Saturday, September 7, 2013
Mr. Obama, Mr. Woodrow Wilson and the Idea of a Heavenly Father
Mr. Obama has not been able to convince the Brits nor, apparently any other ally or potential opponent, to slap the despot in Damascus for using chemical weapons.
He is having a hard time, across party lines, convincing his own Congress to allow him to reign down vengeance from the skies upon the user of chemical weapons.
His argument is that if we don't draw the line here, and if we allow desperate dictators to believe they can use chemical (or nuclear) weapons with impunity, well then, those desperado's will go ahead and do it and it will be open season for the use of any sort of biological, chemical or nuclear weapon. So, he argues, it's a matter of weakness encouraging brazen action from the miscreants--the old Chamberlain at Munich trope.
The two major reasons not to buy this:
1. It depends on the psychology of deterrence. We are trying to get into the minds of people like Assad, or Hitler or Mussolini or even, not to use an invidious comparison, Ho Chi Minh. And the fact is, we ought to know by now, people like this, or common street murderers do not get deterred by deterrence. They always make a calculation, and decide they can do their worst and it will be more likely to benefit them than to come back to hurt them.
2. It invokes the idea of a Heavenly father looking down from above and saying, this is bad. This is hideous. I will punish the transgressor. We must try to play that role on earth. It is entirely consistent with the moral argument that wrong doing by human beings, violation of one human being by another, must result in punishment for the wrong doer.
The fact is, punishment for the wrong doer, whether it comes in the form of armies crushing their empire and putting their heads on stakes or in the form of a court in the Hague, occurs less frequently than the outcome of those wrong doers staying in power, unpunished and, in fact, in some cases, writing the history.
The Nazi thugs on trial at Nuremberg smugly shook their heads, crossed their arms across their chests and said, "The victors write history." Which is to say, in their minds, if they had won, all the concentration camps and mechanized murder would have been justified as the price of imposing the world order of a thousand year Reich.
Woodrow Wilson, the minister's son, tried to preach morality to a post World War One world and he got no takers, either in Europe or at home. Of course, the world had moved on in some places--flappers danced and liquor flowed in the States and in Europe economies collapsed, and the next war with even more monstrous leaders and outcomes occurred.
But there is no reason in history to believe if Wilson's moral universe had been voted for, the world would have been any different.
Posted by the phantom speaks at 9:11 AM