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Old 01-05-2007, 01:14 PM   #51
Aushion Chatman
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Yeah, thread hijacking 101 in here, but it was a very thought provoking, leading question...so I wouldn't say it's "core" black and white that it was hijacked just your interpretation ; )

Seriously I will check out that book...I have so many I want to read and it just so happens I was going to the bookstore...coincidence?

Have fun with those presses,
Aush
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Old 01-05-2007, 01:58 PM   #52
Neal Winkler
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Dale,

Thanks for the words. Perhaps this is a topic that I should of brought up during peace time. It's just that the quote from the gentleman in the paper got me thinking, so I wanted to go and get some other opinions. My comment about the Nazi prison guards was in no way an allusion to Saddam's guards or anyone else's guards but the Nazi's themselves. All I wanted to do was draw a distinction between morality and the law, and that was the first example that popped into my head.

Aushion,

I'm still not following you. Could you give me an example of different times throughout history in which particular differences in circumstances would effect whether or not soldiers should be concerned about the morality of their orders? I don't see why one set of circumstance should make one group of soldiers care, while other circumstances should make them not.
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Old 01-05-2007, 02:58 PM   #53
Barry Cooper
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Aushion,

I have a very developed system, which I view as midway between subjective and universalizing. It would take WAY too long to get into it here. I've decided to call myself a hybrid rationalist.

Bryan,

In my view, the necessity of victory is non-negotiable. Anything and everything needed to accomplish that goal should be on the table. From what I'm hearing you say, your position is that victory is desirable, provided it is achieved within the framework of law.

We have developed rules of limiting the savagery of which we are all capable. American culture places a high value on human life, and we train our soldiers very well on the ethics and rules of combat.

At the same time, these rules can blind us to fact that war itself is obscene. If we kill someone, whether it is legal or illegal, they are still dead. Bombs are legal. Point blank execution is not.

My point is that in the broader context of war as a whole, things that would be horrible if viewed in isolation are actually kindnesses, if they end the overall obscenity.

The "slippery slope" is an analogy. In actuality, such progressions can be gradual, and limited to necessity. There is no actual gravity pushing us. We have the ability to assess the effects of specific actions, and calibrate, or recalibrate accordingly.

You bring up a good point, with respect to the ubiquity of the media. We would not have won in the Phillipines, with Al Jazeera and other unnamed American and European broadcast services on our backs.

At one of the Certs., I asked some Army SF guys what they needed to win, and their answer was "they need to leave us alone", which I interpreted to mean that they need to be let loose to do their jobs, without cameras, and without the current rules.

Me myself, I break rules constantly. This year, in one of those ironies that make you smile, my company used as a case study a project I did that nearly got me fired. Those types of things, if they work, you're a hero. If they go south, you're gone. Life is risky.

If I'm reading this correctly, we differ mainly in our starting points, but not in the general desirability of the maintenance of basic rules.
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Old 01-05-2007, 06:15 PM   #54
Aushion Chatman
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Hybrid rationalist...cool.

Neal,

I guess all that I've been trying to say in answer to the original question is YES. heh...

The question SHOULD they be concerned, yes...the question ARE they concerned, leads to the differences in who you're talking about IMO. That's something that comes down to the individual soldier. I know there's plenty of military members who adamantly "could care less" about politics, some of my best friends...I feel there is (have no proof for this) less members who "could care less" about morality, but I feel that it is still on an individual basis.

I wasn't trying to say there were any circumstances where one could be excused from the thought process concerning politics and morality, in fact in general it's hard to seperate yourself from your morals...to a less extent your politics.

It's a cop-out to blindly follow orders...but what I was trying to say is that in the heat of the moment you're not going to have time to think about this or that in your decision making, you fall back on what you believe in...and if you feel your life is in danger you fall back on even more basic instincts...

I'm a physicist so I'm not the best at conveying my thoughts in paragraph form heh...Reminds me, I think it was Schrodinger who said if you can't convey your findings your findings are useless...

Or maybe that was Heisenberg...:dunno:
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Old 01-05-2007, 08:45 PM   #55
Bryan Veis
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"In my view, the necessity of victory is non-negotiable. Anything and everything needed to accomplish that goal should be on the table. From what I'm hearing you say, your position is that victory is desirable, provided it is achieved within the framework of law."

Barry, followed to its logical conclusion, your view would lead to some pretty ruthless actions, the kind of actions that centuries of experience in warfare has convinced European/Western thinkers, at least, is pretty undesirable. Simply executing prisoners of war, for example, would be far easier than guarding them, and if manpower is in short supply, then why not? That's what the Germans did to American troops during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and the Russians did to the Polish officer corps in the Katyn Forest in 1939. After the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in Czechoslovakia, the Germans massacred every male over the age of 12 or 13 in the village of Lidice "for the encouragment of others" as they said in the 17th century. It's much easier to machinegun survivivors of a sinking ship than it is to pick them up out of the water, or drop life rafts. Children grow up to be soldiers or mothers of soldiers (the old "nits make lice" argument), so why not simply cut off the enemy's manpower at the source? Do you really want to espouse a principle that goes that far?

"We have developed rules of limiting the savagery of which we are all capable. American culture places a high value on human life, and we train our soldiers very well on the ethics and rules of combat."

"At the same time, these rules can blind us to fact that war itself is obscene. If we kill someone, whether it is legal or illegal, they are still dead. Bombs are legal. Point blank execution is not."

"My point is that in the broader context of war as a whole, things that would be horrible if viewed in isolation are actually kindnesses, if they end the overall obscenity."


That might be true if they actually did "end the overall obscenity." That approach can backfire, though, and lead instead to a war of mutual annihilation. If I know that my enemy will stop at nothing, will rape my women, cut off my children's arms, burn my villages, and torture my parents, then I have no motivation not to do the same to his if I can; I also have no motivation to stop fighting.

"The "slippery slope" is an analogy. In actuality, such progressions can be gradual, and limited to necessity. There is no actual gravity pushing us. We have the ability to assess the effects of specific actions, and calibrate, or recalibrate accordingly."

I think you have too much confidence in your fellow humans. History is replete with incidents, especially at the small unit level where soldiers simply lose control to rage after losing their buddies and wreak havoc on noncombatant bystanders. (I suspect, in fact, that Dale may be representing a Marine accused of such conduct, as there have been such accusations in the news recently.) Never underestimate the possibility of a mob mentality developing under stress and the ability to rationalize those actions after the fact. The rules are there because experience has taught that they are needed to inhibit, if not prevent, extreme and unacceptable actions.

"You bring up a good point, with respect to the ubiquity of the media. We would not have won in the Phillipines, with Al Jazeera and other unnamed American and European broadcast services on our backs."

"At one of the Certs., I asked some Army SF guys what they needed to win, and their answer was "they need to leave us alone", which I interpreted to mean that they need to be let loose to do their jobs, without cameras, and without the current rules."


It's really kind of hard to know what they meant, and in particular which "rules" they would prefer not to have to follow. I can't know, but I suspect you are reading more into those remarks than was there.

"Me myself, I break rules constantly. This year, in one of those ironies that make you smile, my company used as a case study a project I did that nearly got me fired. Those types of things, if they work, you're a hero. If they go south, you're gone. Life is risky."

Barry, the military is not an episode of "24."



(Message edited by Porkchop on January 05, 2007)
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Old 01-05-2007, 09:28 PM   #56
Barry Cooper
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Bryan,

You're setting up a straw man. I am not advocating stupid actions. The criterion is efficacy, not brutality.

I have to say, in a more general way, from the outside looking in, I get the sense sometimes that our military is being run my MBA's. Those of you who want to object to that, that's fine. I can't speak from personal experience.

But when we think about great military leaders, they were men who understood the critical importance of speed, and the establishment of clear dominance. You can't fight a war effectively through five layers of burocracy, or with a requirement for constant recourse to the legal department.

I get the sense sometimes that our wars are being led like a marketing campaign conducted by a large corporation. We send out feelers, see what happens, then make a decision. If one campaign looks like a non-starter, well, we can always develop another one next year.

I know there are people out there in firefights as we speak. I'm not talking about life on the ground. I'm talking about a sense of urgency to fight the bad guys, and start killing them and everyone who helps them until we get clearcut control, and I can't escape the sense that that mission, executed with sufficient force to actually succeed, will involve cases where laws are broken. Right now, what I'm hearing is that our soldiers feel a lot like the LA cops did after the Rodney King riots.

The point I'm trying to make is that if we fail in a major in ANY major front in the GWOT, but especially in Iraq, massive bloodshed will likely result. The exact same crimes that we attempting to avoid with rigid reliance on rules will be perpetrated on the same populations. And that will be our fault.

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Old 01-05-2007, 09:54 PM   #57
Dale F. Saran
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Bryan, I think you and Barry are arguing at different levels of generality. Barry says (if I may paraphrase), in the macro sense, all options should be open, but you point to specific atrocities and say "no, 'cuz this can happen." But I take Barry's point to be, "if that happens once, but in the aggregate the tactics work, it was morally worth it."

Some random thoughts in response to your earlier posts bryan - what about Dresden? How does that fit in to international law frameworks? How about Nagasaki? Hiroshima? Neither of those were manufacturing megalopolises, nor militarily important. They were examples.

Another random thought - with respect to the ROE, have we altered international legal norms with our overwhelming use of PGMs? Post Gulf War, I know someone wrote an article about this in The Army Lawyer. As it relates to this discussion - what if tomorrow McDonnell Douglas or Hughes went bankrupt and we could not afford to use PGMs anymore? So we just said, "f##% it, we're back to iron bombs." And that meant a LOT more "indiscriminate" killing. Say, blocks instea dof just buildings. As Barry says, if that led to bringing order, wouldn't that have been worth it? And would we judge those who dropped or ordered such a campaign as war criminals? How about Sherman's March to the Sea? War crime or necessary to force a population's submission?

Some random shots. Sorry, it's late.
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Old 01-05-2007, 11:30 PM   #58
Bryan Veis
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Barry,

What you are advocating is leaving all decisions to the subjective moral judgment of the guy on the scene with faith on your part that he will use good moral judgment and progress down the path of brutality only as far as necessary to achieve the assigned objective. If we all had the same moral standards and self-control, that might work, but I submit that there are a lot of places things can go wrong. There was a t-shirt that was popular when I was in the service: it said, "Kill 'em all. Let God sort 'em out." In the heat of the moment, that can very easily become reality. In addition, tactical efficiency may well be strategic stupidity. The guys at the front are always about the REMF's; sometimes they are right, but sometimes they are simply unaware of other considerations that militate against maximum tactical efficiency.

Dale,

I can't answer your question about Dresden -- that's been debated for the last 62(?) years and there is no consensus -- as there was not at the time it happened. As to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on balance, I'd say they were justifiable gambles -- we convinced the Japanese with them, even though we had no follow-up. Arguably, they were chosen to minimize casualties -- we could have chosen Tokyo instead. But you get very different opinions from Asians, and the historical record does contain some indications that the Japanese were ready to surrender in any event. I'm biased, of course, because one of my uncles was training for the invasion of the home islands.

But that leads to my next question: I think that the discussion is beginning to conflate issues. Is this a general discussion of the law and morality of war, or is it a sub rosa discussion of the current war? If it is the latter, then I believe that discussions of the morality of Dresden, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki are not very helpful. We are not fighting anything remotely approaching World War II, and we are not going to be firebombing or nuking Baghdad. Moreover, a bad decision in World War II wouldn't justify a bad decision in Iraq -- you still need to address the underlying moral issues.

What we have is a low-level guerilla war in occupied territory. That is not to minimize the moral issues or the seriousness of the situation. But the moral/legal issues presented are more along the lines of "Can/should I shoot the guy in my crosshairs?" or "What can I do to this guy to make him tell me where his buddy, the bombmaker is hiding?" rather than "Can I carpet-bomb entirety of Anbar province?" or "How many daisy-cutters would it take to flatten Fallujah?" What are we discussing here?

The examples I submitted were, I think, more apropos, in that they were all up-close-and-personal - somebody had to look at an individual or group and make the decision to kill him or them. You have added another legitimate area, tactical air support, somewhat less "personal" but not as impersonal as strategic bombing.

The French experience in Algeria may be somewhat analogous. Escalating brutality seems in retrospect to have been very counterproductive.

If we want to talk about Clausewitzian total war, we can, but our current situation is not even close.

Good night, I'm tired, too.
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Old 01-06-2007, 06:03 AM   #59
Lynne Pitts
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Hey Blar,
No sweat. Let me know when you've finished your Tabata HSPU. :whip0000:
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Old 01-06-2007, 07:20 AM   #60
Dale F. Saran
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Lynne - I caught it, but I wasn't going to dime poor Blar out. (Who wants to see someone else get B2B tabata anything!) But I like "Blar".
I have to add this diversion - yesterday I was teaching some high school freshman mock trial and I wrote one of the girls names on the board: "shaylynne" (she doesn't use the 'e', however). One of the kids said something and I said, "oh, sorry, shaylynn." To which she resopnded, "sure, no problem, dave." Hysterical. I thought of you.
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