MD Re: Understanding Quality And Power

From: Mark Steven Heyman (
Date: Sun Dec 12 2004 - 04:10:05 GMT

  • Next message: Mark Steven Heyman: "RE: MD Is Morality Relative?"

    Hi Sam,

    Continuing with the neo-con claim that Western Powers use to do bad
    things, but now they've seen the light and will unselfishly strive at
    all times to make the world a better place for everyone...

    > msh says:
    > Well, I think it's wishful thinking to believe that the leadership
    > of the West, after more than 500 years of deliberate and very often
    > extremely brutal power concentration, has suddenly experienced a
    > humanitarian awakening. And there are realpolitik explanations for
    > west's actions in both Kosova and Sierra Leone.

    This would be worth pursuing. I think a strong argument can be made
    for precisely this assertion, that the governments of the West are
    indeed more concerned by humanitarian concerns than their
    predecessors. That doesn't mean it's their main concern, or that they
    shouldn't be even more concerned than they are, it means that present
    governments are better than the governments of 100 years ago, and
    significantly better than governments of 400 years ago. Would you
    disagree with that?

    msh says:
    I think an absolute yes or no is impossible. I think in many
    respects the USG is motivated by public opinion to behave more
    humanely than it did, say, during the Vietnam War. This is one of
    the reasons the government in its attacks against fledgling Central
    American democracies had to go underground (cf The Iran Contra
    Scandal). If they had gone in and started bombing the way they did
    in SE Asia, a public sensitized by US war crimes committed in
    Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, would have been outraged.

    On the other hand, how can we say that the recent near unilateral
    invasion of Iraq is "significantly better" than anything that came
    before? In what sense is this action "humanitarian," when world
    opinion was 10 to 1 against it? How can you ignore the objections of
    90% of humanity and call your action "humane?"

    msh before:
    > So I think a lot of skepticism is warranted. Were this truly the
    > age of the New Humanitarians, I would expect to see at least these
    > events in short order: Cessation of support for Israel in its 37
    > year history of brutal occupation of illegally held Palestinian
    > territories;

    The Israeli/Palestinian situation deserves a thread of its own - can
    we agree to put it to one side?

    msh says:
    Absolutely. :-)

    > immediate discontinuation of all financial, military and
    > business support of all totalitarian governments, not just Cuba and
    > North Korea;

    Actually I think Cuba should be immediately reintegrated into the
    world economy. I would have realpolitik qualms about, say, abandoning
    Musharraf, but in principle, agreed.

    msh says:
    Agree about Cuba. Just wanted to make the point that the only
    totalitarian governments we seem to have a problem with are those of
    a "leftish" persuasion.

    msh continues:
    > immediate and continuous support of all majority UNSC
    > and UNGA resolutions.

    Don't agree with that. You'll need to be more specific about the
    resolutions and their legitimacy - but again that might take us a
    long way from where we are.

    msh says:
    Here, I don't even agree with myself. Of course, we'd need to
    evaluate specific examples. However, I think that some steps can be
    taken toward egalitizing the whole UN voting process. For example,
    the one vote veto of UNSC resolutions has GOT to go. We should
    certainly require a majority of permanent members in vetoing Security
    Council resolutions. This is something that has been talked about,
    but is flatly rejected by the New Humanitarians. Even GA votes tend
    to show a very disconcerting trend, with the US-Israel vote the lone
    dissenters. So even as such resolutions are passed, they are not
    recognized or supported by the US, which has a hughly damaging
    effect on efforts toward a new humanism.

    <SNIP some stuff about Fisk and Pilger, mostly agreed>

    Then Sam said imperialism wasn't bad by definition,

    > msh says:
    > This is a bit sly on your part.


    > I don't think we should quibble
    > amount the meaning of imperialism as violent conquest in the
    > pursuit of material gain versus a rare benevolent imperial act.
    > Do you?

    Actually yes. But this one might fit better in the capitalism
    thread. Have you ever seen Monty Python's "The life of Brian"?

    msh says:
    Ok. But let's always look on the bright side of life. Dee dum, de
    dum, de dum de dum de dum...

    (Break here for length)

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