Monday, March 23 2009

The Rules of Discourse

I have the annoying tendency to try to break down things into hard-and-fast rules.  Once I know the rules, I can theoretically find the loopholes, gaps, and tricks that allow me to gain an advantage.  Alas, this doesn't always work in the real world.

Two exceptional blogs, which shall remain nameless, have reduced themselves into a mindless feud over a series of ultimately minor debates which all come down to the question of which rules actually apply.

On the one hand, allowing observers to define what you say to suit themselves is a recipe to have the perpetually offended shut down conversation.  If you can define what I said, then there's no way I can debate you, because you can always define away my statements into meaninglessness or into something that can be used against me.

On the other hand, allowing people to exclusively define what they say means that there is no way to hold people to a position.  If I can redefine my position after I've stated it by claiming that your interpretation of my words is wrong and I really said something completely different.  As long as I can juggle words, I can be all things to all people.

Strictly applying either rule breaks the ability to have debate.  The world is full of undefinable gray areas.

More importantly, the more effort we devote to battling our allies, the harder it gets to fight our enemies.

[Rant Mode Off]

Posted by: Civilis at 08: 35 PM | No Comments | Add Comment
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Tuesday, March 03 2009

Bomb Bomb Bomb Bomb Iran....

No, not seriously.  Well, perhaps a little.

Right now, Iran is seriously close to building a nuclear arsenal.  This is a Bad Thing.  Iran may or may not use a nuclear weapon against Israel.  On the one hand, the President of Iran has repeatedly said that he's going to do so.  On the other hand, given that the Mullahs really run the country, he might not have the power to do so.  This is a moot point.  (It's not a moot point to the Israelis, of course.  Iran using nuclear weapons against Israel would be a Really Bad Thing regardless of what happens afterwards.)

I'm not actually referring to that, at least in the specifics.  In the general case, it's more complicated than that.  We troglodyte neo-conservatives have been assured by the people that know better that deterrence will prevent Iran from using their nuclear weapons, and that deterrence is a good thing.  But is it?  We are stating that if Iran uses nuclear weapons, we are willing to annihilate the country of Iran.  Wipe it off the map.  Fuse it into glass, then polish it off with Windex.  We are willing to kill 65 - 70 million people, many of them women and children, many who might not approve of their government's actions, because that's what nuclear deterrence is.  And that's not talking about the fallout, or the environmental destruction.

Personally, if I was president, I don't know if I could give that order.  I'd, with one action, be responsible for the deaths approximating the total casualty figures for the second world war.  And what's worse is that, intellectually, I know that not being willing to push that button means that, likely, more people will die in the end.  And that wavering on my ability to push the button means it's more likely that I'd have to make that terrible decision.

Recently, at mass, during the intercessions, the priest prayed for nuclear disarmament.  I couldn't join in.  Imagine if that prayer for nuclear disarmament was magically granted, and, poof, all nuclear weapons vanished.  The first country to rebuild their arsenal wins, because they get to use them.  Alright, the magic wish removes all nuclear weapons and the capacity to rebuild them, ever.  Well, then, what other deterrant weapons are available?  Chemical weapons are the old standby, and quite nasty, but you can't go wrong with biological weapons.  The purpose is the same: guarantee that in the event of a war, your opponent can't win.  A terrorist group with access to smallpox could conceivably easily beat my hypothetical 65-70 million death toll.  Well, then, the magic wish removes all weapons of mass destruction, both current and all hypothetical future ones.  What does war look like?  What did war look like before nuclear weapons?  Hark back to 1944, and tell me you'd rather be a soldier or civilian in a war zone then.  War was won by the states able to mobilize the biggest population, the biggest industry, and the most morale.  Nuclear weapons mean that any state, no matter how big, can still lose.  It also means that loser states like Iran can opt to take their enemy with them.  During that mass, I prayed instead for a world that would be safe enough for nuclear disarmament.

Iran, specifically, is a bad egg.  They've turned to proxy warfare to be able to hurt a country that could wipe the floor with them in a conventional conflict.  Iran with a nuclear arsenal would be able to expand their support for proxy warfare by massively increasing the threshold at which we would be willing to respond with conventional force.  In the aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan refused to hand over bin Laden, and the US invaded.  Would we have invaded if Afghanistan had a small nuclear arsenal?  Even if they couldn't hit the US directly, they would be able to threaten US forces in the theater, US allies and other regional targets.  An Afghani government that faced defeat by the US would have no reason not to use a nuclear arsenal that it was going to lose anyways.  Any president that had that happen on their watch is not going to get re-elected.  And so it goes with Iran: a nuclear armed Iran would be untouchable for anything less than the use of nuclear weapons, and even a domestic democratic revolution would be a major threat to regional peace.

Posted by: Civilis at 09: 01 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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