MD Understanding Quality And Power

From: Mark Steven Heyman (
Date: Sun Dec 12 2004 - 14:41:04 GMT

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    Hi Sam,

    Looks like one longish response has come in, after I'd already split
    it into three sections. Sorry for the redundancy. Meanwhile, here's
    more response to your original post in this thread.

    > Sam says that Western style governments are better than the

    msh says:
    Sure. Better than the alternatives, in some ways. And it's
    interesting that the values you mention [trial by jury, justice for
    all, etc] are intellectual not social, in terms of the MOQs moral

    Why interesting? I would call them eudaimonic rather than
    intellectual though, but I don't want to provoke a semantic debate.

    msh says:
    Interesting, I think, because these values were DQ-Inspired
    intellectual patterns that offered some evolutionary "lift" to the
    static social level pattern of patriarchal authority. And I know
    that you prefer the term "eudaimonic" to "intellectual." I admire
    your paper on the subject, and agree with much of it, but wasn't
    quite convinced that emotion should be regarded as the Quality equal
    of intellect. I think I would argue that much emotion--fear, anger,
    jealousy--have deep biological level roots. But that's another

    > msh said:
    > But there are many other so-called American or Western values that
    > are not so clearly worth defending:....

    Absolutely. The issue is which system is more likely to foster
    dynamic improvements, ie which system has the capacity to 'better
    itself' over time. It's the political equivalent of Pirsig's point
    about the pencil being mightier than the pen, isn't it, which is why
    having a regular 'reset' mechanism through democratic elections etc
    gives a high Quality balance between static and dynamic, which has
    generated all the good things we enjoy now - like this forum.

    msh says:
    I don't know about "democratic" elections in the UK, but here they
    hardly appear to be a "reset" mechanism. More like a Quadrennial
    Circus resulting in the occasional transfer of power from one faction
    of the American Business Party to another. There are lots of reasons
    for this, but it is due primarily to the influence of wealth over
    politics. My guess is, even in the UK, you're not getting as much of
    a reset as you imagine. This might be a sub-topic in the Quality of
    Capitalism thread.

    sam said about precision warfare..:
    I still think that our munitions are greatly more targeted than they
    have ever been before, and we take much more care to avoid civilian
    casualties than other cultures.

    > msh responded:
    Well when I hear about "precision bombing" I can't help but think
    about that wry description of Organized Crime: it's not all that
    organized. Here's how I see it. If someone drives a bus at high
    speed through a crowded neighborhood and kills a dozen people, ok
    that's an accident. But if the same guy does the same thing the next
    day and the next day and the next, in what sense can we claim that
    the deaths he causes are unintentional?

    OK, but isn't the argument - we used to have to use a dozen buses,
    now we only have to use one? (For the sake of argument, assuming that
    the main target is a legitimate one)

    msh says:
    Not sure I follow this. It's more like, in the case of the missile
    attack on Baghdad, they used a thousand busses.

    > msh before:
    It's clear to me that governments use aerial assaults rather than
    direct infantry attacks because such assaults, especially when we are
    talking unmanned missiles and stealth aircraft against primitive or
    non-existent anti-aircraft activity, are essentially risk-free to the
    aggressor.... But massive bombing of civilian areas ALWAYS results in
    the indiscriminate killing of civilians.

    The issue is one of proportion, ie are the civilian casualties
    disproportionate to the war aim gained? You haven't made an argument
    here that they are disproportionate (tho' that argument might be
    made, especially if that 100,000 figure is anywhere near accurate).

    msh says:
    Oddly enough, my argument is fundamentally Christian. No innocent
    life is any more or less valuable than any other. I'm surprised I
    have to remind YOU of this :-). But I've made this point elsewhere,
    and will wait for your response.

    > msh continued:
    What follows from this is obvious: the lives of the aggressor's
    fighting men are considered of greater value than the lives of
    innocent civilians living in the nation under attack. This, to me,
    is morally indefensible.

    I mostly agree with this. The 'mostly' is because I don't think it's
    wrong to try and minimise the casualties on your own side. But there
    is something dishonourable about sitting in absolute safety and
    pressing buttons, whilst human beings are being blown apart as a

    msh says:
    But I think it IS wrong to try to minimize your combatant's
    casualties at the expense of the lives of innocent non-combatants,
    you know, women and children sleeping in their apartments. After
    all, this is what the Geneva Conventions are all about. FYI:

    An indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population or
    civilian objects and resulting in excessive loss of life, injury to
    civilians or damage to civilian objects is a grave breach of the
    Geneva Conventions. ( Protocol I, Art. 85, Sec. 3)

    In fact, there have been SO MANY US/UK violations of the GC in the
    prosecution of this "war" that these alone sort of let the air out of
    your "Upholding International Law" argument, which comes next.

    But this is a good place to break. A proper response to your 8-
    pronged argument supporting the attack on Iraq will require a look at
    the actual history leading up to the attack.

    Talk later,
    Mark Steven Heyman (msh)

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