Yes, He Can Whine (or, the Tale of the Sore Winner)

January 17, 2009 § 58 Comments

Doug Kmeic, who was so prominent a pro-life activist before he endorsed Barack Obama for President that I had never heard of him, has once again provided aficionados of the non sequitur with what can only be described as a target-rich environment. The bulk of the article is dedicated to the theme “some people on the Internet were mean to me, therefore I’m right”; a wonderful polemical position, since as anyone with any Internet experience of note knows, just about any sentiment which can be expressed will be expressed.

But that isn’t what interests me about the article. I feel rather bad for Professor Kmeic, actually, and in truth, because there is simply no question that at some point in the future he is going to find his own words deeply embarrassing; and another thing about the Internet Age is that it preserves every half-baked thought for eternity, or at least for as long as hard drives or their equivalent continue to spin on this Earth.

No, what interests me about the article for the moment is this statement:

I remain unabashedly prolife and I have never consciously misstated the doctrine of the church; indeed, I’ve publicly said that were the Holy Father to tell me I had contradicted the magisterium on any given page of my Obama book, I would tear out that page.

Setting aside the bizarre combination of aggrieved self-aggrandizement and unwillingness to construct a sound argument that accompanies so much of what I have read from Kmeic since I first became aware of his existence a few months ago, this strikes me as a fundamentally Protestant understanding of Catholic ecclesiology. Asserting “I’ll believe and say what I want, unless the Pope addresses me personally and tells me otherwise” is, I would suggest, to place onesself merely one additional public tantrum away from Martin Luther.

In the unlikely event that Kmeic, so important a fellow that he considers himself subject only to personal correction by the Pope, were to ask for my advice on what to do now, I would point out the advice and offer of assistance I’ve already given.

Indeed, not merely Kmeic but the magazine in which his article is published, and every liberal Catholic of a similar mind, will show their true colors in how they behave from here on. Nothing reveals the true character of a man as much as his actions when he stands on the field of battle victorious. It is time to stop whining about having won, Doug, and show your quality. Indeed, you will show and are now showing your quality, whether self-consciously or not.

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§ 58 Responses to Yes, He Can Whine (or, the Tale of the Sore Winner)

  • Wow. I tried to read the Kmiec piece but had to stop after all his pokes in the eye with an olive branch forced me to look for some ointment.And the curious sore-winner aspect continues. I commented elsewhere that it seems that after the victory, Pro-Obama supporters were expecting us non-believers to be swallowed up by the earth like the orcs at the end of <>The Return of the King<> and when that didn’t happen, they felt cheated.

  • Anonymous says:

    Dear Zippy,I find I must respectfully disagree with this conclusion:<>Asserting “I’ll believe and say what I want, unless the Pope addresses me personally and tells me otherwise” is, I would suggest, to place onesself merely one additional public tantrum away from Martin Luther.<>based on this quotation:<>I remain unabashedly prolife and I have never consciously misstated the doctrine of the church; indeed, I’ve publicly said that were the Holy Father to tell me I had contradicted the magisterium on any given page of my Obama book, I would tear out that page.<>Before I say why, I must first say that my disagreement is based solely on what I am reading on your blog. I have not perused the source text, nor do I feel any inclination to do so given your view of it.I would submit that it is possible to read the second quote as equivalent to what Saints through the ages have said with regard to writing and the teaching authority of the Church. That is to say, “I am weak in understanding and have not knowingly strayed from the doctrine of the Church; but if I have been found to do so, I respectfully submit my meanderings to the church for correction.”Now, you read the whole article and have a better basis on which to determine whether or not this might be the attitude–but I must say that the words alone do not necessarily convey the meaning you’ve laden them with. I know that I have said equivalent things many times (although I use the Church, rather than the Pope). Truth is, in many things, I’m just an ignorant bozo and trying my best, thus prone to flaw and failure. I think this is what Mr. Kmiec was conveying. But, as I said, I go only on the evidence of the citation on your blog, not on any acquaintance with the broader work of the person in question.shalom,Steven

  • Zippy,I think you are being too hard on Kmiec.He seems to be entirely genuine in his prolife comittment, although his politics may be different to yours.God Bless

  • Rodak says:

    Zippy–What puzzles me is what it is that makes this person, of whom you only recently heard, so dangerous that now even an outsider like me has heard of him.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    “although his politics may be different to yours.”I’ll spare you the rant, but this type of reference to such things as mere “politics” always makes fire come out of my ears. I hear people do it with Obama, as well: “I’m really excited about this historic inauguration, even though I disagree with him politically.”

  • Rodak says:

    <>this type of reference to such things as mere “politics”<> Until the advent of the Theocracy to Come, politics and religion are two separate categories, only one of which (i.e. the former) are all <>responsible<> citizens of the Republic obligated to take part in. In that sense, politics, for no patriotic American, is ever “mere.”That said, effective politics is the art of the possible. The main tool of the art of the possible, given the partisan nature of the game, is compromise. It is possible, for instance, for a president to unilaterally end a war. It is not possible, however, for a president to unilaterally outlaw abortion. In the political realm, then, it may be prudent for an anti-war Christian to vote for a pro-choice presidential candidate who vows to end an unjust war. We are reminded that the platform of the Republican Party has been officially pro-life since the seventies. During that period there have been three Republican presidents in office for five terms, as opposed to one Democratic president in office for two. Abortion is still legal, with no end in sight. And all the while both Americans and Iraqis are dying pointlessly in the Middle East. You do the math.

  • zippy says:

    It isn’t mere politics, in the sense of a legitimate choice between legitimate judgments about better governance, to throw one’s support behind politicians who actively pursue policies of murdering the innocent. Nor is it “religious” to reject actively malevolent policies of murdering the innocent, the politicians who support those policies, and the synchophantic supporters of those politicians; at least, it is not “religious” in a sense different from the fact that <>everything<> is ultimately religious.And as for pragmatic considerations, if you think the Obama Binge is fun wait until you see the Obama Hangover, when leftists find out that Obama is basically Clinton except that he is Black, which satisfies the racist cravings on the Left to such an extent that Obama is being compared to Lincoln for his tremendous feat of … winning the election.

  • Zippy, if it helps, I don’t think you’re hard enough on Kmiec.His insistence on continuing the fight of 2008 against Republicans, even a dead one, when the fight of 2009 for any and all pro-lifers is against the pro-choice Democrats who won the election, is especially telling against Kmiec’s claim to be pro-life.Where are his articles urging Obama and other Democrats to appoint anti-<>Roe<> justices to the Supreme Court, where are his arguments to persuade pro-choicers to oppose legal abortion? Where are his efforts to use his newly-won political capital in the service of the cause he claims to support?I don’t see it, so I don’t believe it. Kmiec is still lying.

  • Lydia McGrew says:

    Exactly, Zippy, you understand my point. People who refer to “mere politics” don’t have that whole category of _moral_ concerns. It’s just been left out.

  • Tom says:

    Steven:For what it’s worth, I’m confident Kmiec is being literal when he writes about the Pope personally correcting him.Elsewhere in the essay, he daydreams about being named U.S. ambasssador to the Holy See. The whole piece is a public complaint that people on the Internet were mean to him. He is not writing out of humility.

  • Rodak says:

    People who maintain that it’s okay to kill these people under this set of circumstances, but it’s not okay to kill those people under those set of circumstances, are not on the whole very convincing when claiming to be applying “the whole category of moral concerns.”That said, people who believe abortion to be murder for doctrinal, religious reasons, should work to end it by religious means. To do otherwise is to politicize the religious, and to “religiousize” the political (which is unconstitutional.)

  • Tom says:

    <>That said, people who believe abortion to be murder for doctrinal, religious reasons, should work to end it by religious means. To do otherwise is to politicize the religious, and to “religiousize” the political (which is unconstitutional.)<>I can’t disagree with this, because I am too baffled by it.Questions abound. Is this true only for abortion, or also for, say, slavery or property rights for women? What are allowable “religious means”? Are people who believe abortion to be murder for philosophical reasons bound to use only philosophical means? What does it mean to “politicize the religious,” and why does using political means to achieve political ends sought for religious reasons necessarily do that? What does it mean to “‘religiousize’ the political,” and why does using political means to achieve political ends sought for religious reasons necessarily do that? Why is using political means to achieve political ends unconstitutional? Wouldn’t using <>religious<> means to achieve political ends be more likely to be unconstitutional?In brief: Fogged. At a loss.

  • zippy says:

    <>People who maintain that it’s okay to kill these people under this set of circumstances, but it’s not okay to kill those people under those set of circumstances, are not on the whole very convincing when claiming to be applying “the whole category of moral concerns.”<>Baloney. The distinction between innocents and attackers is morally fundamental. Maybe you meant to say these/those <>innocent<> people; if so, then I agree. Far too many people are willing to sanction the deliberate killing of innocent people under these or those circumstances, and that is completely unacceptable.On your second paragraph, I agree with Tom that it isn’t even coherent enough to dispute.

  • Rodak says:

    <>The distinction between innocents and attackers is morally fundamental.<>When we are speaking of modern warfare, we are automatically speaking of warfare that kills the innocent, along with the combatants. In fact, we are automatically speaking of warfare that kills many more innocents than combatants.When we are speaking of the war in Iraq specifically, we are speaking of a war against combatants who were not, in fact, our “attackers,” and we are speaking of innocents dying in the thousands anyway.Any person who defends this, while claiming to be “pro-life,” should instead call himself “anti-abortion” and thereby at least attempt to dodge the charge of hypocrisy.As for the second paragraph, there are many people who simply do not consider abortion to be murder. Those who do consider abortion to be murder do so on religious grounds; i.e., they believe the fetus to have been made by God, rather than by biochemistry, and they believe that the fetus possesses a soul, a belief which science cannot confirm. That is why the pro-life position is a religious, rather than a political position, and should be addressed first within the religious community, and without the religious community through conversion to religious belief, rather than by state fiat.

  • Rodak says:

    Addendum:If the anti-abortion is to be addressed politically, the mechanism should be a consitutional amendment declaring the fetus to be a person from conception, which would render all questions of ensoulment, etc., irrelevant. A supreme court decision overturning Roe v. Wade will be good until that decision is eventually overturned by some other court. To vote for president based primarily, or even exclusively, on an abortion litmus test is irresponsible.

  • <>Those who do consider abortion to be murder do so on religious grounds;<>That’s just false to fact. It’s science that teaches me that life begins at conception. It’s at the moment of conception that the unique DNA pattern is formed, that all the genetic inheritance is determined, that a new zygote comes into being.If human beings have rights, then a fetus, which sciences tells us is no less human than you or I, has the same rights.Also, regarding your comment endorsing a Constitutional amendment, that is in fact the position of the Republican Party platform.

  • zippy says:

    <>When we are speaking of modern warfare, we are automatically speaking of warfare that kills the innocent, along with the combatants.<>And now you are ignoring another morally crucial distinction, that between accidental and intentional killing. < HREF="https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2009/01/mars-and-venus-sitting-in-tree.html" REL="nofollow">Folks who think we ought to be able to deliberately kill the innocent tend to agree with you<>.

  • Rodak says:

    Paul–Science has clearly not defined all <>life<>, including all human life, as being endowed with personhood (and therefore human rights) with regard to current statute law. It can be said that every cell in your body possesses “life.” And, with cloning, any cell in your body could very soon potentially be forced into becoming a person.That said, I don’t believe, based on hearing decades of rhetoric, that even most pro-life advocates really consider early abortion to be murder. I base that supposition on the fact that the vast majority seem to want only to punish the technicians and not the women involved. If there has been a murder committed, it was surely the “mother” instigated it and either directly, or indirectly, financed it. If she hired a hit-man to get rid of her husband, she would be charged with first-degree murder. Abortion, if murder, is no different: it is premeditated and unprovoked.

  • Rodak says:

    I cannot draw a distinction between accidental and intentional killing when that which is labelled “accidental” is actually an inevitable result of the use of the kind of weaponry being used; if not in every instance, inevitably in many instances. To argue otherwise in order to make a purely semantic distinction is just sophistry.

  • zippy says:

    <>…if not in every instance, inevitably in many instances.<>I don’t think the word “inevitably” means what you think it means. And again, you and the “kill em all and let God sort them out” types are basically the same, even though you think you disagree.

  • <>Science has clearly not defined all life, including all human life, as being endowed with personhood (and therefore human rights) with regard to current statute law.<>No, that’s a point of philosophy, theology, and law. Science cannot make such a definition.Therefore, it becomes a question of what is a person, in law. The courts have made a determination, based on an admitted ignorance of when life — or personhood — begins. Barack Obama called this question “above his paygrade,” despite his fervent belief that it’s OK to kill those who <>may be persons<>, since the question of whether they are is above his paygrade. That’s despicable.You, of course, have an opinion on when personhood begins, and you believe that that empowers you to take innocent human life. I wonder how you’d feel if someone else defined personhood in such a way as to exclude you.

  • Tom says:

    <>That is why the pro-life position is a religious, rather than a political position,<>This is a false dilemma.Even granting for the sake of argument that the pro-life position is religious (it isn’t, but no one would deny that religious faith plays a strong role overall), that doesn’t mean it isn’t also political. “Abortion should be illegal” is a both a moral (“should”) and political (“illegal”) statement.On the false notion of fully secular politics, see < HREF="http://eve-tushnet.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html#8320597020538389136" REL="nofollow">here<>.

  • Scott W. says:

    Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life LeagueHomepage: http://www.godlessprolifers.org/home.htmlHow can this be if anti-abortion is merely an arbitrary religious artifact?

  • Rodak says:

    <>I don’t think the word “inevitably” means what you think it means.<>What I think it means is that if you drop multiply big bombs near where people live, you will unavoidably kill some of them with some of the bombs, even if you get lucky and don’t kill some of them with all of the bombs.

  • Rodak says:

    From Eve Tushnet’s site: <>Political arguments are about what is just, what is good, what is honorable, what is natural, and what is sacred.<>It would not be difficult to cite instances of cultures who had sophisticated and ancient concepts of justice, goodness, honor, and the sacred, and who also practiced infantide under certain conditions.

  • Rodak says:

    <>Therefore, it becomes a question of what is a person, in law. The courts have made a determination, based on an admitted ignorance of when life — or personhood — begins.<>Agreed. This is precisely why a constitutional amendment is needed, and why nothing else will do.

  • Rodak says:

    <>How can this be if anti-abortion is merely an arbitrary religious artifact?<>I don’t claim that it’s not possible to make a strong secular argument against abortion. I claim that it’s unconstitutional to outlaw abortion based on a religious doctrine. As a political issue, it can be resolved by a constitutional amendment. This would allow the people, by voting, to transcend the power of the courts.

  • Rodak says:

    <>it’s OK to kill those who may be persons<>At this time, the law has tacitly ruled that a fetus is not a person, in that if a fetus were a person, the fetus would have a legal right to life and abortion would be murder. Again, that is why a constitutional amendment is the answer.

  • Rodak says:

    <>I wonder how you’d feel if someone else defined personhood in such a way as to exclude you.<>It would be theoretically possible for someone else to define “exclusion” in such a way that personhood is no protection. That is the kind of thing against which the U.S. constitution offers protection.

  • zippy says:

    <>What I think it means is that if you drop multiply big bombs near where people live, you will unavoidably kill some of them with some of the bombs, even if you get lucky and don’t kill some of them with all of the bombs.<>Does your pacifism extend to opposing driving cars too? In this sense of inevitably (or unavoidably, since you changed the term), driving cars also inevitably kills innocent people.I don’t really have a problem with your pacifism. What I have a problem with is obfuscation of the truth, whether by the “kill ’em all … etc” crowd or the pacifists. And pretending that accidents and on purposes are the same kind of thing morally is an obfuscation of the truth — an obfuscation which happens to serve the polemical purposes of both hawks and doves, to the detriment of the truth.

  • Rodak says:

    <>Does your pacifism extend to opposing driving cars too?<>We’ve already had this one: the purpose of bombs is to kill people, while destroying property. When it’s bombs, we are only arguing about which people we want to kill and whose property we aim to destroy.Motors vehicles are not designed to kill people, or to destroy property, when used as directed. In those instances where motor vehicles are used to kill people, the law designates them as lethal weapons; but in those cases they are being mis-used. A bomb kills people when it is put to the purpose for which it was designed and built.

  • Rodak says:

    Engineers, btw, are working to build cars that will anticipate collisions and brake themselves to protect drivers and passengers against accidents caused by human error.With bombs, however, I believe there was developed a type (the neutron bomb?) that would kill people without destroying valuable property, which shows you immediately where the hearts and minds of the bomb-builders are war-mongers are at.

  • Tom says:

    <>I claim that it’s unconstitutional to outlaw abortion based on a religious doctrine.<>In the sense that it’s unconstitutional, no one is trying to outlaw abortion based on a religious doctrine. In the sense that people are trying to outlaw abortion based on a religious doctrine, it’s not unconstitutional.Are you also constitutionally offended by attempts to outlaw the death penalty? Do you frown when you read about antebellum abolitionists?

  • Tom says:

    <>It would not be difficult to cite instances of cultures who had sophisticated and ancient concepts of justice, goodness, honor, and the sacred, and who also practiced infantide under certain conditions.<>It would also not be difficult to provide a recipe for egg nog.I can’t, however, see how either fact has any obvious relevance to this discussion.

  • Scott W. says:

    <>I don’t claim that it’s not possible to make a strong secular argument against abortion. I claim that it’s unconstitutional to outlaw abortion based on a religious doctrine.<>Great. Next time I knock over a liquor store I’ll say it’s unconstitutional to arrest me because the law against stealing is clearly based on the religious doctrine, “Thou shalt not steal.” After all, I can’t be guilty since it is simply an alternative expression of property rights.

  • Scott W. says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutron_bombIt’s an atomic bomb in which you still get a the classic mushroom cloud, but it uses radiation as the primary destructive element, and a radiation that was only temporary with not much fallout. So one could argue that it was designed to be more environmentally friendly just as much as one could argue it was a greedy-capitalist-kill-people-save-buildings thing. However, seeing that I (and Zippy iirc) believe the use of atomic weapons in WW2 were immoral and I can’t imagine any scenario in which their future use would be legit, I don’t see what this has to do with anything.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I agree that a Constitutional amendment is a good end goal.But I’m not sure why that has to be cast against the intermediate good of overturning Roe v. Wade. Why should we have to amend the Constitution to say that persons are persons? Yes, we’ve had to do it before, but until the day before yesterday, historically, we recognized the personhood of fetuses.We are almost as far away from a presidential election as we possibly can be. If our thoughts are on the next election at all, it should be in identifying and promoting candidates who will not force us into choosing among evils.

  • zippy says:

    <>We’ve already had this one: the purpose of bombs is to kill people, while destroying property.<>And you are just dodging the issue again, in the pursuit of the endless intransigent befuddlement you share with radical hawks. It is not the purpose of bombs to accidentally kill noncombatants any more than it is the purpose of cars to accidentally kill drivers and passengers; and engineers are working all the time on weapons which can better neutralize aggressors without putting civilians in harm’s way.Do you acknowledge a clear moral difference between killing someone on accident and killing them on purpose, or not?

  • Rodak says:

    <>So one could argue that it was designed to be more environmentally friendly just as much as one could argue it was a greedy-capitalist-kill-people-save-buildings thing.<>I guess you could argue that. But you’d be hard-put to explain the motive of having bothered to design the thing, then. Either the conventional H-bomb or the neutron bomb would kill the people, after all.

  • Rodak says:

    <>Yes, we’ve had to do it before, but until the day before yesterday, historically, we recognized the personhood of fetuses.<>Haven’t you answered all of your own questions here? Yes. We have had to do it before.And, as there is a “day before yesterday” and there will be a “day after tomorrow,” and on that day the overturning of Roe will surely itself be overturned, as the political pendulum swings back, and the whole thing will start all over again.

  • Rodak says:

    <>Do you acknowledge a clear moral difference between killing someone on accident and killing them on purpose, or not?<>Yes. But I acknowledge no <>real<> moral difference between killing people on purpose and killing them by using weapons of mass destruction and then saying “Oops, my bad–I was aiming at your neighbor.” All the Aristotelian bushwah removed, the distinction you make is just an attempt to morally justify a mode of warfare that predictably kills more civilians than it does combatants. I believe that both the military–everybody’s military–and the politician know this, and, in fact, count on it as the means of “winning” the conflict.

  • Rodak says:

    <>It is not the purpose of bombs to accidentally kill noncombatants any more than it is the purpose of cars to accidentally kill drivers and passengers<>I dispute that. I do acknowledge, that it is not the <>stated<> purpose of bombs to kill noncombatants. But staring that assertion down is the indisputable fact that in war after war those bombs do, in fact, kill more civilians than they do combatants.<> engineers are working all the time on weapons which can better neutralize aggressors without putting civilians in harm’s way.<>Because high-tech weapons have made “the field of battle” pretty much a thing of the past, wars from his point on are going to be largely asymmetrical wars, such as our war against the insurgency in Iraq; such as the war in Vietnam against the Viet Cong. As such, the combatants are going to be in the midst, or near vicinity of non-combatants most of the time. Any supposedly non-lethal weapon that is going to be effective in rendering combatants helpless is going to need to have such a range as will do whatever it does to the aged, the infants, the mothers… What happens to the infant that is being breast-fed when the “non-lethal” weapon strikes down his mother, his granny, and his older siblings? If it doesn’t kill him outright, how long will he lie there helpless until somebody recovers enough to care for him?

  • zippy says:

    <>All the Aristotelian bushwah removed, the distinction you make is just an attempt to morally justify a mode of warfare that predictably kills more civilians than it does combatants.<>There you go again, predictably throwing in your lot with the “kill-em-all-and-let-God-sort-them-out” faction. I suppose there is some consistency in arguing in favor of a legal right to murder innocent children in the same thread.<>I dispute that.<>That is no more reasonable than saying “I dispute that” in response to me saying “cars are not designed to kill drivers and passengers”.

  • Rodak says:

    <>I suppose there is some consistency in arguing in favor of a legal right to murder innocent children in the same thread.<>I’m not arguing for a legal right to kill “innocent children.” I’m arguing for a permanent legal means to end it, as opposed to voting for war-mongers like Bush in hopes of temporarily making it inconvenient. Logic is on my side. You are arguing from the gut, although you don’t seem to realize it.

  • Rodak says:

    <>That is no more reasonable than saying “I dispute that” in response to me saying “cars are not designed to kill drivers and passengers”.<>Of course it is more reasonable. It is silly to say that cars are designed to kill drivers and passengers. We both know that this isn’t the case. We also both know that the men who launch wars are fully cognizant of the fact that modern wars are won not on some battlefield, but by destroying the infrastructure of the enemy society, and by killing its civilians until that enemy surrenders. The Japanese did not quit fighting in order to preserve the lives of its soldiers; it quit because it became convinced that we would keep killing its civilians until it surrendered.

  • Rodak says:

    How am I, btw, throwing my lot in with the “kill them all and let God sort them out” crowd?My argument is that this is exactly what happens, and that war, as we wage it, has become an intrinsic evil as a consequence.I’m not throwing my lot in with them; I’m using them as a negative example to make my point.Nor am I making some kind of analogous throwing-in-of-the-lot argument with regard to abortion.I’m saying that if it should be ended, it should be ended conclusively and permanently, not just made extremely difficult for the poor and inconvenient for the rich, which is all overturning Roe will accomplish.

  • zippy says:

    <>It is silly to say that cars are designed to kill drivers and passengers.<>Indeed, they are designed to do their job while specifically <>not<> killing drivers and passengers, just as modern smart bombs are designed to <>not<> kill civilians while doing their job. Both cars and smart bombs are, of course, subject to immoral use.<>How am I, btw, throwing my lot in with the “kill them all and let God sort them out” crowd?<>As I have pointed out before, you share precisely the same view of war and moral action in war with them. The only difference between you and them – and a tenuous difference it is – is a decision to defend what you love despite the acknowledged immorality of that defense. If Douglas Kmeic is one step – in his case a public tantrum – away from Martin Luther (and he is), you are similarly one step away – in your case a decision to defend what you love from a killer – from Michael Ledeen. The whole world view is the same. Both the hawks and the doves think that moral action is impossible; the only difference is what they decide to do at this particular moment in the context of that world view.

  • zippy says:

    And by the way, another sign that this is precisely the case is that you keep pretending – even though you know better – that I support things like the WWII population bombings. Hawks and doves share precisely the same world view; so a dove simply cannot process anyone who is different from him who is not a hawk; and a hawk simply cannot process anyone who is different from him and not a pacifist. That is why it is typical of my experience to be having the same conversation with hawks on one web site and pacifists on another, each accusing me of being what he sees as his opposite. That they – including you – do this, despite knowing better, is itself evidence for my thesis that kill-the-innocent hawks and pacifists share the same world view and differ only in how they respond, in this moment, to that world view.

  • Tom says:

    <>…modern smart bombs are designed to<> not <>kill civilians while doing their job.<>No, they’re designed to deliver their payload in a very accurate and precise manner.Not killing civilians is one reason the U.S. wants a very accurate and precise delivery of the payload, but I’d be astonished if there are any design requirements to not kill civilians.

  • Rodak says:

    You keep ignoring the fact that I propose making abortion completely, categorically, and pretty much forever, illegal. What I hear from most pro-lifers is a call for the election of one neocon warmonger after another, in the hope that enough conservative activist judges will be appointed to eventually overturn Roe v. Wade.Should that happen, some states will vote to keep abortion legal. So it won’t be outlawed, it will only be made inconvient for those women who don’t live in those states and must scrape together the cost of travel. Should all 50 states outlaw it (which won’t happen), the rich will still be able to get their abortions by going to Europe, etc., and the poor will return to the black market variety (because they won’t be charged with murder, and the risk of any punishment at all will be worth it to them economically.)Meanwhile, I don’t hear many pro-lifers calling for the banning of WMD, or for the unilateral decision of our armed forces not to use WMD where non-combatants will with a high degree of probability be killed by their use.This I find to be both morally inconsistent, and quite prevalent among conservatives–Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, whatever.All of that said, there is some possibility that by voting for Obama, the use of warfare will be curtailed, and redirected at actual terrorists. There is very little possibility, given the current make-up of congress, that electing McCain would result in the appointment of litmus test anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. If this guy Kmiec is saying “Take what you can get. Don’t make the perfect the negation of the good, in terms of outcome, when you are talking about peoples’ lives” then I think that he’s right.

  • JohnMcG says:

    I think the difference that Rodak has highlighted is why I can’t quite embrace the worldview that Zippy has articulated.What I see Zippy articulating is a bright line between what is morally licit and illicit. Targetting civilians is always wrong. Modes of warfare that do not target civilians are licit.One reading of Zippy’s message is that engaging in modes of warfare that have a high probability of killing civilians is no more morally problematic than building a highway on which there is a high probability of accidental death. I cannot accept this, for a couple reasons:* While killing combatants is licit, it is also subject to prudence, and is a bad effect, unlike bulding a highway.One of the bad effects is on those employing the violence, making those who choose it and carry it out more accepting of violence generally, increasing the likelihood that they would cross the line into killing non-combatants. I don’t think such a risk exists for bulding highways.* There is also the matter of agency with the evil committed. The highway builder is one more degree removed from the accidental death than the bomb dropper.* I think Rodak (and I) have a very difficult time imagining someone choosing a means that has a high probablility of accidental death, and not at all intending those deaths. And that those that make such a claim are either fooling themselves or engaging in willful ignorance. That it may be metaphysically possible for someone to do this, but reality has proven this to never be the case.Again, this may be an uncharitable reading of the position Zippy has articulated, but is why I find myself resisting it.

  • JohnMcG says:

    In short, I agree that a discount should be applied when accounting for the accidental deaths from acts of warfare when compared to the deaths from intrinsically evil acts like abortion.But I think that discount also needs to be applied between the directness of accidental death result from the decision to go to war and the remoteness of the death from abortion from its legalization. That the legalization of abortion still requires an act from a moral agent to bring it about matters. Not so much that it washes away moral culpability, but it matters.The above is partly why I am increasingly finding myself rejecting the “body count” mode of moral analysis. Even if nobody procured an abortion, that our laws state that some people are subject to arbitrary killing is an objectively unjust state of affairs that must be rectified.—And again, with us being four years away from another presidential election, I see no reason why these issues must be presented as in tension. Let’s spend the next four years raising all issues of injustice, so that in four years, we will be able to proudly vote for a candidate who rejects all killing of innocents.

  • zippy says:

    John:<>Again, this may be an uncharitable reading of the position Zippy has articulated, but is why I find myself resisting it.<>I don’t think it is uncharitable, but it is not perfectly accurate. The key is right here, I think:<>What I see Zippy articulating is a bright line between what is morally licit and illicit.<>What I am doing is articulating a bright line between what is <>never<> morally licit, and what <>can in principle be<> morally licit as a matter of prudence.I do find it interesting that people are far more willing to accept mass scale accidental deaths on the freeway than they are to accept much smaller scale accidental deaths – and I do mean truly accidental deaths here, though no more or less certain than deaths on the freeway – in war. People become conditioned to treat the lives of others with recklessness on the freeway too. I don’t think there is any justification to, as a matter of <>prudence<>, treat the lives of people on the highway as less important than the lives of civilians in a war zone. But in any case the distinction is not between what is licit and what is not, but rather between things the liciety of which falls to prudence and things the liciety of which does not.Tom:I’ve never worked directly on a smart bomb myself, but I know for a fact that one of the things significantly worrying to (at least some) design engineers is the capacity to target combatants only without targeting noncombatants. Whole weapons programs exist to build that kind of discrimination into military operations specifically for that purpose. Perhaps it is possible to split hairs over what is a design criteria and what is a reason for having a design criteria, but I’m not sure that such a distinction has moral significance for the purpose of addressing the point I was making.

  • Rodak says:

    My understanding of a smart bomb is that it is simply very accuate. If properly programmed it will hit the building/instalation, etc., that’s meant to hit. You can send it right down the chimney, if necessary.But I fail to see how the bomb can be progammed to know with any degree of certainty who is in the building (and who is not in the building); whether the building itself has been properly identified; what will happen to adjacent, possibly attached, buildings when it goes off; etc.If your target is hangar outside of the city, you don’t need a smart bomb. If your target is in the middle of a populated area, it will never be smart enough.When the idea is to kill while putting yourself at the least possible risk, then you sacrifice the safety of non-combatants for your own. Boots on the ground, with small arms, is the optimal way to protect non-combatants. And the most dangerous. Fortunately, as moral idealists, we scoff at the danger and do the right thing, n’est-ce pas?

  • JohnMcG says:

    Then I think the stumbling block is the sneaking suspicion that the accidental civlian deaths from an act of warfare are not truly accidental, and some haggling over the price over how much dilligence is due to ensure that they are truly accidental.And I guess we differ in emphasis as well. You seem to emphasize the importance between categorizing intrinsic evil. Which I suppose is understandable in a culture that can’t even avoid intrinsic evil and seems to translate “prudential judgement” to “I can do whatever I want.” As culture, we haven’t mastered riding with training wheels, let’s get that down before we pull them off.I guess my emphasis is in bringing more prudence to bear in making prudential decisions. OK, it’s not intrinsically immoral to build a highway or to commit this act of war, is it a good idea to do so?

  • zippy says:

    <>You seem to emphasize the importance between categorizing intrinsic evil.<>Well, that is what I am talking about <>right now<>. I’ve spewed many bits talking about the misuse of prudential judgment also.

  • Tom says:

    Oh, and Kmiec wasn’t saying, “Take what you can get.” He was saying, “Obama is pro-life, and better on abortion than McCain is.”

  • Rodak says:

    That seems a bit of a stretch.

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