Sunday, June 27, 2004

Death Throes of an Insurgency?

Robert Alt of No Left Turns makes a few interesting observations on the current state of affairs in Iraq from his perch in Baghdad. Key passage:

It now appears that Zarqawi may have been just outside the safe house bombed yesterday. If so, then he survived, but suffered a very close call. This is the third safe house that the Coalition has bombed this week. When coordinated attacks were launched in multiple cities, they were handily put down. The terrorists are making death throes. I have little doubt that they will launch more attacks in the next week which will be carried with splashy headlines by a hyperventilating press. But their objective will not be accomplished. The transition will proceed, and their attempt to relegate Iraq to despotisms of the past will fail.

Let's hope.


Genocide in Sudan has been on-going for over twenty years with hardly a peep out of the media or the U.N. Go here for an overview of this terrible situation (Thanks to Instapundit for the link). See also here.

Here's a test. The governing party in Khartoum, which is carrying out the starvation, displacement, slaughter and enslavement of millions of Sudanese, are (insert ethnicity) ________ . Their victims are (insert ethnicity) ________. The forces carrying out the bloody atrocities in Sudan are (insert religion) _________ and their victims are (insert religion) _________. If you're not sure of the answers you may go here to find them, but I suspect most readers won't have any trouble figuring them out.

Here's another question: Why do you suppose the media has been reticent about publicizing what is the worst case of genocide since, well, at least since the Hutus killed almost a million Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, and maybe since the Jewish holocaust of the early forties? For the answer to this question consult the answers to the questions above. Meanwhile, imagine the media reaction if the perpetrators of this horror were Israelis and the victims were Palestinians.

A third question: Should the U.S. intervene to stop the killing or should we merely try to negotiate an end to the genocide? What if negotiations fail? What if intervention means the loss of some American lives and the loss of some innocent Sudanese lives? Should we just walk away and excuse our indifference by simply saying it's none of our business, these people are no threat to us? How is this choice between intervention or non-intervention morally different than the decision the Bush administration was faced with prior to invading Iraq?

I assume that those who believe Bush had no business going into Iraq would look at the pictures of the starving Sudanese children and read the ghastly stories of butchery and say that, nevertheless, if negotiations don't work then we should do nothing more than pray for those poor people, and maybe try to send relief aid. I guess they would also be able to offer some moral justification for permitting a horrific evil that we have the means to end if we had the will to use it, although I don't know how convincing it would be.

I further assume that anyone who reads about the plight of these long-suffering, terrified and helpless people and decides that we should do whatever we reasonably can to help them, including sending in the Marines, will also agree that Bush did the right thing in going into Iraq to depose a tyrant whose murderous rule was no less brutal than that of the ruling party in Khartoum. If they don't I would like to know what the salient moral differences are between the two situations which would justify intervention in Sudan but not in Iraq because frankly I don't see them.

Darwinian Pagans

Yesterday I saw a bumper sticker that read: Pagan Pride - Doing Good Is My Religion.The car also had a Darwin's Fish on the trunk so I assumed the owner of the vehicle is a Darwinian pagan. I also assumed this means that he/she would deny that a personal, transcendent, creator of the universe, i.e. the God of classical monotheism, exists. This interested me. How does such a person, a Darwinian pagan, determine what Good is? How does he recognize it in order to do it? What and where is the standard to which an act can be compared to see if it can be considered Good? And even if the Darwinian pagan could recognize it, who would he think he should do Good for? The species? The race? Himself? How does one decide which it should be? Whichever it is, it certainly seems to follow that anything one does to promote one's self, race, or species over others is good. This, of course, means that charity, compassion, and altruism would be Evil.

If Good is whatever aids one's own survival as an individual or a species then there can be nothing wrong with ignoring the weak and the poor. Indeed, there can be nothing wrong with genocide. Is Good for a Darwinian whatever promotes the survival of the fittest? That's what the Nazis believed, of course. Perhaps our pagan friend would reply that good is whatever feels right to the person doing it, whatever does not offend his conscience, but if so, then if it feels right and doesn't offend the conscience to treat people cruelly then cruelty would be Good.

Even if some act did offend the conscience, why should that make it wrong for a Darwinian pagan? In the evolutionary scheme of things, after all, our conscience is merely a vestige of blind, natural processes that shaped us for life in the stone age. It's little more than a psychological appendix so why should it be allowed to determine our behavior today?

I know it's unwise to make too much out of bumper sticker slogans, but the Darwinian pagan seems to assume that Good is something that's just out there waiting for people to do it when in fact, there is no Good if the Darwinian pagan is right about there being no transcendent moral source and authority. If we've evolved from primordial slime then Good and Evil no more exist for us than they do for other animals. All there are are things people do, those things are neither Good nor Evil in a moral sense, any more than a cat killing a mouse is Good or Evil.If God doesn't exist then, as Nietzsche said, we need to get beyond our archaic religiously based notions of Good and Evil and realize that morality is just a matter of each of us deciding for ourselves how we should live, and no choice is any better or worse, in moral terms, than any other.

When the Darwinian says that doing Good is my religion he reveals a confusion deep in his thinking. He is appropriating a concept, moral Good, that makes no sense unless theism is true while at the same time he implicitly denyies that theism is true.

It seems each of us is faced with an alternative. If we believe that Good and Evil are real and not just our subjective interpretation of things, then we have to look for a basis for them outside of ourselves and the only adequate basis is the God of classical theism.

If God is a conclusion we wish not to accept then we need to face up to the fact that our talk of Good and Evil is literal nonsense. "If God is dead," Dostoyevsky wrote, "then everything is permitted." The choice, in other words, is between God and moral nihilism.