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Ideological Tribalism

I was watching a little bit of Beck the other day and it put me in mind of this typically smarmy Matthew Yglesias post from earlier this year.  Yglesias writes that Barry Goldwater's opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has continuing relevance in understanding Amercan conservatism because "his sincere political ideology led to horribly wrongheaded conclusions [italics in original.]  Okay, remember that.

The Beck show was built around the Japanese-American internment during WWII.  The internment was a case where FDR (to use Yglesias' own words) "stood shoulder-to-shoulder with white supremacists" in order to strip members of an ethnic group of their basic rights.  Now one difference is that Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act (again using Yglesias' own words) "out of principled constitutional reasoning" while FDR's racist and absurd policy (Japanese-Americans in Hawaii and elsewhere were not interned) was based on a combination of political opportunism and the ideological conviction that (to use liberal congressman Pete Stark's words) "The federal government, yes, can do almost anything in this country."

So what is Yglesias' point and what is Beck's?  Yglesias' point is that American conservatism was and is inherently flawed for putting up a political champion who opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Becks' point is that the liberal icon's support for the deployment of federal power to round up and arbitrarily intern and strip the rights from Japanese-Americans indicates a foundational and continuing flaw in American liberalism. Yglesias tried to soften the special pleading inherent in his argument by conceding that while "liberals have been wrong in the past", Goldwater's error is different because Goldwater's nomination was a "foundational moment" for conservatism - unlike say the peripheral role that the FDR administration played in the history of liberalism. 

Yglesias and Beck deserve each other.  They are both practicing the same kind of partisan and opportunistic essentialism.  They both imply that a now repudiated policy once held by people who claimed a label in the past demonstrates a fundamental wrongness relevant to current disputes.  Neither is quite willing to state the absurdity underlying their arguments (well, maybe Beck has - I haven't seen most episodes).  For Yglesias it boils down to the insinuation that support for lower tax rates and less government spending is inherently in latent alliance with white supremacy, and for Beck it is that support for Obamacare is a step toward concentration camps.

Liberals have spent decades trying to understand and explain why FDR's internment of Japanese-Americans was wrong on the level of liberal principle.  Conservatives have sought to explain why, as a matter of conservative principle, Goldwater was constitutionally and morally wrong to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Most liberals seem to understand that conservatives can assert the unconstitutionality of the federal health insurance purchase mandate without at the same time advancing the cause of Jim Crow.  Most conservatives seem to understand that liberals can support the same federal mandate without putting us at increased risk that Japanese-Americans will again find themselves in concentration camps.  This reasonableness in our politics exists despite the efforts of some ideological propagandists to divide us into warring tribes and make the tribesmen dumber and more self-satisfied.  

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 47 Comments

Can't let the left use the ethnic Japanese relocation to curb our legitimate domestic efforts in the war against Islamic radicalism. FDR was not whipping up a lynch mob. Where was the 1942 Rose Bowl played, and why? See this response to this question: http://www.claremont.org/publications/pubid.263/pub_detail.asp

Ken, by all means let us stand up for legitimate domestic security efforts, but that does not make the Japanese-American internment on the West Coast and Arizona good policy.

It seems to me the comparison of FDR and Goldwater highlights a deep trait in both the liberal and conservative movements.

Liberals then (and now) seem willing to move to arguments (and actions) that are convenient and expedient at the time. Conservatives then (and now) seem willing to win a battle but lose the war over points of closely held principle.

I am, personally, more inclined to champion the latter than the former. But I must confess it often frustrates me to see some conservatives willing to sacrifice all to make their point.

What I struggle with is how to reconcile this. Splitting the baby is not always the answer. Sometimes, yes; every time, no.

And is keeping a point of principle in my pocket (in other words: resisting the urge to win the battle but lose the war) the same as foresaking the principle?

I honestly don't know.

The essential problem is this: The enforcement of a broad number of individual-level rights typically requires a powerful central government. This is the axiom that pointy-headed libertarians (like Beck) can't wrap their minds around. Radical individualism is a hot-house flower which requires big government, period.

We true conservatives understand that "rights" are balanced by communal obligations, and both inhere in organic (typically local) communities. Our Bill of Rights are about what the central government CAN'T do. Whenever we seek to expand "affirmative" rights we will necessarily expand central government. This has been the "progressive" tragedy of our nation since WWII (and before, I suppose) -- everything from banning prayer in schools, to financing abortions, to redistributing income.

Pete, my argument is that it was a reasonable and defensible policy, considering Japanese strategy in the Pacific and the immediate threat to the west coast. To brand the relocation as racist hysteria is to give the left a weapon they will brandish against reasonable domestic action in the war against Islamic radicalism. No one is talking relocation today, but those WW II decisions require sober defense, as Chief Justice Rehnquist gave in his All the Laws But One.

Ken if the mass relocation and internment of Japanese-American US citizens made any military sense anywhere given Japanese strategy in the Pacific (and the most legal sense given the Insular Cases of the early 1900s), it made sense in Hawaii where only a very small fraction of Japanese-Americans were interned. I struggle for an analogy in the days after September 11. Imagine if, after September 11, there was mass relocation and internment of Arab-Americans US citizens with no known ties to anti-American groups or politics. Further, that this relocation and internment happened not in New York, Pennsylvania, or Washington DC (where the attacks happened) nor in the state where Arab Americans were the most proportionately numerous (like Michigan), but in states like Maine, Maryland and Missouri as a result of pressure from local officials. I don't doubt that the fear of Japanese attack on the West Coast was real (as fear of attack was real all around the country in the days after 9/11) , but I also think that the internment policy we got (other more limited policies based on evidence of personal wrongdoing would have been defensible) deserves sober disagreement rather than defense.

Redwald when it comes to the idea of the purpose of the government being the protection of basic human rights (and not of the organic-local-communal-right-to own-black people -type "rights") your argument is not with Beck, but with the pointy-headed libertarian who wrote "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed"

Putting 125,000 people in concentration camps for three years in order to break up Japanese spy rings seems rather like using a cannon to kill cats.

Conservatives have sought to explain why, as a matter of conservative principle, Goldwater was constitutionally and morally wrong to oppose the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Who is arguing that other than yourself?

Caste regulations which incorporate a culture of insult into the transactions of mundane life are wrong. That having been said, transactions occurring over a lunch counter do not constitute 'interstate commerce'. Transactions between a small proprietor whose business has one location in one town and employees locally resident do not constitute 'interstate commerce' either. Laws which compel people to associate with each other against their preference may be wise or silly; they are, however, coercive. The positions taken by Barry Goldwater, or Gottfried Dietze, or the younger Robert Bork may have been bloodless and just too divorced from the wharp and woof of everyday life in the country as it was in 1963. They were not unreasonable nor immoral.

AD, Ramesh Ponnuru and William Voegeli.

The relocation left ethnic Japanese living in Salt Lake City and Spokane untouched. I know Japanese Americans on the west coast who moved to Chicago to escape the relocation. The issue was the security of the West Coast. Second, the military put Hawaii under curfew, thus balancing the interests of security and the huge ethnic Japanese population there. Third, consider the world the military was facing in light of the Niihau episode, following the Pearl Harbor attack: http://www.claremont.org/publications/pubid.276/pub_detail.asp
What is at stake here is what a nation dedicated to the principle of human equality should do when it is under attack by a nation dedicated to ethnic fanaticism, viz. racism? Can our ideals make us too weak to defend ourselves?

Ken, doesn't the hapzard and inconsistent nature of the relocation and internment (wouldn't the Niihau incident have been an argument for concentration camps in Hawaii rather than the West Coast?) argue against the reasonableness of such a policy, and that the mass detention of American citizens who happen to be coethnics of whatever state we are at war with with no evidence of personal wrongdoing in resonse to pressure from local politicians was not a case where we were tragically forced to choose between ideals and national survival. Not that we (as in I) should be too smug. Time pressure, uncertainty and the sense that the internment policy was only one huge decision of a seemingly endless stream of momentous decisions gives some perspective to the internment policy without making it other than very wrong.

J. Edgar Hoover--hardly a shrinking violet when it came to issues of national security--believed that relocation was completely unnecessary. The FBI had a good sense of which Japanese-Americans were security risks, and these were rounded up in the days after Pearl Harbor. Relocation, he claimed, was carried out only to satisfy public hysteria.

Well, Pete, this is exactly why I haven't trusted many of your policy prescriptions -- at heart, you are a liberal (as are many libertarians). Ending the owning of persons required, at least in this country, an enormous expansion of central government, half a million dead young men, and a bitter history of division that is still with us (e.g., this thread). Now of course many people would say it was worth it, but that's a matter of preference. I think I would have appreciated a more gradual, organic approach to ending slavery.

Whenever government steps in to adjudicate rights, we get an expansion of government and a growing atomization of communities. That's what government does -- it takes sides, and it uses force to lock in those decisions. Libertarians simply haven't thought it through -- their program of radical individual rights actually goes hand-in-hand with a massive increase in governmental power.

So, Pete, you go on thinking that "basic human rights" and "small government" are compatible goals. The statists laugh all the way to Congress.

Redwald, let us leave aside, for the moment, the enormous and abusive use of government power required for the state to sanction and support the ownership of one group by another. If by believing that the government exists (in part, but necessary part) to protect the "inherent natural [human] rights" of people then I guess that makes me a liberal in the tradition of that great Southerner and American George Washington http://www.beliefnet.com/resourcelib/docs/95/Letter_from_George_Washington_to_the_Hebrew_Congregation_in_N_1.html

I don't mind being thought that kind of liberal and don't really understand Americans who do.

There is a sick irony to your professed support for a gradual end of slavery. There was a peaceful and (very, very) gradualist approach to ending slavery that was supported (in different ways) by men like Clay, Madison and Lincoln. It was in opposition to such a vision of peaceful and excruciatingly slow (especially for the slaves) approach to ending slavery that we had an insurrection in order to establish an explicitly proslavery republic (the Cornerstone Speech could hardly be clearer.) Your complaint about the speed and bloodiness of emancipation are best addressed to the self-destructive ideologues who tried to dismember our country in order to permanently secure and perpetuate slavery .

Pete (and John): Those are reasonable points. One Milton Eisenhower program (he was at one point director of the system) was to offer jobs to those in the relocation centers so they could get out. Sure, there was ambivalence and there may well have been other ways of dealing with what was surely a limited number of disloyal individuals. The point about the Niihau traitor is that he had no idea of becoming a traitor until this Japanese fighter pilot suddenly swept down from the sky and offered up dreams of Japanese conquest to this young Japanese American farmer. Were there other, ostensibly loyal Japanese Americans on the west coast who could be similarly seduced into disloyalty or terrorism? One more thought about the camps/centers: Pro-Japanese elements in them would terrorize the pro-Americans, beating them for their defense of the country that was mistreating them. Eventually they were segregated by the authorities into the camp at Tule Lake, CA, where they continued their demonstrations on behalf of the Emperor.

Ken, but the argument from seduction by claim of ethnic solidarity was a much much stronger argument for mass internment in Hawaii (where the event occurred - as well as the Pearl Harbor attack, where Japanese-Americans were a larger share of the total population, and in an area that was closer to the heart of Pacific military operations) than in California. I don't think it is sound policy, absent a mass uprising, to intern an ethnic group based on the suspicion (possibly correct) that some unknown number of that group may be unconsciously disloyal. If adhered to with any consistency (as this policy was not of course) any ethnic group of US citizens could be swept into camps upon US belligerency with the right (er..wrong) country or violent nonstate actor if even one member of that group should prove disloyal.

Hawaii was under a curfew, as was appropriate. Moreover, the nature of the Japanese war against other Asian nations and its war against the U.S. was largely racial. The relocation was exclusively on the west coast. The problem is that there were more than just a few who had loyalties to Japan. Were these politically meaninglul ties? How might immigrants persuade their children? These are serious questions. The lesson to be drawn from that sad episode for today is that generalizations about ethnic nationalities, especially ones with close ties to the aggressor country, may offer appropriate guidance in developing national security policy. We should also keep in mind that relocation ended before WW II ceased. (In Canada it did not end until 1947.) It might have ended sooner (FDR and the SCOTUS coordinated the Korematsu decision to come after the 1944 elections.)

The early Progressives all argued along the lines that Redwald favors--there's been too much emphasis on rights, not enough on the welfare of the community. Their solution, of course, was statism.

Ken, if a more intermediate policy was appropriate for Hawaii (and a curfew would probably have been sensible - at least at first - even if not a single Japanese-American lived on those islands), it is not clear why a similar combination of curfew and investigation would not have been possible for the West Coast. I can't think of a single good reason not to intern the Japanese-Americans in Hawaii that is not an even better reason not to intern the Japanese-Americans on the West Coast. There are reasons (Japanese-Americans were more important to the economy of Hawaii, they were not as locally unpopular in Hawaii as on the West Coast), but those are reasons that tend to undermine the rationale for the mass internment. You are right that Japan claimed racial (alongside ethnic) arguments in favor of war and expansion. So did Germany. I do believe that there was some significant relocation and internment of German-Americans, but on the basis of individual suspicious behavior (or strongly suspected suspicious behavior), which would have been a fine policy to follow for Japanese-Americans on the West Coast - and which would have satisfied the idea that ethnic tie might guide investigation. One could respond that Germany had not attacked us to start the war. That would be true, but it would also be true that the attack happened in Hawaii (among other places) where there was no mass (as opposed to targeted) internment rather than the West Coast where there was one.

Or to put it this way. If there was a war between the US and Greece, I would expect greater scrutiny of the political activities and communications of Greek-Americans like myself. If there had been a mass uprising of Greek-American citizens against the US government I think it might be a tragic but reasonable choice to adopt the mass internment of Greek-Americans as things were sorted out. So my daughter, my parents and I would be in camps with Mike Dukakis and Charlie Crist [shudder]. Fine. But the adoption of such an ethnic based internment in the absence of such an uprising or real evidence of mass conspiracy, based on the goals of some other state or nonstate actor and the actions of an infinitesimal number of coethnics, a mass internment carried out against an ethnic group based on local political pressure is neither reasonable nor right.

You are correct that there are many ways in which the internment was not as bad as it might have been.

Pete, Washington is being perfectly consistent in that letter -- the FEDERAL government gives no sanction to prejudice or faction, as he puts it. These are "negative" rights in the sense that the Federal government won't legislate against (or for) certain groups. Indeed, references to slavery are pretty rare in the Constitution, and therefore we have to wonder if many of the founders actually thought of black slaves as "persons" at all. Of course, as American history went on the personhood of all people (including women) became socially accepted, and I think a gradual establishment of civil rights would have worked and been more effective (organic change = normative change and the alignment of interests with new world views). If you have to use a gun to bring about change, that's neither gradual nor conservative, Pete.

But I think you miss the broader point. Whenever an individual is forced to use government (i.e., the judicial system) to enforce their "rights," there is almost always a loser. Government has picked a side, but there is no guarantee that "civil rights" is actually good for society as a whole. For instance, let's say a homosexual wants to lead a Boy Scout troop. Or an atheist wants to work for the Southern Baptist Convention. Or a black person sues a university system because there exists a 'statistical' pattern of discrimination. Every expansion of such rights shrinks the scope and power of civil society (upon rests our democracy).

You can't have it both ways, Pete. Either people have to be free to discriminate as they choose, or we gradually create Big Brother. It's not a happy choice, I admit, but it's reality. This country was/is an experiment in whether or not PEOPLE CAN RUN THEIR OWN LIVES WITH MINIMAL INTERFERENCE FROM THE GOVERNMENT. The Founders called this 'liberty', and it wasn't just individual liberty, but liberty of association and institution separate from governmental power. Neither the government nor Abe Lincoln (as a Federal official) had the right to regulate the lives of Southern people, nor to destroy their society for the sake of some faction (black people) that was oppressed by it.

In this sense, Pete, I doubt your conservativism. It is possible I've mistaken you, and if so I apologize. But any time we think its right to use central government for moral crusading (particularly against its own citizens) we have lost the conservative sensibility.

Whenever an individual is forced to use government (i.e., the judicial system) to enforce their "rights," there is almost always a loser.

Well, sure. The same thing happens if someone breaks into my house and I call the police to have him arrested. I'm asserting my "right" to property, which the would-be thief seeks to violate. Do you disapprove of this, too? Or is that an infringement on the liberty of the thief?

. Redwald, people can disagree about the proper definition of conservatism so no need for any apology. I do think that your entire point disintegrates if we remember that slavery in the US was, by definition a radically statist institution and represented a radical violation of "negative rights" free choice or whatever and that the abolition of slavery was, in one sense, the greatest expansion of negative rights (though I don't like that expression) in American history. Slaves were, of all people, not at all free to RUN THEIR OWN LIVES WITH MINIMAL INTERFERENCE FROM THE GOVERNMENT

As far as I can tell, the founding generation did consider slaves (and women!) to be persons, though the immediate abolition of slavery was considered to be too dangerous and disruptive (the slaves were of course not asked), and it was hoped that slavery would gradually die out through a combination of private action and gradual public emancipation (though they had few details in mind and planned to be dead when this happened.) The end of slavery in the mid Atlantic states is probably close to what they had in mind plus maybe some colonization to Africa (once again the slaves were not consulted.) There is a lot of self-serving thought there, but it is what it is and it isn't what the latter Alexander Stephens and the latter John Calhoun wanted.

The insurrection of the 1860s was based on the opposite idea that black people were not fully human and that slavery was a good and ought to be permanent institution and they tried to violently break up the US in order to secure slavery in an explicitly pro-slavery republic. You are of course right that there is a plausible argument that it would have been better for slavery to end gradually within the US (though the slaves would have an at least equally plausible case for disagreement.) That is what Lincoln wanted, and Jefferson, and Washington and... But the leaders of the 1860s insurrection launched a bloody war to prevent any such thing even in the distant future to the degree that they were able to shape the future.

No, Pete, the South did NOT launch a "bloody war." All the evidence points to Lincoln's preference for fighting over disunion. It really is that simply -- the South was executing it's natural right of secession, and the North refused them. That's the reason 95% of the war was fought on Southern soil. If there was an aggressor, it surely was the Federal Government.

Those who believe secession was disallowed by the Constitution must think of that document as the largest example of bait-and-switch in history. There is little doubt that many of the States who have refused to sign if that document had disallowed secession (New York and Virginia come to mind).

As for the legal mechanisms of slavery, that institution existed without a lot of government machinery for centuries, and I doubt the South was wholly dependent on State government for its sustenance. Of course, if you simply mean PROPERTY and contract law, then I guess most everything comes under the purview of government.

But I think the broader point needs to be reemphasized: Conservativism should always be suspicious of the use of government to bring about social change. It's almost always coercive and often bloody, and it almost never solves the problem it seeks to solve. True, we eliminated slavery, but we still have many, many racial problems in this country.; it's very hard to bring about normative change at the point of a gun (as the Soviets found out). And sadly, the South never did really rise again. Many of its best and brightest were left dead on the battlefield, and many fine families were completely wiped out. In a very real sense, the North committed genocide on Southern culture (and no, I won't apologize for using that phrase -- we treated conquered Germany and Japan with far more respect).

The Japanese situation differed, as the society of the 1940s differed from ours today. For example, back then racial segregation in major sectors of life was taken for granted. Of course one injustice need not justify another. The German situation differs from the Japanese: It's clear that Germans were at war against other Germans, and Hitler's argument was one of anti-Jewish, evolutionary nationalism. In other words, there were real Germans and others, who could be persecuted. While there were Japanese dissenters from the militaristic regime in Japan, the cause of Japan seems to have been more unified than among Germans. (It's interesting the Americans of Japanese ancestry were not interned in Japan.) The nature of the war differed for the Japanese, as it would for Greeks, etc. Relocation of Hawaiin Japanese could not have been accomplished, due to the logisitcs involved and the disruption to the island economy--instead the military put a curfew in place. The curfews on the west coast that preceded the relocation also singled out Japanese and were upheld by the Court.

Redwald, on the willingness to use force a less self-serving explanation of the circumstance would be something along the lines of "one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came." Which is how it worked out from the first blow.

That the insurrectionists believed there was a "natural right" (to mean an extralegal and moral right) to secession would certainly have come as a surprise to the dissenting Southern whites of West Virginia and Eastern Tennessee to say nothing of the slaves. Based on the standards of Declaration, a revolutionary secession dedicated to securing and perpetuating slavery (rather than the violation of individual rights and legal rights (which even Alexander Stephens admitted had not happened at the time of the secession) was not morally valid. I don't think that (in this context) "natural right to secession" means what you think it means.

I don't see that there was any bait-and-switch in the Constitution. Don't get me wrong. Proslavery ideologues tried multiple bait-and-switches in the 1830s-1850s what with the clamed right that the states had a legal right to nullify federal laws and that the federal government could not ban slavery in the territories. The Federalist 39 (by the Father of the Constitution) was pretty clear that "appeal to the sword" was the only thing left if there should be a disagreement about the extent of federal and state powers that was not peacefully dealt with by "the tribunal which is ultimately to decide,[which]is to be established under the general government" In other words ,in cases of these disputes it was up to the Supreme Court to LEGALLY adjudicate federal/state disputes and if one party didn't like it, the only recourse was not legal, but violent, extralegal and revolutionary. Madison repeated this view in his later essay on nullification. That doesn't mean the revolutionary secession is never wrong, just that it isn't legal. It might be moral - but that gets to what the insurrectionists were after in trying to dismember the country. Alexander Stephens was pretty clear about that.

I think if you were a slave and wanted to learn to read (or were white and wanted to teach a slave to read), if you wanted to teach your child to read, if you wanted to not see your children sold off to live untold miles away, if you wanted to choose your employer or simply visit relatives at a time of your own choosing and found agents of the state ready to use force to block you at every step, then you would see the inherent statism of slavery as it was practiced especially as the 1800s went on. But at least the slaves didn't have to pay fines if they didn't buy health insurance so it wasn't really Big Government.

And I would say that trying to dismember the US in order to establish an explicitly proslavery republic is an example of trying to use the gun to force social change (rather than trying to use sweet reason), as was the post-Civil War use of violence by various terrorist orgainzations to deprive African-Americans of their political rights. I don't think that is what you have in mind.

Your use of the phrase "genocide of culture" reminds me of the phrase "economic violence" in trying to use metaphor to make a point that would be absurd if stated directly. It was intolerably cruel to seek (and tragically fail after much terrorist bloodshed) to effectively enfranchise African-Americans? The mythology of it all.

Ken, I'm not sure how the racist imperialist ideology of Imperial Japan justified the mass internment of second generation Japanese-Americans in a way that the racist imperialist ideology of the Third Reich didn't justify the mass internment of second (or third or whatever) German Americans or that the differential treatment was the result of any deep US government meditation on the subject. I have a vague memory of having read somewhere that the German government did tried to make appeals based on ethnic solidarity to German-Americans. If they had, I don't think it would have justified mass internment. In any case I don't see how the public philosophy of the state or nonstate actor we are at war with justifies the mass internment of an ethnic group in the absence of evidence of mass sedition. If the Greek (or whatever) government would put out the statement "CALLING ALL GREEKS! BE DISLOYAL TO THE US! THAT IS ALL." I still don't see that it justifies mass internment of this or that ethnic population absent evidence of mass conspiracy.

The mass relocation and internment of Japanese-Americans on Hawaii was not impossible as distinct from undesirable. I believe there were less than two hundred thousand Japanese-Americans on Hawaii. If there had been the will, the US government could doubtless have found the (no doubt horrible) way. But there wasn't the will (nor crucially the mass demand for such a policy from local politicians.) So Japanese-Americans were crucial to the war effort working around the military bases and ship yards of Hawaii, but on the West Coast, where they were proportionately far fewer and they were thousands of miles farther away from the center of operations they suddenly become such a security threat that they need to be put in internment camps. Does no compute absent understanding not just the different security environments but the different racial group politics and how the federal government responded to them

But the point of relocation from the west coast was to prevent espionage or collaboration with invading forces. Remember, too (and Japanese Americans today can confirm this) that California Japanese were subject to far more restrictions on their liberties (alien land laws, intermarriage restrictions, for example) than their brethren in Hawaii. Those injustices might breed resentments leading to disloyalty, as was demonstrated in the pro-Japan rallies of a significant portion of the relocated. Of course they were outweighed by those who volunteered to serve or allowed themselves to be drafted into the military.

The Nazi regime meant there were good Germans and bad Germans. The Imperial Japanese regime had a different take on Japanese abroad. Recall the brutality of Japan's attack on Manchuria--supported by many Japanese abroad. (Greek brutality? A Turk would have examples, of course, but toward the US?)J apan was different, and it wasn't all or primarily American racism.

Pete, I suggest you visit the casualty statistics and the despicable political practices that characterized so-called "Reconstruction" before you challenge my assertions about cultural genocide.

No one is arguing that slavery is right and good. What I'm arguing is that it is dangerous and unconservative to justify aggressive governmental action against people simply because you have a moral disagreement with them. Is this not what we are fighting about with the Democrat's attitude toward affluent people? The extra-legal war against the South has been continually justified by ending the evil of slavery, but I'm arguing that this is a very bad precedent to follow. Once you've accepted the notion that a state can use its monopoly on coercion to "reform" a society, then you have become a progressive, pure and simple. You might as well champion reverse-discrimination, income redistribution, reeducation camps, and the whole sorry mess.

I might also add that, once you've accepted the premise that government is a tool of redemption and reform, then you've automatically elevated politics above all other facets of society. Essentially, politics becomes an all-out, no-holds-barred conflict where winning is everything (cf. modern-day Democrats).

Sad, Peter, really sad.

Redwald, I assume that by despicable political practices you are referring to rules that barred African-Americans from voting, giving testimony in court, traveling without express government permission, owning firearms, serving on juries and having their labor auctioned off under circumstances that would have made it virtually impossible to choose among competing employers among other policies. By casualties I assume you mean the various acts or torture, terror and murder and undertaken to disenfranchise African-Americans and prevent the development of a competitive two party system. You are right that it was truly horrible and tragic. That is what you meant right?

I take it at face value that YOU, don't believe slavery was good, or right but the founders of the 1860s insurgency thought slavery was good and right and THEY undertook "dangerous and unconservative...aggressive government action" in order to forestall all those gradual, organic blah, blah, blah developments that you hoped for. They were, in their politics, radical, violent, and statist (again the slaves and dissenting whites would be glad to tell you) proslavery zealots (even tactical moderates like Alexander Stephens. Nominally Burkean sympathies are wasted on them when you consider the role that radical ideology played in their politics (this being distinct from the particular motivations of individual Southern white soldiers once the shooting had started.)

Politics "an all-out, no-holds-barred conflict where winning is everything" is a pretty good summary of the view of the Redeemers in establishing a radically white supremacist regime in the Southern states. A more limited government view would have involved governments under law that allowed African-Americans (and dissenting whites) to practice their politics without fear of political violence.

Ken you are right that Japanese-Americans faced hostility and public discrimination on the West Coast. This history of hostility no doubt contributed to the demands of local officials that West Coast Japanese-Americans be relocated and interned. It also helps explain why there was a pro-internment outcry in a West Coast that had not faced major Japanese attack and was thousands of miles from the center of conflict and why there wasn't one in a Hawaii that actually suffered such an attack - as well as the Niihau incident. I don't recall that the history of anti-Japanese discrimination on the West Coast formed a legal and moral justification for mass internment absent evidence of mass disloyalty - as compared to the policy of interning German-Americans based on particular sympathy with the Reich.

I'm not seeing how the inhumane policies of Japan in China justified the mass internment of Japanese-Americans on the West Coast (but not Hawaii), but the inhumane policies of Germany in Poland, Russia, France (Greece!) and other places did not justify the mass internment of German-Americans. You have to look real close to explain why the moral gulf between the Japanese Empire and Third Reich is so wide as to justify the mass internment of American citizens of Japanese descent (assuming the logic of "the government of the country that your ancestors came from is at war with us so we are putting you in a camp" makes sense in the first place), but not German-Americans.

Once again I don't see how the war aims and public philosophy of a state or nonstate actor that we are at war with justifies the mass internment of an American ethnic group (Greeks, Serbs, Armenians, Venezuelans, Russians etc.) absent evidence of mass disloyalty and if it did, I still don't see the distinction between the Pan-German aims of Germany (which included a call to ethnic duty to Germans around the world as I recall) are substantively different from those of Japan when it comes to internment

I think you twist my words, Pete. And most of the wrongs you list again blacks were REACTIONS to the things I am referring to (disenfranchisement of former Confederate soldiers, the rigged elections, and Yankee dominance of the economy -- you know, carpetbaggers, remember?). Even Robert E. Lee, a veritable paragon of honorable action, is on record as saying that, had he known what the Federal Government intended to do after the war, he would have engaged in guerrilla fighting.

I took a whole college class on Reconstruction once upon a time (and from a pro-Lincoln professor). I wretched through the entire course. Never has there existed a misnomer as bad as "reconstruction."

Pete, you are guilty of a modern ailment -- judging the past using present values. During the Civil War the big moral issue was UNION, not slavery. That's what most soldiers, North and South, were fighting about. The New York enlistment riots are prime exemplars of the prevailing Northern attitudes at the time. It is good that slavery ended, but I'm not sure it was worth the terrible price we paid.

During the Civil War the big moral issue was UNION, not slavery. That's what most soldiers, North and South, were fighting about.

So the Civil War wasn't about slavery, it was about the union. Check.

It is good that slavery ended, but I'm not sure it was worth the terrible price we paid.

If the Civil War wasn't fought over slavery, how can it be "the terrible price" paid for its abolition?

Redwald, what is up with the selective historical relativism? I don't know why you "retched" through your study of federal Reconstruction policy. surely you realized that Radical Republicans were products of their time and that you had no business judging them by your present values (or the values of the just-after-Reconstruction time when they were portrayed as villains.) Actually you were right to try to bring responsible and sober moral judgment to the Reconstruction period. You might be better off if you applied that perspective less selectively and with a better sense of proportion. You might wonder if the torture and murder of African-Americans and dissenting white political candidates was worse than or justified by the (mostly temporary) disenfranchisement of Confederate leaders who had just recently been trying to dismember the country or if preventing African-Americans from delivering testimony in court, owning guns or being able to sell their labor at an open market (it is complicated, but basically abusive and disparately applied vagrancy laws) ought to make one retch - or maybe just conclude that they were bad laws passed for bad reasons.

Though dong so does not mean that anyone else, either then or now is perfect.

The Nazi regime went after all manner of Germans; in that sense one could differentiate between good Germans and Nazis. That distinction was far more difficult if not impossible for practical purposes to make with Japanese racialism.

The relocation from the west coast differed from "mass Internment"--for the reasons I adumbrate above. The fact that prudential judgments had to be made that led to different results in the territory of Hawaii and on the west coast states does not mean there wasn't a single, defensible principle behind the differing policies.

Ken it was a mass internment in California and other parts of the West Coast since the internment (in those areas)was based on ethnic category rather than individual suspicion. I still don't see how the German government's policies toward domestic minorities and political dissidents made it any easier to distinguish good and bad German-Americans in the case of Joe Braun as distinct from good or bad Japanese-Americans in the case of Joe Nakamura. I don't know that any foreign state's actions can justify the US government to interning US citizens by ethnic category in the absence of evidence of mass conspiracy. I do think there was a "prudential" reason for not interning Japanese-Americans who lived close to the shipyards and naval bases of Hawaii in the aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attack, but interning Japanese-Americans in interior California though it had more to do with local political pressure than security.

John, no contradiction at all. Today the CW is almost exclusively justified by the end of slavery. What I'm saying is that the price was too high, particularly when I'm pretty sure it was a fading institution anyway (and please, save me the "it would have gone on forever" BS -- the world was turning against slavery - I doubt it would have lasted another 30 years).

As for judging the past based on present values, I judged "Reconstruction" on the stated goals of those policies - to reintegrate the wayward South back into America. Indeed, despite the rhetoric of "rebellion," conquered Southerners weren't treated as American citizens brought back to the bosom of country, but rather as a vanquished colonial people. It was vindictive, pure and simple.

The CW was the beginning of the American Empire, and that's a shame. Many have argued that the grand experiment was extinguished on those battlefields, and some days I'm forced to concur.

Actually, I agree with your claim that slavery would have died out. Had the South not seceded it probably would have died a slow death (Pete's claim that Lincoln offered the best chance for the gradual, "organic" end of slavery is exactly right.). Had it seceded, and Lincoln had allowed it to "go in peace" (that's assuming that this was politically possible, and it wasn't) it probably would have died out within 30 years--although I have no doubt that the slaveowning elites who dominated the Confederacy would have imposed all sorts of police-state tactics in order to preserve it as long as possible. So yes, the Civil War ended up being a quick and bloody solution to the problem of slavery.

However, your claim is irrelevant, considering that you clearly believe that the most common justification of the Civil War--it ended slavery--is wrong. But if the war was fought primarily to restore the Union, then the war wasn't really the price for ending slavery, but the price for protecting the Union. The abolition of slavery was simply a beneficial side-effect.

Redwald, you are right that many Southerners were not treated as real Americans by their government. Many were barred from voting, from giving testimony in court, from serving on juries, and from owning guns. Some Southerners were harassed by their government into signing labor contracts that nearly amounted to relegalized slavery on an annual basis. some southerners were disenfranchised by fraud and terror and had to fear murder or torture if they tried to exercise their political rights. You are very, very correct that many Southerners were faced governments that had partnered with terrorist groups in order to subjugate them as a colonial people. We are still talking about African Americans right?

I see what you are getting at by writing that "the grand experiment died on those battlefields." You are referring to the Redeemer era battlefield like the site of the Colfax and Hamburg Massacres and other less well known places where political violence disenfranchised many American citizens and called into question our commitment to equal rights and the rule of law. Saying "the grand experiment died" seems extreme to me. There was and is a great deal of good in our country. But I see where you are coming from. Don't I?

You are also right that judging Reconstruction from its stated purposes (and the purposes of say Lincoln, Johnson, Grant and Stevens were all somewhat different), is cause for dismay and especially if you consider the purposes of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. The cause of investing African Americans in the South with an effective franchise and most other political rights was temporarily (and protractedly) defeated. The failure of this project is tragic and there is blame o go around. But the blame must start with the terrorists who would murder and torture their political opponents rather than tolerate voting by African Americans or the existence of a competitive two party system.

John, I'm not sure slavery dies out that quickly. A victory by the confederacy would have had enormous ideological and political (to include diplomatic) consequences. A combination of the Confederacy partially adapting slavery to other modes of production and the acceptance of lower economic dynamism, along with the fear of a social revolution if slavery ended (a fear not at all confined to slave owners) could have kept slavery going for who-knows-how-long. I can't even see clearly how it ends. Peaceful political evolution? Slave revolt (maybe with arms from the rump US)? Defeat on the battlefield (and what kind of battlefield)? It seems to me that a confederate victory deflects history in a way that make ensuing events very unpredictable

My hypothetical scenario is based on the increasing difficulty of maintaining slavery without the ability to pass the costs of enforcement off to the North--in other words, without the Fugitive Slave Law. The institution was already beginning to break down in the Border States for this very reason. I also think that slave revolts would become a lot more likely, as you suggest, and probably would receive aid from the US. (Note that I didn't use the word "peaceful.")

.John, you're right about the enforcement problem, but as Harry Jaffa pointed out, fear of slave escape (as a rhetorical matter) was mot hyperbolic where it was least likely (and slave formed the largest proportion of the population.) I'm not sure how the enforcement problem resolves itself, but partly it would have involved increased enforcement costs and even more spectacular oppression and restrictions on the movements of slaves. Though the resulting paranoia could very easily have become a justification for protecting slavery even more and expanding the institution southward. This does not even get into how a victorious Confederacy would have changed politics in the rump US (does the remainder even remain one nation-state) and how this influences the development the regional and global state system. Now all of these could actually work against the perpetuation of slavery in the Confederacy but a lot of that would be based not on broad trends but by how particular statesmen and electorates responded to and shaped those trends

I think most reasonable people would agree that slavery as an institution was doomed. Therefore, was the quick and bloody end of slavery (which led to the slaughter of half a million young men, the over-centralization of the state, and a host of other unforeseen side-effects) really worth it? Many have claimed is was not justified, either as a way of ending slavery or as a way of "preserving" the Union (how can we even talk of preservation when the South clearly wanted to leave -- the language is retarded). The "United States" was snuffed in that conflict. If became the American Federation.

Pete, you keep moaning about treatment of blacks, but I see little sympathy for white Southerners in your attitude (most of whom, after all, never owned a slave). These people's right to self-determination was ignored and then suppressed by violence. How would you feel about it if slavery/blacks were NOT a part of the equation?

And if we want to talk about discriminatory treatment of blacks, shouldn't we talk about the Northern reception of blacks during the Great Migration?

Redwald, Apparently 'reasonable people" did not include the leaders of the 1860s insurgency who sought to tear apart our country in order to establish a slavery-based republic. You are right that they were unreasonable and their actions resulted in some horrible consequences though we can thank God that one of those consequences was not the dismemberment of our country. I'm surprised to learn that you think that the Civil War converted the US into a federation. James Madison describe the form of the US government under the Constitution as a "composition" of national and federal elements. Washington was more like Lincoln is describing the US as our "national union."

In all our discussions of the Reconstruction Era, I've written on the assumption that Southern African Americans were just as human, American, and Southern as Southern whites - neither more nor less. That is why so many Redeemer-era apologias (when shorn of racist assumptions) sound so different when you repeat them, very slightly changed, while keeping the humanity, Americaness and Southerness of Southern African Americans always in view. Or to put it this way, Southern whites, for the most part, had far better respected political rights in 1870 than Southern African Americans had in 1880.

"These people's right to self-determination was ignored and then suppressed by violence." We are still talking about African Americans right?

I was asking you to do a little thought experiment -- drop your bias in favor of blacks and then evaluate was actually happened during and after the Civil War. But I guess you aren't capable of that. Too bad.

So, any group's right to self-determination is to be predicated on the equality of every subgroup, correct? I guess under that criterion the American Revolution was wrong -- neither women nor blacks (nor Indians) and in most cases non-property owners had full political rights, so any claim to moral superiority to and independence from Great Britain was just so much rhetoric. Equality determines the legitimacy of any claim of self-sovereignty. You are sounding more and more Leftist, Pete.

And, why do you feel justified in feeling no sympathy for Southern whites just because blacks had it worse? That was the thinking of the Radical Republicans, who sought to drive whites down in order to raise blacks up (and stupid, counterproductive strategy). And regardless, none of what you say justifies the Federal policy of colonization that occurred during so-called "Reconstruction." It was evil and corrupt, and we are still paying the price for that stupidity.

Redwald, I was under the impression that I was treating Southern African Americans and Southern whites under a set of common standards and with a sense of proportion. The restrictions on (some) southern whites post-Civil War were both more temporary (by design except in a very few cases) and far less comprehensive than the restrictions (to say nothing of the violence and political terror) upon African Americans under the black codes and in the Redeemer-era. This is also to say nothing of the fact that no Southern African American leaders had been prominently implicated in a recent attempt to overthrow the US government.

I would argue that there is something especially perverse in asserting self-determination as a cover (and at the time it was not even that) in order to preserve the enslavement of a subgroup. A reading of the Declaration of Independence and the Cornerstone Speech would be instructive in understanding the different moral basis of the two events. It would also help to remember that Washington, Madison, Jefferson (Lincoln!) considered slavery to be a violation of natural rights and hoped that the end of slavery could be accomplished gradually and peacefully, whereas the leaders of the 1860s insurgency made it clear they were willing to use violence to dismember our country in order to create a slavery-based republic.

Being that the purpose of the Reconstruction Amendments (and the later Civil Rights and Force Acts) was to protect the political rights of African Americans (and dissenting whites!) on a basis of legal equality with other Southern whites it is tough to see what you mean by "sought to drive whites down in order to raise blacks up" The original purpose of such sentiments was to stir up outrage that African Americas were being acquiring equal political rights and that this was an intolerable relative change in conditions (and in some places control of local government based on populations.) Maybe it has some new meaning to you.

"It was evil and corrupt, and we are still paying the price for that stupidity." What a wonderfully pithy explanation of the wrongness and historical consequences of first the black codes and then the Redeemer-Era establishment of state regimes that radically violated the rights of African Americans. That is still what we are talking about right?

I love the way you distort history. The Southern leaders were not willing to "use violence" to dismember the United States -- they were willing to meet violence with violence to defend their right to leave the Union. The war did not start with an invasion of the North (nor with the Southern reinforcement of a fortress in the North). As for Lincoln's view of "natural rights," I don't believe that's in the Constitution, nor does it determine the rectitude of his policies during the CW. And I would remind you that this Federal Government, which boosted the righteousness of its cause, didn't recognize the "natural rights" of women or Indians at the time. Nice double-standard there, Pete.

As for the plight of blacks after the CW, that is not the sole responsibility of Southerns. The North owned most of the South (and still did by the turn of the century), and whatever economic and political policies were pursued there benefited the North as much as the South. I might also add that, upon migration to the North, the plight of Blacks didn't improve much (and some would argue, it worsened, at least in terms of political discrimination).

Yes, Redwald, they were willing to and did use violence to try to (thought thank God they failed) to dismember our country. That is what Washington called well... our country and the 1860s insurgency was an attempt to dismember it. The kind of secession they attempted was thought illegal under the Constitution by the Father of the Constitution who publicly wrote so both before and after the ratification. Though neither Washington nor Madison were engaged in special pleading in pursuit of an explicitly slavery-based republic so they will surely be ignored by apologists for that cause. You are right that natural rights is not mentioned in the Constitution though violations of natural rights was written by Madison as being the only justification for revolutionary action against the US government. Whatever the status of white women, they were not slaves under the law (it is complicated and varied from state to state and time period to time period) and a state seceding because the federal government would not allow the enslavement of women in the territories or because some states criticized the practice of enslavement of women (both fictional, but hey it is your example) would have been no more morally absurd than the attempted secession we got. The Indians were negotiated with as sovereign nations and the wrongs are on the record. This might have justified revolutionary violence by the Indians, but it takes a special kind of ideological sickness to see it as justification or mitigation for the cause of establishing a slavery-based republic.

Who said it was only the fault of Southerners? I remember writing the opposite. Granted your example trying to shift responsibility for the establishment of the black codes and later the more fraud and terror-based denial of African American political right to the North is absurd and the Redeemers would have been the first to tell you. The rest of the US acquiesced in the radical violations of the political rights of African Americans. There is blame to go around. But responsibility begins with those who committed the acts of terror and fraud that set up the Jim Crow regime. The Ben Tillmans of the world knew quite well where the responsibility (they would not have called it blame) lay.

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