Because We Haven’t Talked About The ‘Armed’ Part Lately

After we left Bragg, TG wondered about the M4’s she’d seen the soldiers carrying.

On the way home, we stopped to visit some friends, one of whom was my old shooting mentor:

TG_M4_med.JPG

TG thought the rifle was pretty neat.

There’s an interesting debate to have on gun rights about “assault rifles.” On one hand it’s naive to state that they don’t have tactical advantages over other kinds of rifles – meaning that they are, in fact, more dangerous.

On the other, it’s virtually impossible to define them in a way that makes any sense, and it’s also impossible to quantify how much more dangerous they really are – a lever-action cowboy rifle in the right hands can shoot and reload pretty quickly as well.

Switching back, I can’t imagine gang kids developing that level of skill.

Ten years ago, I probably would have shrugged and said “meh. go ahead and restrict ownership to them if you can figure out how” Today, not so much. But it’s still true that to me the debate about regulating these guns is the most interesting and meaningful debate about firearms regulation. because what we’re talking about in a serious way is “why” it’s OK for civilians to own firearms.
-

31 thoughts on “Because We Haven’t Talked About The ‘Armed’ Part Lately”

  1. On one hand it’s naive to state that they don’t have tactical advantages over other kinds of rifles – meaning that they are, in fact, more dangerous.

    Well, that statement leaves out the context. For walking around the neighborhood, or riding around in a HumVee or Stryker (or even an Element), of course you want an assault rifle–and probably one in a small-to-medium cartridge like we currently issue. But for long-distance shooting bolt-action rifles are still king (though of course your gang kids are even less likely to develop skill with those than they are with the lever action.) For overall small size, it’s hard to beat a lever-action carbine: that’s why people carry them in the Alaskan bush instead of AR-15’s chambered in .50 Beowulf. :-)

    But of course I appreciate your overall point very much, and would like to see you expand on it light of your previous cautionary post (and love to hear Beard’s take on this, too!)

  2. Thanks for the invitation, kparker.

    bq. . . . to me the debate about regulating these guns is the most interesting and meaningful debate about firearms regulation. because what we’re talking about in a serious way is “why” it’s OK for civilians to own firearms. [A.L.]

    Personally, I enjoy target shooting. I can understand why people enjoy hunting, though I wouldn’t get pleasure from killing an animal that is minding its own business. I understand that some people feel that guns make them safer, and in a few circumstances I expect it’s true, though I think those circumstances are much rarer than many people believe. And I believe that weapons are useful for police and for a _well regulated_ militia.

    I can accept all of the above arguments for responsible gun rights.

    Presumably nobody is actually in _favor_ of unrestricted gun ownership by large numbers of organized or disorganized criminals, or gangs of local youth, or the mentally unbalanced. They may be willing to accept those as unavoidable consequences of some policy they consider more important, however.

    I know some folks believe that guns should be unrestricted so that the people can retain the ability to overthrow the government, if need be.

    This one seems to be the only justification for unrestricted ownership of assault weapons by the general public.

    I don’t find that justification compelling.

    I do think that the people retain the right to change their government, including overthrowing the current one. However, I believe that very destructive anti-personnel weapons like assault rifles are neither necessary nor sufficient for this end. That is, having the ability to kill lots of other civilians won’t work to overflow the government. And there will turn out to be ways, if necessary, to overthrow the government in other ways.

  3. The Phillippine revolution in 1986 is a pretty good example of how a (largely) non-violent revolution toppled a far-better-armed established government. The government lost the support of the people, and the opposition conducted itself in a forceful but non-violent way. In the end, the police and armed forces refused orders to act against the people, and the Marcos’ left the country. The revolution succeeded. If the revolution had been vigorous and violent, I predict it would have been crushed, with the support of many of the people.

    Heaven on earth did not follow. But when has it?

  4. Since I came back from Iraq the second time, I have to admit that I’ve entirely quit carrying firearms. I probably still should; the old arguments are as good as ever. I know there are dangerous criminals out there, and so on.

    But I carry a knife, and I have a sense that there aren’t many dangerous criminals who would be glad to meet me with it. Or two, or five of them, if it came to it.

    The reasons you should be armed from day to day are:

    1) To protect yourself, and those you love;

    2) To protect the common peace and lawful order.

    Some — especially the physically weaker — need a handgun for that. Some might want a shotgun. I have no problem with lawful people having such items about them at any time. (I.e., “to bear” as well as “to keep” the arms). I myself feel no such need; but when I grow older and weaker, perhaps I will want them again. For now, I’m glad as I am, and like the lack of ricochet.

    I don’t see a good reason why we shouldn’t permit citizens to “keep” assault rifles, but we might well restrict the question of where they might “bear” them. They really are good hunting rifles, for what it’s worth; I can reliably hit targets at 300 meters with an M4 or AR-15 (39 out of 40 on my last qualification). I could understand people not wanting me to bring it to lunch.

    Since I just argued at some length for the right to bear them to political demonstrations, though, I suppose I should qualify my remarks. I do think that bearing arms in political causes is one of our duties as citizens, if we feel our conscience pricked in that regard. I think it’s part of our duty to remind the government that it serves at our pleasure, and to be ready to fight it if we must. I likewise believe that you can fight the government in the cause of the right without being disloyal; I mentioned the unions fighting even the US army, without showing them disrespect for having done so. They produced real good by doing so.

    The revolution is part of us. We should fight, when we feel called to fight; we should defend, when we feel called to defend. The guns are a blessing: in Iraq, they use bombs. As much as I dislike ricochets, I’ve been close to enough bombs to know that guns are better. Let’s fight with guns, if fight we must.

  5. Beard:

    However, I believe that very destructive anti-personnel weapons like assault rifles are neither necessary nor sufficient for this end.

    These civilian arms that are described as “assault rifles” are semi-automatics, and at close range (where most crime occurs) they are not much superior to pistols, and are inferior to ordinary sporting shotguns.

    The destructive anti-personnel effects of the plain old shotgun were recently demonstrated in Harlem, where four armed robbers went down in a hail of pellets. If I were the responsible gentleman, I would not have traded that scattergun for an AR-15, or any of a hundred scary-looking plinkers.

    I do think that the people retain the right to change their government, including overthrowing the current one. However, I believe that very destructive anti-personnel weapons like assault rifles are neither necessary nor sufficient for this end.

    Yes, but in the event of civil war, any kind of rifle is preferable to the shotgun, as the shotgun has severe limits in ranged combat.

    I’m not sure who I would be fighting in the event of revolution-slash-civil-war. I generally picture overweight, slow-moving types in colorful t-shirts, armed with crappy TEC-9s and carrying huge beverage containers. A .22 lever-action might serve well enough.

    The retention of military-style arms by civilians is largely symbolic. Symbolism is a very real and important thing, and one should pay close attention to governments that are overly bothered by this particular expression.

  6. Grim:

    As I recall, a concealed carry permit in Virginia doesn’t apply to knives, and there are a lot of rather confusing limitations on knife carry in a number of states. But a knife is definitely more generally useful than a pistol.

    I’ve discussed this assault weapons issue with people before, and I think the nub of the question we come to was whether they’re more analogous to cannon than aimable firearms. The theory being that cannon weren’t considered by the founders to fall into the class of weapons covered in the Second Amendment. As I recall a number of founders actually wrote arguments excluding cannon and similar ordnance, because they couldn’t be aimed at an individual, so their destructive power was too “generalized.” That might apply to some fully automatic weapons, but it’s not a cut and dried argument. And I’m not sure, if it applied to automatic weapons, why it wouldn’t apply to shotguns… which have always been covered under the Second Amendment.

  7. That’s quite correct, Demosophist. Knife laws are very complex.

    In a sense, knives are the opposite side of the assault rifle debate AL mentions. It also touches on the question of “why” civilians have access to weapons.

    The 2A is defined in the minds of most by guns — pistols, rifles, shotguns, assault rifles — and by the question of whether you can “keep and bear” the arms by carrying them in public, or just “keep” them at home, or (pre-Heller) if it was OK to just ban possession outright.

    Nobody’s really taken time to ask about “arms” outside of guns. There’s not really a good reason why you should be able to carry a concealed .44 Remington Magnum revolver, but not a pocket knife. For gun control advocates, that was OK — they were fine with you not being allowed to carry either. They wanted to disarm the populace.

    For advocates of arms-bearing, the guns were enough of a fight; and being the most broadly effective form of defensive weapon, handguns were the focus.

    Still, post-Heller, we really should revist the question of “arms.” Knives — and for that matter, swords and axes — were used in the Revolutionary period in the same role as handguns are today. They were the primary defensive weapon, because the handguns of the period were unreliable and normally could be loaded with only one shot.

    There are good reasons why a lot of Americans would prefer a handgun to a knife. They may not be as strong as they fear an attacker might be, or they may not want to spend the time developing the more complex skill set. However, I can’t think of a good _reason_ why it should be OK to carry a defensive handgun, but not a defensive knife.

    The laws, however, exist. Knife laws tend to be incredibly restrictive and arcane by comparison to gun laws. We should probably think that through sometime.

  8. I think an error made in the “overthrowing the government” argument is a false dichotomy. That is, either one is an obedient subject, or one is a revolutionary who aims to bring down in toto the current government. IMHO, there is a large continuum between and it is there that the argument is strongest. That is, local resistance to local governments, or even rogue agents of the government. I agree that the “revolution” argument is a bit weak, but the “make government _cautious_” is a much more powerful one. It is far better to put the brakes on at the top of the hill rather than the bottom.

  9. I agree with AOG [#9] that there is a large continuum between being an obedient subject and being an armed revolutionary aiming to bring down the entire government.

    However, the use of weapons optimized for the efficient killing of people is not going to be effective anywhere along that spectrum. As I’ve said before, carrying them and not using them requires great discipline, but invites less cautious copycats who are likely to cause disaster. Carrying them and using them invites disaster directly, along with widespread condemnation for your cause (see T. McVeigh, albeit with different weapons).

    A value in this discussion is to put front-and-center the fact that the major justification for the legality of certain weapons is to keep open the option of armed revolution against the state. Do you have the stomach to make and stand by that argument?

    Even if you do, my argument here is pragmatic: those weapons are neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve that end. Therefore, that justification fails to hold water.

  10. If I served in the Army, I’d want an assault rifle. That is, a select fire rifle that fires intermediate cartridges.

    If I want to purchase, as a civilian, a versatile gun that I could use effectively, I’d get something with a longer barrel, bigger bullets and a lower rate of fire. Something akin to the kind of rifle used to hunt deer.

    However, both are protected under the second amendment since they are both “arms” so it seems like a moot point to me.

  11. _However, the use of weapons optimized for the efficient killing of people is not going to be effective anywhere along that spectrum._

    Warsaw 1943.

  12. It’s also the case that, in both the Revolution and the Civil War, Americans stood up significant militia forces from untrained civilians. They were almost never successful against regulars in open battle (although some of the Civil War militia cavalry is exceptional in that regard); but they were highly effective at winning a space for the revolutionaries to build up regular forces of their own.

    To be successful, an American revolt would need hundreds of thousands or even millions of people to rise up, and tens of millions more to be in support. However, given those numbers — I mean to say, given a cause that justified and produced that level of support — civilians with rifles could baffle forces long enough for a more formal revolutionary force to assemble.

    For example, in the Civil War, fully half of the United States Marine Corps defected to the South. If there were such an obvious sort of tyranny in the land that tens of millions of Americans were in support of a revolt, it’s probably that a substantial percentage of our armed forces or police would similarly defect. It would require time for them to assemble in a new fashion, and develop plans and establish leadership. The civilian militia might well be what bought them that time, as it was in the time before Valley Forge.

  13. Interesting historical primer, Grim. Thanks. Also interesting that you no longer feel like carrying guns after spending time in Iraq. Would be interested in the thought process that led you there, and as always, you’re welcome to pen articles.

  14. If I had thoughts around it, I’d be glad to share them. I was outside the wire quite a bit this last trip, as a tribal affairs advisor. Sometimes I carried an M4, and sometimes I did not (due to the legal issues — I was authorized one under the UN Mandate and US military rules; but then when the SOFA was passed the lawyers wanted to take another look at whether or not civilians could still carry defensive arms, so there was a standown period. Then, when they decided I could, I had to get a letter from Corps re-approving the approval, which took some time). Whether or not I took a rifle, I always carried my old Kabar strapped to my armor.

    Now, there were times when I felt that I was just very happy to have that M4. And there were times when I was a little embarrassed by it — sometimes when we’d go to visit certain sheikhs I knew and liked, and I’d take off my armor to show friendship and trust, I felt odd lugging a rifle around. So, I’d stow it under a chair or something for the meeting. Other times, we’d go to much less secure areas to inspect farming equipment or power plants or whatever, and on those occasions I was glad to have the rifle right to hand (when I did), or missed it (when I didn’t).

    Most likely I just acclimated to a higher level of danger, and the United States doesn’t feel very dangerous anymore. Actually, it’s kind of dull. :) I do have a family here, though, who’d like to see more of me than they have these last three years; so I’m trying to work that out.

    Anyway, it’s not really a thought process. I just came home, took the revolver out of my safe, looked at it, and thought, “Nah.” So I put it back.

  15. The civilian militia might well be what bought them that time, as it was in the time before Valley Forge.

    Not just buy the time, civilian militias force the choice in the first place.

    Without an armed citizenry, the ruling government is free to use their power of selective legal enforcement to allow suppression of dissent using anything from loosely attached thug groups through party backed militias to official para-military organizations.

    We see this all the time in Africa where regime supporters assault, rape, and murder the opposition, and the police are always conveniently elsewhere, and criminal charges are never filed.

    An armed population effectively neutralizes this form of suppression of dissent and forces the regime to deploy the military against the dissenters, simultaneously handing effective control of the nation over to the military, while simultaneously forcing the military to make a choice, whereas if they were not involved it becomes far to easy for them to rationalize their way into staying out of the mess.

  16. mark buehner [#12] says, “Warsaw 1943″.

    Your point being?

    I assume that you’re talking about the “Warsaw Ghetto Uprising”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Ghetto_Uprising. There are a number of non-parallels to the current discussion that make it hard (for me at least) to see exactly what you are arguing for, or against.

    The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising was a rebellion against a tyrannical occupying force during wartime. Ultimately, the rebellion was crushed, although it was certainly an embarrassment for the Nazis. They were seriously out-gunned by the Nazis, and would have been, even if they had had more than a few rifles. Their most effective military weapons were the IED and the Molotov cocktail. Their most effective political action was to keep the Jewish flag and the Polish national flag flying for several days, in spite of serious Nazi attempts to take it down.

    Their rebellion was a courageous martyrdom in the face of an overwhelming and unreasonable oppressor. It’s not clear what else they could have done. It’s pretty clear that plausible amounts of better weapons wouldn’t have helped.

    I would hope that, whatever differences of opinion we might have about the best way to provide health care to the citizens of this country, you don’t think that a parallel to the Nazi oppression of the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw is appropriate.

  17. _”I assume that you’re talking about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. There are a number of non-parallels to the current discussion that make it hard (for me at least) to see exactly what you are arguing for, or against.”_

    Do we really need to split hairs here and argue over whether an occupying force is significantly different than an indigenous government? Had this happened in Danzig would it matter? Did it matter to the victims? Should we assume the US is perpetually beyond occupation by some future enemy anyway?

    _”They were seriously out-gunned by the Nazis, and would have been, even if they had had more than a few rifles. Their most effective military weapons were the IED and the Molotov cocktail.”_

    _”It’s pretty clear that plausible amounts of better weapons wouldn’t have helped.”_

    How is that clear? With a few handguns and improvised weapons the Ghetto held off the nazi war machine far longer than anyone would have thought and tied down nazi forces that would have been used elsewhere. Who knows what they could have done with equivalent military grade weapons? I don’t understand the assumption that superior weapons wouldn’t lead to superior results. It flies in the face of common sense.

    _”I would hope that, whatever differences of opinion we might have about the best way to provide health care to the citizens of this country, you don’t think that a parallel to the Nazi oppression of the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw is appropriate.”_

    Not sure what healthcare had to do with it. You made the challenge of citing examples of when military equivalent firepower would benefit as oppose to hinder opposition to tyrannical government. Not happy with the warsaw analogy because the nazi were occupiers? OK, EASY.

    Cambodia 1976- would you as a dissident prefer leaflets or an assault rifle?

    Srebrenica 1995

    Tiananmen Square, Beijing 1989

    Kurdistan Iraq, 1982

    Soviet Union- pick a year between 1917-60s

    Rwanda, Darfur, do I really need to go on?

    You may argue that it is simply suicide anyway to go up against the state even with a rifle. Fine, you can feel that way. Maybe in fact it is. But the entire _point_ of America is that a man with a rifle is his own master and can indeed make all the difference. Give me liberty or give me death isn’t empty rhetoric. Sure, there are times (most of the time thank god) where peaceful protest and nonviolent resistance are the clear way to go. But the problem is there are the other times when peaceful protest gets your head blown off and your family lumped in a mass grave with the rest of your town. It seems farfetched here in America at this time. The catch is it always seems farfetched until its too late.

  18. Certainly there are plenty of situations where any plausible non-violent protest will just get you killed. But certainly there are also plenty of situations where any plausible _violent_ protest will also just get you killed, because the state will just ramp up to meet the perceived threat. The ones you list quite likely fall into both categories.

    The point of most of my arguments on this topic is that it is just as silly to believe that having a bigger gun and a quicker draw will solve real conflicts, as it is to believe that holding hands and singing Kumbayah will. At least around here, I suspect that more people hold the former silly belief than the latter one.

    The point is that, in any conflict situation, your actual goal is to change people’s minds about their intended course of action. It may appear simple, quick, and satisfying to do this by killing them or threatening to kill them. But in spite of all the “evidence” on TV and the movies, in the real world this is typically far too simplistic.

    There are times when force and the threat of force give you important leverage. But those times are less common than many people think, and I am arguing against them. If you consider the effects of the change of strategy in Iraq, and read the Petraeus report that led to that, I think you will see that it supports my position.

  19. _”There are times when force and the threat of force give you important leverage. But those times are less common than many people think, and I am arguing against them”_

    On that, we certainly agree! My point is that its those are outliers that really ruin your day, and thats exactly the time you’ll be happy to have that rifle stuffed in your closet because its also the time it will probably prove impossible to get ahold of one otherwise.

    I think its a terrible idea to go brandishing (or even displaying) weapons as a political argument 99% of the time. On the other hand I don’t think it wise to reliquish our god given right to those weapons as a bulwark against the day that they are needed.

    We put airbags in our cars, after all, even though i’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles with no need for one.

  20. Beard,

    You’re hardly being fair in your presentation. What sense does it make to put out vague generalities (“However, the use of weapons optimized for the efficient killing of people is not going to be effective anywhere along that spectrum”) and then object when people respond with counterexamples (should only take one, right) that they aren’t comparable, in every detail, with our current American situation?

    Please…

  21. Marc, “most conflicts between people” is pretty broad. I’m in the conflicts resolution business–havent’ seen or used a gun in 26 years.

    According to “this International Epidemiological Association study”:http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/27/2/214.pdf there were 39,595 firearm-related deaths in the U.S. in 1993, or 15.6 per 100,000. The report indicates that the incidence of gun related deaths in the U.S. is more than double that in Northern Ireland, about three times that of Switzterland, France and Canada, and 38 times the rate in England and Wales.

    We do love our guns. However, if we can convice more people to be passionate about the First and 14th Amendments, and less passionate about the 2nd Amendement, perhaps we can improve on these statistics.

  22. _”We do love our guns. However, if we can convice more people to be passionate about the First and 14th Amendments, and less passionate about the 2nd Amendement, perhaps we can improve on these statistics.”_

    Huh? How many people are killed over political disputes as opposed to crack dealing or two timing? Note our level of knife murders holds the same ratios. We are a violent nation, period (mainly because of our senseless drug war). Guns are besides the point.

  23. The US also has the highest prison population in the civilized world. That troubles me more than gun deaths; and it is likewise part of the normal liberal critique against America.

    So: if we let those extra people out of prison, and put away our guns, will we have a better society?

    I speak as one who has put away mine, at least for the time. I’d rather have more killing and less imprisonment, given the choice; imprisonment seems to me a moral wrong in a way that killing a man need not be.

    At least when you kill a bandit, you are accepting him for what he decided to be: a bandit. You are accepting his own decisions about who he was and what he wanted. You are, by accepting his choices, “loving him”:http://grimbeorn.blogspot.com/2008_03_01_archive.html#1925855565758972273 by accepting who he wanted to be.

    Trying to reform him so his morals match your own is not necessarily better. The violence of _1984_ wasn’t the killing of Winston Smith, which was only his release from torture. The violence was in forcing a change in his mind.

  24. If I lived in Rwanda, it could well be that I would want and need a gun for protection, and to assist in the maintenance of what fragments of civil society remain.

    But I don’t live in Rwanda, or Sri Lanka, or Carthage. The nature of the prevailing risks, and the benefits and costs of carrying a weapon in the modern-day USA are significantly different. I have every reason to believe that Grim is at least as safe in the USA without a gun as with one, and that’s not because potential assailants can see that he has a knife and can use it. I don’t know Grim personally, but I expect he looks aware, strong, and mature, and that’s plenty in virtually any context he is likely to encounter in the USA without actively looking for trouble.

    On the other hand, it’s pretty over-the-top to claim that killing a bandit counts as loving him because you are affirming his life choices. I certainly agree that there are worse things you can do to someone than killing them. _1984_ is a good example, and so is _One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest_. But you have to back off a lot farther than killing him to count as love, even tough love, in my book.

    But again, we agree that having the highest prison population in the civilized world is a serious problem. We are in a deep hole, and we need to figure out how to stop digging.

  25. You’re not enough of a poet, my friend. Or, perhaps, I’m too much of one.

    Still, the argument seems right to me:

    _The interesting thing about Christianity is the degree to which it accepts men as they are: the Christian law is not the Ten Commandments, but the Great Commandment: “Love each other as you love yourself; forgive everything.” If I am to love a man, I must love him as he is; yet if I am to love him as I love myself, then I may fight with him to the degree that I would fight myself. I may even kill him, if there are things I would rather kill myself than be guilty of having done._

    Sometimes I’ve written things that, later, I wish I hadn’t; and sometimes I change my mind. So far, at least, I’ve not changed my mind about that. Take a man for who he is; and if that means you have to fight him, perhaps God loves a good fight.

    It’s not the worst thing that we find in the world, fighting. Today, I was wondering if “God loves”:http://grimbeorn.blogspot.com/2009_08_01_archive.html#6619963381036609582 opera.

    Why not? He seems to love bacteria.

    Not that this is a Christian proposition only, though I happen to be a Christian. The Hindus have a concept close to that one, as well: that God, as they define him, wants us to play out our roles with merry ferocity. The Buddhists think it doesn’t matter; and the Muslims, well…

    In any event, you’re right that I don’t regularly encounter trouble in any context. I’ve traveled China and the Philippines without guns, and without difficulty. Usually good will is enough for a strong man to be left in peace, just as a happy grizzly is rarely disturbed.

    But that is not always true for a woman, even a strong one; or the old, or the sick. It’s for them that we have handguns. I’m glad to lend my arm anytime to the defense of the weak, but I may not always be around to do it, and there’s no moral reason they should be forced to depend on me — though I should be delighted, if they chose to.

  26. I’ve always enjoyed the story of two little boys meeting on the playground of a new school.

    “Are you new here?”

    “Yeah, are you?”

    “Me, too. Wanna fight?”

    “Sure!”

    And then the two of them roll all over the playground, wrestling and punching, and becoming best friends. (There really are gender differences in the world, on average at least!)

    But there’s a big difference between this kind of fight, which I _do_ think God loves, and following a chain of reasoning that says you can love someone by killing him. I suspect many of the Inquisitors and witch-hunters had convinced themselves that by torturing and killing their victims they were loving them, by giving them a chance to save their immortal souls. I believe that much evil has been done by people starting with good premises, and then following long and subtle chains of reasoning whose flaws they could not detect, leading to horribly evil actions.

    As to safety in the face of danger, there are no absolute guarantees in life, but I would say it is inner strength rather than outer strength (much less weapons) that provides protection. My wife says that she treasures her grey hair, because it gives her not only protection but authority when she ventures into potentially dangerous situations. There are times when a group of strong and vigorous young men and women need and benefit from the protection of an older, fearless, motherly woman.

  27. _”But I don’t live in Rwanda, or Sri Lanka, or Carthage. The nature of the prevailing risks, and the benefits and costs of carrying a weapon in the modern-day USA are significantly different.”_

    The problem with this line of reasoning is that Warsaw or Rwanda wasn’t a particularly unsafe place to live.. until it was VERY unsafe. By which time the possibility of getting your hands on what you need to protect you becomes impossible.

    It goes back to the air bag analogy. It’s too late to have one installed when your head is heading towards the windshield.

  28. _I suspect many of the Inquisitors and witch-hunters had convinced themselves that by torturing and killing their victims they were loving them, by giving them a chance to save their immortal souls. I believe that much evil has been done by people starting with good premises…_

    “Simon de Montfort,”:http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10540a.htm for example? The Crusade against the Albigenses was remarkably bloody; though you could argue that, as it encouraged suicide among its followers (by starvation, usually), it was like a Jonestown cult. Was it right to fight such a cult? Would it be right today?

    (Today we’d probably throw everyone in prison, where instead of their cult being stopped, it would be given a captive audience for conversion purposes. I think we’ve established that prison isn’t a great option for dealing with problems, though.)

    There’s a slippery slope argument to be made for any set of values, though: that’s a problem with being human. If you’re going to fight, you can fight it with love, or “with hate.”:http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2009/08/sri-lankas-disconcerting-coin/

    Maybe, in some cases, it’s better not to fight at all. Approaching potential enemies with love rather than hate might help toward getting that right, too.

  29. Mark (#29),

    Having heard “The Last American in Rwanda” speak, I can heartily affirm your point. He heard from more than one student that, at the time when things started to get scary in Kigali and some teacher asked their class, “Are you Tutsi or Hutu?”, didn’t even know which they were.

  30. Beard, I guess where we differ is my view that over the sum of human history, most conflicts between people _have_ been settled by “…having a bigger gun and a quicker draw…”

    Carthago delando est, and all that. And yes, we’re far more civilized than that today; just ask any Rwandan citizen or any Sri Lankan Hindu.

    Marc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>