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  #1  
Old 05-02-2011, 10:02 PM
Bloggingheads Bloggingheads is offline
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Default Osama Bin Laden Is Dead (Robert Wright & Mickey Kaus)

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  #2  
Old 05-02-2011, 10:58 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Conspiracy theory #428

Given the location and structure of the compound, I'm wondering if OBL wasn't considered a high-value individual to the Pakistani government. In other words, an asset they installed and protected until such a time when they could extract some concession from the US. We just don't yet know what that concession was. After the concession, the Pakistani leaders might have been willing to drop a dime on OBL, and stand clear, under the condition that it looks like a purely American action.

Then the US defined the precise scheduling of the action (Saturday, weather delayed to Sunday), insuring that it did not overlap with the Royal Wedding media extravaganza (Friday).

Last edited by Simon Willard; 05-02-2011 at 11:02 PM..
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  #3  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:08 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Conspiracy theory #428

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Originally Posted by Simon Willard View Post
Given the location and structure of the compound, I'm wondering if OBL wasn't considered a high-value individual to the Pakistani government. In other words, an asset they installed and protected until such a time when they could extract some concession from the US. We just don't yet know what that concession was. After the concession, the Pakistani leaders might have been willing to drop a dime on OBL, and stand clear, under the condition that it looks like a purely American action.

Then the US defined the precise scheduling of the action (Saturday, weather delayed to Sunday), insuring that it did not overlap with the Royal Wedding media extravaganza (Friday).
High wall, no phones, no data connection - the idea of that compound as a gilded prison makes a kind of perverse sense. Not enough to make me think it's likely, but it's an attractive notion.
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  #4  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:26 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Conspiracy theory #428

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
High wall, no phones, no data connection - the idea of that compound as a gilded prison makes a kind of perverse sense. Not enough to make me think it's likely, but it's an attractive notion.
OBL would not have to know it was a prison! He was in hiding by consent.

Last edited by Simon Willard; 05-02-2011 at 11:45 PM..
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  #5  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:30 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Conspiracy theory #428

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Originally Posted by Simon Willard View Post
OBL would not have to know it was a prison! He was in hiding by consent.
Heh!
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  #6  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:07 PM
ohreally ohreally is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

The courier's tip came from KSM years after waterboarding had stopped. Remember that he was waterboarded 183 times. And that didn't make him talk. If anything this proves that torture does not work.

Plus it's hard to invoke the ticking bomb scenario when years pass between the tip and any actionable intelligence.

But of course this is all irrelevant. Torture is wrong. Period. It's not wrong "because it does not work." It's wrong even if it works (which it doesn't).
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  #7  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:10 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by ohreally View Post
The courier's tip came from KSM years after waterboarding had stopped. Remember that he was waterboarded 183 times. And that didn't make him talk. If anything this proves that torture does not work.

Plus it's hard to invoke the ticking bomb scenario when years pass between the tip and any actionable intelligence.

But of course this is all irrelevant. Torture is wrong. Period. It's not wrong "because it does not work." It's wrong even if it works (which it doesn't).
That last sentence bears repeating (and doesn't need the qualification):

It's wrong even if it works.
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  #8  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:28 PM
Simon Willard Simon Willard is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
That last sentence bears repeating (and doesn't need the qualification):

It's wrong even if it works.
Is it more wrong than a bullet to OBL's forehead?
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  #9  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:37 PM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by Simon Willard View Post
Is it more wrong than a bullet to OBL's forehead?
If he'd been shot when he could have been captured without further risk, that would trouble me; but a lot less so than a policy where people who are already being held are subjected to torture. If we'd tortured OBL after he'd been subdued, I'd have the same complaint as with anybody else.
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Last edited by AemJeff; 05-03-2011 at 01:33 AM.. Reason: fix bad edit
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  #10  
Old 05-03-2011, 08:56 AM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
If he'd been shot when he could have been captured without further risk, that would trouble me; but a lot less so than a policy where people who are already being held are subjected to torture. If we'd tortured OBL after he'd been subdued, I'd have the same complaint as with anybody else.
Strategically, I don't think that capturing Bin Laden would have been a desirable option. While he was under US custody there would have been a higher risk of uprisings, violence and attacks from sympathizer terrorist groups. It would have kept the cause alive.

I truly think that a sudden, fast resolution like the one that was conducted is the best option from that perspective. It created a paralysis of sorts and it didn't allow time to figure a response.
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  #11  
Old 05-03-2011, 09:46 AM
AemJeff AemJeff is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Strategically, I don't think that capturing Bin Laden would have been a desirable option. While he was under US custody there would have been a higher risk of uprisings, violence and attacks from sympathizer terrorist groups. It would have kept the cause alive.

I truly think that a sudden, fast resolution like the one that was conducted is the best option from that perspective. It created a paralysis of sorts and it didn't allow time to figure a response.
I agree with that. And I think his continued existence in the world at-large constituted a "clear and present danger" to which the U.S. had a right to respond.
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  #12  
Old 05-03-2011, 10:50 AM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Strategically, I don't think that capturing Bin Laden would have been a desirable option. While he was under US custody there would have been a higher risk of uprisings, violence and attacks from sympathizer terrorist groups. It would have kept the cause alive.

I truly think that a sudden, fast resolution like the one that was conducted is the best option from that perspective. It created a paralysis of sorts and it didn't allow time to figure a response.
Yeah, but that makes it sound like killing him would have been OK even if we were able to capture him. I understand the utility in having him dead, but it would seem awkward if he would have not resisted arrest, and we would have simply shot him in cold blood.
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  #13  
Old 05-02-2011, 11:40 PM
operative operative is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by AemJeff View Post
That last sentence bears repeating (and doesn't need the qualification):

It's wrong even if it works.
Empty idealism. If someone kidnapped your children and had them strapped to a bomb, you'd do plenty more than waterboard them.
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  #14  
Old 05-03-2011, 01:02 AM
Don Zeko Don Zeko is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by operative View Post
Empty idealism. If someone kidnapped your children and had them strapped to a bomb, you'd do plenty more than waterboard them.
I'm pretty mystified by this bit of moral logic. Why would we take our cues for ethical behavior from people that are acting on the basis of extremely strong emotions that preclude even the possibility of detachment, empathy, etc.? How is this sort of justification of torture different from saying that it should be legal to shoot any man that you catch sleeping with your wife? After all, that's a pretty common emotional response to infidelity, right? To veer back into more on-topic counterfactuals, wouldn't you agree that shooting unarmed civilians is a common emotional impulse for soldiers fighting against insurgents that rely on civilians for protection and support? So how is your argument justifying torture not applicable in defense of, say, these guys?
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  #15  
Old 05-03-2011, 10:32 AM
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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I'm pretty mystified by this bit of moral logic. Why would we take our cues for ethical behavior from people that are acting on the basis of extremely strong emotions that preclude even the possibility of detachment, empathy, etc.?
Because we are talking about saving lives.

Quote:
How is this sort of justification of torture different from saying that it should be legal to shoot any man that you catch sleeping with your wife?
Because that does not involve saving lives.

Quote:
To veer back into more on-topic counterfactuals, wouldn't you agree that shooting unarmed civilians is a common emotional impulse for soldiers fighting against insurgents that rely on civilians for protection and support? So how is your argument justifying torture not applicable in defense of, say, these guys?
Because again, that does not involve saving lives. What I am arguing is that there is more leniency in action when one is undertaking action to save lives. Though you didn't say so, I get the impression that you are agreeing with me that in an instance in which your children's lives were in peril, you would undertake actions that you would otherwise condemn. This is entirely natural--in fact, it's illogical not to.

So why shouldn't soldiers, who are in a situation in which lives are in every bit (and more) of a position to save lives, work wit the same code that the vast majority of us would work with?
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  #16  
Old 05-03-2011, 10:45 AM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Because we are talking about saving lives.
But that is a utilitarian argument. You just raised the argument from personal retribution, which is completely different.
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  #17  
Old 05-03-2011, 10:53 AM
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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But that is a utilitarian argument. You just raised the argument from personal retribution, which is completely different.
Not retribution (Unless we're talking about the killing of OBL, which I do support), but in fact utilitarianism: the lives of the guilty (specifically those guilty of attempting to/succeeding in killing someone) are collectively worth less than a single innocent person. My hypothetical was one in which you could gain information from 'enhanced interrogation' of the kidnapper that would save your child's life. You know, the Jack Bauer "TELL ME WHERE SHE IS" scenario. The precise same logic exists for soldiers.
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  #18  
Old 05-03-2011, 02:12 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by operative View Post
Not retribution (Unless we're talking about the killing of OBL, which I do support), but in fact utilitarianism: the lives of the guilty (specifically those guilty of attempting to/succeeding in killing someone) are collectively worth less than a single innocent person. My hypothetical was one in which you could gain information from 'enhanced interrogation' of the kidnapper that would save your child's life. You know, the Jack Bauer "TELL ME WHERE SHE IS" scenario. The precise same logic exists for soldiers.
You mix up different things by making it about what I (or anyone) would do to save their child's life. We expect parents to act emotionally, and basically without regard to anything else, when it comes to protecting a child.

The question is: if torture sometimes works, is it ethical to torture if you believe that to do so if the information gained would aid in saving a life or lives. From a utilitarian perspective, maybe. (The argument against this would be that it opens the door to treatment of prisoners that is worse in its results than the benefit gained in a small number of cases.) From a rights-based or teleological perspective, doesn't matter. It is wrong to torture. I follow the latter view, although I think most people would excuse individuals from violating these standards in the moment due to strong pressure. (Isn't that kind of the McCain argument -- it must be illegal, but in the rare case I admit I'd choose to violate the law and take the consequences.)
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  #19  
Old 05-03-2011, 02:38 PM
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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You mix up different things by making it about what I (or anyone) would do to save their child's life. We expect parents to act emotionally, and basically without regard to anything else, when it comes to protecting a child.

The question is: if torture sometimes works, is it ethical to torture if you believe that to do so if the information gained would aid in saving a life or lives. From a utilitarian perspective, maybe. (The argument against this would be that it opens the door to treatment of prisoners that is worse in its results than the benefit gained in a small number of cases.) From a rights-based or teleological perspective, doesn't matter. It is wrong to torture. I follow the latter view, although I think most people would excuse individuals from violating these standards in the moment due to strong pressure. (Isn't that kind of the McCain argument -- it must be illegal, but in the rare case I admit I'd choose to violate the law and take the consequences.)
But then you're not really subscribing to the teleological argument, are you? To paraphrase Kant, the alternative argument is that it's better for the world to end than to torture one person.

Rather, it seems that you're embracing utilitarianism but on a very limited basis. I think this entirely fine--in fact it comes close to my argument. I'm not saying that we should as a standard waterboard everyone we capture. I am, however, saying that when we have sufficient reason to believe that we can gain information about future terrorist activity, and thus save lives, then we should absolutely be willing to go beyond the normal means of interrogation.

Also, how can we expect a parent to set aside a generally regarded rule of decency to protect their child and not permit that for others to save lives, too? I don't think of it as so much an acknowledgement that emotion clouds conventional reasoning as that in extreme situations, we tolerate different behaviors.
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  #20  
Old 05-03-2011, 02:44 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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But then you're not really subscribing to the teleological argument, are you?
I'm not saying torture, even in extreme circumstances, is justified, so I think I am (I'm also acknowledging the McCain argument, not fully agreeing with McCain).

However, I have a healthy acceptance of human weakness, so I allow for excuses and extenuating circumstances and jury nullification in my view of the world. I probably wouldn't feel compelled to make an example of someone who beat up a kidnapper to find out where his kid was, not because I think what he did was morally correct, but because I think under the circumstances I can't judge him, I think emotion overrules reason. This becomes a problem if we codify it into law and make an exception that in certain circumstances it's okay.
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  #21  
Old 05-03-2011, 07:56 PM
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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I'm not saying torture, even in extreme circumstances, is justified, so I think I am (I'm also acknowledging the McCain argument, not fully agreeing with McCain).

However, I have a healthy acceptance of human weakness, so I allow for excuses and extenuating circumstances and jury nullification in my view of the world. I probably wouldn't feel compelled to make an example of someone who beat up a kidnapper to find out where his kid was, not because I think what he did was morally correct, but because I think under the circumstances I can't judge him, I think emotion overrules reason. This becomes a problem if we codify it into law and make an exception that in certain circumstances it's okay.
You're presuming that his emotion overrules his logic. This isn't necessarily the case. There's a very logical case to make in that instance that assaulting the kidnapper until he breaks is the best way to address the problem. Far from being ruled by emotion, the person in question might have made a rational calculation.
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  #22  
Old 05-04-2011, 12:32 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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You're presuming that his emotion overrules his logic.
I think that when you specifically choose as your example the parent of a child, you are asking me to consider the emotional element and those reasons (which most of us would understand).

Like I said initially, if you want to make the case that torture should be legal based on a non-emotional, non-"everyone can understand how he'd feel" basis, then you shouldn't have chosen a parent trying to save his child. That adds all sorts of other considerations. I'd absolutely want to kill someone who killed my husband, but I'm still against the death penalty.

Quote:
There's a very logical case to make in that instance that assaulting the kidnapper until he breaks is the best way to address the problem. Far from being ruled by emotion, the person in question might have made a rational calculation.
Right, this is your claim, and if so there's no reason to bring in the parent-child relationship. You are saying that if the state can get useful information that might serve to save another person, torture is okay. I disagree. Torture is inherently immoral and a violation of rights that it is not okay for the state to violate, even if there is some possible utilitarian benefit.

I see an easy utilitarian argument to the contrary, also (why the costs would exceed the possible benefits), but since I'm not and have never claimed to be a utilitarian, I'm not really that worried about being the one to make it.
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  #23  
Old 05-04-2011, 12:40 PM
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I think that when you specifically choose as your example the parent of a child, you are asking me to consider the emotional element and those reasons (which most of us would understand).

Like I said initially, if you want to make the case that torture should be legal based on a non-emotional, non-"everyone can understand how he'd feel" basis, then you shouldn't have chosen a parent trying to save his child. That adds all sorts of other considerations. I'd absolutely want to kill someone who killed my husband, but I'm still against the death penalty.



Right, this is your claim, and if so there's no reason to bring in the parent-child relationship. You are saying that if the state can get useful information that might serve to save another person, torture is okay. I disagree. Torture is inherently immoral and a violation of rights that it is not okay for the state to violate, even if there is some possible utilitarian benefit.

I see an easy utilitarian argument to the contrary, also (why the costs would exceed the possible benefits), but since I'm not and have never claimed to be a utilitarian, I'm not really that worried about being the one to make it.
i believe that we are on similar but not exactly the same grounds. I'd say it's reasonable that the extent to which many or most people will tend to be willing to violate social norms regarding ethical treatment of others varies based on how close the relation is. So, people are most willing to violate norms for a child, or perhaps a parent. Then a lifelong friend. Then an aunt, an uncle, a cousin. Then a more casual friend or perhaps a neighbor. Then someone with the same regional identity. Then someone with the same national identity. Then another person regardless of nationality.

What I am saying is that while this is entirely natural it is also illogical, and that I don't accept the emotion-based justification. People can do all sorts of things when overcome with emotions and only some of them are justified; the justification must come from something other than the emotional state of the person. Rather, I'd argue that what makes the action justified, in the case of the parent using aggressive means to extract information out of the kidnapper/potential murderer is that an innocent life is at stake and the subject of the aggression is guilty and possessing knowledge of immediate importance. And if we can accept this for a parent, we must accept it for a soldier.
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  #24  
Old 05-04-2011, 01:03 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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What I am saying is that while this is entirely natural it is also illogical, and that I don't accept the emotion-based justification.
Good, neither do I.

However, I think you specifically chose the parent-child example knowing the reaction that people would have to that, so that we went into the emotional desire is the direct result of the example you chose. I have a hard time thinking that wasn't intentional, but I'm glad we can now clarify.

Quote:
Rather, I'd argue that what makes the action justified, in the case of the parent using aggressive means to extract information out of the kidnapper/potential murderer is that an innocent life is at stake and the subject of the aggression is guilty and possessing knowledge of immediate importance.
Again, I think you need to substitute "police officer" for "parent" to avoid confusion, specifically to avoid bringing in the sympathy and understanding we'd all feel for the parent exceeding what we think should be legally permitted.

And no, I don't think it's justified (or even a legal excuse) for a police officer to torture a suspect. Some juries obviously might disagree with me in some circumstances.

In case this is unclear, I do not think it's justified for a parent to torture a suspect. This is, in fact, one reason why we wouldn't have a parent who is a cop working on the investigation of the kidnapping of his own child. (Or relatives of a victim on the jury of an accused, or all kinds of other similar examples.) We realize that there's an unavoidable emotional involvement that would cause many people to act differently than if that relationship wasn't there.
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  #25  
Old 05-04-2011, 05:17 AM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Originally Posted by operative View Post
Not retribution (Unless we're talking about the killing of OBL, which I do support), but in fact utilitarianism: the lives of the guilty (specifically those guilty of attempting to/succeeding in killing someone) are collectively worth less than a single innocent person. My hypothetical was one in which you could gain information from 'enhanced interrogation' of the kidnapper that would save your child's life. You know, the Jack Bauer "TELL ME WHERE SHE IS" scenario. The precise same logic exists for soldiers.


Not with this crowd. All lives are equal. Equality is the value above all others.

I may think it's a pretty cracked way to view human life, seeing no difference between the life of a known and unrepentant murderer and an innocent, but most here seem to view it that way. They each have equal value.
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  #26  
Old 05-04-2011, 06:53 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

"most here"???? Really?
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  #27  
Old 05-04-2011, 08:49 AM
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Not with this crowd. All lives are equal. Equality is the value above all others.

I may think it's a pretty cracked way to view human life, seeing no difference between the life of a known and unrepentant murderer and an innocent, but most here seem to view it that way. They each have equal value.
If you're aiming at understanding why people tend to think in terms of equality you're looking at this from a wrong or at least a partial perspective.

One of the problems is how you make the judgment about whose life is more valuable, who are the innocent and who are the murderers. Each side may have very different criteria to make that judgment.

The other problem lies on the morality of the action taken. If you decide that torture is okay, it should be okay for all sides to use it. If assassination is okay, then it would be okay for all sides to use it. And is it a good thing for any of us to torture or kill?

Why? Because of the partiality of our judgment as I described first. We can't assume that we own the Truth, all Rights, and ours is always the best judgment. The rest of the world may think quite differently. Perhaps we should be more receptive to their views.

As opposed to video games, real life doesn't come divided into "the good" and "the evil".
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  #28  
Old 05-04-2011, 10:05 AM
TwinSwords TwinSwords is offline
 
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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As opposed to video games, real life doesn't come divided into "the good" and "the evil".
Good post.

Incidentally, there is a similar problem with the "a kidnapper has strapped your children to a bomb" scenario. Real life isn't as simple as the logic problems freshman philosophy students work out in their notebooks.

Operative's scenario takes the guilt of the person in custody as a given, a premise assumed to be true for the sake of argument.

But in real life, the guilt of those we are considering torturing can rarely be assumed with anything like 100% certainty, which makes the case for torture significantly less compelling -- at least to those of us who are governed by moral concerns. In real life, the people we have in custody are those who were rounded up in mass arrests following neighborhood raids. Or they are people who were arrested after they were named by paid informants -- informants who may be feeding us the names of innocents in exchange for money. Or they may be people who were named to settle other rivalries. Or they might be people we have in custody for other reasons but, hey, as long as we have them here, why not torture them, too, and see if they have answers to these questions.

The "children strapped to a bomb" scenario fails in another respect: It presumes we are only going to ask questions under torture that we know the "kidnapper" has the answers to. But in real life, we throw all sorts of questions at the people we torture without having any idea whether they know the answer. Basically, once a lead develops, investigators will want to interrogate anyone they think might have more information, and in real life this means interrogating a lot of people who, ultimately, do not.

A typical real life scenario would be: An IED detonates somewhere in Baghdad. A US marine or soldier is killed. US forces suspect that someone with knowledge of the attack lives in the immediate vicinity and starts rounding up people for questioning. By the "compelling logic" of the ticking time bomb, you could assume that someone in custody might have knowledge of another IED placed further up the road, or knowledge about who placed the bomb. The problem is that you don't really know if you have someone with that knowledge, and so you end up torturing innocent people.

Shows like "24" and simplistic thought experiments like "your child is strapped to a bomb" make the question of whether to use torture seem like a no-brainer, but with a little thought, we can all see that they don't describe real life.
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  #29  
Old 05-04-2011, 10:55 AM
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Default Re: Osama Bin Laden Is Dead

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Good post.

Incidentally, there is a similar problem with the "a kidnapper has strapped your children to a bomb" scenario. Real life isn't as simple as the logic problems freshman philosophy students work out in their notebooks.

Operative's scenario takes the guilt of the person in custody as a given, a premise assumed to be true for the sake of argument.

But in real life, the guilt of those we are considering torturing can rarely be assumed with anything like 100% certainty, which makes the case for torture significantly less compelling -- at least to those of us who are governed by moral concerns. In real life, the people we have in custody are those who were rounded up in mass arrests following neighborhood raids. Or they are people who were arrested after they were named by paid informants -- informants who may be feeding us the names of innocents in exchange for money. Or they may be people who were named to settle other rivalries. Or they might be people we have in custody for other reasons but, hey, as long as we have them here, why not torture them, too, and see if they have answers to these questions.

The "children strapped to a bomb" scenario fails in another respect: It presumes we are only going to ask questions under torture that we know the "kidnapper" has the answers to. But in real life, we throw all sorts of questions at the people we torture without having any idea whether they know the answer. Basically, once a lead develops, investigators will want to interrogate anyone they think might have more information, and in real life this means interrogating a lot of people who, ultimately, do not.

A typical real life scenario would be: An IED detonates somewhere in Baghdad. A US marine or soldier is killed. US forces suspect that someone with knowledge of the attack lives in the immediate vicinity and starts rounding up people for questioning. By the "compelling logic" of the ticking time bomb, you could assume that someone in custody might have knowledge of another IED placed further up the road, or knowledge about who placed the bomb. The problem is that you don't really know if you have someone with that knowledge, and so you end up torturing innocent people.

Shows like "24" and simplistic thought experiments like "your child is strapped to a bomb" make the question of whether to use torture seem like a no-brainer, but with a little thought, we can all see that they don't describe real life.
The problem with this is that we had definitive proof that Khalid Sheik Mohammad and others were subjected to waterboarding were indeed Islamic terrorists. Their guilt was indubitable.

And in my scenario, you do indeed need some level of certainty. You don't need 100% certainty, because 100% certainty does not exist in the real world (memory is faulty, which a number of psychological experiments have shown). If we needed 100% certainty to do anything, nobody would ever be convicted of any crime. So your expectations aren't realistic.
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Old 05-04-2011, 10:59 AM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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If you're aiming at understanding why people tend to think in terms of equality you're looking at this from a wrong or at least a partial perspective.

One of the problems is how you make the judgment about whose life is more valuable, who are the innocent and who are the murderers. Each side may have very different criteria to make that judgment.

The other problem lies on the morality of the action taken. If you decide that torture is okay, it should be okay for all sides to use it. If assassination is okay, then it would be okay for all sides to use it. And is it a good thing for any of us to torture or kill?

Why? Because of the partiality of our judgment as I described first. We can't assume that we own the Truth, all Rights, and ours is always the best judgment. The rest of the world may think quite differently. Perhaps we should be more receptive to their views.

As opposed to video games, real life doesn't come divided into "the good" and "the evil".
I agree with those. But I've found myself in the somewhat precarious position since the event of standing on the principle of "Love thy enemy", a biblical reference. Yet I'm atheist. In a way, by using that phrase I'm sort of lazily employing an appeal to moral authority. I don't use it out of obedience to God, but as a touchstone of timeless human wisdom and intuition about social relations.

But what does that phase mean - love thy enemy? I guess for me, in my naturalistic worldview, it is is the humble recognition of human frailty, that due to events beyond our control any one of us could have been OBL - whether genes or environment. Interestingly, I've always found this to dovetail nicely with the Christian notion that we are all "sinners", in that humans are imperfect and face daily "trials" that challenge our attempts to have moral integrity. (There is a reason we refer to people who are able to pull this off as "saints".)

Maybe it is not even the "enemy" that is to be loved. Maybe it is the process of life's unfolding, and the recognition that there is no real reason for any of it, and thus nothing to dwell on. This is definitely not something that fits with religious tradition. Unless, you replace "no reason" with "divine reason" - which I think actually is a substitute that makes a lot of sense. In both, there is a demand of transcendence and acceptance that somethings simple are, despite our feelings either way.

And maybe the final emphasis is on the word love, the verb. There is an implicit selflessness, bravery and wisdom in that word. It is a word that binds us together, again in transcendence. It reminds us, by definition, of a joy in living. It reminds us to look for it in every aspect of life, including in the hearts of our enemies. Because in every man, even the cruelest and most "evil", there is love. We were all children once - "God's children", innocent, pure, hopeful and beautiful. And at some level we are all still children. We are reminded of that, especially when we want to forget it, whether by only looking at the worst in a fellow man, objectifying and dehumanizing him.

Religious phrases have great meaning for so many people, and reflect such ancient and honored traditions. I suppose that is why I find myself making my appeal in religious terms. These sacred words were written with deliberate purpose. They are not by themselves proof or an argument really, of anything. But they have meaning and a power that ordinary language does not have the benefit of holding.
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Old 05-04-2011, 07:48 PM
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Interesting that you would have interpreted what I said as relating to "love thy enemy". But, actually, I wasn't thinking about that.

My argument is that our judgments of others, and also of ourselves, are inherently biased. What seems to us as a perfect justification to capture, torture or kill someone else, may be far from it to people who look at the same events from a different perspective. So, being aware of the fallibility of our judgments should make us more cautious about our righteous claims.

There are also practical reasons for that. If we act in a righteous and vindictive manner while others believe that we are wrong, our actions are going to be resented and will continue to fuel further vengeance and violence.

Those are rather simple principles of violence generating more violence.

"Love thy enemy" seems to point at a higher stage of moral development which we don't seem to be anywhere close to, at least as a species. As you said there may be isolated, saintly individuals who can experience such feelings, but they are the exception and not the rule. In a world where people can love their enemies, there are no enemies. But it's the kind of principle that only makes sense when it's applied globally. One side can't love their enemies, while the enemies are shooting at them.

Sorry if I disappointed your inspiration. Mine was a rather more pragmatic line of thought.
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Old 05-04-2011, 08:54 PM
eeeeeeeli eeeeeeeli is offline
 
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Right. I didn't mean to imply you were saying that. I only meant to agree with you and then offer my own thoughts on the issue.
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Old 05-04-2011, 09:05 PM
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Right. I didn't mean to imply you were saying that. I only meant to agree with you and then offer my own thoughts on the issue.
Ah, okay. I'm glad to have triggered your inspiration then.
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Old 05-04-2011, 11:07 AM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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One of the problems is how you make the judgment about whose life is more valuable, who are the innocent and who are the murderers. Each side may have very different criteria to make that judgment.

The other problem lies on the morality of the action taken. If you decide that torture is okay, it should be okay for all sides to use it. If assassination is okay, then it would be okay for all sides to use it. And is it a good thing for any of us to torture or kill?
While I agree it's a perilous endeavor, the above is kind of the problem I have with pacifism and some strains of liberalism.

First, the fact that each side has a different idea about things doesn't mean that both sides are equally valid, or that people, acting as moral agents in the real world can't make good faith, reasonable judgments about which side is more valid. Killing bin Laden isn't exactly the same as killing a random child. It just isn't. unless one posits that no human being, ever, deserves to be killed, in which case, the inherent subjectivity of being human would be irrelevant anyway.

Second, the question isn't who is entitled to use torture or to kill, but who is a worthy target of torture or killing. of course, different sides will have different ideas about this, but with regards killing, there are some pretty commonly accepted notions of who should NOT be killed, if it can be avoided. With regard to torture, I don't think it should be done period, but that's not because if we're allowed to do it, others will be too.
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Old 05-04-2011, 01:22 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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Killing bin Laden isn't exactly the same as killing a random child. It just isn't. unless one posits that no human being, ever, deserves to be killed, in which case, the inherent subjectivity of being human would be irrelevant anyway.
I'm not troubled by the killing of bin Laden, but not simply because he was a bad person (unlike the random child).
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Old 05-04-2011, 06:58 PM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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I'm not troubled by the killing of bin Laden, but not simply because he was a bad person (unlike the random child).
me either, and not for that reason, either. I am not for the killing of all bad people. In this particular case, I have no problems with it. I am just addressing what seems to be the argument, that, because opinions about bin Laden differ, he should not be killed (or should not be killed extrajudicially).
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Old 05-04-2011, 07:53 PM
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me either, and not for that reason, either. I am not for the killing of all bad people. In this particular case, I have no problems with it. I am just addressing what seems to be the argument, that, because opinions about bin Laden differ, he should not be killed (or should not be killed extrajudicially).
I'm not sure who you're talking about, but I didn't make any statements in favor or against killing Osama Bin Laden. Actually I made a statement that was slightly in favor of that option since capturing him could potentially have had more dangerous consequences.

My comment was made in response to what JonI said about liberals and equality in a general way.
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Old 05-04-2011, 10:21 PM
miceelf miceelf is offline
 
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Sorry, if I misinterpreted, I took JonI to be talking more specifically about this case and claiming that most people here didn't make the distinction between the killing of bin Laden and the killing of innocents. Your response focused on such a distinction (in general, not specific to bin Laden) as being fraught. If you were talking about the general, I apologize, in the context it seemed like more specific.
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Old 05-04-2011, 10:27 PM
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Sorry, if I misinterpreted, I took JonI to be talking more specifically about this case and claiming that most people here didn't make the distinction between the killing of bin Laden and the killing of innocents. Your response focused on such a distinction (in general, not specific to bin Laden) as being fraught. If you were talking about the general, I apologize, in the context it seemed like more specific.
No need to apologize. I just wanted to clarify my statement. Thanks.
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Old 05-05-2011, 12:13 PM
stephanie stephanie is offline
 
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I took JonI to be talking more specifically about this case and claiming that most people here didn't make the distinction between the killing of bin Laden and the killing of innocents.
Actually, Jon I.'s comment was supporting operative's (quoted it and commented on it, and the negative comments were thus directed to those operative was arguing with). Operative's argument wasn't about killing or not killing OBL, but about the use of torture, so I assumed that Jon's were in that context, really taking issue with any objections to torturing those believed to have committed crimes or have knowledge of information that could be used to save lives. Not about whether the circumstances here would have justified the killing of OBL (except to say that the circumstances really don't matter at all, because OBL was a bad man).
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