[PEN-L:5666] Re: Exchange with Michael Tomasky

William S. Lear rael at zopyra.com
Wed Apr 21 07:41:55 PDT 1999

On Wednesday, April 21, 1999 at 00:45:05 (-0700) Max Sawicky writes:
>The simple rejoinder is: why the U.S. entered WWII is not as important as
>the fact that entry contributed to preventing a greater Holocaust
>victimizing even more Jews, Slavs, gypsies, etc. The concept of somebody or
>something proceeding from one motive but serving another, as a byproduct,
>continues to elude people. This goes back to my brief dissertation on Good
>and Evil as a mode of analysis. We seem to divide the world into Black and
>White Hats (or Big Black Hats and little black hats) in order to determine
>which actions to condemn and which not, rather than proceeding in reverse of
>that sequence.

Sure, and we can only applaud when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to save the population from "terrorists" there, because why they entered is not as important as the fact that they suppressed violence. A similar argument could be made about Soviet control of Eastern Europe, since they undoubtedly put the lid on long-standing "ethnic" disputes and acted to mitigate a variety of atrocities. I'm glad you are so candid as to your standard of comparison, but I can't say I'm impressed by your refusal to see what it really means.

What you seem to be unable to grasp is the principle you are advocating. The principle you are supporting is that should one group within a "parent" country attempt to pull away, and were the country to use violence to prevent it, any another country has a perfect right to offer an ultimatum to that country and to persue a full-scale war against that country should that country refuse the terms of the ultimatum, even if that country offered to pursue autonomy for the group with international monitoring. Fairness means you accept your argument for us, not just for other people. Max, are you prepared to accept this principle for the United States and the countries it supports in their violence against their people? Do you really want to be on the side of the British and French who wanted to bomb Washington and New York City because we used violence to suppress the South in seceding from the Union?

You continually avoid my questions, presumably because you have no answer and prefer your personalized attacks and tiresome Manichean complaints when someone disagrees with you, as to why the US destroyed the democratic opposition and refused to consider the very promising Serb Parliament offer of autonomy in Kosovo followed by international observers.

You and Nathan also ignored my reply to the simplistic argument of "doing good" just by accident or happy by-product, which appears to be your position regarding the US actions in Kosovo. Let me repeat Nathan's argument and my reply:

>If the theory is that Clinton cannot do anything that has a humanitarian
>end, then the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, signing the minimum
>wage increases, vetoing the Contract on America, or any number of other acts
>that were better than the alternative is inexplicable. His motives may be
>seeking power and buying off and defusing his left flank, but the result is
>still to the good.

No, the "theory" is quite different: Clinton is about as likely as Ronald Reagan, who was about as likely as Nixon, who was about as likely as any other of our presidents, to act out of moral concern. Ergo, should a "humanitarian" end result from the acts of Clinton, it is merely incidental, a fortunate accident, that the ends deserve the label "good". Given that, one can therefore ask the likelihood that a state with a rich history of violence and flagrant abuses of human rights and civilized norms might undertake an aggressive and violent foreign policy campaign *and* have the ends accidentally turn out to be "humanitarian". Note here that the relevant domain for evaluation is *foreign* policy, not *domestic*. Domestic policy is guided by a very different concern, since our population has the technical right to participate in managing our affairs --- other populations around the globe don't even rise to this level of nuisance.

I believe, in short, that Michael and countless others are saying: Clinton's *concern* is not humanitarian; Clinton's ends, therefore, are highly unlikely to be humanitarian given the relevant history.

The relevant question to ask is not "Did the US intervention save some lives?", but What were the other options and why did the US persue the one that was guaranteed to sharply escalate the atrocities?; What could have saved the most lives and why did the US not persue that?; What could save the most lives now?. Why did the US persue the only avenue that it knows: destroy any democratic opposition, offer an ultimatum, then use deadly force, when it admitted very candidly that it's preferred approach would result in *more* people being killed, and 3/4ths of the refugees were generated *after* the bombing began? Of course, this is to totally ignore the humanitarian crisis that is caused by bombing the social and economic infrastructure of Serbian cities. Max, why do you not count the children, men, and women of Belgrade, as worthy of humanitarian concern? Don't they figure into your moral calculus when you are weighing how much "good" the bombs do?

The question remains of why you believe that more people would be saved by dropping bombs than by pursuing diplomacy. Also open is when you are going to support the bombing of Washington D.C. (if only for incidentally humanitarian reasons) by the Nicaraguans, Vietnamese, Colombians, Kurds, East Timorese, etc. After all, they would be bombing to stop a far worse human catastrophe were not the thugs in Washington at the helm.


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