J Thomas wrote:I think you might have a fruitful discussion with Rotherian, because I expect he differs from you in some fundamental ways. I will put words in his mouth, as if I understand. If I get it wrong Rotherian can disagree. I think this might speed up the discussion because I think he doesn't understand some of your ideas and maybe vice versa.
It isn't that I don't understand his ideas, it is just that I don't agree with his stance that, regardless of the actual actions of the military, they are condemnable. I think, through reasoned discourse - through discussions of the military's specific actions - we can come to a common understanding. Maybe I just expect too much.
You misunderstood about that. I'm 100% sure that is not what he meant.
He's talking about when it's right to blame people and when it's wrong to blame people. He's interested in what's right and what's wrong. He wants to argue about what's truly right and what's truly wrong, and when it's right to say that somebody is wrong. In general.
He isn't interested in the details of what the US military has done, except as examples to argue what the general principles are. I think he has in fact said that he strongly disapproves of a lot of things the US military has done, but that is not what he wants to argue about.
J Thomas wrote:You think that it's fundamental to morality that the same rules should apply to everybody. If something is wrong when I do it, then it's wrong when you do it. I think Rotherian disagrees with that. You shouldn't treat good people the same way you treat bad people. So for example, the USA is good and enemies of the USA are bad. It would make no sense for the US Army to treat US enemies the same way it treats US friends.
I don't, generally, condem the actions of the military organizations of other nations, even if they were enemies at a given time. I do condemn specific acts by members of those military organizations, but I realize that a large majority of those military organizations weren't responsible for the acts of a comparative few. I don't blame the entire German military during World War II for the atrocities that occurred at Auschwitz, I blame those that were physically present at Auschwitz and took part in those atrocities. I don't blame the entire Japanese military for the attack on Pearl Harbor. I blame those that actually participated in the attack.
OK, first off I see that I was wrong about what you believe. I thought I understood and I failed. You showed me I was wrong.
I don't begin to understand why you would blame the particular Japanese who carried out Pearl Harbor and not the rest. Were they doing something wrong when they attacked Pearl Harbor? They believed that the declaration of war had been delivered; they had no way to know that had been delayed. But maybe a declaration of war is not the important thing anyway; of all the countries the USA has invaded since WWII, how many times have we declared war? Well, but the men who attacked Pearl Harbor could have realized it was wrong and refused to obey orders. I believe the Japanese practice was to execute people like that, but it would have been the right thing, yes? But what was wrong with following those orders? The USA was officially a neutral nation while Japan was at war, and the USA was doing things that would make sure Japan would lose the war. What was wrong with declaring war and attacking? Was it that fundamentally, it's wrong for other nations to attack the USA but it's OK for the USA to attack them?
.... In short, I don't think that any argument that assumes blame by association is valid. You don't blame a passenger in a car when the driver is the one doing the speeding (or you shouldn't - for all you know the passenger could have been telling the driver to slow down for the last ten miles).
But soldiers aren't just passengers. If you are in Supply and you know that the people you are sending supplies to are doing war crimes, what should you do? If you only follow orders, you are contributing to war crimes. But if you stop doing your job, that could get people killed, people who depend on you. The enemy might even manage to kill you. I think the obvious right thing is to report the war crimes and get them investigated and stopped. That's what happened at Abu Graib. Somebody reported the bad stuff and it got investigated. The base commander got disciplined because she let her base get out of control.
But Abu Graib showed that the CIA was allowed to come onto US military bases and torture suspects. They got expert assistance from Israeli torturers. And even after the investigations that did not change. If your job is to keep suspects for the CIA to torture, you are assisting the torture. If you know about it and you do not report it, you are wrong. If you report it and nothing happens and you do nothing more, you are wrong.
As I stated earlier, with a lot more verbiage, I believe that specific actions can be condemnable. I don't believe that organizations are, themselves, condemnable.
Organizations have policies. If you know the policy is evil and you do not do everything you can to change it, or you attempt to change it and fail and then you stay with the organization, then you are evil and so is everybody else who stays in the organization when they know the policy.
I, personally, believe that theft, in general, is bad. Do I believe that all thieves are condemnable? Not necessarily. ....
As for the comment about saying that one couldn't judge without participation, I've already admitted, at least twice, that the manner in which I worded that was incorrect. In fact, I'll even admit that the premise was incorrect. One can form a judgement about something without really knowing anything about it. We generally call these opinions (as opposed to informed opinions, which can be gained by either experience or comprehensive study).
If you agree that comprehensive study is a way to create an informed opinion, then this particular argument probably ought to be over.
However, I still don't believe it is right to condemn an organization on the basis of a concept that one finds distasteful. That is my opinion. I would venture so far as to say that it is my informed opinion. If I find evidence - not rhetoric, but actual evidence - to suggest otherwise, I may amend that informed opinion on the basis of that new evidence.
I say that condemnation is always a matter of values. I say that values get chosen and there is nothing that is necessarily universal among them. So when you say that the way some people choose their values is wrong, that results in them condemning things you think should not be condemned, you are expressing your own values which have no more inherent validity than theirs. (Though it might turn out that I agree with yours more than theirs, or vice versa. My agreement is worth something, it's like one more vote.) We will not find actual evidence to say that you are right or wrong. It's turtles all the way down.
I say it's OK to condemn the Kmer Rouge as an organization. They believed that nobody was really on their side, and they had evidence it was so. The cambodian government fought them. The USA bombed them. The north vietnamese made them work at gunpoint for north vietnamese goals, and then stole the rice crop. When they won, there was not nearly enough food and the US government (which had food ready, which had told everybody to support the Lon Nol government or the USA would keep the food and they would starve) would not negotiate with them for food. So they put all the people they couldn't feed onto subsistence farms and rationed food to them, and in theory that could have maximized the survival rate. But in practice it tended to fall apart; the teenage guards thought of the surplus people as their defeated enemy and mistreated them, and the central government which depended on bicycle couriers for its communication couldn't stay on top of things. If they had instead surrendered to the USA we might have fed them enough to save half a million or more of the ones who died. But they never even tried to surrender. They thought we would refuse to talk to them, which in fact we did. But they could have tried harder. So it was their fault as an organization. We had tremendous amounts of food warehoused ready to send to Cambodia, and after the Lon Nol government fell we sold it on the world market at ten cents to the dollar. Millions of people died because the Kmer Rouge did not persuade us to save them.
The Law of Fives is true. I see it everywhere I look for it.