Friday, February 02, 2007

Oh what a beautiful day ...

First of all, as to the question that was raised in the comments as to whether or not the Golden Rule is applicable, I think that a category mistake is being made here. The Golden Rule, like Christ's admonition that we should not judge others lest we ourselves be judged or that the measures we use will be used against us (two points I have always felt have more eschatological implications than they are generally appreciated to) is intended as a moral commandment rather than a societal injunction. Indeed, it seems to me that St. Paul acknowledges as much when he noted that God had given the Emperor the power of the sword, since clearly very few people actively seek death. Even Pontius Pilate is told by Jesus that he receives his authority from above. So while I think that God very much intends for it to be used as a moral standard for the individual, I see little evidence that it was ever intended to applied on a societal level assuming that such a thing would even be possible. As a practical matter, implementing it on societal level would lead to a de facto embrace of moral relativism, a view that the Magisterium has been adamant in condemning over the last several decades.

Not surprisingly, Mark sees things differently, but as with his fundamentalist interpretation of Gaudium et Spes, he ignores the obvious logical problems that flow from such a situation. That's unfortunate, because as I mentioned in the previous post I thought he actually had a fairly consistent argument if he opposes current US interrogation tactics on the grounds that they are inhumane and therefore violate the injunction to that effect in the Catechism. Now however, he has determined that they violate the Golden Rule without recognizing that pretty much the same claim can be made for any substantive form of punishment imaginable. One of the reasons we have a Magisterium to begin with is to prevent people from jumping the gun on this type of thing ...

I also see that Mark is launching into his regular round of recriminations against the GOP, alleging that the Party collectively cares nothing about the pro-life cause and merely exploits it for electoral purposes. One suspects that it would be quite interesting to see him debate the legions of liberal pundits who have argued that evangelical Christianity is the new communism and that America is just a few GOP victories short of implementing a full-fledged theocracy. In any case, I think that the following points need to be made:

1. The abortion issue is a symptom rather than a cause of the tendency of the trend in the United States towards judicial activism. You solve the latter and you solve the former, at least on the federal level. That frees up individual states to reach their own democratic consensus on the issue (i.e. the pre-Roe status quo), which is the best that you can hope for within the confines of the current political system. This why Supreme Court justices are so important.

2. If the United States wants to survive, we are going to have to have babies. I agree with Mark Steyn that the anti-natalist view is on the losing side of history this time around and is ultimately going to burn itself out one way or another over the course of the next 50 years. The alternative is Europe and we've already seen how that movie is going to end.

3. I give Guiliani more credit than do many conservative activists who seem to assume that the man is willing to compromise his principles for immediate and rather blatant political gain while simultaneously holding him up as an example of a strong leader who believes what he says. As I said, the GOP candidates that I currently consider electable, I intend to support John McCain. Mark can interpret that as he desires concerning his repeated allegations that I am some kind of total shill for the Bush administration.

4. As Mark's writing today makes clear, GOP candidates are in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't situation" as far as the abortion issue is concerned. If they publicly oppose it as he would prefer, then they are just exploiting it for cynical political gain, whereas if they do not publicly oppose it then they do not care about the issue. I consider it a no-brainer that the former is preferable to the latter, but I think it's worth noting as an indication of just how unreasonable and deranged his creeping paleoconservatism have made him towards the only political party that is realistically going to actually do anything about abortion in the near future. All the better to feel self-righteous and let innocents be slaughtered than go out and sully yourself by eating with tax collectors and sinners, I guess.

5. The argument that the GOP lost the 2006 elections over the war in Iraq is convenient bit of mythology. What actually happened was that the GOP got hit with a perfect storm of a disenthused and demoralized base, a scandal-prone and tone-deaf leadership, some very savvy and moderate Democratic candidates, a public that was deeply concerned about the direction of the war (insert my pro forma remarks about how Rumsfeld being fired in August would almost certainly have kept us the Senate and note about how Joe Lieberman was able to stomp an explicitly anti-war candidate in one of the most liberal states in the country), and an enthused Democratic base and there you go. Everybody across the board with an "R" in front of their names from Rick Santorum to Lincoln Chafee lost regardless of whether they were pro or anti-war, pro or anti-immigration, conservative or moderates. And now that the election is over, all the activists of every stripe are going on and on about how things would have gone differently if the GOP had just listened to their pet issues.

6. In a rare bit of agreement, let me thank praise Mark for condemning that vile piece of excrement known as Bill Arkin for his remarks about US troops. One thing I will say though is that Arkin is just giving voice to what a lot of the press and the chattering classes actually believe about soldiers in general.


Donald R. McClarey said...

Arkin's comments were refreshingly honest. He merely voiced the disdain common on the far left for anyone stupid enough to serve in the military. Ironically Arkin himself did serve in the Army in the mid-seventies. I was in Army ROTC at the same time at the University of Illinois, and we younger cadets were frequently regaled by older cadets with tales of attacks by the radicals on campus on the Armory during the early seventies. In the spring of 75 the student government held a party to celebrate the victory of the communists in Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam. The far left longs for the days to come again when returning American troops would be treated like war criminals and abused in the streets by every loud mouthed lout who fancied himself an anti-war activist.

roger h. said...

Just to add one more thing. Mark, today, links to an article about how the American Enterprise Institute is offering to pay scientists for basically result oriented studies which refute the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. This is certainly something that AEI can be legitimately criticized over. However, on the basis that several members of AEI have in the past either worked for or consulted with the Bush Administration, as well as a comment by a Greenpeacenik calling AEI Bush's La Cosa Nostra, Mark accuses the Bush administration of directly orchestrating this whole matter.

Unbelievable. Mark really needs to take something for what is undeniably a case of BDS.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

1. I think Mark's paleoconservativism is well past the "creeping" stage. Aside from an obsession with illegal immigration, it's pretty much full-blown.

2. However, I think you've misstated what the "golden rule definition" of torture is. It's not that "if I wouldn't want to be interrogated in a certain way, then we should interrogate people in that way" but rather, "if we'd consider it torture if the enemy did it to us, then it's torture when we do it to them."

See the difference?

Anonymous said...

Except that Mark quite clearly states it in the former form "what would I want" as his citations of Christ and the Golden Rule here:
I've a distinct feeling my laptop commandos in the War on Terror would have a clear grasp of what these terms mean if they were the subject of many of the techniques they confidently pontificate about. I even fancy they would suddenly be able to distinguish the meaning of words like "humane" and "inhumane".

and here and here:
Instead we just said, "Treat prisoners humanely. If you treat them as you would like to be treated were you captured or detained, then you will be treating them humanely."

and here via his customary subtlety and nuance:
I'm sorry that the English language is such an impenetrable thicket of impossible-to-define words that guidelines like "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" are hopelessly meaningless without extensive Clintonian parsing.

Anonymous said...

Josiah says:

Okay, Victor, I recant. It looks like Mark did in fact make a straight-up golden rule argument at several points (though he's also done it in the form I mentioned, which is much more reasonable).

If you read St. Augustine, he gives examples of how, even in one's personal life, taking the golden rule as an absolute command can lead to ridiculous results (for example, if you lust after your neighbor's wife, you should offer to let your neighbor sleep with your wife). The "I'd rather not be in prison" line is not one he mentions, but makes essentially the same point.

Greg Mockeridge said...

I actually think Mark is even misapplying the Golden Rule in this case. Looking at this through the paradigm of the Golden Rule the right question is "Would it be appropriate for such measures to used against me if I were a terrorist withholding life saving information and these measures were the only way to extract it."

Mark Adams said...

I think Mark's paleoconservatism is well past the "creeping" stage. Aside from an obsession with illegal immigration, it's pretty much full-blown

I really think this gives too much credit to Shea. Perhaps I will get roundly shouted down for this, but I think whatever one thinks of Pat Buchanan, he clearly argues from a principled, and more importantly, fully informed perspective. That is to say, he knows what he is talking about. One can imagine having a genuine argument/debate with Buchanan.

Shea may be increasingly quoting paleocons but I doubt he really understands their philosophy. He just knows that they are against Bush and against the war, which is his current position.

torquemada05 said...

Mark Adams:

I said that from the beginning, which is why I have been hesitant to describe Mark as an out-and-out paleocon. I don't throw that term around as an insult or as some kind of code word for anti-Semite (Mark clearly is not), but because it describes a set of policy views that Mark seems to me to identify with. I viscerally disagree with them on secular prudential grounds, but I don't doubt for a moment that they have a well-thought and internally consistent worldview.

To put it simply, Mark has not exhibited either that I can determine (not that I regard this as a bad thing in and of itself) and I certainly doubt that he understands the deep philosophical view of paleoconservatism. Instead, I think he essentially rejects the entire modern conservative movement in toto because of his view of torture and the Iraq war and now believes that the GOP is completely and entirely controlled by cynical politicos whose sole use for social or religious conservatism is to exploit views of their followers for cynical electoral gain. In other words, he basically adopted the same view that Tom Frank does in What's the Matter with Kansas? with strong anti-war overtones, not that he understands it as such. The fact that he is all too eager to conflate the views of John Derbyshire with those of neoconservatives should be the first of many signs that the finer philosophical underpinnings of political ideologies are not his strong suit. He can get a free set of books any time he wants in the hope of correcting just that ...