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April 27, 2005



"Imagine what it must be like for prime ministers and presidents, who must make decisions that, either way, will result in the death and suffering of thousands."

Yes, in those rare instances where death will occur either way it probably is hard. Unfortunately, many deaths, if not most, were quite easily preventable. Don't participate. Example: The Indonesian government is buying weapons to kill Timorese people in order that both they and you will have easy access to Timorese Gap oil. A few people in the U.S. bring this genocide to the attention of a few conservative congressmen and church groups, and eventually enough people found out, put pressure on the government, especially after sevevral Australian journalists were killed, and the U.S. told Indonesia they weren't supplying them anymore and hinted that they stop. A few days later the killing stopped. It was quite easy. Pick up the phone. Of course, this was well after 1/3 of the population had been killed, probably next to the Holocaust relative to population, but I guess it could have been worse. When one needs to keep glancing back and forth between an accountants spreadsheets and climbing casualty counts I guess the choice is just too hard sometimes.KB

"And inaction may cause the greatest carnage of all."

Yes, pacifism and inaction has been known to kill lots of people. But basically I agree. So, you would support the many countries where the U.S. has invaded, or helped to invade? I mean, the people just can't sit there and be killed can they? I mean, given the disparity of force which most third world countries have been up against, and given they they have bravely attempted to fight anyway, just further shows their heroics. Perhaps you know some of these countries where the folks refused to be inactive. Cuba? Nicaragua? Guatamala? Etc.......KB

"What about the other side of this coin? What about those writers who are also unwilling to embrace moral complexities not because of celebratory sentiments, but because they want war to yield to purist moral standards?"

I think most rational people, including most everyone from "the left" that I know, understand that war may be necessary at times, and have no illusions about the need to defend ourselves if under attack. Iraq hardly qualified. There should be VERY high standards of proof before war is ever considered. In most wars this doesn't happen ata ll. Of course, all governments claim to have looked at every possible option, but that's nonsense and easily provable to be so. They all say that it was a tough decision, but in the last analysis it was necessary. And in the end, this has rarely ever been the case. Fighting against Hitler was one instance where it 'may' have passed the high threshold of requirements for going to war, but that is even debateable. If the proper steps had been taken much earlier, you know, like people would have listened to the dissidents talking about Hitler's predictable actions and crimes, then perhaps he would never had grown into the position in the first place. For instance, according to State Department documents, as late as 1936-9 Hitler was regarded as a "moderate" standing between the extremes of the right and left. Was this true? I hardly believe so, as there were many speaking out about his antics and warning what may ensue quite early on. It's not that difficult to spot a fanatic. But some people just don't care how much of a fanatic someone is as long as there's a favorable climate for inverstments. Once again, business wins out over morality. However, most wars and aggression have been easily preventable. Don't do them. If some asshole tries to attack you, then defend yourself and kick his ass. If he's not doing anything, don't go looking for a fight. Most wars have been fought by people who went looking for a fight. Either that or they thought the others wouldn't fight back, as often happened as well, seeing that it would be suicide to try. If one feels that they must take a stand and support someone in another country from time to time, don't you think that it should be to support the exploited against the exploiter? If so, then why does the U.S. have such a horrendous record of doing just the opposite? And are the victims of U.S. terror given the same right to fight back? If they fight back are they considered terrorists, as the ANC in South Africa was considered "one of the more notorious terrorist organizations in the world", according to the U.S. State Department. Or, are they freedom fighters? Were Mandela, Biko, Mbeke, etc...terrorists or freedom fighters?KB

"I don't buy such arguments at all. Of course, no war is morally perfect. One of the worst diseases of our time is the notion that we must pursue moral absolutes."

And this is why wars should be avoided as much as possible. And his notion of perfect sounds a little of from the terms original meaning. The word doesn't mean some end 'final state of perfection' as is commonly thought. The word means 'the process of working towards something better'. If by moral absolute he means moral perfection, in the sense of some final state, then he's simply making a mistake in meaning. I would hardly consider working toward a better morality, such as attempting to eliminate war, as a disease. That someone would even consider working towards a more moral situation as a disease is nothing short of pathological.KB

"Most of life is about making very difficult marginal choices about morality."

Yes, deciding to kill or not is quite difficult. Don't do it. It's easy to come up with situations where one may be put in this situation, but it really doesn't happen all that much in the real world.KB

"It is never going to be 100 percent, and that's why we should always exhibit some sympathy for our rulers when they make decisions about peace or war."

Why? We should have sympathy for someone like Bush who lies, cheats, and steals, for oil and for business, and has the nerve to hide behind the cover of liberating a country to try and spread democracy. I have sympathy the same way as I would for Jeffrey Dalmer, thinking that maybe there was something in his background which led to his immoral behavior.KB

"I happen to be a critic of the Iraq business."

Wow! How admirable. It almost sounds as though it was hard for him to be a critic.KB

"There well might be a case to be made for using force against the North Koreans, Iranians, or someone else who threatens the peace of the world with weapons of mass destruction."

Or the U.S., or Israel? Remember? The two countries with the most weapons? One of these countries having already used them? Did this just slip his mind, or has he not even considered it? Does this thought have any cognitive meaning to him. as it does to the rest of the world?KB

"What caused some of us to say before the Iraq war began that we were skeptical about going in was that we were fearful that it would compromise the case for using force in a better cause."

Of course, this was an obvious reason. It was also just morally wrong, not to mention illegal. Did he not even consider these things? Did he not consider the hypocricy involved in such actions as well?KB

"So it is madness, I think, to say that nothing is worth the use of force."

Then the same standards can apply to others. He has just made an apologetic for every terrorist int he world.KB

"When civilized societies lose the strength of purpose"

"The strength of purpose"? What the hell is this supposed to mean? That if you're strong, and you think you're right, then you should just rape and pillage at will? No wonder the entire planet is afraid of the U.S. right now. You have an intellectual culture where even the "left" can express such ideas without seeing anything wrong with them.KB

"to be prepared to use force for relatively good causes, we might as well all give up."

Now this is a nice specific qualification; "relatively good causes". Hmmmm...Wonder what he means by this? Perhaps, stealing oil from another country? Perhaps supporting muderers in a country to ensure a cheap labor market? Yes, to some these are the good causes.KB

"We must have the confidence to make these decisions, but obviously every time we use force in a cause that is not very good, it weakens our ability to muster the will of our society to use force in a better cause."

Not with the Bush types around. They wouldn't know a good cause if it shot them in the ass. They seem to be of the salivating rabid dog types who get some sort of sexual gratification from watching, hearing about, or just thinking about, those rugged men and women, holding those phallic shaped things, shooting out that hot lead, and blowing the heads off of those poor third-world people. They'll support anyone who has this as a hobby. They'll defend the leaders and even think of themselves as patriots. Now these folks are moral.KB

"In the current situation, a lot of us are very worried about what the Iranians are doing with their nuclear capability."

"A lot of us are"? Really? Who? Why? Still not worried about the U.S.? Has it ever occured to him that it's possible that these countries want nuclear weapons precisely so that what happened in Iraq doesn't happen to them? It's called deterrence. I thought the U.S. was big on this concept. It's just odd that when other countries have the nerve to try and aquire weapons to protect themselves from invasion the U.S. has all of this concern.KB

"And we do feel pretty sore toward Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld because we feel they have made it harder to use force on something that looks as if it may really matter."

I'm not really sure that they've made it seem any harder. If the U.S. said we needed to Invade Iran tomorrow because they had kidnapped Santa Claus my guess is that there would be about 50% of the U.S. population frothing at the mouth for war. The moral ones, I mean.KB

"Somehow I that this kind of criticism of a very risky endeavor is the kind that might make George Bush lose sleep"

I doubt George Bush loses sleep over any of this stuff at all. Why would he? He and his family going back at least 4 generations have an entire history of of doing nothing but participating in selling weapons, selling security to protect ourselves from those who we are selling weapons, oil, and corruption. Do you think concocting an invasion and having hundreds of U.S. soldiers, as well as Iraqis, killed in which to ensure access to the second biggest oil reserve in the world is going to make Bush lose sleep?KB

"rather than those featuring posters of chimp-faces and the equivalent of 'war is bad.""

I guess real faces and 'war is good' would be better.KB

"Read the rest of a thought-provoking interview of a forthright but gracious historian."

His ideas better get a little better than this.KB

"His latest book, Armageddon: The Battle for Germany, 1944–1945, will be on my shopping list."

Sounds deep.KB

"Hastings seems clear that war is hell, but does not seem to think it follows that war is over if we simply want it to be."

Who thinks this? Actually, to even think about this is basically a waste of time. Why not be doing something to look at the root causes instead of just saying "Well, it's gonna' be here. It sucks. I may as well write about it and make a few bucks."KB

"What would you like the reader to take away from the book?"

That war sucks and should be fought against has is humanly possible. That folks should look at what leads to war and not do the same dumbass things over and over. Actually, in my opinion, part of the reason they do happen over and over is precisely because of the folks who believe it will happen anyway. I mean, if you believe it's going to, I doubt you'll be trying too hard to try and prevent it. You then become an unwitting accomplice. Then, when it happens again you can say "See, it is natural and unavoidable. I'm a "realist"." It becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy.KB

"Although I write military history, above all I am interested in what happened as human experience. And if I were asked to give one good reason to read my book, it would be that we have stupid people who don't know any history saying today that we live in a terrible world: 9/11, Al Qaeda, and so on."

I agree.KB

"It bears saying again and again that we are an incredibly privileged and pampered generation."

I agree.KB

"One need only spend five minutes considering the experiences of what people went through in World War II as a whole—especially in the final cataclysmic phase when more than 100 million people were, as I say in my book, "locked in bloody embrace"—to conclude that we are so very fortunate today."

I agree. And we should look at the causes and avoid these things from happening again.KB

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