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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Robertson and Chavez assassination

As you probably know, Pat Roberston called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez, the semi-democratically elected leader of Venezuala, and he is getting pilloried by both the right and the left on this. Let me first say, that if Chavez were to accidently fall out of window, I would not be horribly broken up about it. He is a fairly bad guy, and I have no sympathy for him. There are lot of good reasons politically for our no assassination policy, not the least being that we don't want other nations trying to assassinate our leaders. Since we are probably only marginally better at assassinations than many other nations, and our significantly better than anyone else at conventional war, keeping conflicts between nations on a conventional, rather than unconventional level is in our best interests. Beyond that, from a utilitarian standpoint, it seems unlikely to me that assassinating Chavez would improve the situation for the people of Venezuela or make that nation more likely to cooperate with the U.S. in the future. Additionally, it would probably not help our relations with any other nation either. Even if the assassination of Chavez could be performed without creating any links to the U.S., killing a leader usually makes that leaders allies stronger, rather than weaker. However, I find that the some of the criticism of Robertson on this seems unwarrented. Many are calling his remarks 'un-Christian.' I don't know that that criticism is appropriate. Certainly it is not clear to me that assassination would be precluded by the Christian faith. Robertson was clearly calling for an assassination as a alternate to a war, and equally clearly he seems to believe that a war on Venezuela would be a 'just war.' If a war against Venezuala would be a 'just war' according to Christian doctrine, which is an arguable point but certainly not entirely unreasonable, then presuming assassination would accomplish what the war was designed to accomplish it seems to be that it would be quite justifiable to call for an assassination of Chavez instead of a war. I think Roberston is very wrong about the utility of assassinating Chavez, in that it would not have the desired effect and would have huge negative consequences. I could be persuaded that a war with Venezuela was just from a moral point of view, although I think it very hard to justify the cost to our nation. In other words, it may well be moral but not in our self interest. Unless both are true a war is unsustainable. Certainly there is also the question of capabilities since much of our military force is tied down in Iraq. So I think Robertson is wrong, but I don't think he is wrong for the reason many claim he is.

15 Comments:

Blogger honestpartisan said...

Why would war with Venezuela be morally justifiable?

8/24/2005 07:53:00 AM  
Blogger RFTR said...

You're also missing the point... Robertson did not say "as a Christian, it is our duty to support the assasination of Chavez." He merely lent his own opinion on foreign policy.

This was not a Christian thing, this was an "I think I'm an important person and you all care what I think" thing.

8/24/2005 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger Cubicle said...

Though in the off chance that Pat is God's prophet on earth, then you woul be doing gods will by shooting the dictator.

8/24/2005 08:01:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Hp: Basically this would be the Ayn Rand justification, which can also be found in Christian just war theory.

Particularly that no dictorship has a right to exist, and any free nation wishing to topple a dictorship has the moral right to do so. Protecting another people from aggression, even agression from their own government, is allowable under just war theory. People differ as to how high the bar of aggression is, and certainly even if their was agreement on that there would be disagreement as to how aggressive the Venezualan government is to it's own people. I am not terribly interested at this stage in analyzing where Venezuala lies on that continium, I am content merely to point at that the case is arguable and not could be justified.

RFTR: Roberston is a famous Christian leader. If he was advocating a course of foreign policy, even as a private citizen, that was antithetical to the Christian faith it would be worthy of note, comment, and condemnation.

For example, if he said America should invade Saudi Arabia, rape all the women and camels and steal all the oil because it would give us a lot of money, I would happily note that such a stance would be impossible to justify for one of the Christian beliefs. Whether he claimed all Christians should support such a policy or not would be irrelevant. He loudly and frequently claims to be Christian, and his views on foreign policy can justly be critiqued through that lens.

8/24/2005 08:16:00 AM  
Anonymous tsykoduk said...

"Many are calling his remarks 'un-Christian.' I don't know that that criticism is appropriate. Certainly it is not clear to me that assassination would be precluded by the Christian faith."


That is a really scary comment. What is more scary, is that it can be true - depending on your interpretation of the Bible.

If you follow J.C.'s version of Christianity - then no. Killing is simply not condoned at all.

If you read the Old Testament - then heck yeah - kill all of the folks that you do not like, that live in your land, that look askance at your goats. This is what Abortion bombers and radical Irish Christians use to justify their deadly practices.

I applaud the Christians that have actually come out and said that Robertsons comment was way out of line. To have a Religious leader from the US talking about an act of Terror like assassinating someone? That is what we are supposedly fighting against.

Now, I do not advocate any legal action against Mr Robertson. He is well within his 1st Amendment rights to say such a thing. However, I feel that it is on our shoulders as fellow Americans to show the world that we do not agree with an extremist view such as that.

If the people of Venezuela disagree with what their leader is espousing, then it is their job to make this thing right. America does not have the resources, nor the right to topple every government that we disagree with, and replace it with one of our liking.

I do feel that democracy is probably one of the better forms of government that is out there, however it is not our place to force the rest of the world to follow our lead. When they are ready, They will do it. We have seen it in the former USSR and other places. People are generally smart creatures. They can usually see what is up, and make choices to take action.

8/24/2005 08:24:00 AM  
Anonymous tsykoduk said...

Particularly that no dictorship has a right to exist, and any free nation wishing to topple a dictorship has the moral right to do so. Protecting another people from aggression, even agression from their own government, is allowable under just war theory.

I follow the ‘Do not start it, but finish it’ theory. There is no such thing as a ‘just’ aggressive act. The only time that violence can be justified in any way is in self defense. That includes Governments – the only time that we can justify war is when we are attacked.

The ‘war on terror’ is justifiable. WW II was justified. Iraq was not. Toppling Governments because we disagree with them is certainly not justifiable.

However, since we are in Iraq, we need to make sure that the job is 100 percent done before we leave. If we just leave now, the Iraqi people will be left in quite a lurch. No stable government, no stable anything. Many would die, and more then likely, the country would be worse off then when we started over there.

That is unacceptable. We created this mess – we need to fix it. I fully support the troops, and Bush in saying that we have to stay the course.

8/24/2005 08:50:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Tsyko: The Christian, and Jewish faiths have always had different standards for individuals than for Governments. That in fact is part of the confusion inherent in the Old Testement, in that is more a guidline for a society than for an individual.

It is entirely possible to contruct an moral code that prohibits murder, but condones executions and acts of war. Society as a whole has different responsibilities than individuals have. I depart from hard-core libertarians in this, as I think that society is more than just the sum of the individuals in it.

'Don't start it' is an good idea in general. I think though that their should be provision in ones views for protecting innocents even if you are not personally being attacked.

Most of us believe that some sort of intervention in Rwanda should have happened to stop the genocide there. Under the 'don't start it' code, that would have been morally wrong. Any code that says stopping one group from slaughtering a million is wrong is not a code I can support.

Venezuala isn't that extreme certainly. As I said, one can argue where the bar is.

8/24/2005 09:02:00 AM  
Anonymous tsykoduk said...

Honestly, if I were to see a mugging on the street, I would come to the aid of the mugged, if I were capible. Where I think we go wrong is this thought that we have some manifest right to force our political ideas on everyone else in the world.

Darfur, Rwanda, These were and are horrible things. The people that commit these acts should be rounded up by a multi-national orginization. I do not feel that it is the US's right, or job to crusade around the world fighting what we see to be injustice and oppression.

The reality is that when we interfere, more times then not, we leave the place in worse shape then when we got there. We make mistakes, and we take a lot of flack for those mistakes.

For example - we supported Saddam to fight Iran. Then we found out that he was a horrific person. Then we came in and killed a ton of people, to get rid of him. Now we are over there for a long time, trying to fix the problems that we created.

8/24/2005 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I have little faith in any of our multi-national organizations.

The question of what responsibility we have to prevent 'bad things' from happening is a complex one. The Spider-man school of thought proclaims that with great power comes great responsibility, basically that if you can do something to stop 'bad things' your are morally complicit if you do not act.

I don't know that I go that far. I strongly feel though that dictatorships have no claim on sovreignty whereas a democratic (and that means more than elections) government does. So the bar for intervention in Iraq, or North Korea, for example, is lower than it would be for intervention in India or Brazil.

In addition, the question of whether a military intervention can help or not is somewhat complex. I think any honest assessment of history will conclude that it can, but that improvement isn't guaranteed. Partially, the success of any such endeavor depends upon the militaristic force, and partially upon the people of the country being invaded itself.

8/24/2005 01:32:00 PM  
Anonymous tsykoduk said...

I have little faith in the UN (the people that should be taking care of that) - but for the US to just start making choices about forms of goverment for other nations smacks of Imperialism and the highest levels of hubris.

I think that the best answer in the real world is to fix the UN. Give each country a say. Make it's mandate to protect human life. Give it the power to take real action.

What if situations were reversed? Would we enjoy a dictatorship moving in, toppling our goverment, and installing a dictator or king? Just because we can do something, does not lead to we must.

8/24/2005 01:58:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

Fixing the U.N. is easier said than done.

First off, each country has a say now, but some countries have more say than others. One could argue that the current method isn't the best, but it seems obvious that Tuvalu and the U.S. (for example) should not have an equal vote in world afffairs.

Add in that too many of the countries in the U.N. are corrupt and illigitimate themselves and a 'mandate to protect human life' can easily become a mandate for tyranny.

I support the idea of a single world government, but until and unless that government is accountable to the people of the world, rather than the nations of the world I will oppose the idea.

If the situations were reversed, I would certainly not appreciate that. However, one of my initial conditions is that a dictatorship does not have any sovreign rights that we should respect. A dictatorship has no moral authority.

If however the U.S. was a dictatorship, then I would support a democratic government liberating us.

I don't believe that a dictorship imposing a tyranny on a democracy is morally equivilant to a democracy removing a dictatorship.

8/24/2005 02:24:00 PM  
Anonymous tsykoduk said...

The issue is that no country will ever allow the UN to be directed by the people of the world. Perhaps we should just be honest and say that it's a democracy only club, and that it's mandate is the spread of democracy? Call it the DUN. :)

There are no easy answers. If we flail about, attacking countries just because we disagree with their government, we are going to take what shred of image we have left on the global scale, and stomp on it.

If we wait for the UN, we will be dead from old age long before anything concrete gets done.

8/24/2005 04:22:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I have advocated for an alliance of democracies for a long time. Even if the U.S. were to push heavily for such a thing I am not sure it would happen though.

8/25/2005 05:55:00 AM  
Blogger Sandcastle said...

You also have to keep in mind that there is a possibility that everything you have heard about Venezuela and Chavez has been filtered through the US media, which naturally tends to support US viewpoints. Our governments main problem with Chavez is that he has threatened to stop selling us oil. Venezuela is one of our largest suppliers. Chavez claims that the measures he has taken in the government were intended to cleanse Venezuela of profiteers and politicians pandering to foreign interests. He has seized control of the governmnet, but he has not displayed any actions that would invite a US invasion. If we are so worried about dictatorships and human rights, then why haven't we helped any country in Africa? Ever? We spout out the same old bullshit whenever we get ready to rape another country for resources.

8/27/2005 10:17:00 AM  
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