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It's Not a War, It's a Feud

I've never been comfortable with the implications of the phrase "War On Terrorism". Besides the obvious problem that it's tough to defeat an abstract noun, the framing as a war comes with a lot of assumptions that I don't buy into: that Congress authorizes a war, that we have a defined enemy to fight and territory to seize, that our enemy's surrender is possible, and so forth. None of that works. It's a phony war. It serves political ends, but it doesn't help the United States cause very much to march troops around from one dusty hellhole to another.

My preferred mental model until today was a police effort against organized criminals. We need intelligence, informers, arrests, detentions, and possibly propaganda efforts to delegitimize the efforts by murderous thugs to kill our fellow citizens. It's a better than the war model for defining strategies and getting results against an amorphous, stateless threat. But there's an even better way to put the fight into proper perspective: the blood feud, as spelled out in an TCS article by Lee Harris. It explains things that make no sense in Western warfare:

In the blood feud, the orientation is not to the future, as in war, but to the past. In the feud you are avenging yourself on your enemy for something that he did in the past. Al Qaeda justified the attack on New York and Washington as revenge against the USA for having defiled the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia by its military presence during the First Gulf War. In the attack on London, the English were being punished for their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In the blood feud, unlike war, you have no interest in bringing your enemy to his knees. You are not looking for your enemy to surrender to you; you are simply interested in killing some of his people in revenge for past injuries, real or imaginary -- nor does it matter in the least whether the people you kill today were the ones guilty of the past injuries that you claim to be avenging. In a blood feud, every member of the enemy tribe is a perfectly valid target for revenge.


It's a short article and worth your time. The only problem is, how do you win a blood feud? Bad news: "We in the West cannot imagine a war that goes on forever; but those for whom the blood feud is the established mode of settling difference cannot imagine a world without it."

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( 27 sutras — Your wisdom )
kokyu
Jul. 13th, 2005 12:35 am (UTC)
I saw that essay too and thought it was marvelous

I am glad you posted the link, as I did and I don't know if anyone followed it. I may have to read Harris' book, he seems very down to earth and he communicates his ideas well.



the_monkey_king
Jul. 13th, 2005 12:54 am (UTC)
Re: I saw that essay too and thought it was marvelous
I knew I got it from someone! Thanks for the pointer.

Guess I'll have to find a copy of the book as well.
kokyu
Jul. 13th, 2005 01:04 am (UTC)
Re: I saw that essay too and thought it was marvelous

If you're not sure, I'll happily take credit. :)
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 02:35 am (UTC)
Ya know, the best way to stop this kinda stuff is easy: stop mucking around in other people's countries. Stop sponsoring tyrants. Stop teaching secret services to kidnap and torture dissidents. Stop overthrowing elected governments. Stop shelling cities to try to get at a few guys with a home-made mortar. Stop supporting the wholesale theft of Palestinian lands.

Maybe if we hadn't been killing, maiming, slaughtering, stealing from, and oppressing the peoples of the Middle East for the last 50+ years (90+ for the Brits, since 1798 for those French types), they wouldn't hate us so much.

Y'all keep asking "Why? Why?" well, if you knew your history, you'd know why. We deserve every bit of hatred they throw at us, and then some.

Oh, you say, but we're innocent civilians? No, not in a democracy we aren't, nor even in the oligarchic republic we actually are. It is because of *our* failure to reign in our government and corporations that the crimes were committed against the peoples of the Middle East. In a democracy, the buck stops with *you*. And if you weren't directly complicit in it, you still let it happen. Against all honor. Against all ethics. Against all international laws to whom we were signatory. Against everything that America stands for.

When you help build up a hegemony that rules through the jackboot, don't be surprised when those under the boot try to bite you back. You ahve no right to complain.
kokyu
Jul. 13th, 2005 03:29 am (UTC)
I disagree

I am not going to get into the business of trying to defend, justify or even argue specifics of this country's actions, many of which are reprehensible. You have to understand that the driving force here isn't our behavior, it's our existence.

There are Islamic people who are still angry about the crusades.
Fine, the crusades goes back to your point about the white western worled mucking about where they aren't welcome, but seriously, what can anyone today do about the crusades?

I'm gonna put on my anti-flame suit now.

OK.

The problem is them.

I should say, the problem is their culture, as it is taught in their religious texts. I am not even going to blame the people who are interpreting them. I say the problem has religious underpinings. I blame the Koran.

Every religion claims to be the one true religion, but the Koran leaves no room for non-believers. The Christians, at least, have this rapture to look forward too, so they don't actually have to go clense the earth of the rest of us. The Buddhists don't seem terribly concerned one way or another what others believe and the Jews, treated for centuries as badly as any other Middle Eastern group, aren't prosthelitizing or trying to wipe everybody else out. They want their tiny tiny stretch of land, which unfortunately is the same land that everybody else wants. The point is though, Jews, Christians and Buddhists have come to the conclusion that they can more or less live together and moderate their conflicts.

Much of the Muslim community has done the same. Now, I fear, we also have to ask them to isolate out those who are unwilling to step away from an eye for an eye. That sucks, to ask them to westernize so completely to our values system, but until they do they will continue to be tarred by the behavior of those whose behaviour is legal, right and expected under the traditional teachings of the Koran.
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 03:42 am (UTC)
Re: I disagree
Funny, I could turn your whole hypothesis around and it would sound just as valid...

"The problem is them.

I should say, the problem is their culture, as it is taught in their religious texts. I am not even going to blame the people who are interpreting them. I say the problem has religious underpinings. I blame the Bible.

Every religion claims to be the one true religion, but the Bible leaves no room for non-believers. The Muslims, at least, have their Judgment Day to look forward too, so they don't actually have to go clense the earth of the rest of us. The Buddhists don't seem terribly concerned one way or another what others believe and the Jews, treated for centuries as badly as any other Middle Eastern group, aren't prosthelitizing or trying to wipe everybody else out. They want their tiny tiny stretch of land, which unfortunately is the same land that everybody else wants. The point is though, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists have come to the conclusion that they can more or less live together and moderate their conflicts.

Much of the Christian community has done the same. Now, I fear, we also have to ask them to isolate out those who are unwilling to step away from an eye for an eye. That sucks, to ask them to adapt so completely to our values system, but until they do they will continue to be tarred by the behavior of those whose behaviour is legal, right and expected under the traditional teachings of the Bible."

Have you READ the Bible? There's more than enough murder, slaughter, genocide, and vileness in there to make the Koran seem light reading by comparison. Do you know what is happening in this country with the so-called "Christian Right?" Have you read their platforms? Studied their literature? They are no less medievalist theocrats than the mullahs in Iran... moreso in most cases, as they *should* damn well know better. But again, it's a case of not knowing history. They all think this country was founded as a "Christian" nation, and that the Founding Fathers were whacko Evangelical Christfascists like themselves. Not so... but then, their culture of ignorance protects them from history, and from the truth.
kokyu
Jul. 13th, 2005 04:15 am (UTC)
Nicely put, but there's a difference.

The difference is that no matter the number of people in this country who claim to be some flavor of Christian, none of them are following the teachings of the bible literally. I don't just mean the wacko stuff that's always quoted (selling their daughters into slavery for example). How about, not coveting, no idolatry etc.

Heck it's impossible. The bible has contridictions, things that just don't make sense today, even metaphorically, and mostly it interferes with tv.

We're all about the idolatry.

The VERY few examples you can find of wackos taking selected aspects of the bible as their excuse to commit crimes is usually cases of terrorism against doctors and their clinics where abortions are performed.

I can't remember what drove the Oklahoma bombers... but I think it was against the US govt... not anything specific to religion. But even if some sort of Christian point was behind that attack it doesn't matter. When we catch them, we treat them as criminals. We put them through the courts. We don't just attack some of their people in response (*). This goes back to the original article. Did you read it?


(*) I realize this is a best case statement. It's our intention. Of course, this administration has done otherwise. Even the internment of the American Japanese, shameful as it was, during WWII was done out of fear and not as a punitive action. We were afraid/stupid/overcautious. But compare tha to what the Germans were doing with those they "interned" at the same time.
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 06:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Nicely put, but there's a difference.
By your response here I am led to believe that you believe that Al-Qaeda is operating under a literal interpretation of the Koran, the Hadith, and the Judiciary Fatwahs of Itjihad?

Nothing could be further from the truth. The interpretations of the Koran used by the Death Cult of Al-Qaeda resemble the same form of interpretations that the Popes of the Middle Ages used to twist the Bible into advocacy of the Crusades and the concept of a "Just War."

Of course, the problem is, that even though no Fundamentalist Christian cult or Fundamentalist Islamic cult follows their respective holy book literally, ALL believe themselves to cleave to the truest, most literal interpretation of their book possible -- that's the nature of and one of the requirements of Fundamentalism. It's why they are so sure in their beliefs; because they believe they are the only ones with "true knowledge" (of the revealed knowledge sort, i.e., utter bullshit). It's one of the reasons why people have been able to be driven to such suicidal lengths, from the days of the Zealots (the first true monotheistic terrorists) to today. However, even with all that, there is a second requirement: political and economic instability and reduction to hopelessness.
kokyu
Jul. 13th, 2005 04:46 am (UTC)
I forgot to disagree with this statement....

> Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists have come to the conclusion that they can more or less live together and moderate their conflicts.

- -

In case I wasn't clear on this, I am opposed to all religion. The less any religion attempts to affect my life, the more I approve of it. Love them Quakers.
the_monkey_king
Jul. 13th, 2005 05:35 am (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Well, I'm largely with you here. Most religions are fine in the center of the bell curve, but the wackos are in another league.

The trouble with arguing this from history is that the Ismaili Assassins, the Crusaders, and the jihadis and the dominionists have always done well for themselves representing the wacko side of the argument.

The tolerance of the US, of the Ottomans, of the modern Netherlands, or of Caliphate Baghdad has always been the exception rather than the rule.

It's not us and them, unless you define "us" as the tolerant silent majority, and "them" as the violent extremists on both sides. And they're the ones furthering the blood feud.
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 02:33 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Bingo. And in the West the Christofascists (the Dominionists, the hard right-wing know-nothing Christian Whackos) are now allied with the Corporatists (Military Industrial Complex/Big Oil/Cheap Labor/Neocolonialists) and the Neocons (the Pro-Israel wingnut Right from way out in Left field, basically a combination of Jewish Extremists and Israeli Corporatists), all fighting for greater U.S. (and Israeli) Hegemony. Talk about an Unholy Trilogy...
ex_paulskem
Jul. 13th, 2005 03:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Hygelak,

Articulate the ethical/philosophical basis for the claim that the mere existence of a person in a democratic nation-state makes that individual morally culpable for the individual policies of that nation-state (including historical policies, if I read your post correctly), irrespective of whether or not the individual agrees with the policy, or is even eligible to particpate in the democratic process. I take it that children are fair game too, based on your logic, notwithstanding the fact that they can neither vote nor form a mature opinion on a matter of policy?
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 05:55 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
No, in a perfect world, only those eligible for the franchise would be held responsible (whether or not they executed it). So no, children should not be, as you put it, "fair game."

But our children became "fair game" when we determined that their children were "fair collateral damage."

One thing people fail to remember is that the World Trade Center was a legitimate military target under our own definitions of "military target." We bombed the crap out of the equivalent structures in Iraq (Gulf War I and the between-war bombings), Vietnam, and so forth, with little or no consideration for "collateral damage." Albeit, in more recent decades (Gulf War II) things have been better, as far as I am concerned, and the U.S. military has in fact done a lot to make sure that such targets are as empty of civilians as possible when they strike. But collateral damage is still just collateral damage in the U.S. playbook...

Then you have to recall that Al-Qaeda is not operating under our playbook, they are using a lot less discriminating playbook... inspired by that of Israel. Collective punishment, in the form of destruction of homes, mass arrests, and random shootings (including schoolchildren) by the IDF is the most direct "model of engagement" that Muslims have encountered over the last 50+ years. And we don't simply give it tacit support... we give Israel massive support in the face of it all.

Oh, and before anyone starts on terrorist bombings... read your history and you will learn who brought the art of the terrorist bombing into the Middle East...
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 06:05 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Ah, one thought that occured to me after I finished this post...

What, if any, moral differences are there between:

A) Setting off a huge, hidden bomb without any warning; and

B) Firing off a cruise missile from 500 miles away, which cannot be shot down by the enemy, and will not even be detected until it actually hits its target; and

C) Dropping bombs from airplanes that are at a height no enemy missile can strike, against an enemy that no longer has an air force, and who can't even detect the airplanes because they no longer have a radar system?

Answer: None.
ex_paulskem
Jul. 13th, 2005 07:35 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Let's assume that I agree with your conclusion (I don't, but let's assume it). Setting off a hidden bomb, flying planes into buildings, firing cruise missiles under the circumstances you've described and so on, are morally equivalent -- equally moral or immoral. Fine. But what's your point? Nothing follows from the premise.

If in your view, the acts are equally immoral, how does the commission of one justify the commission of the other? If you think it does, follow that logic to its conclusion too.
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 08:38 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
All the actions listed above are equally immoral, or rather, I should say, so hideously immoral that equivalence does not enter into consideration. Who was the worse monster, Hitler or Stalin? The question is irrelevant, though Stalin killed probably twice as many people as Hitler: both were utterly and irredemably evil.

As to the acts listed above, the commission of one never justifies the other. Moral beings always have a choice: they can act morally in response to an immoral act, or not. What other people do never, ever comes into the consideration. To react to a monstrous act with another monstrous act is to become the monster you despise.
ex_paulskem
Jul. 14th, 2005 01:07 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
You're missing the point and not making one yourself. I'll assume (though I don't agree) that all of the foregoing are equally immoral. Didn't you state in an earlier post that it is morally acceptable to target the civilians of a democratic nation state if the policies of that nation state are deemed by the perpetrator to be immoral (after all, such civilians are "responsible" and/or "culpable" individually for the policy, right?) If so, how does that reconcile with what you just wrote, namely that one immoral act never justifies another in response? Put another way: Let's assume that U.S. foreign policy is hideously immoral (again, I don't agree with that blanket statement). In response to that, Al Qaeda sets off a bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center. If it is never justified to engage in an immoral act as a response to an immoral act, I'm puzzled as to how and why you think the US "deserves" such a response (since "deserves" is an inherently moral term). Shouldn't Al Qaeda instead have responded with a moral act designed to change our immoral policy? Haven't they behaved immorally in doing what they've done? And if so, how can anyone "deserve" an immoral act, given your premise that one cannot morally respond to immorality with more immorality?
ex_paulskem
Jul. 13th, 2005 07:27 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
"But our children became "fair game" when we determined that their children were "fair collateral damage."

Non-sequitor. To me, there is a distinct moral difference between the deliberate targeting of women, children, and the elderly (in say, schools and buses), and the targeting of military targets with the understanding that civilian casualties will result. Consider: Were the United States indiscriminate in its use of force, it could have *levelled* Fallujah, razed it, killed everyone within, including the jihadists who were the targets of the offensive. Easily. Of course, that's not the way the US proceeded. Why? Because in policymakers minds (and in mine) there is moral difference between the two approaches. But if, in your world, you perceive no moral difference between leveling the city and the way in which the US forces actually proceeded, between deliberately targeting civilians and understanding that civilians that will be killed, well, we'll have to agree to disagree.

As for the idea that the WTC was a legitimate military target -- were we at war with Al Qaeda at the time of the attack, as defined by international law? If not, how do you propose that it became a military target? Because Al Qaeda believed they were at war with the U.S. and (in your moral universe) are justified in being angry at our foreign policy? Follow that logic through to its conclusion, friend.


hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 08:52 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
As to Fallujah, essentially, we did level the city, with plenty of civilians left inside. That's why non-embedded journalists are not allowed into the city to this day. Sure, thousands fled before the attack, but there were still thousands left. Again, if you have an immoral act of great enough a level of horror, equivalence does not enter into it. More innocent people have died, directly and indirectly, because of our "moral" attack on Falluja than ever died in the WTC attack. All to get what, a couple hundred terrorists? Unacceptable. If you find that acceptable, I call into question the "morality" of any moral stance that finds that kind of "trade off" acceptable.

As to the status fo teh war... yes, we had been at war, uite declared, with Al-Qaeda for quite some time before the WTC attack, or had you not noticed the attacks we performed on them during the Clinton years? The cruise missiles shot into Sudan? There were other examples. Of course, even Bush failed to notice, and he had the top spy agencies in the world feeding him information for months that yes, we were at war with Al-Qaeda and that yes, they were in fact going to attack us, on U.S. soil no less, and likely using hijacked planes.

I do not believe in the "logic" that Al-Qaeda uses to attack us. All war and hatred is, by definition, illogical, as it results from a failure to communicate and to think rationally.

The WTC was a military target by any definition as it was the center of commerce at the center of the city of commerce in the enemy nation's commercial capital. It was bombed for the same reason we bombed Saigon, for the same reason the allies bombed Dresden: to try to cow the enemy public into surrender, and to send a direct message to the financial backers of the enemy that they are "on the list". By "military logic," therefore, it was a perfect target, just as the Pentagon was a target and, presumably, the White House (or Capitol) were. For the same reason that, rather than bomb a nearby isolated island with the first atomic weapons, we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki: to put the "fear of God" into the enemy.
ex_paulskem
Jul. 13th, 2005 07:38 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
We give foreign aid to Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, etc. How does that factor into your analysis? Does the mere fact of our support also make us responsible for the various activities of those governments? I realize there is a large gap between foreign aid to Israel and foreign aid to those other countries, but the amount of the aid should have no relevance to the principle your trying to articulate. Doesn't your logic require that you find us equally morally culpable for the activities of those countries?
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 09:18 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Yes, we are culpable, to the extent that our support enables those governments to perform the nefarious activities that they do.

There is nothing moral about Realpolitik. Anyone who claims there is has something to sell...
ex_paulskem
Jul. 14th, 2005 01:21 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
So, let's just follow that through to its logical conclusion.

The individual citizens of the United States, because they, through their representatives, give aid to Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia (among many others), is morally culpable for the bombings of Israeli civiians by Hezbollah (operating out of Lebanon), Islamic Jihad, and the Palestian Authority, and is further individually morally responsible for the Israeli response to those bombings, in the form of leveling settlements, oppressing civilians, etc. Still more, since we now know that many ranking Saudis support Al Qaeda through various forms of "charitable giving," and presumably such ranking Saudis benefit from US aid to their country, individual U.S. citizens are also morally responsible for funding Al Qaeda, nay even the 9/11 attacks themselves.

And let's extend the bounds of your principle even further. U.S. citizens pay taxes that not only fund foreign aid, but a host of domestic aid programs. So, by the logic you've articulated, when a domestic recipient of those aid programs (let's say, unemployment, or AFDC) uses the benefit of that program to engage in nefarious activities (let's say, buying illegal drugs), each citizen in the US is individually morally responsible for taking illegal drugs. Wow. We're going to need a big jail. Either that, or your theory of collective moral responsibility is fundamental flawed.
hygelakthedread
Jul. 13th, 2005 06:25 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Anyone who agrees to the social contract that democracy (or republicanism) requires is a part of the decision making process by which actions are undertaken by the body politic as a whole.

If you are a part of that, just as you are entitled to enjoy all the rights thereof, so too must you cleave to all the responsibilities therof. You cannot have the one without the other -- though plenty of people do their damndest to do so.

It doesn't matter that you "voted for the other guy;" in a democracy/republic every member shares equal culpability for the actions of their government. The government works for you, whether you voted for the persons currently in power or not.

This must be so, otherwise you have a form of government in which there is no culpability at all. Of coruse, that is the way this country has operated for far too long; everyone gets the bennies, but we've ignored the responsibilities, costs, and results of our actions. We get payback for our lax attitude in blowback, like 9/11.
kokyu
Jul. 13th, 2005 06:40 pm (UTC)
You seem to have more time on your hands than I do

and I have come to the conclusion that we are not, in discussing this, making any headway towards mutual understanding. Consequently, I am dropping out of this discussion. Best Wishes to all.

kokyu
ex_paulskem
Jul. 13th, 2005 08:06 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Nonsense. The responsibility of a voting age citizen in a democracy is to understand the issues and participate in the democratic process. Nothing more. Attributing individual moral culpability for foreign policy decisions is silly. On the assumption that you think slavery is immoral: Is it your position that the most fervent of abolitionists were as guilty of keeping slaves as southern slaveholders? Since shareholders elect corporate directors and directors appoint and oversee corporate officers, aren't the shareholders of Worldcom and Enron guilty of fraud and embezzlement? Doesn't your logic demand that conclusion?
hygelakthedread
Jul. 14th, 2005 01:23 am (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
RE: Slavery. Good question. There is guilt, and then there is responsibility. To take a commonly known example of the difference, let's look at Peter Parker and Spider-Man. "With great power comes great responsibility." The murderer who killed Uncle Ben was guilty of the murder, while Peter, through his lack of inaction when he had the power to do something and failed to do so, was partly responsible. So while the abolitinists held responsiblity for the continuance of slavery, they were not guilty as the slaveholders were.

Similarly, we as a body politic are responsible for the actions of our government, moreso after the last election than at any other time in our history. We, as a body, chose a government that valued revenge over justice, chooses war before peace, slavery over freedom, believes ignorance is strength, and which breaks treaties and international laws (to which the U.S. is signatory) not accidentally, but purposefully and with great infernal joy (note that most of our governments were much along these lines, but none has ever been so egregious in its villainy as the current regime). Though 51% is no mandate, whether we like it or not (and some of us deplore it with every fiber of our being), the gangsters in charge of this country now represent us. That's what a representative government means. They are acting in our names and, thus, with our approval. Because that is the way democracy/republicanism works. Those who voted for them are guilty of supporting them, and those who voted against (and failed to convince enough others of the necessity to do so) are responsible in our failure.

RE: Corporations. Again, guilt versus responsibility. Those who committed the crimes were guilty, those who failed to reign them in were either guilty (because they had an inkling of what was going on and failed to stop it, cause they thought they would benefit) or responsible because they did not keep a close enough rein on the company that they owned.

I shed no tears for the guilty; not because I think they get what they deserve, but because they have brought upon themselves whatever fate returns unto them. It is those who are responsible and suffer for whom I feel sorrow. Most of them do not understand why these things happen to them. Many because they have no grasp of the way the world works; others because they are badly informed (which is again, their own responsibility). Those who watch only FOX... eh, they fall between the guilty and the merely responsible. Most just don't know any better...
ex_paulskem
Jul. 14th, 2005 12:59 pm (UTC)
Re: I forgot to disagree with this statement....
Unpersuasive, and I'm confused by your idea of guilt v. responsibility.

Did I misread the letter and spirit of your posts above? Am I misstating your view when I say that you think the attacks by terrorists that target civilians are justified because the policy of the nation-state in which the civilians lives is, in your view, immoral? If that's not your view, fine, we're in agreement. But if it is your view, your distinction makes no sense because both the guilty and the responsible are subject to punishment for the same behavior. If it is a morally acceptable to punish the civilians of a nation state for the actions of their government, simply because such civilians live in that nation-state and it's democratic, then how does the same principle not reach abolitionists and corporate shareholders, both of whom elected representatives who engaged in immoral acts? The abolitionists and shareholders (and any number of other examples that I could raise) are, in your world, responsible for the actions of the leaders, and therefore should be punished for the immoral behavior of their leaders. Not so?

In the end, I'd submit that your foundational premise for attributing moral culpability is inherently flawed. Moral culpability derives from individual choice, nothing more. In the absence of choice, there can be no moral accountability. An individual chooses between actions that have moral consequence and is therefore morally responsible for those actions. That definition precludes attributing individual moral responsibility on the individuals who compose the elements of a non-choosing collective entity. Why? Well consider this.

An individual in a democracy agrees (tacitly or explicitly) to abide by a process for conflict resolution/policy creation. That process is simply the rules that apply to the democratic political institutions. The individual agrees that he will solve his or her problems, advocate his or her policy preferences, through voting. He also agrees that if the problem is not solved in the way he wishes, or if the policy put forth is one with which he disagrees, that he will abide by the result, rather than take up the sword or withdraw from the political entity. To choose to do otherwise leads to only two options -- autocracy (where one or a handful solve problems and choose policies for everyone else) or anarchy (where everyone solves their problem and picks their own policies in the way in which they wish).

Your view forces the participant in the democratic process who views the majority's policy preference as immoral to either withdraw from the democracy, attempt to change it by the sword, or live as an immoral being. For me, that's self-evidently absurd.

In my view, the highest, most important principle to which all persons in a democracy must abide is the one embodied in the individual's agreement to participate in the process and abide by the result, win or lose. All other principles must give way before it. I think you agree with this too, though you may not realize it. The wide net you cast above makes you an immoral being, or at least responsible (to use your parlance) for immoral acts. Yet you do nothing other than offer your opinion on the internet. Are you content to live with this moral stain on your soul? Why not move out of the country or change the regime by the sword? Or does a larger principle inform your behavior -- namely, that you attempt to persuade, cajole, and change the minds of your fellow voters such that the policymakers will be voted out of office and the immoral policies end.
( 27 sutras — Your wisdom )

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