Anarchy and Unilateralism

Conservative Contradictions, Volume 5: Anarchy and Unilateralism

People here and there occasionally claim that some police officers are corrupt. Young radicals occasionally claim that hierarchical forms of government are all corrupt, or that centralized leadership is always abused by those in power.

Conservatives, along with other flavors of partisans, will meet those claims with a response like this: "Well, without police, without order, it will be anarchy! The STRONGEST will win, and they'll abuse everybody! It will be wild and awful. Nobody wants that. You don't want that, do you? We'd both be killed right now by some big brute."

The argument is valid. The sentiments behind it are popular. The prospect of being ruled by brutes run amok puts a sour look on our faces. Rightfully so.

Yet, American Foreign policy ends up justified by meat-heads on these grounds: "We are the biggest and the strongest, so obviously we are going to do this around the world, and do that around the world, and such and such, and protect our interests."

In other words, anarchy is a bad and frightening thing domestically, but on the global stage, anarchy is a justification for itself, as long as the mightiest nation is doing the justifying. The simple fact that power DOES act selfishly becomes proof that it VERY WELL OUGHT to act selfishly.

Next edition: Terrorism demands a total renovation of our legal concepts and our constitution, but hate crime legislation is silly.

5 Rebuttals:

At 7/12/2008 2:21 PM, Anonymous Lloyd Mintern said...

Is this supposed to be a logical argument? If so, it is not thought out; ie, analogies are not the same as syllogisms. Or is this supposed to be a persuasive comparison, ie anarchy in comparable situations? If that is what it is supposed to be, it fails even worse. Power does not automatically act selfishly, either in people or nations.

At 7/13/2008 12:22 PM, Blogger Dan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 7/13/2008 12:25 PM, Blogger I Am Dali said...

Is what supposed to be a logical argument?

The comparison isn't between anarchy and unilateralism but between attitudes toward these things, and the folk wisdoms attached to them.

So the fact that power does not automatically act selfishly has nothing to do with anything here. I never said it did. (The bogeyman of the-strongest-shall-rule-us-oh-no! does assume that power acts selfishly.)

From your blog:

"I, seem to be addressing an audience of [..] listeners, educated on some other planet perhaps, who have learned another language,"

That's what I thought when I read your comment. Minus the elite part. You don't make specific enough references to what I said for me to know exactly what you're raising issue with. And then it's padded out with jargon ("analogies are not syllogisms"). I wouldn't say what you said is poorly thought out (which is what you said about me) but only poorly spelled out.

At 7/13/2008 1:05 PM, Blogger Robin said...

The police and the military both protect the US strategic interests. In rationalizations for the use of violence by the government at home and abroad, we usually invoke the necessary defense of our selves, or of innocent people abroad, to save them from being killed by your brute.
But another and more frequent use of police or military force is to protect economic interests. And you DO hear the same argument used to justify police power at home and military action abroad (like, if we don't stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, they will use them to attack Israel).
State violence might need more rationalization in the international arena, but it's the same thing.

At 7/13/2008 8:16 PM, Blogger I Am Dali said...

My original post refers to one particular rationalization of selfish military power: might makes right. Which might as well be "economic interests" for my purposes here, since nobody can arbitrarily pursue those interests without superior power.

Yet, in the context of police versus theoretical chaos, the police force's venerable job is to protect everybody from a predatory bully's pursuit of his own economic interests. I've seen people arrive "might makes right" by hume's guillotine during an intellectual breakdown when they had no material left for their promotion of, say, an alleged war for oil. And it was alongside other discussions about police and anarchy.

I'm not arguing that there isn't any concurrent and harmonious way of thinking about the police and the military (one obvious example is: "stopping bad guys"). It's just one specific-- and contradictory-- way of thinking that gave rise to the post.


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