Friday, August 24, 2007

Thinking about Hiroshima.

“What guided me in my thinking and guided all our efforts—The reason the 21st Bomber Command worked like no other command during the war and kept us going—was the million men we were going to loose if we had to invade Japan. That says nothing of the Japanese losses, although we didn’t give a damn about them at the time. We were primarily worried about our own people”

Curtis Le May.

I’ve been watching with dismay the two opposite lines of reasoning evidenced at VFR and WWWtW.

It would appear to me that Laurence Auster is putting forward an argument that the ends justify the means. The Japanese were wicked, tenacious and determined not to give in no matter what the price. The dropping of the bomb instituted events which stopped the war quickly and saved many lives, Japanese and American; this interpretation is consistent with the facts.

The position of WWWtW is that the attack on Hiroshima is wicked because innocent civilians were killed. As I have argued previously the position of the main protagonists on WWWtW leads to functional pacifism. The criteria that they set up for the fighting of just war make it effectively impossible to fight. Furthermore their thinking opens a line of tactical exploitation by wicked people. Tie up an innocent to your tank, plane or whatever and it is immune from attack on the basis of the moral argument put forward by WWWtW.

Both approaches are wrong and both are wicked.

Following my line of reasoning from yesterdays post I would like to make an analysis of the atomic bombings within the Christian tradition.

Auster's argument is quickly dismissed. Christian tradition has always condemned the line of reasoning that wicked means justify good ends. That ends that argument.

Now I feel that the atomic bombings were wrong but not for the reason the people over at WWWtW do.

Firstly the state has authority to bear the sword in defence of the common interest. However the state is allowed only to attack the unjust (aggressors) and their means, it is not allowed to attack the innocent. Now any enemy city is going to contain a mixed bag of the innocent and combatants, the concept of deliberately targeting a city itself, is morally wrong since by definition it would be an intended attack on both the innocent and the guilty.

However, we are allowed to attack the unjust and if in the process, innocent civilians are killed unavoidably, then the action is permitted according to Christian tradition. It would appear therefore that the attack on Hiroshima was justified, as Hiroshima was a major military base as well as Nagasaki.

However double effect is a two edged sword and the mechanism that permits collateral losses also obligates their minimization. The question to be asked then is, did the U.S. have a capacity to destroy the military installations of Hiroshima without using the atomic bomb? The answer to that is unfortunately yes.

The Twentieth Air Force had the capacity to destroy whatever it wanted on the Japanese mainland. Towards the end of the war it was safer in a B-29 flying over Japan than in a training mission over the United States. General Curtis Le May felt at the time that the action--dropping the bomb--was unnecessary, as did Admiral Arleigh Burke; the two men who were putting most of the hurt on Japan. Had the 20th Air Force gone in to firebomb Hiroshima, perhaps twenty to forty thousand would have been killed, but that means that the sixty thousand extra who died as a result of the atomic bomb would not have been. The option to minimize civilian losses was available and it was not chosen, therein lays the evil.

Had the U.S. no other way of defending itself against attack except by nuclear weapons then I believe it would have been justified in using them, provided they were targeted at military targets only and with an eye to minimizing civilian casualties. The problem was that no one cared about the Japanese, no one gave a damn. In fact Hiroshima was also seen as an experiment, the fact that it had remained deliberately unscathed with a view of it being a test city for nuclear experiments shows just how degraded the concern for the Japanese had become, the citizens of Hiroshima were to be the guinea pigs of atomic warfare.

Truman did agonise over the civilian losses that the bombs were going to produce; I do not stand in judgment of him. He was a fundamentally decent man and I believe that when he made the decision to drop the atomic bomb, he did so with a good and hence binding conscience. I live in a different time and benefit from the freedom his actions provided. Free from the pressures, sorrows and anxiety of war, I and others can dispassionately reflect on the situation with the benefit of hindsight; which by its nature is always crystal clear. Truman did not enjoy that privilege.

Every society should make a moral accounting of its conduct and if it finds itself wanting, ask for forgiveness from the Almighty and determine not to repeat the same mistakes again. Our Christian tradition reasserts that we should choose to suffer death rather than perform evil. Death before dishonour is not just the motto of some fanatical Japanese; it is also the motto of the Christian soldier.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Double trouble with double effect.

I’ve been pondering double effect for a while and thanks to the moral definitions in the previous post, I feel I have a better understanding of the phenomena.

Firstly when one acts one brings something into being: Something is made real through the act of the will. By running I make my intention of going for a run real. The things that are actualized in this world can be good, bad or indifferent.

When one performs a good act one wants to bring something good into the world. When one an evil act they causes an evil in this world. But what happens when one brings about an action which brings about both good and evil at the same time?

How does one form a moral assessment of surgery, in the days prior to anaesthetic? When the knife is put into the flesh, curing the patient (good) begins at the same time pain(evil) and mutilation(evil) is actuated. To deliberately cure someone is good, to deliberately hurt someone is evil, then how do we evaluate the morality of surgery if intrinsic to its actuation, good and evil result?

The Christian tradition stated that the moral species of the act is determined through its moral object: what was the moral quality of the “thing” realized through the act. Example; putting a dent in a brand new car--as in an act of vandalism--is evil, since by denting a car, it is privated in some way. The moral object of an act concerns itself with the moral quality of what is bought about by the act, not why the act was done.

Now according to Aquinas one does good when one actualizes a good, and one sins (peccatum) when one actualizes an evil; now sin in this context is non-pejorative. A man sins and does good when he performs an action with a double effect. So how to determine its permissibility or not?

Christianity has stated that acts which bring about a state with a mixed moral quality are permitted provided:
  • That a person may choose to act in a way which results in mixed moral objects provided that the person is choosing the good moral object.
  • The mixed moral quality of the act must on balance be good. A proportional assessment of the act has to be made and the result must be in favor of the good. In sum, a net good is achieved by the act.

Now a man is culpable for the things he has control over not for the things he doesn’t. In choosing an act which actuates mixed moral objects, one cannot be blamed if the evil moral object is bought about, not through any choice of the agent. He is inculpable. However if the evil moral object could be avoided in some way then the agent becomes culpable because he has some choice in what type of evil is bought about. No choice, no culpability. There is a double imperative in Christianity: do good and avoid evil.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Good Conscience

I thought I would post a link to an interesting speech delivered by Bishop Anthony Fisher of the Catholic Church here in Australia. Bishop Fisher is one of the most conservative Catholic bishops out there and a strong defender of orthodoxy. His comments on conscience are quite nuanced. They can be found here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

An Inconvenient truth

The local paper for right thinking people; The Age, frequently berates outer suburban types for living in high energy consuming McMansions in the outer suburbs. It’s quite funny then that the paper ran an article in its Sunday edition which showed some “surprising results’. It would appear that our affluent inner city environmental types leave the largest eco-footprint in the country. Those berating the community about their inconsiderate use of water and fossil fuels tend are its worst offenders. Reminds me a bit about Al Gore’s energy Bills. Who would have ever thought the Left a bunch of hypocrites?

Yours truly lives in an area that is quite conservative and also has a very low eco footprint. Right wing and environmentally sensitive; now there’s an inconvenient truth. Anyway you can see how much damage you’re doing-in Australia at least-by clicking here.

The Damned.

One of the blogs I like to visit is David Apatoff's, Illustration art. His latest posting deals with Mr James Montgomery Flagg, the illustrator who painted this famous poster.

The fellow's story is tragic; Mr Flagg you see loved beauty, but for the wrong reason. To him the beautiful was something that was valued because of the pleasure it gave to Mr Flagg, but not of the object it represented. The consequences were predictable. Read on.
(Caution, some risque art)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Verdict.

I've been waiting for my "higher authority" to get back to me, they haven't officially as yet, but Annoymous of 5.58 pm sent me a very interesting post which I think settles the matter.

"I don't know if a Jesuit qualifies as "higher authority" but he's probably more likely to be right than a bunch of guys yakking on the web. One of the instances Father Hardon gives below (in his Pocket Catholic Dictionary), is almost exactly analogous to the discussion at WWWtW...

(Father Hardon then goes on to discuss the principle of double effect and gives the following example)

...the commander of a submarine in wartime who torpedoes an armed merchant vessel of the enemy., although he foresees that several innocent children on board will be killed.

(Father Hardon then states that the action is licit if) All four conditions are fulfilled :
  • he intends to merely lessen the power of the enemy by destroying an armed merchant ship. He does not wish to kill the innocent children;
  • his action of torpedoing the ship is not evil in itself;
  • the evil effect (the death of the children) is not the cause of the good effect (the lessening of the enemy's strength);
  • there is sufficient reason for permitting the evil effect to follow, and this reason is administering a damaging blow to those who are unjustly attacking his country.
You were right, at least according to Father Hardon, S.J...

Oh, and who was Father Hardon S.J. ?

Click here

The defence rests.

We praise God and not our strength for it.

Btw, Annonymous; good wine shall be drunk in your honour.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Legal terminolgy.

Janet E Smith, of conservative orthodox Roman Catholic fame, gives a little run down on moral terminology. Some people may find it helpful. It can be found here.

The right call

I’ve been away for a while, posting on other blogs. Apparently I can get into trouble anywhere I go so I guess in order to keep the peace, I am staying at home.

Recently I was involved in a rather engaging struggle over at the What’s Wrong with the World site. The site is definitely worth a visit and the topics raised there are treated intelligently and with conviction.

The matter under contention was titled The Right Call? The thread can be found here:

The moral question in essence was: Is it morally permissible to shoot down an civilian aircraft, commandeered by terrorists in flight and intending to use the aircraft as a weapon? Essentially a moral judgment was to be made on Dick Cheney’s decision to shoot down Flight 89 during the September 11 attacks.

Yours truly, took up position as counsel for the defence; arguing that the act was morally permissible under the principle of double effect for the following reasons.

1) The intention was to defend the United States.
2) Shooting down the aircraft was a morally legitimate form of defence.
3) The shooting down of the aircraft would have a double effect:
a. Stopping the attack. (good)
b. Death of the innocent civilian passengers(Evil)
4) Death of the civilians was not wished/intended.
5) A proportionate analysis of the double effect weighed heavily on the side of good.

The action of the Vice President conformed to the principle of double effect and hence was morally licit.

The prosecution argued that the VP’s actions were morally illicit. It was agreed that:

1) The intention was to defend the United States
2) The Vice President did not wish the civilians any harm
3) A proportionate analysis favoured the action but;

4) The action of shooting down the aircraft was morally impermissible since innocent civilians were going to be killed. It was argued that as the death of the innocent civilians was foreseen, and hence must have been intended. As deliberately causing the death of innocent civilians is intrinsically evil, the action was morally forbidden.
5) The principle of double effect is negated if evil means are chosen for good ends.

The Prosecution argued that the defence were proportionalists, justifying any evil act provided good could come of it. The Prosecution argued that the killing of the innocent was always and everywhere a deliberate evil and any other such act in which a deliberate evil was chosen was always and everywhere wrong.

The Defence argued that firstly, the Prosecution's understanding of intention was deficient; just actions could have deliberately foreseen evil consequences which were unintended. What defined the goodness or badness of an act depended on its moral object. The Prosecution argued that a deliberately chosen behaviour which resulted in intrinsic evil was always a sign of an evil moral object, the Defence rejected this proposition. Furthermore the Defence argued that the Prosecution's understand of double effect was flawed, since apparently some intrinsic evils were permissible and others were not. Cutting the flesh is intrinsically evil, yet is permitted for surgery. The Prosecution agreed that surgery was permitted but because cutting the flesh was not intrinsically evil.

At stake for the Defence was more than the question under consideration: At stake was everything.

If the Prosecution’s line of reasoning was correct, then any action in which an intrinsic evil was deliberately bought about would be not permitted. Killing one’s self is an intrinsic evil. One can step in front of fast moving train and afterwards claim that the train killed him, but one cannot say that he did not foresee his death. The Prosecution's line of reasoning would lead to the conclusion that the death was suicide; their early argument illustrated this position. The Defence insisted that why a person did what they did was vitally important. If stepping in front of a train to push a young child off the tracks resulted in the foreseen death of the rescuer, then the act was self sacrifice; not suicide: the highest of motives, as our Master taught.

Indeed; the Defence feels that the line of reasoning pursued is a most evil attack on Christianity, veiled as a defence. It was mentioned in opening argument, that had the passengers of flight 89 deliberately crashed the aircraft to save other Americans on the ground, it would have been collective suicide. Yet; our master would have taught that no greater love man hath, and would have such men supp with him in paradise. Indeed in choosing to have himself killed, Christ would have, by the prosecutions reasoning: committed suicide: The Son of God becomes the Devil himself. It is this foreseen consequence of the Prosecution’s reasoning, that drove the Defence’s vigorous crusade, but as usual argument drew to a stalemate.

The Defence as such has deferred the matter to higher authority and will publish the findings of this authority when it becomes available.

It remains to be seen whether the Prosecution or the Defence made the right call.