Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

What to Do About Pirates

Over at The Corner on National Review Online, they have been asking folks about piracy. I was asked for my take and here is what I said:

Our problem with pirates is the same as the one with al Qaeda et al. We have extended legal rights to people who do not deserve them. We need to return to an important distinction first made by the Romans and subsequently incorporated into international law by way of medieval and early modern European jurisprudence, e.g. Grotius and Vattel. The Romans distinguished between bellum, war against legitimus hostis, a legitimate enemy, and guerra, war against latrunculi — pirates, robbers, brigands, and outlaws — "the common enemies of mankind."

The former, bellum, became the standard for interstate conflict, and it is here that the Geneva Conventions and other legal protections were meant to apply. They do not apply to the latter, guerra — indeed, punishment for latrunculi traditionally has been summary execution. Until recently, no international code has extended legal protection to pirates.

So first, we should revive that distinction. When pirates are caught, they should be hanged. Second, I’m not the first to suggest that we should use force to wipe out the pirate lairs. Under the old understanding of international law, a sovereign state has the right to strike the territory of another if that state is not able to curtail the activities of latrunculi.

Americans recognized this principle from the outset. Here’s something I wrote for the Winter issue of Orbis:

The Early Republic faced many threats, including a continuing European presence in North America-Great Britain in Canada and Spain in Florida and Texas-and what we would today call "non-state actors:" marauding Indians and pirates, ready to raid lightly defended areas on the frontier. These threats were exacerbated by the weakness of what John Quincy Adams called "derelict" provinces, which provided an excuse for further European intervention in the Americas, and sanctuary for hostile non-state actors. In 1818, Florida provided an occasion to address such threats.

After Creeks, Seminoles, and escaped slaves launched a series of attacks on Americans from sanctuaries in Spanish Florida, General Andrew Jackson, acting on the basis of questionable authority, invaded Florida, not only attacking and burning Seminole villages but also capturing a Spanish fort at St. Marks. He also executed two British citizens whom he accused of aiding the marauders.

Most of President James Monroe’s cabinet, especially Secretary of War John Calhoun, wanted Jackson’s head, but Adams came to Jackson’s defense. He contended that the United States should not apologize for Jackson’s preemptive expedition but insist that Spain either garrison Florida with enough forces to prevent marauders from entering the United States or "cede to the United States a province.which is in fact a derelict, open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them." As Adams had written earlier, it was his opinion "that the marauding parties ought to be broken up immediately." As John Gaddis has observed, Adams believed that the United States "could no more entrust [its] security to the cooperation of enfeebled neighboring states than to the restraint of agents controlled, as a result, by no state."

Discussions - 31 Comments

Do not execute them by hanging and waste this opportunity. Let's torture them at Gitmo. After all, torture is the marker of political commitment—of a willingness to "do anything to protect the American people," a manly readiness to know when to abstain from "coddling terrorists" and do what needs to be done.

I say we be nice to the pirates instead. How 'bout we bake them a nice bundt cake?

I love that you are backing up the notion of denying basic legal rights to pirates with Jackson's pre-emptive strike against native Americans and escaped slaves. If that isn't poetically attune to the currents of ethnocentrism and western imperialism underlying your ability to discern who is and is not the legitimate bearer of rights, I don't know what is.

If that isn't poetically attune to the currents of ethnocentrism and western imperialism underlying your ability to discern who is and is not the legitimate bearer of rights

A stupid thought, expressed with consummate clumsiness. Typical Matt in other words.

Sorry my blog-skills aren't up to par. I suppose rough drafts have always been a prerequisite to well-formulated thoughts for me. I personally apologize for the improvisational nature of "blogging." My bad, yo.

At least you got my gist enough to call it "stupid." You want to actually talk about that or do you just want to continue digitally emitting what seems to be some very real hostility? See - I don't think it's stupid at all, and I bet a lot of people smart enough (and clearly not as bored or as in need of entertainment as I) to avoid this blog would agree with me.



Is it or is it not absolutely hilarious that Mr. Owens is justifying his ability to choose who does and does not deserve particular rights on an historical event which clearly shows the ethnocentrism and western imperialism of early America? I think it's great - just what the Right needs.



If that's still too clumsy for you, John, then you should probably just skim over my posts and save yourself the headache.

Matt, I will argue with you.

What rights do you wish marauders to have? If I am being attacked, the best way for me to secure life and limb is to kill my attacker. What rights must I extend my attacker? If I am being robbed at gunpoint, on the street or in my own home or out on the high seas, do I have to limit my defense? Why?

In war, the poor schlump on the other side of the weapon is killing me to save his own skin, because he is under orders. I am no warrior, but presume, don't you have to pity him while you still have to kill him to save your own skin? If you can capture him, you treat him as well as you can, because he is a poor schlump. Somalia is a mess and out of that mess come these vile people doing harm to life and property. Still, what excuse has a pirate got for his attack? Are you saying those pirates are victims, somehow?

I also don't get why it would be bad for the Right to have a concern for right, as opposed to wrong. Of course, I am presuming piracy is wrong. What is your justification for it?

ren, what the heck are you talking about?

Thank you, Kate.



I always thought it was assumed that human beings had inalienable rights (or even obligations, if we are to believe Simone Weil). Owens' argument is that we've overextended legal rights to people who don't deserve them and I don't buy it. I'm not saying leave them alone. I don't sympathize with them. I think they are bad people too, but why not a trial? Why no jury? Why simply hang them? A hanging is not an act of self-defense - it is a spectacular death, and I think Owens likes this. He wants it to frighten away the other bad guys. This is what I take issue with. Hell, even the Nazis got a trial. But then again, they were white. The postwar trial against the Japanese was a sham, but at least there was a facade. I am not arguing that shooting a pirate who is trying to overtake your ship is a bad thing - but hanging them afterward . . .? That's completely different.



Maybe you are not reading Owens' argument in its entirety, because you seem to think that I am not a staunch supporter of ending piracy.



As to whether or not the pirates are "victims" - who knows? Maybe. I'm not sure I'm willing to paint that picture with such a broad brush. But maybe if we deal with them on a case-by-case basis instead of wiping them all out in a giant orgy of mass killing (as Owens seems to want to have us do), we could find out. But I suppose that would require us to all become pussy liberals.

Oh - I do think that pretending you can unilaterally decide what is right and wrong is ethnocentric. If I lived in Iraq, maybe I'd think anti-American partisans were freedom fighters. If I lived in Somalia, maybe one of Owens' hanged pirates would have been making enough money for me to eat. I don't know. But I do know that it seems awfully imperial do decide for the rest of world what is not just in your country's best interests, but is "morally right."

Going after pirates in Somalia is a form of corporate welfare, albeit we already have a large navy, airforce and army so it is a sunk/fixed cost. I think the private/public shipping companies have this under control. These shipping companies have decided that it is cheaper not to have lethal weapons on board and from time to time bribe the pirates when they are successful.

Personally I believe that if a pirate is boarding your ship you certainly have the right to kill him, albeit the proper procedure should be set by the shipping company. If I am a captain and we kill a few Somali pirates ain't nothing no one needs to hear about(unless you lose your own men), you toss the carcasses to sea and get on with it. Of course there are lots of interesting non-lethal weapons that these capitalist firms have developed that serve reasonably well. If we are to go to war on such minor grievances we will never figure a way to shrink government spending, and frankly Somalia is a rat hole...that could only benefit economically from any intervention on our behalf. Far from discouraging Piracy we would simply encourage it, Somali businesses would probably encourage piracy just so it could be invaded and secure american stimulus.

Sorry Mr. Owens, I don't disagree about the law...but deploying destroyers and task force somalia and all this other nonsense seems flat out ridiculous.

You want to actually talk about that or do you just want to continue digitally emitting etc

You did a fantastic job of "emotionally digitally emitting" all sorts of crap already. Are you normally surprised when your hostility is met with hostility in return? If so you are even less bright than I believed.

See - I don't think it's stupid at all

I imagine that stupid people rarely are aware that they are being stupid. The rest of us have to suffer though.


ethnocentrism and western imperialism

Has it ever, in even your wildest dreams, occurred to you that perhaps other people do not believe the moronic dogmas which were implanted into your skull? Take your "ethnocentrism and western imperialism" and insert it into a vacant body cavity. Your head, perhaps.

Has it ever, in even your wildest dreams, occurred to you that perhaps other people do not believe the moronic dogmas which were implanted into your skull?



Heh. I studied with Schramm and the Ashbrook collective. What do you think?
They didn't seem to think my head was so vacant - but I suppose you know better, having conversed with me over the internet.



Are you normally surprised when your hostility is met with hostility in return? If so you are even less bright than I believed.



Ouch. Burn.

They didn't seem to think my head was so vacant -

How do you know what the "collective" thought of you? Perhaps they thought you were an annoying little turd.

Matt, would not subjecting the pirates to American style due process and an American administered punishment be a form of ethnocentrism and cultural imperialism?

Pete - it sure would. But if given the choice between that and hanging them, I'd choose the former. I think the people of NLT would probably track me down and throttle me (cowboy-style) were I to suggest any other options.



How do you know what the "collective" thought of you? Perhaps they thought you were an annoying little turd.



Yeah, you're probably right.

Matt, why not split the difference? A trial and (if found guilty), a hanging. There is a more substantive problem with your position. You aren't willing to let Americans decide what is the best way to deal with piracy because it is ethnocentric, but you demand that your policies be implemented (by Americans upon Somali pirates) because you believe (or assume) that all people have inalienable rights and obligations. If you really believe that, it undermines your cultural relatavism. If you don't believe, then you are just megalomaniacally demanding that both Americans and Somalis go by your values for no very clear reason.

I don't think you are a megalomaniac and I would never throttle you, but there is a problem in citing universal human rights one post and "one man's pirate is another man's freedom fighter (or something)" nihilism the next. You seem to be okay with deciding what is right and wrong and maybe you are on the right side. Just because you unilaterally decided on what is the more moral course does not make you wrong. You could extend as much latitude to the US government in protection of its citizens.

I really have no real problem with Matt's views. For all I care the folks on the ship can invite the pirates in and sing cumbaya to them. The transportation/shipping company can addopt any policy it wants in this regard. Of course it has to obey a boatload of international law et al, but this is why the whole damn issue is for the policy wonks...the so called tyranny of the social scientists is already a fact, and I don't doubt that republicans can feed upon it to some extent, but those who know at least what they don't know, know that the bureacratic tape is thick. What should be noted is that the shipping interests have decided that it is cheaper not to be armed, they have decided this because the insurance and cost of having armed guards on board on all the ships that travel thru this region of the world would be more expensive than occationally paying out a sucessful pirate attack. Now it could be that this is the case because it knows it can relly upon the US Navy and US Airforce, therefore this is a key case of moral hazzard created by the market distortion that is our armed forces. Now it could be that our armed forces is a great example of a public good...I doubt this to an extent. But if the US Navy was not involved I am sure that it would become economically efficient to arm these ships, and in such a world the Lockean view would hold. Alternatively the US government could bill the shipping company, and the shipping company and if they did so for the costs I have no doubt that quickly we would see a return to rationality, and shipping companies would see that it is rational to employ armed guards.

As it is I am sure that all parties employed rational policies that maximized profit given the projected results and cost of doing business. If I am a worker on these civilian ships I ask for hazardous duty pay(except that I am scared to lose my job because of economic downturn in global shipping).

The US government could also bill the insurance company of the shipping company therby forcing the insurance company to re-evaluate the relative insurance costs of allowing the sailors on board to be armed...but if the US Navy simply foots the bill then all policies remain rational and nothing changes....plus even if we charge the insurance company we will just end up bailling them out anyways.

I think whenever something like this happens we should automatically assume that this is the result of logical thinking given current parameters. One way to go is to dig in to the more humanitarian Matt, but this is a political cover and a pointless discussion. I want to know why the insurance companies believe that not having armed sailors on board is the most economically efficient response, my guess has to do with the fact that the US Navy and american taxpayers foot the bill. I realize that our armed forces are a fixed cost and a public good but this doesn't mean that we shouldn't bill the insurance companies of the shipping companies in order to change the way they calculate risk. If the shipping companies start argueing we don't want the stinkin government involved then we will know what the optimal level of military/government involvement is.

In my opinion Matt's argument is quite sensible in an environment when the government is actively involved, after all having reasonable grounds for argueing what is moral goes hand and glove with government involvement.

Matt is really argueing the side of ethonocentrism and western imperialism, these words and concerns being chiefly western and part and parcell of big government and its entanglements, in other words Pete is absolutely right in 14.

I on the other hand don't want to let americans decide what is right because this simply means that we have our noses in every single business. I agree with Obama and Treasury that when we take over an AIG or a GM, americans have the right to dictate to them, and the treasury has the ability to fire them/CEO's. I don't agree with what Obama is doing, but having done it I think he is going about it correctly.

Look how quickly we try to make this some moral debate as a simple distraction, it is clear to me that the businesses will accept Matt's moral arguments as long as they are getting a free ride on the US Navy and american tax payers.

Matt should be a Hawk and realize why Obama is also a Hawk.

Pete - it doesn't matter whether or not I believe in unalienable rights. The contradictions you are pointing out are those I wish to draw out of Mr. Owens' argument. He wants to distinguish between who should and should not have legal rights by citing the European invasion of the Americas. I suppose only the "enlightened", those who wish to play by Euro-American rules, deserve the benefit of Euro-American laws.



Look - "cultural relativism" is a tricky term. On one hand, of course I have moral opinions about things (women should not be raped, no one should be subject to genocide, etc.). I think human beings have certain moral obligations to one another (but I'm no adherent to the Lockean or American understanding of rights). Recognizing that those moral values are inherently subjective and trying to reconcile that with the subjective views of other people in other cultures is what I find the most important aspect of this: a sort of freezing of the grand dialectic in a sense. To claim moral certitude is the mistake. Deciding what is right and wrong, in my opinion, is fine, so long as we realize what a culturally saturated project that (and this) is.



And thank you for promising to never throttle me, sir.

Yeah... I'm all for hunting down the pirates (capturing them alive and trying them if we can) and eliminating the problem they pose. But, really, I think using the example of our past responses to American Indian aggressions is a poor choice. It's simple enough just to use our responses to the last time pirates tried getting money out of Americans-- send in the Marines once and make a point of what happens when they threaten us. If that fails, do it again. If that fails again, go in and destroy their capability to remain a threat. If Somalia cannot control these pirates from preying on merchant vessels (many of which, such as this one, are trying to deliver RELIEF to Africa), then it is perfectly within the rights of those nations affected by these pirates to strike against their bases in Somalia, just as we did in the Barbary states.

If the United States is not going to protect its citizens against pirates, among other nasty folk, what is the use in being a citizen of the United States? This is carrying the "global economy" stuff too far, if being an American on a commercial vessel means being merely under the protection of, as John Lewis puts it, shipping companies. The captain of that ship and the crew are Americans, taxpayers, presumably, and if they can't depend on the United States Navy to defend them in this situation, then what are they paying taxes for, much pledging allegiance to their flag for?

Next, I would like to know what court you are bringing these pirates to. Where do we put them to trial? Will they be tried in a Somali court, or an American court, or some world-wide tribunal, based in what law? Or perhaps John Lewis would have the various shipping companies try the pirates, according to the law of -- what? Who has jurisdiction over pirates on the open sea? Why not everybody? Can I presume you wish to try them in US courts because their crimes were committed on a US ship. Must I also presume that those pirates who have committed crimes on the ships of other nations will be tried in those other nations, right? What a circus. Or, perhaps ren actually had a good idea and the world can ship every pirate captured and convicted off to Guantanamo and the UN can send a multi-nation set of prison guards to watch them. Kumbaya, indeed. Actually, I think the Somali pirates can bring the world together in a nearly universal opinion that they are a dangerous nuisance and ought to be exterminated, by anyone willing to tackle the job, as soon as possible.

Matt, I really do not understand what cultural sensitivity has to do with this. I am really grateful that your cultural sensitivity does not extend to my rape by some guy whose culture would not make him flinch at such a thing. Would you have a problem if I were publicly (or privately) flogged in a Muslim nation for showing my face? I grant you these are my very subjective moral values, which preclude my being able to fully appreciate the cultural sensitivities of so many men from other-than-Western societies. I am confessedly insensitive to the cultural sensitivities of Somali pirates, too.

Matt, would you prefer to deal with the pirates as they would deal with us? Rather than using American law, we could, in the spirit of diversity kidnap their civillians and hold them ransom. I think not.

The contradiction in Owens' position is not what you think it is. He wants to deal with the pirates within a particular legal framework, one that denies those engaged in piracy of certain procedural protections. You seem to want to deal with the pirates within a different leagal framework that would give the pirates greater procedural protection. Both frameworks are largely derived from the Euro-American experience. The seeming contradiction comes from the fact that you seem to assume that since his framework contradicts your framework, his must be inconsistent.

Your point about right and wrong being influenced by culture is sound to the degree that it seeks to inculcate humility rather than nihilism. You might also do better to practice that same humility when thinking of denouncing the immorality of Owens' antipiracy suggestions while at the same time wondering about the perspective that might justify piracy or being an anti-American freedom fighter.

Yes, Pete.

You can't stop this without dealing with Somalia first. If it remains a sort of lawless place that is probably in debt to the IMF for more than the entire country is worth then this will not stop. Seriously, check out The Barbary Wars. Great book on this very issue from the turn of the 18th century. You don't need a democracy in Somalia as much as some sort of government that can control its people. Until you have that then you will just be chasing after ghosts because the combined lack of other options and money to be won by piracy are just going to inspire more and more. The answer then was working with the warlords who ran things and using force when needed. It's not as if we are just talking about the black pearl out there sending merchants to davey jone's locker.

It is tricky saying that some don't deserve rights because then you open yourself up to eventually becoming on of those unforunate souls. It is a road I think we would be better off not going down. If the guys fight back then kill them, if they get captured try them and if convicted hang them. I DON'T think this has anything to do with the type of middle east terrorism. It is a completely different issue. Pirates make sense, they are after something tangible and in that sense you can reason with them. Terrorism has been portrayed more as a people after metaphysical things and in a way they really don't make sense because their actions only bread more violence on the people they claim to be fighting for. I just don't think these two issues are similar, in the crude sense of breaking laws and causing terror sure, but not in the spirit of the issue.

Along the same lines as Matt's critique, I was struck that the definition for latrunculi is apparently "the common enemies of mankind" and includes "pirates, robbers, brigands, and outlaws," as well as, apparently, "escaped slaves" - they who liberated themselves from those who were depriving them of their "natural rights." Were not chattel slaveholders "common enemies of mankind," of civilization? What of the government that allowed them to deprive so many of their rights? Wasn't the United States at that point in time "not able to curtail the activities of latrunculi" who took the form of these slaveholder outlaws? Not able or not willing? Or is the conservative defense of this the old "slaveholders were really pretty nice, all things considered" b.s.? If we look at the promise that Fort Mose (in Spanish Florida) held for slaves in the U.S. at the time, which entity was (relatively) "derelict" for those people seeking freedom from slavery, from being deprived of their natural rights?

The ethnocentrism seems clear enough, as well. Native Americans were always the savage invaders and attackers, and the "real" Americans, who came from Europe, were simply defending themselves. [Of course now a different schema's necessary, what with the Mexicans and "Mozlems" invading Our America.] Please.

Pete, as for the current pirates at issue, your suggestion for "split[ting] the difference" with a "trial and (if found guilty), a hanging" seems problematic to me if the pirates at issue don't kill (or even actually intend to kill) in the process of committing their robbery. The punishment isn't commensurate with the crime. When was the last time you heard of a carjacker (particularly one who didn't kill) getting the death penalty? I realize, of course, that many or most here would DESIRE the death penalty for such crimes - possibly even simple mugging. It's interesting how the right has a much more limited idea of the benefits of citizenship when we actually talk about punishments for crime by citizens perpetrated upon citizens. Do we want to share a generous conception of rights or continually shrink it to where we serve the interests only of an increasingly narrow subset of "us"?

Ultimately, defining latrunculi as "pirates, robbers, brigands, and outlaws" seems simultaneously too broad and too narrow to me - in short, too vague. Robbers and outlaws? Should we hang foreign fishermen caught taking fish in American waters? Interestingly, the origins of the word "brigand" came from the Italian brigante, meaning an irregular or partisan soldier. Couldn't that describe the behavior of Jackson in invading Florida, whether one approves of it or not?

The goal should be to set the highest possible example in crime and punishment, not reduce ourselves to the lowest common denominator (see Brutus's comment above). As for Matt's cultural sensitivity and relativism (imagining how/why pirates might be so desperate to engage in such criminal acts), it is important to note the distinction between understanding and excusing. I don't interpret Matt's comments as excuses (Matt, please correct me if I'm wrong.). After all, I can see how Americans are scared and fearful of another 9/11, and so can, will, and have rationalized almost any behavior by Americans as justifiable and morally defensible (hmmm...is THAT relativism?). Torture gets conveniently redefined in the most self-serving fashion, for instance (i.e. "Are we doing it? Yes? Ok, that's not torture.") Personally, I don't excuse piracy or torture in the slightest, but it can be useful to understand the collective mentality that serves to sanction such behaviors. And if we wish to really limit such uncivilized behaviors as much as possible - rather than hoping that endless bombings will end such behavior - such understanding is crucial. In the meantime, treating those we catch humanely within our legal system will only serve to impress rational members of foreign societies.

Some great comments from Matt again. He's the one shred of hope I've seen (admittedly, a substantial shred) that Ashbrook isn't a completely sealed and successful indoctrination fraternity. I can only hope there are others like him. And I'd like to note the obvious, that the "hostility" John M referred to was in fact initiated by him, with his ad hominem attack in comment 4.

[Interestigly, the "reCaptcha" words I needed to type in after writing this comment were "Robbery Wizards" - what are the odds?]

Craig, carjacking (or boat jacking) is bad enough, but the pirates also engage in mass kidnapping which I have no problem making a capital crime. They also act as nonuniformed stateless combatants, which I would also be okay with turning into a capital crimne. You are right that conservatives would want harsher penalties for stateless uninformed combatants who operate on the seas or in foreign countries. That is because being so much more difficult to interdict (since they are outside the state's writ)the state has less effective lattitude in dealing with them and the civillain court system is an especially ineffective way of dealing with them in large numbers. They are also putting themselves is a war situation with the state while not obeying the rules of war (wear uniforms, don't target civillians). All of these make the relationship of a pirate differnet from that of a carjacker, which could make them subject to a different court system (military rahter than civillian) and harsher punishment.

And as for the collective mentality that exuses such behavior: Maybe it is in part because it pays well and the risks of harsh swift punisment are not vey great.

John Stuart Mill: ""Despotism is a legitimate mode of government in dealing with barbarians, provided the end be their improvement, and the means justified by actually effecting that end." Executions yes, torture no. Pixie dust or a law treatise is not an effective means against these pirates, nor against terrorists either.

Matthew 7:3-5 is the essence of your argument. America is terrible, reacting unreasonably to a mild threat - Why send a destroyer (because it was nearby?) to deal with little Somali band of brigand/brothers. We ought to send out another lifeboat and allow for a fair fight. Why? This is not an isolated incident. I can't get over the idea that being held at gunpoint, under threat of harm or death means ...nothing much. If there was not that threat of death or harm, would all of those ships have been given up? A car-jacking, for example, is not a big deal if no one dies? If getting hijacked and thumped is not big deal, then why do you get exercised over America's version of torture? Is it the equivalent of Zimbabwe's, North Korea's, Cuba's (admittedly, it is hard to find material on Cuba's prison camps, because the Web focuses on Guantanamo, which is like missing the log to see the speck, rather than the other way around)or China's? About Somalia, if violent abuse is culturally approved, maybe that makes it all right, unlike in the US where we do find even water-boarding reprehensible and an extreme measure.

Somali pirates are not inclined to harm their hostages, just as a thief is reluctant to harm the merchandise he hopes to pawn. How is what they are doing much different from enslaving people? As Pete points out, kidnapping is not harmless. Even without that, I do not see why stealing food and other material aid intended for Africa, or even any commercial cargo is somehow just fine. Are you citing Robin Hood as their precedent? I doubt even they would see that.

I like Matt, too, I think I have met him, but that is not the point.

Kate, I'm not sure who you're addressing in the beginning there, with the Bible quote, but I'll just assume it was someone else. As for your saying this:

"I can't get over the idea that being held at gunpoint, under threat of harm or death means ...nothing much. If there was not that threat of death or harm, would all of those ships have been given up?"

I think you're deploying a straw man. No one has said or implied that any of the crimes discussed - from carjacking to piracy - are "nothing much." I think the points have been that the pirates could have their guilt established in a trial, and that the death penalty shouldn't be discussed if the piracy doesn't involve killing (as similar crimes committed by our own citizens don't typically result in the death penalty).

Plenty of people have held others at gunpoint and when the moment came for shooting, opted against it and gave up. That's the temptation of using a gun. You can control others if they think you're ready and willing to use the gun, even if you aren't. So, who will call the bluff?

"About Somalia, if violent abuse is culturally approved, maybe that makes it all right, unlike in the US where we do find even water-boarding reprehensible and an extreme measure."

That's not clear. Are you being sarcastic or are you actually embracing a cultural relativism there? I would argue that the cultural approval of violent abuse doesn't make it alright, but it certainly does remove a moral barrier. I'm not sure it's fair that you now seem to include yourself among those who oppose waterboarding. Or do you, somehow, approve of that which you find "reprehensible". You certainly didn't seem to be clearly among that "we" (my camp, opposed to it) before.

"If it was good idea then, perhaps it will be a good idea some time in the future. Till that day comes, if we don't need it, isn't it nice to know how selectively it was used then."

"I am left with accepting limited torture in limited circumstances and loathing and fearing it. It is a moral ambiguity that makes me uncomfortable."

Yet you also had trouble - and still do, right? - identifying waterboarding as a form of torture. It's just an "extreme measure". I'm sure that all regimes that employ torture consider it to be an "extreme measure" that they only use "selectively."

Also, if one thinks that America is culturally conservative (despite having voted for Obama the socialist fascist totalitarian - all things counter to conservatism, if we're running with the Goldberg version of things), and the NLT-Limbaugh-Beck strain dominates, then America, by at least some margin, culturally approves of violent abuse, as well.

I get most upset about what America does because it's my country. I can get upset about the abuses engaged in by other countries, but I can't as readily effect change in those places.

I was sorry, Kate, that our last discussion - of fascism, Goldberg, and what policies are actually dangerous - went over the blog waterfall.
Here is my last comment - wherein I explain how Goldberg's start as a pundit really was as lame as I described earlier - in case you missed it.

I feel like Matt and Craig missed the point of the post because of the example used (ie Jackson invading Florida to fight Indians and runaway slaves). I sympathize with the accusation of hypocrisy displayed by a free nation attacking ex-slaves. However, that doesn't address the problem on hand which is (armed) free men from a failed state who, rather than fixing their own country, prey on others (unarmed civilians). Matt, we're not saying they don't have Natural Rights, we're simply saying we should exercise our own. I'll ask Locke to clarify for me:

"That, he who has suffered the damage has a right to demand in his own name, and he alone can remit: the damnified person has this power of appropriating to himself the goods or service of the offender, by right of self-preservation, as every man has a power to punish the crime, to prevent its being committed again, by the right he has of preserving all mankind, and doing all reasonable things he can in order to that end: and thus it is, that every man, in the state of nature, has a power to kill a murderer, both to deter others from doing the like injury, which no reparation can compensate, by the example of the punishment that attends it from every body, and also to secure men from the attempts of a criminal, who having renounced reason, the common rule and measure God hath given to mankind, hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lyon or a tyger, one of those wild savage beasts, with whom men can have no society nor security: and upon this is grounded that great law of nature, Who so sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed."

John Lewis is quite right about the military charging insurance companies. I was shocked to learn they carried no weapons (a spokesman for the company who owns the ship said their sailors can turn the firehoses on attackers). AFRICOM was formed in October in light of Africa's growing strategic importance in the world (a reflection of the impact of the War on Terror, or rather Overseas Contigency Operation, as well as other countries' growing influence in the region - mainly China); however, since we've been poring resources into building Djibouti up I doubt there are any plans to overhaul Somalia.

Craig, I did miss your last comment on that post. A full life keeps getting in the way of my blogging. There were a number of other good comments at the end of that thread that I missed, but it is all over the waterfall, now.

Your first point, #28, my quote referred to the comments of both you and Matt, and maybe ren, too.

Some days, the whole American Left seems to assume that America has not a moral leg to stand on, because of a lack of moral perfection. In that case, the whole politically sinful world is invited to cast stones at us, and we will meekly let whatever is good in our polity die with us, since we are not perfect. Where does the demise of America leave the world?

I am not sure that all regimes that employ torture consider it to be an "extreme measure" that they only use "selectively." The evidence that I read of those nations that I cite above would not indicate that what you say is true. I recently gave a talk on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, because our library is getting an exhibit of artifacts from the Soviet Gulags. In my audience was a Russian immigrant who has been here for about ten years. He would not identify himself. He had clearly been broken, somewhere. I don't know, perhaps he been hit by a truck while living here, but perhaps not. He knew an awful lot about the old Soviet prison system. He did not challenge anything I said, except for one point. I had said that it was impossible for us, Americans, to imagine such a thing happening here. An anti-Bush guy argued that point, but my Russian friend did not. He did remind me of the whole wide world, beyond our borders, like those nations I mention above, where such things do happen. Maybe it is the natural way of man. That's an arguable point, but we were being hurried out of the closing building and did not get to pursue it.

If we are among the minority of nations in the world wherein life is not nasty and brutish and short, how do we preserve our standards and survive in such a world? I say we can't survive without denting our standards, sometimes.

If we change, according to your standards, I worry that our country will not be strong enough to survive either outside or inside pressures. I know, the argument is about how we will preserve what is good here. I don't think we really argue all that much about what is good, but perhaps I am wrong and that is another arguable point.

I am sorry, life calls and I can't be more complete in my argument.

Just one more thing: Andrew, I agree.

I'm sure that all regimes that employ torture consider it to be an "extreme measure" that they only use "selectively."


You're not "sure" of that at all, Scanlon. You just write down whatever words give you the most personal satisfaction without regard to that hoary old concept called truth. It strikes you as useful and pleasing to pretend that what you say is so, and so you do. You have the mind of a small and rather stupid child.

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