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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › How should our soldiers conduct themselves in Iraq?

How should our soldiers conduct themselves in Iraq?

Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 39
In a post on a different discussion topic ("Rand, God & The State, The 1 Big ?"), last Saturday night, Apr 9, 2005 at 10:57 pm (while missing most the fun of our last meeting because he was on call for work, but taking whatever opportunity he could to participate with us), Jaidip posted the following:

"... so they [private companies and individuals] are competing in a real world with their hands tied behind their back. (like our soldiers in the war against terror because of the "overwhelming" need to protect civilians in countries that harbor terrorists, from cross-fire - don't even get me started on that topic.)"

I can't resist taking the opening to get JD and the rest of us started on that topic!

How should we and our soldiers conduct ourselves in the war in Iraq? More particularly, after having decimated Iraq's military, killed or imprisoned its dictatorship government, and assumed complete military control of the country, what next? Did the USA become, at least for a time, the de-facto government of Iraq, as the "occupying power"? If so, in that context, can our soldiers shoot indiscriminately to get at suspected terrorists? Or does the government in that context have an obligation to police the population, even if some of it is hostile, while restraining indiscriminate killing? Is there a difference between the status of a "country" that harbors terrorists (i.e., state sponsored terrorism) and a "country" occupied, governed, and policed by the American military?

Any comments?
A former member
Post #: 4
I didn't mean that the US soldiers should go around and start killing Iraqi or Afgani civilians randomly. But if a regime or fanatics that are protected by a regime threaten to attack any country, in my opinion, that country should do everything possible to eliminate such threats. That's the only thing I as an INDIVIDUAL need protection from - violence or threat of violence.

But some times I read reports on these wars and i feel like Mother Theresa is running it. I don't recall the details, but there was this incident in Iraq where this crazy cleric and his henchmen kept killing American soldiers at every given opportunity and when he was holed out in a building or a mosque we were trying to negotiate with him. And this drama went on for months. After fighting wars like these, some of these soldiers get frustrated and depressed and I understand that a lot of them become drug addicts and mentally handicapped.
I happen to know one of them who is still on anti-depressants. I think the same thing would happen to me if I went to work one day and my boss days. Ok, so you are a trained engineer, why don't you go to my house and baby sit & clean my house for me for the next 6 months, I will give you a huge raise and a bonus. If I take that job, I think I will end up in a mental institution after 3 months.

So the point I was trying to make was that, soldiers are constantly being thrown into situations where they don't know what to do. Mainly because of mixed signals from the top.
We want to win the war, but we want to win the war in a sensitive manner. Why are these wars about image, and not winning and getting the hell out ASAP??

Also, if a civilian dies in cross-fire he/she does share some of the blame, for not being proactive and selfish enough in throwing out the dictator along with others and having a Govt. that acts in a rational manner. Or getting out of that country.
A former member
Post #: 1
"Also, if a civilian dies in cross-fire he/she does share some of the blame, for not being proactive and selfish enough in throwing out the dictator along with others and having a Govt. that acts in a rational manner. Or getting out of that country."

Ward Churchill made similar arguments to justify the killing of those in the World Trade Center.

Enough reductio ad absurdum.

Our soldiers should conduct themselves as if people had individual rights. Our Government should behave in Iraq as if it believed in the Rule of Law.

And we as political philosophers should look at foreign affairs as if the Enlightenment principles of our Founding Fathers were true: that standing armies are a threat to liberty, that meddling overseas creates more enemies, and that war creates more oppressive government.

As believers in Reason, we should examine these principles in the light of the evidence gathered in the 20th Century. Clearly the enemies we have fought recently, especially Hussein and al Qaeda, were given power by our prior interventions.

Interventionism, in the economy and in foreign policy, is the Road to War and Serfdom.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 48
Welcome to our boards, Rick! And thanks for your post!

You make several points on which I would like to engage in friendly discussion.

"Our soldiers should conduct themselves as if people had individual rights."

I think this is the moral answer in the context of our soldiers policing an occupied territory. It is costly for us in our soldier's lives, but moral.

"Our Government should behave in Iraq as if it believed in the Rule of Law."

This sounds good, but I am not sure of what "the Rule of Law" means today. I doubt that it means a moral recognition of individual rights. It seems to me to have become a popular expression relatively recently, perhaps since the 1st Gulf War, when Bush (the senior) pronounced Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to be a violation of "the Rule of Law." Does this mean subjugation to United Nations’ resolutions? By the way, the United Nations is a club in which many despotic governments have a vote. While law, both national and international, should be based on reason and morality, it is not always so.

"And we as political philosophers should look at foreign affairs as if the Enlightenment principles of our Founding Fathers were true: that standing armies are a threat to liberty, that meddling overseas creates more enemies, and that war creates more oppressive government."

I think this part may be an overgeneralization. Our Founding Fathers, despite misgivings, soon had a small standing navy (well, in the case of the navy, sailing, not standing), then marines (standing on the sailing ships), and not much long thereafter, even a small standing army (on land).

The Founding Fathers (including Jefferson, Madison, Washington, and others) started debating a war on the Barbary Pirates by 1786, only ten years after Independence, and they fought the first war on terror over the course of the next 30 years in Northern Africa, practically the other side of the world. And, as we are doing now, we fought that war without the help of then far more powerful than us European countries (and which were also the primary victims of the Barbary Pirates). For a fascinating brief summary of the first war on terror by the US, see an article entitled “America’s First War on Terror by Paul Fallon at: http://www.deanesmay....­

Further, war does not always create more oppressive government. Obviously, the most notable case in point is the War of Independence fought by our Founding Fathers to create the least oppressive government in history.

In considering these historical perspectives, I don’t think that any of those ideas were in fact “Enlightenment principles of our Founding Fathers.” At most, those were “concerns” of our Founding Fathers, but principle and reason can lead to a country have a standing navy, marines, and army; to meddle overseas in the country’s self-defense; and to wars to create freedom from state sponsored terrorism or from oppressive government.

"As believers in Reason, we should examine these principles in the light of the evidence gathered in the 20th Century. Clearly the enemies we have fought recently, especially Hussein and al Qaeda, were given power by our prior interventions."

It may be that Hussein and al Quada were given power by our prior interventions. I would be curious to learn more about this recent history, and whether or not the recent interventions were based on short-sighted, unprincipled strategies.

Any comments? Perhaps Rick will be able to join us at our next meeting so we can talk about this in more detail?

A former member
Post #: 6
I don't know who Churchill Ward is, but if he used the same argument that I used, then he is stupid because you can't compare the democratic United States, which I still believe is the greatest country in the world (based on my experience living in other countries), with the Saddam regime or the Taleban.

And I don't see individual rights as an end in itself, but as an essential means to happiness, pursuit of which is the ultimate goal of a human being. So if you are an individual living under Saddam or Taleban then your individual rights have already been taken away, you can never find "true" happiness, and if you aren't doing anything about getting these crazy people out of power, then you do share some responsibility for the war that eventually and inevitably ensues. (Like the majority of the Germans who silently tolerated Hitler and later paid a huge price for it). And in a war, people die. And I don't like war either.

And what about the individual rights of the soldiers? This country has a voluntary army and people choose army as a career to pursue their own happiness, so why should they sacrifice their lives to protect the lives of civilians in other countries from cross-fire?

Am i missing something in objectivism here? Some principle I haven't heard of?
A former member
Post #: 2
Principles of rational self-interest do not leave much room for going to war against Iraq. Hussein did not attack the US, and was not likely ever to do so.

Going to war to "liberate" Iraqis from their tyrant is more an example of foolish altruism, of Wilsonian interventionism, naively trying to make the world safe for democracy. (When we tried that in WWI, it led to big government at home, and Hitler abroad.) It is a continuation of the New Deal warfare state.

Jaidip, I'm sure you've heard of these principles, but you're just not applying them well to foreign policy.

(Ward Churchill, a professor of ethnic studies in Colorado, has gained some notoriety for his World Trade Center comments a couple of months ago. In years past he has done interesting work on the conquest of the Indian nations by the Europeans. He has also done some superb research on COINTELPRO, the FBI's efforts to destroy freedom of political speech, and murder radical activists, especially the Black Panthers. Churchill is a Marxist, so his work is flawed by astoundingly stupid opinions, intermixed with real truth.)

The US is more than the greatest nation that has ever existed: it is a moral ideal. Yet it still must be judged by the same standards as all other nations.

Todd, thanks for getting this Dallas Objectivist group running. I'm sorry I won't be able to make any meetings for a month or two.

Even though the American Revolution is the only one of our wars in which I would have fought, it still left us with a bigger government than we had before. Taxes became higher, as did the debt, and spending in general. The new US government had more powers to subsidize and regulate businesses, than did the colonies under the wonderful age of benign neglect.

The Founding Fathers presumption against interventionism and a standing army is seen in the Constitution, where a Navy can be established with long term funding, but an Army can only be funded for two years.

I love the contrast between George Bush's war against the Arabs, and George Washington's. Bush proudly boasted of going on a "crusade." Washington told them we "are not a Christian nation." You know which point of view Objectivists should prefer.
A former member
Post #: 56

I'd like you to let me understand something if you would?

you said

"Even though the American Revolution is the only one of our wars in which I would have fought,..."

Why is that? Did we not get hit by the Japs 1st? Is that not a reason to fight? I agree F.D.R. New Deal was BAD DEAL.

As a side note My great grand pa Jacob Anderson did fight in the Rev. War. He was with the Montgomery Co. Milita from the town that is now called Salem VA. You can find his name below on this 1782 Tax list. His name is listed on the Guilford Co. Memoral in Greensbobo NC to this day. Is was called " The Battle of Gilford Court House " in New Garden NC it's name was later changed to Greensboro, it was renamed after Gen. Green. " The Surry County Boys," ( The county I was born & raised in ) had much to do in winning the battle, ( If that is what you could call it, it was almost even ) as did the " Blue Ridge Boys " that was the name of my grand pa's group. There is also a link below about the fight there. It does not give much good info but was all I was could find right now. If you like let me know I have a book back home in North Carolina all about the battle. I can get my Daddy to send to me & I'll let you read it if you like. It even has my grand pas name in it, :-) but only one time. :-(­


My grand pa James E. Anderson did fight in WW2. Being one of the most anti gov people I have ever met. Did not have a prob with WW2. He also lost his left arm a few days after D-Day. Needless to say he always did wish he had his arm back. He always joked ( I'd give my left arm for the USA but not the right one." Yet other than that he never had anything bad to say about why or should we have went to war. His biggest prob was he really hated ( IN HIS ON WORDS ) " That God Damn almost Commie FDR " I disagree with you on the ww2 deal. I think we did the right thing. We had to fight.
I know that the nazi's did not hit us 1st. Yet sometimes you just can't wait.

Hell I even had 13 of my family die for The South. So my family history is full of war. Maybe it's because we are Scotch/Irish & just like to fight. Not even going to get into WW1, the war of 1812 or " The War of Surrey ( as it was spelled way back then) it was a local deal, but they took the county & killed Lord Surrey! " That sorry bastard needed to die." Thats what they say anyway. He was the only one that could own land around there at the time. Well that's what they thought anyway. Yet they killed him & took " his land " :-) HIS LAND WAS A GIFT FROM ENGLAND!!! He never worked it or paid for it, yet it was his? Those dirty bastards!!!!! This was pre Rev war. That was 1 big reason the war was faught along with others.

A former member
Post #: 1
About the Middle East, here are a couple of good books that give a perspective on how the entire situation developed in the first place. I think such perspective is important to the discussion about whether/what we should be doing there.

"A Peace To End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East" by David Fromkin, 1990.

"The Thousand Year War in the Mideast" by Richard J. Maybury, 1999.

Happy reading!
Weston M.
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1
We conducted ourselves like all looters do, we wanted to acquire things (control in the mid east, resources, an illusory feeling of security), we would rather come up with a scheme that involves throwing or weight around than working a plan that entails acknowledging others sovereignty, so we shroud our motivations in altruistic doublespeak, and when its over we lie and blame shift to avoid accountability.

As for Ward Churchill, the comment that got him in so much trouble, that the Americans are a bunch of Eichmans, I wouldn't have phrased it as such, but I don't disagree. A signifigant majority of citizens wanted us to keep rolling to Iraq because they thought it would make them safer. Once they felt safer because some time had passed since our civillians had died, and we had toppled some things, they adopt this pseudo-intellectual morally lofty opposition to a course of action they sat back and watched our leaders commit us to.

The Everyday Joe has a co-dependant relationship with Uncle Sam; he's our pimp. We say we don't like it when he throws his wieght around, make excuses for em, maybe resent them a little, but secretly we love it because we feel so damn superior. We are elevated to the gold pedestal, to our leftt, bronze, who is dominated in a might makes right mentality. And to our right, silver, who we are superior to because we judge him, we feel compassion for number 3, and pursuant to the paradox of Christ, we are therefore the best. Yeah ME!

To answer Todd's question, we should conduct ourselves according to the principle of double effect.
A former member
Post #: 1
How should Coalition forces conduct themselves in Iraq?

As some of you know I have first hand experience in this matter. My answer: Exactly as they have been.

Being on the ground out on the streets is usually a high-pressure situation. This differs from the direct combat in places such as Fallujah in that there is no specific enemy. Of course people aren't going to be perfect. It's called collateral damage. Everybody does their best, and 9 times out of 10 it will be the "shady characters" that make the mistakes, or maybe just don't follow orders.

As for the legitimacy of the war itself, I fully support it. You can see the ramifications just about every day somewhere in the news. Democracy is spreading to the whole area of the Middle East, and in the next couple years this will only continue.

The war has also given terrorists a convenient target. Who would you rather they be attacking? American civilians, or American soldiers trained to fight? We expose ourselves to pick a fight with them in the streets. Finally when they come out to fight, we decimate them anyways. The death toll on US troops is just over 1600 now, but compared to the thousands and thousands of insurgents killed, never before has a war been so lopsided. I call them insurgents because no longer are they Iraqis. Some time last fall the proportion of Iraqi insurgents to those from chiefly Iran and Syria evened out to 50% or less, and even lower now. 1600 Americans that signed up to fight for the best country in the world is a small price to pay.
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