Monday, November 11, 2002

Philosophy Professors Against the Invasion of Iraq?

Here is a statement on the prospect of an American invasion of Iraq, that the East Coast division of the American Philosophical Association is deciding whether to make their own (the membership will vote on the matter in December):

"Both just war theory and international law say that states may resort to war only in self-defense. Iraq has attacked neither the United States nor any other nation, and claims that it is about to do so are not credible. Even in the absence of imminent threat, the United States claims a preemptive justification for war in this case. This claim stretches the meaning of preemption beyond reasonable bounds and sets a dangerous precedent which other states may feel free to follow."

The problems with the argument:

1. We have a right to disarm by force a nutjob who has bazookas and bombs in his Manhattan apartment building. By analogy, we have a right to disarm Iraq. There is no significant disanalogy.

2. It would be good, not bad, if other countries would follow our lead and disarm evil nutjobs. It would be bad if morons took it upon themselves to do this. But there is no evidence that morons will do so because we do. Do they invade innocent countries because they saw us invade Germany during WW II? Even if they did, to advise on those grounds inaction in the case of WW II would, well, make you a nutjob. Besides, if the morons ape us and go gun happy on innocent peoples, well just invade and disarm those morons. That's that.

3. Poor risk management. "Saddam might not suitcase-nuke us? What is the probability that he won't? 99.5%? Oh, good, only 0.5% chance that we will be nuked. That sets me at ease." The risks are such that invasion is prudent. There is a reasonable chance of millions of Americans being killed by suitcase nukes. Invasion will cost only a few lives. By the way, once the threat is "immanent," you're dead. How will you find the suitcase nuke?

4. The statement gives no inkling of an alternative way to handle the threat of Iraq. This violates the rules of elementary critical thinking courses: provide an alternative to the policy you criticize, or accept that your refutation is unsound. Maybe the idea is that Iraq is simply not a threat. But that would make the statement stupid. So, the statement is either illogical or stupid.

This is one of the reasons I'm no longer a member of the APA. They are also against capital punishment. Could someone tell me why we shouldn't execute the D.C. snipers? Little known fact: 99.9% of research done in ethical theory in philosophy deparments the last 50 years is worthless. Besides a few exceptions, if the library of late 20th C. ethical theory burned, the human race would have lost nothing. They spin silly theories that no one needs or can use. (But at least they give us brilliant statements like the one above, right?) The world proceeds in its moral reasonings, in total ignorance of these theories. Thank goodness for common sense. I've given notice here at work. I can't wait to be an ex-professor. University is intellectually unstimulating. Students are 40% dead weight, placing no value on education. Enrolment ought to be slashed in half. But I digress.