December 3, 2008

Moral choices are not made in a vacuum...

[Warning: A post that rambles away from the original topic.]

A stupid idea, from Robert Kagan...

....Rather than simply begging the Indians to show restraint, a better option could be to internationalize the response. Have the international community declare that parts of Pakistan have become ungovernable and a menace to international security. Establish an international force to work with the Pakistanis to root out terrorist camps in Kashmir as well as in the tribal areas. This would have the advantage of preventing a direct military confrontation between India and Pakistan...

What's wrong with this idea? The problem is that dealing with the Tribal Areas and the frontier regions as a whole will require fighting. Murderous savage combat. Aggressive fighting by small units, willing to take casualties, and inflict lots of them. [Actually, my guess is that the region will not be pacified by anything less than neutron bombs. Expect trouble for the rest of your lifetime.]

And we have discovered over and over the last few decades that there are no "international forces" that will fight. We have seen it with UN "blue helmet" operations--often gruesomely as the international forces stand by and let genocide happen. We see it right now in Afghanistan, where the "NATO forces" are meaningless as a whole. As always, the Anglosphere nations. Americans and Brits and Australians will fight. The French a little bit, the Germans or Dutch not at all.

The whole idea of "international institutions" is a fraud and a sham, and probably always will be. When significant things are accomplished in the world, it is because people believe in something. And the essence of an "international institution" is that it does not believe in anything. Why? Because it has to be a "lowest-common-denominator" of the belief of the national components. And then you have to reduce that by a factor of ten, because the people who run or promote such institutions are almost always going to be those who like a lack of belief.

It is (sorry to bore those who have already heard this) the draining away of belief in the hearts of the developed nations that is the core problem that has caused the terror war, and caused analogous problems like piracy in the Indian Ocean. Of course we were always destined for lots of ugly violent situations as globalization collided with Third World (especially Islamic) chaos and primitiveness. But a West that still retained belief in is own values would have been slamming down hard on things like terrorism or piracy when they first arose. And doing so would be morally correct. (Because, among other reasons, it is always the locals who suffer most when lawlessness is tolerated!) Those would have been actions similar to those of loving teachers or parents not allowing children to fall into crime or vice. It would be tough-love. The same thing works in analogous ways at every level. For instance, it is morally wrong for a city to let a race-riot develop, when killing a few rioters at the beginning would prevent it. Even if the rioters have legitimate grievances.

Focus for a moment on the magistrate who has to make the moral choice that a race-riot must be stopped at its first moment, even if deadly force is needed, and even if some innocent people may die. That's a very tough choice. It takes moral fiber. If he lacks it, then the result may be weeks of violence and killing, and the destruction of whole communities. Entire neighborhoods burnt down, and schools, homes, small businesses and churches gutted. We have seen this...

And the official doesn't make his choice in a vacuum. He feels the support--or lack of it--of the community and the culture. Unless he (or she) is very strong, support is needed. If only for the knowledge that he won't be hung out to dry for making a tough call! And therefore, brothers and sisters, it is WE who are really making that decision. It is OUR moral strength that is called into question. And we exert that strength mostly through a thousand smaller moral decisions. We communicate to our surroundings our integrity, and unconsciously we influence others, at their moments of moral choice.

And the ladders of influence go from the lowest rungs to the highest, and back down. The local magistrate who makes the hard choice to stop a riot instantly, before he knows how bad it will turn out to be, sends a message to national leaders who may have to chose to violently stop piracy before they know how big the problem is destined to grow.

I remember in my youth the first airplane hijacking, or at least the first one to grab the world's attention. And the reaction of officialdom was, "Give the hijacker what he wants, to save lives." We see now that that was a catastrophic decision, one that has caused thousands of deaths, and vast loss of treasure, and led directly to 9/11. And yet in a sense that decision was based on many previous bad decisions-- for instance deciding to give in to the demands of criminals who took hostages.

Sheer prudence and logic should have told us long ago that a policy of reacting to any hostage situation by instant deadly force would save many many lives in the long run. But prudence and logic are never enough. Not when the bank-robber is holding a gun to a child's head. Logic cannot generate moral law, and engrave it on our hearts. Moral law only can come from God, or from other sources of authority [Read this.]. Countless attempts to provide alternative man-made "liberal" sources of morality have all failed. And we see the results all around us.

Based on observation of the state of religious faith around us, I feel confident in predicting that these quasi-wars that afflict our planet will continue, and probably grow. Expect Mumbai.

Posted by John Weidner at December 3, 2008 9:08 AM
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