Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Special Day

Among all the holidays Americans observe, Thanksgiving is unique.

Unlike other national observances which honor and celebrate the contributions of famous people, groups, or critical events in our history, Thanksgiving celebrates an attitude - an attitude of appreciation and gratefulness for all the blessings we enjoy as Americans.

It's a celebration laden with religious overtones and expectations, but unlike other religiously-oriented holidays it's an integral part of our public life. It was first established by presidential decree (Abraham Lincoln) and subsequently declared by a joint resolution of Congress to be a national holiday, which fact no doubt displeases our secularist friends. Indeed, setting aside a day for prayer and thanksgiving to God could scarcely be imagined in today's politico-social climate.

Moreover, unlike other religious holidays (e.g. Christmas, Easter) Thanksgiving is non-sectarian. People of any faith can give thanks to God, although it's probably a bit awkward for atheists who find themselves expressing their gratitude to nothing in particular.

In any event, we at Viewpoint wish all our readers a great and grateful Thanksgiving day.

Smart Diplomacy

Michael Filozov surveys the world scene and asks if American foreign policy has ever been as "screwed up" as it is at present. Reading his article certainly causes one to wonder if indeed our management of foreign affairs isn't at a low ebb. As if to add an exclamation point to Filozov's question mark the New York Times revealed today that peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan have been conducted with an imposter and we've actually paid the guy.

From the Times' story:
For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

American officials confirmed Monday that they had given up hope that the Afghan was Mr. Mansour, or even a member of the Taliban leadership.

NATO and Afghan officials said they held three meetings with the man, who traveled from Pakistan, where Taliban leaders have taken refuge.
In most parts of the world you can't even cash a check without confirming who you are, but apparently the current administration regards such formalities, when applied to those who are trying to kill us, to be unreasonable impositions.

President Obama campaigned on the promise that so far from following his predecessor's maladroit handling of foreign affairs his administration would usher in an era of "smart diplomacy". I'm not certain what that entails, but I'm pretty sure it should mean that we negotiate with actual representatives of the other side and not with whomever walks in off the street.

Full Moral Status

Philosopher Peter Singer maintains that a child does not achieve full "moral status" until it is about two years old. It does not have full status, he argues, until it can recognize itself in a mirror, at which point it is "self-aware" and deserving of being considered a fully human being.

Here's Professor Singer:
My understanding is that it is not until after the first birthday, so somewhere between the first and second, I think, that they typically recognize the image in the mirror as themselves...Really, I think this is a gradual matter.

If you are not talking about public policy or the law, but you are talking about when you really have the same moral status, I think that does develop gradually. There are various things that you could say that are sufficient to give some moral status after a few months, maybe six months or something like that, and you get perhaps to full moral status, really, only after two years. But I don’t think that should be the public policy criteria.

He doesn't think that this should be a public policy criterion because if it were there'd be no moral constraint on killing children up to two years old just as there's no constraint today on killing them while they remain in the womb. Even so, Singer does advocate making infanticide legal up until a child is about 30 days old.
This is the slippery slope onto which the liberal view of abortion rights leads us. Once we deny that an unborn child should be considered a person we soon lack any basis for holding that born children are persons - at least until they become self-aware - and if it is the mother's right to terminate the life of an unborn non-person, it will eventually become her right to terminate a born non-person. Just as we have unwanted pets put away, so, too, will there be a demand for the right to put away other unwanted non-persons. Where does it end?

One would like to ask Professor Singer why self-awareness should be the criterion that confers "full moral status". Why not the ability to communicate, or to ratiocinate, or to do algebra? If self-awareness is to be used to separate persons from not-quite-persons are individuals in a coma sub-persons? If so, do they forfeit their right to life. If they do not, why not?

If the answer is that they have the potential to come out of the coma and be self-aware why does not the same apply to the unborn?

This is why advocates of an unrestricted abortion license long ago gave up trying to defend their position by arguments. They simply don't have any. All they have are slogans and the power, through the federal judiciary, to impose their will.