Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Balance Sheet

At Classical Values, Simon writes:

Clauzwitz [sic] says that the moral factor in war is the predominate factor. Fighting and sustaining the fighting has a moral calculus. The answer an individual gets will depend on the weight given to each component in the analysis. The weights are moral weights.

In Viet Nam and Iraq, Simon argues, the faces do not look like ours, and so the lives are deemed not as valuable, a situation he sees as deplorable racism. The Socratic reply was:

The moral calculus is based on something we need not dance around: American lives are more valuable to us than other lives. It isn't race, but national loyalty. The other viewpoint is called 'transnationalism'.

It is a mistake to strawman that into "foreign lives are worthless", because we have allies and enemies, and prospective allies. The degree to which another nation is our ally is the degree to which we should value the lives of its citizens, tempered of course by the constant value of all human life.

And there is the nub of the argument: how big is the constant factor, and does that factor outweigh our 'interests'?

What are the moral factors in the calculus of war? Specifically, in the kind of war exemplified by World War I, II, Korea, Viet Nam, and Iraq, in which our interests are to be defended on foreign soil, such that capitulation will not lead to immediate loss of sovereignty, but will significantly increase the likelihood of that loss.

In moral equations, it is necessary to establish the relations among terms and variables. We begin by listing the participants, simplifying somewhat by categorization, merely waving the hands for now in saying that there may not be hard lines between Allies, Enemies, and Neutrals in the new warfare.
  • Us
  • Allies
  • Enemies
  • Neutrals
And the assets:
  • Ideals
  • Civilian Lives
  • Territory
  • Military Lives
  • Money
  • Resources
It should be noted that defeat can be expressed as the complete loss of any one of those assets. Victory, however, is slightly harder to define. But the decision over whether to commit to war, and the will to stay at war, might be expressed as a vector equation by attaching values to each of those assets. Those values are the weights referred to by Simon, representing the importance we give the assets.

The situation is complicated further when we note that each of the participants will almost certainly value each of the assets, and especially each other's assets, differently. It is also very difficult to compare the values of the assets, except in relation to one another: we would spend money to save military lives, military lives to gain territory, territory (perhaps) to gain civilian lives, and would often sacrifice any of the other assets to defend the ideals of freedom, justice, and human rights.

I suggest an ordering for the weights as follows. The idea is that we would gladly spend things lower on the list to obtain or retain things higher on the list.

  • Our Ideals
  • Our Civilian Lives
  • Our Territory
  • Ally Ideals (probably even those in conflict with ours)
  • Ally Civilian Lives
  • Ally Territory
  • Neutral Civilian Lives
  • Enemy Territory
  • Ally Military Lives
  • Our Military Lives
  • Neutral Territory
  • Enemy Civilian Lives
  • Our Money
  • Our Resources
  • Ally Money
  • Ally Resources
  • Neutral Ideals (that don't match ours)
  • Neutral Military Lives
  • Neutral Money
  • Neutral Resources
  • Enemy Resources
  • Enemy Money
  • Enemy Military Lives
  • Enemy Ideals (that don't match ours)

The actual equation is left as an exercise ... or perhaps another day.

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M. Simon said...


M. Simon said...

The wrong spelling turned up #3 on Google.

I think I'm going to leave it.


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