rather disturbing. I guess Randians think collectivism is okay when you’re talking about collective guilt (as an excuse to kill others).

  20. Same old gang. Same old ad hominem.

  21. “Same old gang.”

    Actually, I just started posting on Reason very recently. But I admire your attention to detail.

    “Same old ad hominem.”
    Now this is totally false: my ad hominem is BRAND fucking new.

    Those of us who rightly view Rand’s philosophy in the same way we do, let’s say, ‘feces’, don’t really consider it ‘ad hominem’. Technically, I suppose the charge is correct, but how else am I supposed to respond to such rubbish?

    I’ll make a deal: as soon as I read some Objectivist philosophy that doesn’t give me E.coli poisoning, I’ll start making arguments.

  22. I would think by now it’s generally understood that the first amoral dullard to speak in Ayn Rand’s name was Ayn Rand.

    I mean I liked her in high school too, but come on now.

  23. I, for one, have always thought Rand was way overrated. But, alas, we live in a world where anyone with a “system” for life becomes fodder for fanaticism.

    I turn your attention to the likes of L.Ron Hubbard and those folks who keep voting “Ulysses” as the “Best Frikkin’ Book Ever Written!” as prime examples.

    I liked “Anthem” (it had the blessing of being short, to the point and actually kind of cool) and I liked what ‘Rush’ did with it on the ‘2112’ album.

    “The Fountainhead” was just too much, though. Everyone was just so damn miserable. And has there ever been a more boring main character than Howard Roarke? Gary Cooper couln’t even make him interesting.

    I’ve had the (dubious) pleasure of conversing with ‘Randians’ since then…most get a bit insufferable after a while.

    I did like Helen Mirren(sp?) in “The Passion Of Ayn Rand”, though the title was a bit of an oxymoron even in the context of the movie. Ayn Rand has never been on MY top ten list of compelling literary figures.

    I’ve always thought that if you’re going to make a career of selfishness, you should at least make people laugh. Making people feel like shit because they’re saps is kind of anti-climactic.

  24. Objectivism, like libertarianism, doesn’t tell us much about foreign policy. Rand had a set of principles that functions quite well within its sphere, but she and many of her followers made the mistake of rationalist hubris. She just doesn’t aknowledge that she is arguing from a value position instead of a purely rational one.

    From a certain value position, a group of folks who engage in wholesale oppression as a matter of religious doctrine can be seen as savages without appealing to ethnicity at all. A blanket statement that by western norms, Arab cultures are backward along any number of measurements would not really be all that shocking. Similar comments could be made about tribal sub Saharan cultures.

    Making the leap that such backwardness needs to be purged from the Earth is a matter of one’s priorities. Rand would have trouble with that notion, since she could not utter other than Reason itself.

  25. “Rand would have trouble with that notion”

    This is to say the notion that it is a matter of priorities.

    I disagree about the amoral bit, though. Rand’s contribution to ethics was the analysis of what altruism really means, and who uses its virtue status for non altruistic reasons.

    She wasn’t philosophically vacant, she was just guilty of overreach.

  26. Well, given that I come from Arab ancestry, I would just loooove to know this infinite set of criteria that one can list to demonstrate how Arab cultures are backward. Actually, you can save your jingoistic breath.

    But the more important point is that if Rand wanted to critique various aspects of the many Arab cultures (since the Arabs are arguably one of the most diverse races on the planet, e.g. many of them do not even speak a relatable version of Arabic), she was more than welcome. To be sure, there is plenty. My family is Lebanese Christian (although I am not Christian), and god knows they make comments that are scary.

    But calling Arabs “savages”, a racist statement if ever there was one, is quite certainly different than identifying aspects of Arab culture one finds objectionable, or as it’s so eloquently put, “backward”.

    Critique the Arabs all you want; they surely need it. But spare us veiled racism in the form of honest cultural criticism.

  27. Luke:

    I’m going to sound like I’m defending a characterization I don’t agree with here, but my point was that the difference between calling Arabs savages and indicating that there are aspects of Arab culture that are backwards is largely the subjective weight of the backwards pieces.

    A society that barters internally for village-made goods only may be backwards, for example. That characterization is not loaded with moral weight because the act of barter is not widely conceived as an immoral one. If we find out that the same society engages in clitoral mutilation of all women, stronger language may be employed. Those people are savages. It doesn’t matter how many cultural works they have, the weight of the single practice is enough by a given moral standard to warrant the label.

    Rand was especially fond of this sort of rhetoric because she perceived that other people did not view with moral outrage acts that were, to her, very heavy with moral meaning.

  28. Ayn Rand made clear that “altruism” has two faces. To sacrifice yourself to others is a form of “altruism” but it is also altruistic in her sense to sacrifice others for yourself.

    Her view was in line with the statement of Albert Camus that he wished to be neither a victim nor an executioner.

    When Yaron Brooks advocates killing innocent civilians in order to save American lives, he is invoking an altruistic principle that is is proper to sacrifice others to achieve your goals.

    Ayn Rand also stated that the fundamental principal for human interaction is the non-iniatiion of force. Pre-emptive War is an initiation of force against someone who has not attacked you yet.

    Based on the principles that Rand stated as the basis of her philosophy, the pre-emptive attack on Iraq is an immoral initiation of force.

    Of course, she, like others, might have found a reason to act in apparent violation of her stated principles, and I cannot speak on her behalf. But neither, it seems, can Yaron Brook or Leonard Peikoff.

  29. Jason,

    I think your statements are very reasonable. I don’t know that one barbaric practice automatically constitutes the moniker of ‘savage’, but that is clearly another debate for another time.

    I take issue with Rand. It seems to me her observations and suggestions for U.S. conduct concerning the Middle East were abysmally stupid; Peikoff simply carried on her tradition.

    In the video aforementioned, it was apparent to all who’ve seen it that Rand did not understand the tapestry of Arab demographics, traditions, literature, internal opinion, politics, state relations, etc. whatsoever. Admittedly, not many people do (archenemies B. Lewis and E. Said could probably make a claim to this knowledge). But for her to be so resolute as to name “Arabs”, without really defining what she means, “savages” is to me intellectual sloppiness and negligence of the first order.

    To not differentiate between Arab Christians (20% of all Arabs are such) and Arab Muslims or the Druze, to not differentiate between Egyptian and Syrian (there is even a genetic phenotype difference between these groups), to not identify long-standing traditions with newly adopted practices (cultural or otherwise) is, for me at least, unforgivable.

    She simply assumed, purposively or otherwise, all Arabs were Muslims, that these Muslims were radical fundamentalists and that given what these extremist Muslims were capable of (probably based on what she witnessed in American media portrayals), they surely must all be “savages.”

  30. William Rasberry is a “second hander” and “mystic of muscle” whose psycho-epistemology” is rooted in “social metaphysics”. A is A.

  31. Ayn Rand opposed both Communism and the war the US waged in Vietnam to stop its spread. I think the ARI is speculating, at best, about what Rand would say WRT Iraq.

    This link seems more consistent with Rands philosophy than that offered by Brook.

    From the above link:
    “It is an absurd contradition that the fight for global freedom can be built upon the abrogation of freedom at home.”

    Rand would definitely agree with that.

  32. “”It is an absurd contradition that the fight for global freedom can be built upon the abrogation of freedom at home.”

    Rand would definitely agree with that”

    Too few people here in the US do agree with that, it seems.

  33. On the back cover of Jon Stewart’s “America the Book”, Stewart includes Ayn Rand’s assessment of his book:

    “This is similar to my works in that anyone who reads it is sure to be an asshole for at least a month afterward.”

    If you’re wondering how she could possibly weigh in on his book, remember 2 things: 1) The introduction is written by Thomas Jefferson and 2) Every single word of that book is satire.

  34. “This can be done,” said Brook, “but to do so we must make the insurgency’s complicit civilian population — those who harbor and support the insurgents — pay for the violence that they abet. We must enforce their complete surrender to our presence.”

    Just so we’re clear on this, is the purpose of this invasion to bring freedom to the Iraqi people?

    Or has that justification been replaced by yet another one? If there’s a new one, could somebody send me a copy of the memo?

    “Hey, thoreau. How’s it going? Yeah, we’re invoking a different justification for invading Iraq now. Did you get a copy of that memo? Yeah, well, if you could just make sure you invoke the correct rationale, that would be great. And I’ll make sure you get a copy of that memo.”

    I just hope that nobody steals my red stapler!

  35. I’m impressed at the way no one on this comment board really wants to touch the issue of how to solve the current Iraq situation. It’s all a lot of age-old crap about “what Rand would have thought,” and other junk. Why don’t you all ask what Jesus would do?

    The argument for whether to eject the Iraqi police state is over, it’s moot now, so try getting over it. (I agree, FTR, that the decision to go in was questionable, but still whining about it means you need to grow up.)

    The choices now are limited. Brook’s choice is the one that’s *going* to happen, as a simple review of the other alternatives would reveal to anyone who gives it a moment’s thought. We can’t pull out, and we can’t fight a halfway-war of attrition, which is also a loser.

    To Jennifer above, no, I haven’t claimed implicitly that Iraq was an equal threat to the world as germany; I am claiming that it was an identical ironclad police state, and every bit as evil. The interesting thing for your perspective is that Iran *is* on it’s way to rivaling Germany in terms of threat to the world. Although we didn’t *have* to take out Iraq, our hand may just be forced with Iran.

    Folks, it’s war. The main confusion shared by Raspberry and many on this board seems to be simple confusion between war and police action. We are at war, we are not in a situation of tracking down some criminals and bringing them to trial. The two are fundamentally different, so get over it.

    Iraq will not give it up to the demands of civilization without a bloody, costly, devastating (for them) quantum of damage. Japan was exactly the same (unbridled fanaticism with near-psychotic violence) and now Japan is fully civilized, and the only way it happened was the application of violence sufficient to break their will. Same with Germany.

    I am aware of the distinction that an argument can be made that we started this one, but that distinction is irrelevant now, so GET OVER IT.

    The Sunni/Baathists have set the terms: inflict massive civilian damage or lose the war. We aren’t going to lose the war, so Brook is just trying to drag all you out of your fantasies. There are ways to minimize this damage – I’m not saying the Japan analogy means nukes. But unfortunately, the minimum amount of collateral damage will be whatever it takes to break the back of the resistance.

    The blame for this lies at the feet of the rat-bastard Sunni-Baathist thugs, but if that doesn’t make you feel better, too bad, get used to the idea that it’s the only possible way through this.

  36. I’m impressed at the way no one on this comment board really wants to touch the issue of how to solve the current Iraq situation.

    Actually, we debate Iraq-related issues in plenty of threads. But since the topic of Ayn Rand came up, and since a lot of us enjoy poking fun at her, some of us decided to take a break from more serious talk to have a little fun.

    That doesn’t mean that we lack serious opinions on Iraq, it just means that some of us are choosing to be silly in this thread. Myself included.

  37. Yeah, Atlas, Japan was exactly the same, except for the whole industrialized nation thing, or the entirely different culture, with different values and a lack of religious fundamentalism, or any one of the other host of ways that they were different.

    And the Germans were fighting us using guerilla tactics for nearly 5 years after the war ended, and we still managed to pacify them without carpet-bombing any German cities. Just because something is the most expedient choice doesn’t make it it any way the best one.

  38. Its interesting that everyone wants to nail the orthodox O’ists for their insane views foreign policy. The reformed O’ists are just as bad — read Willy Thomas’s views from TOC or 98% of the views at all non-orthodox, ‘reformed O’ists’ sites — they are off their rocker as well.

    Its also interesting to note that most O’ist support Zionism — say what you want about Zionism, good or bad, but everything I know about it says O’ists can find it nothing but abhorrent. If the last names of the O’ist movement were Abbas, Arafat, Atta, etc. you would get a differnt view than the current jews who run the O’ist movement — Schwartz, Piekoff, Rosenbaum, Berliner, Brook, etc.

  39. “Now, while I disagree with most of Rand’s ideas (especially her contempt for working-class people)”

    I’m sorry have you ever read any Rand? Although I agree that Brook is a complete phony that would like us to compete with Israel for the title of most tyrannical government, there certaintly is a common thread of misdirection when it comes to Rand.

    Brook’s comments may come from the Ayn Rand institute, but they certaintly don’t represent her. She would be aghas at the incompetence that has allowed so many Iraqi’s to be killed because it defeats our purpose there. She would argue that we need to do more to protect the Iraqi’s, not for some ridiculous altruistic belief in the sanctity of human life, but because it makes strategic sense.

    An objectivist doesn’t get focused on some vague concept of morality that is impossible to know. Since we are now in this war a definitive desired outcome should be stated and reached. No goal that I can see would be in any way benefited from discarding Iraqis as if they didn’t matter.

    So, although Mr. Brooks is spewing refuse, so to are all of you who instead of countering an absolutely ignorant argument would rather attack a dead woman.

  40. shem,

    Your challenge is valid and we need that perspective. But Atlas is also hitting the nail pretty much on the head — and I don’t see that we (the US) have faced up to it just yet. Invading Iraq was stupid, but we’re there now. The minimum collateral damage from here will, in fact, be that which is required to break the resistance.

    More than one historian has made the case that WWII happened because German will was not broken in WWI. But in Iraq, a WWI type end looks remote. Iraq’s more likely a fight to the finish.

    I admit I’m not sure how to win Iraq. But I’ve long thought the American mindset is not up to the job. As Machiavelli said (roughly), “Men must be willing to do all the evil that good requires.” I don’t remember such ideas being part of The American Way.

    Machiavelli (while not always right) was no fool. Western Civilization has grown to believe that we don’t have to fight like that anymore. In an all-out war, that’s a real weakness. It is not a constraint our enemies place upon themselves.

    Morality can be a funny thing. On one hand we must figure out how to win this mess. On the other, we’re whipping ourselves for abusing a few prisoners. Am I the only one that thinks that’s just a tad ironic?

    We’re either going to loose in Iraq, or we as a nation are going to undergo some fundamental changes in our world outlook. Iraq just doesn’t fit in the play book we’ve always lived by.

  41. Sean,

    Many of us here have read Rand, some (like myself) extensively. But as you said it well:

    “An objectivist doesn’t get focused on some vague concept of morality that is impossible to know.”

    No rational person does this — and this may just be the crux of the biscuit. To put it in objectivist terms, ethics can only be practiced within context, and war is not that context.

    So exactly what ethics applies, given the context of Iraq? It may be strategically desirable to avoid civilian casualties. But how then do you fight an enemy who uses civilians for camaflouge? An enemy who does not hesitate to sacrifice those same civilians — who are theoretically their own people at that.

    One could rationally conclude that some cancerous organs cannot be cured and must be amputated. But the Russians have gone down this road a time or two in history, and it doesn’t always work so well either.

    If nothing else, I think we’re at least getting the central issues, and questions, better framed in this thread.

  42. “Men must be willing to do all the evil that good requires.”

    WOW, I must assume that you think it is okay to use torture and kill children if that gets the job done. Fair enough, however it won’t get the job done. The idea that escalating violence until we have detroyed any resistance sounds like a plausible plan — and it is plausible if you are willing to permanently station troops in Iraq. Rule by force is only possible if that force is always able to operate — let slip for a moment and someone will fight back. I’d prefer a strategy that doesn’t neccesitate our permanent occupation of a foreign country. Look at how well this is working out for Israel.

  43. Frankly, the problem I see is not that our military is killing civilians, but doing to little to protect them. Every day we see more and more Iraqi police being killed standing in line to recieve a job. Why don’t we do more to protect those on our side?

    This is what will fuel the real resentment against us in the long run. It’s not good enough to just protect our own soldiers, because eventually we’ll have nobody else to protect.

    When Brooks said we need to protect the Americans he made it clear that he fundamentally doesn’t understand war. If you start protecting yourself — and screw averyone else, everyone becomes the enemy.


    I disagree fundamentally that ethics cannot be practiced within the confines of war. I believe that self-interest (here the self-interest of the U.S.) gives plain guidlines as to how we should act in this war. The Geneva Convention rules of war aren’t to protect our enemy, but to protect us. Similarly, it is our duty to prevent civilian deaths in any way possible because it protects our goals.

  44. Sean,

    I’m not disagreeing with you. And

    “I must assume that you think it is okay to use torture and kill children if that gets the job done”

    Not so. I’m very much sympathetic to the problem of how to fight a war and still be moral about it. However…. Show me how we’re going to avoid the Isreal problem.

    You can a) fight a little, b) fight a freaking lot, or c) give the hell up.

    We’ve tried a), and we’ve sworn off c). If we’re left with b), then the moral issues I brought up loom large. How much harder can we fight, than we already are, before those issues DO become the news of the day?

    Unless you’ve got a better plan, a different way to go about option a)? I’d be all ears.

    That, or somebody needs to start finding reasons to take option c). But there are huge arguments against that.

  45. Pragmatist,

    Well, I think the problem is that we’re not fighting hard enough. There are certaintly not enough soldiers over there to do the job right. I see this as part of the problem. They are trying to do what 500,000 soldiers should be doing with 150,000. This leads to mistakes and huge casualties of both our soldiers and civilians. I agree that what needs to be done is to clamp down on the so-called insurgents. However, this needs to be done as more of a police action. Not door to door searches and closing off whole cities so we can kill any men we find there. There are currently places in Iraq where the Iraqis actually want us. What can’t we be preemtive when it comes to protection those Iraqi’s interests. Why don’t we have tanks protecting the local police stations while the war rages on?

    We can’t because we don’t have the manpower. We don’t need to take up Machiavellian tactics, we just need to start protecting the Iraqi people. We currently haven’t shown any ability to protect the Iraqis and that is what is stopping us from winning this war.

  46. There is a whole element to these discussions I don’t follow. When we invade for any purpose whatsoever, clearly the collateral damage inflicted by our bombs is on our head. Does it follow that an invasion to remove a dictator makes us responsible for ALL civilian deaths that follow, even those that are inflicted by Iraqis?

    I am told by other libertarians all the time that we have absolutely no moral obligations until such time as we choose to intervene – that minding your own business is always a moral act. Okay, so lets say that we invade and don’t occupy the streets at all. We do everything possible to defend our soldiers, who stay in desert camps outside of the daily lives of Iraqis. We stay available as a sort of rapid response SWAT team during the period when Iraqi government is incapable of organizing a response to heavily armed insurgents. The strategy of low visibility and high concentrations of firepower seems to me to be consistent with the idea that civilian deaths AT OUR HANDS should be minimized. This has the practical advantage, hopefully, of making the Iraqis hate the right people over time. This is the sort of thing Rumsfeld has been arguing all along, by the way.

    If we determine that we have a moral obligation to try to protect every Iraqi civilian, even at the cost of inflicting more casualties ourselves, the strategy obviously should change. I am not at all certain that in net we wouldn’t be saving more civilians by taking off the gloves, and fighting to kill every insurgent sympathizer. Our initial movements would result in a lot of collateral damage, but we would be buying a much weakened opponent who lacked the belief that he is safe hiding behind civilians.

    Where we go wrong, to me, is when we try to accomplish both goals – protecting everyone from every threat and not doing any damage ourselves. Cheerleaders for more troop presence and less aggressive action have a highly romantic view of what that would look like in my opinion.

  47. Responding to the Atlas Bugged comment, “An unyielding, crushing force applied early on will save lives and resources in the medium and long term.” Bombing innocent civilians (Dresden, Hiroshima) is terrorism, no? At least the US soldiers have voluntarily bought into the risks of being killed as part of their job.

  48. Sean,

    You’re right — the biggest problem is that we can’t protect the innocent civilians. But I doubt more troops, 500k or million, is going to turn this around.

    The most significant parallel between Iraq and Vietnam is the guerilla tactics the enemy is using. The terrorists in Iraq have refined the methods the Viet Cong used. The sobering fact is that we look at the civilians and see people. Our enemy looks at them and sees — well, something closer to bushes to hide behind, which may be cut, uprooted, or burned, the moment doing so is convenient.

    These terrorists aren’t Europeans who try to fight “fair”, they’re animals. Fact: in Vietnam, both north and south, popular support for the communists never exceeded 10% of the population. Yet the communists won both north and south, because they were in it for the long haul. Neither the US, nor the French before them, figured out how to fight effectively against these kinds of guerilla tactics.

    Don’t misunderstand what popular support does — and does not — buy us in this kind of war. Popular Iraqi support for the US will not alone win it for us.

    btw, we basically tried the “let’s put tanks at every police station in Iraq” idea in Vietnam, it didn’t work. Just doing more of the same thing we’ve been doing is a recipe for failure.

    You cannot have enough soldiers in Iraq to fight the enemy effectively, until you’ve got almost one US soldier for every person in Iraq. Then you can do a man-to-man game. But as in Vietnam, we aren’t ever going to have that many soldiers.

    To Jason I say “ditto”. Either knock the crap out of them, or stand way back. We can’t do both. But we do have to consider our moral conscience (and yes everyone, I do have one of those — but I’m also committed to seeing the problem for what it is). Hence my earlier statement — is the US up to the job of winning in Iraq? If we aren’t, let’s get the hell out now. Because winning against these animals is most probably going to demand tactics we (including me) would rather not use.

    I’ll wager that if we stand back as Jason suggests, we’re bound for defeat. Not unless the terrorists in Iraq are fighting for a whole different reason than it appears they are.

  49. We weren’t exactly popular in Vietnam either, pragmatist. And this is also nothing like Vietnam either. In Vietnam as well as in WWII, all the countries that mattered were more or less willing to give us a pass on whatever actions of questionable morality we felt were necessary. Not so in Iraq. Europe and Asia are watching, and will almost certainly use whatever actions we take that offend morality as justification for ignoring us. In a world where international terrorists can and do hide all over the world, can we afford to alienate countries whose assistance we may need in order to pursue goals of immediate necessity to domestic American interests?

  50. “You cannot have enough soldiers in Iraq to fight the enemy effectively, until you’ve got almost one US soldier for every person in Iraq.”

    Why not instead pay 500,000 (or more) Iraqi soldiers?:

    A $7 billion solution for Iraq

  51. Shem,

    You’re right that we probably can’t afford to abandon the moral high ground in Iraq. But the essential similarity between Iraq and Vietnam is the way our opponent treats civilians. Fighting people who fight like that is the problem we haven’t solved.

    Mark, we tried basically paying the South Vietnamese to fight and that didn’t work. They couldn’t beat the enemy for the same reason we couldn’t.

    Now, Iraqis who are willing to infiltrate and expose the enemy, that might be worth something. But I wouldn’t count on it as the magic bullet. It looks to me like we’ve gotten mixed results this way so far.

    So what, do we simply admit we’re out flanked by animals? If so, then we’re admitting, to any future foe, that there is a sure and certain way to defeat us. I find this almost as unpalatable as the idea of saying the civilians just have to be casualties.

  52. So what, do we simply admit we’re out flanked by animals?

    Three times you have referred to the people fighting against the occupation as “animals”. Three times as “terrorists”.

    It’s so interesting to me how one’s enemies are always snakes or trolls or orcs or “animals” or “terrorists”. I suppose this dehumanising of our enemies is a basic human trait. It makes them so much easier to torture and kill. It makes motivating soldiers to do these things simpler.

    No doubt lots of Iraqis see Americans in precisely the same way. (Certainly the non-Iraqi hijackers did – at least, if Ramzi Yousef’s statement to the court is any indication.) I know I would, if they killed someone I love.

    The sobering fact is that we look at the civilians and see people. Our enemy looks at them and sees — well, something closer to bushes to hide behind, which may be cut, uprooted, or burned, the moment doing so is convenient.

    No you don’t. You see civilians as potential collateral damage. You look at them and you see… obstacles which may have to be “cut, uprooted, or burned,” the moment doing so becomes “unavoidable”. Propitious.

    Do you doubt this?

    Your war is as evil as their war. It is being waged by a power with no regard for fundamental human rights.

    When I saw Brook on O’Reilly, I saw two bloodthirsty orcs.

    I’m only human.

  53. “pragmatist” writes, “Mark, we tried basically paying the South Vietnamese to fight and that didn’t work. They couldn’t beat the enemy for the same reason we couldn’t.”

    The situation in Iraq now is not even remotely similar to the situation in Vietnam:

    1) In Vietnam, there was a superpower (Russia) and a regional power (China) supporting the North Vietnamese. NO government is officially supporting the insurgents (aka, terrorists) in Iraq. And what aid that the Iranian and Syrian governments give to the terrorists (aka insurgents) can be dwarfed by the money we can pay to Iraqi troops. We could *easily* pay Iraqi troops $3 billion a year for the next two years. There’s no way that the Iranian and Syrian governments could funnel that kind of money into Iraq.

    2) The North Vietnamese government never fell, or even really came close to falling. Saddam Hussein and his Baathist government have been completely removed.

    3) Similarly, the U.S. never came close to controlling all of the land area of Vietnam. Now that Fallujah has fallen, there is basically no place in Iraq where the terrorists can have a headquarters.

    4) There is virtually NO support among Iraqis for the terrorists (aka insurgents).

    The claim that “we tried to pay the South Vietnamese to fight and it didn’t work…so it won’t work in Iraq, either” is filled with as many logical holes as a piece of Swiss cheese.

    Paying Iraqi troops (500,000+ troops) WILL work. And it will be much less expensive than paying U.S. troops to do something that is not their job. (The U.S. troops have already done their job. Saddam Hussein and his government are gone.)

  54. Ooookay, just a few comments several outlandish misconceptions evident among the posters to this thread.

    To Thoreau: Yes, I see that some of the commentary is humorous. Not being a regular, it can be difficult to tell who’s who, but some are clearly in deep error doo-doo, such as:

    To Luke: The Palestinian violence DOES recede, sometimes amazingly, after Israeli defensive/offensives. You are clearly unaware of the actual history of the conflict in recent years. Also, you are the one that’s spouting collectivist ignorance. A “culture” is a collective concept, and as a collective, Arab culture *is* incredibly vile and backward, as any look at the nations of the area demonstrates. By taking the comment (and the fact) *personally,* it is you that has trouble distinguishing individuals from groups.

    To Shem: The Japanese were 100% religious fundamentalists who thought their emperor was god made manifest on Earth. Do your homework, you are without a clue. The other “differences” you cited were inessentials, insofar as you even got them right. The Japanese analogy is a powerful one, as you will see.

    To Jason Ligon: You said “There is a whole element to these discussions I don’t follow. When we invade for any purpose whatsoever, clearly the collateral damage inflicted by our bombs is on our head”

    No, that’s why you aren’t following. When Nazi cities were bombed, all responsibility for German deaths rested with the Nazis. If you need this explained to you, I’m not sure that we can go much farther. Even in a simple bank robbery, the law recognizes that a bank customer, shot by a guard while defending the bank, has been killed through the fault of the robbers. No one with any sense questions this.

    To PH: You make the same crazy error when you say: “Bombing innocent civilians (Dresden, Hiroshima) is terrorism, no?”

    Uh, no.

    Terrorism is where the civilians are the primary and intended targets of the bombing. You are confusing the concept of collateral damage. The argument is made that “collateral damage” is just obfuscation, double-talk, or whatever, but it is not. Everyone seems to understand that the 9/11 jets *ought* to have been shot down (had it been possible), but it seems many cannot apply the same concept with any situation larger than that. Obviously many innocents would have been intentionally killed, but that wouldn’t make it terrorism.

    I will give you some credit; it *is* crucially important that American troops are all-volunteer.

    To Raymond: You are the most clueless of them all. To you, the rapist and his victim are just two sides of the same coin, one no better than the other. It’s all “perspective.” You get the award for being the dumbest post on this entire board.

  55. Atlas Bugged,


    “Terrorism is where the civilians are the primary and intended targets of the bombing.”

    So when our military said that they were going to kill as many japs as possible and then dropped 2 bombs on two cities rather than two military installations — who was the primary target of the attack?

    We attacked civilians in Japan because we (rightfully so) thought it would scare the shit out of the Japanese. The message was — “stop fighting us or we’ll kill you all” Very much akin to the message delivered by the Palestinians.

    Your argument is as simple-minded as they come. If the bad guys do something bad and someone screws up trying to stop the bad guys its not their fault. You obviously have no idea what it means to take responsibility for your own actions.

    I personally believe that at times torture may be the only way to protect my comrades. However, just because I’m protecting others from the bad guys that doesn’t mean my actions somehow become the responsibilty of the bad guys. “They made me do it” is a bullshit argument heard on the playground and the call to arms my such reputable spources as Osama bin Laden.

  56. Atlas, the mere fact that two situations appear similar on the surface doesn’t make them automatically analogous. There’s a big difference between a guy whose god is some abstract concept sitting in the sky and the guy whose god is an actual individual who you can catch and put on the radio to admit that he isn’t a god after all. And the other concerns are only inessential because you don’t understand them. An industrialized society with a workforce that are more or less used to the idea of working for a paycheck within an economic system that remains pretty much the same is drastically different from one that has been living on aid for the past 13 years, and was part of a socialized system before that. Things don’t become similar merely because you can find a few generalizations and point them out ad nauseam.

  57. One might almost suspect that “atlas” has consciously set out to prove my point. That would be giving his posts more credit for critical thought than they demonstrate, however.

    A “culture” is a collective concept, and as a collective, Arab culture *is* incredibly vile and backward, as any look at the nations of the area demonstrates.

    Well, that’s that, then.

    To you, the rapist and his victim are just two sides of the same coin, one no better than the other. It’s all “perspective.”

    The notion of freedom of expression contains in it the limit of responsibility to honesty. In time of war (or “war”), freedom of expression goes out the window because truth goes out the window. And the world is peopled by trolls.

    Or perhaps it’s just a reading problem.

    “The only way to win this insurgency is for America to be a lot more brutal.” (Yaron Brook)

    To become, in other words, even more orc-like.

  58. “Terrorism is where the civilians are the primary and intended targets of the bombing. You are confusing the concept of collateral damage.”

    I don’t think so, at least in the case of the WWII atrocities mentioned, as Sean also said.

    Was there even a pretense of “collateral damage” for Dresden, whose only major industry was the manufacture of cups and saucers? Churchill himself expressed second thoughts, in a letter to Air Marshall “Bomber” Harris on 28 March 1945, “It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, should be reviewed. Otherwise we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land. We shall not, for instance, be able to get housing material out of Germany for our own needs because some temporary provision would have to be made for the Germans themselves. I feel the need for more precise concentration upon military objectives, such as oil and communications behind the immediate battle-zone, rather than on mere acts of terror and wanton destruction. ”

    That said, I grant that much of the slaughter of Iraqi civilians counts as “collateral damage” (counts as high as 100,000 have been reported), but the term seems to be used as an excuse for a cavalier attitude towards destruction of innocent life in the accomplishment of military or political objectives. And to think that many supporters of the Iraq war and its “collateral damage” voted in November based on “moral issues” makes one sick. No amount of evil that homosexuals could do even comes close to the anguish caused by “Operation Politician’s Ego.”

  59. I don’t know why, but I’m going to try to clarify, in simpler terms, my earlier comments – without using ad hominems. (Though that is going to require a heroic act of the will.)
    I. The bits about Yaron Brook were a feeble attempt to return to topic.

    II. Your posts are evidence of a dishonest mind – or of serious reading problems.

    …the rapist and his victim is a (deliberate?) mischaracterisation of my first post, which was about how we use words and images to dehumanise our enemies. It was about dishonesty and propaganda.

    Your posts demonstrate perfectly this dishonesty. Which led me to wonder if freedom of expression implies a “right to lie”. I don’t think it does.

    Both Hiroshima and Nagasaki*were* military targets, of course, this is beyond dispute

    There were many reasons behind the bombings. From reading this report, I conclude that scientific curiosity was one primary one. From reading history, that containing the Soviets was another. “Military target” was a fig leaf.

    the alleged conversation regarding Dresden

    The key word here is “alleged”. As in, “not proved”. As in, “Yeah right. Churchill said that. Yeah right. Tell me another one.” Well, Churchill’s “alleged” words are quoted all over the Net, including in this paper. A 0.24-second search would have removed any doubt.

    btw, I find the penultimate paragraph of the article linked to above particularly a propos:

    When Allied misconduct in World War (or any war) is pointed out, many Americans become defensive, as though acknowledging government’s moral lapses is bad manners, if not outright treason. That attitude is unbecoming to the political heirs of Jefferson and Madison, who understood the dangers intrinsic to the state and who grasped that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Those who wish not to dwell on Allied atrocities often respond that the enemy was engaged in such horrors as the rape of Nanking, the Bataan death march, the bombing of Rotterdam and Warsaw, the Holocaust.

    Arab culture *is* incredibly vile and backward
    Arab/Muslim culture

    I suspect (in fact, I’m certain) you have little or no experience of Arabic (or “Arab/Muslim”) culture.

    Moreover, you protest that you are not targeting individual Arabs. I maintain that your remarks are racist nonetheless.

    “Some of my best friends are Jewish, BUT… their culture *is” incredibly vile and backward.”

    “Some of my best friends are Black, BUT… their culture *is” incredibly vile and backward.”

    Sort of like that.


    III. In your contribution to this discussion, in your attempt to defend the indefensible, truth has gone out the window, and the world is peopled by trolls.

    ps –

    It does not require great art, or magnificently trained eloquence, to prove that Christians should tolerate each other. I, however, am going further: I say that we should regard all men as our brothers. What? The Turk my brother? The Chinaman my brother? The Jew? The Siam? Yes, without doubt; are we not all children of the same father and creatures of the same God? (Voltaire)

  60. Well gee, I didn’t realize I was in a debate with the arbiter of what is and isn’t a valid argument. In the future I’ll be sure to only make points that you’ve heard, since you’re clearly so well educated that you’ve heard all the valid arguments.

  61. Atlas Bugged,

    So the so-called terrorist attacks on the pentagon weren’t terrorist attacks at all, since everyone knows that the pentagon is clearly a military target. Also, it follows that any of the so-called terrorist attacks on the check-points in Israel were undeniably military targets.

    Following your logic, any attack that has beneficial military components is simply a military attack and doesn’t deserve the degrading term terrorism. Bin Laden started a war by destroying two buildings in New York. Military strategy achieved — therefore clearly those building were a military target

  62. Sean Sirrone notes:

    “So the so-called terrorist attacks on the pentagon weren’t terrorist attacks at all, since everyone knows that the pentagon is clearly a military target.”

    I pointed something like this out at the time myself. But my remarks then were only to clarify a finer aspect of the attack. Your purpose seems instead – as with so many on this board – to be moral inversion and moral relativism. Like Raymond, you see no good or evil, just ill-behaved war-mongers on all sides.

    You then go on to deny that the WTC attacks were terror. Nothing is terror, everything is terror, yawn.

    Pearl Harbor has not been ever called “terrorist” to my knowledge, either, even though it was the “bad guys” on the attack. The definitions of “terrorism” vs. “collateral damage” have never been even remotely complicated, and my operational definitions seem difficult only to those seeking to erase the moral distinctions.

    I can understand the point someone tried to make about Dresden, but I couldn’t be less interested. I suppose there could arguably be a “terrorist” act against a monstrous dictatorship such that Germany was, or North Korea is, but it’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

    Shem, you may not like rules of logic, that’s fine, but then you probably ought to refrain from argument. You may also find that when you toss rules of logic aside, the one advising you of the fact will often be the same one with whom you’re making the bad argument.

    Raymond, you’re doing the exact thing of which you’re accusing me.

    I see you’ve found some factual material on the atom bombings of Japan, so now you know there were military installations in both cities. Instead of admitting your ignorance, you seek to muddy the entire subject and show the same “moral equivalence” junk I’ve noted previously.

    On the Muslim culture thing, I’ve noted the vicious treatment of women, and you think you can hit your “delete” key, call me the racist, and magically win the argument.

    It *is* ad hominem, I admit, but it’s also true, you remain the dumbest poster here, but I suspect you’re also the youngest, and people can learn over time.

  63. Atlas Bugged,

    I’d have to disagree. I certainly see a difference between good and evil that you clearly don’t see. Let’s take a closer look at a conflict that has more than one obviously “good” side.

    In Israel there have been atrocities commited by both sides. There is no disputing this. It clearly is okay for the Israelis to attack terrorist positions and kill terrorists. Yes indeed, certain civilians may be killed by the collateral damage, but this as you have pointed out is war. The same is true for the Palestinians. They are so completely outgunned that their only reasonable chance of fighting the war is through guerilla warfare. Therefore it is clearly okay for them to attack military posts or miltary soldiers as acts of war. Again, these attacks may involve collateral damage which is the price of war.

    The problem with the strategies of both sides only comes in when they are no longer attacking the fighting forces of the other side. The Israeli use of their military to bulldoze neighborhoods of homes is not acceptable military action. Yes, it does serve a purpose and may even serve that pupose well, but as I was trying to point out, so does crashing airplanes into civilian targets. The Palestinian organizations are clearly wrong to attack any Israeli target they see fit. Attacking civilians is never okay.

    You seem to make no distinction between a strictly military target and one that happens to have a some military significance. San Francisco may have military significance, but if some country attacks us (yes, terrorism can be state sponsored) and destroys the entire city of San Francisco in an effort to keep us from fighting them any more, this is terrorism. The entire city does not need to be destroyed to accomplish a miliary objective other than terrifying the oposition.

    Also, I’d like to point out that one of the reasons the cities in Japan were picked was because there was very little else to bomb in the other cities we had been carpet-bombing for months. It would have been impossible for us to see the amount of destruction that came from the single attack. I agree with you that there can be some argument as to if it was a terrorist attack because of the fact that there were military bases. However, to simply say that it is obvious is childish at best. In no other single attack on the face of the earth were more civilians killed. Why is that?

  64. OH, by the way, the attack on Pearl Harbor was by definition a terrorist act. Just read the state department’s definition of terrorism.

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