Terrorism as "collateral damages"

Discussion in 'Ethics, Morality, & Justice' started by S.A.M., Mar 3, 2010.

  1. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    This and that

    And I reject the notion that a drone pilot thousands of miles away from the civilians he is murdering is some sort of automaton.

    The hamster is not the moral agent, but the person who flips the switch that starts the machine that causes the balloon to pop in order to scare the hamster into running on its wheel, which causes a small boot on a stick to go 'round in a circle and kick a lever that causes the billiard ball to roll down the track and fall into the bucket, causing it to descend on a rope and pulley, resulting in a gear being turned that causes the restraint to open so that the bowling ball can fall on someone's head is.

    Ignoring the person who flips the switch that starts the machine that drops the bowling ball to crush someone's skull is the produce of presuppositions suggestive of your bias in this case.

    That works for the hamster. But what is the moral difference, in your opinion, between walking into a crowd of people and setting off a bomb, or playing the video game that flies the real model airplane to launch a rocket into that crowd of people, blowing them up all the same?

    • • •​

    The obvious advice is prohibited by the rules.

    And the condition of he who avoids the question in order to presuppose about the questioner is quite obvious.
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  3. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Okay. Was that in dispute?

    Where did I do that?

    I have suggested that there is no "start" to the "machine" in question (i.e., geopolitics) and so that the search for a "prime mover" in this sense is ill-founded. But I'm not sure where you're coming from, with this stuff about literal mechanical remove in specific attacks.

    There isn't one. Did I say there was?

    There might be one, if there were legitimate targets in that crowd in one case and not the other, but I don't see where that's come up.

    Last I checked, this thread was about the premise that anti-Western terrorism is a mechanical response to US foreign policy, devoid of moral agency in its own right. I.e., Al Qaeda are held to be "hamsters" in your analogy. This isn't about whether foot-soldiers have agency apart from their political masters, but whether polities besides America have agency at all. I don't buy the premise that they don't.

    Not that I think the OP is truly serious about that proposition. It's a cheap, intentional misinterpretation of "collateral damage" employed for nothing beyond the pretext it generates to slam America and excuse terrorism. It's trolling.
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

    Unless it were discussed in other terms, by the responders.

    To what extent is the launching of various terrorist factions, newly armed and freed of accountability, against the Iraqi people, a "collateral damage" of the US invasion?
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  7. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

    Probably a similar one to the extent to which the US invasion of Iraq was a "collateral damage" of the 9/11 attacks.
  8. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    As is my inevitable response.

    If only there had been any avoidance. Ah well.
  9. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    This and that

    It was the underlying question

    Or, to consider the validity of the question, does it matter so much whether one plunges the knife into the heart, or flips the switch that starts the Rube Goldberg process that drops the bowling ball to crush their skull? Or, in that latter case, can we blame the hamster running frantically in his wheel at stage 27?​

    —but you chose to focus on the bit about the hamster:

    "It does if the hamster is a moral agent in his own right. And to that question, I reject the notion that terrorists are some sort of automata. This sort of moral reductionism makes a hash of reality, and in any case is only being applied selectively and cravenly to provoke one side while exhonerating the other: it's destructive, and done in bad faith."​

    My counterpoint to your correct assertion that terrorists are not automata was to refocus on the actual question.

    When you focused on the hamster. Or the bit about terrorists and bullets.

    Thank you.

    It's the fundamental question you've been ducking. You know, because you were "feeling less than generous about this thread" because you "don't believe it was started for honorable reasons".

    And if that's the case, then leave it be for the people who do find value in the question. That is, don't try to drag the thread down with fallacious comparisons of people and bullets.

    Really, if you feel that way about the thread, go complain to James. He doesn't care what the facts actually are; all he needs is an excuse, and he'll suspend S.A.M. in order to spare everyone else the prospect of considering a valid question.

    An interesting interpretation. But also as wrong as could be. And no wonder, given your presuppositions in this discussion. The hamster is a microchip, or a communications port, or the drone aircraft. Do you understand what a Rube Goldberg machine is?

    You appear to be letting your animosity guide you.

    And that's what you want it to be about. I would suggest it's more a question of whether the rhetorical distinctions applied to make one willful destruction of innocent human beings evil and another just are actually functional.

    Your opinion is simply that. And it's not very well founded. If there isn't a moral difference between one willful killing of civilians and another, therein lies your answer to the proposition.

    • • •​

    It's an obsolete definition, and thus abstract insofar as it is no longer applicable.

    Once upon a time, say, September 10, 2001 and before, a terrorist was one who deliberately attacked civilians only. Even then, it was a shaky definition, but common enough that I don't take issue with it. In the present War on Terror, any enemy is a terrorist, even if they attack military targets. Pretending otherwise, as Joe's response does, is disingenuous.
  10. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    No I'm asking you. What fundamental changes resulted from carpet bombing Hamburg [or Tokyo] that lead you to say that it "worked"?

    As far as I am aware, bombing Germany was unnecessary once their forces were divided and they came up against the poor weather and immense numbers of the Soviet Union. Bombing Tokyo had no effect that I can ascertain, since far more were killed when Japan was strafed than when the equally unnecessary nuclear bombs were thrown.

    So when you say it "worked", on what do you base this assertion?
  11. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Two cents or so

    I cannot presume to answer for Ben, but I would remind that, for most Americans, the ends justify the means insofar as we won the war and defeated the Nazi evil; therefore, carpet bombing worked.

    Questions of necessity are often too complicated for people insofar as the issues you suggest—

    —are generally considered the realm of specialists.
  12. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    I am puzzled really. At the height of its power, Nazi Germany could not get support from more than a third of Germans, this is assuming that this third was being honest and was well informed and complicit, sharing the ideology of the Third Reich. Based on general trends I would suggest that the German propoganda machinery was at least as effective as the American one is now, minus the advantages of the electronic age. And I would bet even money that most people who bough Mein Kampf did not even read it. [Just as most people paid more attention to Obama's eloquence than his ideas]

    How can killing vast numbers of these people have any effect on the outcome of war?

    edit: A good essay here on Germans under Hitler

  13. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Broken promises; the looking glass smashed

    In truth, I think that's a more modern perspective. That is, the proposition has the weight it does in part because of what we have learned from such endeavors in the past.

    That's why they exclaimed, "Never again!"

    Unfortunately, it was a promise they could not keep.

    Too bad about that.

    And still the dark stain spreads between their shoulder blades.
    A mute reminder of the poppy fields and graves.
    When the fight was over, we spent what they had made; but—
    In the bottom of our hearts, we felt the final cut.

    (Roger Waters)
  14. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    You raise an interesting point S.A.M

    Consider Hamburg.
    The primary targets were the Oil refineries, Blohm and Voss, the U-Boat penns, and the shipyards.

    As long as those were destroyed then the raids can be considered successful.


    There were a number of diversionary raids, and a number of nuisance raids as well.

    And finally, in order to destroy the targets, and ensure the targets stayed destroyed, the raids also attacked the cities infrastructure, the middle of the city would be bombed, they would wait long enough for the emergency services to arrive in the middle, and then bomb around them, trapping them, resulting in them being incinerated.

    In this day in age, targetting civilian emergency services would probably be classified as terrorism. On the other hand, there were valid targets in amongst the civilian population, in the form of anti air defenses, however, there was also a very distinct psychological warfare component to the raids, a demoralized population doesn't fight back as effectively, but, in essence, this isn't really any different to the bombing of London.


    There was both, what today would be considered terrorism, and collateral damage involved.

    Conclusion: There isn't neccesarily a distinction.
  15. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    I LOVE that song :') I own 'The Final Cut'. It's a brilliant album (actually, there isn't much in the way of Floyd that I don't own).
  16. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    One of the salient points made about the German blitzkrieg on UK is that if they had stuck to tactical bombing and only destroyed important military targets, they would have succeeded. But they didn't, they carpet bombed the British instead, underestimated the amount of firepower it took to kill "sufficient" Britishers and lost that battle. Not to mention of course that their civilian targeting was known to the English, who anticipated it took cover and hindered their efforts to succeed.
  17. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Interesting point here.
    My understanding is this:

    Initialy Hitler targetd the RAF airfields, he hit them repeatedly, and he hit them hard. As I understand it, had he continued hitting the RAF airfields for something like another six weeks, he would have ground the RAF into dust, and gained air superiority over the UK, however, the British succeeded in bombing Berlin, which led Hitler to make the decision to bomb London in retaliation, thr bombing of London gave the RAF the time they needed to rebuild, this led to the Battle of Britain, and the rest, to coin a cliche, is History.
  18. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    So the British distracted Hitler from his aims by inducing him to waste his firepower on people rather than airfields i.e. the carpet bombing of the British worked for the British. Amazing, really

    I consider Dresden to have been unnecessary. And a massacre [graphic image, not for sissies]

    Same for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    What are your thoughts on that?
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2010
  19. Tiassa Let us not launch the boat ... Valued Senior Member

    Revenge is what it is

    I'm not sure that's quite a fair assessment.

    According to Pamela Feltus, writing for the U.S. Centennial of Flight:

    World War II began on September 1, 1939, in Poland when the German Luftwaffe began to bomb military targets. When Warsaw continued to fight, German leader Adolf Hitler approved the dropping of five tons of bombs on the city, hastening Poland’s surrender. As German tanks rolled through the rest of continental Europe, Hitler used the example of the bombing of Warsaw to encourage submission. But with minor exceptions, there were no more bombings of civilian targets on either side. Hitler even released War Directive #2 that forbade bombing attacks on France or England except as reprisals.

    These rules were maintained during the Battle of Britain until August 25, 1940, when a lost German pilot accidentally bombed central London. The British sent a retaliatory bombing strike to Berlin the next night. Hitler was incensed and issued orders to launch a merciless bombing campaign against London. On September 7, the London Blitz began. The fragile diplomatic tent protecting citizens collapsed, and both the Allies and Axis began to attack and terrorize each other’s citizens.

    And Wikipedia describes:

    Raids on airfields continued through 24 August, and Portsmouth was hit by a major attack. That night, several areas of London were bombed; the East End was set ablaze and bombs landed on central London. Some historians believe that these bombs were dropped accidentally by a group of Heinkel He 111s which had failed to find their target; this account has been contested. In retaliation, the RAF bombed Berlin on the night of 25–26 August, and continued bombing raids on Berlin. Göring's pride was hurt, as he had previously claimed the British would never be able to bomb the city. The attacks enraged Hitler, who ordered retaliatory attacks on London.

    I mean, wisdom or not, revenge is revenge is revenge.


    —yeah, it would seem so.


    Feltus, Pamela. "The Role of Bombing in World War II". U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission. (n.d.) CentennialOfFlight.gov. March 4, 2010. http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Air_Power/Bombing/AP27.htm

    Wikipedia. "Battle of Britain". March 3, 2010. Wikipedia.com. March 4, 2010. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Britain
  20. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    That lost German pilot has a lot to answer for, doesn't he?
  21. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Pretty much, I have an inkling that that might have been part of the reason for the bombing of Berlin in the first place, but I couldn't vouch for it, nor could I produce a credible source for it.

    Dresden was a tragedy.
    The justification at the time, and shortly there after was one of industry (something like over 100 factories and 50,000 workers).

    I know that the firestorm may not have been 'intentional' - yes, I know you should expect something like that to happen when you drop 1300 tons of incinderies on a city in a night, however, the firestorm that hit Hamburg in 1943 (destroyed less of the city, killed more people than Dresden) was due to unusual weather (I have it in my head that 1944/1945 was an el nino year), so that may have exacerbated the damage done by the bombings.

    I think I agree with Churchill and Harris, who essentially condemned the attack in the aftermath.

    I think, in the end, inspite of the presence of any military targets that might have been in the city, the degree of destruction that was wrought was un-neccessary, and any strategic value could have been acheived with far less destruction and fewer civillian casualties.

    Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
    That's a sticky on S.A.M.

    My understanding is that the whole point of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was to instill terror into the Japanese, forcing them to surrender after they had just rejected the Potsdam Declaration.

    The Allies Firebombed 67 Japanese cities for 6 Months, issued the Potsdam Declaration, the Japanese rejected the terms of surrender, essentially claiming it was just a rehash of the Cairo Declaration, so Truman decided to use the nuclear weapons, rather than wage a landwar.

    And therein, as I understand it, lies the thing of it all - would a land war have been any less costly in human lives? An invasion of the Japanese mainland certainly would have had the potential to draw the war out for several more years, and it's almost certain there would have been civilian casualties, the question is, which would have resulted in more civilian deaths? The land war, or the nuclear weapons.

    I suppose another question that might be asked, is if the USA had not used the Nukes, would there have nececssarily been the cold war, and what might, for example, the Veitnam or Korean wars become?

    In other words, I (personally) think that we should also consider the possibility that the use of those two nuclear weapons may have prevented a world war between (for example) the US and the USSR.

    Personally, I don't think it's neccessarily a question that has a straightfoward answer. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that anything justifies the avoidable killing of civillians, so in that respect, I agree, it was unjustified, and as far as I'm concerned the use of nuclear weapons under any circumstances should be considered an atrocity, however, I also know, or suspect, that there's a wider issue at stake, and that is this question:

    Which scenario would have killed more civilians. Using the nukes, or not using the nukes?

    If not using the nukes had the potential to kill more civillians than using them, or, to put it another way, if using the nukes saved lives, does that justify their use?

    Can something that amounts to an atrocity ever be justified?
  22. Trippy ALEA IACTA EST Staff Member

    Apparently so.
  23. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    In the light of the last 60 years and what the cold war did to the rest of the world, what would have been the result of the Americans and the Russians blowing each other up? What if the Soviet Union and the USA had wiped each other off the map with their tens of thousands of nukes?

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