a) That politics is a violent business in a fallen world;
b) That it is conducted by a mixture of good and bad actors with good and bad motives and various mixtures of opportunism, bad faith, and genuine pursuit of the various and contradictory goals they think best;
c) That there are asymmetries of attention and information between ruling political elites and other persons, especially with regard to things happening in other parts of the world;
d) That no country or alliance of countries will ever be powerful enough to end all political violence and politically-created suffering in the world even if they were genuinely motivated to:

1) There will always be a abundance of political violence and politically-induced suffering in the world;
2) Political elites will never effectively follow a consistent rule of eliminating it all;
3) There will always be enough of it that political elites can choose among episodes of violence and suffering in order to rally support for acts of warfare at the times and in the places of their choosing.
3a) They will usually be able to do this by telling the truth about one episode at a time and just focusing on it to the exclusion of other episodes. When not, they will often be able to do so with partial truths about the episode. When not, they will often be able to do so with facially plausible falsehoods that non-elites have no way to effectively check or challenge.

e) A maxim of political judgment must be understood to be usable by real political actors of the sort described in (b).

4) The maxim “my country must fight a war to end this episode of political violence and politically-induced suffering” is approximately equivalent to the maxim “the political elites of my country may fight wars at the times and places of their choosing, for the reasons of their choosing, whether their motives are good, wicked, or opportunistic.”

Note that this is compatible with thinking that some particular episode really is unusually appalling.

  • Big problem with your conclusion: the political elites hardly ever fight wars anymore. They make other people do it.

  • stevenjohnson2

    Given a), there are no grounds given for objecting to 4.

    If your point is that the US shouldn’t be doing favors for Middle Eastern people by fighting IS for them, I should point out that the government is attacking Syria (something they wanted to do all along,) and supporting the Kurdish partition of Iraq.
    Some, maybe most, of those weapons sent to the largely imaginary FSA will go to IS, either sold to them or left on the battlefield. As for the Peshmerga, it is apparently the PKK who are the real opponents of IS. The Barzani regime has to put its fight against Baghdad first. The USgovernment is not doing anybody any favors. But, then, given a), what’s the objection to that?

  • smh

    fallen world – my religious nut mom uses that expression all the time, since she became a religious nut.

    • CK Dexter


      • smh


  • Phil H

    3 and 3a are wrong. They sound right, and I’m sure many people think they are right, but they’re not. It’s actually pretty hard to get a modern state to go to war. The US is unusual because it’s the dominant superpower – there are approximately zero negative military consequences to it for going to war. But for other modern states it’s not so easy to get a fight going.
    Having said that, I like the spirit of the argument.

    • Libertymike

      No, 3 and 3a are right and any asseveration to the contrary is unsupported by the evidence.
      War is not limited to engagements between nation states or between a nation state and an uprising / revolt conducted by some subset of the peoples in a given nation state.
      For example, the US is not the only nation state that has been engaged in a War on Drugs for generations. The War on Drugs is, indeed, a war and one who does not describe it as such is lacks lexical competence.

      • Phil H

        Evidence: The US is one of the few nations which engaged in a war on alcohol. It lost that war. Almost no other country has tried it.
        Evidence: The UK government supported military action in Libya last year. Parliament voted against it, and it did not happen.
        Evidence: Far right parties and media in the UK and many European countries have been working continuously to generate xenophobia on a dangerous level. They mostly fail. (The extreme economic conditions in parts of Europe now are creating the conditions in which some might succeed.)
        Evidence: Germany and Japan are gradually evolving out of their pacifist constitutions, but it is a process that will take decades.
        You and the OP are confusing two different types of evidence. First, there are many arbitrary wars. I accept that. Hence, wars and military actions are mostly arbitrary. But that does NOT imply that any arbitrary cause can become a war. War=arbitrary, but arbitrary=/=potential war.

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