Stephen Speicher

Rob Tracinski on "What Went Right?"

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I'd bet all my odd-numbered neurons that Rand is not advocating liberation as self-sacrifice.

Of course not. You can bet ALL your neurons on that! :D

My guess is that the above statements refers only to invasion and occupation per se, as contrasted with simply defensive (including preventative) military action, such as bombing.

That's essentially how I have interpreted those words for some time, which is why I prefaced my comments with "If the context of the above remarks includes war." But since this fiasco with Iraq, I have wondered to what degree, and under what circumstances, it applies to war as well. After WWII that is what we did with Germany and Japan, and that is what we are trying to do with Iraq. Personally, I do not think this latter culture to be civilized enough to sustain freedom, which makes our continuing involvement even more of a self-sacrifice. But what if the underlying culture was a good one? If we destroy a rogue government in retaliatory force, as a response to a threat against our security, then what do we owe morally to those in that country who did not support that government? What, if anything, do we owe to those who deserve to have their individual rights respected? After all, we did destroy their rogue government, which, bad as it was, was the only force separating them from anarchy. If we invaded their country with troops, do we morally owe them enough degree of order to organize a rights-respecting government? (Assuming such is possible.)

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The use of force is moral when it is used in retaliation against those who have intiated the use of force. Claiming the right to retaliate for what happened in Tehran in 1979 and in Beirut in 1982 and in New York in 1993 and in Saudi Arabia in 1996--but only many, many years later when another enemy inspired by those evils attacked--that would be more than evil, it would be insane.

If Britain had militarily attacked Germany's military buildup in the late 1930s - even though Germany had not, as yet, launched an attack on Britain - would that have been evil and insane?

You might consider that nothing has changed for those who hold that, *on principle*, Iran and other similar theocracies, are deadly threats to America, as proven by their actions and their stated intent. Yet you and Rob apparently think that something big has changed just in a year simply because George Bush's failure to use force on those countries has led to a Vietnam-style morass in Iraq and the majority of Americans fed up with that situation. There is no theory/practice dichotomy. Pragmatism has never worked and it never will - by its nature. I seriously think that you guys should take a step back from being immersed in the daily minutiae of current news and look at the big picture, the picture of history being played out according to fundamental principles, and which principles would need to be in place and understood before that path could change.

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If we invaded their country with troops, do we morally owe them enough degree of order to organize a rights-respecting government? (Assuming such is possible.)

From the morality of self interest, I would say yes. It was much more in American interest to have Japan become what it is today - e.g. making the highest quality mass production cars in the world which is of great benefit to Americans who don't have to tolerate disgustingly incompetent companies such as Ford as a result. Far better a semi-capitalist competitor than a brutal totalitarian state that will have to be fought again someday. That does however assume a basic level of civilization as a starting point. The Japanese did not have the albatross of religion around their epistemological necks (nor do the Chinese) - I think that difference is more important than most realize today. (At least, not the Middle Eastern religions and their spawn such as Christianity and Islam that have shown themselves to be corrosive mind-destroyers.)

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The Japanese did not have the albatross of religion around their epistemological necks (nor do the Chinese) - I think that difference is more important than most realize today. (At least, not the Middle Eastern religions and their spawn such as Christianity and Islam that have shown themselves to be corrosive mind-destroyers.)

I'd like to hear more details from those more knowledgeable about the history of Japan, but from what little I know this is questionable. Japan was thoroughly drenched in a highly irrational, death-worshipping, militaristic ideology. In many respects, that ideology went back centuries. Watching newsreels of young children in the 1920s and 1930s being indoctrinated is eerily reminsicent of many videos showing similar behavior in the Middle East.

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I'd like to hear more details from those more knowledgeable about the history of Japan, but from what little I know this is questionable. Japan was thoroughly drenched in a highly irrational, death-worshipping, militaristic ideology. In many respects, that ideology went back centuries. Watching newsreels of young children in the 1920s and 1930s being indoctrinated is eerily reminsicent of many videos showing similar behavior in the Middle East.

Yes, but not an organized religion. Where are those ideas today?

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Yes, but not an organized religion. Where are those ideas today?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shinto

This sounds like an organized religion to me. And, it appears to be alive and well, though no longer the state religion (thanks to the way the American occupation handled the problem), and no longer practiced in the form it once was, and hence not a problem.

(If you haven't read it, I refer you to Dr. Lewis' excellent essay, No Substitute For Victory.)

But your comment (at least the portion I was responding to) was not about today, but about Japan immediately after WWII, as I interpreted it.

Jeff

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I would re-iterate that as an essentiall free country, the United States has the right to remove any dictatorship from power in any country in the world at any time, if our purpose is to liberate the people of that country. That liberation must, if is not to be an act of American self-sacrifice, be required to secure the physical safety and security of the American people.

[Also, I refer to the quote from Ayn Rand in Steven Speicher's post above -- I am still learning how to pull in quotes, and have been unable to pull that one into this post.]

When I first read Jack's comment, I assumed he was implying that liberation involved not just the removal of a tyrannical government, but also the imposition of a lawful government that respects individual rights. If liberation means both things, then it is an impossible goal to achieve in some instances, such as Iraq. This would imply a contradiction.

To resolve this, I looked up the dictionary meaning of liberation. It clearly implies the former (removal of the dictatorship), but does not imply the latter (institution of a government that respects individual rights).

The Random House Unabridged Dictionary provides the following definition of liberation: "2. to free (a nation or area) from control by a foreign or oppressive government." In military terms, the liberation would occur when the dictatorship is ended through military defeat. It does not imply an obligation on our part to set up a better government for those we liberated.

It is important to bear this meaning of liberation in mind when contrasting such events as the liberation of France from the Nazis during World War II and today's liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein. In both cases, a dictatorial regime was overthrown. However, in the former instance, it was natural and easy for us to replace it with a government that respected individual rights, since that is what France had prior to the Nazi occupation. Contrast this with the Iraqis who, after liberation, democratically voted in another semi-tyrannical regime. Moreover, large segments of the Iraqi population provided moral and financial support to sectarian vigilante groups that respected no one's rights. Iraq did not have the philosophical/social/institutional base that allowed a free government to emerge after the liberation.

In Ayn Rand's quoted comment, without having read more of the material, I believe she is referring to the dictionary meaning of liberation. What she is saying is that we cannot institute a dictatorial regime. She is not saying that we have an obligation to institute a government that respects individual rights. Liberation, in this sense, simply implies a negative obligation: "Do not impose a dictatorship." It does not imply a positive obligation: "America must impose a government that upholds individual rights."

So, we never have a moral obligation to impose a government that respects individual rights. We have the right to overthrow a dictatorship that threatens us, and in the process liberate the subject people. We are not obligated to go further and try to institute a government among those people that upholds individual rights.

Having said that, it would always be in our interest to see that the replacement government respected individual rights. We should help it happen, if it can be done at a responsible cost in terms of lives and money. We were able to do this in liberated Europe, Germany and Japan after World War II. Those societies had a sufficient philosophical/social/political base that made it possible.

Why is it advisable to institute a government that respects individual rights after we liberate a people from a dictatorship? It is advisable because a government that respects individual rights will not attack us in a war of aggression. Also, such a society would prosper and benefit us from trade and innovation. Certainly, that has been true with Japan and Germany since World War II.

However, if a people are so primitive that they cannot abide a lawful government, we are under no obligation to help them get it. In that case, we simply have to use whatever military means to crush their ability to harm us, and to threaten them in such a way that they do not want to harm us in the future.

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I'd like to hear more details from those more knowledgeable about the history of Japan, but from what little I know this is questionable. Japan was thoroughly drenched in a highly irrational, death-worshipping, militaristic ideology. In many respects, that ideology went back centuries. Watching newsreels of young children in the 1920s and 1930s being indoctrinated is eerily reminsicent of many videos showing similar behavior in the Middle East.

Japan's religion is, in the main, a mixture of Buddhism and Shintoism. The Shinto religion is a combination of nature and ancestor worship. While those two are very primitive, the Japanese have taken them to very sophisticated levels. Included in the mix was (is?) the deification of the Emperor. Before WWII, this was combined with the old militaristic Samurai social order. It fit nicely with the very ritualized and highly structured life of the people.

Unless you understand the extent to which the Japanese compartmentalize their thinking, you will never understand the Japanese. The end product, however, is a layered, but essentially collectivist, society, where every life is owned by and at the disposal of society (which, pre-WWII, was embodied by the Emperor).

It is a mistake to say that the Japanese worshiped death, however. Most Japanese I've met were life-loving, but did not put their life above that of society. Again, their thinking is complicated and difficult for rational Westerners to understand. They have not given up the way they think about society, either. My ears perked up when I heard their best ice skater apologize to the whole country for only coming in second, rather than winning the gold at the Olympics. That told me that there are fundamental ways of thinking that they've never given up.

Our main accomplishment in Japan was to make them hate war.

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My ears perked up when I heard their best ice skater apologize to the whole country for only coming in second, rather than winning the gold at the Olympics. That told me that there are fundamental ways of thinking that they've never given up.

When a Japanese Professional fighter named Kazushi Sakuraba lost his title to a Brazilian fighter, he cried and apologized to the Japanese crowd.

Even more bizarre was a story of a Japanese runner who, after failing to take gold in the Olympics (during the 50's, I think he got second place), committed suicide out of shame.

I agree, there are some fundamental things about the Japanese that remain quite different from the West.

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If we invaded their country with troops, do we morally owe them enough degree of order to organize a rights-respecting government? (Assuming such is possible.)

From the morality of self interest, I would say yes. It was much more in American interest to have Japan become what it is today - e.g. making the highest quality mass production cars in the world ...

Okay. What if then -- as I have been advocating for some time, and as some have agreed -- instead of ground troops we use our technology remotely to pulverize them from a distance? If, say, they are 6000 miles away, after the deluge are we morally obliged to now land our ground troops to instill order and assist in forming a proper government? If we had destroyed a large portion of their means of production, are we morally obliged to provide food and water for some extended period of time? Are we morally obliged to care for the sick and injured if we destroyed their doctors, hospitals and supplies?

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In Ayn Rand's quoted comment, without having read more of the material, I believe she is referring to the dictionary meaning of liberation. What she is saying is that we cannot institute a dictatorial regime. She is not saying that we have an obligation to institute a government that respects individual rights. Liberation, in this sense, simply implies a negative obligation: "Do not impose a dictatorship." It does not imply a positive obligation: "America must impose a government that upholds individual rights."

I'm not sure I understand how you get that interpretation from Ayn Rand words. As I quoted in this post:

Therefore, the invasion of an enslaved country is morally justified only when and if the conquerors establish a free social system, that is, a system based on the recognition of individual rights.

This seems to clearly say that we are morally justified in liberation as you described it, only if we help establish a rights-respecting government. Am I misunderstanding something?

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The only moral obligation our government has is to defend the individual rights of Americans. Their means of production have been destroyed because of the actions of their government. This imposes no unchosen moral obligation on us. To claim otherwise would be purely altruistic.

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What if there are other considerations besides simply removing an imminent physical threat or to retaliate, such as a dependence on oil, among others. We've done nothing to make sure our economy would be sustained if we lost Middle East oil resources.

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Ayn Rand:

"Dictatorship nations are outlaws. Any free nation had the right to invade Nazi Germany and, today, has the right to invade Soviet Russia, Cuba or any other slave-pen. Whether a free nation chooses to do so or not is a matter of its own self-interest, not of respect for the non-existent "rights" of gang-rulers. It is not a free nation's duty to liberate other nations at the price of self-sacrifice, but a free nation has the right to do it, when and if it so chooses.

"This right, however, is conditional. Just as the suppression of crimes does not give a policeman the right to engage in criminal activities, so the invasion and destruction of a dictatorship does not give the invader the right to establish another variant of a slave-society in the conquered country. A slave-country has no national rights, but the individual rights of its citizens remain valid, even if unrecognized, and the conqueror has no right to violate them. Therefore, the invasion of an enslaved country is morally justified only when and if the conquerors establish a free social system, that is, a system based on the recognition of individual rights."

Yes, Stephen, it was just this principle I was thinking of.

I can't tell you (or anyone) exactly what Ayn Rand was thinking when she wrote this. Her political analyses that demonstrate when force is being used, by whom, and whether or not it is moral mark Miss Rand as history's most rational and clear-thinking political philosopher.

However, Ayn Rand's statements on the details of the use of force--as such--are very broad and sometimes a little bit cryptic. She's trying to limit herself to the philosophical principles that govern force without straying into the special sciences on technique of using force by the police or the military. Those areas are not philosophy and are--unquestionably--not an area in which Ayn Rand had much knowledge or expertise.

This statement must, therefore, be judged in the context of the entire body of Ayn Rand's philosophy.

My evaluation is that it is moral for a free nation to attack and depose any dictatorship at any time without any particular causus belli--in the abscence of any act of war by that dictatorship and in the abscence of any immediate threat ("clear and present danger") of war by that dictatorship--simply because it is a dictatorship.

Thus, if it were in America's interest, for example, to assure the continued free passage of international shipping through the Panama Canal and the dictator of Panama made demonstrations to the effect that he was going to pick and chose which countries he would allow through the canal, charging some especaily high rates and barring other all together--it would be entirely appropriate to send a couple regiments of the 82 Airborne down there to knock over the regime and jail the dictator. (George H. W. Bush did exactly that...although for reasons that were foggy and secretive.)

A similar case can be made for the oil producing countries of the Persian Gulf who have been charging American oil companies userous rates that amount to a tax on the American people.

In such a cases, however, the free country would be obliged to set up a rights-recognizing government (to the best of its ability and to the extent to which it is possible) to replace the dictator. This is where Ayn Rand's comment applies without exception--as a moral principle.

Most importantly, a free country would not have the right to install its own dictator and rule over the people as their tyrant. In perpetrating what should be considered to be criminal acts that would result from the general re-enslavement of the local population of that foreign land, the formerly free country would become as guilty and as evil as the dictator they replaced. The invasion would be an act of aggression--the initiation of force for the purpose of stealing land, resources, or geopolitical position (in the examples I gave). The consequences of this criminal act would be far reaching. The war would transform the free country into a "formerly" free country.

If foreigners on foreign soil may be killed and enslaved willy-nilly on the order of the executive of one's own government, why could he not order the same against you?

This is a problem that the Roman Empire ran into. France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Holland, and--to a far lesser extent--Great Britain ran into this problem in the acquisition of their colonial possessions. Their own people were protected only so long as the local populations of the colonies were regarded, by reason of race, as being less than human. But the colonization replaced tyrants with French or Dutch or Belian or Spanish potentate over the colored people of Africa and Asia and South and Central America brough white men in contact with these "inferior" races. And, in contact, the post-Enlightenment white men incrementally came to acknowledge in every way that they were ruling over men.

This realization led either to the liberalization of the colonies and their eventual separation or it led to a general corruption of all colonists and the draining of the national treasury in endless unjustifiable wars.

Back to Ayn Rand's statement...

I don't think anything in her comment precludes the use of military force for national self defense in the face of an enemy act of war. It says nothing to preclude the use of the military to go into a nation that has attacked us as a purely punitive measure...and then to immediately withdrawal. This is a policy to which Israel--because of its diminutive size and the fact that it has a reserve army that it can long keep in the field--as resorted in most of the wars with its Arab neighbors.

However, for a punative attack to be moral, there must have been, overtly, an act of war by the enemy country in which American soil or American citizens were deliberatly attacked. A good example of a punative raid was Ronald Reagan's bombing of the presidential residence in Lybia (which, unfortunatly, was answered with the Lockerby bombing).

Alternatively a military buildup and preparation for attack from a hostile nation that is of a criminal character that can, rationally, be evaluated as a fist drawn up for the punch--this may be answered with a pre-emptive attack. The pre-emptive attack may be purely punative in nature. A good example of this is the Israeli bombing raid on the Osarik Reactor.

However, to change the regime--to REALLY change situation on the ground so that the enemy may never attack again--requires the enemy nation be occupatied and subjected to our way of life. That is how the North prevented the South from "rising again." That is how the Allies prevented Germany from recovering itself after 1945 and attacking again (and why, in the abscence of an Allied occupation in 1918 they rose up again).

A free country that imposes it own way of life on an enemy country will solve the problem of its aggression once and for all. But a free country that seeks to impose its way of life on a defeated enemy is in an interesting puzzle. An essential and irreplaceable feature of our way of life is self-government.

In dealing with armed resistance to the legitimate occupying power, the occupying power is not free to destroy all that lies before it. Thjs is where counter-insurgency warfare come into play and this is why it is not self-sacrificial. (I put the question to this forum of whether or not standard counter-insurgency military doctrine contains within it an element of self-sacrifice and I got no answer. I am still open to be challenged on this, but on my own judgement, I see no moral alternative to it...and I see no need for it. The proper employment of counter-insurgency methods "works.")

In the occupation of an defeated enemy nation a free country may never allow itslef to impose tyrannical rule.

This is where Ayn Rand's comment applies without exception--as a moral principle. To impose tyranny on another people is an international-scale crime. Everyone in the formerly free country gets blood of a murder on their hands. To do it destroys all prospects for liberty in the occupied country and it undermines prospects for continued liberty in the home country.

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In dealing with armed resistance to the legitimate occupying power, the occupying power is not free to destroy all that lies before it. Thjs is where counter-insurgency warfare come into play and this is why it is not self-sacrificial. (I put the question to this forum of whether or not standard counter-insurgency military doctrine contains within it an element of self-sacrifice and I got no answer. I am still open to be challenged on this, but on my own judgement, I see no moral alternative to it...and I see no need for it. The proper employment of counter-insurgency methods "works.")

If my memory is correct, I believe you were encouraged to start a separate thread concerning this issue. If and when that separate thread gets started, I believe you might get some answers.

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I'm not sure I understand how you get that interpretation from Ayn Rand words. As I quoted in this post:

This seems to clearly say that we are morally justified in liberation as you described it, only if we help establish a rights-respecting government. Am I misunderstanding something?

Yes, that was what Ayn Rand said. However, would her statement apply in all contexts? Certainly, it would be true that a government should not go out of its away to enslave the people of a country whose dictator it had previously removed. For example, the enslavement of the people of the New World by the Spaniards was unjustifiable, even if the governments they defeated were barbaric. Conversely, an example of a moral action is what the United States did following World War II where we instituted free governments across conquered Europe and Japan. If we had done otherwise, that would have been immoral.

Ayn Rand wrote her statement only 17 years following the end of World War II, where we had just liberated and instituted free governments across much of the earth following our victory in that war. Her statement certainly applies to the type of societies we liberated in that war.

However, if it were not possible to institute a free government without many years' worth of bloody fighting and the loss of many lives and much fortune, would she say that we have an obligation to persevere to institute a non-tyrannical government in such a situation? Isn't that the situation in Iran or Iraq? Or, to cite an example from history, wasn't that the case when the United States fought the Indian hordes over the years?

It seems to me that there comes a point when instituting a free society in a former dictatorship becomes self-sacrificial. If it costs too much or kills too many soldiers, it is clearly not in our self-interest to do so.

In every instance, it is in our self-interest to consider trying to institute a free government, but it is not always in our self-interest to actually attempt to do it. We are immeasurably better off if our former enemy becomes a wealthy, capitalist society, as both Germany and Japan did after World War II. However, if it is not possible, our self-interest would not obligate us to sacrificially attempt to achieve the impossible.

Finally, as to another question in an earlier post about how much obligation a liberating country has to provide food or to ensure law and order, I would say that in most instances, it is in our self-interest to do so if it will foster good-will or help a lawful or even semi-lawful social order to emerge in the conquered country. I do not think we are morally obligated to do so if we do not gain from it. In most instances, I think we would find it in our interest to do it.

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I'm not sure I understand how you get that interpretation from Ayn Rand words. As I quoted in this post:
Therefore, the invasion of an enslaved country is morally justified only when and if the conquerors establish a free social system, that is, a system based on the recognition of individual rights.

This seems to clearly say that we are morally justified in liberation as you described it, only if we help establish a rights-respecting government. Am I misunderstanding something?

Yes, that was what Ayn Rand said. However, would her statement apply in all contexts?

Knowledge is contextual, so I would not expect that statement to apply to all contexts. But, regardless, that is beside the point that I addressed. I challenged your interpretation of Ayn Rand's words, when you said:

In Ayn Rand's quoted comment, without having read more of the material, I believe she is referring to the dictionary meaning of liberation. What she is saying is that we cannot institute a dictatorial regime. She is not saying that we have an obligation to institute a government that respects individual rights.

As I said, I think her words (as I quoted up above) clearly and explicitly contradict your interpretation that "She is not saying that we have an obligation to institute a government that respects individual rights," though, of course, her words do not apply in all imaginable contexts, known or unknown. I don't mean to harp on this, but I just do not want to let stand what I think is a mistaken interpretation of what Ayn Rand said.

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I don't mean to harp on this, but I just do not want to let stand what I think is a mistaken interpretation of what Ayn Rand said.

You are correct, and the statement in my earlier post is incorrect. Ayn Rand in your quote clearly says that we have an obligation to institute a government that upholds individual rights in a country whose dictatorship we have overthrown.

I will stand behind my most recent post, where I raise the question as to which contexts her statement applies.

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Okay. What if then -- as I have been advocating for some time, and as some have agreed -- instead of ground troops we use our technology remotely to pulverize them from a distance? If, say, they are 6000 miles away, after the deluge are we morally obliged to now land our ground troops to instill order and assist in forming a proper government? If we had destroyed a large portion of their means of production, are we morally obliged to provide food and water for some extended period of time? Are we morally obliged to care for the sick and injured if we destroyed their doctors, hospitals and supplies?

Not if such assistance is sacrificial to America, nor do I think that rebuilding them should be any part of our considerations in defeating them as an enemy. If nuking substantial parts of the Islamic world, say, is what it would take to quell the slightest possibility that they still pose a threat - now and for the foreseeable future - then I am all for it. In fact, we *did* nuke Japan twice, as you know the only time in history that they were used in war, but the Japanese certainly recovered from it - and as an end to WW2 and their totalitarian government, the Japanese were actually far better off for it, just as killing lots of religious fanatics in Iran and ending its theocracy would benefit both America and the better elements in Iran.

I do not think that America ought to sacrifice in order to try to build a better government in a former enemy country, but I suspect that it wouldn't have to be, if the goal wasn't altruistic. The problem that I see is that America itself doesn't know how to be a rights respecting country - it's a morass of confusion and the mixed economy and certainly not presently capable of telling a defeated country how to become rights respecting - not when the advice is "become populist democratic and all problems will be solved." Marva Collins did not need a lot of money to be extremely successful, she just needed the right ideas and the right approach to education, and I think that example translates well to "nation building".

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If the context of the above remarks includes war, then what do you do with a conquered country whose culture is so bad that it cannot sustain freedom? If we attack a country to remove a threat we do so in our self-interest, but does that retaliation obligate us to do whatever it takes to establish a free social system?

Well, the penultimate sentence in the quote from Ayn Rand says the conqueror doesn't have the right to violate the individual rights of the citizens. I say that leaves the quote open to two interpretations: 1. the conqueror has the obligation to establish a free political system; and 2. the conqueror does not have the right to enslave the conquered people. In my view, the first leaves open the possibility of the conqueror sacrificing his interests in order to establish freedom in the conquered land, while the second does not, and therefore the second interpretation is more in keeping with Objectivism.

In other words, the context for the quote is whether the conqueror may morally establish a non-free political system, not whether the conqueror is obligated to do so.

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... not whether the conqueror is obligated to do so.

That should read:

... not whether the conqueror is obligated to establish freedom in the conquered land.

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When you critcize Rob Tracinski's views on foreign policy, it is not clear if you are criticizing the policies of Rob Tracinski or George Bush. Rob has not recommended that the Bush Administration stand motionless like a deer in the headlights for the past 10 months.

I missed this the first time I read your post. Within the context of this thread, which is Rob Tracinski's article on "What Went Right?", I have not criticized Rob Tracinski's or George Bush's views on foreign policy. Maybe in other threads, I have but not in this thread. At the moment, I am focussing on the claim that "War collapsed with the collapse of the Soviet Union." It clearly has not "collapsed" Is it increasing or decreasing? I do not know. The point is that war has not collapsed.

I believe your claim that "it is not clear if you are criticizing the policies of Rob Tracinski or George Bush" is a mischaracterization of what I have been arguing in this thread. My goal for this thread is to focus on what has been said in the series "What Went Right?"

I will be more than happy to address any criticisms I have directed towards Rob Tracinski's views on foreign policy in the threads that I directed such criticisms. To once again get into a debate about the fiasco in Iraq is a distraction from the main purpose of this thread, which is "What Went Right?'

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In answer, I repreat that Rob's conclusion was based on an essay I wrote for him in the November 5, 2005 issue of TIA Daily:

OK, now we are getting somewhere. Are you saying that Rob came to the conclusion that "War collapsed when the Soviet Union collapsed," because of the essay you wrote? I am wondering what other sources you considered when drawing your conclusions and how do you account for sources that counter your claims? As has been shown by several posts in this thread, measuring the increase and decrease of war by looking at the number of armed conflicts on a year to year basis is controversial. Then there is the issue of conventional wars vs. unconventional wars, civil wars vs. regional wars and civilian casualties vs. military casualties.

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I am a big fan of TIA daily and the series "What Went Right?" has been some of the most interesting writing I've seen from an Objectivist in a very long time. I look forward to the completion of the series.

I understand the basic argument as this:

1. Ideas move history.

2. The ideas dominating western civilization are horrible.

3. The west should therefore be a disaster.

Rob goes on to argue that this hasn't happened. That in fact western values and prosperity have been spreading throughout the world at an unprecedented rate. Cultures around the world are demonstrating a new recognition of the importance of man's mind and the need for economic freedom. All of this has been happening while Objectivists have been predicting gloom and doom.

Rob seems to believe that the trouble is in point #1. That either there is a flaw in the principle itself or there is a flaw in the "gloom and doom" crowd's understanding of it.

I'd focus more on point #2. What ARE the ideas dominating western civilization? This is where I think the "gloom and doom" crowd gets it wrong. Probably because they are too focused on the university philosophy departments. I'd argue that the "philosophers" to be found there are befuddled and irrelevant. With the exception of a few renegades - one tellingly wound up in the hands of Hugo Chavez at the UN - they have no point to make and no influence on anything. The ideas that wind up in the heads of decision makers, judges, legislators, and the administration, for the most part have little to do with what goes on in university philosophy departments.

This is certainly true for the Republicans - who have dominated American politics since the 1980s. Republicans are in open rebellion against the universities. They refuse to be influenced by the rot of those institutions. As "conservatives" they are much more aligned with the traditional mix of ideas that formed this country in the first place: religion and reason.

But reason and religion cannot coexist! So gloom and doom! Baloney. Reason and religion have been battling it out since the renaissance. We'd all like for Reason to have a final victory. But so long as it has a fighting chance, to the extent that it holds sway even in competition with faith, humanity will reap the benefits. And we are. And lately even places like China and India are.

This is why, despite Leonard Peikoff's advice, I continue to vote Republican. Within the Republican party there is a battle between reason and religion. Within the Democratic party there is none. They are the party of the universities and they are as befuddled and useless as the non-entities found there.

What Rob's articles illustrate is that there are many honest, rational people out there - and to the extent that they are rational they are doing the world and themselves enormous good. Even if they go to church on Sunday and send their kids to Sunday school. Even if they’ve never even heard of Ayn Rand. Furthermore the number and influence of rational people in the world seems to be increasing. It's ironic that Objectivists, in predicting gloom and doom, have underestimated the power of reason. Even "partially" rational people, like the economist Julian Simon, or Manmohan Singh - prime minister of India, or Kirill a protester from Belarus who wants the freedoms he witnessed in the US and UK, can do enormous good.

In conclusion I'd argue that philosophy does drive history, and that it has been the respect for reason, however flawed, that is latent in American and European conservatism, that has been driving the sucess of the past 25 years.

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This is why, despite Leonard Peikoff's advice, I continue to vote Republican. Within the Republican party there is a battle between reason and religion. Within the Democratic party there is none. They are the party of the universities and they are as befuddled and useless as the non-entities found there.

What Rob's articles illustrate is that there are many honest, rational people out there - and to the extent that they are rational they are doing the world and themselves enormous good. Even if they go to church on Sunday and send their kids to Sunday school. Even if they’ve never even heard of Ayn Rand. Furthermore the number and influence of rational people in the world seems to be increasing. It's ironic that Objectivists, in predicting gloom and doom, have underestimated the power of reason. Even "partially" rational people, like the economist Julian Simon, or Manmohan Singh - prime minister of India, or Kirill a protester from Belarus who wants the freedoms he witnessed in the US and UK, can do enormous good.

Emphasis added.

Indeed.

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