[LINK] {OT} Walk against War - sunday in sydney -

Mark Hughes effectivebusiness@applications.com.au
Wed, 19 Feb 2003 12:53:15 +1100

Off Topic :)

> I propose another principle:
> * countries shouldn't invade other countries without
> authorisation under international law.

Yes, its regrettable that the UN has such a poor record at supporting and
enforcing international law.

International law is based on principles, and is applied on principles.
That's good.  That's because by and large its done by jurists, not by

Unfortunately the UN is a bunch of politicians who make decisions based on
politics, rather than on principles.  If it worked on principles, it would
have no problems being proactive along the lines of:

"We will send in a UN Police Force (i.e. not an army) to arrest any Dictator
who does X, Y or Z activities, and bring him before the International
Criminal Court for prosecution.  If our Police Force is prohibited from its
action, we will back it up with military force to achieve the objective".

But the UN doesn't act on principles, or we wouldn't be in this bother.

> That's true, but most people realise they don't have all the information
> regarding the situation, and there are a lot of things that need to be
> factored in. What the average person is saying is they trust the UN to
> a good decision based on all the facts, but don't trust Bush to make the
> right decision based on all the facts.

I guess I've always struggled to accept the idea that one doesn't have
enough facts to make consistent decisions based on principles.  I not sure I
know any serious issue involving principle or morality on which I'd be
willing to say "I don't know enough about it - I'll let someone else decide
for me what's right and what's wrong".

In no issue with substantial moral content (and by gum, I reckon that
includes whether the world should act to get rid of dictators who have
killed millions of civilians) can I accept that its OK for people to say
"I'll let someone else make that decision of whether its right or wrong, for

Many basic facts are well known:

* We don't know if Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction now, but we
know that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction - because up until about 5
years ago they were quite open about having them.  Iraq provided the
details.  If you look at the detail of the current process being led by Hans
Blix, the big problem he currently has with Iraqi co-operation is when the
inspectors ask for any information on what happened to those WMD, they don't
get an answer.  Do they still have 'em?  I have no idea.

* We know that if the US wants Iraqi oil, they don't need to go to war for
it.  All they have to do is pressure the UN to lift the sanctions that stop
Iraq from selling more oil. That won't be difficult, as the US is about the
only major country to support keeping the sanctions on.

* We know that the US has a history of foreign policy disasters among its
few foreign policy successes.  That's because they don't do things based on
principle, but instead base things on politics or the 'ism' of the day.  The
fact that they have mucked up things so often in the past shows this.  But
the fact that they and others (I seem to remember the Australian government
being involved in a thoroughly unprincipled war in Vietnam) got it wrong
many times doesn't actually affect whether the decision to actively bring to
justice a dictator - any dictator, all dictators -  who kill their own
people in large numbers and threaten world security is the right thing to do
or the wrong thing to do.

i.e. past actions do not affect current decisions if they're based on
principles.  Principles are enduring.

> And how do _you_, sitting comfortable in Australia, come to
> decide whether a distant war is right or wrong?

I find it easy, if I stick to principles and ignore the current
participants.  Substitute other entities for the current ones and see what
the effect is.  For example:

1. Example one.  Suppose there was a dictator in New Zealand with a track
record of killing via murder or starvation a significant proportion - i.e. >
10% - of their population.  Would we in Australia say: "its the principle of
the thing - we must act to stop the killing in New Zealand", or would we say
"if the UN says its OK, then we can act - but if not, the correct course of
action is for us to sit on our hands and let the killing continue".

And your answer is..........?

2. Example two.  Suppose there was a dictator in Australia with a track
record of killing via murder and starvation a significant proportion - i.e.
> 10% - of our population.  Would we in Australia say:  "its the principle
of the thing - we believe other countries must act to stop the killing in
Australia", or would we say "its only OK for other countries to stop the
killing in Australia if the UN says so".

And your answer is..........?

Then see if your answers apply equally if you substitute other countries for
Australia / New Zealand.

If I answer those questions based on principles, I can do it easily and
quickly.  I try and do it based on any other method I get stuck in a
hopeless moral morass.

Let me finish (I trust those not interested in this stuff have hit the
delete key long ago - filter on the off topic 'OT' in the Subject line) by
addressing the issue of oil.

Basically, the situation with oil is as follows:

* There's a group of countries that produce most of the world's oil, and
have an even greater percentage of the world's oil reserves.  They're almost
all based in the middle east.  These are the Suppliers.

* There's a group of countries that consume most of the world's oil.
They're almost all based in North America and Europe.  These are the

One of these groups is dependent on oil for their prosperity.

Now, here's the tip:  It 'aint the Consumers.

The Suppliers are the ones who are dependent on oil for their prosperity.
Most of them have few other resources, and they're frittering away their oil
income on unproductive junk like military hardware.

The Customers are not dependent on oil for their prosperity.  There is no
shortage of oil.  There's even less shortage of energy - the world is awash
with energy.  Oil just happens to be a convenient, concentrated and CHEAP
form of energy.

The sooner the price of oil goes up, the sooner we all move to better long
term, less polluting alternatives.  The Customers can afford to change. Oh,
sure it will cut our economic growth rate a bit, but our prosperity will

Regards, Mark

Mark Hughes
Effective Business Applications Pty Ltd
+61 4 1374 3959