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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10708/the-un-international-law-and-nuclear-weapons/

The UN, International Law, and Nuclear Weapons

September 24, 2009 by

Lew Rockwell noted on his blog recently some tentative steps towards disarmament between the US and Russia; he’s right: blessed are the peacemakers. And at first glance, the recent UN resolution committing all nations to work for a nuclear weapons-free world might give some cause for hope–though the cynic would think that China, Russia, Europe, and America are simply solidifying their nuclear hegemony, while America is starting to build its case for potential future military action against “rogue” nations (note one purpose of the resolution is to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism”–shades of the buildup to the Iraq war!).

Granted, the UN raises concerns about centralization, one-world government, and socialistic resolutions–but nowadays these concerns are very remote. There is little risk of the Powers giving up their sovereignty to the UN or forming a one-world government under anything but their own aegis; rather, the risk is they will just use the UN for cover to dominate and legitimize attacks on smaller states, as Bush deftly did with Iraq War (who said he’s stupid? he expertly used the international system to get what he wanted). Still, to the extent the UN is less restricted by positive law and legislation, it–in particular its International Court of Justice–is freer to follow traditional concepts of justice in declaring what international law “is”. For this reason, I’ve always had more hope in international law being potentially more libertarian than modern, legislated municipal law. There is no great barrier to considerations of natural law, for example, being drawn on to decide what international law is. That is, despite the (now remote) danger of centralization and one-world government, and despite its being used and manipulated by the Great Powers to dominate other nations, international law is, and should be expected to remain, more libertarian than the laws of individual states.

A case in point is the ICJ’s advisory opinion in 1996 (in response to a request by the UN’s General Assembly) regarding the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons, which I noted on the LRC blog in 2003 (see also the companion case, Legality of the Use by a State of Nuclear Weapons in Armed Conflicts. See, in particular, the heroic dissenting opinion (PDF) of Judge Weeramantry of Sri Lanka, which was (quoting from the unofficial summary):

based on the proposition that the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons is illegal in any circumstances whatsoever. It violates the fundamental principles of international law, and represents the very negation of the humanitarian concerns which underlie the structure of humanitarian law. It offends conventional law and, in particular, the Geneva Gas Protocol of 1925, and Article 23(a) of the Hague Regulations of 1907. It contradicts the fundamental principle of the dignity and worth of the human person on which all law depends. It endangers the human environment in a manner which threatens the entirety of life on the planet.

He regretted that the Court had not so held, directly and categorically.

Judge Weeramantry’s Opinion explained that from the time of Henri Dunant, humanitarian law took its origin and inspiration from a realistic perception of the brutalities of war, and the need to restrain them in accordance with the dictates of the conscience of humanity. The brutalities of the nuclear weapon multiplied a thousand-fold all the brutalities of war as known in the pre-nuclear era. It was doubly clear therefore that the principles of humanitarian law governed this situation.

His Opinion examined in some detail the brutalities of nuclear war, showing numerous ways in which the nuclear weapon was unique, even among weapons of mass destruction in injuring human health, damaging the environment, and destroying al1 the values of civilization.

The nuclear weapon caused death and destruction; induced cancers, leukaemia, keloids and related afflictions; caused gastro intestinal, cardiovascular and related afflictions; continued, for decades after its use, to induce the health-related problems mentioned above; damaged the environmental rights of future generations; caused congenital deformities, mental retardation and genetic darnage; carried the potential to cause a nuclear winter; contaminated and destroyed the food chain; imperilled the eco-system; produced lethal levels of heat and blast; produced radiation and radioactive fall-out; produced a disruptive electromagnetic pulse; produced social
disintegration; irnperilled al1 civilization; threatened human survival; wreaked cultural devastation; spanned a time range of thousands of years; threatened all life on the planet; irreversibly damaged the rights of future generations; exterminated civilian populations; damaged neighbouring States; produced psychological stress and fear syndromes–as no other weapons do.

While it was true that there was no treaty or rule of law which expressly outlawed nuclear weapons by name, there was an abundance of principles of international law, and particularly international humanitarian law, which left no doubt regarding the illegality of nuclear weapons, when one had regard to their known effects.

Among these principles were the prohibition against causing unnecessary suffering, the principle of proportionality, the principle of discrimination between combatants and civilians, the principle against causing damage to neutral States, the prohibition against causing serious and lasting damage to the environment, the prohibition against genocide, and the basic principles of human rights law.

In addition, there were specific treaty provisions contained in the Geneva Gas Protocol (1925), and the Hague Regulations (1907) which were clearly applicable to nuclear weapons as they prohibited the use of poisons. Radiation directly fell within this description, and the prohibition against the use of poisons was indeed one of the oldest rules of the laws of war.

Judge Weeramantry’s Opinion also draws attention to the multicultural and ancient origins of the laws of war, referring to the recognition of its basic rules in Hindu, Buddhist, Chinese, Judaic, Islamic, African, and modem European cultural traditions. As such, the humanitarian rules of warfare were not to be regarded as a new sentiment, invented in the nineteenth century, and so slenderly rooted in universal tradition that they may be lightly overridden.

… Judge Weerarnantry’s analysis includes philosophical perspectives showing that no credible legal system could contain a rule within itself which rendered legitimate an act which could destroy the entire civilization of which that legal system formed a part. Modern juristic discussions showed that a rule of this nature, which may fmd a place in the rules of a suicide club, could not be part of any reasonable legal system – and international law was pre-eminently such a system.

The Opinion concludes with a reference to the appeal in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto to “remember your humanity and forget the rest”, without which the risk arises of universal death. In this context, the Opinion points out that international law is equipped with the necessary array of principles with which to respond, and that international law could contribute significantly towards rolling back the shadow of the mushroom cloud, and heralding the sunshine of the nuclear-free
age.

The question should therefore have been answered by the Court–convincingly, clearly, and categorically.

(Incidentally, Judge Higgins, who wrote this dissenting opinion in that case, was my professor at London School of Economics in 1991-92; she was a main inspiration for my intense interest and publications on international law; I reviewed her classic Problems and Process: International Law and How We Use It.)

Note how Weeramantry’s opinion relies on general, traditional principles of international law and even appeals to general legal theory, common sense and notions of common decency, the universal, humanitarian laws of warfare as recognized in various cultures, etc. Such appeals to tradition, common sense, general legal principles, in at least an attempt to do justice, to find a just solution or answer, is increasingly impossible in municipal systems that are mired with positivism and legislation as the primary source of positive law. In such a system, the judge is not free to try to do justice; his job becomes that of a technician trying to interpret the vague, conflicting words of a statute decreed by a legislature. (For more on this, see Another Problem with Legislation: James Carter v. the Field Codes; also my posts Higher Law and Live by the centralism, die by the centralism; also my article Legislation and the Discovery of Law in a Free Society, in particular section III.D, “The Proliferation of Laws.”)

(Other resources on international law are collected on legal website here.)

[LRC cross-post; Mises cross-post]

{ 31 comments }

Dick Fox September 25, 2009 at 6:40 am

Stephan,

How can you be so naieve.

First, do you know of any goverrnment that has not drifted toward autocratic and dictatorial control? And you say you could support one world government?

Second, the US federal government has usurped the state governments and now state citizens have no where to turn for national governmental competition, as the founders intended btw. With a one world government where can we go? What is the competition?

Third, can you name one disarmament agreement in history that has worked? Governments throughout history have attempted to control the innovations of war and have failed. Such governmental action does nothing but give a rationale for military adventure.

mpolzkill September 25, 2009 at 8:34 am

Dick Fox,

You made me read this three times, I still can’t see where you are getting your take. Please point to where he says he supports one world government?!? What a strange response to Kinsella’s admiring a toothless man who, as he says, at least ATTEMPTS to do justice, to find a just solution. Is even the pronouncement of your government’s terrible crimes too much for you?

Also, please give an example of your final assertion. I’m not sure what you are talking about here either. The U.S. adventure in Iraq was caused by the U.S. attempt to control innovation? Did this begin the minute they stopped helping them innovate on Iranians?

Gil September 25, 2009 at 8:56 am

Yeah, the U.S. should disband its nuclear arsenal by auctioning them off to private invidivuals. They would probably go nicely with many people’s guns, gold, ammo and canned food (and can opener, of course).

King George November 9, 2010 at 10:30 pm

lol…

Stephan Kinsella September 25, 2009 at 9:06 am

Dick Fox:

Your comment is bizarre. You seem not to have read my post closely, or to have understood it. I did not advocate a one world government. In fact I acknowledged this is one concern with the UN, but I believe this danger is very remote and not the most pressing. And why you are blaming me for the failure of state’s to control their weapons is beyond me.

mpolzkill September 25, 2009 at 9:27 am

Why not a nuclear can opener? That’ll show that can who’s boss!

fundamentalist September 25, 2009 at 9:31 am

Judge Weeramantry’s opinion on nuclear weapons sounds very much like the socialist opposition to guns in the US. Maybe the atomic bombs used on Japan were used according to international law; I don’t understand why the US didn’t drop them on the massed troops in the south of Japan, which would have been legal.

But that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to use them in war in a lawful way, especially with the advances in technology. For example, nuclear bombs used to be very large because missile technology was very bad; you had to blow up a large area in order to make sure you got your target. Today, nuclear weapons are much smaller because accuracy is much greater.

The main use of nuclear weapons in future wars will be to destory underground bunkers. Israel found that it couldn’t destroy Hezb-allah’s underground fortresses in Lebanon with conventional weapons, and so ordered some of our nuclear bunker busters. The warheads are small and the radiation will be contained underground for the most part, although some leakage is inevitable.

Just as with guns, if the “civilized” world gets rid of all nuclear weapons rogue nations will acquire them and hold the rest of us hostage. All that international law banning nuclear weapons will accomplish is to make sure that only criminal nations will have them.

mpolzkill September 25, 2009 at 9:59 am

fundamentalist,

I’ve asked you this before: what kind of Christian are you? (I know you are the kind that likes to call the ancient Israelites in the Bible: Israelis, that was a new kind to me) You must have meant “Maybe the atomic bombs used on Japan WEREN’T used according to international law”. Still, the “maybe”!

“some leakage is inevitable” You remind me of that other great Christian (myriad anti-theists actually claim that) Joseph Stalin, in his famous comment about eggs and omelets.

All you speak of is “tactical” nukes. So, you ARE against the nukes that are specifically for threatening other gangster’s herds, right? Aren’t those the weapons the judge was referring to? How on earth can you compare those weapons to hand guns?

“All that international law banning nuclear weapons will accomplish is to make sure that only criminal nations will have them”

And that would be different than today, how? Oh, because YOUR government is good, the only country to slaughter innocent women and children with nuclear weapons. The government that was beyond instrumental in proliferating nukes in the first place. If a body of sane men could disarm this band of lunatics, they could surely stifle or disarm far smaller ones.

mpolzkill September 25, 2009 at 10:07 am

fundamentalist said:

“I don’t understand why the US didn’t drop them on the massed troops in the south of Japan, which would have been legal.”

Because you apparently don’t understand what they are. Russ put it well in another forum, they are for threatening your enemy’s population, and it must be understood that the wielder is fully prepared for mega mass murder. Those incinerated Japanese women and children were all little messages to Stalin.

Gil September 25, 2009 at 11:08 am

After having a read from Wiki:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

This shows that the two cities were valid military targets and not merely quaint civilian populations that mpolzkill would have us believe. Besides Americans bombing Japanese women and children is hardly on par with bombing American women and children or Chinese women and children. Americans were at war with Japan and the Japanese women and children were ‘doing their bit’ for the war effort and were hardly innocent. The Japanese women and children would have been supporting their husbands in hoping they overpower America.

“. . . it must be understood that the wielder is fully prepared for mega mass murder.”

Then the dipshit Japanese shouldn’t have bombed Pearl Harbor and start a war with the U.S.! The Americans didn’t doom l’il Japanese women and children, the Japanese military did. If the Japanese military really cared about their women and children then they would send them far away from legitimate military targets. Besides what the Americans did doesn’t amount to murder except to certain pacifists who weep for everyone regardless of their actions.

To make an analogy, suppose you were being mugged by some guy with a gun but you have gun too. Suppose he takes your wife hostage and tells you to put down your gun or he’ll shoot her? Suppose he takes his own wife hostage and tells you to put down your gun or he’ll shoot her? Why would care about his wife? She’s probably in on the act.

“Those incinerated Japanese women and children were all little messages to Stalin.”

No kidding! If you found a burglar in your house and cracked his head open and put him in hospital where he’s going to have part of skull replaced with a metal plate then that will send one hell of a better message to anyone who would dare to burglarise your home than running to your ‘safe room’ and let the burglar have a free run in your house.

BioTube September 25, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Gil, women and children didn’t attack Pearl Harbor.

mpolzkill September 25, 2009 at 12:11 pm

http://www.doug-long.com/quotes.htm

The policy espoused by this person who just did the extensive study in the last half hour of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atrocities is evil. It is the policy praised by Ward Churchill when he said that all the workers in the WTC were, quote: “little Eichmanns”. It was evil when Osama bin Laden executed the policy on 9/11, it was evil when Truman executed it. (and far more so and far LESS plausible!)

I did not read anything past this, I’m sure it’s more of the same.

mpolzkill September 25, 2009 at 12:16 pm

BioTube,

He’s doing well to get that close.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8lT1o0sDwI

fundamentalist September 25, 2009 at 1:45 pm

mpolzkill: “”Maybe the atomic bombs used on Japan WEREN’T used according to international law”.

Yes, that’s what I meant. Sorry I didn’t catch the typo.

mpolzkill: “Oh, because YOUR government is good, the only country to slaughter innocent women and children with nuclear weapons.”

If you define good as obeying international law, MY country is among the good, though not perfect. If international law required the abandonment of all nuclear weapons, then the law abiding (hence good) nations would get rid of them and the outlaw nations (hence bad) would keep them. That relates to guns because in cities where law abiding citizens can’t have guns for self defense, only criminals have guns and they have a lot of them.

It’s interesting to me that the Japanese never complained about our bombing of civilians. (BTW, We killed far more women and children with fire bombing campaigns than we did with the atomic bombs, but few people today seem to care about that.) Anyway, the Japanese never had the idea that civilians were off limits. That concept of warfare was adopted for the first time in history by the Dutch Republic in its war for independence, in spite of the atrocities against civilians committed by the Spanish armies. The concept then spread to much of Western Europe and the US, but nowhere else. In fact, most of the world outside of Europe and the US consider civilians fair game in warfare and think that our concern for civilians is nothing but a sign of our weakness.

So while we beat ourselves up for killing civilians, the Japanese never seemed to have considered it wrong.

mpolzkill: “…they are for threatening your enemy’s population…”

That is judging other peoples’ motives, which no human has the ability to do, so it doesn’t mean anything. My reading of the actual motives of military leaders, those expressed by themselves, is that they thought the Japanese military and the Emperor actually cared about the population, so by killing large number of the population they could get the Emperor and military to surrender. They were mistaken. Intercepted radio transmission by the Japanese military after fire bombing raids show that they took no notice of the mass deaths. The military command was totally unconcerned with how many civilians we killed. Of course, they had even less concern for their troops, so there appeared no way to get them to surrender. The Emperor decided to surrender only when it appeared that he would have no subjects left to rule over and that annoyed him a little bit.

mpolzkill September 25, 2009 at 2:05 pm

fundamentalist,

[You HAVE read the massive list of quotes from military leaders that I linked above?]

Do you believe that Nietzsche was correct when he said the the only Christian who ever lived died on the cross? Is this why you fell no compunction to emulate him? How about “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding?”

Reading this, you definitely want to revisit that one.

“So while we beat ourselves up for killing civilians…”

I never beat myself up over any such thing. My country is not the same as this monstrous government, and I thought your Kingdom was not of this world.

Stephan Kinsella September 25, 2009 at 2:05 pm

fundamentalist: “Just as with guns, if the “civilized” world gets rid of all nuclear weapons rogue nations will acquire them and hold the rest of us hostage. All that international law banning nuclear weapons will accomplish is to make sure that only criminal nations will have them.”

Love to see supposed libertarians in favor of criminal states possessing WMD to “protect” us.

Dick Fox September 25, 2009 at 2:38 pm

1. “Granted, the UN raises concerns about centralization, one-world government, and socialistic resolutions–but nowadays these concerns are very remote.”

Are concerns about one world government remote, of no concern? When in history has an American President chaired the Security Council? Are there not calls for the UN or the IMF to take control of the money supply?

2. “despite the (now remote) danger of centralization and one-world government, and despite its being used and manipulated by the Great Powers to dominate other nations, international law is, and should be expected to remain, more libertarian than the laws of individual states.”

Is international law actually more libertarian than individual states?

3. Lew Rockwell noted on his blog recently some tentative steps towards disarmament between the US and Russia; he’s right: blessed are the peacemakers.

I may be wrong but isn’t this a praise of “disarmament between the US and Russia?”

Russ September 25, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Gil wrote:

“If the Japanese military really cared about their women and children then they would send them far away from legitimate military targets.”

Sorry, Gil, but even the web page that you linked to points out that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were chosen as potential targets because they were large urban areas, and as such the deaths would be more likely to provoke a profound psychological response (despair, surrender) than nuking purely military targets would. Besides, any large industrial area is naturally going to have a large population; it must, to provide labor. An analogy would be if the Japanese nuked Detroit, and then said that if the Americans didn’t want their civilians killed, they should have moved them away from the military/industrial plants in the Detroit area. Ludicrous.

I do agree, though, that if the Japanese government didn’t want their people killed, then sucker attacking the USA was a pretty stupid way of trying to achieve that goal. Also, they started a war that pointed their entire economy in a war direction. When they did that, they should have expected that we would recognize this, and would consider their entire economy a target.

Peter September 25, 2009 at 6:40 pm

Besides Americans bombing Japanese women and children is hardly on par with bombing American women and children or Chinese women and children. Americans were at war with Japan and the Japanese women and children were ‘doing their bit’ for the war effort and were hardly innocent.

So can I assume you’d have had no problem with Japan or Germany bombing American cities to kill Rosie the Riveter, too?

Gil September 25, 2009 at 9:30 pm

Golly, mpolz & friends, if an army can’t attack a military target because there’s going to be women and children in the area then all the enemy has to do is make sure all military targets have plenty of women and children. “Nah! Nah! Na! Nah! Nah! You can’t hurt us or else you’ll kill women and children and get into lots of trouble!”

fundamentalist September 25, 2009 at 9:32 pm

Kinsella: “Love to see supposed libertarians in favor of criminal states possessing WMD to “protect” us.”

So what would should a country that has no nuclear weapons do when threatened by one that has nuclear weapons?

Russ: “the deaths would be more likely to provoke a profound psychological response (despair, surrender) than nuking purely military targets would. ”

Yes, and that was a big mistake. They assumed the Japanese military command thought as we do and would be devastated by mass casualties. That was a big mistake. Even the two atomic bombs didn’t persuade the military to surrender. They held onto the idea that Americans were soft and tired of fighting and so would negotiate a settlement rather than invade the main island. But when the USSR entered the war, they Japanese military was very much afraid of the Soviets and decided surrender to the US was the lesser evil. Bottom line–every enemy since WWI has perceived the US as weak. It encourges them to attack and to hold out in hope that we will just get tired of fighting and quit.

The US should not have bombed civilians, either with fire bombing or with atomic bombs. It was immoral and many US military commanders recognized that. And it didn’t help end the war at all. The best use of the A-bomb would have been on the troop concentrations in southern Japan. The Japanese commanders didn’t care about their troops, but they did care about having troops.

I’d like to introduce another topic related to international law and war. Since Vietnam the US has relied on sanctions to prevent a shooting war. But if I understand international law, hindering trade is a violation. In addition, economic sanctions never hurt the leadership of a target nation at all. Saddam Hussein was a perfect example. Sanctions hurt the people immensely but strengthened his power. It’s the same old mistake we made with the Japanese in thinking that the leadership gave two bits for the lives of their slaves. They don’t and never have. If not already, economic sanctions should be illegal under international law.

Russ September 26, 2009 at 8:44 am

fundamentalist wrote:

“The US should not have bombed civilians, either with fire bombing or with atomic bombs. It was immoral and many US military commanders recognized that. And it didn’t help end the war at all.”

This is debateable. According to the wiki page Gil linked to, even after the Soviets declared war, the Japanese still didn’t surrender. They only did that six days after Nagasaki was bombed, and the bomb was mentioned as a factor in Hirohito’s surrender speech.

An invasion of Japan could have killed millions. A generous estimate of the number killed in the bombings was a quarter million. Which is more immoral?

“The best use of the A-bomb would have been on the troop concentrations in southern Japan.”

The war did end six days after Nagasaki. It’s hard to say what would have happened if they used the bombs as you suggest.

fundamentalist September 26, 2009 at 9:17 am

Russ: “It’s hard to say what would have happened if they used the bombs as you suggest.”

Yes, and I normally don’t like to play the counter factual history game. Based on what I have learned about the Japanese military, I was just making a best guess. The Japanese military didn’t want to surrender even after the second A-bomb. They assumed that we had just 2 or 3 at the most. They were intent on saving their own hides. There was even an attempt to kidnap the emperor to prevent him from announcing the surrender over the radio. The military command would never have surrendered had the emperor not ordered them to.

The military command clearly didn’t care how many civilians we killed. I think they preferred that we kill civilians instead of their troops because their soldiers were their best defense. Had we dropped both bombs on the troops in the south, we might have decimated their military and destroyed any hope of a negotiated ending.

The thinking behind killing civilians then is similar to the thinking behind sanctions today: make the people unhappy and they’ll force the government to change. But sanctions have failed in every single situation for the past 60 years. There isn’t a single example of their success. They fail because the dictators don’t care how much we torture their people.

The Japanese military command could not have care less how many civilians we killed. The emperor didn’t seem to care either until it appeared to him that we might be able to kill every last subject of his so that he would be an emperor without any subjects.

fundamentalist September 26, 2009 at 9:21 am

PS, the Japanese were an honor culture. The US used to have an honor culture about 200 years ago, but it’s very difficult for Americans to understand honor cultures. In fact I would say it’s impossible. Honor cultures still exist in much of Asia and the Middle East. Honor cultures prefer death to dishonor. That’s one reason the Japanese were so difficult to defeat. Surrender was not an option, so why would they surrender to save the lives of women and children?

We face an honor culture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Until we face that reality, all efforts at ending the war will fail.

Russ September 26, 2009 at 11:05 am

fundamentalist wrote:

“We face an honor culture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Until we face that reality, all efforts at ending the war will fail.”

You are right, but as you point out, the Japanese were an honor culture, too, and look at them now.

The Muslims are definitely an honor culture, true. But I think the Muslims are a culture that also has a keen sense for detecting weaknesses (except their own, which they seem to have trouble acknowledging). They respect strength. If we did nothing after 9/11, I think that would have been the worst thing we possibly could have done. Smacking down the regimes that were sponsoring terrorism, and the insurgents who tried to take advantage of the situation, and then dealing magnanimously with the citizens afterwards, is a sign of strength. I think the only other possible option, militarily speaking, was to kill them all and let Allah sort them out. Probably less libertarian, all things considered. Doing nothing would have been like giving Hitler Sudetenland; a palpable sign of weakness of will. It would have been like chumming the water.

mpolzkill September 26, 2009 at 11:52 am

Russ: “If we did nothing after 9/11″

Who suggested doing nothing? Why didn’t “YOU” (I’m inspired by such enlightened non-collectivist language around here) *actually* set about getting the criminals who perpetrated the heinous act, and when that was completed with all haste, acknowledge massive wrongdoing, pay reparations, then permanently withdraw from *their* lands with the promise that *further* attacks would be dealt with more severely, should they occur? (which, judging by the fact that America has never suffered a purely unprovoked attack from another nation or people, would be highly unlikely)

Of course this does not matter because “you” don’t do anything at all, as you have as close to zero effect on what your masters do as is conceivable. (The consent of the 99% of you does matter though, naturally)

I’m also greatly amused by the general impression given by American “educated” people on how the (truly horryfying) German and Japanese empires seem to have emerged fully formed out of hell or something. Your brand of “realism” writ large, made them, it can not stop such phenomena from eternally recurring. You think you stop them, but you just get weaker and more corrupt yourself.

newson September 26, 2009 at 8:16 pm

to russ:
pearl harbour was no “sucker punch”.
http://mises.org/daily/216

criminal actions like 9/11 would be better pursued through the courts. a breathtaking bounty (not just the paltry few million offered by the fbi) could have attracted hunters from all parts of the world (muslim included), prepared to risk life and limb to bring the perpetrators to the usa. an alive bin laden, answering to a us judge, would have also sent a powerful message to the arab world.

instead, hard power has proved fruitless, and bin ladin’s probably watching cnn right now as he gets dialysis in some comfortable clinic. so much for state “intelligence”, maybe privateers would have been more adroit. and much cheaper, to boot.

it’s smarter to have strength than to use it, and the al quaida strategists must have realized how quickly america could be drained by bogging her down in war. arabs can read national accounts, too.

the honour-culture is a weak one, not one we should be afraid of. the great strength of western culture is its tolerance for mistakes, which enables progress. pride goeth before the fall.

newson September 26, 2009 at 9:27 pm

more on the “sucker punch” here, too:
http://mises.org/daily/688

whilst i have enormous contempt for those who start wars, i don’t like judging the rights and wrongs of those doing the fighting. war is brutish, and using a bayonet to disembowel your opponent is no more noble than dropping an a-bomb on his head.

which is gentler, to club an enemy combatant to death in a hand-to-hand (heroic! get a purple heart!), or to burn him to death with white phosphorus (unsportsmanlike!)?

there’s little point agonizing over “better” ways to do evil deeds.

scott t September 26, 2009 at 9:33 pm

an oil conflict over slant drilling and the horrors of babies pulled form incubators….and that gets turned into (so the news said) 500k soldiers sent to the arabian peninsula so the agression of babies pulled from incubators wont stand? was i the only one decieved?
isnt killing innocent arabs ultimate judgement?

fundamentalist September 27, 2009 at 8:55 am

Russ: “You are right, but as you point out, the Japanese were an honor culture, too, and look at them now.”

Yes, the Japanese have built an amazing country after the war. I think some of the credit can go to Douglass MacArthur who seemed to understand honor cultures well. When accepting the surrender, he wore no tie and coat, while the Japanese wore tuxedos it appears. He said he did that to humiliate them, which was the only way to make them change.

Today, the US military follows a strategy of “win their hearts and minds.” And that’s why they put so many restrictions in the rules of engagement. But in honor cultures, that ensures nothing but contempt for us and inspires counter insurgencies. Our perceived weakness in the minds of honor cultures is a great recruiting tool for terrorists. We don’t have the stomach to fight as we did in WWII, which is one reason I say quit fighting. Leave people alone.

Russ: “I think the only other possible option, militarily speaking, was to kill them all and let Allah sort them out.”

I understand your thinking, but I think there was an alternative–the Reagan strategy. Fund and supply the opposition and let them do the fighting. There was plenty of opposition in Iraq to Saddam Hussein, especially the Kurds, to overthrow him if we merely supplied them adequately.

The Afghan situation just blows my mind. We followed the right strategy at first in supplying the Northern Alliance and letting them kick out the Taliban, but then we decided that they can’t keep the Taliban out and we have to take over. What kind of nonsense is that? We should get out of Afghanistan and supply the government with whatever weapons and air support they want.

newson: “which is gentler, to club an enemy combatant to death in a hand-to-hand (heroic! get a purple heart!), or to burn him to death with white phosphorus (unsportsmanlike!)?”

I agree. War is not a sporting event. It’s about mass killing. If you don’t like mass killing, then please quit starting all of these senseless wars.

King George November 9, 2010 at 10:35 pm

Anyone who pretends that war isn’t about destroying the other enemy’s will to fight is deluding themselves. It’s not a fvcking playground game or a video game… whatever makes you win is justified in the eyes of the fighter. The only thing constraining this is modern awareness of the results. Mongolians could have gotten away with murdering 40 million Chinese, and while the western nations got away with burning German and Japanese cities to the ground, there’s a reason they didn’t fight that way in Baghdad, though it would be so easy to just dump daisy cutters all over the city… and this damping effect is a good thing. War might not end, but the costs of waging war are rising every day.

I only wish that people saw democide and the errors of communism as egregious as war itself. Hitler is despised by his own people, yet Stalin and Mao are still celebrated and remembered fondly, and there are statues of both in the USA. People feel pride in wearing T-shirts of these mass-murderers. I don’t know why this isn’t seen in the same light as wearing a T-shirt of Hitler or a swastika. It should be.

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