Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Is Turkish action justified?

If terrorists are attacking your citizens across an international border and the government of the country in which the terrorists have their bases have indicated that they have no control over that area, that it is essentially lawless, then isn't the government of that country under attack entirely justified in taking military action to wipe out the threat?

I say it is.

Since the job of government is to protect the life and liberty of its citizens, I say they are perfectly justified. In fact, only if Ankara doesn't move against the terrorists of the PKK will it be deserving of approbation. Those in Iraq who object most strongly to Turkish action should have been in the forefront of those demanding that action be taken by the Iraqi government. In the name of protecting its own citizens, the failure leaves Turkey with no choice.

As always, the threat of serious military action is itself often sufficient to bring peace and relative sanity. Let us hope that it does so in this case.


  1. Sure. I don't think anyones arguing against that - most of the diplomatic response seems to be due to the fear of further oil price rises, rather than any challenge as to the legitimacy of Turkish action. Understandably, the Kurds of Iraq are concerned. They occupy one of the most prosperous, peaceful and pro-American regions in the Middle East, and don't want to see all they've worked for destroyed.

    While I don't support the PKK terrorists, there is an entirely legitimate Kurdish struggle against the oppressive Turkish government.

  2. Not many people are challenging the legitimacy of Turkish action. Therefore your moral point doesn't have much bearing on the issues at hand.

    The issue is US national interests, when defined in relation to Iraq, conflict with Turkish national interests. Even if people are correct in arguing a turkish incursion into the mountains of northern Iraq will fail, the perception of doing something will nevertheless be a victory for Turkey. They ought to go ahead if things keep going this way.

    And no phil, there is no legitmate struggle ANYMORE. The turkish government is far from oppressive - barriers to your cultural identity do not make terrorist organizations moral. Everyone knows significant progress has been achieved in recent years under the "Islamist" AKP.

    btw, when will people realise international relations is a little bit more complicated than applying simple moral principles???

  3. Well, gee whizz James.

    Guess you'd be implying people should be into applying simple immoral principles. That'd be the approach that caused the trouble in the first place.

    Shit-oh-dear. Some solution you offer!


  4. Moral principles are not enough to guide a statesman. That Turkey has the right to enter Iraq doesn't mean it should. A careful consideration of an almost endless list of factors is required. My point is aimed at those who continue to treat morality as the primary guide to action, for example, genocide must be ended whether in Dafur or Burma (if it can be called that) without taking into account the broader interests involved or right-wingers ignoring the perils of unilateralism just because morally it's a justifiable.
    Those who continue to support sanctions on any regime regardless of its nature (for example Iran, http://www.newsweek.com/id/57346 ) are another example.

    My view is that as long as no one is threatening major reprisals over Turkey's action (minimal effect to trade, military relations, etc) then going ahead may be wise, despite it being detriment to other nations security (i.e. Iraq). I don't challenge the moral principle that free nations have a right to act in their self-interest but instead treat it as obvious. Hence the discussion I consider worthy concerns an evaluation of the risks and benefits of action, not whether its right in the first place.

  5. James

    So then what you ARE promoting is not only unprincipled behaviour but immoral as well.

    In this context one indeed is to associate and do "business" with criminals & killers- just so long as the risks & rewards are evaluated first. This is on the level of the rapist (figuring out if he can get away with an assault or not). Diplomacy and foreign policy indeed!

    What you have disclosed is an amoral pragmatism. Trouble is that it usually does not work out so good in the long run.

    There was an old saying along the lines, "When one lies with dogs, one gets fleas."



  6. James is saying that moral principles are not the only factor to consider not that they should be discarded altogether. A mixture of moral principle and pragmatism would be essential when considering action that will result in death and destruction. For instance it may be unwise to intervene in a domestic dispute where both may turn around and attack you or it may be wise to assist two to enemies attack each other. Sometimes it may be impossible to determine what is the right course of action and a gamble must be undertaken. Ultimately the security and prosperity of your own citizens should be the motivating moral principle.

  7. Anglo said..."Ultimately the security and prosperity of your own citizens should be the motivating moral principle."

    Tim W says....WRONG!
    This was Hitler’s First principle in his plans for German domination of the world, and the Final solution…in his mind his nation did not include Jews for the same reasons Maori separatists don’t include Non-Maori as Tangata whenua.
    Nationalism is no moral foundation for government.
    Maintaining the moral high ground ought to be the first priority behind all human action.
    The defense of the Nation requires no moral pragmatism, but moral integrity.( the enforcement of rights and justice)

    Our values determine our actions.
    Pragmatism is only useful when it aids the accomplishment of ends without recourse to immoral means, eg It may be practical for me to use a 13m/m drill to drill a hole rather than bother going into town to buy a 12.5mm Diameter drill, for my 12 mm bolt because the negative differences of strength and accuracy between 12.5 to 13mm is insufficient to justify the negative costs involved in getting the right drill bit.
    The pragmatic process in this case will help me to better fulfill the expectations of my customer in getting the job done quickly, to a sufficient standard, and for a reasonable cost.
    Thus pragmatism of this sort is reasonable and improves the moral outcome of the business transaction.
    In government you need to be pragmatic in your deployment of police and defense forces etc and this pragmatism is in accord with moral principle.
    Most White Zimbabweans valued the lives and safety of their families ahead of resisting Mugabe in defense of their property rights.
    Was this moral cowardice?
    It was wisdom, and love of humanity at it’s best.
    Morality is a spur to right action, not foolhardy fanaticism.
    The is a time for War, a time for peace, A time to resist, a time to retreat, a time to sow, even a time to die… none of which requires pragmatism to override morality but integrity and honesty.
    Tim Wikiriwhi

  8. Hey James,
    Your comments are very perceptive. About the only constant in IR as far as I can see is national interest. When will people realise the complexity of IR? No idea. But I find the ivory-tower approach of applying abstract theories and principles to IR almost as bad. Consider me disillusioned with the field.

    OTOH, the Turkish govt "far from oppressive"? Last I heard they had banned reporting of the deaths of soldiers near Iraq because of the psychological damage it would do to the nation. WTF? And you can still get thrown in jail for the vague non-crime of "insulting Turkishness". Clearly they have no concept of freedom of speech, and even though they may be the best of a bad lot when compared to other Muslim countries, I still consider them oppressive. Maybe armed rebellion isn't the best idea, but surely you admit that the Kurds have legitimate grievances?

  9. Nationalism is no moral foundation for government.

    There is no moral foundation for government.

  10. Tim,
    Securing the safety and prosperity of your own citizens may not exactly be a ‘moral principle’ but I would hardly consider Hitler as a person who followed this precept. His idea was to attack his own citizens, Jews, Homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses and so on were all German citizens. Hitler’s error was to only consider the race of the people he wanted to protect. Also it wasn’t particularly pragmatic to persecute and chase away people who had the skills to develop war-winning weapons. Also attacking countries who are far bigger than you is neither pragmatic nor moral only stupid. Germany had no chance of victory and was led astray by evil ideas that were the complete opposite of pragmatism. Hitler was a complete madman hellbent on destroying Germany along with himself.

    Machiavelli is a better example of a pragmatic person.

  11. The only legitimate purpose for government (if you must have one at all) is to defend the Individual Rights of each person. To that end such a government has a monopoly over the employment of non-emergency retributive force.
    This means that iniations of force are banned. That is a moral foundation for government. It is also principled.

    As far as pragmatism is concerned, the trouble is that there is no moral principle underlying it. It is merely a chase for what seems practical, convenient and achievable at the time.

  12. Angloamerican

    Hitler's approach was pragmatic. He tapped into long held prejudices and hatreds already present in Europe. This enabled him to rise to power and consolidate it. It worked. He was fuhrer. Millions fought for him.

    At the time prominent thinkers such as Einstein departed the country, Hitler would have had no understanding of their FUTURE significance in weapons research. Don't forget that Hitler and his Nazis followers characterised the physics of Einstein and others as "Jewish science", tainted and false. Of course this meant that what became a nuclear weapons research program for the Nazis was greatly hindered- thankfully.

    In today's context it is all too obvious how erroneous (and evil) Hitler's approach was, but one has to consider the context of that time, not the present. That was what Hitler was presented with and operated within. At the time what he did was pragmatic. It appeared to work out OK for a while. Trouble was that in the absence of overarching moral principle, pragmatism is blind- random. Eventually it leads to disaster.
    One requires moral principle first & foremost- very much front of mind.


  13. Hitler was immoral because he believed the universe was a-moral and could write his own rules, lie like the devil himself, create his own cult, and murder millions with no higher power to call him to account. He was God and decided himself who had rights. Non Arians were sub-human on the Darwinian scale, without rights and a threat to Arian purity, safety, and economic well being.
    The one constant in Human Relations is the interplay of the Great moral principles which underpin Individual sovereignty, self responsibility and rights vs repeated attempts to model society on such things as Mobocracy, Military might, Megalomania, Mother earth worship, Materialism, etc
    This is why Libertarians always look for the moral implications of world events or planned Libertarian activities, Using our most valued principles to weigh up the justice of things.
    We are trying to enlighten all New Zealand so that we have a society of free agents that co-exist on this conscious level.
    New Freeland is life on a higher plane!
    Currently we have a society who have abandoned morality in its objective sense, and suffer under the delusions of unchecked Pragmatism and democracy.
    Tim Wikiriwhi

  14. The Nazi’s weren't totally pragmatic but were driven instead by what they thought was a higher purpose. They would waste resources on extermination campaigns even while their homeland was on the verge of being conquered. They thought homosexuality was immoral as was Judaism, jazz and a million other things. They were quintessential moral crusaders albeit deranged. It could be that all moral crusaders are deranged. Give me a Machiavelli any day over idealists with guns.

  15. LGM said...
    At the time prominent thinkers such as Einstein departed the country, Hitler would have had no understanding of their FUTURE significance in weapons research

    That was true. German Jewish immigrants to the US (fled Germany under Hitler) were influential in lobbying Roosevelt to start a project to built the nuclear bomb, and that lead to the establishment of the Manhattan Project. Also most former German Jewish scientists ended up participating in the Manhattan Project. So, that was a stupid move by Hitler. His loss was a gain to the West.

  16. Anglo said..."Give me a Machiavelli any day over idealists with guns."

    Tim Wikiriwhi says
    Hitler was a quintessential Machiavellian…with a gun!
    The night of the long knives was Machiavellian…”I did not murder old friends, but new enemies”.
    And you seam oblivious to the fact that Libertarian Idealism contains the highest ethics in regards to arms and their use.
    If you morally equate the Idealism of libertarianism with the feigned/ fantastic/ lying/murderous Idealism of Hitler you are an idiot!
    You are a nihilist.

  17. Libertarianism is a pragmatic philosophy.One could make a case that pragmatism IS moral and that not being pragmatic is immoral.

    If what you do is evil you will find out that it was ultimately not very pragmatic.

  18. Sorry Anglo you are still wrong.
    Your statement requires a higher standard by which to determine or qualify that pragmatism in itself is moral so you are appealing to a higher morality.
    Also Libertarianism is definitively Idealistic as it consists of upholding a set of un-negotiable ideals.
    And we have already concluded pragmatism to be a method of action as distinct from moral precept and actions stemming from an energized conscience.
    When utilizing pragmatism to achieve a just end without violating the rights and liberties of your fellow citizens ( the higher laws) is to be acting justly and within your own right and are at liberty to do so.
    But pragmatism is just is even more commonly the tool of spineless pretenders and manipulators incapable of standing alone on any principle or like flatterers and ear ticklers at election time who play the mob like conductors. Thus pragmatism can be a motive to deception.

    All crime is pragmatic in that higher morality is put aside (the rights and liberties of your fellow citizens), and the risk of being discovered and punished become the primary factors considered by the criminal and if insufficient to discourage the perceived potential for gain or Utu, the crime is committed. Thus the criminal will agree that morality is not the last word, and that pragmatism has its advantages.
    To judge between righteous and unrighteous use of pragmatism requires a higher moral code as is the case with all human activity.
    Tim Wikiriwhi

  19. I assume by “higher moral code” you mean the distillation of accumulated information gained over millions of years of pragmatic biological evolution coupled with tens of thousands of years of human practical experience and observation. No?

  20. Phil, I admit that the Kurds have legitimate grievances. Didn't mean to suggest otherwise. Prosecuting the winner of the Nobel Prize, Orhan Pamuk is an example of how far the Turkish authorities go. Turkish Nationalism is very strong and anti-liberal at times but..

    Revolutionary activity is not a solution. PKK is a Marxist terrorist organization that murdered innocents in pursuit of its aims (which are much more than independence). It does not deserve support from the international community. The solution for the Kurds lays in integration into the Turkish state which offers good prospects for development.

    My earlier point was not in favour over pragmatism over morality. I'm not a realist nor is The Prince my favourite book (I wouldnt waste my time reading that). Angoamerican spelt out what I meant.


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