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Nov 11 2013

Who deserves honor?

Today is the day when nations around the world pause to celebrate their most colossal failures, the events that killed the greatest numbers of their citizens, that broke and crippled their men after they’d been intentionally trained to dehumanize other human beings. We love to take our young people, especially our young men and boys, and grind them up in bloody battles, and then once a year we remind ourselves of what we do, and we congratulate people for it. Dulce et decorum est pro fucking patria mori and all that.

Meanwhile, our veterans hospitals are crumbling (and desperately needed) and we talk about more wars with Iran or whoever crossed us most recently, and doesn’t have nuclear weapons with which to smack us back. But we’ll go to all the effort of saying “Thanks, gramps” to people who suffered in terror and terrified other sufferers right back. All so a few people can get richer, and so politicians can thump their chests and claim to be braver than other politicians.

I think the only way to honor veterans of war is to make sure there are no more veterans. They are not heroes, but victims. There is nothing brave or heroic about picking up a gun and threatening to kill someone for a matter of principle, or even worse, because someone else is ordering you to do so — and the repercussions of celebrating violence tear our society apart.

For example, four women in Dallas met for their state chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America — a quiet lunch in a local restaurant. Texas gun advocates got word of the meeting, and gathered in the parking lot outside.

violentmen

Brave heroes, all. In what world could such a gathering, intending to intimidate unarmed mothers, occur without the men involved withering in shame and guilt? Our world, obviously, where righteous terror with weapons in hand is celebrated. Perhaps these men will meet again in years to come, to remember the honor of being among the heroes who drew their weapons in the parking lot of the Blue Mesa Grill in 2013.

Just like right now, we honor those who carried arms against the young men of other countries, where right now, citizens honor those who carried arms to resist our young men. When are we going to wake up and realize that this is all madness, that it’s not a point of pride to be trained to kill, that we gain nothing and lose all when we settle disagreements with threats of lethal force.

How can we stop? Perhaps it would help to celebrate the right heroes.

I was horrified by this story of the Nazi scientific enterprise. The Nazi regime killed millions, members of despised ethnic groups, gays, and political dissidents, and some of their bodies were appropriated by the science establishment for medical studies. As the article reveals, sometimes scientists would go out to the prisons and mark certain individuals as desirable for their research; one, for instance, wanted to study the effects of stress on the menstrual cycle, so young women in a state of terror for their lives were particularly desirable (these are the studies our Republicans now cite when they want to claim that raped women don’t get pregnant!). It’s a terrible tale of scientists closing their eyes to the consequences of their work, and worse, actively participating in murder.

It tells of a young couple, Harro and Libertas Schulze-Boysen, who worked for the resistance against the Nazis, were caught and executed, he by hanging, she by the guillotine, and their bodies ended up on the anatomy table. Charlotte Pommer, a medical school graduate working as an assistant in the Institute of Anatomy, walked in to the lab to work and recognized the bodies waiting for her.

“I was paralyzed,” Pommer later wrote of the sight of the bodies. “I could hardly perform my task as an assistant to Professor Stieve, who did his scientific study as always with the greatest diligence. I could barely follow.”

Pommer was 28. Libertas Schulze-Boysen was 29 when she died. In her last letter to her mother, she said she’d asked for her body to go to her family. “Don’t fret about things that possibly could have been done, this or the other,” she wrote. “If you can, bury me in a beautiful place amid sunny nature.”

Pommer stopped working for Stieve—and left the field of anatomy—because of what she saw that day in his laboratory. She went on to help resist the Nazis herself, by hiding the child of a man who participated in the “July Plot” to assassinate Hitler in 1944. In the spring of 1945, just before the war’s end, Pommer was herself sent to prison.

So on this Veterans Day, I choose to honor the conscientious objectors and the Charlotte Pommers of the world, rather than the participants in war. They are the real heroes, the ones who made the greatest sacrifices to better humanity.


Meanwhile, look at what the media find important today: the poppy on Google UK’s search page isn’t big enough. But Bing puts a big photo of a poppy on their search page. Jesus fuck, millions dead in wasteful war and the big issue today is whether a photo of a flower is big enough to honor them properly.

I’ll tell you the answer: no, it isn’t.

186 comments

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  1. 1
    gsciacca

    Can honour set to a leg? no: or
    an arm? no: or take away the grief of a wound? no.
    Honour hath no skill in surgery, then? no. What is
    honour? a word. What is in that word honour? what
    is that honour? air. A trim reckoning! Who hath it?
    he that died o’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? no.
    Doth he hear it? no. ‘Tis insensible, then. Yea,
    to the dead. But will it not live with the living?
    no. Why? detraction will not suffer it. Therefore
    I’ll none of it.–Shakespeare’s Falstaff

  2. 2
    Nick Gotts

    Well, I can’t altogether agree. There are times when aggression has to be resisted by force, even though doing so will, inevitably, lead to innocent people being killed, and to evil acts done even by those on the better side of the conflict. Hitler had to be defeated by force. The CSA had to be defeated by force to end slavery in North America. And while many of the conscientous objectors on the Allied side in WWII were genuinely motivated by compassion, others were not just objectively, but subjectively, pro-Nazi.

  3. 3
    numerobis

    The fake controversy of the day in Canada (since we don’t have enough real ones) is that there’s a movement to wear white poppies for peace, rather than the traditional red poppies. Various conservative talking heads complain that this is disrespectful for the troops that died for our freedom of speech and the usual pap.

    If people wore poppies in Quebec, I’d be wearing a white one. But we generally don’t, since we aren’t big fans of going around killing people.

  4. 4
    scimaths

    Thanks for this post PZ. The whole “brave heroic boys” rhetoric is dreadfully blinkered, and it’s nice to read something like this for a change.

  5. 5
    robinjohnson

    Here’s a story about some more heroes: soldiers on the front lines in World War I, who made agreements with the ‘opposing’ soldiers to avoid killing each other.
    http://www.brh.org.uk/site/articles/why-blackadder-goes-forth-could-have-been-a-lot-funnier/
    ‘If a Frenchman had orders to throw bombs several times during the night he agreed with his “German comrade” to throw them to the left and right of the trench.’

  6. 6
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    A clip of Jacob Bronowski which still brings a lump to my throat.

  7. 7
    dianne

    Hitler had to be defeated by force.

    Hitler had to be stopped. Force may or may not have been necessary. The Danes stopped the genocide in their country without the use of force. There are examples of civil disobedience within Germany working as well. Besides which, Hitler should have been laughed out of all hopes of power in the 1920s and would have been if it weren’t for the extraordinarily bad economy in Germany brought about by a combination of the worldwide economic crash in the 1930s and the reparations which made Germany particularly hard hit. If WWI had gone differently, WWII would likely never have happened.

    The CSA had to be defeated by force to end slavery in North America.

    Again, slavery had to end in North America. The US was the last hold out (and the second to last in all the Americas–all the “banana republics” of South and Central America except Brazil beat them to abolition). But did it have to be with violence? What if Lincoln had simply bought every slave in the south and freed them? That probably would have been cheaper and almost certainly less bloody than the actual war. And might have led to quicker acceptance of equality because there was less resentment. Or maybe I’m being overly optimistic about human nature on that one. Or on all of this.

  8. 8
    permanentwiltingpoint

    A good occasion to highlight a text (and a blog) that doesn’t get enough attention: “Verdun” by Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935). You want an antidote against patriotic war frenzy? You can have one.

    https://weltbuehneenglishtranslation.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/verdun/

    Oh, I nearly forgot: Trigger warning.

    Blurb:

    It is a wide, hilly area, with a lot of shrubbery and no woods. From any raised ground, you can see for a long way. A million men died here.

    Here is where they showed each other who was in the right in a dispute whose aims and purpose nobody any longer knew after a few months. Here the customers of Krupp and Schneider-Creusot supported their domestic industry. (And it is not yet even clear who supplied whom.)

    Four hundred thousand men fell on the French side, of whom nearly three hundred thousand are missing, submerged, disappeared… The area looks like a grassed-over lunar landscape, the fields are almost uncultivated, there are holes and depressions everywhere, where shells landed. Twisted iron on the roads, smashed-up trenches, holes in which human beings once lived. Human beings? They hardly were any more.

    Over there, near Fleury, there is a cemetery, in truth a mass grave for ten thousand. Ten thousand times a life destroyed, a hope wiped out, a small group of people made unhappy. Here was no-man’s land: over there on the raised ground lay the Germans, over there the French – here was unoccupied. Larks have risen up into the air and are singing an endless whirl of sound. A thin rain falls.

  9. 9
    AJ Milne

    My deepest respect, for this, Dr. Myers.

    That is all.

  10. 10
    Gregory in Seattle

    This is a good day to read / listen to The War Prayer by Mark Twain.

  11. 11
    dianne

    My daughter asked me why WWI happened and what it was about the other day. I had no good answer to give her.

  12. 12
    Doubting Thomas

    Yes they were victims, but they did step up when they believed, in their youthful naivete that they were serving us. For that idealism I appreciate them even though I was a CO and thought at the time I knew better. No more wars for profit please. If it must be war, then let it be for an honestly and honorably good cause. But exhaust all other options first.

  13. 13
    Rob Grigjanis

    Christmas in the Trenches

    the ones who call the shots won’t be among the dead and lame
    And on each end of the rifle we’re the same

  14. 14
    Amy F

    Well said PZ. One thing I can’t stand about Remembrance Day and the poppy appeal (and things like Help for Heroes) is that they all use emotional blackmail to get people to give to their appeals to help out veterans. Now I’ve obviously no problem with ensuring that veterans get all the care and assistance they need to cope with physical or mental problems caused by being in the armed services, but if the government (any government) is going to send people to war, shouldn’t they also put provision in place for those people to be fully supported once they are done with their duty? These appeals just abuse people’s sense of honour and patriotism to donate to a cause that shouldn’t be needed.

  15. 15
    ck

    Here I had thought that Remembrance Day was supposed to be about “Never Again” rather than “Rah! Rah! Fight! Destroy! Kill!” Good thing the Telegraph set me straight.

  16. 16
    Eamon Knight

    My late father was in the British Army REME during WWII. He was a pacifist at heart, but family pressure made it pretty much mandatory that he sign up. (His father, so I was told, was in a lot of the major actions in France during WWI. So I suppose I’m lucky to be here at all). But Dad was always very glad he never went to the front.

    He seemed to feel quite ambivalent about Remembrance Day — on the one hand, he lived for a time under the threat of impending invasion, with bombs falling daily, and he lost friends to it, and wanted to honour their memory. To him (and he said this was a prevailing attitude in England at the time), the War was a dirty, lousy job that nonetheless had to be done, and gotten through somehow, so everyone could get back to normal life. There was no glory in it, and damn those who wanted to sanitize those memories, and talked as if this was a normal, praiseworthy way to live.

    (And as I type this there are military jets circling outside, waiting to make a ceremonial pass over Parliament Hill, I guess.)

  17. 17
    Krasnaya Koshka

    My stepfather, Roberto, was in Vietnam and had been shot in the stomach and I recall very clearly that every single night, as he slept, he was shot in the stomach. He would chuckle about it in the morning but it was awful. He signed up because he was not considered American (being from Mexico) but it still didn’t make him American. He could never be American.

    He descended into alcoholism and died very young. Despite his many issues, I loved him very much. (First adult who accepted my lesbianism, despite his Catholicism. My only anchor.)

  18. 18
    left0ver1under

    It’s refreshing to see I’m not alone in not participating in corpse worship, not the only one who sees the demand to venerate war (not soldiers, but war) as a means of silencing dissent and enable war profiteers. It’s all more important to criticize illegal wars and war crimes on a day like today, when people are thinking about it.

    Here’s one person’s view from across the water:

    http://veteransforpeace.org.uk/2013/shoulder-to-shoulder-with-all-who-serve-by-keith-hebden/

    Nick Gotts (#2) -

    The cause of World War II can be laid as much at the feet of the “victors” of World War I as Hitler and Nazism. Would Germany have willingly followed Hitler’s ideology if Germany hadn’t been economically ransacked and militarily castrated after WWI? Highly unlikely. Nationwide public resentment and anger made it easy.

    US foreign policy was as much to blame (if not moreso) than bin Laden for 9/11. The Munich olympic hostage taking and murders were as much the fault of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians as the PLO. Communism might never have taken over China without British colonialism and the defeat of the Boxer Rebellion. Piracy by Somali pirates is mostly due to piracy by other nations (e.g. illegal fishing in Somali waters, violence against Somali fishermen). The Khmer Rouge had the weapons to perpetrate the mass murder of the Killing Fields because the US armed them for a proxy war against the Vietcong. France and Algeria, Russia and Chechnya, Charles I and Cromwell, US puppet fascist regimes and communism, etc.

    Things rarely ever happen by themselves, there’s almost always a precursor. Those who try to create brutal regimes and practice violence are often responding to brutal regimes and violence. Too often, nations focus solely on what the “bad guys” do while overlooking (read: whitewashing) their own actions, failings and responsiblity for how things came to be as they are.

    numerobis (#3) –

    I don’t how bad the corpse worship is where you are in Canada or where you grew up, but where I lived some viewed choosing not to wear a poppy (not “refusing”, but choosing) as “justification” for threats and insults (and possibly violence, though I never saw any). I’ve seen some Canadians acting toward those without poppies the same way some Americans do toward flag burners. I would hope things have changed.

  19. 19
    Onamission5

    The photo of the armed men outside the restaurant is chilling. In what kind of world could that not be considered a direct, eminent threat? In what world is use of the threat of unlawful violence in order to suppress a peaceful action not terrorism?

    The only message I get from that demonstration is “If you don’t shut up, your lives are in danger.” Is there a different message to be had?

  20. 20
    schweinhundt

    I agree with the general thrust of no jingoistic celebration of war under the guise of honoring veterans. However, I think the comparison of military service with the open carry thugs is incongruent to point of insult. Military forces obviously can be and have been used for political oppression but I don’t see how Veterans/Remembrance Day promotes that sort of violence. The yokels in that picture are not a military unit—they’re a mob. For me, there is a distinct and important difference.

  21. 21
    fourtytwo

    I wear a poppy and observe the silences. Not, as you state, to “celebrate”, but to pause and reflect on a tragic and enormous waste of human life; to contemplate that if I had been born a couple of generations earlier then I would likely have been conscripted to the front line with the only other option being to be locked up and labeled as a coward and a traitor if I didn’t comply; to remember those unfortunates who died a needless and violent death in muddy trenches while those responsible sat safe and disconnected behind their desks; to be reminded of the mistakes of the past and how they can be too easily repeated. So don’t observe the remembrance if you wish, but please don’t assume you know others motives who do and judge them as a consequence.

  22. 22
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    The Great War was not fought to preserve anyone’s peace and security. It was fought to advance dreams of empire building and empire preservation.

  23. 23
    Gary Hellmann

    Thank you for expressing this so well.

  24. 24
    dianne

    the only other option being to be locked up and labeled as a coward and a traitor if I didn’t comply

    Some chose that option. I would like to honor their bravery and sacrifice as well as the loss of those who weren’t able or willing to do the same.

  25. 25
    teejaykay

    As a conscientious objector, I agree with your statement. I never amounted to as much as some, and I’m deeply torn about the Winter War and the Continuation War. On the one hand, I’m damned glad I live in a free country that was never entirely occupied by the Soviet Union, and at the other hand I have to admit that I feel angry about how that whole rigmarole went. Case in point: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arndt_Pekurinen

    I mean, I know I’d probably be speaking Russian if it weren’t for those people from my country’s past, and we have our share of problems with firearms, but as coddled as I am by my country, I’m still twitchy about exactly what kind of things happened back in those days to people who just didn’t want to pick up a gun.

  26. 26
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Besides which, Hitler should have been laughed out of all hopes of power in the 1920s and would have been if it weren’t for the extraordinarily bad economy in Germany brought about by a combination of the worldwide economic crash in the 1930s and the reparations which made Germany particularly hard hit.

    And yet I place a lot of the blame squarely at the feet of Franz von Papen and Paul von Hindenburg for making Hitler chancellor at a time when the Nazi’s presence in the Reichstag was ebbing.

  27. 27
    ledasmom

    I always think of Wilfred Owen, “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young”.
    Parable of the Old Man and the Young
    Him, and Rudyard Kipling’s son. Two stories neither more nor less tragic than millions of others. There were so many more dead that we know hardly anything about.
    I note that the Google UK doodle appears to be much more tasteful than what I am seeing on Google, which is a birthday-cake-style parade float with some very cheerful veterans riding along on it and, for some reason, children, who probably are not meant to represent child soldiers.

  28. 28
    Eamon Knight

    @7, @18: WWI, by all accounts I’ve seen, basically just a dick-size contest among Queen Vicky’s grandchildren.

    The lead up to WWII seems to be a tragicomedy of “if-only” — if only the Allies hadn’t imposed ruinous reparations on Germany; if only they’d stood up to Hitler sooner, at the Trans-Ruhr, or Munich; etc, etc. It’s all very well to say in hindsight that the Nazis could have been stopped with no or far less bloodshed, if wisdom had prevailed a few years or decades earlier. But it didn’t, because even very smart humans (and many are not that smart anyway) can’t see the future, and act for the short-term. So when someone invades Poland, and France, and the Low Countries, and looks likely to keep right on going, well, you have to decide what to do about the mess you’ve got *today*, not ten years ago. You can be a strict pacifist, and accept subjugation, or you can shoot back. Neither of which is really a satisfactory option.

  29. 29
    fourtytwo

    Re: 24 (dianne)

    “Some chose that option. I would like to honor their bravery and sacrifice as well as the loss of those who weren’t able or willing to do the same.”

    I agree. I like to remember them also.

  30. 30
    dianne

    And yet I place a lot of the blame squarely at the feet of Franz von Papen and Paul von Hindenburg for making Hitler chancellor at a time when the Nazi’s presence in the Reichstag was ebbing.

    A reasonable point. They, like many wealthy and powerful old men, seem to have believed that the ideologues would be easier to control and would protect them from the ebil Communists. It’s a mistake the US persists in making, despite historical examples of it now working out well from the Nazis to bin Laden.

  31. 31
    schweinhundt

    Ledasmom @27:

    Yeah, but Google didn’t recognize the USMC’s 238th birthday with a doodle so they’re obviously a bunch of commies. /sarc/

  32. 32
    Ichthyic

    There are times when aggression has to be resisted by force

    only because of the decision of the first party was to utilize force as a means to an end to begin with.

    as usual, you miss the point, Nick.

    or perhaps YOU are the point.

  33. 33
    Marcus Ranum

    Hitler had to be defeated by force.

    For the present I should like merely to understand how it happens that so many men, so many villages,Dictatorships present many puzzles. so many cities, so many nations, sometimes suffer under a single tyrant who has no other power than the power they give him; who is able to harm them only to the extent to which they have the willingness to bear with him; who could do them absolutely no injury unless they preferred to put up with him rather than contradict him.

    - Estienne De La Boetie (“discours sur la servitude volantaire” 1548)

  34. 34
    carlie

    My god.
    From the linked poppy article:

    MPs criticised today’s understated Armistice Day design. Gerry Sutcliffe, a Labour MP who sits on the Culture, Media and Sport committee, said: “Around Remembrance Day it is demeaning not to have something that is spectacular.”

    “Spectacular”. He thinks that something that honors the dead and cautions us on the immense losses caused by war should be “spectacular”. I don’t even.

  35. 35
    iknklast

    I’ll honor Jessica Ahlquist on veteran’s day. Now there’s someone who’s worked to protect our freedoms.

  36. 36
    grandolddeity

    Isn’t this part of human nature (agression) a reflection of the uncaring universe in which we live? All (or at least most) life, so far as we know, makes the attempt to preserve itself from sources of agression…the thing we call survival. I hold only a faint hope that we will or can, collectively, evolve away from this nature.

    If we should, what is next? Non-agression toward all living things? Veganism? Aren’t plants also alive?

    PZ’s post is thought-provoking, but simultaneously unrealistic. Almost without exception, someone will find something that someone else has to hold some sort of value, up to and including their life. The potential risk is too high for any one significant group to adopt full-on pacifism. Somebody somewhere will read this and think to themselves, “Please listen to PZ, please! Lower your defenses, please!”

  37. 37
    Marcus Ranum

    Isn’t this part of human nature (agression) a reflection of the uncaring universe in which we live?

    Isn’t the naturalistic fallacy a reflection of the uncaring universe, too?

  38. 38
    ledasmom

    grandolddeity@36:
    I really think there must be some attainable middle ground between refraining from swatting a mosquito and full-on rah-rah warmongering.
    I appear to be relating all my emotions to poetry and lyrics, but I’m thinking now of the last few lines of Penny Evans. “I have two infant daughters and I thank God I have no sons” – because of course sons might be drafted into fighting another war, or told that volunteering for it was the manly thing to do. Well, I have two sons.
    The more I read about war the more pessimistic I become, while retaining the thought that we must find a way not to fight wars if we want to continue much longer as a species. I think the worst reading, in its own way, was “Dark Sun”. There is a passage in there about the firebombing of Dresden that I will not quote here, nor do I recommend looking it up, since it’s haunted me ever since I read it. There is no such thing as a moral war. There may be necessary wars, but they cannot ever be moral.
    I think there is very little as revolting as enthusiasm for a war that will not be fought on one’s own ground, by people who will not be fighting in it.
    Well, that was fairly incoherent of me, I suppose.

  39. 39
    Paul Loebe
  40. 40
    ck

    Veganism? Aren’t plants also alive?

    Do you know why plants waste valuable energy producing sugar-rich fruits? The answer to your question might lie somewhere in that.

  41. 41
    davidjanes

    What if Lincoln had simply bought every slave in the south and freed them?

    He offered. He was turned down. Slavery was not just simply an economic issue in the South, as Alexander Stephens’ words after being selected VP show:

    The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the “rock upon which the old Union would split.” He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away… Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the “storm came and the wind blew, it fell.”

    Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.

    And they were willing to kill to prove themselves right.

  42. 42
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    grandolddeity

    Isn’t this part of human nature (agression) a reflection of the uncaring universe in which we live?

    What a load of crap.

    Isn’t aids a reflection of the uncaring universe in which we live?
    Isn’t the expression on that child suffering from severe malnutrition just a reflection of the uncaring universe in which we live?
    Hey, I can get poetic too.

    ——-
    PZ, thank you for writing this. This is the second time in so many days that you’ve brought tears to my eyes.

  43. 43
    Goodbye Enemy Janine

    Paul Loebe, could you explain the reasons for the First World War and do it with out appealing to the “sacrifices for freedom”?

    (And because I really have to take a cheap shot at you, could you do it without Helen Keller jokes and blatant transphobia?)

  44. 44
    robinjohnson

    grandolddeity:

    If we should, what is next? Non-agression toward all living things? Veganism?

    People being allowed to marry their dogs?

  45. 45
    grandolddeity

    Marcus Ranum@37:

    I’m not saying agression is good or moral by any stretch. Protecting onesself from agression arguably is.

  46. 46
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    ledasmom,

    That was far from incoherent,

    There is no such thing as a moral war. There may be necessary wars, but they cannot ever be moral.
    I think there is very little as revolting as enthusiasm for a war that will not be fought on one’s own ground, by people who will not be fighting in it.

    QFT

  47. 47
    grandolddeity

    robinjohnson@44:

    WTF?

  48. 48
    mordred

    I grew up with my grandfather’s war stories. He fought in WW II on the German side, and I don’t think he ever came to terms with what he did during the war or who he fought for. So I never learned to consider war as glorious.

    He once told me that he never got promoted as far as he could have been during his military service, because he was known as a “Judenfreund” jew-friend.

    “Maybe I would have been promoted anyway”, he said, “if I had called more Americans. You see how evil the Wehrmacht was?” He thought a moment. “But then, the Americans got promoted when they killed more of us. That’s war, I suppose”

  49. 49
    Jackie

    Thank you for saying this. It’s too true.

  50. 50
    grandolddeity

    Beatrice@42:

    Hi…nice to meet you, too.

    A problem with this media is in the lack of control in how what one writes is interpreted by others. Sometimes the result is instant and unnecessary hostility.

    When I wrote “universe”, I meant all of it, including right here on our pale blue dot. I am in full agreement with your sentiments about aids and malnutrition.

  51. 51
    dianne

    He offered. He was turned down.

    Do you have a reference? Not doubting you particularly, it’s just that I’d never heard that one before. I had always assumed that Lincoln, like apparently most people on both sides, thought that the war would be won quickly and that therefore he wasn’t trying all that hard to avoid it.

  52. 52
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    grandolddeity #47

    People marrying pets is an ironic play on the well-known straw-slippery-slope (erm… sod it, you know what I mean) argument.

    You know, like the one you made when you said:

    If we should, what is next? Non-agression toward all living things? Veganism? Aren’t plants also alive?

  53. 53
    Endorkened

    gsciacca @1,

    “L’onore?! Ladri!”

  54. 54
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    grandolddeity

    I am in full agreement with your sentiments about aids and malnutrition.

    Um, yeah, those statement were supposed to show why your statement is meaningless as anything other than a literary exercise.
    It was my impression you were trying to use it as an excuse for continued war aggression or, as Marcus Ranum noted, making a naturalistic fallacy.

  55. 55
    dianne

    @48: My biggest problem with who got promoted on the US side was the number of people who got promoted for killing civilians rather than members of the Wehrmacht. Not but that I’m glad no one killed your grandfather, of course, but at least they were “legitimate targets”. Unlike, say, the children of Hamburg or Dresden. So I’m more ready to honor my father-in-law’s decision to avoid enlistment than my uncle-in-law’s decision to join.

  56. 56
    debbaasseerr

    The group moved to a nearby Hooters after approximately two hours.

    A fitting end to a day of domestic terrorism. What better place to slap each other on the back than somewhere the women have to put up with their shit half-naked and smiling?

  57. 57
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Monitor note:

    Linking a You Tube video so as to avoid auto-embeds

    <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atjQ-ayzUwM">Totally awesome youtube video</a>

    Produces

    Totally awesome youtube video

  58. 58
    grandolddeity

    Daz@52:

    The larger question I pose is just about the presense of agression in our lives. I asked a potential follow up to the possibility that we did, collectively, overcome our agressive nature toward one another. I don’t think it’s a silly one, either. There are compelling arguments made against the slaughter of animals for our consumption.

  59. 59
    Endorkened

    Ah, yes, thank you. I neither knew how to do that nor that auto-embeds were discouraged. Sorry!

  60. 60
    Michael

    Nice to see others have similar sentiments about Remembrance Day. War is such a waste of lives, money, property, etc.

    War: When two leaders/governments have a disagreement and get others to fight for them.

    I’d be curious to see how many wars would occur if the leaders, and able members of their families, had to be on the front lines. It is so easy to declare war on others when your life, children, and property are not at risk.

  61. 61
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    grandolddeity #58

    Yes, and then you made a slippery-slope argument ending with “Aren’t plants also alive?” To be honest, at that point I wasn’t sure if you were indulging in failed irony or a really bad argument. Whichever; it’s got bugger all to do with the OP.
    </derail>

  62. 62
    chimera

    It was a relief to read your article PZ. You take a viewpoint which is not heard much these days, at least not by me. But maybe I’m just reading in all the wrong places.

    Yet, if everyone or many people were saying what you do here, I’m sure the contrarian that I am would insist on saying, Yes but sometimes it takes a bucket of blood to stop a bloodbath. This is supposed to mean that a little bit of killing can sometimes prevent a lot of killing. It is fairly easy to imagine situations in which that might hold true such as shooting someone who is on a shooting rampage. But I think it is used more often to justify preemptive military attacks, undercover assassinations, that sort of thing.

  63. 63
    grandolddeity

    Daz@61:

    I’ll give you the plant thing. I thought it; I wrote it. I could have left it out.

    I’m not making an argument, btw. I’m discussing. I learn when I get into discussion. And I think agression is exactly at the heart of the OP.

  64. 64
    John Kieffer

    And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane …

    “If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.

    Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.

    And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.

    Major Michael Davis O’Donnell
    1 January 1970
    Dak To, Vietnam
    Listed as KIA February 7, 1978

  65. 65
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    grandolddeity #63

    “Making an argument” is merely another way of saying “making a point.”

    As far as your point goes, the OP is about the waste of life that is war, and (though I disagree somewhat with the way the two arguments were mixed in the OP) about gun control. Not veganism.

    To go back to your original post, no this has nothing to do with the uncaring universe. People who make war are human beings who are capable of caring for their fellow human beings, if only they would.

  66. 66
    opposablethumbs

    Well said, PZ. Thank you. (from the Lounge): why is it patriotic to praise combatants but not patriotic to criticise political hawks?

  67. 67
    grandolddeity

    Daz@65

    I disagree with your definition of argument, but that is truly derailing the thread.

    My reading of the OP is a little different than yours. None of this happens in the absense of that feature of our nature that is agression…and it is there in abundance. My opening sentence about the uncaring universe is a statement of fact. “Uncaring” is a necessary component for agression to exist. Maybe my thoughts are a little too compact.

    I wonder if agressors are, in fact, capable of caring, collectively, for their fellow humans. History is replete with those who care for only their small circle and practise violence against anyone else.

  68. 68
    Winters

    If it were possible to somehow depose the Kim Jong-Un regime with a minimal loss of civilian life, I would support that action. There is a modern day Holocaust going on in that country and everyone seems content to allow it to continue as long as they don’t nuke Japan/South Korea/America.

    I highly recommend “Escape From Camp 14″, it is a survivor’s account of the conditions inside on of the North Korean prison camps. It is as horrific as any description I’ve read of any of the Nazi Concentration camps.

  69. 69
    aidanclark

    I do agree with the brunt of this. However, I can’t help but be massively, vastly thankful for the people that went to war and stopped the Nazi takeover of Europe. I know that the majority of them were terrified and, given the choice, would have stayed at home with their families. I agree that the Nazis could have been prevented from even becoming, even slightly, a recognizable force. However, at the time that the Nazis were at their peak, I’m not sure what alternative there was to simply trying to destroy them through force. That doesn’t mean that I agree with the people who created the circumstances in which the Nazis could have been a genuine force in the world. Nor do I agree with the idea that governments have the right to force their citizens into surrendering their lives on their behalf. I do not believe that the men who were forced into national service were all “heroes”, who willingly gave up their lives for their country. They were not given the choice. Some of them were undoubtably heroes, and did willingly give their lives for what they believed was right. I do not think that they should be prioritised over the vast number of helpless victims of the conflict, soldiers or not. I will remember those men, heroes, or just ordinary men who had no choice, who gave their lives, willingly or unwillingly, and are responsible for the fact that I get to live in a Europe that still has democracy. Those men include a number of my relatives, most of whom were mentally destroyed by the war, and by extension, by the inability of politicians to do their fucking job. And I will not be coerced by my country’s politicians or media to “wear my poppy with pride”. But I will still thank the god that I do not believe in for the actions of my relatives and the relatives of pretty much every other European.

  70. 70
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Good grief. “nature, red in tooth and claw” is indeed uncaring. The amazing, and as far as we know unique, thing about human beings is that we have the ability to step outside that and say, “Well, actually, I do care. we have the ability to say that, yes, human beings have an aggressive streak, but we don’t have to give in to it.

    I wonder if agressors are, in fact, capable of caring, collectively, for their fellow humans.

    To coin a trite but true phrase; even Hitler loved his dear old mother.

  71. 71
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Sorry, my previous was @ grandolddeity #67

  72. 72
    viggen111

    Today is the day when nations around the world pause to celebrate their most colossal failures, the events that killed the greatest numbers of their citizens, that broke and crippled their men after they’d been intentionally trained to dehumanize other human beings. We love to take our young people, especially our young men and boys, and grind them up in bloody battles, and then once a year we remind ourselves of what we do, and we congratulate people for it. Dulce et decorum est pro fucking patria mori and all that.

    Boy is that a screwed up interpretation –I think you’re just after pissing people off with this grand over simplification. Let it never be said that PZ Myers always argues rationally.

    As far as I can tell, this was never about anything that people “love” to do. It’s about what becomes necessary in the last extent of other measures failing. Do you actually advocate giving all of Europe to a tyrant who is going to denigrate and butcher his minorities? It was tried, keep in mind. If we wave our placards and shout at them long enough, there will be peace, never mind that none of the minorities you would normally advocate protecting will be alive to see it happen. The fundamental problem is that pacifism doesn’t always work. Whatever you think about the reasons for this war or that war, and I’m not claiming every war is just, in the end allowing others to commit atrocities because you’re too pacific or hung up on some ideal to fight to stop them is just as bad as committing those atrocities yourself –look at the catholic church shuffling priests; isn’t that basically the same thing? Why in the world would you be frothing at the mouth over every other violence and injustice against groups or minorities when you plainly case-by-case think that it’s okay to not do anything about some of the worst? (You can’t have gone Holocaust Denialist on us.) Further, don’t tell me there shouldn’t be a day (or a couple) set aside to remind people what has happened in history and that there are sometimes reasons for it to happen and maybe additional reasons to remember why to not do it again. People need graphic reminders of the price of war. Not every “holiday” is a drinking party.

    Presented with its intent intact, Veteran’s Day is an important holiday. The story is never as simple and one sided as “war is bad, so never fight” and humanity is more complex than your reductio ad absurdum. I reiterate: your social activism is completely without teeth because of your blind pacifism. When it comes down to the wire and push comes to shove, you won’t truly advocate fighting to defend your own convictions, meaning that somebody who is willing to fight –for whatever human and maybe irrational reason– is completely able to undo all of your “good works” and you will do nothing to stop it… and with this post, you are rationalizing reasons to diminish respect for those who are truly willing to step up by villifying them.

    Not sure why I bother, I think you get off on being needlessly provocative sometimes. Not like this will rise above the noise anyway.

  73. 73
    time4acool1

    Excellent!

  74. 74
    Eamon Knight

    If it were possible to somehow depose the Kim Jong-Un regime with a minimal loss of civilian life, I would support that action.

    Yes, if. Trouble is, “if” always much bigger than the would-be liberators imagine. (just look at Iraq — shoulda been a cake-walk, right? We’ll be welcomed with open arms!) China, maybe, could ease him out of power without too much disruption if they had a mind to. But they seem to have their own reasons for maintaining a psychotic dependent on their doorstep, and aren’t very persuadable on the point.

  75. 75
    chigau (違う)

    viggen111 #72
    Talk about a screwed up interpretation…

  76. 76
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    viggen111 #72

    Do you actually advocate giving all of Europe to a tyrant who is going to denigrate and butcher his minorities?

    Remembrance day is for the dead in all wars, on all sides, including those who served, voluntarily or not, under that tyrant. And he didn’t have to start a war, now did he? He made a choice.

  77. 77
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    Monitor note:
    Please remember to use Nyms and comment numbers:

    If you are replying to a specific comment, use the comment number and poster's name.

    The Rules

  78. 78
    justawriter

    Back
    Wilfrid Wilson Gibson (1915)

    They ask me where I’ve been,
    And what I’ve done and seen.
    But what can I reply
    Who know it wasn’t I,
    But someone just like me,
    Who went across the sea
    And with my head and hands
    Killed men in foreign lands…
    Though I must bear the blame
    Because he bore my name.

  79. 79
    grandolddeity

    Daz@70

    Speaking of compact thoughts! There I think you use too broad a brush. Your thought is true in general terms, but the end of agressive war cannot come without comprehensive suspension of agression toward one another. That means everyone. There is enough mental illness and ideology around to prevent that from happening.

    Please spare me the condescending editorial “good grief”.

  80. 80
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Way to miss the point, all of those who worry about PZ wanting to let Hitler rule the world.

    Hitler didn’t just fall out of the sky and into the position of leader. Dictators usually don’t. While dictators are letting their people stew in hunger or hatred until they are ripe for the battlefield, politicians twiddle their thumbs.
    The point isn’t oh, let’s sit on our asses while someone goes about committing genocide, it’s don’t let him get that far. Don’t let him get even close. Once you’re there, once you need a war, someone has already fucked up – those in power in the dictator’s own country, and especially all those on the outside that sat there pretending nothing was wrong.

  81. 81
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    That means everyone.

    Yep. And unless we try, it’ll never happen. Is your “solution,” then, merely to wash your hands of it and not even try?

    Please spare me the condescending editorial “good grief”.

    Erm… no.

  82. 82
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    OFFS, I can’t even follow my own monitor notes. My 81 was @grandolddeity #79

  83. 83
    Sili

    The Danes stopped the genocide in their country without the use of force.

    So did the Vichy French.

  84. 84
    ledasmom

    grandolddeity@79:
    Must you throw up “mental illness” as if war weren’t decided upon over months by many, many people? Must you imply that it isn’t decided upon perfectly coldly? And, above all, must you be ableist?

  85. 85
    dianne

    @68: If it were possible to somehow depose the Kim Jong-Un regime with a minimal loss of civilian life, I would support that action.

    Would you? Assuming you’re not North Korean, why do you have the right to make that choice? Kim Jong-Un seems to me to be a pretty bad world leader, right up there with the very worst, but do I (a US-American) have the right to make that choice for North Koreans? Especially when the “minimal” loss of civilian life will likely be among North Korean, not US-American civilians? I don’t have a good answer to this question. Modern Germans seem pretty happy overall with the outcome of WWII and as a mixed race person born in the southern part of the US I’m happier with the outcome of the US Civil War than I would have been with the other obvious potential outcome (assuming I’d somehow managed to be born in the world where the CSA won, which is unlikely). So I think good can come from invasions and outside overthrow of governments, but who decides which ones? Where do you, especially as an outsider, draw the line?

  86. 86
    Winters

    @ #85 – Diane

    I would highly recommend reading some of the survivor accounts of these prison camps. I highly doubt any North Korean wants to continue under that system. There are tales of cannibalism, human experimentation, rape, murder, every stripe of torture imaginable…I would say I draw the line where the government’s domestic policy reads like the script of the latest “Saw” movie.

  87. 87
    grandolddeity

    Daz@81

    Erm…no? So condescension is one of the acceptable tools in your bag for opening and promoting dialogue between parties in disagreement? A problem here is not instantly obvious to you?

    I do try every day and have tried my entire life to minimize agression between disagreeing parties in my little corner of the world. It is a difficult task, especially when one or more of the disagreeing parties is immature.

    In my first post here I wrote the idea PZ presents is thought-provoking, but unrealistic. Consider it re-stated. I tried to illustrate, briefly, why I think that way.

  88. 88
    grandolddeity

    ledasmom@84

    I apologize if it seemed that way.

    Actual war is one thing. But war doesn’t just start necessarily in a war room of some large institution. The seeds of war are much smaller and bloom long before it ever gets to the war room in many cases. Behold 9/11.

    War is also not necessarily large scale. There are wars going on in neighborhoods begun by greedy and drug-adled youth.

    I’m sorry if my scope in this discussion has been unclear.

  89. 89
    robertbaden

    Hitler couldn’t have overrun anybody without the German soldiers.

    Three of the veterans in my dad’s family {at least) served in the Heer (German army) One died outside Leningrad.

    The other two and my mother’s brother could have been shooting at each other at some point.

  90. 90
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    grandolddeity #87

    Why is it unrealistic?

    I mean, I get that it’s not something which will happen overnight, but why do you feel that it’s not worth the effort to try? Specifically, if we accorded the publicly displayed honour to those who try to reduce aggression that we do to those who take part in it, do you not think that more people would see such activity as being honourable?

    If you think this wouldn’t work, do you have a better solution to offer?

  91. 91
    rdnaskela

    This may not be the best place for a posting like this, but I’d like to ask for some help from the incredibly well informed, and prolific writers here in the comments section of Pharyngula. This stupid: http://www.signalscv.com/section/33/article/108668/ was posted in my local paper, and needs an appropriate Pharyngula response. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  92. 92
    chimera

    Looks like we’re revving up for war here in France. More and more people are predicting The National Front will come to power in the next presidential election or the one after that. If that happens there could be a sort of war on Muslim immigrants and who knows who else. France may quit the European Union.

    There is a lot of hand-wringing over this, warnings being issued, editorials being written and even some street scuffles (first casualty was several months ago when anti-fascist youth allegedly attacked members of an extreme right youth group). The right accuses the left of fomenting all this (it is objectively to the left’s advantage to divide the right). The left accuses the right of fomenting it (by adopting the extreme right’s positions and language).

  93. 93
    grandolddeity

    Daz@90

    I practice it myself, so I don’t really follow your objection. I am doing what I can to promote it and always have. I didn’t state it wasn’t worth it; I stated I felt it was unrealistic.

    Maybe it’s a poor example, but here goes: I would like to be able to jump vertically equal to my height or greater without use of poles or other contraptions, much like my cats do. I can work at it as can generations after me. I doubt it will ever happen. There are anatomical and physiological hurdles involved that may not be possible to overcome.

    Same thing for the agressive nature of people. I suppose it could happen, but I doubt it for various reasons.

  94. 94
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    rdnaskela,

    Nothing in Thunderdome is off topic, so I would suggest you repost that link there. It might find someone willing to set some godbotherer-libertarians straight :)

  95. 95
    moarscienceplz

    “[War] is instinctive. But the instinct can be fought. We’re human beings with the blood of a million savage years on our hands! But we can stop it. We can admit that we’re killers…but we’re not going to kill…today. That’s all it takes! Knowing that we’re not going to kill…today!”
    – Captain Kirk

  96. 96
    futurechemist

    I also think there’s a subtlety that’s missing from this piece. Honoring veterans is not the same as honoring War. I was originally in favor of the Iraq War, based on the threat of WMDs. When they didn’t materialize, I became against the Iraq War, and am bitter about our former President for misleading us into it. But there’s a lot of people who voluntarily chose to join the military to fight in that war. Maybe it was because they felt it was the best way to protect America, or that it would get them a good education after, or it was the only job they could find, or many other reasons. But for whatever the reason, those people put themselves in harms way and I think we should be appreciative of it, even if we don’t like what the war was about.

    Regarding WW2, I think there’s an irony that for the first 2 years of the war (1939-1941), we actually were pacifist, other than sending supplies to the Allies. One could come up with a hypothetical that if we entered the war with Britain and France, we might have been able to stop France from being conquered and changed the whole course of the war. Hypotheticals can be fun, and I love Harry Turtledove’s books, but ultimately we have to play the hand we’re dealt, when we’re dealt it, and sometimes that means fighting.

  97. 97
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    futurechemist

    But for whatever the reason, those people put themselves in harms way and I think we should be appreciative of it, even if we don’t like what the war was about.

    I do sympathize with people who go to war because that’s the only job they can find or they were pressured by family, and there are probably more reasons I can’t think of right now.
    But your above sentence sounds completely irrational to me.

  98. 98
    rdnaskela

    Beatrice,

    Thanks, that’s exactly what I’ll do.

  99. 99
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    grandolddeity #93

    Same thing for the agressive nature of people. I suppose it could happen, but I doubt it for various reasons.

    We’ve already made progress. Personal aggression is seen as much less acceptable than it once was. Ditto blood sports.

    You may be right. You probably are, in that I doubt we’ll ever achieve perfection. To dismiss it as “nature,” though, and not aim to get as close to perfection as we possibly can, seems to me to be intellectual and moral cowardice. Dishonourable, in fact.

    See also moarscienceplz’s quote at #91.

  100. 100
    antaresrichard

    I am reminded of a silent clip from ‘The Big Parade’ (1925) wherein director King Vidor set to slow drum beat, the scene of soldiers venturing into battle and death. War is a cadence I could never fathom.

  101. 101
    Eamon Knight

    Beatrice@97: I do sympathize with people who go to war because that’s the only job they can find….

    Which is why modern US wars tend to be fought by the less well off. Because joining up means a job, and medical, and college you can afford on the GI Bill, and thus a ticket to the middle class when your tour is done. And then they go and screw it up by starting a shooting war…..

  102. 102
    Olav

    Very good sentiment, Dr. Myers.

  103. 103
    dianne

    @86: I would highly recommend reading some of the survivor accounts of these prison camps.

    I have done. I’d like to see their system change. The fundamental question remains though: Do I have a right to an opinion in this case? If it’s ok for me, as a non-North Korean to say, “That government is too horrid, it has to go by any means necessary” or even “That government is horrid, it has to go by the means that will cause the least loss of life”, is it ok for a North Korean or a Swede or a Chinese to look at what the US is doing in Guantanamo or in the incarceration of asylum seekers or just in the average prison and say the same thing?

    I highly doubt any North Korean wants to continue under that system.

    Yet they do continue under that system. So someone, inside or outside of NK, is getting something out of it. It can’t be Kim and no one else–if it were he’d be just some nut case, not the country’s leader. It probably can’t be just Kim and a few cronies, but it might be Kim, his cronies, and some members of the public who feel that they have a better chance at survival if they obey the above mentioned. But perhaps the international community is getting something out of it as well. A bad guy to point to? Some economic advantage? Flat out bribery of key people? Maybe just keeping the status quo stable? If the international community finds Kim useful in some way, then that makes his removal even harder since the real goal of any effort to “help” the NK population becomes obscured.

  104. 104
    grandolddeity

    Daz@99

    I can agree fully with your take. Thank-you for that. We are no longer living in the dark ages.

    I think it is in the nature of people to be aggressive. We exercise it when we school, when we shop, when we drive (admit it) and other, more docile, endeavors. There is always a place for raising the bar. Even the pursuit of civility entails aggression after a fashion.

    The problem is in full compliance. Compliance is not always subject to rationality.

  105. 105
    monad

    The debate over whether war is ever needed is strangely academic. In theory, I would say that strict pacificism is probably wrong, that there is the odd case where war needs to be fought. Yet for that possibility, we err so much on the side of death, that in practice the pacifist will be in the right 99 times out of 100.

    @ futurechemist:
    Please do realize, though, that there was plenty to tell you what was wrong with the Iraq War before it happened. There were already people saying the reports of WMDs were exaggerated or false, people anticipating the horrible death toll, people anticipating the disasters of reconstruction. There were already protests in the streets.

    The President misled people into it, but that only happened because people trust in the sort of war he was promising in the first place. I hope at least a few have realized that next time, they should listen to the unpatriotic hippies, because those are the ones who care about doing the right thing.

  106. 106
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    dianne,

    Do I have a right to an opinion in this case?

    YES.

    ok for a North Korean or a Swede or a Chinese to look at what the US is doing in Guantanamo or in the incarceration of asylum seekers or just in the average prison and say the same thing?

    Because I’m not USAian, I shouldn’t opine on how monstrously your government is treating people?
    Um, WTF, dianne?

  107. 107
    chimera

    Diane @103

    Yet they do continue under that system. So someone, inside or outside of NK, is getting something out of it. It can’t be Kim and no one else–if it were he’d be just some nut case, not the country’s leader. It probably can’t be just Kim and a few cronies, but it might be Kim, his cronies, and some members of the public who feel that they have a better chance at survival if they obey the above mentioned.

    That’s too easy, Diane. Our lives, thoughts, behaviors, culture, civilization, etc., are not merely the result of cost-benefit analyses by individuals. Same goes for Koreans, North and South.

  108. 108
    Desert Son, OM

    viggen111 at #72:

    It actually seems to me that one of PZ’s arguments is similar to one of yours. You mention the following:

    to remind people what has happened in history and that there are sometimes reasons for it to happen and maybe additional reasons to remember why to not do it again. People need graphic reminders of the price of war. Not every “holiday” is a drinking party.

    Part of PZ’s post highlights the need to critically examine war, which is also how the quoted statement from you reads to me. However, PZ’s post also highlights the need to critically examine not just war, but war-ness (for lack of a better term): how we think of war, how we behave in relation to how we think of war, and how we integrate war into our individual psychology as well as our national socio-cultural narratives.

    The fundamental problem is that pacifism doesn’t always work.

    I would argue that is just one problem among many, and not even necessarily the most significant one. Here are some other fundamental problems with at least as much impact, if not more:

    • Socio-cultural tribalism and out-group othering
    • Misogyny on both local and global scales
    • Economic tyranny
    • Lack of widespread social justice
    • The naturalistic fallacy (already expertly elucidated by Marcus Ranum at # 37, and again by Beatrice at # 42)
    • Zero-sum-game thinking

    Further, why the narrow definition of “fight?” PZ fights for all kinds of things, but from what I read, he’s profoundly uninterested in fighting with firearms, explosives, sharp sticks, and other methods of violence. He does seem interested in fighting through the use of argument, reason, evidence, legal processes, socio-cultural pressure and change.

    And, anyway, we don’t stop cancer research just because cancer treatment doesn’t always work. Why would we stop efforts at recognizing peace when peace doesn’t always work?

    We can definitely work on social justice: Economics, law, opportunity, education, health care, scientific research and exploration, art, safe spaces, dignity, empowerment. If we work on those—change our cultures—it seems to me that almost all the work toward peace will have been accomplished.

    Regardless of what steps have been taken to what degree of success, no effort is so insignificant as to warrant lack of critical assessment, either before, during, or after the events. PZ’s post is encouraging critical analysis of not only war, but also what it means to reflect on war and its warriors. Just because warriors went to war—even those wars deemed in the best possible interest by history (rather than just by contemporary media or government)—does not mean humanity should abandon critical analysis of the warriors, the war, and the way societies reflect on those things after war. We don’t stop examining the nonsense and harm that religions do just because some of the practitioners of those religions may also do something good. Nor do we stop examining those who do good simply because they have done good. Nor do we stop examining what it means to do good.

    You argue that today is a day to reflect on the horrors of war. I agree, and it seems to me that is one of the things that PZ’s post challenges us to do. I hope that, in the nation in which you live, this day is one in which people reflect deeply and critically on war’s horrors, implications, long-term effects, and how we process and integrate all of those things. I hope that in your nation veterans and non-veterans alike can see this day as a reminder to regard war as horrifying and want to work for a world in which we minimize it, regardless of how just some war may seem.

    I hope that for my nation, as well. However, I also live in a nation where today is often pressed into service as an opportunity to reinforce the very kinds of nationalist sentiments that can lead to war, or where today is used to play a kind of war-heritage one-upmanship.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  109. 109
    Nick Gotts

    dianne@7

    Hitler had to be stopped. Force may or may not have been necessary. The Danes stopped the genocide in their country without the use of force.

    They could do that because Hitler regarded the Danes as potential recruits to the Nazi cause, not as subhumans, and because neutral Sweden (which in practice gave the Nazis a great deal of help) was available as a refuge. The Nazi invasion of Russia was planned to kill 30 million people, whether they resisted or not.

    There are examples of civil disobedience within Germany working as well.

    Which did nothing to prevent the Holocaust.

    Besides which, Hitler should have been laughed out of all hopes of power in the 1920s and would have been if it weren’t for the extraordinarily bad economy in Germany brought about by a combination of the worldwide economic crash in the 1930s and the reparations which made Germany particularly hard hit. If WWI had gone differently, WWII would likely never have happened.

    Which is all entirely beside the point with regard to the decision people in Britain in 1939 and 1940 (for example) had to make. The reparations, incidentally, were nothing to do with it, economically speaking: they were paid largely out of American loans, which Germany had then repudiated in 1932.

    No, Lincoln Could Not Have ‘Bought the Slaves’.

    There are times when aggression has to be resisted by force – me@2

    only because of the decision of the first party was to utilize force as a means to an end to begin with.

    as usual, you miss the point, Nick. – Ichthyic@32

    Someone’s certainly missing the point here, but it’s not me. We have to make decisions in the context of decisions made by others over which we have no control. Of course if no-one decided to utilize force as a means to an end, there would be no need to resist that force. The question is, given that other have made that decision, when if ever is it right to resist force by force? You’re simply evading this central question.

  110. 110
    dianne

    @106 Beatrice: Opine, yes. Definitely. Please do. Invade? I have some doubts. Yes, I know that the US government’s sins against humanity are pretty banal compared to the North Korean government’s but then that leaves the question of what degree of evil justifies invasion and overturning the government. Somehow the answer always seems to turn out to vary with whether the powers that be think that that government is helping them or not…leading me to feel very cynical about the idea that any country has the right to invade any other to “save” the population of that country. (But then again, as I said, I’m glad the US didn’t just say, “and don’t let the door hit you on the way out” to the CSA.)

  111. 111
    khms

    I pretty much like what we’ve made of this in Germany. And it’s certainly not today.[1] To quote Wikipedia:

    Volkstrauertag (German: people’s mourning day) is a public holiday in Germany two Sundays before the first day of Advent. It commemorates all those who died in armed conflicts or as the victims of violent oppression. It was first observed in its modern form in 1952.

    Pretty hard to claim a day with that name for jingoistics, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t happened.

    As for avoiding wars, I’ve long been fairly bitter about the tradition of non-interference. We’re too slow to interfere, and as a consequence, can’t manage to stop problems until the only way left is by war. Short-sighted, overoptimistic silliness.

    Just for contrast,
    [1] in Germany, November 11 is traditionally the start of carnival (more precisely, 11:11 on that day). It would be a spectacularly bad choice either for remembrance or for jingoistics.

  112. 112
    dianne

    Ok, nick, you’ve convinced me. Sometimes there simply is a need for a war. So when are you sending the black helicopters to invade the US? No? The only “first world” country to still institute the death penalty, including on minors? Or use child soldiers? Or detain people indefinitely without charges or probable cause or even accusing them of anything specific? Or spying on, well, everyone? Or sending robot assassins out to kill whomever they please? Are you sure? Why not?

  113. 113
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    dianne,

    I’ll be off to bed soon, so I’ll make just a short comment:
    I don’t know what the best course of action is. I don’t want war or invasions.
    *sigh*
    Dunno, I just don’t think the world should stand by and watch human suffering without doing anything about it, just because the people in question have another passport.
    /idealist

  114. 114
    Desert Son, OM

    As a follow up, Mano Singham has a relevant and important post about this very issue, worth a read.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  115. 115
    liamlah

    Hi PZ.

    I will say this, I don’t like you, a lot, for various different reasons. I also mostly avoid coming here because its such a horrible toxic environment.

    However today I was in an online discussion where I was blocked and berated by friends and not friends because I vehemently defended the sentiment in this post. I did this because It is important that this message is understood, and because you are nearly entirely spot on with this post.

  116. 116
    ryancunningham

    @futurechemist

    I was originally in favor of the Iraq War, based on the threat of WMDs

    In the future, be a lot more skeptical of those banging the drums of war. If you’re unsure of the cause, don’t support the war. You were duped. You joined the angry mob. You supported the war. You were complicit. People killed and people died for your bad judgement.

    Take responsibility. And don’t let it happen again.

  117. 117
    dianne

    @Beatrice: Yeah, me either.

    I just don’t think the world should stand by and watch human suffering without doing anything about it, just because the people in question have another passport.

    My first thought here is “then let’s get them the ‘right’ passport”. If people really could move easily then it would be harder to run dictatorships as people would just leave…we don’t have direct control over other countries’ behavior (i.e. how easy it is to get out) but we can make it easy to get in to our countries if we think that we can offer something better to those who are suffering. I know, that’s not a complete or problem free solution either, but it’d at least help. I think.

  118. 118
    chimera

    Dianne @117

    People can’t just leave their countries, are you 18? You don’t seem to know much about life. Why do you think so many Jews didn’t try to escape Hitler’s Germany? It’s because their lives were there, their families, their jobs, their language, their traditions…. Yes, some people do leave countries when life becomes difficult/impossible/threatened but they are always a privileged minority. This is not a solution and it’s plain dumb. And look at all the opposition all over the world now to immigrants and refugees. No country is going to hand out passports. Not going to happen. It doesn’t help to think in these fantasy terms.

  119. 119
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    My late grandfather turned 18 in 1944. He wasn’t disabled and he wasn’t of one of the traditional peace religions, so he had 3 choices: Army, Navy, or Marines.

    He picked the Navy.

    After basic, most of his class shipped off.

    Rather a lot of them never came home.

    He, however, was sent to radio school, as he’d shown an aptitude.

    And thus it was that on VJ day, he was in Chicago. He’d yet to leave the continental US. He was later stationed on a carrier that was part of the occupation, and was eventually discharged. From there, he married, went to college on the GI bill (first in his family to do so), travelled the world, raised a family, had a successful career, and eventually died in 2004.

    Someone who was stupid would say that he was unscathed. Someone who was ignorant would mistake his demurrals on the topic of his Navy years for modesty. But he remembered the names of every man in his basic class.

    Sometimes he encountered a blowhard going on in a jingoistic fashion. He didn’t get angry, he didn’t shout. He just got very, very quiet. Later, he would go home and sat by himself for awhile.

  120. 120
    Eamon Knight

    @118: It’s because their lives were there, their families, their jobs, their language, their traditions….

    That, and a lot of other places weren’t letting them in, in sufficient numbers (including my native country).

  121. 121
    Nick Gotts

    dianne@112,

    The weakness of your case is evident in your resort to such stupid nonsense, because it makes clear that you know you can’t argue the real historical cases with any plausibility. The general answer is that using force is justified when there is a high probability that doing so will lead to considerably less unnecessary death and suffering than any alternative course of action anyone can come up with. This criterion is clearly not met if there is no prospect of success, as is currently the case for any proposed invasion of the USA.

  122. 122
    John Horstman

    While I think violence – even mass violence – is sometimes the least bad of a host of bad options, I don’t think celebrating it is at all appropriate, even in those cases where I’d deem it necessary. I DEFINITELY don’t celebrate people who are intentionally signing up to commit acts of violence in the service of a despicable plutocratic empire like USA: I mourn those coerced by law or circumstance to enlist and revile (or on those rare occasions when I’m capable of sufficient empathy even for people who behave horribly, pity) the rest. While I think universal pacifism ultimately functions to make the oppressed complicit in their own oppression by holding adherence to an (often religious) ideal to be above both self preservation and using any and all means available to oppose actions perpetuating widespread harm, I largely agree with the sentiment expressed in this post. Veterans’ Day serves no purpose so much as the celebration of the militaristic security state.

  123. 123
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    Eamon Knight @120,
    IIRC, wasn’t there a ship of German Jews that sailed up and down the Atlantic, looking for a harbor, only to fail and eventually return to Germany, where most of the passengers were sent to the camps?

    In any case, for every Chiune Sugihara, there was someone who could have helped people escape and didn’t.

  124. 124
    Eamon Knight

    Nick Gotts@121: …..as is currently the case for any proposed invasion of the USA.

    And for that matter, North Korea. I mean, we could probably depose Kim, but at a massive cost in lives and destruction to both Koreas (NK has a *huge* military), and that assumes the Chinese wouldn’t make strong objections. Which they probably would.

  125. 125
    Alexandra, اللغوية التي تحب السلام

    The most raw accounts of war I’ve ever read come from Johnathan Glover’s Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, (which I would highly recommend if to anybody who doesn’t feel sufficiently awful about the world) and after reading some of its accounts from US soldiers in Vietnam on what the war did to them, what it made them do, what it twisted them into, including people who committed atrocities like My Lai, it feels like there are two completely different and irreconcilable universes when it comes to war. I hear people waxing poetic about Veteran’s Day and I just want to stare at them in incredulity.

    dianne @ 177

    My first thought here is “then let’s get them the ‘right’ passport”. If people really could move easily then it would be harder to run dictatorships as people would just leave…we don’t have direct control over other countries’ behavior (i.e. how easy it is to get out) but we can make it easy to get in to our countries if we think that we can offer something better to those who are suffering. I know, that’s not a complete or problem free solution either, but it’d at least help. I think.

    I’ve heard this suggestion a lot and it always has bothered me. To have to completely uproot yourself and your family (potentially leaving relatives behind at the mercy of a bloodthirsty dictator who isn’t very happy about hir workforce fleeing), move to a new country where you know nobody, where you know nothing about the culture, where you might go weeks without seeing anyone else of your ethnicity, where you probably don’t even speak the language, and where you’ll almost certainly be discriminated against? It seems to me that not a lot of people would be desperate enough to make that decision, even if they were financially able to.

    Unless I’m missing something, it’s nowhere near enough. It should at least be an option, though.

  126. 126
    dianne

    @bicarb

    People can’t just leave their countries

    Really? There’s a whole lot of people in the US who don’t look a bit like the first people to settle the Americas. How did they get here? (/snark)

    Yeah, it’s hard to leave one’s home country. People don’t do it for no reason. All the more reason to make it easier for them when they do get to some place better or at least potentially better.

    And look at all the opposition all over the world now to immigrants and refugees. No country is going to hand out passports.

    Not THAT is just dumb. Immigrants pay more in taxes than they use in public resources, improve the economy, and increase diversity and innovation. The problem is that people are innately suspicious of “outsiders”. Especially in bad economic times. I don’t know how to solve that one, but I’m sure that simply sighing and saying “not going to happen” is not a useful tactic. It certainly won’t if that’s all you do.

  127. 127
    MJP

    Soldier worship is one of the creepiest aspects of the Civic Religion. It’s a way of spinning the fact that the system sends millions to their deaths as a plus – they died for the nation, so you’re dishonoring their sacrifice if you don’t believe that the nation is a meaningful concept.

    Of course, if anyone says this about the British redcoats during the Revolutionary War, we’d all laugh them out of the room.

  128. 128
    dianne

    @Nick Gotts: So are you saying that the US doesn’t commit crimes against humanity or that it’s just silly to consider an invasion of the US because it’s too powerful to oppose? If the latter, you’re probably right, but that’s hardly the moral high ground.

  129. 129
    dianne

    @125: It’s definitely not a complete answer. But it should be done anyway: Yes, of course it’s hard to uproot yourself and move somewhere where you don’t understand the language or culture, have no community, etc. All the more reason to make the bureaucracy easy for anyone desperate enough to do that anyway. Intervening in another country’s internal affairs is messy and there is a high probability of doing more harm than good. Taking in refugees is relatively cheap, easy, and rewarding. It’s not the whole solution to human suffering but it’s a start. Silly analogy maybe, but it’s like giving antiretrovirals to someone with HIV: you aren’t curing them, you aren’t eradicating HIV from the world, you aren’t even (entirely) preventing its spread to another person. But you should do it anyway because you’ll make that person’s life better and it’s something we do know how to do more or less right.

  130. 130
    chimera

    Dianne @ 128

    Looking for the moral high ground is not the same thing as looking for a solution. Looking for the moral high ground is narcissism, wanting to be right. If you want to find solutions, you deal with the facts on the ground not in the clouds.

  131. 131
    dianne

    @130: So what solution are you proposing? Only invade weak countries? That would be what you and Nick appear to be proposing. I’m not sure what “solution” this is leading to.

  132. 132
    Alexandra, اللغوية التي تحب السلام

    liamliah @ 115

    I will say this, I don’t like you, a lot, for various different reasons. I also mostly avoid coming here because its such a horrible toxic environment.

    …”horrible, toxic.”

    Sweet Jeebus on a hovercraft full of eels, I’m sick of this.

    Hey you know what, liamliah? Pharyngula is one of basically two places on the internet where I can read the comments, because I know they won’t be full of transphobic/homophobic/misogynist shite and bile. Where I feel like I don’t have to worry about people thinking I’m some kind of freak for being trans. There are so goddamn few safe spaces like that and people like you apparently think being nice and civil is more important. “Horrible and toxic” my ASS.

    (…this isn’t derail-y, is it? I’m very sorry if this is deraily.)

  133. 133
    Nick Gotts

    dianne@128,

    I wrote a response to your #128, then saw that Bicarbonate@130 has expressed my point better than I had.

  134. 134
    Nick Gotts

    dianne@131,

    I’ve been quite clear about when I would consider force justified, in general terms, but I see you are still determined to misrepresent any view contrary to your own. If that’s what you call “the moral high ground”, you’re welcome to it.

  135. 135
    dianne

    @133: Well, yes, xe did, given that xe didn’t resort to silly insults. But you’re both still arguing for the status quo, i.e. the US, by right of force, should be allowed to invade whoever they feel like whenever they feel like and declare it all for the good of the world, including the people invaded. I disagree with this position.

  136. 136
    A Masked Avenger

    davidjanes, #41:

    He offered. He was turned down.

    The South seceded before Lincoln took office. Any “offer” he might have made came way too late. But he didn’t make any such offer. I believe you’re referring to a letter from Lincoln to Illinois Senator James McDougall in 1862, in which he essentially ruminates idly–and too late!–that buying the slaves would be cheaper than the war that was already underway. Which was quite true: it’s estimated that buying all the slaves would cost about $2.7 billion, versus a cost of $6.6 for the war.

    Slavery was not just simply an economic issue in the South, as Alexander Stephens’ words after being selected VP show:

    Quoting demagogues is going to give a biased picture. Once upon a time I played the game of arguing what was the “real” cause of the war, until I realized something: I don’t have a fucking clue why we invaded Iraq, and I was there, watching, when America went to war. We could play the game of dueling Bush quotes if we want. Saddam trained the 9/11 hijackers! No, he didn’t–but he’ll have nukes by Christmas! Actually, it was never about nukes–it was a humanitarian invasion to liberate women! We could ignore all that, and look at Halliburton’s obscene profits from the war, and argue that one is the “real” reason for the other. And so on, ad nauseam.

    It’s clear from the actual documents of secession, newspaper editorials, etc., that many perceived the conflict to be about slavery. Then again, lots of people believed–and still believe–that we invaded Iraq because 9/11, and WMDs. Even more are convinced that we invaded Afghanistan in a righteous cause, to get Bin Ladin–when in fact Bush violated international law when he ordered them to extradite Bin Ladin without evidence of guilt, and Afghanistan responded perfectly appropriately when they demanded evidence first.

    One effect of the Emancipation Proclamation–which “freed” slaves only in the CSA, where the decree had no effect, and did not free slaves in the border states–was to dissuade England from supporting the CSA, with which there was considerable sympathy. There’s at least something to the hypothesis that this was Lincoln’s intent. It’s well documented that Lincoln was a racist, who among other things toyed with plans for deporting the entire Black population of the US.

    All this to say, given the uncertainty about the true reasons for secession, the lack of any genuine or timely effort to end slavery peaceably, and the cynical nature of what measures Lincoln did take, I would hesitate to claim with any certainty that slavery could not have been ended without a war killing 1.7% of the population and costing $97.6 billion in today’s dollars.

  137. 137
    dianne

    Nick, seriously, as far as I can tell, you’re advocating the use of force when the powerful want to use it. If you’re arguing for anything else, I don’t see it. I’m sorry if that’s misrepresenting your views, but what else am I to make of your statement that invading the US (and other similarly powerful countries) is a bad idea not because the US doesn’t engage in the same behaviors you have (rightly, IMHO) condemned in other countries but because it’s too powerful and there’s just nothing to be done about that. It’s a very comfortable view for someone who is almost certainly an insider, I suppose.

  138. 138
    fentex

    There is nothing brave or heroic about picking up a gun and threatening to kill someone for a matter of principle

    While I agree, in general, with the spirit of this post I disagree with this specific detail.

    I think resisting evil for principle often requires bravery and some lethal battles are worth fighting for if not prevented the lengthy oppression that conquest entails can do more lasting harm than injuries sustained preventing it.

    Although it remains difficult to be willing to fight and also willing to resist being encouraged to fight.

  139. 139
    dianne

    It’s well documented that Lincoln was a racist, who among other things toyed with plans for deporting the entire Black population of the US.

    He made a start on it too. Or, at least, a start was made. I don’t know if it was by Lincoln or not. It’s called Liberia now. Not really the US’s most shining moment, but you could argue that Lincoln’s motives for this policy were good or at least goodish: he didn’t think blacks and whites could ever live together in peace and equality.

  140. 140
    Endorkened

    Dianne @11,

    Toxic machismo.

    Seriously. I’m not being an asshole wannabe-comedian here, I’m deadly serious. This is what you tell your daughter.

    Gsciacca implied it in the very first comment–our owners, because that’s what they are, plunged the entire world into a maelstrom of blood and fear and insanity the bottom of which we have yet to see after nearly a hundred years, because doing otherwise meant they were pussies.

    And you know the really deranged part? The interlocking network of treaties and mutual defense pacts at the heart of the breakdown–the infernal machine that’s been grinding little boys into bloody paste for a GOD DAMN CENTURY–was designed specifically to do what it did, in the assumption that nobody would be stupid enough to pull the trigger.

  141. 141
    draconius

    @fentex, #138

    While I agree, in general, with the spirit of this post I disagree with this specific detail.

    I think resisting evil for principle often requires bravery and some lethal battles are worth fighting for if not prevented the lengthy oppression that conquest entails can do more lasting harm than injuries sustained preventing it.

    Although it remains difficult to be willing to fight and also willing to resist being encouraged to fight.

    First, I assume you mean this in general (i.e. not defending those gun advocates for their “brave stand” at the Blue Mesa Grill).

    Second, unless I misread something several times, this sentiment has been addressed. Many of the commenters here want to prevent ever having to go to war, presumably by crushing any precursors to war, (such as not letting anyone openly making racist comments into a decision making department).

    When all options are exhausted, then we have little choice (don’t read as “no choice”) otherwise but to go to war.

  142. 142
    Nick Gotts

    But you’re both still arguing for the status quo, i.e. the US, by right of force, should be allowed to invade whoever they feel like whenever they feel like and declare it all for the good of the world, including the people invaded. – dianne@135

    That’s a barefaced lie. Nothing I have said in any way justifies such a claim. You are clearly unable or unwilling to argue in good faith on this matter.

    what else am I to make of your statement that invading the US (and other similarly powerful countries) is a bad idea not because the US doesn’t engage in the same behaviors you have (rightly, IMHO) condemned in other countries but because it’s too powerful and there’s just nothing to be done about that. – dianne@137

    I gave a sufficient reason why your stupid nonsense about invading the USA would not be justified: because it couldn’t succeed. Of course the USA, and many other states and for that matter corporations, are committing crimes against humanity. Your insistence that anyone who is not a pacifist supports US imperialism is both ludicrous and offensive. I’ve been involved in campaigning against US and British imperialism since the 1970s, and I’m about sick of your insults. Just fuck off if you can’t argue your case honestly.

  143. 143
    Mr. Fire

    dianne @137:

    Nick, seriously, as far as I can tell, you’re advocating the use of force when the powerful want to use it. If you’re arguing for anything else, I don’t see it.

    I think Nick is saying that an attempt to address the injustices caused by the United States Government by way of armed combat is overwhelmingly likely to end in abject failure, and that there are better, more feasible options at this time.

  144. 144
    cm's changeable moniker (quaint, if not charming)

    Esteleth @#123: “wasn’t there a ship of German Jews that sailed up and down the Atlantic …?”

    Yes, the St Louis: http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005267

  145. 145
    Nick Gotts

    Mr. Fire@143,

    Yes, if you substitute “by way of invading the USA” for “by way of armed combat”. Defensive use of force against the USA can sometimes succeed, although at enormous cost in death and suffering, as Vietnam showed. Force was also an important, and probably necessary part of largely dismantling the British and French empires after WWII. If the USA were, for example, to invade Venezuela or Iran, I would consider the use of force by inhabitants of those countries to resist the invasion justified, in part because there would be a real prospect of success.

  146. 146
    Muz

    On the civil war; I happen to be reading de Tocqueville at the moment. It’s fascinating hearing him describe the situation 30 odd years before the civil war. He points very clearly at slavery becoming a huge problem even then.
    He also observes that the whole country is kinda racist, toward blacks in particular. But in the South because the division is so clear legally and socially, the treatment is more polite. The freedom of the northern states produces more tension.

  147. 147
    Nick Gotts

    Muz@146,

    He points very clearly at slavery becoming a huge problem even then.

    Um, if you happen to be a slave, slavery is always a huge problem.

    the whole country is kinda racist

    “Kinda”????

    But in the South because the division is so clear legally and socially, the treatment is more polite.

    I don’t see how holding someone in slavery can be considered “polite”, even in relative terms.

  148. 148
    Mr. Fire

    Nick @145:

    Yes, if you substitute “by way of invading the USA” for “by way of armed combat”.

    Oh. Yes.

    Originally I was going to use armed insurrection, which would have also been wrong, but at least reminds me of this article in relation to the gun rights movement.

  149. 149
    CaitieCat, getaway driver

    I served in uniform. Happily for me, my service came during a Cold war, and not a hot one, but the reasons I joined:

    - university access. No one in my family had ever been to university; in the CF I could get access to the Royal Military College if I could pass my entrance exams (and I had every reason to believe I could do so).

    - peacekeeping: the Canadian military has a long, and usually justified, reputation for sending troops overseas to put themselves between two sides bent on killing each other (cf. Cyprus, Golan Heights, Bosnia, Rwanda, Somalia, among others). I believed and believe in the viability of that model, though the US’ manipulation of the UN to give approval of George I & II’s imperialist adventuring has tarnished it pretty badly, and Rwanda showed clearly how not to do peacekeeping.

    - work/pay: I joined while still finishing high school, first in the militia (US equivalent is National Guard, UK is the Territorials), then transferring to the reg force after graduating. I was able to make almost enough to live on when I was able to get full-time positions with the militia (and Communications Command, my branch, had people sent literally all over the world, to maintain long-distance radio links), and knew I would always have a job with decent pay and benefits, and a retirement to look forward to.

    - family tradition: the Scots side of my family (my mum’s from Aberdeen, I’m English from Watford) has always had a tradition of service, going back to when the Argylls weren’t brigaded with the Sutherlands yet. In fact, if the Canadian Argylls had been a local unit when I was in the militia, I’d have joined them for sure. All five of my grandparents (father’s birth and stepfathers) served in WWII. My mother’s generation were the only one never to put on a uniform, and I knew my grandfather would be happy if the eldest of the next gen did. And I loved my granddad.

    All that said, I don’t disagree with PZ particularly. I do feel grief for those who’ve died, on either side of any war, and for those who did the killing, too, as I believe that takes a toll on the mind that can’t ever be unpaid, and I know from my own life that people can have very mixed feelings about things all at once.

    Like, say, having served in uniform, and honouring my ancestors for their good-faith efforts, and still hoping that we could have a society in which guns simply aren’t, and knowing that that’s beyond unlikely in the scarcity-damaged world we’ve mailed ourselves.

    I don’t know the answers. Never did. Doubt I ever will. I hope someone has them, though.

  150. 150
    Muz

    Well that was captious in the extreme Nick. I would have thought you’d read him.and probably closer than I at that.

    Anyway, apart from the injustice (which, y’know, I’m fool enough to think goes without saying) he identifies the split as an economic and social threat to the union. But the idea that the north was friendly and inviting to blacks, as freed slaves or free settlers, sometimes lingers about today (perhaps only among we foreigners. I don’t know). Well the freedom was. The people; not so much.
    In saying that the dealing is polite in the south, he’s surmising that the legally prescribed superiority given to whites gives them an aristocratic air when dealing with blacks regardless of their own situation in white society. In the north where’s there was no such specific division, the racism is more naked and fearful.
    It’s just a bit of sociology of the interpersonal relationships. It does make me wonder how buying up the slaves to free them would have gone, popularity wise (which the Atlantic article seems to support, not that I’ve read the whole thing yet)

  151. 151
    Nick Gotts

    Muz,

    Well you think it’s captious to object to saying slave-owners can be “polite” to their slaves; I disagree, because I think an absolute requirement of A being considered polite to B is that A does not believe they have the right to own B. And do you really think aristocrats were polite to their “social inferiors” before the latter gained something like effective legal rights, and the vote?

  152. 152
    Muz

    Nick, it’s merely a description of surface level social interaction. Insisting on stretching it to include some overarching moral definition is completely outside the context and does not aid any comprehension of what the man was talking about.

  153. 153
    tyroneslothrop

    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum est (1917)

  154. 154
    Endorkened

    Muz @152,

    This. You can be polite, and also a racist shitsock. You can be polite, and also a selfish asshole. You can be polite and misogynistic–hell, we even have a word for that.

  155. 155
    WithinThisMind

    What is with the absurd notion that thinking war is stupid makes someone a pacifist?

    I am not a pacifist. I am, in fact, someone whose first instinct in many situations is to respond with violence.

    So you know what I do?

    I avoid those kinds of situations. I actively fail to seek them out. I take the long way around, or allow someone whose instincts are more in line with diplomacy deal with the situation. I take a deep breath. I do my best to override those instincts whenever possible.

    Saying that there is no glory in violence doesn’t mean you aren’t willing to defend yourself and others. It just means that if you have some way of solving the situation without using violence and you don’t exercise that option, you have failed and you should strive to do better in the future.

  156. 156
    ledasmom

    If anyone hasn’t as of yet got their fill of war poetry, I also recommend “The Man He Killed” and “Channel Firing” by Thomas Hardy. I know I had another one in mind, but cannot now remember which.It might have been “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner” by Randall Jarrell, which is the most horrifying thing in five lines I’ve ever read.

  157. 157
    consciousness razor

    WithinThisMind, #155:

    What is with the absurd notion that thinking war is stupid makes someone a pacifist?

    It’s only absurd if you think “pacifist” has an extremely limited meaning. Non-pacifists (and confused pacifists who don’t accept the name*) tend to distort the meaning, so they’ll control the course of the discussion.

    Saying that there is no glory in violence doesn’t mean you aren’t willing to defend yourself and others.

    It doesn’t mean you’re unwilling to defend yourself, for example. It doesn’t even mean being unwilling to defend yourself using violence. It means opposition to violence. You can be opposed, yet accept there may be circumstances in which it is the only possible option. When the hypothetical circumstances are so contrived that violence is the only possible option, it should be obvious you aren’t presenting some kind of refutation of pacifism in general, or in most situations in which we find ourselves in the real world.

    *Reminds me a bit of people who don’t believe in gods and don’t call themselves “atheists.” I have a name for that group. I call them “atheists.”

  158. 158
    thewhollynone

    What is war? Isn’t it just organized primate male aggression on a large scale, usually continued until one side says, “Uncle,” or dies? As long as the males control human culture, we will have big and small wars because that’s the way males settle things– with the knuckle sandwich, real or symbolic. We have evolved and most likely will continue to evolve as a primate species in which the biggest, healthiest, smartest, and most aggressive males appeal to more females and sire the most descendants into the third and the fourth generations. Human females can smell testosterone!

    I can understand why many people would prefer the knuckle sandwich to be more symbolic than real, more verbal than physical, more intellectual than brutal, but don’t kid yourself; it’s still about having things your own way, and about leaving the most descendants.

  159. 159
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    it’s still about having things your own way, and about leaving the most descendants.

    Funny how folks who seem to support EP never, ever, cite the literature to back up their “arguments”.

  160. 160
    Pierce R. Butler

    … the day when nations around the world …

    I had thought most of the world continued to observe 11/11 as Armistice Day, while only the blindly-belligerent-bully United States had reworked it into honor-the-killers day.

    The quotation cited by carlie @ # 34 shows that the warmongering attitude, if not the word change, has permeated much of Britain. :-O

    Gotta wonder how many citizens of former Central Powers nations recited Dolchstoss mythology today.

    Does anybody still regard this day as a time to talk up the ending of warfare?

  161. 161
    John

    To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.

    ~Sun Tzu

  162. 162
    chigau (違う)

    161.5
    and unicorn farts

  163. 163
    ledasmom

    thewhollynone@158:

    What is war? Isn’t it just organized primate male aggression on a large scale, usually continued until one side says, “Uncle,” or dies? As long as the males control human culture, we will have big and small wars because that’s the way males settle things– with the knuckle sandwich, real or symbolic.

    Congratulations. You have demonstrated your lack of understanding both of humans and of other primates. You might want to go read some Jane Goodall.
    Alpha male chimps don’t even come close to monopolizing the females. Not all males succeed through the knuckle-sandwich technique. And if the females don’t approve of the alpha male, out he goes.

  164. 164
    chigau (違う)

    ledasmom #163
    ssshh
    You’re interfering with the AlphaMalePhantsy.
    you’ll hurt their feefees

  165. 165
    DrVanNostrand

    Masked Avenger #136

    Lincoln did not officially make the offer to buy slaves, but it was a major part of his platform when running for president. I find the notion that anything could have dissuaded the Southern states from seceding laughable since the Corwin amendment (a constitutional amendment that was drafted and supported by Congress and Lincoln, which would have made it impossible for the federal government to interfere in slavery where it existed at the time) didn’t slow them down in the least. How on earth would buying the slaves be MORE palatable to Southern states than the Corwin amendment? The Southern position after the election was crystal clear; they’d defend slavery to the death.

    Also, Lincoln tried to buy the slaves in some of the Union states during the war and failed due to opposition from the state legislatures. It succeeded only in DC because the proposal only had to pass the Republican Congress. Again, if he failed miserably to enact his plan in the slave states that remained in the country, how could he have succeeded in convincing the slave states that were committed to seceding the minute he won the election?

  166. 166
    DrVanNostrand

    Also, and I’d have to google this, I think Lincoln tried to work on a legislative act to buy slaves when he was in Congress, but got nowhere (though I’m not 100% sure on this one).

  167. 167
    shockna

    Yeah, it’s hard to leave one’s home country. People don’t do it for no reason. All the more reason to make it easier for them when they do get to some place better or at least potentially better.

    Rather more difficult when you consider that, aside from all of the ugly social factors in play (including a one-way trip to a concentration camp for three generations of the would-be emigrant’s family), there are armed guards ready to shoot those who attempt to leave on sight.

    Still, there are people trying just that now. I send them $20 a month. I’d post the link for others interested in humanitarian aid, but that seems a bit close to spamming considering the thread.

  168. 168
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    dianne,

    In a country of 30 million citizens, how many should leave? How and where would all these people go?

    The possibility should be open to those who want to and can leave, but oh, well, if you don’t like it just leave isn’t a meaningful solution on a truly wide scale.

  169. 169
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    shockna,

    You can post the link in the Lounge and/or Thunderdome. Nothing off topic there.

  170. 170
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    I meant: Nothing is off topic there.

  171. 171
    barnestormer

    Wow. I’m late seeing this, but thanks for writing it.

  172. 172
    Holms

    Heavy metal can do war poetry too:

    We fought your wars with all our hearts
    You sent us back in body parts
    You took our wills with the truth you stole
    We offer prayers for your long lost soul

    Your remainder is an unjustifiable egotistical power struggle
    At the expense of the American dream
    Of the American dream
    Of the American

    We don’t give a damn about your world
    With all your global profits and all your jeweled pearls
    We don’t give a damn about your world
    Right now, right now

    We don’t give a fuck about your world
    With all your global profits and all your jeweled pearls
    We don’t give a fuck about your world
    Right now, right now
    Right now, right now

    There is no flag that is large enough
    To hide the shame of a man in cuffs
    You switched your signs then you closed the blinds
    You changed the channels and you changed our minds

    Your remainder is an unjustifiable egotistical power struggle
    At the expense of the American dream
    Of the American dream
    Of the American

    We don’t give a damn about your world
    With all your global profits and all your jeweled pearls
    We don’t give a damn about your world
    Right now, right now

    We don’t give a fuck about your world
    With all your global profits and all your jeweled pearls
    We don’t give a fuck about your world
    Right now, right now
    Right now, right now

    Right now, right now
    Right now, right now

    No flag large enough
    Shame on the men in cuffs
    Close the blinds

    Your remainder is an unjustifiable egotistical power struggle
    At the expense of the American dream
    Of the American dream
    Of the American

    We don’t give a damn about your world
    With all your global profits and all your jeweled pearls
    We don’t give a damn about your world
    Right now, right now

    We don’t give a fuck about your world
    With all your global profits and all your jeweled pearls
    We don’t give a fuck about your world
    Right now, right now
    Right now, right now

    Right now, right now
    Right now, right now

    System of a Down – A.D.D

    I, for one, will continue to think highly of those that risk their lives for the defense of their nation; that act remains an act of selflesness, even if their patriotism is stoked by lying politicians. The politicians on the other hand are pure villainy, setting money above life.

  173. 173
    drm0

    Quoth Nick Groth @121:

    using force is justified when there is a high probability that doing so will lead to considerably less unnecessary death and suffering than any alternative course of action anyone can come up with. This criterion is clearly not met if there is no prospect of success, as is currently the case for any proposed invasion of the USA.

    I don’t mean to get too entangled in such a thorny subject, but, speaking from America’s backyard, this did sound a tad chilling. Probably not what you meant, but I can imagine similar arguments being used to justify any use of force against a weaker nation, especially if it’s not easy to calculate the human costs of acting and not acting.

    * * *

    Quoth thewhollynone @158

    Human females can smell testosterone!

    Oh. Do they? If I feel attracted to other earthling human males, is that because I can smell hormones too? I mean, what I’m trying to say is do I have superpowers?

  174. 174
    A Masked Avenger

    DrVanNostrand, #165:

    Lincoln did not officially make the offer to buy slaves, but it was a major part of his platform when running for president.

    [Citation needed.]

    The Republican platform included blocking expansion of slavery into the western territories. You’ll have to provide some evidence that his campaign platform included compensated emancipation. He proposed compensated emancipation in 1862, but that’s a little late to affect the 1860 election.

    Note that Lincoln was still a racist fuck: his defense of the Missouri Compromise was essentially that slavery takes jobs away from decent white folks. With minimal changes, it would have been a great speech for whipping up the crowds against Mexicans.

    I find the notion that anything could have dissuaded the Southern states from seceding laughable…

    .

    The question was whether slavery could have been ended without violence. Whether the South could have been prevented from seceding is a different question entirely. For example, one perfectly foreseeable outcome is that the CSA secedes successfully, but that slavery is ended there at a later time, whether for purely economic reasons, or due to pressure from England, or other causes. You seem to be equating secession and slavery, as if the CSA would have slaves in 2013 if it hadn’t been forcibly suppressed.

    (I’ll thank you kindly not to interpret anything I just said as a defense of the CSA–especially as a snide way of insinuating that I actually support slavery. I did nothing more nor less than point out that secession and slavery are two separate issues, even if secession were over slavery and nothing but slavery.)

    …since the Corwin amendment (a constitutional amendment that was drafted and supported by Congress and Lincoln, which would have made it impossible for the federal government to interfere in slavery where it existed at the time) didn’t slow them down in the least…

    Your irony meter must have twitched as you wrote that one! So Lincoln was opposed to slavery–and he supported the “slavery forever” amendment!

    But more importantly, take a look at where the goal posts were before you moved them. The question was whether slavery could be ended without bloodshed. Whether it was possible or not, passing a “slavery forever” amendment was sure as hell NOT the way to achieve that! You’ve proven conclusively that Lincoln didn’t give two fucks about the slaves–but you’ve also offered some noteworthy evidence that slavery was not the sole reason for secession. If slavery were the only grounds for secession, then the Corwin Amendment would have laid their concerns to rest. This isn’t conclusive proof, but it’s evidence worth bearing in mind. It certainly illustrates that you moved the goalposts, though, when you switched the topic to secession.

    I suspect the discussion is going to remain a bit incoherent, as long as you remain convinced that the two topics are synonymous and that you aren’t moving any goalposts.

  175. 175
    drm0

    me@173

    I mean, Nick Gotts. Damn, I’m sorry. I’ll try to use copy and paste properly next time.

  176. 176
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    I don’t see a problem with Remembrance Day, as such, but I do hate the way some people treat it. As illustrated by that idiotic MP in the linked article, the jingoistic, flag-worshipping, war-mongering, nationalistic cult-of-the-military which I previously associated with the US right wing has in recent years begun infiltrating the UK, and it’s infuriating. Politicians, as always, are attempting to mirror public sentiment in an effort to remain popular, and Remembrance Day is rapidly becoming a big pissing contest to show who is the most “patriotic”. The take home message from Remebrance Day should be “That was horrible. Thank you for putting yourselves through that, but let’s never let it happen again.”; instead it’s just people trying to show how “British” they are by demanding ever more ridiculous levels of “respect” for the day, for poppies, and for anyone even tangentially involved in the military. It’s been happening slowly for years, and it’s finally having a noticeable effect in the wake of the recent wars in the Middle East. It’s bullshit and it makes a mockery of the original purpose of the day.

  177. 177
    dogmeat

    Dianne @ 7:

    But did it have to be with violence? What if Lincoln had simply bought every slave in the south and freed them? That probably would have been cheaper and almost certainly less bloody than the actual war. And might have led to quicker acceptance of equality because there was less resentment. Or maybe I’m being overly optimistic about human nature on that one. Or on all of this.

    Dianne,

    Your proposed solutions were impossible given the historical sequence of events. The first southern states seceded prior to Lincoln’s inauguration and in some cases had already seized/opened fire on federal installations; it wasn’t possible for him to make any such offer. Previously there had been attempts to purchase and transport the slaves “back” to Africa. This was opposed generally for two reasons. First, the argument that these people weren’t “African” and that ending slavery in this manner was nearly as immoral as slavery was in the first place; second, the opposition by those who owned slaves to such a purchase of their “property” at a time perceived to be very profitable.

    Is it possible that slavery could have ended without bloodshed? Yes. Is it likely? No. Much like the political gridlock and irrational support for idiotic positions and ideas, support for slavery and preservation of the slave system had become an unnegotiable issue in the deep southern states. As we see today, those deep southern plantation states have little going for them; among the poorest in the country, vast swaths of backward, often bigoted, depressingly repressive areas. It is really no surprise that the core of the Tea Party movement is in the same states that formed the core of the secession movement in 1860.

  178. 178
    dogmeat

    Masked Avenger

    It’s clear from the actual documents of secession, newspaper editorials, etc., that many perceived the conflict to be about slavery.

    Actually, you can sort it out if you look at the historical actions and documents in their sequence of events. First, you have the growing battle over slavery itself in the late 1840s into the 1850s. This debate negates the “state’s rights” argument quite firmly given that the southern states don’t give a damn about the rights of northern states when it comes to suppressing their legal and constitutional rights. The tariff question falls apart because in 1860 the tariff was the lowest it had been in twenty years and had just been lowered. Finally, the sequence of secession and the arguments made in favor of secession of those states clearly show it was a “property” issue. The first four states to secede mention slavery, not the question of states rights, not the issue of a tariff, slavery and “property” rights. Texas mentions slavery 21 times in addition to mentioning frontier issues and the failure of the federal government to deal with raids by hostile “Indians.” States rights? Tariff? Nope, slavery, “property” rights. They may very well have convinced some of their citizens to support secession for other reasons, may have put together arguments of noble cause and sacrifice, but the stated purpose by those who were the leadership of the movement were economic and “property” based.

    Also, you regularly refer to Lincoln as a “racist fuck.” Actually, for his time period he was rather liberal on the issue and question of race. As an historian, I have to caution you not to take someone out of the context of their time. Judging someone’s statements based upon the criteria of our time gives you a false impression of their character. Using your criteria, Charles Darwin and most of the abolitionists in the US and UK were, to use your term, “racist fucks.”

    ———-

    Commenting on the issue of Remembrance/Veteran’s Day, I share the concern of many expressed here that it has become a militarist-nationalist-fetishist holiday that makes me rather uncomfortable. I was fortunate in my military service, other than standby for the 1st Gulf War when I was in the reserves, my service was a Cold War staring contest. My father and uncles weren’t so lucky. All three went to Vietnam, all three succumbed to the post war aftermath. I’m concerned that the treatment of veterans is often forgotten. Concerned that the massive spending on defense has given us a “big dick” complex where the solution to far too many problems has become military. I’m concerned that technology has allowed us to launch “cost-free” (at least on our side) airstrikes with unmanned vehicles leading to a “who are we bombing this week?” mentality. I don’t care for the idea that anyone who served is suddenly a “hero.” I didn’t do anything special, showed up for work, did my job, hung out and played video games or went out with my shipmates. I knew people in the military who, were they civilians, these same hero worshipers would have called for them to be sent to prison. They were slime balls, reprobrates, dirtbags. But now, because they wore the uniform, they are “heroes?” Very disturbing.

  179. 179
    viggen111

    that broke and crippled their men after they’d been intentionally trained to dehumanize other human beings.

    Must be a function of his training to dehumanize others:
    http://www.nbc33tv.com/news/general-asks-for-us-warsh

    I submit once again that the characterization of the military in PZ’s post above is overgeneralized and cherry-picked. Marvel of rational argument. Humanity is never black and white, even in war.

  180. 180
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Is it possible that slavery could have ended without [additional] bloodshed? Yes.

    Not by the 1850s, I don’t think. The time to start hammering on that would have been in the 1770s; if the 3/5s compromise hadn’t made it in, for instance, the South wouldn’t have been able to have nearly as much influence in the Federal government, which would have made legal abolition a much stronger possibility. Of course, the really ideal time to have stopped slavery would have been before actually enslaving anyone, but whatever.

  181. 181
    A Masked Avenger

    Dogmeat, #178:

    Actually, you can sort it out if you look at the historical actions and documents in their sequence of events.

    If you reread what I wrote, you’ll note an allusion to having read each and every state’s statement of secession, among other things. I said, quite deliberately, that the people at the time widely considered slavery to be the primary reason for secession. Your reply suggests that you believe I was trying to insinuate that “people believed it, but it wasn’t true.” If so, fuck off: I wasn’t.

    If you also read my comments about the 2003 invasion of Iraq, I hope you’d find a much more subtle point. One which, if you’re a historian worth your salt, I’d expect you already to appreciate (disclaimer: I am not a historian). Namely, the players in history have different motives. Individuals themselves have more than one motive, including some which they never acknowledge publicly, and some which they never even admit to themselves.

    So in the case of the invasion of Iraq, none of us reading this (except you, maybe–waves to the NSA) have a fucking clue why we really invaded. Did Bush actually believe they had WMDs? Doubtful, I’d say, but possible. Was it to avenge Daddy Bush’s honor, as some suspect? Was he truly so moronic as to believe that Saddam supported Bin Ladin? Many, possibly including the Commander in Chimp, believed that Iraq had something to do with 9/11. Many, again possibly including Bush, believed that it had a working nuclear program. Did oil interests figure in somehow? Did Halliburton influence the decision to invade? Or did they merely profit handsomely after the fact?

    I’d expect historians to be intelligent enough not to speak of THE reason for a war that started 152 years ago, given that there’s never just one reason for anything, and that we can’t even determine with certainty “THE” reason for a war that began ten years ago.

    Also, you regularly refer to Lincoln as a “racist fuck.” Actually, for his time period he was rather liberal on the issue and question of race. As an historian, I have to caution you not to take someone out of the context of their time. Judging someone’s statements based upon the criteria of our time gives you a false impression of their character. Using your criteria, Charles Darwin and most of the abolitionists in the US and UK were, to use your term, “racist fucks.”

    Your point being what? That I can’t call racist fucks racist fucks, because in their place and time they were surrounded by other racist fucks, some even worse than themselves?

    In any case, it’s important not to talk out both sides of your mouth. To suggest that he opposed slavery, despite his willingness to support an amendment protecting slavery in perpetuity, is ridiculous. He may have had a mild preference to end it, all things being equal–but he was more than willing to see it continue into the 21st century in exchange for other things he valued more. Even by the standards of the time, he was no friend of the black man. To the extent that his actions benefited African Americans, it’s a happy outcome for which he deserves far less credit than he gets.

  182. 182
    betelgeux

    This post reminded me of this excellent Dylan song from 1963, “With God On Our Side”. The lyrics are worth a read:

    Oh my name it is nothin’
    My age it means less
    The country I come from
    Is called the Midwest
    I’s taught and brought up there
    The laws to abide
    And that the land that I live in
    Has God on its side

    Oh the history books tell it
    They tell it so well
    The cavalries charged
    The Indians fell
    The cavalries charged
    The Indians died
    Oh the country was young
    With God on its side

    Oh the Spanish-American
    War had its day
    And the Civil War too
    Was soon laid away
    And the names of the heroes
    l’s made to memorize
    With guns in their hands
    And God on their side

    Oh the First World War, boys
    It closed out its fate
    The reason for fighting
    I never got straight
    But I learned to accept it
    Accept it with pride
    For you don’t count the dead
    When God’s on your side

    When the Second World War
    Came to an end
    We forgave the Germans
    And we were friends
    Though they murdered six million
    In the ovens they fried
    The Germans now too
    Have God on their side

    I’ve learned to hate Russians
    All through my whole life
    If another war starts
    It’s them we must fight
    To hate them and fear them
    To run and to hide
    And accept it all bravely
    With God on my side

    But now we got weapons
    Of the chemical dust
    If fire them we’re forced to
    Then fire them we must
    One push of the button
    And a shot the world wide
    And you never ask questions
    When God’s on your side

    So now as I’m leavin’
    I’m weary as Hell
    The confusion I’m feelin’
    Ain’t no tongue can tell
    The words fill my head
    And fall to the floor
    If God’s on our side
    He’ll stop the next war

  183. 183
    dogmeat

    Your reply suggests that you believe I was trying to insinuate that “people believed it, but it wasn’t true.” If so, fuck off: I wasn’t.

    No idea why you feel the need to be such an aggressive ass-hat when I haven’t done anything to deserve such treatment; really I’m not in the mood for your bullshit so I wont bother to converse with you further. Go fuck yourself.

  184. 184
    Desert Son, OM

    viggen111 at #179:

    You commented:

    Must be a function of his training to dehumanize others: link to news about humanitarian aid effort

    I’m not sure what you are getting at here. Can you clarify?

    The linked story is about humanitarian relief relative to an atmospheric phenomenon (as opposed to war). You seem to object to PZ’s characterization about training that reinforces dehumanization in order to smooth the impulse to combat. PZ doesn’t say that’s the only aspect of being a veteran, that that’s the only thing that makes up a veteran’s perspective or personality or experience.

    But it is true that dehumanization is an aspect of combat training. Sure, many military serve in humanitarian relief efforts, but that doesn’t mean those personnel aren’t also trained to the think of the enemy in dehumanized terms in order to break down human impulses to preserve life. As I posted in my comment yesterday at #108, we don’t stop analyzing and thinking critically about religious institutions and their adverse effects just because some religious practitioners and affiliates also happen to work to end poverty or work to support social justice.

    PZ’s concern seems to be about war, its conduct, and its effects, including its effects on warriors, our socio-cultural environments, and the broader populations therein. It’s also about how we recognize those effects and what that implies about how we prioritize cultural aspects.

    Humanity is never black and white, even in war.

    Agreed, and surely the testimony of veterans in this very thread (and in PZ’s other thread) support that, including those comments from veterans that agree with what PZ has posted. Is it possible that one of the things PZ was trying to say is that a lack of critical thinking about war and its effects on our culture is, itself, perilous? Given that you advocated in #72 about how 11 November should be a time for reflection on the horror of war, I still don’t see how you and PZ are at odds here, except that PZ is arguing that a problematic outgrowth of war is the veneration of war and the warlike, and the blurring of recognition on a day like 11 November.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen PZ’s follow up thread, but if you haven’t, I recommend it, not only for the further elucidation that PZ provides there, but also for the excellent commentary examining multiple facets of war and war-culture issues, including insightful posts about the history of the U.S. Civil War, World War I (of which my grandfather was an army veteran), and World War II (in which my great uncle—a naval aviator—lost his life).

    Out of curiosity, is your handle a reference to the Saab Viggen attack aircraft?

    Thanks for any help or clarification.

    Still learning,

    Robert

  185. 185
    A Masked Avenger

    @dogmeat:

    No idea why you feel the need to be such an aggressive ass-hat when I haven’t done anything to deserve such treatment…

    If I read something into your comment, then I apologize. I said, “…many perceived the secession to be over slavery…” You replied, “actually, we can sort it out… [and it was indeed all about slavery]…”

    Superficially, I said it was about slavery, and you replied, “actually, it IS about slavery.” I.e., you agreed with me, but phrased your agreement as if it were a contradiction. I took it to be, as it usually is, a sign that you thought you WERE contradicting me–which means you must have thought I was saying something different from what I actually said. There’s only one obvious way to interpret my words as the opposite of their clear meaning: namely, if I said “many perceive…” meaning, without saying, “…but they were wrong.” In short, it certainly looks like you’re getting something different out of my words than what I put into them. I have no wish to be misinterpreted as an apologist for the confederacy.

    Meanwhile, you seem to have completely ignored the real point of both my posts. Speaking of “THE” reason is asinine, for reasons I spelled out clearly. If you disagree, please tell me “THE” reason the US invaded Iraq in 2003, because I for one would really, really, really like to know. Millions perceived it to be about 9/11 and/or WMDs, and in this case perception is reality: it clearly IS why people enlisted, and other people cheered, etc., etc. But “THE” reason? E.g., did everyone in the Bush administration sincerely believe what many clearly understood at the time to be untrue? Did Bush invade because 9/11 and WMDs and he was fool enough to believe that shite about 9/11 and WMDs? And were Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld, et al, all equally stupid? Or, if any of them weren’t that stupid, then… why?

    Concerning 1861, it’s clear what popular perception was. Was that “THE” reason? Then why was the Corwin amendment insufficient to settle that concern? Did the powerful in the South have any motives beside fear that slavery might be abolished, or not? Etc.

    Not being a historian myself, this all was a recent epiphany for me–see “why the fuck did we invade Iraq, again?” Historians, I hope, are way out in front of me on this, and are taught it as undergrads.

  186. 186
    viggen111

    We love to take our young people, especially our young men and boys, and grind them up in bloody battles, and then once a year we remind ourselves of what we do, and we congratulate people for it.

    Gotta love how monolithic, horrible and trained to dehumanize the military is:

    http://news.yahoo.com/us-ospreys-show-worth-philippines-aid-effort-075730999.html

    Hint: if PZ can get away with cherry picking, so can everyone else.

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