Re: If we do get Afghanistan, what shall we do with it?

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Nov 21 2001 - 02:46:14 MST

Lee Daniel Crocker wrote:

> > I thought that you weren't for the US running the affairs of
> > other nations. If you believe in sovereign states then it is
> > not defensible to disrupt another state just because you do not
> > like the way it is run.
> Sovereign _individuals_ are more important than sovereign states.
> A state that tramples the rights of its people has no right to exist.

In international relations, states predominate. This might be
unfortunate (I think it is) but it is the focus of international
law and diplomacy today. If you say that we are charged with
the job of protecting/securing individual rights globally or at
least have every right to do so then this is tantamount to a
declaration of nearly global war. I don't think that is your
intention so I am curious as to how and where you draw the line.

> > > It's a little harder to make a similar case for Afghanistan,
> > > but the idea that there's _nothing_ they or any other nation
> > > could do that would justify active intervention is nothing but
> > > a total abrogation of the responsibility for self-defense.
> > > If, for example, there were old Soviet nuclear weapons there,
> > > we would be ethically required to use force to ensure that the
> > > government set up there could properly deal with them, or else
> > > we would have to remove them by force.
> >
> > I did not say that there was nothing they could do, etc. I said
> > that there is no inherent right that we have to force our
> > cultural values and governmental style on another sovereign
> > nation. There is quite a large difference.
> But only a relativist thinks all values are "cultural". Some
> values are absolute, and a government that violates the rights
> of its people has no right to sovereignty, even if 95% of the
> people in that country want it that way. Freedom is an absolute
> right of individuals, even those in an extreme minority or in
> a foreign culture.

Did I say for even one moment that I think all values are
cultural? No. But I do not believe that you can any more claim
that all governments that violate some rights you believe are
absolute (it is a hard case to prove) are invalid and have no
rights than you can claim that all individuals that disagree
with your moral absolutes have no rights to disagree and act on
their disagreements. You can only intervene generally when
those individuals or governments abridge your rights. Different
nations and cultures learn realistic moral/societal norms at
different speeds. There is no way to make them all
simultaneously adopt your or my understanding without the
initiation of force which itself is a violation of what we
believe are objective rights. It is a bit of a quandary but I
don't see how it has a simple solution as seems implied by your
comments above.
> > Hmmm. Most of the old Soviet nuclear weapons are still in
> > Russia and there is good reason to believe that they are not
> > totally well-managed and safe today. Are we then ethically
> > required to forcefully go in an seize these weapons before they
> > come to harm?
> If the Russian government destabilized to the point where
> anti-US terrorists could get control of them, yes. Russia is
> a bit messed up, but it's not that bad yet.

There has been some informed speculation for some time now that
several suitcase nukes have wandered out of the Soviet arsenal.
Also, the country as a whole has been (lately improving) pretty
unstable. The military has not been paid and supported well for
some time. Under such conditions it is easy for graft to take
place and the illegal sale of various weapons.

But I brought up Russia to show that it is not pragmatic to work
from such principles as you seem to espouse when it comes to
other sovereign governments generally.
> > > It is a difficult and unsolved problem in libertarian ethics
> > > and politics to determine exactly when and under what conditions
> > > an imminent threat or danger rises to the level to justify
> > > defensive force; but there is such a level, and those judgments
> > > do have to be made. Absolute dogmatic non-interventionism is
> > > irrational and dangerous.
> >
> > Sure. As it is irrational and dangerous for us to go pull the
> > splinter out of another country's eye while ignoring the beam in
> > our own.
> I've never argued otherwise. Indeed, I've prety consistently
> argued that the US government is a criminal organization, and that
> our foreign policy is stupid and inconsistent. But let's not go
> from there to say that we must correct it by completely pulling
> out of all foreign relations. We correct it by enforcing policies
> that are more sensible and consistent, and some of those policies
> can and will call for intervention in foreign governments, so long
> as we do it sparingly and for the right reasons.

Ah. Here we largely have some agreement. I don't suggest we
pull out of all foreign relations by any means. I do suggest we
start acting on the basis of our much touted principles with
regard to other nations instead of effectively assuming that any
and all means are justified by our hoped for ends, even when the
means effectively deny and destroy the stated ends.

- samantha

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