Saturday, July 16, 2005

Philosophy 9/11 --- Fiala

In his contribution to Philosophy 9/11, "Defusing Fear: A Critical Response to the War on Terrorism," Andrew Fiala notes helpfully that Roger D. Congleton has concluded that: "Even the terrible death toll of September 2001 implies a risk of death from terrorist attack that is well below that of death from ordinary murder or traffic accident in the United States. Indeed, even in that year, the probability of being killed by terrorism in the United States was less than that of being run over by a car while walking." (103).

Less helpfully, he also says: "After September 11, cynics have argued that the Bush Administration has cultivated fear in an Orwellian bid to gain support for its foreign and domestic agenda. Such a conspiracy theory approach is ultimately a matter of unfounded speculation that itself requires careful analysis. It has not, then, been my intention to engage in such speculation." (104). Perhaps this approach is unfounded if we automatically discount the "conspiracy theory" itself, as Fiala seems to do. But that theory, far from being unfounded, is very well founded indeed. Fiala, like many others, seems unaware of the evidence for it.

Four of the contributors to the volume are military personnel as well as philosophers, and perhaps this explains their inability to conceive of war as anything but an attempt to obtain a victory. Apparently none of the contributors have read 1984, in which Orwell says:

"But it was also clear that an all-round increase in wealth threatened the destruction -- indeed, in some sense was the destruction -- of a hierarchical society. ... If it once became general, wealth would confer no distinction. ... The problem was how to keep the wheels of industry turning without increasing the real wealth of the world. Goods must be produced, but they must not be distributed. And in practice the only way of achieving this was by continuous warfare.
The essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labour. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent. Even when weapons of war are not actually destroyed, their manufacture is still a convenient way of expending labour power without producing anything that can be consumed. A Floating Fortress, for example, has locked up in it the labour that would build several hundred cargo-ships. Ultimately it is scrapped as obsolete, never having brought any material benefit to anybody, and with further enormous labours another Floating Fortress is built."

"In past ages, a war, almost by definition, was something that sooner or later came to an end, usually in unmistakable victory or defeat."

"But when war becomes literally continuous, it also ceases to be dangerous. "

"The war, therefore, if we judge it by the standards of previous wars, is merely an imposture. It is like the battles between certain ruminant animals whose horns are set at such an angle that they are incapable of hurting one another. But though it is unreal it is not meaningless. It eats up the surplus of consumable goods, and it helps to preserve the special mental atmosphere that a hierarchical society needs. War, it will be seen, is now a purely internal affair. In the past, the ruling groups of all countries, although they might recognize their common interest and therefore limit the destructiveness of war, did fight against one another, and the victor always plundered the vanquished. In our own day they are not fighting against one another at all. The war is waged by each ruling group against its own subjects, and the object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact. The very word 'war', therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist."

Today, (August 25, 2005) the Associated Press carried a story by Liz Sidoti, in which we read the following: "For weeks a federal commission has fretted that the Pentagon's plans to close several major bases in New England could leave that region vulnerable to security threats.On Wednesday, the nine-member panel voted to keep a large military presence in every part of the country.Commissioners voted to spare a submarine base in Connecticut and a shipyard straddling the Maine-New Hampshire border. The decisions preserve a major military presence in New England and 12,000 defense-related jobs."Yahoo!" exclaimed Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn. "Submarine Base New London lives, and I think that it will live forever."Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., who urged the commission to save the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, added: "This is a sweet victory." ...Some analysts have said closing both the shipyard and the submarine base would devastate the economy along the coast from Maine to Rhode Island. Loss of the submarine base would have cost about 8,000 jobs. "Philip Dine of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on the same day wrote: "The commission also voted to move the Tank Automotive and Armaments Command and its 1,100 jobs from the Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois to the Detroit Arsenal.Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich said of the decision, 'This is going to waste precious defense dollars while providing very limited military rewards. While we were successful in keeping the bulk of the arsenal intact, we will continue our fight to keep this mission and others located at this historic military installation where they belong.' "


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