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The Rule of Law, and the Rule of War

Liberals hate war, and they apply that hate to almost all war conditions. Conservatives also hate war, but are generally willing to go to war if the reason is morally compelling. This is an essential and irreconcilable difference between liberals and conservatives on war. To understand the matter more objectively, it is important to understand the limits of what each category of power faces.

We teach our children to obey the law, and to respect its creation and enforcement. We understand that law is the skeleton of civilization, and accountability under law is the first formula for any democratic republic. It is for law that constitutions are written, and under law that trust in any contract exists. Law is the foundation of cities, and of nations. But there is a limit to any law.

War is death and destruction, on a scale so terrible that many generations have come upon it naively, imagining it can be managed and controlled, and so wars have been started by fools and madmen who scarcely imagined the horrors they have unleashed. No man who has ever stood in battle is eager to face the next one. Yet even weary veterans have chosen war, not out of foolish pride or blindness to the cost, but because it had to be done. Strange that it continues to happen, but many people refuse to see evil for what it is, to understand that there are terrible things which must be stopped, but for which the law is powerless. War is terrible, but necessary.

Betrand Russell observed that the"chief gain derived from the law and the police is the abolition of private wars, and this gain is independent of the question whether the law as it stands is the best possible. It is therefore in the public interest that the man who goes against the law should be considered in the wrong, not because of the excellence of the law, but because of the importance of avoiding the resort to force as between individuals within the State."

Russell never acknowledged the primary implication of this point, that if and when a moral imperative cannot be accomplished by law, it must default to the rule of war. Whether or not we think a war is morally right, we must recognize that in many situations it is inevitable.

Which brings me to 9/11. The atrocities committed on 9/11 are indisputably heinous to all reasonable people, especially since they were planned and committed against people known to be innocent of any offense or provocation. The 9/11 attacks were pure terrorism, evil by any sane definition. And far beyond the scope of law enforcement. While terrorist acts are criminal by statute, they also create a strong imperative for war. The 1914 assassination of a single individual in Sarajevo was the spark for the first World War; so much more does the mass murder of thousands of innocent men, women, and children, targeted precisely because they were innocent, create a moral imperative for a response of outrage and deadly force. This fact in no way justifies indiscriminate use of force, nor does it claim that wars are wise by definition, simply because they are sometimes inevitable. Going back to law enforcement, it's like a police officer confronted with an armed man and a threat to innocents - he does not want to have to shoot, but he carries the gun for a reason, and as terrible as it may be for a police officer to shoot to kill, if the choice is the criminal or innocent people, he must not flinch at his duty to use deadly force. In the situation caused by the terrorists on 9/11, the threat to innocent life is undeniable, and the evil of the monsters beyond question - what remains is how to carry out the duty.

Some people have criticized the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying they see no link to 9/11. They are blind, wrong, or lying. The condition of terrorism in the Middle East is worse than pervasive; it has become a chronic condition which infects almost every government in the region, either through attacks or through insidious corrosion of the nation's moral fiber. Therefore, it was not only right but critically necessary for President Bush to demand the officials in the region choose between supporting terrorists or weeding them out. It was self-damning, that the governments of Iran and Iraq chose terror over democracy, and that the Taliban continued to hold Afghanistan hostage. They choose poorly, and it is too late now for them to pretend that they did not understand the choice. This is not to say that the people of those nations made this choice, but seeing the abomination of Al Qaeda, the likes of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saddam Hussein made their choice and there's no denying it.

The Taliban controlled Afghanistan when the U.S. responded to 9/11, and they harbored bin Laden and many Al Qaeda agents. The invasion of Afghanistan is therefore as legitimate a war as any human enterprise can be. So naturally the Left focused their complaint on the war in Iraq.


The war in Iraq may be understood by simply recognizing the following; that Saddam Hussein brutally terrorized the majority of his citizens, with terror and rape squads and prisons for dissidents to rival anything created by the Nazis, that his regime developed Chemical and Biological weapons and was farther along in developing Nuclear weapons than was expected by 1991, that his regime obliterated the town of Halabja and killed thousands of innocent people for the crime of being Kurds, that his regime started wars with Iran and Kuwait, and threatened war with most other nations in the region, that his regime sponsored and protected a wide range of terrorists, including Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal, and an Iraqi agent was a key player in the 1993 World trade center bombing. It is also vital to understand that the 2003 invasion of Iraq did not start a war, but was a continuation of the First Gulf War, where hostilities were ended contingent on Iraq's compliance with the cease-fire terms managed and controlled by the United States. Iraq not only abrogated those terms, but lied to inspectors, moved and hid material, destroyed documents, fired on U.S. and coalition aircraft, attempted to assassinate President George H.W. Bush after he left office during a visit in Kuwait, and demonstrated every intention of renewing aggression and terror tactics as soon as it could do so. If ignored, the Hussein regime in Iraq represented a threat to the safety and stability of every nation in the region, it had repeatedly broken the terms of its cease-fire, committed acts historically recognized as cassae belli, and boasted of both present and future possession and possible distribution of WMD. In the months following the 9/11 attacks, only an insane leader would have ignored the threat or failed to act. President Bush took the necessary and requisite course of action.

Regardless of whether one approves of the war or not, the fact exists that we are engaged in one, and it matters a great deal how we conduct it. The enemy is not placated by speeches or gestures of understanding - they are callow and craven, and will cling to the notion that they are in control, until by force - and only by force - will they come to know the disaster they crafted in arrogance. The war in Iraq began when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, and the war in Afghanistan began when the Taliban decided as a matter of policy to kill innocent Americans. That they made assumptions which have proven false, does not oblige us to stay our use of force - the war will continue to its resolution, and our sole choice is to do what is required to win, or to submit to evil in the hope that a future generation will be brave enough to do what we would not. This is one reason it is so important to teach our children history, so they understand that while the passing of time may increase the cost and weaken resolve, the rule of war includes the unyielding requirement of consummation - no matter what it may seem, evil must die out at the hand of good, and force is often required for this purpose. Some of God's angels carry swords, and those who choose to make war against America invite their own destruction. Despite the cowardice of the current Administration, America will come back to finish the job. It's the rule of War.

Genesis 3:24
Numbers 22:23
Numbers 22:31
1 Chronicles 21:12
1 Chronicles 21:16
1 Chronicles 21:27
1 Chronicles 21:30
2 Chronicles 32:21
Luke 19:27
Luke 22:36
Revelation 2:12


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Comments (34)

Somehow the recent accusati... (Below threshold)

Somehow the recent accusations regarding members of the 5th Stryker seem incongruous with the title of this post. The Army needs to act a little quicker in resolving this horror as well.

You lost me after this, </p... (Below threshold)

You lost me after this,

Liberals hate war, and they apply that hate to almost all war conditions. Conservatives also hate war, but are generally willing to go to war if the reason is morally compelling. This is an essential and irreconcilable difference between liberals and conservatives on war.

because it was clear you have no idea what you're talking about. I skimmed the rest of your bombast.

The "liberal" Woodrow Wilson got us into WWI, where we really had no beef, "to make the world safe for democracy." The "liberal" Franklin Roosevelt prudently rearmed and supported Britain until Pearl Harbor, and then entered the war. The "liberal" Harry Truman mobilized the UN and fought the Korean War. The "liberal" Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnam war exponentially. The "liberal" Bill Clinton bombed the hell out of Serbia and occupied Bosnia and Kosovo for reasons not having much to do with U.S. national security.

Of course it's true the "conservative" GW Bush got us into the insane Iraq war, which you attempt to justify.

Ezekiel 23:20

RE: Betrand Russell observe... (Below threshold)

RE: Betrand Russell observed, "It is therefore in the public interest that the man who goes against the law should be considered in the wrong, not because of the excellence of the law, but because of the importance of avoiding the resort to force as between individuals within the State."

That's crazy. If a citizen believes that the law is wrong, it is their duty to fight it. If you call that a "private war", then so be it. What Russell appears to be advocating order achieved through obedience to the Law.

Not too long ago it was perfectly legal for a store owner to post a sign that said, "Whites only". When black people refused to honor that sign, it created conflict between individuals and between individuals and the state. But the law got changed.

The best explanation of why... (Below threshold)
Bad Science:

The best explanation of why we we had to go back to Iraq I've seen, a thoughtful examination of the news from the mid to late 1990's shows this to be true.

Did you forget to mention t... (Below threshold)
Irv Enhralledberg:

Did you forget to mention that Republicans, whom
you idolize for their willingness to send others to war, have a broad unwillingness to ever go themselves.
Take a poll of those Republican cowards in the congress on the question of who has refused to join up to fight for the country in the last 50 years---and then check also on the
talk radio milktoastery and you'll see what I mean.
Panywaists, all, but with big mouths.

[ Have you noticed that when someone is unable to address the substance of an argument, they pretty much always default to personal insults? Sad, really - DJD]

galoob better re-read the f... (Below threshold)

galoob better re-read the first sentence, and then revisit the history books. Wilson 'hated' war. Roosevelt 'hated' war. Johnson 'hated' war. They 'hated' war so much, they took ineffectual steps to avoid it (not that it could be avoided). Clinton, on the other hand, saw a 'clean air war' to distract from a stained dress.

Wilson ordered the Army Chief of Staff to do NO war planning. In April 1917, Wilson boasted of a 2 million man army being readied for Europe. He had 1/2 million rifles available. Springfield Armory went through the entire war on a 5 day/1 shift week. FDR's "Emergency Preparedness" legislation passed by ONE vote. That was 1939. Let's ask the guys at Wake Island and Bataan if we were "prepared" by 1941. Truman didn't have a choice, seeing as a White Paper prepared by his own State Department FORGOT to mention Korea as an area of US interest. This led Stalin and Kim to believe the US (and therefore the UN) would not intervene. As for Johnson, he got impatient to end the war; but used a bunch of Harvard trained number crunchers to run it.

The right or wrong of war m... (Below threshold)
Don L:

The right or wrong of war might draw a reasoned personn to read Aquinas.

liberals hate war</p... (Below threshold)
Tsar Nicholas II:

liberals hate war

Well, it depends in large part upon who's waging it.

You don't see protests regarding Afghanistan anymore, at least not since Jan. 2009. There wasn't much in the way of anything from the looney left regarding Bosnia or Kosovo. The left didn't say a lick about Iraq from '93 - '00, despite the fact we bombed them almost on a bi-monthly basis. Hell, even the Vietnam-era protests didn't really begin in earnest until after Nixon took office, despite the fact we'd already been fighting there since '65.

and then check als... (Below threshold)
and then check also on the talk radio milktoastery and you'll see what I mean.

I assume this really refers to Caspar Milquetoast. Still and yet, it makes no sense.

While Liberals say they hat... (Below threshold)

While Liberals say they hate all war, it would be a more accurate statement to say that Liberals hate all wars in which the U.S. defends it's vital interests. Their history shows that Liberals don't mind people dying - heck, far more people have died as the result of Liberal causes pursued, than any foreign conflict involving U.S. forces. To say that Liberals hate war - period - is to assign them a moral standing they don't deserve.

Re # 8:How old are... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Re # 8:

How old are you, Dude? The Vietnam protests didn't begin in earnest until after Nixon took office?

Quick, who was President in 1968? 67? What year did the Democrats hold their convention in Chicago?

You don't even have to be old enough to remember. It was in all the history books.

Mr Drummond mangles history yet again, and his cheerleaders here echo his ignorance. What's scary is his vow to "teach our children" the warped, weird, and just plain false version of history that exists only in his mind.

And re # 6:

You may have a point, Mr Fan, about Wilson, less so regarding Roosevelt, but if you think LBJ couldn't have avoided much of the horror that was Vietnam, you are just as unaware of historical fact as Mr Drummond.

[If you're looking for Mr. Henry's point, it's not there. He's trying to change the subject. Note also the default to the insult, rather than addressing the topic. - DJD]

While I've got my red penci... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

While I've got my red pencil out, let me address Mr Drummond's second sentence. Conservatives "...are generally willing to go to war if the reasons are morally compelling."


Wasn't it conservative Republicans who were the isolationists in the 1939-1941 period? How would you characterise the politics of Wendell Wilkie, the GOP nominee in 1940?

[yet again, Bruce demonstrates a difficulty with the English language, as he presumes that 'isolationist' has the same meaning as 'conservative'. Considering that the Democrats overwhelmingly controlled Congress and the White House and the courts before and during the period in question, we must presume that Bruce believes that a great many Democrats of the time must have been 'conservative', since they resisted US involvement in the Asian and European conflicts. Silly, really, of Mr. Henry to make such a blunder, much less repeat it - DJD ]

Or wasn't the situation in ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Or wasn't the situation in Europe in 1940 "morally compelling" enough for conservatives?

[ For someone who boasts of his knowledge of history Bruce, you should be ashamed that you conflate 'conservatives' with 'isolationists' - DJD]

Don L: "The right or wro... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Don L: "The right or wrong of war might draw a reasoned personn to read Aquinas."

Perhaps, but this comment demonstrates that you missed the point. I did not write principally about the morality of war, but it's inevitability as a force of behavior.

When the rule of law fails its function, conditions default to the rule of war.

Welcome to a State of Tranc... (Below threshold)

Welcome to a State of Trance. ;)

Please identify the "insult... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Please identify the "insult" in my comments, Mr Drummond. My argument was with what you said, not with who or what you are.

And I wasn't trying to change the subject, Mr I-understand-the-English-language. I was addressing specific comments made by His Imperial Majesty Tsar Nicholas and by Mr Fan.

See, that's why I typed "Re # 8" and "Re # 6."

Now you do have a point that the overwhelming majority of all Americans were opposed to our entry into WW2 until Pearl Harbor, including Democrats. But the leadership of the isolationist "movement" (like Lindbergh, Taft, etc.) were conservative Republicans. And Roosevelt, who found the situation in Europe "morally compelling" enough to want to get involved, was NOT a conservative, he was a ...what was that word?

So, I'm not suggesting that "isolationist=conservative," just that most conservatives of that day were, indeed,in the isolationist camp. (BTW, many Democrats were conservatives back then, just as some Republicans were liberals.) So, once again, you have interpreted history incorrectly, Mr Drummond. Rather, you have asserted as historical fact something that, umm, isn't so. Again. And so did the Tsar, and so did Mr Fan.

I have to work this Saturda... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I have to work this Saturday, Mr Drummond. You have all day to edit my comments, insult me, or add your snide italicised "criticisms." Knock yourself out. I'll check back later.

#17 Bruce:Stop whi... (Below threshold)

#17 Bruce:

Stop whining. It's unpleasant. You've been insulting from your very first comment on this post, so you really shouldn't complain when you are insulted back.

8. Posted by Tsar Nicholas ... (Below threshold)

8. Posted by Tsar Nicholas II

.... despite that we'd already been fighting there since '65, the Vietnam-era protests didn't begin in earnest until after Nixon took office ....

.... nor continue ten minutes beyond the end of the Draft.

(No cowards on the Left)

Despite my concern that ans... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

Despite my concern that answering Mr. Henry will prove as futile as trying to reason with a mad dog, I do think it is important to highlight his errors, especially since he insists on repeating them:

1. Mr. Henry obsesses on republicans, when the issue concerns the character of conservatives and liberals;

2. He seems to compound the matter by ignoring the overwhelming control democrats held from 1936 through the end of World War 2, so much so that claims the republicans directed or substantially influenced the national debate is patently absurd. One must conclude that Mr. Henry fears too close a look at the quality of conservatives and liberals of that day, and the implications for modern political theory;

3. Mr. Henry continues to lie about my knowledge and application of history. This personal assault should be noted, along with his absolute void of support for his own contentions. That is to say, he demands we accept that his opinion is right simply because he says so. Where I agree that a blog offers little opportunity for a sustained examination of specific wars, it is rather telling that Mr. Henry will not even present a cogent counter-argument, nor offer even anecdoctal support for his contentions.

Beyond that much, I fear that we shall have to proceed without Mr. Henry's intellectual accompaniment. Like galoob, he seems to abandon the topic once he realizes he does not like the theme or substance.

And expecting anything othe... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

And expecting anything other than deliberate ofuscation and misinterpretation of my comments from the incredibly thin-skinned Mr Drummond is apparently futile as well. (Who's whining, Mr Otto?) But let me just try one more time.

First, the accusation that I "resorted to insult." Is calling the Tsar "Dude" an insult? Snarky questions about when he was born, or snarky observations that he could have read about pre-Nixon Vietnam War protests in the history books, may constitute "insults" in Mr Drummond's book, but not in mine. How about yours, Wizbang readership? Same goes for telling Mr Fan that he was wrong about LBJ - how is that insulting?

At least I haven't compared anyone to a mad dog - now THAT would be insulting, had I sunk THAT low!

Secondly, which of us is conflating all conservatives with Republicans, and all liberals with Democrats? As I've said, and will repeat here, many Democrats (especially Southern Democrats) WERE conservative on many issues in the 30s. Whether Democrats held the majority in Congress is immaterial. Mr Drummond states that "Conservatives also hate war, but are generally willing to go to war if the reasons are morally compelling." This is a false, unfounded assertion in regard to the period in question, when conservatives (of BOTH parties) were opposed to our involvement in the War despite the fact that the reasons to do so were "morally compelling" indeed!

However, I do admit my point would have been better made in comments # 12 and # 16 if I had left out the word "Republicans" and just said "conservatives."

And just to move the conversation beyond the Bruce-is-a-poopyhead phase that Mr Drummond loves to linger in, I see it differently. Yes, liberals generally hate war, especially since Vietnam, and rightfully so, in my opinion. But conservatives DON'T hate war - they love it, as long as they're on the side with the best weapons and overwhelming might. Oh, they don't want to go fight themselves - Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol, etc are living evidence of that - and they don't want to pay taxes to pay for them, but they're perfectly fine with your children and mine fighting and dying, and borrowing money, to advance American hegemony over the rest of the world. Good for business, don'tcha know.

Also, I haven't "lied" abou... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Also, I haven't "lied" about anything. You made an assertion, sir, that conservatives are "generally willing to go to war if the reasons are morally compelling." I pointed out that that was definitely NOT the case in the pre-WW2 period. That's not lying, that's pointing out a false assertion. I don't know if you know the truth or not, but you asserted something which isn't so, and I pointed out that it wasn't so. If you call that a "personal assault," I don't know what to tell you, except that you may be a little too sensitive for this line of work.

And then follows the standard Drummond tactic - declaring victory because Shut Up, That's Why. Doesn't work with me, Mr Drummond. You're not fooling anyone.

Bruce comes on the comment ... (Below threshold)

Bruce comes on the comment thread with the typical long snooty "I know more then you lowly conservatives" and then proceeds to school us in the proper way to interpret history, mostly by going off topic. Bruce, you do it frequently but at least it is expected of you. When facts are presented to you, you then change and say your right about that but... you go forward to continue to beat the same drum. Go to work. Let us grown ups talk. ww

Good job, Willie. Guess you... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Good job, Willie. Guess you told me! Is my face red, or what?

Because" how old are you, d... (Below threshold)

Because" how old are you, dude?" Is a traditional way of showing respect when entering debate.
Bruce you always crack me up. Don't know if you ever intend to, but you do so nonetheless.

Well, you got a point there... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Well, you got a point there, I guess, Mr Wuzzy. I still maintain that sarcasm isn't insulting, but I guess some see it differently. I take your point.

So, Mr Wuzzy, you wanna wei... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

So, Mr Wuzzy, you wanna weigh in on Mr Drummond's assertion that liberals are spineless hapless pussies and conservatives are steely-eyed realist manlymen? And always have been?

Actually, "Mr." Henry, I wa... (Below threshold)

Actually, "Mr." Henry, I was responding to your tone and behavior. Sprinkling Mr and sir throughout your comments is about as effective as adding sprinkles (jimmies?) to a dish of spoiled pudding.
I think DJ is speaking well enough for himself, though I rarely agree with "liberals are xxx, conservatives are yyy". This is not one of those times. I agree with neither you or him.

Yeah, you're right, Mr Wuzz... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Yeah, you're right, Mr Wuzzy. I'm the only one who ever gets sarcastic or nasty on the Wizbang comment section. Certainly you yourself have never done so. My apologies.

When it stops being your fi... (Below threshold)

When it stops being your first approach to 99% of the posts you comment in, you may be shocked to see that people are less hostile to you... they may actually read your arguments and respond rather than being turned of by your tone.

I'm sorry, Mr Wuzzy, but I ... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

I'm sorry, Mr Wuzzy, but I was responding to a commenter who said that there were no serious Vietnam War protests until after Nixon took office. What was I supposed to say, "With all due respect, you pulled that out of your ass?" It was a stupid comment, something this guy heard once and adopted as Gospel, that deserved scorn.

What do you suppose the reaction would have been had I, or Dane, or Crickmore, made a comment like that? Just imagine I had asserted, out of nowhere, that no one had ever unfairly criticised a President until Jimmy Carter took office. Or something stupid like that.

And I have consciously avoided commenting on Mr Drummond's articles the past few months because I know he hates criticism, takes it personally. But this thing about conservatives being John Wayne types who are the ones who do what a man's gotta do, while liberals are weak-willed sissies who let tyrants roam free, just plain pissed me off. Forgive me if my standards of civility differ from yours. I'll be looking for you to keep a civil tongue in your head from here on out, and I'll try to be good, too, how's that?

Bruce, go back and rad my p... (Below threshold)

Bruce, go back and rad my posts over the years. Can you honestly say that I don't begin civil in 99 out of a hundred cases?
I called you out, not as the worst of the bunch on this thread, but for trying to behave as if butter wouldn't met in your mouth. If the comment deserved scorn, you should say so and stick to that, rather than pretend that you heaped no scorn in the first place, then go back to standing proud with your scorn when called out for your dishonesty. In short, man up and say what you mean and stick with it, and stop mistaking your high horse for the high ground.
And yes, before you ask or state, I've just grown to dislike you, so my BS tolerance when you show up is lower than it is for some others.

Fair enough, and fair criti... (Below threshold)
Bruce Henry:

Fair enough, and fair criticism, too, Mr Wuzzy. I'll try and learn from it. No sarcasm - I mean it.

I don't necessarily agree h... (Below threshold)

I don't necessarily agree however I can understand where you are coming from with that. At least it was well thought out.






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