June 18, 2008
I confess, I am lacking in bloodlust, and my desire for punitive vengeance against people who have never done me or my country any harm is pitifully weak. One of the things that people have become confused about is their acceptance of the idea that the government is a competent judge of who is and who is not our enemy, such that if it says that so-and-so is an enemy combatant then he must actually be so. One would have thought that the debacle in Iraq would have destroyed all confidence that the government can assess correctly who our enemies are, since the invasion was a preeminent example of fixating on threats that did not exist while neglecting those that did. Generally speaking, we give the government the benefit of the doubt in no other area, so why would we give it to the government in this case? Expressing an interest in adhering to the Geneva Conventions is not simply yielding to the Zeitgeist, nor is it a pose, but is actually part of a quaint idea that international treaties that our government has ratified and considers binding on all other signatories are legally binding on our government. Other treaties, including the U.N. Charter, also prevent us from launching wars at our discretion to give Arabs what for, but why should that trouble us?
Then Chris gets entirely too carried away when he says this:
Real conservatives such as Kirk and Weaver and Kuehnelt-Leddihn and Solzhenitsyn spent much of the last half-century showing how rationalist ideologies are all related in their concern for consistency and equal treatment of human beings not as members of groups but as atomized individuals.
Yet Kuehnelt-Leddihn in particular was famous for despising the idea that people should be thought of primarily as members of groups. “Say I, not we,” his main character in Black Banners insists when talking to the American crewman from the bomber that had been shot down nearby. K-L was neither a collectivist nor an individualist, recognizing the fundamental connection between the two positions, but was in his own terms a personalist, and he regarded collectivism as a fundamentally leftist position that undermined and attacked personal liberty. Of course, it is true that K-L did not call himself a conservative, but rather regarded himself as belonging to the European and specifically Austrian liberal tradition within the framework of constitutional monarchism. I think it is fair to say that he would regard talking about carrying out punitive revenge against other peoples as basically mistaken.