4.0952 On War (6/296)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Tue, 29 Jan 91 13:21:08 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 0952. Tuesday, 29 Jan 1991.

(1) Date: Fri, 25 Jan 91 18:25:58 CST (39 lines)
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: jes folks

(2) Date: Fri, 25 Jan 91 09:35:26 GMT (55 lines)
From: stephen clark <AP01@liverpool.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: Lakoff

(3) Date: Sat, 26 Jan 91 13:05:19 EST (24 lines)
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: war

(4) Date: Mon, 28 Jan 91 12:16:02 +0000 (117 lines)
From: uclethl@ucl.ac.uk
Subject: War Discussion

(5) Date: Mon, 28 Jan 91 09:34:32 MDT (19 lines)
Subject: Re: 4.0947 War, Rhetoric, and Protest

(6) Date: Tue, 29 Jan 1991 15:30:51 GMT+0300 (42 lines)
Subject: RE: 4.0947 War, Rhetoric, and Protest

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 91 18:25:58 CST
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: jes folks

Subject: Are academics jes' folks?

Clausing says:

I would like to see just once that the members of this
profession realize that they are just people like everyone else
and that their views on literature are no wiser or more
profound than those of the janitors in their buildings.

To which August responds:

If I had spent the greater part of my adult life studying philosophy
or political science, I would certainly have cause to be deeply
offended by Clausing's remark. If the people who have dedicated
themselves to studying ethics and politics have no more profound
insight to offer than anyone else, what is their justification for
doing what they do? Perhaps our society has forgotten why it pays
its academics, but if it is not to spend time and energy finding out
knowledge wiser and more profound, I wonder what frippery we are all
engaged in.

I really don't know what position to take in this matter. I do have a
few questions, though. If in fact academics teaching philosophy,
ethics, etc., are really worth their pay then there must exist some
evidence that there has been progress in their fields. Do philosphers
today understand more fully the nature of man and the universe than they
did, say ten, a hundred, or a thousand years ago? Are modern ethics
more advanced than those of ages past? I don't know, and I'm not sure
if we _can_ know.

Am I playing into Clausing's hands? :-)


(2) --------------------------------------------------------------67----
Date: Fri, 25 Jan 91 09:35:26 GMT
From: stephen clark <AP01@liverpool.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: Lakoff

I made Lakoff's article available to PHILOS-L subscribers, and I have
also read most of it to a first year rhetoric class. It is - in its
first part - a reasonable introduction to the way metaphors and myths
sometimes structure our thought. But what seemed most obvious to me was
that Lakoff himself was guilty of many of the errors he detects in
others. Speaking of the just war as 'a fairy tale' and then embarking
on an attempt to smear the past behaviour of Kuwait so that it is no
longer an 'innocent' victim is a case in point. 'Innocent' in the
context of the ethics of war does not mean 'sinless': when innocent
civilians are killed in war the complaint is not that *sinless* ones
were killed (which is absurd). But in any case, talking about KUWAIT's
wrong-doing is - exactly - to personify a state far more intrusively
than any Allied leader or commentator. Again, speaking of Kuwait as a
absolute monarchy where women are treated badly is to employ misplaced
analogies (which are in any case quite irrelevant to the conflict
between Kuwaitis and the Iraqi regime (which *is* an absolute monarchy
where women - and others - are treated badly)). Even if Kuwait were
ruled by an absolute monarch (which it wasn't), and even if the ruling
family had never contributed anything to the Arab poor in Kuwait and out
of it (though in fact they did), and even if women were treated badly
(though in fact women were active in business in their own right, and
had more rights than elsewhere in the Arab world or than in the West of
not so many years ago) - so what? It remains true that Kuwaitis have
been assaulted, raped (not metaphorically), killed and robbed by the
soldiers and servants of a regime that has done much the same to its own
citizens. Lakoff claims - and here he steps well beyond his own
expertise as a student of language - that there were other ways of
evicting and disciplining the Iraqi forces and leaders, that we only had
to 'wait' - while Arabs were killed and terrorised and the regime had
time to build up its offensive and defensive capacities. It was
revealed this morning that German firms had continued to supply Iraq
with materials for chemical and germ warfare after the embargo. Does
anyone think that it was only Germans who were doing this? Do you want
an Iraqi superstate across the middle east? That is what we were going
to get.

I didn't find the paper contemptibly bad - though its familiar rhetorical
pose of claiming expertise in one special area which is then, somehow,
expected to lend authority to the political views of an averagely
ignorant academic was something that any journal editor would, I hope,
have sought to correct. It was a first, and hurried, draft, displaying
faults of metaphor, personification, ambiguity and demon-making of the
same kind as Lakoff - in his better moments - correctly rebukes.

I don't regret my part in spreading the article: other people are at
liberty to form their own judgements of it, and it does draw attention
to important features of public discourse, even if most sensible people
are already prepared to guard themselves against them.

Best wishes
Liverpool University UK
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------30----
Date: Sat, 26 Jan 91 13:05:19 EST
From: Stephen Clausing <SCLAUS@YALEVM>
Subject: war

I am glad to see that John Morris admits he feels better qualified to
pass judgement on the war by virtue of his advanced medieval studies.
Candor is always appreciated even when it is ridiculous. Yes, a Ph.D. in
literature is better qualified to talk about literature than the average
person, but I find it dubious that a person with a Ph.D. in philosophy is
better able to discuss the ethics of this particular war. Is there a
formula for the number of people who can be acceptably killed in order to
remove a tyrant? I must have missed that when I took Philosophy 101.
What determines the answer to such questions? I maintain it is common
sense, a basic understanding of the issue, and one's own personal
values. These are universal qualities. They are not learned in
graduate school. I received in campus mail yesterday an invitation to
join a group of faculty opposed to the war. This group wishes to
discuss "future courses of action". I know what this means. It means
faculty parading up and down as experts, asking students and others to
join them. It means sending the message that the smart and educated
people are against this war. Once again, I encourage everyone to
discuss this matter with their friends, neighbors and relatives. But
these "faculty" discussion groups are a farce, and I submit that using
Humanist to make anti-war statements is little better.
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------129---
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 91 12:16:02 +0000
From: uclethl@ucl.ac.uk
Subject: War Discussion

Discussion on the War

This has been one of the most stimulating discussions I have monitored on
HUMANIST (a label which I find very off-putting, for reasons I may
explain in some future posting).

Bob Werman and Judy Koren have been especially interesting to me for
different reasons--Bob for his genuine pathos in describing the personal
and family experience of being under attack, and Judy for her razor-
sharp analyses. I wish they could somehow be combined.

Like most liberals (I suspect) my thinking about the war in the Persian
Gulf is constantly muddied by the good-guy/bad guy or good vs. evil
metaphysical vocabulary my education has fed me. Do I think Saddam is
an intolerable threat to political stability, civilization as we know it
and to the <emerging world order>? Certainly he is. But that in itself
does not really bother me so much. <Political stability> is so often
just a comfortable euphemism for repression, <civilization> is usually a
euphemism for <our way of life> as opposed to someone elses, and the
<emerging world order> is George Bush`s expression for a world dominated
by the needs, desires, and power-fantasies of the United States and her
allies free of the Soviet Union`s oppositional support for third-world

What does bother me a great deal is that Saddam Hussein is a proven
threat to human beings. He enslaves them to fight against their will,
preaches that his God has condemned most of the people of the world to
violent retributory death, and takes cynical advantage of other people`s
beliefs in order to get them to hate, torture, and kill each other. On
these scores, George Bush and many of the American and British people are
also liable for charges.

Saddam Hussein is in so many ways the perfect enemy for a US war, far
better than Grenadan revolutionaries or General Noriega, or even Adolf
Hitler, for Saddam is capable of being portrayed as so completely
OTHER, while at the same time being so much like our own western war-,
wealth-, and power-mongers. Saddam is a real manly-man for whom
<principles> of national interest and sovereignty are far more important
than human life and dignity. George Bush and John Major wish to appear
the same.

I agree that the the anti-war slogan <No Blood for Oil> is a serious
oversimplification, but it reflects the recognition current among many
that the motives for war trotted out by our government leaders are
rhetorical masks for something else. When one of the world`s most
frequent aggressors says it is going to war to stop agression, people
are absolutely right to be suspicious. That the <something else> is not
chiefly oil is indicated by the current price of Brent crude and by
ministerial assertions that it has not yet become necessary to open
strategic stockpiles of oil, nor do they expect it ever to become
necessary. The <something else> is more complicated than that--a need
to be in control of whatever <new order> emerges in the Middle East, a
distrust of Arabs in general (and of all semitic peoples--the US does
not want Israel to be a clear victor-dictator either), and a desire to
see to it that whatever material resources the world has (including
human resources) are managed in such a way as to preserve the wealth and
power accumulated by a very few people. Saddam Hussein`s motives are
remarkably similar, but on a smaller scale.

So Bush and Cheney understand Saddam completely, but because he is an
Arab, it is so very easy to portray him as mad, fanatical, or barbaric.
Actually, he is every bit as cynical as Bush, adopting religious
rhetoric and absurd talk about fighting to liberate oppressed peoples
when it suits his purposes. All the talk about liberating the PEOPLE of
Kuwait is just as ridiculous as Saddam`s professed interest in
liberating Palestinians. Most Kuwaitis have lived under occupation by a
small band of the rich and powerful just as Palestinians have in the
occupied territories. It is not in the interests of anyone, Bush or
Saddam, to liberate any opressed people. In fact, the US is so eager
for this war, willing to spend so much time, money, and blood on this
war precisely because it promises to obscure, maybe even eliminate,
whatever struggles for liberation have been smoldering in the region.
Kuwaiti resistance can now be ignored, so also the Saudi resistance
(remember the women drivers?). Whatever Iraqi resistance there may have
been before the war can be completely co- opted by the forces of Bush
and Major and re-organized to suit their goals. And the Palestinians?
Many no doubt stand on their rooftops and applaud the incoming SCUDS,
and that registers the success both bullies are having at defining the
terms of world politics in such a way as to perpetuate their power, but
most of them (I suspect) are sitting locked up in their <houses> and
settlement camps listening in despair as the BIG BOYS redefine their
aspirations, their desires for dignity and freedom. As I implied above,
I do not believe Saddam has any sincere interest in the plight of
occupied Palestine, but the moment Saddam floated the idea of linking
his retreat to an Arab conference on Palestine, the issues were indeed
linked. Even before he did that, there were relevant UN resolutions
(those now sacred justifications for war) on both sides drafted on very
similar principles. Why did Bush so vehemently deny <linkage> (even as
he depends upon it for the sort of outcome he wants)? Because he wants
to settle a <new order> upon the middle east which serves the interests
of his small coterie of world-class wealthies, with as little input as
possible from popular interests, whether they be Arab, Palestinian, or
even Israeli. A conference in which the US had no more powerful a voice
than anyone else would be unthinkable to Bush, Major, or Shamir.

So what do I think we liberals should do and say in this situation? For
my part I am committed to doing whatever can be done to withdraw popular
support for the war on either side. In the US and in Britain, popular
support, or the appearances of it, are still necessary to prosecute a
long war. I believe we should do everything possible to convince the
world that popular interests, Arab, Western, Israeli, and Palestinian,
are severely thretened by this war. Our slogan should perhaps be: NO
MORE BLOOD FOR OPPRESSION, no more paying for our own pain.

Because I believe this is the proper response of all people interested
in a future of genuinely popular justice, I could not help but despair a
bit when I watched Whitney Houston, a black woman, sing the <Star-
Spangled Banner> to open superbowl hostilities last night. I really do
not think she is yet wealthy enough to genuinely share Bush`s real
interests in this conflict. But like so many, she has mistaken her own
interests very badly.

Tom Luxon
Dartmouth College (presently in London)

(5) --------------------------------------------------------------25----
Date: Mon, 28 Jan 91 09:34:32 MDT
Subject: Re: 4.0947 War, Rhetoric, and Protest (6/216)

I had to smile when Norman Miller scolded me about my misuse of the
world "just." I was taught that distinction by my professor of medieval
history, who provided my first model of true scholarship, so I really
have no excuse for such an error. My defense: it's just a
colloquialism. :-)

I should know better than to argue about words, for it's not one I can
win. It seems to be an article of faith among some; among others, the
notion is overblown at the least. I prefer to think that I have the
willpower to overcome, or at least to notice, the ways in which my
given language affects the way I think. Others will disagree.

Ellis 'Skip' Knox, Ph.D.
Historian, Data Center Associate
Boise State University DUSKNOX@IDBSU.IDBSU.EDU
(6) --------------------------------------------------------------51----
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 1991 15:30:51 GMT+0300
Subject: RE: 4.0947 War, Rhetoric, and Protest (6/216)

Re. John Morris' question to those of us who support the war: is it
moral or only necessary:

It is only necessary. It isn't moral because war isn't moral, not even
if fought for the best of causes. You cannot fight a war and stay
moral, though you can persuade yourself that you can (and usually do
so persuade yourself). John Updike's phrase, that beneath America's
patient bombers Paradise is possible, precisely encapsulates the
propaganda with which politicians deceive themselves and us. (Wish
I could write a phrase like that!...) War may be described as defeating
the Evil Empire, but you are doing so on its terms not yours.

We should not forget that war is an executive arm of politics, and the
practice of politics is not moral by definition. It is always a matter
of which side to support, and the side supported is usually the one with
the biggest lobby or offering the biggest payoff, not the side with the
best moral claims. In any political decision, the people who win out
are the ones who can afford to buy protection, which means that those
who most need protection are the ones who lose out. Nor can you run a
foreign policy (let alone a war) without an intelligence service; show
me a moral intelligence service! Show me a moral politician and I will
show you someone who is either a hypocrite or else doesn't know what
he's doing.

War is never moral, but it can be necessary if the long-term results of
not waging the war (Morris' "terror and mutilation") are likely to be
worse than the "terror and mutilation" caused by the war itself. That's
why I think this war was necessary.

The problem with convincing yourself that this is a moral war (because
We are Right and They are evil) is that it's easy to think of anything
that will win it for you as also moral, hence all those people who ask
why the Allies don't drop just a teeny-weeny little atom bomb on Baghdad.
Better to acknowledge that what you're doing is necessary but vile, then
you won't be tempted to do anything that isn't strictly necessary.

End of lecture.
Judy Koren