Confusion on Libya

The pundit class in the US is all over the place on the Libyan intervention.   Some bemoan the fact that there is no exit plan and predict a bloody stalemate that will harm US interests and bring more problems to the region.  Others argue that this is the perfect strategy – a multinational attack to weaken Gaddafi’s forces so that rebels on the ground in Libya have a real chance to overthrow a tyrant.  Still others suggest we are taking sides in a civil war that will be deadlier and longer than if we had simply let Gaddafi do his dirty work.  Violence begets violence.

So who is right?

First, let’s define what this war is all about.   This is a United Nations operation, passed by the Security Council 10-0 (Russia, China, Germany, India and Brazil abstaining).   Gaddafi’s rhetoric that “there will be no mercy and no pity” on the residents of Benghazi no doubt helped sway nations to either support or at least not oppose intervention.   The Security Council clearly feared that Gaddafi would perpetrate a blood bath.   Moreover, the US is a reluctant participant.   Although Secretary of State Clinton seemed closer to the hawkish views of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Department of Defense (including Defense Secretary Gates, who also served under President Bush) and President Obama worried about adding another military commitment to the US plate.

The plan seems to be one designed to inspire the Libyans to finish off Gaddafi’s regime.   Once mid-level Libyan elites see that the world community means business, and that even if they survive they’ll never be legitimate, never be able to act in the global economy in a profitable manner and sooner or later will fall victim to the rebels’ wrath, they’ll decide it’s better to switch than fight.   In that scenario Gaddafi loses support until either some kind of internal coup overthrows his regime or, recognizing the futility of his situation, he strikes a deal to go into exile.

Plans that rely on the success of others are always risky.  Gaddafi has been in power for 32 years; you don’t stay that long if you haven’t learned how to protect your back.   Moreover many Libyans around him are implicated in everything from terrorism to torture, and may see no alternative but to stick with the regime.  Finally the rebels themselves are an unknown quantity.  Despite his tyranny, Gaddafi was opposed to al qaeda and helped limit African migration to Europe.  What will the next regime be like?

On the other hand, those who fear the rise of Islamic extremism have to acknowledge that Islamicist voices have been mostly vacant from the rhetoric and face of the rebellion.  No one is holding up al qaeda signs or yelling “death to America.”   A knee jerk fear of the unknown is no more rational than a knee jerk idealist belief that after Gaddafi democracy will flourish.

Moreover, the US does see change sweeping the region.   Yemen is teetering on the brink at this moment, and the revolutions I speculated about back in January seem all too real today.   Both the Europeans and Americans want to be on the ‘right side’ of history, and have an impact on the changes taking place.   They also recall the price of doing nothing.   Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, who was commander of the UN Rwanda mission, early on called for the UN to use force to stop Gaddafi from slaughtering his own people.

The United States has also remained purposefully in the political background, even though military capabilities necessitate it being in the foreground of action taken.   President Obama has not been the leading voice calling for intervention, and embraced a limit to military activity.   This stands in marked contrast to the past roles played by Presidents Bush, Clinton and Bush the Elder, when the US President was front and center in trying to build international support for military action.   While some criticize this as “disengaged lack of leadership,” it is definitely done with purpose.   The US military is overstretched, we cannot afford another engagement that sucks us in deeper and deeper until there seems no way out.   Yet despite the subdued rhetoric, the US is wielding a big stick, hitting Libya hard in the early strikes.

More importantly, the US is signaling acceptance of the new multipolarity, something President Bush worked hard to avoid (and many Republicans and Democrats still refuse to acknowledge).    If military power is to be used to try to enforce human rights and protect civilians then others have to share the burden and be responsible to lead.   In some ways Obama’s policy harkens back to what President Bush the Elder hoped for with his “new world order.”   Even the US has to play by the rules now.

If Gaddafi falls in short order, the policy will be seen as a success and Obama vindicated.  If it turns into a stalemate dragging on and pulling the US in deeper, Obama may be looking for a new residence in two years.   If I had to bet, I’d say a middle ground result is likely, more like Kosovo than Iraq.   After a stalemate is reached, a peace accord between Gaddafi and the rebels will be hammered out, effectively splitting the country.   The rebels would be forced to sign this because if not NATO would withdraw its air cover and military support.    Gaddafi will realize this is the only way to stop the bombs and missiles.   After that support will shift away from Gaddafi, much like Milosevic found his authority in Serbia decline after the Kosovo war.   Either Gaddafi will weaken and ultimately be overthrown or he will die in office (either by natural or unnatural causes) with his son unable to assert authority.   At that point a new national unity government could be proclaimed.

Still, there is confusion.   This is new ground for the US and the international community.  If this is successful, it will demonstrate that the 21st century is more difficult terrain for brutal corrupt dictators.  If it fails, dictators will be emboldened and the West humiliated.   Was this policy a wise move?  I don’t know, I guess I’d say it’s an interesting move.  As a political scientist I find this whole process fascinating to observe.

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  1. #1 by Black Flag on March 22, 2011 - 20:45

    It is a dangerous and evil move.

    What you do to others justifies them to do to you

    Attacking another country who is no threat to your own justifies others to attack your country, even if you do not threaten them.

    Libya is Libyans problem. If you want to do “something”, sell them weapons or go yourself as mercenary – those that want to go and “save the Libyans”, let them.

    But any country that attacks a non-threaten country will suffer the same fate, one way or another.

    Gaddafi has all the justification to do whatever he wishes to the “Allies”.

    Asymmetrical warfare is a bitch.

    • #2 by Scott Erb on March 22, 2011 - 22:09

      Why is going there as a mercenary (or a volunteer) any better? Our soldiers are paid, does that make them mercenaries? I don’t think Gaddafi has justification to attack innocents. You realize that in saying Gaddafi is justified you are saying his statist use of power is legitimate.

      • #3 by Black Flag on March 22, 2011 - 22:12

        Scott,

        Because you as a man, can make whatever decision for you.

        Soldiers are paid by their respective government, and are not for hire by other governments.

        Gaddafi has no justification – but I can say that for every single government on earth.

        However, as national sovereignty between nations exists – that is, what pertains in that nation is only that nation’s business – is confounded by the actions of the “Allies”.

        The “Allies” claim such sovereignty, but by their actions have voided it.

  2. #4 by Black Flag on March 22, 2011 - 20:46

    comments

  3. #5 by Lee on March 23, 2011 - 01:26

    I have vascilated between fascination (and also hope for an oppressed people) and fear that we are yet again venturing into arenas where we do not belong. On the other hand, as you said, this is not US led per se and as I think that our typical stance of only helping oppressed people when it serves our own bottom line is far less admirable. We certainly live in interesting times!

  4. #6 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 03:05

    Black Flag, the UN Security Council does have authority, by treaty, to void another states’ sovereignty or aspects thereof.

    Lee, I agree. I was listening to Billy Joel this AM as I did my morning workout, and the song “Shades of Grey” came on. That immediately brought my mind to the Libya conflict:

    “Shades of grey are all that I find
    When I look to the enemy line
    Black and white was so easy for me
    But shades of grey are the colors I see

    Now with the wisdom of years
    I try to reason things out
    And the only people I fear
    are those who never have doubts
    Save us all from arrogant men,
    and all the causes they’re for
    I won’t be righteous again
    I’m not that sure anymore

    Shades of grey wherever I go
    The more I find out the less that I know
    There ain’t no rainbows shining on me
    Shades of grey are the colors I see”

  5. #7 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 03:21

    Scott,
    Your assertion regarding the UN is not true.

    Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.

    • #8 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 05:36

      This is a Chapter VII intervention.

      • #9 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 06:06

        to maintain or restore international peace and security.

        This, as already posted, is an internal matter for Libya, and in of itself, does nothing to “international” peace. The conflict is contained in Libya.

        To invoke VII requires significant duplicity of motives – for attacking Libya actually created the conditions for VII.

        Nowhere in any article or agreement does the “right” for any country to intervene in the internal turmoil of a sovereign nation.

  6. #10 by Titfortat on March 23, 2011 - 12:56

    The only reason the west is in Libya is because of OIL. Strategic yes, humanitarian, give me a break. This it seems is the only time we become concerned about the safety of innocents.

    • #11 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 15:21

      Perhaps, but it’s more complicated. Libya’s total reserves are large (though far below the Gulf States), but the Europeans were happy with their relationship with Libya until the revolt broke out. So it’s more than just the oil, Gaddafi was happy selling the oil, the Europeans were buying it, and Gaddafi was blocking illegal immigration from Africa.

  7. #12 by Titfortat on March 23, 2011 - 13:40

  8. #13 by brucetheeconomist on March 23, 2011 - 14:44

    Let’s hope for the best.

  9. #14 by renaissanceguy on March 23, 2011 - 15:14

    I have read what you wrote here and on my blog. I do not see in principle how this is different from the U. S. invasion of Iraq. Only the players and the process are different.

    • #15 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 15:30

      I’m not sure how you are defining “in principle.” I guess one could say that in principle all war is war. But for scholars of international conflict it’s important to delineate differences and understand what they mean. I see the following differences:

      1. Iraq in 2003 was not a UN mission, approved by the Security Council. It was led by the US in defiance of the Security Council. Libya in 2010 was a UN operation with the US a reluctant participant.

      2. Iraq in 2003 involved an invasion led by the US against a regime that was not directly threatening its citizens except by usual repressive police tactics (and in that regard they were less repressive than the Saudis). In 2010 the impetus was Gaddafi’s relentless assault on his own people, including a promise to have “no mercy or pity” in a planned assault on the rebel strong hold of Benghazi.

      3. Iraq in 2003 sought to put in place a US friendly regime supported by US bases in an effort to influence the region. In Libya the focus is to stop Gaddafi, but not to try to control what government comes next.

      One could say Libya is similar to Rwanda too – where there is shame that the UN didn’t stop a bloodbath. You could compare this to the no fly zone imposed on Iraq when the Shi’ites and Kurds rebelled. That did allow the Kurds to escape Saddam’s Iraq by the mid-nineties, but didn’t stop Saddam putting down the Shi’ite rebellion.

      Also, the war in 2003 (and 1999 in Kosovo, but not 1991 in Iraq) was illegal by international law. The one is not.

  10. #16 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 15:37

    BF, the Security Council makes a determination on whether Article VII should be invoked. It can be invoked even if the crimes being committed are internal to the country (crimes against humanity, genocide, etc. are not allowed). The Security Council is also empowered to enforce international law. There is no such thing as unlimited or absolute sovereignty.

    • #17 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 15:53

      Scott,
      There is such a thing as “unlimited” sovereignty, if only exampled by the actions of the US.

      Sovereignty is absolute, just as freedom is absolute. It can be seized, destroyed, and ignored by the violent actions of others, however.

      The S/C can make any determination it wishes, but it contradicts its own principles. This is the middle game of the end of the existence of the UN.

      Its actions are against international law – in fact, its has purposely incited acts of war against Libya.

      As I said before, Libya was not at war with USA or Europe.

      Now it is.

      Asymmetrical warfare is a bitch.

      • #18 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 21:30

        The US also does not have unlimited sovereignty — though powerful states are better able to avoid limits, as do states with Security Council veto power. Again, your belief that the security council is violating its principles is your opinion. The opinion that matters here is that of the Security Council, because they are the one legally empowered to make that call. They believe they are acting on the principles of the UN protecting human rights. In reality, there are good arguments on each side. As Obi Wan said, only the Sith deal in absolutes. Reality is full of nuance and complexity, as well as paradox. That makes the world more interesting, even if it also means there is no clear rule book on what to do!

  11. #19 by Jeff Lees on March 23, 2011 - 18:01

    I am wary of military action against the state of Libya, only because I am wary of any and all military action. However, this incident differs greatly from something like Iraq, which was unilateral and without probable cause. Here is a great example of how the UN is working well, and where the consensus of the international community is vital. This established no-fly zone was approved by the Security Council, and the SC is enforcing it. This, as with all international military action against a sovereign state, is difficult because it is trying to maintain a balance between the ideals of “no more war” and “no more Auschwitz.”

    I also think that the US has handled this very well. We has made sure to not act unilaterally, but instead build consensus among the international community, and we has opted not to play a major role in the long run. Both of these moves are very wise, and will help prevent the US from being dragged into another prolonged war, and it will help the US with any PR problems that may arise.

    Overall I think the action is justified. I think the US needs to reexamine its role as the world military superpower, but in terms of how the UN as a whole has acted, I think it is justified. Yes, there are plenty of other places (Darfur, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia etc…) where we see similar events occurring, and are not stepping in, for many reasons. Yet that fact shouldn’t deter us from intervening in Libya. We don’t live in a black and white, all or nothing world. Yes, I think there is an argument to be made that the UN ought to intervene in places like Darfur. But just because we are not doing something we ought to do in Darfur isn’t a reason to not do something we ought to do in Libya.

    • #20 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 18:06

      Jeff,

      While your belief appears to hold merit – that is “protecting innocents” – the methodology is evil.

      Darfur et al – exists due to interventions – colonialism past and present. To suggest MORE intervention will solve the past is akin to suggesting more poison will cure poisoning.

      This includes your Nazi Germany issue. Had the US not intervened in a war that was not theirs, the war would have ended in stalemate with the powers at war reconciling their own losses.

      But as always – intervention distorts – and the distortion created the fertile soil that can breed tyranny.

      To continue to ignore history will doom us to repeat it.

  12. #21 by Titfortat on March 23, 2011 - 18:40

    Yes, there are plenty of other places (Darfur, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia etc…) where we see similar events occurring, and are not stepping in, for many reasons(Jeff Lees)

    Youre right its not black or white, its pretty much Black, as in Oil. The reason most western nations are not stepping in those other areas is because there is no financial gain on any level. If we are to look at world powers for what they are then we should at least call a spade a spade. There is a reason why certain nations are “World Powers” and it aint because they play and share well with others. Humanitarians, yeah right.

  13. #22 by modestypress on March 23, 2011 - 19:29

    People have long lamented that in nation states such as the United States there is such a thing as “police work,” which at best allows the state to intervene against criminals, sociopaths, and dangerously mentally ill people. Even here, there are often cases where people question vigorous police action as “police brutality.” However, there has been little mechanism for “police work” in international relations, even when an entire nation is run by a criminal, sociopath, or dangerously mentally ill leader or group.

    Clumsily, the world is trying to move into police work. Unfortunately, at the moment we have rioting on our hands.

  14. #23 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 20:45

    Scott,

    I also bring this to your attention, under the Principle of the UN

    4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

    The UN Security Council has incited its members to violate the very principles of the UN Charter.

    • #24 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 20:52

      That doesn’t trump the Security Council’s capacity to enforce international law,deny states sovereign rights, and act to protect human rights. Note too that the Security Council — the UN — is acting. In the complex world of politics — would intervention to stop the genocide in Rwanda have been right, experts think 5,000 good UN soldiers could have saved 500,000 lives or more — simplistic appeals to principle fail. The world is not black and white, there are no clear answers or simple principles that can be consistently applied. People yearn for them, but at this point I don’t think they exist. You can and do assert your opinions as if they are true, but neither of us can prove that what we believe is actually true.

      • #25 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 21:16

        Scott,

        The Council is in breach of its Principles, therefore, is not an example of enforcement of “international law”.

        The UN has no right – as it explicitly states to interfere in the internal on-goings of a sovereign nation.

        Rwanda genocide was not in context of a insurrection or a civil war (though one was happening). Libya is NOT killing a segment of its civilians based on tribe, culture, language or religion.

        Rwanda genocide was NOT an example of enforcing its rule – those rules were in full force and not under insurrection within the Hutu held territory. The Tutsi were targeted -not by their acts of rebellion- but by their tribe.

        Libyan government is enforcing its authority to rule over the rebels. It is enforcing that rule over those that resist that rule – and not upon those who are not in resistance or rebellion.

        To equate one with the other is an application of apologist chicanery to justify the seizure directly or by proxy the wealth of a recalcitrant nation.

  15. #26 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 21:26

    No, BF, the UN Charter gives the Security Council the right to intervene if it deems necessary. The rules applied to member states do not apply to the Security Council. The Security Council has the legal authority in international law to act as they are doing. The Libyan government does not have the authority to commit crimes against humanity to put down rebels. The Security Council has the power to make that determination and enforce it. Governments can’t use any means necessary to enforce their authority. There is no such thing as pure sovereignty.

    • #27 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 21:36

      Scott,

      Specifically:
      to maintain or restore international peace and security.
      There was no risk to “international peace or security” (though, now there is)

      Further, you continue to assert a falsehood – that sovereignty is not affirmed. Yet, in the very UN Charter it is (already noted above).

      Further, you fallaciously assert that if one breaches sovereignty, that proves it does exist. This is the same fallacy you use regarding freedom, that if one could suffer to be imposed, freedom does not exist.

      You appear of the opinion that whatever the S/C says, goes. If you hold this opinion, you then must necessarily contradict yourself here:There is no such thing as pure sovereignty.

      If you do not hold that opinion regarding the S/C, then the action is illegal and contrary to international law.

      • #28 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 21:55

        The problem with principles is that they are never pure. They are always ideas interpreted in complex contexts. They can be useful, but reality is very complex. Use principles as a general guide, but think pragmatically. It’s clear that states do not in reality have pure sovereignty — many third world states are penetrated by big multinational corporations who have more real power than the governments. The Security Council has no sovereignty, though it does have the capacity to create and enforce international law. It requires 9 of 15 votes, and five states have veto power.

  16. #29 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 21:49

    Scott

    The US also does not have unlimited sovereignty — though powerful states are better able to avoid limits, as do states with Security Council veto power.

    Prove your assertion here. Let’s see another nation or entity impose its will over the USA.

    Good luck.

    Again, your belief that the security council is violating its principles is your opinion.

    Any man with a comprehending brain not polluted with chicanery to seize others wealth – it is obvious.

    The words are plain and uncomplicated.

    The opinion that matters here is that of the Security Council, because they are the one legally empowered to make that call. They believe they are acting on the principles of the UN protecting human rights.

    That is NOT a principle of the UN. As I have complained, you make up the Charter as if you know what it says:

    Under the Principles section:
    encouraging respect for human rights

    No where does it say “protect human rights” anywhere in the entire document.

    As such, your post title is so accurate: CONFUSION is rampant because of such ignorance of the Charter.

    In reality, there are good arguments on each side.

    I have -frankly- heard none that are not out-right-wrong, out-right-ignorance, out-right-falsehood from the “other side”.

    As Obi Wan said, only the Sith deal in absolutes.

    There is no middle between right and wrong.

    Reality is full of nuance and complexity, as well as paradox. That makes the world more interesting, even if it also means there is no clear rule book on what to do!

    The “rule” book exists and has immutable Laws.

    What you do to others justifies others to do to you – choose wisely your action.

    This was a horrific and unwise choice.

    Asymmetrical warfare is a bitch.

  17. #30 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 22:02

    The US has been very limited in its ability to act contrary to the interests and wishes of China and Saudi Arabia due to both debt (China has the power to collapse the US economy) and oil. Big business power also limits the ability of the US government to act. Pure sovereignty is an illusion.

    There are also many UN resolutions beyond the Charter the Security Council can enforce, the Charter is only the starting point. The rule book exists and has immutable laws? Prove it. You can’t. The idea there is a clear ‘right and wrong’ with no middle seems so simplistic as to be silly. You can create scenarios where there is a clear right and wrong, but much of reality defies such simplistic absolutes.

    These are all good issues — I teach a course on International Law and Globalization where we go into the UN Charter, various cases where the Security Council has acted (or in Rwanda failed to act), as well as how sovereignty is de facto disappearing. The bureaucratic sovereign state may be an entity that itself is becoming obsolete. What you’re seeing in the world is in part a reflection of the changing nature of world politics.

    • #31 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 22:15

      Scott

      The US has been very limited in its ability to act contrary to the interests and wishes of China and Saudi Arabia due to both debt (China has the power to collapse the US economy) and oil. Big business power also limits the ability of the US government to act. Pure sovereignty is an illusion.

      Bull.

      What is China going to do if US reneges on its T-Bills? Order a bailiff to seize California?

      China does NOT have the power to collapse the US economy. It has the power to collapse its OWN economy.

      The decisions of the people and government of the US may or may not collapse the economy of the US.

      There are also many UN resolutions beyond the Charter the Security Council can enforce, the Charter is only the starting point. The rule book exists and has immutable laws? Prove it.
      You can’t.

      Sure can, just like I can prove Gravity. Just because Newton wrote it down did not create it!

      You can most certainly ignore immutable law of Nature, like you can ignore gravity whilst you walk off a cliff. For a time, it appears your ignorance of it has not effect until suddenly…. consequences hit.

      The idea there is a clear ‘right and wrong’ with no middle seems so simplistic as to be silly.

      There is clear right and wrong – and only the self-confused nihilists have trouble here.

      You can create scenarios where there is a clear right and wrong, but much of reality defies such simplistic absolutes.

      Only those who benefit from evil feel the need to defend it.

      Doing violence on the non-violent is a clear, absolute wrong. But since you depend on the proceeds of such wrongs for your living I do expect you to defend evil vigorously.

      These are all good issues — I teach a course on International Law and Globalization where we go into the UN Charter, various cases where the Security Council has acted (or in Rwanda failed to act), as well as how sovereignty is de facto disappearing.

      I would be a difficult, but entertaining student.

      The bureaucratic sovereign state may be an entity that itself is becoming obsolete. What you’re seeing in the world is in part a reflection of the changing nature of world politics.

      Concur – in more ways then you may realize.

  18. #32 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 22:06

    Scott

    The problem with principles is that they are never pure.

    Perhaps – however in the manner of “encourage” – is it to hold Annual Conferences or Courses on Human rights, yeah, hard to say what they mean.

    But what they did not say is “protect”.

    Use principles as a general guide, but think pragmatically.

    Never.
    Pragmatism is a weak man’s excuse to void his principles for a personal, typically short term, but always immoral, gain.

    It’s clear that states do not in reality have pure sovereignty

    They do. It can be taken by force, but that does not disprove sovereignty, but merely demonstrates that is must be guarded.

    — many third world states are penetrated by big multinational corporations who have more real power than the governments.

    I agree – it can be diluted and destroyed.

    The Security Council has no sovereignty, though it does have the capacity to create and enforce international law. It requires 9 of 15 votes, and five states have veto power.

    It has no power to create international law.

    It may enforce itself, given it is made of up the military powers of the Earth. Whether it acts legally or not, morally or not, is irrelevant. It can act (which is your point, to which I agree).

  19. #33 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 22:31

    Or absolute principles are a weak man’s excuse to avoid having to confront the complex uncertainties of life and deal with ambiguity and uncertainty.

    Since I believe every act is in part defined by its context, applying principle inherently means de-emphasizing the context in order to remove complexity and make it easier to interpret the situation in a manner that can be expressed in terms of core principles. That seems to me to be a cop out, an effort to avoid paradox and uncertainty because one wants to be able to figure out the “right” answer. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have principles, but I think one has to be modest in how certain one is about how a principle applies in a particular context. In some cases it’s clear (the guy about to throw a baby off a bridge is wrong and should be stopped) otherwise its not (the group of countries about to attack a dictator’s military in order to stop it from assaulting civilians and innocents). I think you are removing context in a way that allows you to apply a very simple black and white schema to the issue, giving you an answer that fits your world view, avoiding dissonance. I think context actually makes it a far trickier issue.

  20. #34 by Black Flag on March 23, 2011 - 22:47

    Scott

    Or absolute principles are a weak man’s excuse to avoid having to confront the complex uncertainties of life and deal with ambiguity and uncertainty.

    If your principle are subject to change, they are not principles, but merely “suggestions”.

    You have to work a whole lot harder to find your core principle then merely accepting it from “authority”.

    PS: You have only ONE core principle, above all else, immutable. This is the one that always, always and always takes precedent over any other paradigms you may have created for yourself.

    Since I believe every act is in part defined by its context, applying principle inherently means de-emphasizing the context in order to remove complexity and make it easier to interpret the situation in a manner that can be expressed in terms of core principles.

    I say principles do not remove complexity. They remove irrelevancy.

    That seems to me to be a cop out, an effort to avoid paradox and uncertainty because one wants to be able to figure out the “right” answer.

    Your core principle – when self-discovered – are not contradicted nor paradoxical – they are immutable. It is this core principle that you use to discover and expose contradictions within yourself.

    You cannot contradict your core principle. It is the measure of all action you undertake.

    If you find a “principle” that in its application, you still judge, it is not your core principle. The “thing” you use to judge is (or is closer) to your core principle.

    You hold A core principle, though probably you have never actually articulated it to yourself, thought it is immutable to every action you undertake.

    When you contract your own core principle, you contradict your own self and will suffer horribly.

    All evil exists from the attempts to manifest a contradiction.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have principles, but I think one has to be modest in how certain one is about how a principle applies in a particular context.

    In all cases, in all contexts, you will apply your core principle and its immutable force.

    In some cases it’s clear (the guy about to throw a baby off a bridge is wrong and should be stopped)

    What core principle do you believe you are invoking to stop such an act?

  21. #35 by Scott Erb on March 23, 2011 - 23:04

    All that is too abstract for me. You need to define the core principle and then prove why it is immutable. Philosophers have not been able to do that though many have tried. Maybe you have, but I’d need to see the argument to believe it.

    • #36 by Black Flag on March 24, 2011 - 00:12

      Scott,
      Short form:

      Core principle
      – that immutable principle which absolutely defines right and wrong for you.

      It is, in of itself, always right and never wrong. That which aligns with this core principle is your “right” and that which contradicts it is your “wrong”.

      It cannot be measured by a right or a wrong for it is the measure you use to judge your right and wrong. It is the absolute yard stick, and there is no other yard stick capable of measuring it.
      It defines you.

      It is immutable, for if as a man if you contradict your core principle, the consequences always creates evil – for you will attempt to manifest a contradiction.

      Evil = a contradiction attempting to manifest into reality.

      The Universe’s core principle – immutable and absolute – is the prohibition of contradictions. You cannot be and “not” be. You cannot stand still while walking, you cannot exist and not exist, etc.

      That which aligns with the Universe is “good” – this is Universal Good.
      That which contradicts the Universe is “evil” – this is Universal Evil.

      Attempting to manifest a contradiction, that is make a contradiction real, is contrary to the core principle of the Universe, and thus a Universal Evil.

      Attempting to manifest a contradiction to your core principle is you doing evil, a Universal Evil.

      Proof of the Absoluteness of your core Principle:

      Often I complain that your use of “…this is an assertion…” is inappropriate.

      Here, it is very appropriate should I dare attempt to judge your core principle by using my core principle.

      Your core principle is absolutely immune to any proof based on my core principle.

      It is impossible for me to prove your core principle is “right” or “wrong” by using mine.

      By what basis do I claim my is the ultimate “right” and yours is not?

      The Universe provides a near-infinite number of “right” answers to every problem.

      Crude example: the “problem” of life. Simple observation show a massive variety of right answers – probably approaching an uncountable number of life forms if we (one day) observe the whole universe. Equally, of course, there are a near-infinite number of wrong answers to every problem too.

      You have a perfect, right, core principle that is different than my perfect, right, core principle. The Universe does not claim my is more “absolute” then yours. They are equal and equally “right”.

      All and everything I can do to prove your actions as “right” or “wrong” is to apply your core principle against your own actions.

      I cannot use my principles to judge your actions.

      The challenge: trying to discover your core principle, which most people actively hide – for reasons called pragmatism

      If by your descriptions or by your actions, you contradict your own core principle, I can absolutely declare you to be in the “wrong”.

      If by your descriptions or by your actions, you align with your own core principle, I can absolutely declare you to be in the “right”.

  22. #37 by Titfortat on March 24, 2011 - 01:33

    Doing violence on the non-violent is a clear, absolute wrong.(BF)

    Why?

  23. #38 by Black Flag on March 24, 2011 - 04:16

    Titfortat

    Because it is a contradiction.

    Violence in response to violence is a natural right, called self-defense.

    Initiation of violence on the innocent – to do harm upon those that have done you no harm, if this does not define evil, then evil does not exist.

  24. #39 by Titfortat on March 24, 2011 - 04:53

    BF

    What if you were born with a genetic immutable core principle to do violence? And explain to me why evil has to exist? Afterall its just an action, we are the ones who decide what the perception of those actions will be.

    • #40 by Black Flag on March 24, 2011 - 06:19

      Titfortat:

      I will use a real life example.

      In my life travels and adventures, I came to know a CIA station chief in a foreign country.

      His core principle: “The US government is always right”

      I tested this:
      “If the US government said you had to execute your wife, would you do this?”

      With steel eyes he looked at me and said without hesitation:
      Yes

      I continued.. “…and your children…?”
      Without a blink… Yes

      … I did not doubt this man for a millisecond. He would not hold the post he did if he thought differently.

      Now, do you think this man would at all hesitate in killing your entire family if so ordered by the US government?

      ……..

      But how could I possibly argue against him?

      How could I possibly “prove” my core principle is absolute, and his is not?

      Scott would eat my lunch here should I dare try …. his “…this is merely an assertion…” would devastate whatever argument I held from my core principle.

      My only -true- tactic was to confront a contradiction in his principle against his action.

      He …never…. failed.

      He would nuke millions.
      He would kill his wife.
      He would kill his children.
      He would kill himself…
      …if the US government ordered him to do so.

      He did not contradict his core principle.
      He was where he was, because of this.

      Re: Evil exists.

      Evil = an attempt to manifest a contradiction.

      Evil only exist where a man attempts to contradict the Universe.

      You hold “A” as a principle.

      You act in a manner that contradicts “A”.

      This action – an attempt to contradict your own principle will put you in conflict with the immutable principle of the Universe.

      Conflict with the Universe is evil

      Note: none of this has anything to do with a perception.
      You hold your own principle.
      You acted in a manner that contradicted this principle.
      You attempted to manifest this contradiction by your action.
      You – a man – created evil

  25. #41 by Scott Erb on March 24, 2011 - 11:30

    I still say your whole theory falls apart because you have a very misguided and simplistic view of violence as only being physical force and not the structural force that permeates all social relations. As to your CIA chief, that’s why simplistic core principles should be avoided. Embrace the paradoxes, apparent contradictions and uncertainty of life. Sure, you’ll lose the comfort of believing you’ve found the one true way to live and understand the world, but that comfort is simply an illusion.

    • #42 by Black Flag on March 24, 2011 - 15:22

      Scott,

      I am clear on what I see violence to me – physical force.

      As I’ve complained before: because you cannot convince a man by rhetoric or reason, you believe you are justified to use violence on him – because to you, influence and violence is the same thing.

      Paradoxes are never a problem – they merely are a situation where there exists deeper reasons then what may appear on the surface.

      Contradictions, however, cannot exist. If a man, such as yourself, relies on their existence and attempts to manifest them for his gain, he creates evil.

  26. #43 by Titfortat on March 24, 2011 - 12:32

    BF

    You sound Christian. ;)

    • #44 by Black Flag on March 24, 2011 - 15:24

      Titfortat:

      I would say am I closer to being a Nazarene then a Christian – that is, I do not see the modern Christians at all adhere to the teachings of Jesus.

  27. #45 by renaissanceguy on March 26, 2011 - 00:28

    Scott, by “principle” I mean that our country attacked another sovereign country. We took sides in another country’s civil war. Either you are for it or against it. It is Machiavellian to say that the situation determines whether a particular action should be taken or not when it comes down to a matter of principle.

    I still suspect that it has to do with which party is in the White House now.

    As you have probably seen on my blog, a few Obama supporters have stuck to their principles.

    • #46 by Scott Erb on March 26, 2011 - 00:47

      You see things through too partisan of eyes, RG. It doesn’t matter to me which party is in the White House; but each conflict is different. I was adamantly opposed to Clinton intervening in Kosovo and got a letter to the editor in Time publicly denouncing that war. I believe Clinton’s greatest error was NOT intervening in Rwanda.

      Get it? With Libya the specifics of the case determine what I support. To me it’s closer to Rwanda (and I condemn the Clinton administration for not supporting the UN mission and saving hundreds of thousands of lives) than Kosovo (where I condemn the Clinton Administration for engaging in an unnecessary bombing that led to a human rights catastrophe). We can argue about whether or not my read is right, but to suggest that this is something where one simplistically has to oppose all military interventions or support all of them to stick to principles is logically flawed.

      Maybe because this is my field I see a lot more nuance and complexity than someone who sees it primarily through partisan eyes. For instance, I recall how I praised many of Bush’s policies after 2006 when so many on the left simply had a knee jerk negative reaction to him. I look at the policies and the situation. Situations also affect how principles are applied, and there is always uncertainty. To treat “principle” like some broad easy to apply slogan that defies context is to dumb down principles so much as to make the term “principle” meaningless.

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