War and killing human beings have bean permanent in the last couple of thousands of years and often, as is the case these days, their justification was accepted by small, but still surprisingly significant groups of politicians, political scientists and moral philosophers. This often happens, I claim, either because of not only fallacious argumentation that is used but basically because of our acceptance that killing human beings belongs to moral discourse. We claim in the present text that the moral problem of killing human beings and war could be solved only outside of a moral discourse, what would make a justification less available but would remove existing contradictions. If we would abandon the old concept that inevitably links war with politics, and if we would accept a position that the logic of politics and the logic of ethics could not be employed when discussing the issue of killing of human beings, some new possibilities for a solution of these problems might appear. This could make political discourses and fallacious argumentation, that aim to justify wars, simply irrelevant, and may help that international institutions would take more effective place in the international politics. Submission of all to the authority of the UN would be facilitated what could in turn reinforce the power of International Law and help the UN acquire more executive power. These changes would permit more fair and civilized relation between states contributing that further risks of armed international conflicts become less likely.
One of the most difficult moral question is what to do when we believe that death of a great number of human beings could be avoided only by killing one or more innocent people. Situations like this are rare situations that most of us never meet in our lifetime. However, it appears that they are permanently present in international relations. Reality of such situations has been claimed ever since and has been a basic principle of all wars in all times. Interestingly, more power one state gains, more often will it be “able” to perceive such situations and show intention to intervene militarily in order to “protect the many from the few”. In modern democracies and “civilized” societies, it has been repeatedly claimed that we have such situations when a ruthless dictator of some totalitarian regime is about to or has started with the execution of his political opponents or rebelling ethnic group, or when such dictator, by his cruel politics or military potential presents an imminent danger for peace. Hitler, who was not a democrat but Germany certainly was one of the most civilized counties, perceived such a situation and used that ground to attack Poland (Hitler, A., 1939). In the recent past, as its power increased, the US has been perceiving these situations more and more often. In 1999 this was Serbian Kosovo crisis that was characterized as such an occasion; in 2002 Afghanistan, and in 2003 Iraq (see Bush G., 2003). In the first two countries military intervention produced couple of thousands innocent victims. After these military interventions there has not been made a single attempt to analysis whether claimed benefits of the interventions have been achieved. Similarly, there is no serious study that examines moral implications of the recent military interventions. We claim that in today’s’ constellation of international relations such interventions can not be morally justified. To allow military interventions for such rare cases of human right abuse, fundamental changes in international arbitration and decision-making would have to be made.
There is at least one sufficient moral reason, which has some ramifications, that does not allow such interventions. Utilitarians suppose that benefit from military interventions could, in principle, in well-defined situations, justify killing some innocent human beings. A decision for such actions has necessarily to be based on not only reliable but also certain predictions. We categorically reject that supposition. We reject it on the ground that social events could not be sufficiently well predicted. The actions, which inevitably would produce human victims, can not be based on weak predictions that we are in capacity to produce. We simply can not know with sufficient certainty that benefit of killing some innocent human beings would lead to sufficiently great number of saved lives. In addition, in these circumstances we also should either have consent of innocent victims, or their assumed consent “without reasonable doubt”, which is extremely difficult to obtain or to assume. Such general utilitarian approach may be useful in number of other circumstances but not if human lives are at stake. The second reason, that is in fact a ramification of the first one, is to reject the military interventions in such cases because they do not present self-defense situations in a strict sense, which would be the only condition that might permit such actions.
The third reason for rejection is slippery-slope argument. If such military interventions were to be allowed, there is a risk that they will be used in not sufficiently well defined circumstances, and in principle these circumstances can hardly ever be exhaustively defined. The situation in which we find the international community today is a good example of these difficulties. Efforts to undertake such human life saving actions are accompanied by badly designed mechanisms of control, there are no mechanisms that could help us to verify sufficiently well whether there is a cases of self-defense or whether imminent danger for great number of human lives really exists or whether real humanitarian reasons for such an action really exist. This is why I do not think that we can permit such an action to take place today. We are regularly in a very difficult dilemma that do not seam to have a solution today.
There are no signs that even great powers are ready for a resolution of that difficult dilemma. In fact the international factors that are supposed to perform these military actions almost always block the verification procedure. The reasons for an interventions are in fact either not given or the evidence is declared to be confidential. It is even not tried to inform the limited number of state leaders of permanent members of the Security Council of the UN about details of danger that presumably exists. This has grave consequences. If, in the end we would find that, for example in the recent crisis, Iraq really was in possession of the weapons of mass destruction, substantial responsibility would in fact be on the US that presumably had this concrete information but did not give it to the other members of the international community and in so doing did not permit them to take right decision. No doubt, the intervening powers count to some extent, on the post hoc proof for their insufficiently justified actions. Indeed, their recently stated objective – removal of the Iraqi regime – obviously has been conceived as a way out of that unpleasant impasse. The UN has not approved this and the intervention in Iraq rests to be illegal.
To rely on the post hoc justification of undertaken military measures is unfortunately unreliable, since the side that intervened militarily would attempt and would always succeed to produce some false evidence (committing post hoc ergo ante hoc fallacy – see below) that would “justify” that action. There is additional danger that may have grave consequences also. If such actions are once permitted, then the “evidence” that would “justify” such actions may produce a “proof” that such unilateral action was justified once and encourage further similar actions. The opponents of such unilateral actions would be then in a difficult position to demonstrate the existence of post hoc ergo ante hoc fallacy and would lack the arguments to support the thesis that International Community has to play decisive role in those affaires. This is a danger of the present US intervention in Iraq, which should certainly not be allowed in the circumstances. On the contrary, a reliable international arbitration must be established that could, independently, evaluate military interventions that are linked with doubtful moral justification. This is not easy though. If this is the intervening state who evaluates need for the intervention and if the same state evaluates the moral justification of the same intervention after it was accomplished, we can never be sure whether one military intervention were really needed.
This is why in the actual situation of international relations all military interventions are to be declared morally wrong in advance and should be postponed until necessary independent proof would be assured. We urgently need mechanisms that would assure just use of military force for the rare situations that may need such interventions. The responsibility of big powers would be to establish independent mechanisms of control and to explicitly and factually renounce to exercise influence on them.
We may now proceed to some less general themes that are of actuality these days and give some more detailed description of the problems treated above.
The era of satellite television permitted that probably some of us watched with interest a program on the German television where various journalists and men of politics took part (ZDF, “Berlin Mitte”, 30. 1. 2003). The Iraq crisis was the theme of that discussion. Some important arguments were advanced, although these arguments were not new. We hear them all the time everywhere. I have some methodological objections that concern the way how it is being dealt with that serious international crisis that will, as it looks now obvious, produce an escalation of war in the Middle East. Therefore I propose to examine some aspects of morality and logic of the actual conflict.
However, the terms “morality” and to lesser extent “logic” might sound quite odd in that respect. You might wonder whether the author of this text knows that Empires do not pay much attention to morality and logic and you might have a kind of suspicion that nothing particularly interesting would be the expect to find in the text that follows. So why should you read it? I think that you should read it because we are ready to introduce a surprise for you at the very beginning and claim that the USA is NOT an empire. This might take you aback, and if proven true, would certainly disappoint a number of the US government paid researches that have been working for years to help build a real empire-state. A state that would be as great as Rome was, but modern, powerful and “religiously” seducing as the Third Reich tried to be, and stile, much longer lasting then all Empires ever lasted. If you thought that it already were an empire, you were, I maintain, wrong, although not much away from truth. Indeed, to include the USA into the relatively large family of empires that world has seen so far, you would have to introduce some light adjustments to the definition of the empire (compare Duverger, M. 1980.). This is not an enormous task since the definition of an empire is quite flexible (or may be even not existing). You could introduce something like “relatively lose economical control of the constituting, virtually ruled states”, “targeting of the energy resources of these states”, “destruction of the local economy of these states”, and so on. This might be enough to call the US an Empire or at least to loosen definition a little bit, introducing some modern concepts.
But let us accept the old definition, for the sake of an argument, and assume that the USA is not an Empire in the classical sense of the word, but an example of a just, democratic, prosperous state with all that goes with it that defends common interests of the civilized world. Let us assume also that we are in the world of justice, fairness, and that all tendencies of politics are improvement of social justice. We are clearly assuming quite much, although we certainly can not exclude that quite often intentions to actualize exactly that kind of world are sincere. This is as least how the present US Administration is trying to present us how the world is. Why shouldn’t we start exactly there? We can now examine the morality and the logic of the today’s international conflicts from exactly that, from the world powers, declared standpoint. Let us look now at the problem itself.
For some readers the second part, that concerns some basic ethical issues, could be boring. However, I tried to defend a position, that is quite unusual, to show that killing humans is not a great deal an ethical problem. This is much basic problem, an existential problem. My position is that the problem defined as existential, still does not justify extreme pacifism, although it strongly supports a pacifist position in principle, but dismissing completely a possibility that the problem can be solved by an ethical argument. I argue that trying to solve the problem of killing in the moral sphere leads to contradictions and even widely accepted erroneous justification of killing. If this would now satisfy some readers, they could without loosing much, just skim through the first section and go to some specific fallacies that are given in the second section and that are quite amusing.
The dispute over whether killing could be justified has very long history. Indeed, killing people has been a praxis probably ever since man exists on the earth. Interestingly, more man become “civilized” more killing took place. A need for justification of killing obviously increased with the development of civilization but the matter become more obscure. A particular problem has been encountered when trying to justify taking human life in self-defense, euthanasia, capital punishment and killing in war. The obstacle has been, I think, that it has been tried to solve the problem in the frame of religion and morality. Indeed, condition that would allow taking human life in self-defense, euthanasia or “just war” could not be exhaustively defined and disputes over theoretical possibility to justify or not justify such acts permanent. Capital punishment contained additional problem: inability to show why should we kill a human being that obviously committed a crime. Retributive justice had many adherents in spite of the fact that it could not be proved to be acceptable, since it was not possible to show in principle what was exactly that what somebody deserved.
Also, justification for taking life does not lay in preventive or deserved punishment, since after being executed, the criminal does not experience anything at all. This is also not deterrence, since scientific investigations show that the effect of deterrence is not there. That action also does not bring a sufficient satisfaction to the victim, his/her family, or to those who loved the victim, and so on. Similarly, no form of consequentialism could in principle proved a right answer of what should be done, since there is no certainty for the future events; outcomes are in principle almost never certain.
The problem, I claim, does not really exist, at least as moral one. Taking human life is not entirely a moral problem and, as a result, when we define it as a moral one, we have difficulties in solving it. It could not be solved, and long history of fruitless trials demonstrates this. The solution is, in reality, at hand. Problem of killing humans is, in addition, in its more important part outside of morality. The morality is a result of human intellectual enterprise. It presupposes a human individual that reflects about her/his obligations towards outside world: what should be done, what ought to be done, and what should not be done. But indeed, man is a subject of morality and its destruction removes morality entirely. Killing human beings is inevitably bound to renouncing to morality by removing its very subject. To oppose that affirmation is to claim that we can live without morality that is similar to claim that we can live without other humanly specific mental activities, what is absurd. This would remove our human essence. To claim that we can continue to live and not be human any more, would be of course also absurd.
For the moral concepts to exist, it is needed that they be thought about. Our world as we perceive it is inhabited by other minds, animals, plants and things, i.e. material objects. All of them may deserve our indirect moral or other concerns in so far as they may have some relation to the other minds, other human beings (persons) that are the primary, direct subject of morality and our moral concerns.
To make our ideas clear, we will have to have some repetition. First, we have to describe our relations to the objects or persons in the external world that would determine what kinds of active positions we have towards the external world and its content.
We build multiple relations to our surroundings. We like or dislike the objects, facts or persons; what they do or not do, we approve or disapprove; we build all kinds of intellectual relations, psychological relations etc. Or cognitive, behavioral, sometimes automatic responses, attachments to the objects or persons motivated by an extreme variety of concerns. We are active toward our surrounding in various ways. We have concerns of various intensities and various kinds. There are probably as many as our mental activity is able to grasp and group under one concept. Only one group of concerns is moral concerns. The others are our esthetic concerns, or all kinds of intellectual or social concerns that could be distinguished depending on specific activity we value doing and want to be present or do not encourage and want to be removed. But we have existential concerns that are more basic. We care for our life, lives of others, existence of objects, other living beings, and our world. The formers are moral concerns, the later are existential. This is crucial distinction.
Direct and indirect concerns
Many of our relations can be described in terms of pleasure they permit us to have, that could be simple physical pleasure (when taking a warm bath for example), or artistic pleasure (enjoying a peace of art). They may be a combinations of number of “pleasures” like when watching or doing sports, that contains, when doing it, a corporal satisfaction but also mental satisfaction that is not in relation only to the feeling of movement of the own body but also visual satisfaction while performing or seeing a performance of movements.
In general our concerns will be positive or negative. That would mean that we approve of doing something or we like doing something, or even we believe that we have to or ought to do something. And inverse, we do not like, approve, disapprove etc. On the other hand we find pleasure or pain in number of them, although not in all. Number of our concerns is not so intense so that not fulfilling them would produce pain or fulfilling them would produce particular satisfaction. We are also often quite indifferent. We are concerned about other people or living beings concerns, even “concerns” of some animals (if they may have concerns in the real sense) and sympathize with them. Our concern about concerns of other people (other minds) is particularly strong and we care whether other people are satisfied or not. But we sympathize only if we can recognize their concerns. We are capable of recognizing concerns not only of beings that have minds but also animals. We for example recognize that animals may have pain or pleasure and often admit that we care very much about them. Our concerns about other minds’ concerns or about concerns of other living creatures concerns or feelings, are our moral concerns.
We may be also indirectly caring about some objects of concerns of others, since we recognize that our subject of concern is that object and we feel sympathy for the object then indirectly. For example, we may not be concerned at all about some book, but if somebody else does, destruction of the book would incite our moral concerns.
We also strongly sympathize with people being anxious for their existence. On the other hand, we are prepared not to care about animal lives if we are aware that animals do not have these concerns. These are all moral concerns. For our moral concerns we need subjects of concern. In contrast, imagine that somebody destroys the whole world, except us, destroying all subjects of our concern. We would stay without our entire collection of subjects of our moral concerns and, I presume, without our moral life.
To make direct and indirect concerns more clear, let us go back to the interests of the other people. One type of our moral concerns appears when we know that the other people are concerned about preservation of woods, for example, but we are not. Destruction of woods in Amazonian region is then our moral concern. The subjects of concern are the people that are concerned with woods and not the woods of Amazonian themselves. This will be indirect concern. Directs concern would be if we care about our subject not because of some other reason (some other subject – a subject of our direct concern) but because of the same subject. It appears that also if some people would have fears of being killed, maltreated, would have not enough food, suffer in various ways, that we feel concerned about them. Is that it is suffering of others that prolongs our moral concern and that our moral concerns are so often indirect and do not have much to do with the man itself?
If this would be the case then killing human beings that are in deep narcosis and that do not have any friend or relatives or for whom all, except may be you who are outside of that imagined situation, do not care at all whether they stayed in life or not, would not be problematic. This is how we in reality behave sometimes. In war, for example, when all our compassion feelings are extinguished by the war propaganda and political moral corruption. We claim here, however, that we are not left without concerns and these are existential concerns that we still have. The human beings are the subjects of our existential concern because their destruction removes them as a subject of our all concerns including moral and our moral life disappears with the act of killing humans entirely. Let us look how it appears to be with the physical objects.
Our concerns of whether our TV set is going to brake and we would have to by another one is type of existential concern. Similarly we may be concern about all the objects that surround us, although these objects do not bring us any particular pleasure. Their disappearance may trouble us if we consider them to be making up our world; they are part of our life. As long as their disappearance belongs to works of nature, like disappearance of the mountain after a volcanic eruption, we do not suffer from existential concerns very much or not at all. But if this would be a result of human intervention it may trouble us. This does not trouble us as an immoral act, although it can if the destructed object is a part of somebody’s concern. But at very base, it awakes our existential concerns. However, this stops there. It does not provoke an existential crisis. Material objects are not minds and are not dwelling place of any mental or intellectual enterprise. This is man.
As mentioned above, killing humans may be denied on the moral ground, but it is also possible, if remained in the moral sphere, to developed arguments and try to justify killing, like in war, capital punishment etc. However, the existential argument rests. This cannot be justified in the moral sphere. This is simply unthinkable. The consequences would be, at first to conclude that killing is not entirely a moral problem and although it could be prohibited, it could not be justified by a moral argument. Being an existential issue its moral justification is impossible.
There are indeed circumstances when killing humans is technically difficult if not impossible to avoid. Such are the cases of concrete self-defense or in the wars undertaken to protect the population under direct attack. Imminent attack is not included since it is not possible to precisely define that condition. Indeed, it is not possible to precisely define in advance a direct attack or real self-defense situation. They may be known only after the act, when it is of course too late for an action. However, these are existential problems and their solution is beyond morals.
The expression “immoral” seams then to be quite inappropriate. Consequently, not only fallacious arguments but also perfect arguments simply could not be allowed when talking about killing humans. This is a sphere where moral disputations do not belong. “Amoral” may be a better word since an act of destruction of the very subject of morality (human being), as I stated above, is outside of morality. For the same reason a discourse about war, which real meaning is an act of killing human beings, is outside of moral discourse, although it may be descriptive, metaphoric, emotional, but it can never be logical. We can, may be, develop some existential, ontological discourse on the theme, but ethical discourse would lead to the absurdities that we already have, i.e. arguments where we would be trying to prove whether killing humans could be justified or not, and this is absurd.
When defining taking human life as an existential problem we face a very serious issue. We are not dealing only with physical event but also social events. While the events from physical world are often relatively predictable, social events are not. A utilitarian approach will then be useless. A claim that such and such action that consists also in taking human lives is justified by its happy outcome is nonsense.
The present Iraq dispute is so rich with fallacious arguments and I must admit that they can not and will not be given her comprehensively. To start with, I have to underline that it is essential to take into account that the real meaning of “war” is killing human beings, and of the modern war, killing civilians. Number of recent wars, lead mainly by the US, proves this. The arguments of Iraq crisis may be simply solved by the acceptance of certain obvious principles: 1. That the law, i.e. the International Law must be obeyed (see Russow below), what means explicit Security Council decision on military action (the 16 previous resolution do not mean free hands, as some US politicians maintain), 2. That decision must be based on the strength of the arguments and not force and intimidation or blackmail and bargaining (Germany and France have been threatened, the “New Europe” and Turkey financially bribed.). 3. Demands on all sides cannot be theoretical but concrete and given in observational terms and palpable material terms. This is all not respected. Let us see what is put forward as argumentation.
Obviously all of you are aware of the strategy of the “one side open-end” demands that the US have been using for quite long time without any opposition whatsoever. This is very well known form of, on purpose badly defined demand where the side that advances a demand has, by one cunningly formulated demand, left itself liberty always to declare that the satisfactory response was not given. This is of course an unfair proposition. The opposition by the civilized world to such a demand would be justified since there cannot be a demand, a proposition that does not have a theoretical solution – a solution that COULD BE formulated. Such a proposition is empty. The proposition we are talking about is in addition accompanied by some very well known logical fallacies. All of this is motivated by the desire of one that states a demand, to achieve some target that is set in advance. Nevertheless we are in the political framework and, it could be answered that that kind of arguments are common in politics and even permitted and is not a prove of unfairness. It could be advanced that the aim of politics is not the truth but successful argument. This is indeed the essence of the very well known stance that politics is immoral. Of course all aspects of politics do not have to be immoral. Indeed, the aim of politics is neither the truth nor a better argument, but successful argument. Although politics does not necessarily have to be immoral, nobody is disturbed if it is immoral. Moreover, this could be justified.
This is, I am afraid, widely accepted position and has become a praxis, since, as it is often said, “it is not possible, most of the time, to pursue the truth and to endlessly compare arguments”. Decisions have to be taken in a limited frame of time. As a consequence, quite often, the only criterion for what will be done is neither truth nor better argument but the most successful argument which fulfillment could be achieved even by the use force. Such is politics. Such is life, some would say. Even in science we mostly accept what we can in a given space and time framework. There are numerous examples of unsuccessful but true theories that had to wait very long time to be accepted. I presume that we would agree that to achieve the truth is over-ambitious and that we would have to accept the best solutions arrived at after satisfactory argument examination, after a fair and exhaustive persuasion, as a reasonable replacement for it. I will name it “morality of persuasion” that has its rules, its logic and constitutes quite important part of our life, going far beyond politics and science. Are we too often on the wrong side of morality? Or, could we be wrong all the time? Are we too often at odds with “morality of persuasion”? I do not think so. Even if we were, and this is condition cine qua non, as long as the consequences do not go beyond very well determined limit, this does not even matter. Consequences determine whether we may accept relaxed arguments that are not both, true and sound arguments.
This would mean the following. As long as politics, similarly to science, do not by its fallacious argumentation, lead to destruction and killing, we can accept that, “for the time being”, such and such decision has to be accepted even if not proved to be at least the best between alternatives. However, if the decision leads do the destruction and killing we talk about a completely different matter. This is another category of things and the rules of argumentation that are permitted in science and politics do not apply any more. We are not any more in the sphere of “morality of persuasion”. We are well deeply inside an existential sphere, and outside of morals, where logical games could not be allowed any more. The reasons behind are neither moral nor logical; they are existential. This is at least my position.
We will start with the above-mentioned requests of the USA to their opponents. It consists almost always of a principal demand that has a form of a “one side open-end” demand, and a “reserve” demand, that is so excessive that it could not be satisfied. As I will show later, these lead directly to the armed conflicts. The absence of the deserved response of the International community to that kind of argumentation of the US and the lack of the refusal of the International community to take part in such unfair handling – tolerance by Europe and other countries, of the arrogant US stance – is bringing again and again the world peace in the real danger. Let me explain in one less recent example how that blackmail runs, although you have certainly already grasped the issue.
The American demand, during the Yugoslav war, to the Serbs was that in order to stop the war they had to decide on some measures that will be accepted by the opposing side (Croats, Muslims or later Kosovo Albanians). The “reserve” demand was to sign Rambouillet Agreement that was equivalence to self-destruction in fact. The opposing side was simultaneously advised, you would certainly remember, not to accept any of the Serb proposals! This constituted a full-blown “one side open-end” demand since it did not contain a theoretical possibility that would satisfy the demand. The blackmail was literally formulated as follows: If the Serbs do not accept proposed solution they will be bombed. If the opposing side did not accept the proposal that the Serbs accepted, the Serbs would be bombed as well. We know what happened. The Iraq crisis offers the other example of such unfair demand.
This time Iraq is demanded to disarm and the “reserve” demand is to remove Saddam Hussein. The demand “to disarm” is “one side open-end” demand that logically could never be satisfied. The answer to such a demand cannot be even theoretically formulated. In that situation the “reserve” (to remove Saddam Hussein) demand is even not necessary.The US may always respond that the disarmament has not been complete. Let me give one example, although the matter is quite clear. If somebody accuses you of stilling money and asks you to return the money, normally he has to state at least “how much’ he expects you should return. This is needed because in spite of your returning money he may continue to insist and claim that you did not return all the money. The similar situation would arise if he would ask for more then you in reality had stolen. In both circumstances, just relying on the demand formulated in that way (the Argumentum ad ignorantiam, explained below; see also Thompson, B.; Damer, E.; or Walton, D. for further analysis), he would be free to proceed as follows. In both cases he may just continue to exercise pressure on you, continue with his claims; even inspect your pockets, your home, find nothing and still claim that you retained somewhere some of the stolen money. He may inspect your neighborhood, your bank accounts, find nothing and still continues with the demand… Etc. to eternity. Or this may go on until he would not attempt to destroy you in some way. This would, of course, then remove the problem.
These kinds of demands do not have fair solutions. If the other side (Iraq) does not show the weapons, it will be bombed. If it shows some weapons, it would be told that that is not enough. Or what is even more ridiculous, will be immediately bombed – as was in fact declared. Iraq may show even more weapons, and it would be told that this is not all. It may show all that in reality has, and would be told that it has some more and would not escape being bombed. That kind of demand closes the argument from the start and Iraq probably reckons that it would be better to say right now that it does not have any weapons of mass destruction and let itself being bombed, but showing some heroic resistance by using some of the weapons that it hid. I suspect (temporary only) that to be in some way false and that showing all the weapons might have some advantages. If Iraq will be bombed in any case, some moral advantage could be gained if, after the war would be finished, there would be found that Iraq did not have any more weapons than it declared. However, these who would take such an action now will not be there then to enjoy that moral satisfaction! Of course, to save the face, the aggressor might after the war ended, demonstrate some weapons that have been found (since there are certainly weapons that have been hidden) or invent some false “evidence” showing that Iraq was hiding some weapons, what will be quite likely in a such embarrassing situation for the aggressor. This will be however post hoc ergo ante hoc fallacy – supposition that the cause of some act is – its own effect: pretending that the outcome of the intervention (finding weapons) was the cause of the military intervention. We have an example in Kosovo war. In the Kosovo war the exodus of all inhabitants of the region was taken as the cause, the reason for the bombing of Yugoslavia. This has been officially disapproved by the report of the OSCE but ignored by the political circles even until now! Or, the aggressor will, in order to justify what was done, bluntly formulate the “reserve” argument” – removal of Saddam Hussein” – to have been the main reason for the aggression in any case, and the issue will be dismissed. I presume that this has been probably also a result of the analysis of the experts behind American administration. This however does not make the intervention a legal one.
The best solution for Iraq is then not to show any weapons. As we can see, there is no theoretical solution to the demand that is advanced by the USA, and the best solution for Iraq is obviously to maintain its present position. In fact there is only one “solution” that would not resolve the argument itself but the situation, which is similar to the above stated example of “stolen money”: destruction of the subject that has to respond to that ridiculous demand. However, it would not resolve the argument but simply remove it. This is why the solution is not in the hands of Saddam Hussein, as some “political analysts” say. It is in the hands of the US.
The TV discussions that we often see these days illustrate number of false arguments. There was, for example, an interesting case of use of “appeal to authority” fallacy (argumentum ad verecundiam, by a prominent CDU politician) combined with peticio principii fallacy.
Argumentum ad verecundiam and peticio principii
Argumentum ad verecundiam (Invincible Authority) Classification: A deductive fallacy of soundness with a falsehood in the major premiss, in the Ad Vericundiam family. Description: The argument supports a position by appealing to the mere opinion (or say-so) of a particular authority as sufficient to settle the question, without a consideration of supporting arguments. (Thompson)
Petitio Principii or Begging the Question. Classification: A deductive fallacy of circularity. Description: The words and phrases used to express the conclusion are synonymous with the words and phrases used to express the conclusion. That is, the premisses merely restate the conclusion. (Thompson)
In our example, one CDU politician used former resolution of the Security Council to prove one specific matter of fact concerning the same resolution, although the validity of the same decision was actually questioned. Simultaneously we heard that the Resolution 1441 states that the other side (Iraq) has to prove that it does not have weapons of mass destruction. Of course one further interesting fallacy – argumentum ad ignorantiam.
Argumentum ad ignorantiam
Classification: A deductive fallacy of soundness, with a falsehood in the major premiss, in the Ignoratio Elenchi family. Description: The argument mistakes lack of evidence for evidence to the contrary. In effect, the argument says, “No one knows it is true. Therefore it is false.” (Sometimes, in order to make the claim that “no one knows,” the argument insists on an inappropriately strong standard of proof.) (Thompson) If Iraq really does not have these weapons its not showing them is declared to be evidence that it has them. A proposition “Iraq does not have weapons of mass destruction” has not bean proved (and, as we believe, can not be proved) and is assumed in advance to be false (argumentum ad ignorantiam). I beg your pardon. How do you in fact prove that you do not have something? You show – nothing. That type of asymmetrical dispute, where the burden of proof is just on one side (Iraq), presents a praxis in diplomatic relations that carries an extreme danger for peace. This illustrates quite clearly power politics of the US.
Argumentum ad baculum (Appeal to Force)
“Classification: A deductive fallacy of soundness with a falsehood in the major premiss, in the Emotional Appeals family. Description: The “argument” is actually an explicit or concealed threat. In effect the argument says, “Accept my position, or I will punish you.” (Thompson)This refers to even more ridiculous arguments that were advanced: that a war can and will be decided and started without approval of the Security Council of the UN (argumentum ad baculum, appeal to force – used repeatedly by the USA). Reasons given were “there were number of the Security Council decisions, so it could be proceeded with the measure that …” (fallacy of many questions, see below).
But bombing was not mentioned in all these Security Council Resolutions what is also a fallacy of “increasing the punishment if the jurisprudence is ambiguous or insufficient”. Opposite is in fact correct: if the jurisprudence prescribes some punishment, it could be decided NOT to apply it because of some facilitating reasons but it could not be decided to INCREASE the punishment! The same reason applies to the question of “automatism” that could follow from some Security Council resolution. A military action has to be explicitly permitted but the application of less violent measures may implicitly follow. To interpret this in a reversed order, as the US is reputedly doing, is simply a crime. And so on. It was advanced also that “the decision of the Security Council is not important if it does not approve the intervention” (!?).
Fallacy of many questions
“Illustrated by ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’, the fallacy was first noticed by Aristotle. It lies not in the question but in what is inferred from the answer. Putting B for ‘I have been a wife-beater’ and S for ‘I have stopped’, then a negative answer is equivalent to ‘(B and not-S) or (not-B and not-S) or (not-B and S)’. If the questioner infers that he may disregard one or more of these alternatives, his inference is transparently invalid”. (Woods) It was also tried, during one discussion, to prove an issue by accumulating “reasons” that all just do not prove one thing: that without an approval of the UN there can NOT be a war, even “just” war, even the so-called “humanitarian” war. Advancing more and more arguments does not help. We can assemble hundredths of bad arguments and they will still prove nothing. Hundred baskets with the holes in their bottoms, if put one over the other, are still leaking.
Argumentum ad hominem
“Ad hominem is a Latin phrase meaning “at the man.” Fallacies in this family all share the characteristic that they concern themselves with the person responsible for the argument, rather than the argument itself. They falsely assume that characteristics of the person responsible for an argument imply that the argument itself must have certain characteristics, or that the characteristics of the person responsible for the argument are relevant to the acceptability of the argument itself.” (Thompson) We can say in thousand of ways how Mr. Saddam Hussein is a bad person (a version of argumentum ad hominem). But just one appropriate reason (that I would certainly think that is impossible even to imagine) is needed to show why the Iraq should be bombed now. And that reason – we simply DO NOT HAVE. If somebody would ask you to approve of some killing would you approve it without at least ONE down to earth reason. One such reason can not compromise state security, but would lead to (still in my opinion wrong) acceptance of that killing. If such reason existed it would be certainly communicated at least to very limited number of leading politicians of the states that now risk to oppose the US military action.
That ridiculous “argumentation” goes on these days without an end. There is one argument that was advanced long ago without being seriously challenged although its deep immorality is obvious. We are told that some country should be liberated from some dictatorship by our military intervention. This meaning killing some thousands of innocent citizens as collateral damage. Now in that given country it is hard to find one that would like to die for that cause. They may consider their living conditions quite hard but not that hard to want to sacrifice their particular lives. Yet the US administration wants to take that decision against their will. Such is, for example, a childish story that a military action is needed to remove Saddam Hussein, although it is certain that no Iraqi citizen would accept to die for that ridiculous cause. I personally think that presently we do not have a single country in the world where the humanitarian situation is that bad that we should sacrifice lives of other people for our democratic ideas.
The Iraqis are militarily week, and all agree about that, have never been involved and are not prepared to get involved in terrorism yet; at least not as much as the number of citizens of neighboring states have been and now are likely to be. The objective is then, to remove Mr. Saddam Hussein and probably assure more freedom for the Iraqi people. When the ordinary Iraqi people, women, men and children are not ready to sacrifice THEIR lives to get rid of Mr. Saddam Hussein and therewith probably achieve more freedom, how can some of us justify the intention to sacrifice THEIR lives for THEIR probable freedom?
Let me finish with an illustration of argumentation that I recently heard. A very high member of the US administration declared, similarly to Mr. Bush, “if the Security Council does not handle the issue, the US (and Britain) will have to handle it alone”. In fact the phrase goes as follows: if the Security Council does not do as the US demands = declare a war to Iraq, then the US will declare it in incapable and attack Iraq. Amusing way of saying quite nasty things. Or even better: The US sent the message to Turkey (since Turkey refused to cooperate and did not allow US troops to enter Turkey): It is not yet an appropriate moment, but we are going to tell Turkey when the time comes how disappointed we are with their refusal. What do you think it means? I can finish now as I started, with moral question, and this was quite moral one, but quite of low moral.
We will now try to break another link between politics and killing. In order to better explain the absence of link between amorality of killing human beings and politics I will introduce a point that is of substantial importance. It seams, at least to me, that the excessively used phrase that “war is a continuation of political conflict by military means” (Klausewiz) is false. This may be true in some limited sense but does not explain out the war and is dangerously misleading. The time has come to realize that war has very little to do with politics. The main target in war is human life and that has nothing to do with politics. This is a point where in reality politics gives up and killing of human beings begins. As we showed above, this is where moral stops and we have to deal with “amorality”, the absence of moral. If we would realize this, we would probably have more understanding for the mission of the United Nations, The Charter of the UN and the International Law. The logic of war would then be placed there where it belongs, to the class of things that are correctly named “criminal logic”. This might permit more efficient handling with the international crisis issues and help prevent escalations similar to this one we are facing right now. We would, I hope, then rightly perceive the sophistry of argumentation of the aggressors and be better prepared to respond adequately to these unfair and criminal games of logic.
On one hand, these are some of formal reasons why a peaceful solution cannot be found within the presently formulated argument. Therefore even if the respect of the Security Council of the UN would be fulfilled, this would not solve the inherent problem of the argument and would not remove inevitability of the war. This would only postpone the violent “solution”. The solution is not contained in the argument itself that is a kind of aporia. If we were to look for a solution, it has to be looked for outside the given argument, i.e. the argument has to be restated in order to construct one in such a way that it would contain a theoretical solution that then could be, with the help of a vigorous diplomacy, achieved. In this context the so-called logic of deterrence shows also to be false. It is advanced that the deterrence has to be real if it is going to work. This is of course true, although there must be a possibility for successful removal of deterrence. This means that there should be a way to remove danger of being bombed by complying with the requests. Not only this: there should be established an award if it is complied with the demands. If only punishment is certain, and this is the real meaning of the hard position of the US, non-compliance with the requests of the UN is preprogrammed. Thereby the war is also irreversibly programmed to happen.
Having the weapons of mass destruction, on the other hand, cannot be a reason for a military intervention. All the states that are in the position of “realpolitical” relations with their neighboring states have to have these weapons as the means of deterrence. Direct danger of being attacked by a neighboring state is permanently present. This encourages these states to arm themselves and increases the danger of the local conflicts and, in turn, together with the war logic of the superpower explained above, this would be a state of affaires that guarantees armed conflicts and persistence of crisis. Also, if we maintain the state of “realpolitical” relations and refuse to comply with the International Law (as the US has been doing for years) then the process of militarization is going to persist and the current crisis will be repeated in all its possible versions in the future. On the contrary, increasing the strength of the international community and making the war, including local wars, illegal and submission of all the states to the UN arbitration inevitable, might increase security of these states and remove the need of these states to permanently increase their military power. A profound change of the “paradigm” in the international relations is necessary. The maintenance of the realpolitical relations in certain regions that has been encouraged by the western countries, and particularly by the US, garantees military confrontations.
The factual respect of the decisions of the UN by the all would be, if at all, the only way to solve the crisis that we actually have and might have in the future. We have much reason to believe that the UN may become the institution that could, in the rare cases of emergency, and independently of the potential intervening states, mediate in arbitration of difficult cases where a military intervention may be contemplated. In the arbitration of whether there is a case of need for self-defense or humanitarian need the great powers that would secure an eventual intervention, should be excluded. This is, of course, the opposite of what the foreign policy of the USA in the Middle and the Far East has been and what the attitude of the USA towards the International community and the International Law is.
The US (administration) may be now living, although with a substantial delay, their nation-state period (as stated by F. Fukuyama) and they find it quite hard to sacrifice their sovereignty and to submit themselves to the international institutions. As the mentioned author continues, European lived their nation-state period during their long history and that transition – submission to the international organizations, do not disturb them that much. This is why the Europeans insist on the respect of the decisions of the Security Council of the UN and the US is not. The Security Council of the UN is not an instrument of democracy or justice. It has been created to operate in the circumstances of power politics to assure that some power state does not do something that the other do not approve. As simple as that. No decision of the Security Council means no action of any state is allowed, and not just the opposite, as the US wants to interpret that no decision about their military action mean they are free to do as they want. Indeed, from the other side of the ocean the kind of “patriotism” that displays the present US administration and the nation-state period that they believe they are going true resembles more some much earlier period – the period of the Roman Empire. It would have been probably better if they lived their nation-state period, or whatever it is, true some other creative forms of life, letting the Peace in peace.
- Bush, G. Proclamation, March 16, 2003.
“We concluded that tomorrow is a moment of truth for the world. Many nations have voiced a commitment to peace and security, and now they must demonstrate that commitment to peace and security in the only effective way: by supporting the immediate and unconditional disarmament of Saddam Hussein. …The dictator of Iraq and his weapons of mass destruction are a threat to the security of free nations. He is a danger to his neighbors. He is a sponsor of terrorism. He is an obstacle to progress in the Middle East. (Compiled by Rick Rozoff)
- Damer T. Edwards, “Attacking faulty reasoning. A practical guide to Fallacy – Free Arguments,” Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, Ca., 1995.
- Duverger, M. Le concept d’empire, in «Le concept d’empire, Centre d’analyse comparative des systems politiques, PUF, Paris, 1980.
- Fukuyama, Francis, Has history restarted since September 11?John Banython Lecture, Melbourne, August 8, 2002.
- Hitler, A. Proclamation to the german Army, September 1, 1939.
“The Polish State has refused the peaceful settlement of relations which I desired, and has appealed to arms. Germans in Poland are persecuted with bloody terror and driven from their houses. A series of violations of the frontier, intolerable to a great Power, prove that Poland is no longer willing to respect the frontier of the Reich.
In order to put an end to this lunacy, I have no other choice than to meet force with force from now on. The German Army will fight the battle for the honour and the vital rights of reborn Germany with hard determination. I expect that every soldier, mindful of the great traditions of eternal German soldiery, will ever remain conscious that he is a representative of the National-Socialist Greater Germany. Long live our people and our Reich!” (Compiled by Rick Rozoff.)
- Russow, J. Global Compliance Research Institute. In US ENGAGED IN AN ILLEGAL WAR, states: Under the Charter of the United Nations, the following purpose is clearly enunciated:
…to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
…to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
…to ensure by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
Under the Charter of the United Nations, force is only authorized if sanctioned by the UN Security Council, or under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations which affirms:
…the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security (Article 51)
The United States , after failing to obtain the sufficient number of votes on the UN Security Council , is claiming that the US had received support for the use of force under the UN Security Council Resolution 1441. In an early draft, many members of the UN Security Council rejected the expression “all necessary means” which would have included the use of force. In UNSC resolution 1441, there was a provision for “serious consequences” to be in place in the event that Iraq had been in material breach of the resolution. Colin Powell has claimed that “serious consequences” is UN code for the use of force. There was a clear understanding, even formally expressed by Russia, France and China, that “serious consequences” did not authorize the automatic use of force and that before any authorization of force would be sanctioned, a further UN Security Council resolution would be necessary.
In addition, under the Convention of the Law of Treaties, terms in international instruments must be interpreted in their ordinary language meaning; in no way in ordinary language would serious consequences, even in the context of the UN Security Council resolution, be equated automatically with the use of force. One serious consequence could have been to take the issue to the International Court of Justice to enable the judges to carefully assess the legitimacy of the documentation presented. As has been reported recently, not only has there been misrepresentation of documents from US British intelligence, but also there have been forged documents on the purchase of uranium.
The US has misused Article 51 before and redefined what constituted self defence under Article 51. Again, the interpretation of this Article and its applicability would be best assessed by the International Court of Justice.
Several specialists in International Law have requested the US to go to the International Court of Justice to seek an advisory opinion on the legality of the use of force in Iraq.
As usual, the US is willing to condemn others as rogue stated defying the rule of international law, but the US fails to seek the advice from the International Court of Justice which is a specialized organ under the United Nations, and the US has over the years failed to accept both the jurisdiction and the decisions of the International Court of Justice,
Iraq should appear before the International Court of Justice and ask for an emergency decision to prevent the imminent war on Iraq, and if the US invades Iraq, the US should be compelled to appear before the International Court of Justice for engaging in an illegal war in violation of the rule of international law, and the Charter of the United Nations.
- Thompson, Bruce, Home page: http://www.cuyamaca.net/bruce.thompson/Fallacies/intro_fallacies.asp
- Thompson states: This page was created for the use of my General Introduction to Philosophy (PHIL 110), Critical Thinking (PHIL 125), and Logic (PHIL 130) students at Cuyamaca College. Naturally, other visitors are also welcome. Since it is increasingly important to judge the quality of information on websites, and since one criterion of quality is the credentials of the author, I have attached a copy of my resume. Also, anyone who wishes to contact me is welcome to do so. My email address is [email protected] The material on this page is not, so far as I know, under copyright; and I hereby give my permission for this material to be used by others. However, some of the examples and exercises may, accidentally, have been taken from other, half-remembered logic books. If so, it is not my intention to use material without permission. It is just that I have used some examples so often over the years that I no longer remember whether I wrote them myself, or borrowed them from another author. Please let me know if you notice any flagrant plagiarisms. I will be glad to remove them.
- Walton, N. Douglas, “Informal logic. A handbook for critical argumentation,” Cambridge University press, 1994.
- Ted Honderich (Editor), “The Oxford Companion to Philosophy“from Oxford University Press.
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