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View Diary: Syrian foreign minister: We will sign chemical weapons ban treaty, allow United Nations inspections (112 comments)

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  •  You're using a novel definition of intent (0+ / 0-)

    If I pull a trigger on a gun knowing that is will kill a person then no matter my goal ultimately I intended to kill that person. If you take an action that you know will kill a person you intentionally killed that person. You're basically saying that because killing those people wasn't the end and only part of the means then it wasn't intentional. That's simply wrong unless you have a completely new definition of intentional. You're arguing that the ends justify the means, which has nothing to do with whether the actions are intentional.

    •  huh? (0+ / 0-)

      I do not understand what point you are trying to make.

      If in the course of a police shoot out a bystander is hit are the police to blame?

      •  If they accidentally hit someone, then it (0+ / 0-)

        was not intentional, clearly. If someone bombs a wedding then it's not an accident that innocents will die. They are knowingly performing an action that will kill someone. That's intentionally killing someone. You can't pretend that we just accidentally are killing civilians, because we know it happens when we strike certain targets. And yet we do so anyway. That's intentionally killing civilians.

        •  that attack you keep referencing was a MISTAKE (0+ / 0-)

          it was not aimed at the wedding thus I don't get your argument at all

          •  "That attack"? (0+ / 0-)

            There was not just one attack on a wedding. The US regularly attacked weddings in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Not to mention the attack that killed a 16 year-old US citizen who was in a cafe where there happened to be some militants. We regularly knowingly kill civilians. There's also Fallujah, if you want an extreme example. Do you seriously think that the US military refrains from bombing based on the presence of civilians? We wouldn't bomb anything.

    •  Look, without getting into the weeds (0+ / 0-)

      here's the thing: you're chafing at means of war that you find indiscriminate. That's great. I'm pro-chafing on that front. It's civilians that always wind up paying the deepest price for war.

      There really and genuinely aren't a whole lot of means of conducting any kind of warfare that are more indiscriminate than something like sarin gas. It is specifically designed to just spread around and painfully kill whomever is around, like, touching the air, or breathing. Plus probably the first responders, if they're not prepared at all. And by "prepared," I don't mean "gas masks," I mean "full body suits, like those spacesuit-looking things, because it has soaked into every piece of fabric around, and touching it before it degrades can kill you."

      That other methods of warfare can themselves sometimes kill civilians, especially when they are poorly/wantonly used or the quality of intel isn't good -- that's not really debatable, and it's awful, it sucks, it's a good reason to consider deeply before doing any such thing.

      But chem warfare is specifically not very usable in any other way but totally indiscriminate slaughter. The tool itself is fundamentally designed to do that, and on a mass scale.

      •  Chemical warfare is especially bad (0+ / 0-)

        But it's a difference in scale, not a difference in kind. We knowingly kill civilians. We have killed them en masse in places like Fallujah, or a lot of places in WWII if we want to go that far back.

        •  It's a difference in purpose. (0+ / 0-)

          I mean, all weapons are designed to kill people, in this frame. But not all weapons are designed to have to kill people indiscriminately, that's somewhat on their users with many.

          I think there really is a fundamental difference between something like sarin and, say, white phosphorus. I would never defend the use of either. But the only reason to ever use sarin is to cause the greatest amount of suffering possible to undifferentiated people over a wide area. It has literally no other purpose, no other ways it could be used.

          Scale matters to me in terms of warfare, too -- I mean, it's all immoral, or at least amoral, but there's a big difference between bombing a building and firebombing Dresden. I still think this goes beyond just being about scale.

          Your mileage may vary, but it's the core of the argument.

          •  But the firebombing of Dresden was (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Spit

            literally a matter of scale.

            Ultimately, my point was directed at the idea that the US doesn't intentionally kill civilians. We do.

            •  I agree with that point (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AoT

              We do sometimes target civilians. Sometimes our intel sucks, sometimes not -- sometimes they're just in the way, as with agent orange, say. Sometimes, maybe it's on purpose. I haven't forgotten US tanks "accidentally" hitting a hotel in Baghdad that happened to be housing lots of journalists, either.

              But there are uses for shells and uses for bombs and uses for guns -- even uses for agent orange, gross as it is -- that are not specifically about harming civilians. Agent orange is not far off from 2,4-D, which we still use as an herbicide. In a military conflict, bombs and shells and guns can all be used in ways that are not specifically targeted at civilians -- I don't like any of it, but they can be properly used within, you know, whatever the bounds of war are where we all just shoot the people who are shooting.

              Sarin is a whole 'nuther can of worms. It cannot be targeted carefully. I guess you could use it as an insecticide, but you wouldn't.

              To clarify in case I said something poorly above: yes, Dresden was about scale. I think that does actually matter, and also I think that chemical weapons like sarin transcend the scale as the only fundamental issue.

              I'm really just trying to get the conversation to something related to the actual crux of the thing, you don't have to agree with the assessment I'm giving. But I do feel like I've seen a lot of back and forth on this topic everywhere here lately that moves away from the question of whether there actually is something fundamentally different, that we should or should not care about, with weapons that have no purpose that isn't indiscriminate.

              I mean, not to go all slippery slope -- I mean it as a thought experiment, not a rhetorical comeback or quip -- but what makes using a nuke more hair-raising than firebombing Dresden, in the geopolitical context of it all?

              •  With nuclear weapons the fall out (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Spit

                lasts for a significant period of time and renders areas uninhabitable for a long time. The radiation and the after effects of such is qualitatively different than any other sort of weapon.

                •  That's completely fair (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  AoT

                  and something like sarin does degrade in the environment very quickly (though VX hangs out for a while, to be fair.) That is a major difference.

                  But while sarin is there, it kills or seriously harms -- longterm, chronic, at enough dosage -- everybody who comes into any contact with it at all. Civilians, emergency workers -- heck, if the wind manages to shift it around, it can hit the side that launched it, which is why they usually do it from afar or by plane.

                  And once somebody has something that does that, once they clearly are willing to use something like that, the reality is that the only way that other actors can feel confident that their civilians won't get hit is to have a sort of mutually assured destruction thing going on. There is no defending from that, in reality, so the only thing left is to count on deterring through blowback. In the case of nukes, this is why we had the cold war. In the case of chem warfare, it's not necessarily true that it wants to go to some sort of proliferation, but it's not unlikely, either.

                  I disagree that it's the fallout only that distinguishes a nuke. I wouldn't be ok with a firebombing, either, to be clear. The scale of devastation humans bring on each other is maddening on every plane. But taking the worst of the worst pieces out of that is high on my list of "yes, please."

                  Thank you for good discussion on it, in any case. Yes, the fallout does matter, I agree, but I wouldn't be ok with nuclear weapons even if they didn't leave the fallout, honestly. Their only realistic purpose is to slaughter people who are just trying to go about their business as civilians.

                  Nature allows a huge amount of awful; nukes work, sarin works, and the more we understand about physiology, the more ways we can probably come up with to make awful things that screw it up. We don't have to continue making all of the awful things that natural law allows for actually happen.

                  I have to go for now, but thank you for good discussion on it.

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