Monday Morning Poll

Monday, August 11th, 2008

Show your work in the comments section. My votes? The American Revolution (more because of what it did for human freedom after the fact–not sure I would have supported it at the time), World War II, and Afghanistan. And I guess you sorta’ have to include the War of 1812, too. I’m torn on the Civil War, because I’m not sure slavery wouldn’t have died out on its own without 600,000 people dying in the process.

NOTE: There seems to be something amiss with the way PollDaddy tallies multiple choice surveys. So have it at it in the comments section. But the poll results aren’t right.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

73 Responses to “Monday Morning Poll”

  1. #1 |  David McElroy | 

    Jeff Darcy:

    I don’t think you can reasonably justify a decision except in terms of why the decision was made at the time. If I murder a random man to steal his money, the fact that the man turns out to be an evildoer who was hurting/killing/whatever others doesn’t justify my action. Nobody is going to justify my actions because it stopped the other man’s evil.

  2. #2 |  Jeff Darcy | 

    Deontology is fine, David, but it’s not the be-all and end-all of ethics. There is also a consequentialist perspective to be considered, among others. You analogy is flawed, characterized by a complete absence of any altruistic motive and a reasonable expectation that the outcome will be wholly harmful. In the Civil War case, by contrast, there was at least some belief that there was a principle at stake and that the outcome would be positive for all concerned. A more valid comparison would be to you knocking unconscious a purse thief who turned out to be a murderer as well. Many would consider your actions justified, and those who subscribe to the broken window theory might even credit you with stopping a murderer despite your being unaware that he was such.

    Doing the right thing for bad reasons, doing the right thing for neutral reasons, doing the right thing partly for the wrong reason, etc. are different scenarios. Please don’t play stupid rhetorical games that involve conflating the two, and while you’re at it please stop marking down every comment with which you merely disagree. That’s not what those buttons are for.

  3. #3 |  David McElroy | 

    No, Jeff, I’m simply showing the logical consequence of judging the justification of an action by the end result rather than that actual things which justified the action. You’re the one playing “stupid rhetorical games,” not me. Your logic makes no more sense than that of those who justify the current Iraq war because Saddam Hussein was removed from power.

    And please quit making arrogant and mistaken assumptions about my motives or actions. You’re not omniscient.

  4. #4 |  Ian | 

    Why is 1812 so popular?

    The British were busy with Napoleon, and the US tried for a land grab. I’m sorry, but attempting the conquest of a huge swath of geography is a grossly disproportionate response to losing a few sailors. In my mind, that casus bellum for the war of 1812 is as flimsy as “remember the Maine.”

    Saying that the hope of conquering Upper and Lower Canada was an important unstated reason for going to war is debatable. However, in that facilitating expansion to the west was an explicit American war aim, the war of 1812 was, in that respect at least, a war of aggression with the aim of genocide.

    Here’s President James Madison on the eve of war. (paragraph 8) There, Madison cites purported British support for the “warfare just renewed by the savages” as a casus bellorum against the British. Madison is referring to Tecumseh’s War, an attempt by the Shawnee to overturn the treaty of Treaty of Fort Wayne by which the Americans had seized 12,000 km² of land.

    Tecumseh, 1811. Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mochican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun … Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws … Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields? In Madison’s eyes, this man was a savage whose resistance to American expansionism was unmotivated barbarism.

    Britain was trying to support allied independant nations against American wars of aggression, and President Madison took this to be justification for attacking the British. Of course the British had self-interested reasons for allying with the Shawnee, but how does that make Britain the bad guy?

    My favorite 1812 story — The surrender of Detroit. Abject surrender resulting from American cowardice and racism.

    Heck’ve a job, Madison.

  5. #5 |  David Nieporent | 

    From one poster:

    However, I still maintain that the Confederacy had the right to secede from the U.S., even if slavery was at the center of their conflict with the U.S. government.

    and from another:

    The southern states had every legal and moral right to determine their own political futures, even if they did allow the morally repugnant institution of slavery.

    Again, for libertarians: States do not have rights. Only individuals do. There is no libertarian case for the Confederacy.

    The argument is incoherent in every respect. There are two cases to be made that revolution is legitimate: (1) the government against which one is trying to revolt is oppressive, or (2) government is inherently illegitimate and so has no claim on anybody. The first doesn’t apply, because pretending that the first applies to the antebellum U.S. is absurd. The second makes the southern state governments just as illegitimate as the federal government; it would allow individual southerners to secede from the U.S., but not states.

  6. #6 |  David Nieporent | 

    Oops. More boldfacing than I intended.

    In any case, getting back to the argument over what the civil war was “about”: yes, in elementary school one learns that Lincoln started the war to free the slaves, and that elementary school lesson is oversimplified.

    But the agenda of neoconfederate/paleocon revisionists is not merely to point out that the situation is more complex. It’s to oversimplify the other way, to pretend that Lincoln didn’t care about slavery, that the war had nothing to do with slavery.

  7. #7 |  xyz123 | 

    well, dave, sorry to sound like a neoconfederate paleocon revisionist and all, (way to tar the opposition with the big brush, dude! nothing says ‘class’ like slipping in a pre-emptive ad hominem insult, right?), if – as you say -since nowhere in the constitution does it say that “states have rights” (which is highly doubtful because why would the various states have signed on to an agreement that left them no rights whatsoever, way back in 1787, the very pinnacle of the states rights era?)…..

    then where does it say the federal government has “rights”?

    if “only individuals have rights” according to your interpretation, then how does that justify lincoln claiming powers never granted him? still can’t find the words “draft” or “suspension of habeus corpus in wartime” or “unlimited total war against civilians” in the constitution, much as i try.

  8. #8 |  David Nieporent | 

    if “only individuals have rights” according to your interpretation, then how does that justify lincoln claiming powers never granted him? still can’t find the words “draft” or “suspension of habeus corpus in wartime” or “unlimited total war against civilians” in the constitution, much as i try.

    The constitution explicitly allows for the suspension of habeas corpus in wartime, or rather “when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” It wasn’t even settled at the time who could do so, although the Supreme Court later ruled, probably correctly, that it required an act of Congress rather than the president.

    The constitution also grants Congress the power “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;” which sounds a little like a draft.

    In any case, nothing “justifies Lincoln claiming powers never granted him,” but that’s an entirely separate issue from whether the Civil War was justified. The war doesn’t become unjustified because the president did some bad acts after the war began; those specific acts would be unjustified.

    (I don’t know what your question means, “where does it say the federal government has ‘rights’?” Nowhere. I never said it did.)

  9. #9 |  Dave Krueger | 

    Let us not confuse our Daves and Davids.

  10. #10 |  j a higginbotham | 

    From Wikipedia, Lincoln on 22 Aug 1862:

    My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

  11. #11 |  j a higginbotham | 

    DN: it would allow individual southerners to secede from the U.S., but not states.

    So the states can join the union but can’t leave?
    In the absence of any agreement at the time of joining, I don’t see how that follows.

  12. #12 |  pfjo | 

    20% supported the revolutionary war?? I must say that I have never found the libertarian justifications against the revolution to be anything more than juvenile… but that is obviously just me… and one in five of everyone else who reads this blog.

  13. #13 |  j a higginbotham | 

    pfjo
    you might read comment 12

  14. #14 |  MacK | 

    Where the hell is the war on drugs, the war on illiteracy, the war on terror, the war on fast food, the war on dogs and cats in the home of innocent people, the war on trans fats, the on again off again war on cholesterol, the war on gays, the war on brown skins, the war on white heterosexual males, the war on most of the shit I like, the war on your mother in law, the war on gambling, the war on bottled water?

  15. #15 |  David McElroy | 

    It’s funny how people throw around the term “neoconfederate” in order to demonize those who disagree with their position on the “war of northern aggression.” Believing that the U.S. government was wrong to go to war with the newly independent southern states isn’t the same as approving of the Confederate government or approving of its position on slavery. (In the same way, believing that the U.S. government’s involvement in WW II was legitimate doesn’t mean that you approve of the government’s actions to put Japanese-Americans into concentration camps.)

  16. #16 |  buermann | 

    Not being able to justify British colonization in the first place does rather make answering the poll a fair bit improbable.

  17. #17 |  On Justifiable Wars | Heretical Ideas Blog | 

    […] Radley Balko is polling his readership to see which wars are justified. My friend Jim Henley replies thusly: As an increasingly hardcore peacenik I am probably down, at this point, to half of WWII (vs the Germans – and yes, I believe American policy needlessly provoked war with Japan); sort of Afghanistan; maybe the American Revolution and probably some form of the Civil War. I’d also argue that the war to eject Iraq from Kuwait was justified under international law (collective self-defense), just not wise. […]

  18. #18 |  Jinchi | 

    The Civil War. Hmmm. Does voting “yes” on the civil war mean you support Lincoln’s fight to preserve the Union or the South’s fight for “state’s rights”?

    As I’m sure anyone reading the comments has figured out people from the South don’t think about the civil war the same way people from the rest of the country do.

    As for the idea that Southerners had “every legal and moral right to determine their own political future”; the fact is that the overwhelming majority of people in the South had no legal rights at all. Once you assert the right to hold millions in bondage, it’s absurd to complain that your own freedom is sacrosanct.

  19. #19 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #60 j a higginbotham

    From Wikipedia, Lincoln on 22 Aug 1862:

    My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

    Thank you, sir. And on that note, I rest my case.

  20. #20 |  Dave Krueger | 

    #68 | Jinchi
    As for the idea that Southerners had “every legal and moral right to determine their own political future”; the fact is that the overwhelming majority of people in the South had no legal rights at all. Once you assert the right to hold millions in bondage, it’s absurd to complain that your own freedom is sacrosanct.

    In that sense, there’s no point in discussing any rights or liberties going all the way back to the discovery of North America. After all, while not everyone was an actual slave owner, they certainly tolerated it, making them accessories to the crime. That kind of invalidates all the lofty declarations and high minded pronouncements about our split with Britain as well.

    If immorality in government invalidates a country’s right to sovereignty, then there is no country on the planet that can claim legitimacy.

  21. #21 |  Brian | 

    So the Civil War really had nothing to do with slavery. So I guess the following were irrelevant: Missouri Compromise of 1820, gag rule in Congress (i.e., slavery couldn’t even be mentioned); Nothern rage over Fugitive Slave Act, abolitionists, refusal of Southern postmasters to deliver abolitionist materials, Southern laws making it a felony (even a captial crime in some cases) to make abolitionist statements, Compromise of 1850, Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, battle over LeCompton Constitution in Kansas leading to “Bloody Kansas,” Dred Scott decision in 1857, and John Brown’s raid to start a slave rebellion in 1859.

    And 7 Southern states seceeded when Lincoln was elected because of his positions on land grant colleges and the transcontinental railroad route.

  22. #22 |  Bill Woolsey | 

    The majority of people in the South were not slaves in 1860.
    Most southerns didn’t own slaves. However, many of them may have hoped that their children or grandchildren would one day be able to own slaves. Others may have feared free blacks.

    I think the fire eaters in South Carolina organized seccession because they feared for the future of slavery after a President was elected who had no support in any slave state.

    I think Virginia left the Union when it became clear that Lincoln would force them to aid in a war against South Carolina.

    The southern heros of the war between the states aren’t the South Carolina fire eaters. It is the Virginia generals– Lee and Jackson. Anyway, some southerners did leave the union over states’ rights. Others left becaue of slavery.

  23. #23 |  David McElroy | 

    Brian, you seem to miss the point that SOME of us are making. It’s not that slavery didn’t have something to do with why the southern states withdrew from the Union. It was a major issue (although it had a lot more to do with economics than morality). But the issue of why the WAR started had to do with Lincoln’s determination not to let those states go their own way. They could have been withdrawing over the issue of chicken soup recipes for all he cared. He and his fellow politicians didn’t want to lose the power that comes from having more territory and more population.

    So, yes, slavery played a huge role in leading to secession. But it’s NOT why the WAR was fought.