Thursday, August 18, 2005

Fool's Logic


“All cats die”

“Socrates is dead”

“Therefore, Socrates is a cat”

- From the logician’s “A” form proposition in Eugene Ionesco’s Rhinoceros (1959)

This morning I read a small portion of a post from a left-leaning blog that shall remain nameless. The blogger, a so-called liberal, wrote a post taunting supporters of the war in Iraq to respond to him, with ironclad evidence, about why they believed we were right to go to war to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Most bloggers who read what he wrote decided, wisely, not to respond. The reason I say that it was a wise decision is that it was clear that no evidence, regardless of how compelling, was going to change his mind. As I saw it was a bit like getting nose to nose with a bully who’s told you politely that your shoelaces are untied. Just as soon as you look down you see the uppercut approaching your chin. In other words, there was no benevolent intent to begin with.

That didn’t stop one intrepid blogger from responding, though. He attempted to make the moral case for going to war. Our left-leaning friend read the response and replied, “George Bush never made a moral argument for this war.” The logic was amazing. Since George Bush failed to make a moral case for ousting Saddam, the reasoning went, there was no moral case at all.

To make it a bit clearer I’ll put it in syllogism form, so that you can compare it to the logic Eugene Ionesco ridiculed in his 1960 classic. It looks something like this:

There may have been a moral case for invading Iraq

George Bush made no moral case for invading Iraq

Therefore, there was no moral case for invading Iraq

If weren’t such a serious error it would be as silly as the syllogism Ionesco used to poke fun at the logician in his play “Rhinoceros.”

But while it might be funny to attempt to prove that Socrates is a cat or, for that matter, that a dog is a cat (both usually have four legs), using such flawed reasoning to support an anti-war position serves no useful purpose. It’s not only counter-productive, it’s dangerous.

The reason for logical, clear thinking is to clarify and enlighten and the blogger’s logic only revealed a lack of understanding, possibly under-girded by intense hatred of George Bush. That’s not good interpersonal logic and it’s not a foundation sound enough to build a worldview on.

That, however, hasn’t stopped the left from pushing the anti-war button. In addition to the logic used there are mantras that go with the territory. How often have we heard in the past two or three years, “I know that Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant, but…..” I think you all know what’s coming next. “But it’s an internal matter.” “Didn’t we prop him up in the seventies and eighties?” “If he was our ally in the seventies, how has he become our enemy now?” “It’s none of our business.” “Why should Americans die if others aren’t willing to die for this cause along with us?”

There are other questions, but I believe I’ve provided enough to make my point.

I’ve said since the beginning of our involvement in Iraq that the moral case for invading and overthrowing Saddam was the most compelling. Nothing that’s happened since has changed my mind. During that time, I’ve made the case in writing. What I’d like to do now is once again put my reasons for supporting the initial invasion and the ongoing effort in moral terms.

The morality of the cause can be expressed in sweeping terms. First, it can be expressed in American political terms. Next, in can be expressed in geopolitical terms. Then, it can be expressed in theological terms. Finally, it can be expressed in local and interpersonal terms.

I’m a Democrat. “Why,” you ask, “Would a Democrat support “George Bush’s War?” I do so, because I believe the cause is just and I do so because Democrats have, until the past thirty years, supported just causes. For example, in his declaration of war against Germany and the Axis powers on April 2, 1917, Woodrow Wilson made the following observation about the false sense of security that neutrality had brought the country:

“Our object now, as then, is to vindicate the principles of peace and justice in the life of the world as against selfish and autocratic power and to set up among the really free and self-governed peoples of the world such a concert of purpose and of action as will henceforth ensure the observance of those principles. Neutrality is no longer feasible or desirable where the peace of the world is involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom lies in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force which is controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people. We have seen the last of neutrality in such circumstances. We are at the beginning of an age in which it will be insisted that the same standards of conduct and of responsibility for wrong done shall be observed among nations and their governments that are observed among the individual citizens of civilized states.”

“We have no quarrel with the German people. We have no feeling toward them but one of sympathy and friendship. It was not upon their impulse that their government acted in entering this war. It was not with their previous knowledge or approval. It was a war determined upon as wars used to be determined upon in the old, unhappy days when peoples were nowhere consulted by their rulers and wars were provoked and waged in the interest of dynasties or of little groups of ambitious men who were accustomed to use their fellowmen as pawns and tools.”


Wilson’s declaration and statement of principles was powerful, and these principles were being advanced by the leader of the Democratic Party.

John F. Kennedy, the President I identified with in my youth, made it clear to the world that the United States was going to advance the principles Woodrow Wilson had outlined two generations earlier. His words have found an honored place in history:

“We observe today not a victory of party, but a celebration of freedom—symbolizing an end, as well as a beginning—signifying renewal, as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.”

“The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”


“We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans—born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage—and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.”

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

“This much we pledge—and more.”

The principles are clear, and as a Democrat I proudly support them. I’m at a loss as to why so many of my fellow Democrats have abandoned those principles, especially now when their support is needed.

I believe that George Bush was acting out of the best traditions of the Democratic Party two years ago. You see, Democrats, in principle, oppose tyranny and support freedom.

I believe I’ve made the moral case on that basis, but let me go on.

After the Second World War the United Nations was formed. In its charter, the nations of the world agreed upon the following principle:

“To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace”

There was a clear understanding in Article I of the U.N. charter that the international community had a responsibility to foster peaceful relations in the world and the responsibility to take “collective measures” to either prevent or remove threats to world peace.

That statement of principle was further clarified by a commission was convened by Kofi Annan in 2001. What follows is an excerpt from the commission’s findings titled “The Responsibility to Protect: Principles for Military Intervention:”

“The Just Cause Threshold”

“Military intervention for human protection purposes is an exceptional and extraordinary measure. To be warranted, there must be serious and irreparable harm occurring to human beings, or imminently likely to occur, of the following kind:”

“Large scale loss of life, actual or apprehended (my emphasis added), with genocidal intent or not, which is the product either of deliberate state action, or state neglect or inability to act, or a failed situation; or”

“Large scale ethnic cleansing, actual or apprehended, whether carried out by killing, forced expulsion, acts of terror or rape.”

The principles and terms are very clear and Saddam’s Iraq clearly met the principles of military intervention. Yet, the United Nations failed to live up to its responsibilities. That failure was rooted in the institution’s history from the early nineties on. The international community, including the United States, failed to intervene in Rwanda in the early nineties and the result was nearly a million deaths. The United Nations failed to act in the Balkans and the United States, with minimal support from its allies, had to intervene militarily.

This was the United Nations that, at the turn of the millennium, was willing to talk to Saddam while he was brutalizing his own people. In doing so, it violated its principles. There was a clear moral mandate to intervene in Iraq and the United Nations refused to do anything. Later events have shown that there were economic reasons for the failure. While anti-war activists were chanting “No blood for oil,” United Nations diplomats were reaping huge economic rewards from “food for oil.” Some very, very close to Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary General, were receiving millions of dollars in bribes from Saddam’s henchman.

With all the hush money he needed to stay in power, Saddam played the international community like a cheap violin. The bribes bought Saddam time, plenty of time to continue inflicting misery on the Shia and the Kurds, on men, women, children, anyone he perceived as an enemy.

The United Nations had a moral obligation to intervene militarily, but it refused to do so. Inaction had been purchased

The United States and its coalition intervened when the United Nations refused to. It was the right thing to do! I am absolutely convinced!

Theologically, there was ample basis for military intervention in Iraq. For Christians the principle of just intervention is outlined in many places, including the theology passed on from Augistine, Aquinas, and beyond. Even more important than the work of the Church Fathers, though, is Holy Writ. It demonstrates to me God expects us to act on behalf of those who cannot for themselves. One example of this principle is found in the story of the “Good Samaritan.” In the account an expert in the law asked Jesus who his neighbor was. Seeing that the man was trying to “justify” himself and his inactivity, Jesus responded:

Luke 10:30-37 (New Living Translation)

30”Jesus replied with an illustration: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31By chance a Jewish priest came along; but when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32A Temple assistant[
a] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt deep pity. 34Kneeling beside him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with medicine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35The next day he handed the innkeeper two pieces of silver[
b] and told him to take care of the man. ‘If his bill runs higher than that,’ he said, ‘I'll pay the difference the next time I am here.’
3 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.”

To his credit, the expert in the law answered Jesus’ question correctly. I believe it’s a question many of my fellow Democrats either ignore or refuse to answer. Partisan politics and attempts to regain political power have blinded them.

Theologically, there is a clear case for intervention, but political expediency seems to have trumped theology for many Democrats and left-thinking people when it comes to Iraq.

How would our communities look if we adopted the philosophy the left applies to Iraq? Earlier in this essay I said that I’ve heard the mantra, “Yes he was a brutal tyrant, but…..” It’s another way of saying that since he wasn’t bothering us we shouldn’t have bothered him. Applied locally, to Emporia, for example, it would sound something like this. “Yes, rapists and murderers are terrible people, but I haven’t been raped or murdered, so there is no reason to intervene.” “Pedophiles do victimize the weak and innocent, but my children have never been brutalized by one, so there is no reason to intervene.” It sounds almost insane, but that’s the crux of the argument many on the left make when it comes to Iraq.

If that philosophy were allowed to dominate it wouldn’t be long till we disbanded all of our law enforcement agencies and burned all the law books. It wouldn’t take long until the muggers, the murderers, the rapists, the pedophiles, the extortionists, the Mafia dons, and criminals of all stripes gained control of our communities. Who knows? Perhaps we could all come to a place where we made accommodations. The criminals could list themselves in the Yellow Pages and the rest of us could call them before we ventured outside our doors. The conversations would be about as sensible as Ionesco’s or the leftist’s syllogism. “Say, I’m Citizen Dillon and I’m planning on walking down Commercial Street later today.
“How long will you be out?”
“About an hour and a half.”
“That’ll be forty-nine, ninety-five, plus tax.”
“Do you take American Express?”
“Gladly.”
“Great, thanks.”
“Don’t forget to keep your confirmation number. That way, if any rogue muggers or murderers try anything you’ll be protected.”
“You’re the greatest. Thanks again.”
“Have a nice day.”

“Silly,” you say. “Unfathomable,” you say. Yes it is, but that’s the exact logic the left is applying to Iraq and the war on terror.

The moral case for intervention is there, whether George Bush has expressed it or not (he actually has). The moral case for intervention is there, despite the fact that the United Nations failed to act on behalf of Saddam’s victims. The moral case has, until the eighties and nineties, when political power shifted to the right, been the strength of the Democratic Party. Their abandonment of principle in no way nullifies the moral case. The moral case is strong, and it is compelling. It’s grounded in sound Democratic politics, just international law, good theology, and common sense interpersonal relations. It’s time for the party of my youth and the fire eaters on the left to see that!

22 comments:

AubreyJ said...

Well said...
Very well done Mr. Dillon.
AubreyJ...........

Jay said...

I love how Bush apologists go to such lengths to convince others that up is down and black is really white.

Or are they just trying to convince themselves?

Anyway...fact: Bush lied about the reason for the war. fact: Bush has no plan about waging the war or how or when it may end. fact: While troops are being killed and maimed by the thousands, Bush the war leader is tucked away on a fake ranch on yet another vacation. fact: The treasury is being looted to the tune of billions of our tax dollars while the economy fragments and oil prices soar through the roof...and Bush's buddies are getting filthy rich with your money.

That must be some really good Kool-Aid you guys drink.

Blue Goldfish said...

Ah, the good-old "Kool-Aid" slap. And talking points I've read somewhere before - oh, perhaps about a zillion times. And that well worn but lovable opening line, "I love how Bush supporters go to such lengths..."

Thanks, also, for the idea for a future post. Note to self: Google the phrase " I love how Bush apologists go to such lengths...".

Can I try it, first, though? OK, here goes:" I love how liberals go to such lengths to use talking points and the word 'fact' to pass as argument and logic. Or are they just trying to convince themselves?"

Cool. Thanks. And thanks also for flashing the V for Victory sign (I agree).

Peace through Victory, Jay.

Gone Away said...

Sometimes it must feel like talking to a brick wall, huh Phil? There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Excellent post, as always.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...

Clive

It seems that way

Jay

maybe if I spell it out in crayon you'll understand. Bill Clinton got us involved in the Balkans. I supported it because it was MORALLY right to do. While he was getting us involved in eastern Europe he and Monica were engaging in fellatio in the oval office. In one case it even happened while Hillary was in church on Easter Sunday morning.

You say that Bush lied (I'd be glad to argue that one in a separate venue), but my point was about the moral case for war. It would do your argument a huge amount of dignity if you would answer the questions or points raised.

I know full well you hate George Bush. I didn't like Bill Clinton, either. But like or dislike of a leader is not the issue.

It would also do your argument a lot more dignity if you would stop letting the media be your ventiloquist.

Jay said...

Still worried about Clinton getting a blow job? Gee...I'm more upset about thousands of troops losing their young lives.

So tell me....what is moral about a president that dismisses all those deaths by saying he needs to get on with his life and rolls away on a bicycle? Tell me what the war is about...since your moral leader can't seem to take time from his vacation to address the issue.

I'm really curious.

ck said...

Great post!

Sin said...

First of all, congrats on a very well thought out and put together post. It's great to see a Democrat whose head isn't up his ... well you know what.

Now Jay:

NONE of those facts that you mentioned ARE facts. You're just another soreheaded sore loser who wouldn't give Bush credit even if he was to end world hunger. People like you are pathetic sheep but, thankfully, you and your talking-point parrotting friends will soon be as relevant as ... New Coke?

Seems like it's YOU who has overdosed on the Kool Aid, buddy.

Rob in L.A. said...

There may be a moral reason for having Saddam Hussein overthrown, but that’s not the case that Bush made. The reason he gave was that Hussein possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, a reason built on faulty evidence, which the White House disingenuously hyped as sound.

For the umpteenth time: If militarily overthrowing Hussein was necessary because he was a bad guy who abused his own people, then that is the argument that Bush should have made for going to war! But it’s doubtful that a majority of Americans would have followed Bush into battle if he had said that. Instead, he misled America about Hussein’s threat to the security of our country. The White House — and presumably Bush himself — knew that much of the evidence that it presented as “proof” of Hussein’s weapons capability — from yellowcake uranium to aluminum tubes — was dubious at best (thus the “British intelligence has learned...” qualifier before the yellowcake assertion in the 2003 State of the Union — the White House knew that the “intelligence” was discredited). Bush also kept insinuating that Hussein was somehow involved with the 9/11 attacks, an insinuation that he continues to make.

Hussein was boxed in by U.N. sanctions and no-fly zones. Unlike the chaos in the Balkans (in which Clinton wisely intervened), he posed no immediate threat to the U.S. or Europe. Yet, to war apologists, anything short of overthrowing Hussein militarily would have been “appeasement.” How continuing the sanctions and no-fly zones would have “appeased” him is far from clear.

This also raises the question of whether invading Iraq militarily was the smartest way to remove Hussein from power. I supported the original 1991 Gulf War (to let Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait stand would have set a terrible precendent), and I was impressed by the elder President Bush’s ability to put together a true and unified coalition. When Bush the First had routed Hussein’s army, he could have easily sent American troops into Baghdad, but he chose not to. He knew that sending forces into that ethnicly divided city would have created deadly chaos around them. Instead, he prudently pulled back. I’m pretty sure that the president was counting on Hussein’s Iraqi Guard overthrowing him, but it didn’t pay off. Still, it was a gutsy gamble, and I respect the elder Bush for having made it. Who knows how many U.S. troops would have perished if he decided differently? By contrast, how many Americans died because of Hussein between victory in the Gulf War and the start of the present President Bush’s invasion of Iraq? (Don’t forget that Hussein had “no collaborative relationship” with al-Qaeda or 9/11.)

As I’ve asked before: How many other strongmen and regimes out there meet Phil’s definition of tyrants worthy of being overthrown? I have already mentioned the junta crushing the people of Myanmar (Burma) and preventing its duly elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, from assuming her office. Should we militarily invade Myanmar, too? When? And how effective can we be with our troops stretched so thin in Iraq?

So, the substance of what the liberal blogger said is true: Bush did not make the moral argument for war as his primary causus belli. He’s making it now because his Chicken Little cries about weapons of mass destruction — his pre-invasion causus belli — has proven untrue. Anyway, I’m sure that Bush hasn’t told us his real reason for wanting to oust Hussein. Whatever it is — avenging or showing up his father, easy U.S. access to Iraqi oil, or something like that — I’m sure that morality had nothing to do with it.

Is seeing Saddam Hussein out of power a good thing? Yes, absolutely. Has the military invasion of Iraq and the ensuing deadly chaos made America safer? Given that the ultimate result could be a Taliban-like theocracy, the jury’s still out on that. Are the more than 1,800 fallen soldiers — and counting — worth the sacrifice? I’ll let their loved ones answer that question.

Blue Goldfish said...

Jay, I suspect you do not have a curious bone in your body.

Sin said...

"Are the more than 1,800 fallen soldiers — and counting — worth the sacrifice? I’ll let their loved ones answer that question.

Aside from the newly radical Sheehan, most families DO feel that their sons were doing a righteous thing. Problem is that the media doesn't like to focus on THOSE families. Why? Because it goes against their anti-Bush agenda.

If a plane is hijacked and heading for imminent impact with a crwded office building and your son happens to take down the perpetrator ... but not soon enough to avoid a bullet ... and eventually dies, would you say that it was worth his life to save so many other people? Was it worth all of those dead soldiers to defeat Hitler and Japan? Was it worth all of the dead soldiers who won us independence from Britain? Probably not either, right? That's not a fair question.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...

Rob

I think you've asked some good questions, particularly the one about how far we should extend our power and when we should.

I'll post something in the early part of enxt week to answer.

If I'm not mistaken you're the commenter who's recuperating and trying to get your writing career back on track. How is that going?

Jay said...

Blue Goldfish,

I suspect you don't have an answer.

I wonder when conservatives are going to notice that they are not getting any from their glorious leader and grow tired of just slamming people who have the backbone to ask questions?

Maybe when their sons start dying or coming home maimed.

A Bronx Tale said...

In a sentence, well said:
George Bush made no moral case for invading Iraq...

Rob in L.A. said...

Sin,

In the examples that you cite for putting lives at risk (World War II, an airplane heading toward a building, etc.), the danger is/was clear and the need for action is/was clear. By contrast, it’s not clear to me that Hussein was a threat to this nation. A number of war apologists are now saying that the danger Hussein posed to the U.S. was painfully obvious, but I don’t see that. Hussein was confined by sanctions, inspections, and no-fly zones; he was effectively a neutered pariah among the Community of Nations. Moreover, as frighteningly repressive as Hussein’s secular regime was, at least he kept a lid on the kinds of theocratic dogmas that were flourishing under the Taliban in Afghanistan — and now, apparently, under the Iraqi insurgency. So, your analogies don’t hold up.

The number of mounting casualties in Iraq deserves attention because in the build-up to war, Bush and his spokespeople did not prepare America for a costly sacrifice. They did not prepare us for a body count in the thousands. Remember Dick Cheney on Meet the Press saying “we’ll be welcomed as liberators” by the Iraqi people? Remember “Mission Accomplished”? I’m sure Bush was expecting war with Iraq to be relatively short and easy, something like the 1991 Gulf War. Instead, what he has gotten us into looks a lot more like Vietnam.

I’m especially bewildered why so many Americans are excusing Bush’s discredited rationales for going to war with Iraq. Even if they think that the overthrow of Hussein was a good thing, they should still be holding Bush accountable for all the exaggerations and misleading statements that he made in the months before the war. Their outlook seems to be: Bush may have misled the American people, but he did so for a good cause. In other words, the end justifies the means. I don’t agree with that.

I also disagree that the media is as liberal as conservatives like to say it is, but that’s a discussion for another time.


Phil,

My recovery is going very slowly. I have gone from seeing hardly any doctors before my surgery to seeing three a week afterwards. At 45 years old, I feel like I am old before my time. Still, I guess that recovery beats the alternative. Thanks for asking.

J. said...

Sheehan is correct in saying that terrorists and acts of terrorism are not contained in one country. They are everywhere... and they hide out in neighboring countries when they know one is being or going to be attacked. Is Bush going to send troops into all neighboring countries and attempt to take them over, too? I remember when President Bush said this war was going to be quick.

Frank Puma said...

Jay,

Its amusing to me to see how you liberals defend Clintons Blow Job and then make argument after argument against a persons smoking habit.

regarding the war, you are all so quick to point out that we have have lost 1,8xx soldiers, and will expend such great time and energy trying to discredit the administration.

Yet on the second hand smoke issue you will run commercials claiming that we lose 53,000 people a year to it, but do not put nearly as much time and energy into it as a cause.

Frank,

Frank Puma said...

j. said...

"I remember when President Bush said this war was going to be quick."

You remember Incorrectly sir!

Jay said...

Frank is right...it was Cheney that actually publically said it would be quick and easy. All the rightwing toadies eachoed it endlessly and called those that doubted "traitors" and worse.

My...how their memories seem to have faded...along with their reasons for the war in the first place.

dog1net said...

"Moral obligation" is not a relativistic term, which is perhaps why most people--Cindy Sheehan included--are struggling with why President Bush has committed our country to Iraq. Excellent post, and an obviously very busy week for you.
Scot

Choicemaker said...

Many problems in human experience are the result of
false and inaccurate definitions of humankind premised
in man-made religions and humanistic viewpoints & hoped-for philosophies.

Human knowledge is a fraction of the whole universe.
The balance is a vast void of human ignorance. Human
reason cannot fully function in such a void; thus, the
intellect can rise no higher than the criteria by which it
perceives and measures values. (The liberals don't get it.)

Humanism makes man his own standard of measure. Ouch!
However, as with all measuring systems, a standard
must be greater than the value measured. (Repeat! Testing later.) Based on
preponderant ignorance and an egocentric carnal
nature, humanism demotes reason to the simpleton
task of excuse-making in behalf of the rule of appe-
tites, desires, feelings, emotions, and glands. (Evidence?)

Because man, hobbled in an ego-centric predicament,
cannot invent criteria greater than himself, the humanist
lacks a predictive capability. (Duh) Without instinct or trans-
cendent criteria, humanism cannot evaluate options with
foresight and vision for progression and survival. (Now we know why.) Lack-
ing foresight, man is blind to potential consequence and
is unwittingly committed to mediocrity, collectivism,
averages, and regression - and worse. (White-cane stuff.) Humanism is an
unworthy worship. (But it fits the liberal personality and ego-appetite so well!) 2 going on 3?

Blue Goldfish said...

Jay, you're funny - in kind of a cliche sort-of-way.

Anyway, Jay, the problems are all out there, arn't they? With all of the others - "those conservatives". Not you. If only we all listened to you and considered carefully your penetrating back-boned questions.

/sarcasm

V - Peace through Victory ... or it through Surrender?