War on Terrorism
American Military & American Propaganda
No one will be surprised to hear that the American government generally and the military in particular have engaged in deliberate propaganda efforts. Despite this, few people are aware of the extent to which such propaganda efforts exist - and the sorts of propaganda which is created. Not to put too fine a point on it, but it appears that little which the government tells us can be trusted.
American Religion & American Empire: Theological Justifications
Throughout history, imperialism and religion have gone hand-in-hand. Imperialistic expansion provides opportunities for religious expansion while religion offers theological justification for the violence and oppression needed for imperialism to work. It's not unusual to hear talk about America being an "empire," but even if that is true in a very loose sense, what's the role for religion?
Criticism of the State is Blasphemy
There are many Americans who seem bound and determined to do all they can to transform America into a massive church. One step in that direction was the effort to criminalize "desecration" of the American flag. Another, newer step in that direction appears to be the blending of criticism of the government with criticism of religion.
Mailbag: Who Says Torture is Immoral?
To my statement "Torture is morally evil," I received the following response:"Says who? Who says what is evil or moral?"
Spinoza Speaks Out on Bush & Co.
It might at first seem incredible that Benedict De Spinoza, born in 1632 and died in 1677, would have anything at all to say about modern America - and especially about the administration of President George W. Bush. The problems being created by Bush and his minions are nothing new, however, so it's not really surprising that philosophers of the past have something relevant to tell us.
Judge: OK for Bush to Torture, Abuse People
If the American government kidnaps a person and has them tortured, should they be able to sue the government in order to obtain redress? You'd think that this should be the case and, in a just system, that's how things would be - but the American government under George W. Bush isn't just and has conspired to prevent innocent victims of its policies from seeing justice.
Conservative Reactions to American War Crimes
Pennsylvania Representative John Murtha has gone public with revelations that a group of Marines are being investigated for atrocious war crimes - killing unarmed Iraqi civilians. According to Murtha, high-ranking Marine Corps sources say the allegations are true. Conservative reactions to these charges are reminiscent of conservative reactions to the My Lai massacre.
Nuclear Insanity: Vietnam vs. Iran
In theory, it makes some sense to not eliminate the option of using nuclear weapons whenever the possibility of actual armed conflict exists. In practice, it makes no sense to openly and deliberately admit that nuclear attacks are an option. Except in the most extreme and dire circumstances, serious contemplation of the use of nuclear weapons is limited to the incompetent and the insane.
Republicans: American Citizens Are the Enemy
The Bush administration has been engaged in an unprecedented effort to spy on the average American. Not even the Nixon administration was as lawless and unethical as Bush has made the current government, and Republican shills for this lawlessness appear to be arguing that American citizens are, in some way, an "enemy" which needs to be monitored.
Religious Extremism Does Not Cause Terrorism?
Is terrorism committed by Muslims caused by something radical in the nature of Islam itself? This is a common assumption, but it might not be true. There is evidence that other factors - social and political - play a much larger role in encouraging and sustaining terrorism than anything in Islam itself. If that's the case, then our response to terrorism must be changed.
American Imperialism & Innocence: Theological Justifications of Empire
Most, if not all, empires that have ever existed have been accompanied by theological justifications for their existence, their power, and their domination of 'lesser' peoples. America is no different, but it does come with a curious contradiction. Whereas empires of the past have been open about claiming to deserve power, America claims to be innocent and not to really want power.
Defeatism, Dissent, and Treason at Home During War
Whenever a nation goes to war, it becomes important for everyone at home to rally behind the flag and support the nation's goals. Or is it? What if the nation's goals are immoral, or if the nation went to war under false pretenses? This doesn't always seem to matter to nationalists: they accuse dissenters of treason regardless of how reasonable their dissent was.
Virtue Ethics vs. Ethical Rules: How Should War be Conducted?
The pursuit of war is constrained by rules: civilians must be treated according to certain rules, soldiers must be treated according to certain rules, particular types of weapons are banned, and so forth. Rules have the disadvantage of being unable to always handle new and dynamic situations. Is there an alternative, though?
Making War as a way of Making Love
It's common to presume that war and love are opposites - if you love someone you don't make war on them and if you launch a war on someone, you must not love them. In Christian tradition, however, this opposition doesn't exist: the proper way to make war on someone is out of love. How many have justified atrocities on the basis of 'loving' those being afflicted?
War Fever in America: Silencing and Punishing Dissent
One of the most disturbing features of America's march towards invading and occupying Iraq was the treatment of those who disagreed. War dissenters were labeled traitors and "objectively pro-terrorist." It wasn't enough to simply oppose Saddam Hussein, one had to favor America removing him by force. Even more disturbing is how often this has been repeated in American history.
Torture and Ulilateral Power
The impact of torture on those who must suffer it is obvious, but torture also has wider implications for the rest of society. Even just the hint of torture possibly being used has negative consequences on a democratic society because it represents a massive increase in the amount of power which the state can have over the bodies, minds, and futures of individual citizens.
Fantasy vs. Reality: Role of Ideology in America's Invasion of Iraq
It's common for people to counter the actions and arguments of the Bush administration with their own arguments based upon what they believe to be facts. This may be a mistake because so much of what the Bush administration does is predicated on ideology - and ideology can be more about the construction of fantasy rather an a foundation on facts or reality.
Southern Honor and American Foreign Policy
The concept of honor is very ancient and even venerable - but sometimes it can cause more problems than it solves. Basically speaking, honor is the desire to maintain high worth both in your own eyes and in the eyes of others. When your honor is questioned, then so is your value. Naturally, it is possible for this to provoke a strong and even violent reaction.
Is Peace Always Good? Is War Always Bad?
Most people's general inclination is to prefer peace to war - and that's as it should be, since the absence of death and destruction is generally a preferable situation. The absence of death and destruction may, however, be accompanied by the absence of justice and liberty. In such situations, perhaps war is preferable to peace.
What Makes a War Just?
The morality of war is an interesting and vexing question. Ideally, of course, war would never happen and never be morally licit - so much death and destruction really can't be regarded as anything but awful. At the same time, though, it's clear that there are times when war must be necessary. But when, and why?
American Foreign Policy & Democracy
Some believe that the neoconservative perspective on foreign policy is, if nothing else, animated by important moral principles - even if neoconservatives are wrong, at least their motives are good. But is this true? Perhaps moral principles are a mask being used to disguise simple, pragmatic desires that animate most of politics.
Combatting Terrorism, Understanding Terrorists
Terrorism is a tactic, not an enemy that we can target in a war, which means that the 'war on terrorism' is nothing of the sort. Instead, we are fighting a war against people who use terrorism. This war probably won't be won by destroying the enemy; on the other hand, denying them their goals and reducing their fervor may accomplish much more.
Understanding Terrorism and Terrorist Motivations
Terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology, which means that the 'war on terrorism' is nothing of the sort. It is, instead, a war against Islamic extremists who use terrorism as one of their tactics. This 'war' won't go anywhere, though, without some understanding of the motivations of the terrorists. Why are they employing terrorism and what do they hope to achieve?
Is Racial Discrimination Always Wrong? Affirmative Action v Terrorism
The general social, political, and religious attitude towards racial discrimination in America is that it is essentially and necessarily wrong. Given that racial discrimination has traditionally been the product of racist animus, this is an understandable conclusion - but is it possible to discriminate without animus and for justified, reasonable goals? Yes, probably.
Protective Occupation and the Imprint of America's Boot
A key component of America's justification for its invasion and occupation of Iraq has been the idea that America has an obligation to bring democracy and freedom to oppressed people - and by force, if necessary. Neoconservatives would like to extend this principle throughout American foreign policy and it has a long tradition in American history - but not a generally very good one.
Terrorism, Disease, and the Allocation of Resources
Tremendous amounts of resources are being expended in the War on Terrorism, but are these resources being well invested or simply wasted? That depends upon the level of the threat which terrorism poses. The greater the threat, the more we should invest in prevention. How does terrorism compare to other threats to life which America faces?
Fear of Terrorism vs. Fear at Work
"For all our talk today of the fear of terrorism, or, before that, of communism, the most important form of fear is that which ordinary Americans have of their superiors, who sponsor and benefit from the inequities of everyday life. This kind of fear is repressive, constraining the actions of the less powerful, enabling the actions of the more powerful."
Anti-War Sentiments as Treason
If it's not possible to whip people up into a frenzy of support for a war, it may be enough for the government to so denigrate anti-war positions that people will be pro-war by default. If anti-war beliefs are valid, then they might attract greater support; if they are perceived as invalid or perhaps treasonous, then people will avoid any association with them out of fear at the very least.
Philosophers and War
Philosophers spend a lot of time studying ethics, politics, and what kinds of positions or principles can best be justified by sound reasoning and historical evidence. Based upon all of this, philosophers generally criticized and condemned America's invasion of Iraq. Were they right?
What is Wrong with Torture?
There has been a lot of debate in America over whether captives in the war on terrorism should be tortured - a sure sign that matters are probably a lot worse than we think. Other nations, after all, aren't having such debates. President Bush insists that America doesn't torture anyone but at the same time rejects any law that would ban torture. Whom does he think he is fooling?
Liberalization vs. Democracy: Reviewing America's Goals in the Middle
What does America really seek to accomplish in the Middle East? In public statements, the administration claims that it seeks greater democratization because this should enhance Muslim's liberty and everyone's safety. What the administration has not said is that it seeks greater liberalization in the Middle East.
Does Democracy Prevent Terrorism?
It has been argued that democracy helps prevent terrorism because the voting process gives people an outlet to express themselves - a role filled by terrorism under repressive, undemocratic governments. I've believed this to be at least partly true, but recent arguments suggest that I was wrong and that not too much hope should be invested in democracy.
Bush vs. Logic: Rhetoric of the War on Terrorism
The American government doesn't have to work hard to sell the idea that terrorism should be fought, but it has had to work overtime to argue that it's particular take on the war and its particular methods should be used. Unfortunately, the rhetoric employed by President Bush has proven to be untrue by virtue of being illogical.
America, Democracy, and the Use of Force
Does America have a responsibility to spread democracy around the world, even by force if necessary? Quite a few conservatives today seem to think so, but this hasn't been the normal view through American history. Indeed, Americas Founders appear to have rejected it outright and disagreed with the one model where it was tried: France.
War as an Expression of National Spirit
We were long since a great power, we were quite used to it, and it did not make us as happy as we had expected. The feeling that it had not made us more attractive, that our relation to the world had rather worsened than improved, lay, unconfessed, deep in our hearts. ... War then, and if needs must, war against everybody, to convince everybody and to win...."
American Military Superiority
There are two general ways in which a person or a nation can impose their will on others: by convincing them of the rightness of a course of action or through force. On the international scene, "convincing" typically occurs through international institutions; force usually occurs through military intervention.
September 11, 2001: Timeline of Events
Rea a timeline of key events gathered from various news sources. This is by no means an exhaustive resource, but it should help provide some general context to the events of September 11, 2001.
America: Bright Hope to Humanity?
More than one person has argued that what is particularly shocking about the abuse of Iraqi prisonersis that Americans "should be better." This is not so much because all humans should be better but instead because Americans in particular have a "duty" to be better than everyone else. What many may not realize is that this attitude has a very specific heritage in American Puritanism.
Is Iraq Another Vietnam?
Is Iraq George W. Bush's Vietnam? Senator Edward Kennedy says so - and conservatives have decried the comparison, saying that Kennedy doesn't want America to win in Iraq. Is that criticism justified? I don't think so - I think that Kennedy was making a very different comparison about honesty and secrecy.