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On the Virtues of Loving Children - Fluorescent Dreams Wax Cylinders

23rd of August, 2006

9:12 - On the Virtues of Loving Children

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In pseudomanitou's LJ, iisaw pointed to On the Virtues of Killing Children by Grim. It's an imaginary dialogue between Grim and "a peaceful, gentle soul" about a virtue for warriors of not caring whether children -- even your own children -- die.

Here's a summary:


Gentle Soul: How can you justify killing innocent children?

Grim: Let us say that there is the possibility we shall kill a child -- but we shall do our best not to do so -- and only the possibility that they will kill our child, but it is their aim. Now, should we try to stop them -- though risking their child? Or should we refuse, and take the increased risk that they will succeed in their murder, since no one dares disrupt them?

Gentle Soul: It is always wrong to take the risk of killing a child, because it endangers the innocent.

Grim: You are wrong. It is best that we bomb without fear. When the enemy seeks to kill our child to motivate us to surrender to his will, is it not because he believes that the danger to the children will move our hearts? He knows that we fear for the children, even his children. It is our love of these innocents that endangers them. If we did not care if our children died, they would not be targets. There would be no reason to target them, because we would not be moved by their deaths.

Gentle Soul: If we cannot love them, without wrongfully endangering them -- what can we do?

Grim: We must pursue war without thought of the children. We must not turn aside from the death of the innocent, but push on to the conclusion, through all fearful fire. If we do that, the children will lose their value as hostages, and as targets: if we love them, we must harden our hearts against their loss. Ours and theirs. We can only do, and pray, that when we are done we may be forgiven.


(Yes, this summary is accurate. Please do read the original article, if you don't believe me.)

Well, I can write strawmen, too!

Why Grim's philosophy requires that no one love their children

Chip: If our nation were to follow your philosophy, should the disregard for children be real, or just be a ruse?

Strawman Grim: It must be true, lest our compassion for our children be used against us.

Chip: And do you recommend that this philosophy be limited to our warriors, or should this philosophy be part of all members of the society?

Strawman Grim: I don't understand.

Chip: Let me ask it this way. If most of the population were not of your philosophy, might they not attempt to interfere? In your philosophy, might not their misguided efforts to save the enemy's children interfere with the battle, possibly causing a fight that could have been won to be lost -- due to the presence of the enemy's children?

Strawman Grim: Ah. Yes, then. I wrote my post, so that this philosophy be part of all the population.

Chip: Fair enough. But are not the initial conditions that caused the battle, the chance that an enemy might attack our own children? If only we could eliminate this first condition, might not we be invulnerable to that kind of attack?

Strawman Grim: What kind of person could say that?

Chip: You yourself said, "It must be... that we pursue war without thought of the children. That we do not turn aside from the death of the innocent, but push on to the conclusion, through all fearful fire. If we do that, the children will lose their value as hostages, and as targets: if we love them, we must harden our hearts against their loss. Ours and theirs." Does this philosophy not demand that we ignore danger to our own children?

Strawman Grim: But I also said, "Love should always rise, above war and fear and death. Love should always be first, and not last, in our hearts --"

Chip: But does not you philosophy say that would leave a terrible threat hanging over us? Could not our enemies use our love for our children against us, in your philosophy?

Strawman Grim: They could. It is our love that is the chief danger to the innocent now -- to our own innocents, and theirs also.

Chip: Therefore, in your philosophy, even non-soldiers must put aside love even to their own children.

Strawman Grim: That, sadly, is so.

Why his philosophy makes for worse soldiers

Chip: Grim's philosophy assumes that protecting children would cause soldiers to become weak and unwilling to fight. I disagree. In your experience, who would be the more vicious fighter -- a wolf trying to catch dinner, or a wolf trying to protect her cubs?

Generic Strawman (because I'm going far beyond what Grim actually wrote): The wolf protecting her cubs.

Chip: Who do a better job: those who merely follow orders, or those with a personal passion for their job?

Generic Strawman: Those with a personal passion.

Chip: And is there a greater personal passion than a person protecting their children?

Generic Strawman: I can think of none.

Chip: Neither can I. When a person thinks that their children are threatened, they will do anything to protect their children: kill, or even sacrifice themselves if it gives their children a better chance.

Generic Strawman: You are truly Colbertian in your analysis.

Chip: And I'm abusing my strawman almost as much as political cartoonists do.

Take care, all.

Current Music: Besame - Mar Castro

Comments:

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From:shockwave77598
Date:2006-Aug-23 04:38 pm (UTC)
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By extension then, one must not love anything or anyone, lest it be used as a weapon against us. One must not have any attachment to anyone or anything because it can always be taken away in one way or another.

I'll suffer the hazard - living without attachments is worse than living with them and the potential of loss. One has the potential of them not being absent, while Grim's solution makes the absence certain.
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From:gleef
Date:2006-Aug-23 08:37 pm (UTC)

Living Without Attachments

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By extension then, one must not love anything or anyone, lest it be used as a weapon against us. One must not have any attachment to anyone or anything because it can always be taken away in one way or another.

Some versions of bushido appear to go this far, denying attachment even to ones own life. Still, with bushido, they don't attempt to claim that this is a good thing for the entire population, just a necessary mindset for those few people carrying swords around.
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From:circuit_four
Date:2006-Aug-23 04:46 pm (UTC)

General Jack T. Ripper is alive and well and writing for BlackFive.

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Umm... Grimmy? How many times in history have people committed the error of believing they were the solemnly reasonable ones, committing atrocities in the name of necessity, while their enemies were the unrelenting fanatics? What kind of fool do you have to be to still trust that assessment of yourself and your cause, in this day and age?!

You're too kind, Chip. My first inclination was to write a similar piece of sophistry that rationalizes the imminent moral necessity of a .45 slug through Grim's forebrain. After all, it's people like him who justify making human history into an endless charnel house -- and if I do it by assassinating bloggers on the streets, it's plainly different! We can't let mere civility stand in the way when there's a threat, else our Countless Enemies might use our love of peace to infiltrate us and dilute our precious... (*steely scowl*) fluids. If we can rationalize killing one sort of non-combatant, where does it end? (The same place it always does: at the moment it's his own head on the line.)
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From:chipuni
Date:2006-Aug-23 05:57 pm (UTC)

Re: General Jack T. Ripper is alive and well and writing for BlackFive.

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Umm... Grimmy? How many times in history have people committed the error of believing they were the solemnly reasonable ones, committing atrocities in the name of necessity, while their enemies were the unrelenting fanatics? What kind of fool do you have to be to still trust that assessment of yourself and your cause, in this day and age?!

Sadly, waaaaaaay too many people believe that about themselves. They trust their guts more than they trust the word of anything else -- even of reality. Without a reality check, we can paint ourselves into a very tight, little corner.

What you think about your enemy says a lot more about you than it does about them. Grimmy-poo has severe problems. Reality is far more wonderful, far more confusing, and far broader than he can imagine. I hope that something breaks him free of the chains that he put on himself.

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From:gleef
Date:2006-Aug-23 08:31 pm (UTC)

Target

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Even if one accepts Grim's argument, it doesn't justify why our own army appears to put so much effort into targetting children (and women and, most bizarrely, hospitals). That sort of behavior just encourages the enemy to target our children, further multiplying the pointless horror.
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From:drewkitty
Date:2006-Aug-23 10:53 pm (UTC)

Re: Target

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Um, no. The United States military expends enormous effort, and on occasion the lives of its troops, to avoid hitting women and children and hospitals.

Occasionally it happens by accident. Sometimes, it's the correct tactical choice and it happens on purpose (as for example when a school or hospital is used for military purposes.) But if you genuinely believe that our American soldiers put their pants on every day and risk getting themselves killed in particularly grisly ways in order to plan to kill children . . . well, you need to learn to think for yourself.

I make no warranty express or implied regarding politicians.
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From:gleef
Date:2006-Aug-24 12:23 am (UTC)

Re: Target

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Um, no. The United States military expends enormous effort, and on occasion the lives of its troops, to avoid hitting women and children and hospitals.

Occasionally it happens by accident. Sometimes, it's the correct tactical choice and it happens on purpose (as for example when a school or hospital is used for military purposes.)


Yes, sometimes they go through extraordinary effort to avoid such targets.
And sometimes they attack such targets with extreme prejudice.

To give one example, when we attacked Falujah, a city which had, prior to our entry, two hospitals, among the first things we did were to invade one hospital and bomb the other into rubble. I have yet to see anyone present credible evidence that either hospital was used for military purposes. Are we supposed to accept some Pentagon spokesman's say-so after they've consistently lied so many times to us? Especially since, at the time, they were first trying to claim that they didn't use incendiary weapons against that city, and then that using incendiary devices that they used were just fine.

I don't buy it.

But if you genuinely believe that our American soldiers put their pants on every day and risk getting themselves killed in particularly grisly ways in order to plan to kill children . . . well, you need to learn to think for yourself.

I most certanly don't think that. I think that there are a few bad eggs that will occasionally go off needlessly on civilians, but for the most part we have excellent soldiers.

No, I think our generals plan to kill cities, and then make sure the soldiers are given appropriately dire stories so that attacking the targets is credible and sane to them.

I think we are running this war, in part, by misinforming our troops as badly as our government has been deliberately misinforming the citizenry. Because otherwise I can't see how we could have this many war crimes piling up.
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From:ceruleanst
Date:2006-Aug-24 03:00 am (UTC)

Re: Target

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Any sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from malice.

We buy expensive "smart bombs" to to make the people dropping them feel better about dropping a bomb blindly on a city, trusting that it will automagically fly through chimneys and windows and only kill bad people. The things don't actually perform as advertised; few or none of them have hit military targets since the war started. I will grant that it is probably a coincidence when they land on schools; when innocent adults are killed, we just don't hear as much about it.

We send green soldiers into the field, ill-trained and with little understanding of the world after high school beyond "your job is to kill Iraqis." When they kill innocent civilians, they are encouraged with rationalizations for the press. Many, naturally, become sociopaths, which is why we hear about whole villages being executed, from elderly to toddlers. When made-up stories about "insurgents" give way to the truth that American soldiers are shooting six-year-olds in the head, the brass wave their hands and say "Somehow we failed to communicate to the troops that this is not okay. We can't blame them; they didn't know. We'll work out this glitch, don't worry."

Someone up the line knows, allows, and doesn't mind that this war is mostly a matter of killing civilians at random to remind them we're there.
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From:postrodent
Date:2006-Aug-24 03:23 pm (UTC)

Re: Target

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We buy expensive "smart bombs" to make the people dropping them feel better about dropping a bomb blindly on a city
With affection and respect, you are still giving the military too much credit. We buy "expensive" smart bombs because they are still cheaper in both obvious and hidden costs than dropping the dozens, hundreds or thousands (the WW2 ratio) of dumb bombs that would be necessary to ensure the same number of hits.
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From:koogrr
Date:2006-Aug-23 09:23 pm (UTC)

A MODEST PROPOSAL

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HIS FIRST! YUM!
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From:acertaindoebear
Date:2006-Aug-23 09:56 pm (UTC)

Beautiful m'dear, beautiful! -:)

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"So Grim, is that 1st Edition Gary GygaxTM official or 3rd EditionTM with the pink cover official rules set?"

And so it goes.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:2006-Aug-23 11:48 pm (UTC)

From Grim

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Strawmen are fine as far as they go, but this one breaks down at the first question. You ask if the disregard should be real or just a ruse; in fact, a true emotional disregard is admitted in the original piece to be an impossibility (in the line that begins, 'We cannot cut out our hearts'). Thus, there is nothing in the piece to suggest that we train anyone, warrior or otherwise, to be unemotional. Indeed, far from suggesting that it would be wise to put aside emotion, the emotions are recognized as a credit to the soul ('...as we wish to remain men, and good men, rather than monsters').

What the original piece attempts to do is first examine the situation from the perspective of pure reason; and then, to locate a course of action within the more confused, but morally better, human realm. Cutting out our hearts is explicitly rejected by the text.

That said, there's a second flaw in the counterargument, which is that it doesn't recognize the right categories. The piece I wrote was about a category of cases in which children are being used as targets or shields by enemies, without regard to whose children those are. This recognizes that Marines (and the American public generally) are bothered by killing any children, both the ones they are sworn to protect, and the ones they are not.

You've constructed an argument that is limited to cases in which we are talking about our own children. That omits the (larger) part of the original category, when we are talking about how best to reduce the likelihood of any children being used by the enemy, without regard to whose children they were. It is entirely possible that a society could decide to distinguish -- although I think it is morally better not to distinguish -- between children who live in foreign lands, and American children.

I will return, sincerely, the compliment you gave me: It was an interesting piece. :) Thank you for that.
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From:oliver_otter
Date:2006-Aug-24 04:08 am (UTC)
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Sorry, Chip, your analysis is largely flawed.

Chip: Who do a better job: those who merely follow orders, or those with a personal passion for their job?

Watch "Full Metal Jacket" and tell me, who is the better soldier, Animal Mother, who follows his passion, or Joker, who follows his orders? How about the Huey doorgunner who loves his job? To the extent Animal Mother was the better soldier, it's because he was more technically skillful, and better armed. He nearly got a lot of his fellow soldiers killed, though.

The best soldier is the one who follows his orders, because the other soldiers are depending on him to do it. Their plans may rely on him being where he's supposed to be, working on the targets he's supposed to be working on, and avoiding extra risks that may put him out of commission when he's needed. (Maybe even requiring more of them to risk extra lives to rescue him from targets that could be strategically avoided.) If you're asking who'd be the better murderer, though, it's the mother protecting her cubs, the psychopath getting his jollies, or the angry man getting his revenge.

But as to the main argument, you've oversimplified things to produce a strawman to a strawman. It's impossible to give up all things you value to protect them. Some things, no matter how much you deny it, will obviously be of value to you. Those will always be potential weaknesses. You can't avoid it. Those you must protect by sacrificing things of lower value. Hopefully nothing more than money and effort; make it so clear that you will stop at nothing to protect them, or avenge them, that they cease to really be a weakness. Nobody in their right mind would push you that way. That's why MAD worked. Both sides knew going too strong against the other would result in anihilation, so they had to dance around their most aggressive options and never even seriously consider them. It is, however, possible for Grim to love his own children more than someone else's children, but still love those other children. The solution then, is to protect the unthinkable-to-lose without reservation, and to protect the other children by making it clear and unambiguous that they cannot be used as shields. While Grim may wind up sad if the enemy doesn't quite get the message, and Grim has to kill the other children to stop the enemy, it still makes more sense by any intelligent calculus than risking his own children.
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