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Post 20

Wednesday, November 21, 2007 - 11:33pmSanction this postReply
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Teresa, (There!  I finally spelled your name correctly!)

You are absolutely right about Trade.  Somehow, my rabid dog metaphor doesn't hold up when it comes to that, because, well, he has nothing to trade!  My heart swells up with hope and optimism when Giuliani or Ron Paul speak of Trade as the means by which peace can be created.  But with those that are our clear enemy, I think the rabid dog analogy holds up, in that killing him or avoiding him are both reasonable measures.

Going back to the idea of causal factors really being disguised excuse-making, I'm wondering if that applies just to this current crisis, or if it holds true across time.  For example, after the Iranian militants attacked the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and took over fifty American hostages, what would you think of a person who responded that it was probably caused by American foreign policy?




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Post 21

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 12:01amSanction this postReply
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Teresa writes:

> Either the world truly is my oyster, or it isn't. Isolationists say it ain't.

Excellent point Teresa.

I think I understand where the liberal/libertarian perspective that Robert Bidinotto identifies comes from. In some cases I'm sure that it is a true expression of hatred directed at the virtues of American culture. However, I believe that in many more cases it is a response to the errors and flaws in our culture and policies which manifests as a disproportionate attack on America because, as Americans, we feel somewhat empowered to affect the direction of our country and culture, while having no such illusions about other regions of the world such as Russia or the Middle East.

Make no mistake, I think that it is a serious error to be disproportionately critical of America and its policies in the face of the atrocities being committed by others. But I am also critical of those that skirt over the flaws of America in an attempt to right those disproportionate injustices.

Let's face it. American foreign policy is a mess. There is no clear, consistent statement made to the American public, let alone the rest of the world, about what principles underly our policies, and as a result, our foreign policy actions contradict one another, producing confusion in the minds of everyone here and abroad. Consequently, I don't blame anyone who becomes angered at their inability to make sense of the stories they hear reported in the press. Yes, those news stories often paint a biased picture, but if the government had a compelling, principled, policy story to convey, they have plenty of outlets to communicate it. The fact that they do not communicate effectively indicates that the actions are more range-of-the-moment pragmatic than grounded in fundamental principles. And as such, it is no wonder to me that they often produce less than desirable results.

So, I'm willing to cut Ron Paul, like any other US citizen, a bit of slack if he wishes to express his disgust at our foreign policy, while at the same time I do agree that his statements certainly convey a disproportionality that is wrong. Beyond that, I don't here him expounding a clear rational replacement for our floundering foreign policy. However, neither am I impressed by the statements of any of the other Republican or Democratic candidates. None of them speak in terms of principles and it remains unclear to me where any of them might lead us in the future in response to unforeseen threats.

As Teresa said, the world should be our oyster. As Americans, we should feel free to act on the global stage in pursuit of the universal virtues of free trade and human rights. What we need is a leader who understands this in fundamental terms and is prepared to craft and then articulate a clear foreign policy that states to the world our right to these pursuits - and the willingness to use our military might against those who interfere with those pursuits.

Regards,
--
Jeff



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Post 22

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 12:46amSanction this postReply
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Ron Paul's foreign policy ideas seem the least malignant and least isolationaist of all the presidential candidates.  He clearly distinguishes between the american people and the U.S. government when he criticizes foreign policy.  He also believes that individual natural rights apply to all people, not just U.S. citizens and those of our "allies".  This deep respect for individual human life causes him to abhor needless wars where the majority of the casualties seem always to be innocent women and children (despite the best attempts at avoiding "collateral damage").  

Attempts to explain terrorist or criminal actions is not at all the same as excusing them.  Explanation entails some learning or understanding.  An excuse does not.  When a criminal prosecutor explains a murderer's motive to a jury, is he at the same time excusing it?  Is he blaming the victim? Is he necessarily accepting the deterministic argument?  I think not.  Neither is Ron Paul when he discusses terrorist motives and explains "blowback".  Thankfully more and more people are listening to his message.




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Post 23

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 8:25amSanction this postReply
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Ron Paul has said that the attacks occurred "because we are there" or something exactly to that effect (I am doing this from memory right now). That is equivalent to saying, in my book, that given that we are there, such an attack is ok.



Post 24

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 8:25amSanction this postReply
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Ron Paul's foreign policy is inadequate and far too naive to comprehend the very real problem of Islam. His libertarian answers are all given as abstractions without any concrete reality. He thinks that opening up trade and staying out of the Islamic nations business of pillage and nuclear weapons building, that the middle east will be a relatively peaceful area where the muslims will mind their own business and not threaten the free world. The fact is islam is a religion of death. At it's core it is a rotten belief which would have everyone on earth either convert or die. Ron Paul is putting his head in the sand, and by doing that he is inviting the town bully to kick him in the pants, or worse...



Post 25

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 8:32amSanction this postReply
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Not all libertarians share Ron Paul's take, not by a long shot. His position, especially given its rather cryptic rendition in nearly every context I am familiar with, is not equivalent to libertarian foreign or military policy. Claiming that his is THE libertarian stance is akin to claiming that ARI's position on how to deal with Iran is THE Objectivist stance.



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Post 26

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 8:41amSanction this postReply
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It is an interesting issue whether when one explains some human conduct--and takes it to be a true, sound explanation, by reference to various external causes--this counts as providing an excuse.  I think it does. If a father beats his kids and someone ways, well he does so because he, too, was beating as a child, that claim implies that he cannot help himself and what he does is morally unobjectionable.  "Ought" implies "can"--or if one should have done something, it must be that one could have done it. If the father couldn't have done otherwise, then claiming he should have done otherwise cannot be right.  If Osama bin Laden attacked the World Trade Center because the USA is in the Middle East--if that is the cause for the attack--then since the USA is indeed in the Middle East, Osama is fully exculpated--he couldn't have done otherwise. (This is why defense attorneys seek the mens rea defense for their clients; if they couldn't help themselves, couldn't even think of another course of conduct, they are without blame.)
(Edited by Machan on 11/22, 8:44am)




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Post 27

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 8:46amSanction this postReply
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Understand that Ron Paul won't allow Bin Laden to get away with mass murder, but he will change foreign policy away from interventionalism, which is good in my opinion. I suspect that most of the complaints over Ron Paul's foreign policy views is typical neo-con buzz words and not a single fact. So, if you don't want to vote for Ron Paul, state that you support interventionalism and that it entails, but don't pretend that Ron Paul is an isolationist. There's a distinction between Ron Paul's hands-off foreign policy and that of isolationism. One deals with nations as nations, respecting their sovereignty, and the other ignores all other nations entirely. One works with its allies for peace and prosperity, the other has no allies in peace nor in prosperity. And so on.

-- Brede



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Post 28

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 8:58amSanction this postReply
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This is very interesting.

I'm curious to know what you'd think if things were reversed.  Imagine for a moment that, as unlikely as it would be, Ron Paul became president and put a policy of non-intervention in place.  Two years into his presidency, there is a devastating terrorist attack in Cleveland which kills tens of thousands of American lives.  A military response takes place against nations harboring and supporting these terrorists, but critics of the president say it was too little too late.  Now, imagine the election of 2012.  Ron Paul is the incumbent, and running against him is a Republican who argues that this policy of non-intervention is disastrous.  He goes on to say, "This ridiculous foreign policy of Ron Paul's has led to the death of thousands, and the destruction of one of America's great cities." 

Is this the same thing as saying the terrorist attack against Cleveland was okay?  Is it saying that it was all America's fault?  By criticizing President Paul's foreign policy, is this Republican opponent siding with the terrorists? 

I don't think so.  I think it's saying that a policy of non-intervention emboldened our enemies.  I think it would be a fair argument.




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Post 29

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 10:30amSanction this postReply
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Bridget, these debates always boil down to undefined terms and the typical "neo-con" insult.

What is interventionism?

What is isolationism?

What does it mean for a nation to have sovereignty? And do all nations no matter what their actions deserve sovereignty?

What is a neo-con?

Before I could respond I'd like to know where you're coming from with your premises.

To me interventionism is simply intervening in an internal conflict in a foreign nation or a conflict between foreign nations. Now this could either mean the conflict may have ramifications to the interests of other nations or your own, or it could not. It would depend on the conflict, the scope of it, and what the consequences would be of not intervening. To me the word can be ambiguous as not all foreign conflicts are the same.

Isolationism is one who does not want to intervene in an internal conflict of a foreign nation or a conflict between foreign nations. To me this presumes that even if the internal conflict of a foreign nation or a conflict between foreign nations could mean disastrous results to your own nation's rational self interest, (e.g. WW2) one should still not intervene. Or it could mean if the internal conflict of a foreign nation or a conflict between foreign nations will not bear any threat to your interests, you don't intervene. This label again to me is ambiguous as not all foreign conflicts are the same.

Sovereignty is the recognition of an independent nation that respects its own citizens' right to their own sovereignty. For example a nation that respects its own citizens right to self-defense can itself ought to expect the same respect from other nations. But a totalitarian nation, for example pre-war Iraq, is a nation that does not respect the rights of its own citizens cannot possibly be given any kind of sovereignty, i.e respect for its borders or governmental authority. This kind of nation cannot be given any respect because it has no legitimate right to exist.

Neo-con I can only think refers to the Bush administration. I don't know what further meaning this has beyond that. In that regards I think it's an easy cop-out to actually addressing the arguments of current foreign policy (i.e. Iraq) and is nothing more than insult disguised as an argument, i.e. an easy way to dismiss your opponents without actually intellectually engaging them.







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Post 30

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 12:56pmSanction this postReply
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Yes, GW Bush has botched what should have been a total victory over a clear and present danger in Iraq. His engagement policies with the enemy are politically correct which is no policy for total victory. His Iraqi policy is costing us our soldiers lives. No, the USA should not try to teach democracy to heathens or nation build for people who do not want it.(We should secure the Iraqi oil fields for our nations use). However, Ron Paul is unwilling to accept the fact of Islam's true danger and threat to the USA. His foreign policy is only to react if the USA is literally attacked first. It is moral and right for the USA to dispose of any threat to its safety. Militant Islam is a dedicated enemy to the USA which needs to be eradicated. Ron Paul however doesn't see that fact clearly enough. He is unwilling to address the very present danger that the entire middle east holds to the free world. If elected, he would allow these rogue nations to acquire weapons of mass destruction so long as they didn't meddle with America. That's suicide. His whole mantra is; so long as they don't directly attack the USA they can become as powerful and dangerous as they want. He is equating nationalism with the right to exist. There is no such thing however as a right to enslave or tyrannize. These Islamic nations should be destroyed if they threaten the safety of the free world, waiting for a nuke to go off is too little too late.



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Post 31

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 2:31pmSanction this postReply
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"His foreign policy is only to react if the USA is literally attacked first."

Er... that's already happened, at least twice inside our borders.

It's difficult to know what would motivate Mr. Paul to reach beyond our borders, an Iranian jet video taped dropping a nuclear weapon onto the Empire State building? (Doubt they'd have the range, anyway.)

Or, would he only be willing to react if we first withdrew every military installation and personnel from everywhere outside the borders of the U.S.?

Sure, these statements are exaggerated. But, so far as I can tell, not by much.



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Post 32

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 2:55pmSanction this postReply
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Eric,

I think there is a difference between your post 28 example and the current example. In your example of criticizing the isolationism, the criticism is that the policy enabled the terrorism.  In the current example, the claim is that the "interventionism" caused the terrorism.  The former doesn't attempt to shift blame away from the terrorists.  It was still their choice to act on their irrationality.  The moral fault is still theirs for the action.  The only blame being assigned to the policy is for making it easier for them to act, either by actually not resisting them earlier, or by informing them that their will not be any consequences.  Each is getting blame for their own actions/inactions.  The terrorist gets full blame for murdering.  The government gets blame for not doing enough to prevent it.  But there's no excusing the terrorist.  There's no argument that he wasn't responsible for his actions, or was just "reacting" to stimulus.

Contrast that to the latter claim that "interventionism" caused the terrorism.  The terrorists moral fault is spread around.  They're said to be not wholly responsible for their actions, if they are at all.  They are treated as if they are not moral agents, but mere animals who respond to stimulus.  And instead of punishing them for their actions, the offered alternative is to stop provoking them.

Now back to your post 13.  I still don't think you should take the blame for provoking the beating.  So let me give yet another example.

There's a girl in high school that just broke up with her boyfriend, who was too possessive and mean.  He's really upset about it.   A different boy likes her.  So he decides to flirt with her and ask her out.  He knows about the ex-boyfriend, but figures he's not afraid of what the ex-boyfriend thinks, and he really likes this girl, and has for years.  He takes his chances, and things work out.  He goes out on a date, happy as can be.  And then the ex-boyfriend shows up and attacks him, beating him to a pulp, screaming "She belongs to me!"

Now he could go and blame himself for the attack.  His dating her was a "causal factor", after all.   The point is that he didn't do anything wrong.  The fact that the ex-boyfriend is psychotic and thinks his old girlfriend belongs to him was the problem.  The new guy shouldn't blame himself, although he might anyway.  It's natural to look back on a tragic event and ask what could we have done to prevent it.  It's natural to want to imagine that you have control over such things in your life, and you could prevent them if you knew how.  But if he had good friends, they'd tell him that it wasn't his fault, and that he has to stop blaming himself.  They'd tell him that by blaming himself, he's increasing the attack on himself, and allowing the attacker to remain entirely free of consequences, even the simple consequence of moral blame.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, if there is absolutely no moral justification for the attack, it's really easy to see that it's the attacker that is at fault.  But in your example, you felt like your insult was a proper motivation for some kind of response.  You might believe that the beating was way too much of an overreaction, and so argue that it wasn't entirely justified, but it's easier to convince yourself that it was your own choices that led to it.  You wouldn't have anyone who could convince you that you were entirely the victim here.  So you'd take the moral responsibility for the violence as well.  You'd say that the attacker was a mindless animal, and can't be expected to behave any better.

But I think this is a flawed thought process, brought on by the desire to feel more in control.  I think you can accept that you shouldn't have said it, and that you did hurt their feelings, but that the blame you accept has to stop at that point.  Taking the blame for the bullies excesses is just shifting of moral responsibility for his choices to yourself.  The causal factor, your petty little insult, is not a justification for the attack, and shouldn't be consider one.  It might be a justification for him saying something rude in return.  But if you treat it as an open invitation to any kind of reaction, then you excuse any action on their part, for any reason.  From that perspective, any action you take, no matter how innocent, can be seen as an "explanation" or justification for any response.

If your action didn't deserve a response, it doesn't matter to me whether it was entirely innocent, or if it was slightly rude.  In both cases, it didn't justify that particular "response".  The blame for that "response" is entirely on the attacker, because it really isn't a response at all, except maybe in the deluded mind of the attacker.  But if that is the criteria for you to accept blame for his actions, then everything you do is a "causal factor".  Your mere existence can be a "causal factor".




Post 33

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 3:17pmSanction this postReply
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Ron Paul did not "Blame" or "Excuse". Who's words are these ? Happy Thanksgiving Rebirth of REASON.



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Post 34

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 3:38pmSanction this postReply
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I was wondering when the fan club president would show up.

:)




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Post 35

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 5:26pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

I sanctioned your Post 32, because you raised a crucial distinction that I hadn't considered. But I want to bring up another example, which I think illustrates a related point that might get overlooked here.

Suppose that a mugger sticks a gun in your back and says, "Give me your wallet, or I'll shoot you." But instead of giving him your wallet, you try to wrestle the gun away from him, and wind up getting shot. Question: Do you bear any responsibility for getting shot? Did you do anything wrong in trying to wrestle the gun away from him, or was it entirely the mugger's fault?

Another example: Suppose that you park your car in a dangerous neighborhood, and leave the door unlocked and the keys in the ignition. After you return, you find that your car has been stolen. Do you bear any responsibility for the theft? Was any of it your fault, or was it entirely the fault of the car thief?

In the first example, you were entirely within your rights to try to wrestle the gun away from the mugger, but your action was still not a wise move under the circumstances. It showed poor judgment. The same is true of the second example. You had a perfect right to leave your door unlocked and the keys in the ignition. No one has a right to steal your car even under these circumstances. But you showed exceedingly poor judgment in not locking your door and taking the keys with you. In that respect, you acted wrongly, and the resulting theft can, at least to some extent, be laid at your feet.

Of course, in your example, dating the girl whose ex was extremely jealous was not necessarily imprudent under the circumstances. The guy had no reason to think that her ex would attack him for doing so. But let's suppose that her ex was a gang banger who had a reputation for killing anyone who dated his women, and that the guy knew this. If he went ahead and tried to date her anyway, one could certainly question his judgment.

The point is that one has to consider the entire context in deciding whether to exercise one's rights or to take reasonable precautions in not exercising them.

Your thoughts?

- Bill


(Edited by William Dwyer on 11/22, 5:36pm)




Post 36

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 5:57pmSanction this postReply
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Joe,

Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent response.  I really admire the way you think and the clear style you use in making a sound and worthy argument.

In the most fundamental and important way, we are in total agreement.  In terms of my getting beaten up in high school, you are absolutely right to say that I am not to blame for that.  We agree, the fault is entirely the responsibility of the irrational jock who was too big of a baby to tolerate an insult.  And on the national level, we agree that the blame for 911 lies totally with the islamic fundamentalists who committed the atrocity, those that supported them, and those that share their ideology.  The share of responsibility, fault, and blame that the United States shares in that comes out to exactly zero.  America is utterly and completely not at fault and remains blameless for the attacks of 911.  Agree?

I don't know what Ron Paul believes, but I know what I believe.  911 didn't happen in a vacuum, there is a context.  And part of that context involves a long history of inconsistent American foreign policy.  By saying this, I'm not saying anything about blame. 

In 1980, when Ayn Rand was asked about the Iranian hostage crisis, she replied, "It's certainly the fault of our foreign policy, and at present, there's no right course of action."   By saying this, do you believe Ayn Rand was siding with the Iranian militants?  Of course not.  And when I say that the football jock was reacting to my insult, do you think I'm taking the blame?  Of course not.  And when Robert says that Timothy McVeigh was motivated by the Waco fiasco, do you think Robert is shifting blame away from McVeigh?  No, of course not.   

I'm going to be listening very careful to Ron Paul, because if you are correct, I will certainly withdraw my support and be embarrassed that I ever spoke up for him!




Post 37

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 6:43pmSanction this postReply
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Eric Rockwell,

I don't have the quote or video link on hand, but I swear I once saw a reporter try to say Ron Paul meant "The 911 attack was justified by US intervention in the Middle East" and then Ron Paul replied with something along the lines of "No, that is what I believe provoked the attack, but I do not think the attack was justified."



Post 38

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 7:40pmSanction this postReply
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Dean,

If you find that quote, it might help to clear things up.  I notice, though, that you mentioned the reporter assumed that Paul felt the attacks were justified.  Tibor believes that Paul feels the attacks were "okay."  Other very clear-headed and respectable thinkers on this site have the impression that Ron Paul blames America for 911.  They can't all be deluded.  Something Ron Paul has said at some point must've created this impression. There must be something in his communication style, his choice of words, or even his underlying philosophy, that prompts people to see him as an apologist for terrorism.  They may be right; Maybe deep down he thinks those terrorists had every right to crash into the towers.  If so, we need to speak out against him. 

If not, he needs to do a better job of communicating his pro-American foreign policy position.   




Post 39

Thursday, November 22, 2007 - 7:53pmSanction this postReply
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Eric, Was he really a mindless brute? And in that context, did you really have the right to say what you did and not expect retaliation, especially in that you are unable to defend yourself? After all, you were dealing with a street situation, and in what way did you expect to get away with what you said?

Perhaps he knew he could bash your head in with impunity, and took pleasure in doing so because you could not defend yourself? But this doesn't make him a mindless brute, just a very angry dude displacing his anger on an available victim. However, the guilt also falls on you for failing to learn to protect yourself. I suffered greatly as a boy until I learned to bash back. Self-defense in both the intellectual and physical sense is a must. Without both, you will suffer and "mindless brutes" will smell your weakness and react accordingly.




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