Laconia incident

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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

I'm gonna have to go with Stas and PeZook on this one, Bakustra. If we were having World War 3, and if American cryptofascists were exterminating all of the democrats and the Muslims, and then a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier goes on to rescue some drowning sailors, I think it's justifiable to blow the crap out of that American aircraft carrier because while the carrier is doing rescue operations now, later on the Americans will be using that same carrier to unjustifiably invade Middle Eastern nations (with deceitful premises of "WMDs" or whatever) later on and cause untold amounts of suffering and death to the world's peoples.

I'm not going to say that it's moral. Killing people is not moral. But it's understandable why the Rest of the World would want to blow up that carrier, and kill those American sailors, because if they didn't then that carrier and those American sailors would tomorrow be killing more of their people.

It's no different from Viet Cong shooting down a Huey helicopter that is coming in to airlift wounded American soldiers. It's immoral to kill American pilots and wounded American soldiers, but the Viet Cong have to do that or else tomorrow that same Huey will be dropping napalm on Vietnamese towns and once those American soldiers get discharged from the hospital, they will go on to rape innocent women and children. So they have to kill those Americans, even though destroying rescue helicopters and shooting enemy wounded is an immoral act. Because having American helicopters drop napalm, and American soldiers rape and murder innocents, is also immoral.

The Viet Cong do an immoral act to the Americans, so the Americans won't do an immoral act to the Vietnamese. Both acts are immoral, but the VCs are looking out for themselves. It's war. You don't die for your country, you want to make the other (American) bastard die for his. :D

Hell, it's no different from nuclear bombing. If the Americans don't surrender after a prolonged firebombing campaign of all their cities, then it's understandable why the forces of freedom would nuke important American cities to prompt the President to surrender. Because if they don't nuke the American cities, they'll have to blockade America and make a land invasion which would kill even more people. It's not moral. Vaporizing countless thousands of men, women and children instantly is not moral. Nuking America till it glows in the dark, shooting all the Americans in the dark, and stealing all their oil is not moral. But for the other side, for the non-Americans, they have to do it.

Replace Americans with Nazis and Japanese, and it's the same. 8)
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Simon_Jester »

Bakustra wrote:Thank you, Simon, for snipping away the philosophical problems which I raised with utilitarianism.
If you want to have this discussion, go have it somewhere else, and do not waste our time with your cut-rate "I just graduated from Philosophy 101 and look how many long words I learned!" arguments.

See, when you were actually condemning the deaths of innocents, that was at least a sensible position. But now you seem to have wandered off into "never mind the deaths of innocents, I've got a philosophical point to make here damn it!" Which is just... no. This has become utterly ridiculous.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Formless »

Samuel wrote:You don't understand- virtue ethics has a persons character independent of their actions.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-virtue/
Did you read your own link? First, Plato is hardly the only virtue ethicist of note. In fact, Aristotle's ethics are far more well known and they are not that kind of retarded. Second, you really cannot skip the part where they define eudaimonia because its kind of important to the whole "virtue ethics mirror utilitarian ethics" thing. They both start with a goal, and that goal is human happiness.

But I digress. This thread does not need to be further dragged into the realms of philosophy, much as I enjoy discussing that topic.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Bakustra »

Simon_Jester wrote:
Bakustra wrote:Thank you, Simon, for snipping away the philosophical problems which I raised with utilitarianism.
If you want to have this discussion, go have it somewhere else, and do not waste our time with your cut-rate "I just graduated from Philosophy 101 and look how many long words I learned!" arguments.

See, when you were actually condemning the deaths of innocents, that was at least a sensible position. But now you seem to have wandered off into "never mind the deaths of innocents, I've got a philosophical point to make here damn it!" Which is just... no. This has become utterly ridiculous.
Fffuck you, Simon. You legitimately started this by insisting that there was such a thing as objective morality, and implied that your utilitarianism was it, using that to condemn me. Then you refuse to take part in any further discussion once I didn't knuckle under to you and cry uncle. Well, I'll put something up in SLAM if you're willing to continue this there, but if you're going to continue these kinds of responses, I might as well not bother.
Shroom Man 777 wrote:*snip*
Sarcasm aside, I do legitimately agree that this was the lesser of two evils, but I disagree with thus describing it as good, for reasons which I outlined earlier; namely, that I believe that doing so aids cognitive dissonance, as seen with the popular opinion of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I believe that cognitive dissonance is not a thing to be encouraged, as it warps moral decisions.
Stas Bush wrote:
Bakustra wrote:We don't disagree with whether the destruction of the submarine was justified or not, but you keep insisting that I disagree, for some no-doubt perverse psychological reason. Well, if you have a need to argue, then I suppose I can play along for a little bit. What I was referring to were the posts by individuals earlier in the thread which you snipped out of my post, and without which my post makes no sense. Since the people in question were declaring that the sub's destruction was justified because the captain's actions were immoral, I responded.
You did try to argue with me, however. As for your arguments with others, why should I care?

You attacked my prior argument simply because I said destroying the submarine was a moral action. You tried to ramble how all choices in this situation are immoral. That's true. I simply called the least immoral choice moral (and like I said before, most actions in a war are immoral, however we judge some as "moral" simply because they are the best choice under the circumstances). Your argument was a semantic nitpick.

Actions have no morality outside the circumstances that created them. Morality is relative. Murder is bad. Murder of SS-men is good. Not an absolute good, but the best choice available, and considering that it greatly decreases suffering, we can call it "good".
I disagree with classifying it as a good decision without some clear distinction between the least of evils and absolute goods for reasons I re-outlined above.
Bakustra wrote:If you feel that utilitarianism isn't ideally universal, then we don't disagree there either and you're inventing stuff. If you do, then you snipped a tiny fragment out rather than deal with the overall question of how you can remove the axiomatic basis from utilitarianism. Hardly good form, that.
Utilitarianism can be applied universally. I never said it is ideal (the whole concept of the greater good in utilitarianism means making an optimal, not an ideal choice, not "zero suffering" but "less suffering"). Although if you follow it to a logical conclusion, consistent decrease in the amount of suffering until there's zero suffering is, technically, an ideal, but utilitarian goal.

I'm not sure why you chose to attack utilitarianism as a system. Utilitarianism would show the actions of the sub captain (at this particular time) as moral - after all, he tried to save survivors (a) and he could have succeeded (b) - his action would only be immoral if he knew the sub was going to get blown up along with all the survivors. It does not matter if the application is universal or not.
This is another argument with somebody else that you stepped into. I was attacking the conception of utilitarianism as an objective system of morality.
Samuel wrote:
Bakustra wrote:Show how it is falsifiable, then. It claims that when people die, they go to a paradise that does not interact with the world in any way. Show how this can be proven or disproven, and then you can go on to disprove religion.
I didn't say it was falsible, I said it was part of reality. And it obvious does interact with reality because people go there when they die. That requires interaction by defintion.
So? What does it matter? You can't prove or disprove it, so the system of morality cannot be proven or disproven without some means to test it. Appealing to the future- well, it's possible that an objective system of morality could be developed in the future. I agree with that.
Bakustra wrote:I bolded a word for you, since your amazing brain couldn't conceive it. Explain how seat-belt laws harm people.
How about taxation?
When does taxation become actively harmful? You could say that it decreases pleasure a priori, but it's only harmful when it actually harms people in some way. You could also make a greater-good argument in the case of decreasing pleasure, since the money goes to ensure public services, security and all that. But I was talking about harm in this case.
Bakustra wrote:but I don't have the arrogance necessary to declare all other systems of morality inferior and useless
They aren't useless (most people use rules of thumb for example), but they are inferior- that is what it means when you prefer to use another ethical system instead of Virtue or Deontology.
Okay, as long as you're willing to admit that it's not an objective inferiority, then I'm fine.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Simon_Jester »

Bakustra wrote:Fffuck you, Simon. You legitimately started this by insisting that there was such a thing as objective morality, and implied that your utilitarianism was it, using that to condemn me. Then you refuse to take part in any further discussion once I didn't knuckle under to you and cry uncle.
Before I asserted that there was an objective moral frame, you were using the argument that there wasn't. Up to the point of challenging a number of people to provide you with such a frame on the spot- to PeZook and Stuart.

I am not the one who tried to turn this into a debate on half-rate philosophy and quarter-rate semantics. Nor am I the one who took a swan dive into obscurantism by insisting that no, this should not be an argument about the facts on the ground at the time of the Laconia incident, but rather about some highly abstract question of whether we should say that it's wrong to follow the least immoral course of action in a given situation. Or something along those lines.

Indeed, I get the feeling that you have tried to turn this into a philosophical argument precisely because it was revealed so quickly that you didn't have a leg to stand on when it came to interpreting the facts of the case, starting on Page 2. Indeed, the basis of your argument has grown more and more abstract throughout this thread, in proportion to the degree to which your attempts to make concrete arguments proved to be an embarassment.

Not impressive.

This is why I criticize your behavior as petulant and foolish.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

Bakustra wrote:
Shroom Man 777 wrote:*snip*
Sarcasm aside, I do legitimately agree that this was the lesser of two evils, but I disagree with thus describing it as good, for reasons which I outlined earlier; namely, that I believe that doing so aids cognitive dissonance, as seen with the popular opinion of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I believe that cognitive dissonance is not a thing to be encouraged, as it warps moral decisions.
Look Bak, this is war. People kill each other in war. So, I guess you can't describe it as good. What people do in war is horrible and immoral. The whole point of war is that two or more people do horrible and immoral things to each other, and you do horrible and immoral things to the other guy so he can't/won't do horrible and immoral things to you. Doing horrible and immoral things to another guy is horrible and immoral. But if the guy does horrible and immoral things to you, well, that'd suck for you and you'd rather it'd suck for him than it'd suck for you, so you do horrible and immoral things to the other guy hoping that things would suck for him and that he'll be too dead to do horrible and immoral things to you and make things suck for you by making you dead. Either way, it's all horrible and immoral.

If the other guy is doing more horrible and immoral things like, say, exterminating people or launching deceit-driven wars of invasion and devastation and shit, then stopping him from continuing by doing less horrible and immoral things may... well, it may not be "good", but it's still the lesser horrible and lesser immoral thing.

It sucks, I know. But it's war and war's a bit like a vacuum cleaner like that, mang.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Bakustra »

Simon_Jester wrote:
Bakustra wrote:Fffuck you, Simon. You legitimately started this by insisting that there was such a thing as objective morality, and implied that your utilitarianism was it, using that to condemn me. Then you refuse to take part in any further discussion once I didn't knuckle under to you and cry uncle.
Before I asserted that there was an objective moral frame, you were using the argument that there wasn't. Up to the point of challenging a number of people to provide you with such a frame on the spot- to PeZook and Stuart.

I am not the one who tried to turn this into a debate on half-rate philosophy and quarter-rate semantics. Nor am I the one who took a swan dive into obscurantism by insisting that no, this should not be an argument about the facts on the ground at the time of the Laconia incident, but rather about some highly abstract question of whether we should say that it's wrong to follow the least immoral course of action in a given situation. Or something along those lines.

Indeed, I get the feeling that you have tried to turn this into a philosophical argument precisely because it was revealed so quickly that you didn't have a leg to stand on when it came to interpreting the facts of the case, starting on Page 2. Indeed, the basis of your argument has grown more and more abstract throughout this thread, in proportion to the degree to which your attempts to make concrete arguments proved to be an embarassment.

Not impressive.

This is why I criticize your behavior as petulant and foolish.
Go ahead and explain why the facts of the case reveal that the actions taken were not as I have described them, the lesser of two evils. Or perhaps you are lying, or else refusing to read what I actually post in favor of some strawman you can knock down. I can only speculate as to why you would wish to do this, but I doubt my own rationality in such speculation, since all I can come up with are fairly unkind reasons. I have bolded that statement, in the vain, vain hope that you will recognize the actual position I hold.

Maybe you take exception to the description of the action as immoral, in which case discussion of whether there is such a thing as objective morality is quite relevant, as that is the only way in which you can introduce facts into it. But I am sure that regardless you will certainly not tell me where you take exception, because... and here I get into unkind thoughts again. But I see that's a no-go on moving this to SLAM then.
Shroom Man 777 wrote:
Bakustra wrote:
Shroom Man 777 wrote:*snip*
Sarcasm aside, I do legitimately agree that this was the lesser of two evils, but I disagree with thus describing it as good, for reasons which I outlined earlier; namely, that I believe that doing so aids cognitive dissonance, as seen with the popular opinion of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I believe that cognitive dissonance is not a thing to be encouraged, as it warps moral decisions.
Look Bak, this is war. People kill each other in war. So, I guess you can't describe it as good. What people do in war is horrible and immoral. The whole point of war is that two or more people do horrible and immoral things to each other, and you do horrible and immoral things to the other guy so he can't/won't do horrible and immoral things to you. Doing horrible and immoral things to another guy is horrible and immoral. But if the guy does horrible and immoral things to you, well, that'd suck for you and you'd rather it'd suck for him than it'd suck for you, so you do horrible and immoral things to the other guy hoping that things would suck for him and that he'll be too dead to do horrible and immoral things to you and make things suck for you by making you dead. Either way, it's all horrible and immoral.

If the other guy is doing more horrible and immoral things like, say, exterminating people or launching deceit-driven wars of invasion and devastation and shit, then stopping him from continuing by doing less horrible and immoral things may... well, it may not be "good", but it's still the lesser horrible and lesser immoral thing.

It sucks, I know. But it's war and war's a bit like a vacuum cleaner like that, mang.
Your position is exactly the same as mine, dude. We're not disagreeing here.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Shroom Man 777 »

I think a lot of the arguers here would agree to what I am saying, except I just worded it in a very repetitive way since I used a lot of sucking and repetitive wordplay to get the point of (war) sucking across.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Simon_Jester »

Bakustra wrote:Go ahead and explain why the facts of the case reveal that the actions taken were not as I have described them, the lesser of two evils. Or perhaps you are lying, or else refusing to read what I actually post in favor of some strawman you can knock down. I can only speculate as to why you would wish to do this, but I doubt my own rationality in such speculation, since all I can come up with are fairly unkind reasons. I have bolded that statement, in the vain, vain hope that you will recognize the actual position I hold.
You didn't even mention this position until you'd already been driven out of other ones. To me, it feels more like an ad hoc fallback position that lets you keep disagreeing with people while maintaining a self-righteous attitude than it does like a serious argument. Once upon a time, you were arguing the numbers, without even a hint that the whole thing was fueled by some kind of grand revolt against utilitarianism:
Bakustra wrote:
Samuel wrote:
Bakustra wrote:Legally, or morally? Morally, I'm not sure how slaughtering the survivors (as the depth-charges and bombs did) from the Laconia is really justifiable.
Simple- it saves the lives of the people the submarine would kill if you let it get away.
I'm not sure how tenable that really is, especially since that could be used to justify killing medics or surrendered prisoners on the grounds that they would themselves aid in killing more people if they manage to escape. Not to mention that it would have to sink 30-40 Liberty ships and not aid any of the crew at all to equal the potential slaughter of indiscriminately bombing the relief efforts.
What I take exception to, more than anything else, is the way you keep redefining your argument without admitting you have done so, and in the process wrench the thread off the original subject of discussion. And to the way that you keep trying to arrogate the moral and philosophical high ground to yourself; once upon a time, you were bouncing between calling Stuart an amoral simulacrum of a human being and calling PeZook's thinking identical to that which gave rise to the Nazis.

The fact that you were already doing this when the debate revolved around the details of the Laconia incident does not bode well for your willingness and ability to carry on an honest discussion on the subject of philosophy. Philosophy offers more ground for obscurantism, covert goalpost-moving, and the pretense that you were really arguing over the semantics of an issue, not the substance.
Maybe you take exception to the description of the action as immoral, in which case discussion of whether there is such a thing as objective morality is quite relevant, as that is the only way in which you can introduce facts into it.
I take exception to your trying to base a massive, highly diverse campaign of condemning the attack on the U-boat on what appears (in your mind, taking your word for it) to be a purely semantic issue: reluctance to refrain from disapproving, let alone to approve, when something bad happens, because it's irrelevant whether it's a least-bad outcome.

You have taken it upon yourself to lead a one-man charge against the conduct of the Allies in this incident. The philosophical arguments you present for doing so are fairly coherent, but they don't produce a conclusion strong enough to justify your behavior. Especially not the parts near your starting point, when you were disputing the objective facts of the case, within the same utilitarian frame you started despising when it stopped supporting your argument so reliably.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Samuel »

So? What does it matter? You can't prove or disprove it, so the system of morality cannot be proven or disproven without some means to test it. Appealing to the future- well, it's possible that an objective system of morality could be developed in the future. I agree with that.
Well, my point is it violates what we know about reality. Unless you think science goes for 100% certainity, we can toss it.
When does taxation become actively harmful? You could say that it decreases pleasure a priori, but it's only harmful when it actually harms people in some way. You could also make a greater-good argument in the case of decreasing pleasure, since the money goes to ensure public services, security and all that. But I was talking about harm in this case.
It is harmful because people don't want to give up their money. This isn't hard. As for greater good because it provides services that is exactly my point. Causing actions that are harmful for people's own good.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Bakustra »

Simon_Jester wrote:
Bakustra wrote:Go ahead and explain why the facts of the case reveal that the actions taken were not as I have described them, the lesser of two evils. Or perhaps you are lying, or else refusing to read what I actually post in favor of some strawman you can knock down. I can only speculate as to why you would wish to do this, but I doubt my own rationality in such speculation, since all I can come up with are fairly unkind reasons. I have bolded that statement, in the vain, vain hope that you will recognize the actual position I hold.
You didn't even mention this position until you'd already been driven out of other ones. To me, it feels more like an ad hoc fallback position that lets you keep disagreeing with people while maintaining a self-righteous attitude than it does like a serious argument. Once upon a time, you were arguing the numbers, without even a hint that the whole thing was fueled by some kind of grand revolt against utilitarianism:
Bakustra wrote:*snip*
What I take exception to, more than anything else, is the way you keep redefining your argument without admitting you have done so, and in the process wrench the thread off the original subject of discussion. And to the way that you keep trying to arrogate the moral and philosophical high ground to yourself; once upon a time, you were bouncing between calling Stuart an amoral simulacrum of a human being and calling PeZook's thinking identical to that which gave rise to the Nazis.

The fact that you were already doing this when the debate revolved around the details of the Laconia incident does not bode well for your willingness and ability to carry on an honest discussion on the subject of philosophy. Philosophy offers more ground for obscurantism, covert goalpost-moving, and the pretense that you were really arguing over the semantics of an issue, not the substance.
I stand by my belief that treating the actions of Captain Hartenstein as immoral solely because he was a Nazi is fundamentally identical to Nazi thought, which you can see here:
Stuart wrote:It can only be that simple if you ignore all of the surrounding events and the relevent circumstances. A wider perspective that takes into account the circumstances comes to a different conclusion. That would dictate the German actions as being both immoral and illegal. The American actions were entirely legal and there is no moral aspect to worry about. The sub was there, it was a legitimate target, bye-bye.
His "broader circumstances":
Stuart wrote:*** Blinks **** The point made (repeatedly) is that in 1914, a German U-boat skipper named Weddingen established the precedent that ships in process of rescuing survivors from a sinking were a legitimate target and could be attacked at will. For that he was - and is - lionized as a hero. Now, I have no objection to that precedent, in his position I would probably have done the same thing, but approve or not, that is the precedent set. Ships picking up survivors are legitimate targets. This is nothing to do with demonizing anybody; I will go as far to say if Weddingen hadn't set that precedent, somebody else would have done. That also doesn't matter; in the old saying we eat what is set before us and the situation is what it is. The Weddingen Precedent is set and that's that. Now, with the Laconia incident, the Germans tried to suspend that precendent because it was politically convenient for them to do so. they were not allowed to get away with doing so. That ends the matter and the "moral argument" ends there as well. The actual moral question is "do the Germans have a unique right to set and suspend precedents and rules as they find convenient?" I would suggest that any moral answer would have to be "no."
Which ignores the Naval Protocol of 1936, to which Germany acceded and which required submarines to rescue survivors. But his objection is that Germans can't do that, because that's ignoring the "precedent".

Oh, another:
Isolder74 wrote:Also you condemn the attacking of a submarine picking up Italian Prisoners of War as immoral but continue to ignore the fact that this was done by a nation that not only set the precedence that any warship doing so was a legitimate target and now it was this nation that was trying to insist that the precedence be ignored. That is what was immoral in this situation. The outright hypocrisy of the Nazis in this situation is very telling. To ignore that is ignoring the entire moral implication of the previous incidents in order to try and twist this one into a immoral action. That is a very non sequitur point to try and make.


Which more obviously places this upon the Nazis.

I misread PeZook's position and thought that he was arguing that. I do apologize for that. My disagreement is and has been with describing the action as a moral one. I'm going to go all the way back to the first few pages of the thread here:
Stuart wrote:The point is though that is not a phenomenom reserved for today. The Germans have always behaved like this. You must admit there is something so twisted it is almost funny about the country that invented and deployed flamethrowers trying to claim that the use of shotguns is brutal and inhumane.

The same applies to the Laconia case; the fact is that despite all the mock outrage, the bomber crew did nothing wrong. (Well, actually they did, they went around and queried their orders and that might have made the difference that allowed the submarine to escape and subsequently sink another merchant ship. They should have done their job properly and attacked without warning.) It was the submarine crew who were committing war crimes (which we have already listed, the list extending every time more aspects of the situation come to light).
and another:
Stuart wrote: Political considerations and political considerations only led to the U-boat staying in the locality. Under any other circumstances, they would have sailed away. They were unable to do so due to those political requirements so they used the PoWs in the water as a shield against attacks. By the way, I have no sense of queasy moral responsibility at all about the conduct of the B-24 crew and my only criticism of them is that they endangered their aircraft for no good reason. They didn't even strafe the submarines as they made their run.
That is what I argued against. I probably have not been quite clear on that. But the point is that to say that this action was moral in and of itself because it hurt the Axis, which is what people argued initially, is tantamount to justifying any action which hurt the Axis, which I feel is fundamentally no different from my position as of now- while one can justify such an action on the grounds of being the lesser of two evils, that is not what people presented. If you wish to disavow that, then we have no argument apart from you misunderstanding what I post. That said, I will also stand by my comments on medics and POWs. If you accept that an action is moral because it harms the enemy in wartime (and people's arguments against that on grounds of practicality can be applied to killing the (POW, no less!) survivors of a submarine attack as well), then any such action which harms the enemy is moral. While you can justify it on the grounds of being a lesser evil via circumstance, my belief is that it is not a good idea to classify it as moral regardless. Am I being clear?

I called Stuart an amoral simulacrum of a human being. Well, I suppose that I could respond to this by going through all your posts to find some insult you have made that is not strictly based in fact and demanding that you justify it. But I hope you'll agree with me that that is ludicrous. As for amoral, when an individual responds to moral arguments with "but it was legitimate", I hope you will pardon me for saying that they must be amoral or a Legalist.
Maybe you take exception to the description of the action as immoral, in which case discussion of whether there is such a thing as objective morality is quite relevant, as that is the only way in which you can introduce facts into it.
I take exception to your trying to base a massive, highly diverse campaign of condemning the attack on the U-boat on what appears (in your mind, taking your word for it) to be a purely semantic issue: reluctance to refrain from disapproving, let alone to approve, when something bad happens, because it's irrelevant whether it's a least-bad outcome.

You have taken it upon yourself to lead a one-man charge against the conduct of the Allies in this incident. The philosophical arguments you present for doing so are fairly coherent, but they don't produce a conclusion strong enough to justify your behavior. Especially not the parts near your starting point, when you were disputing the objective facts of the case, within the same utilitarian frame you started despising when it stopped supporting your argument so reliably.
The objective facts I admitted supported the attack from a legal perspective. The objectivity of morality is itself quite relevant as to whether one can consider a moral opinion objective such that it can be proven or disproven, as you did. I don't see why the null statement should be that morality is objective, and I presented an argument for the subjectivity of morality which you have declared irrelevant.

You complain about the philosophy while insisting that I was making a "grand revolt against utilitarianism". Simon, do you have any clue what I was talking about, or are you projecting onto me when you say that I am grasping for straws?
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So? What does it matter? You can't prove or disprove it, so the system of morality cannot be proven or disproven without some means to test it. Appealing to the future- well, it's possible that an objective system of morality could be developed in the future. I agree with that.
Well, my point is it violates what we know about reality. Unless you think science goes for 100% certainity, we can toss it.
When does taxation become actively harmful? You could say that it decreases pleasure a priori, but it's only harmful when it actually harms people in some way. You could also make a greater-good argument in the case of decreasing pleasure, since the money goes to ensure public services, security and all that. But I was talking about harm in this case.
It is harmful because people don't want to give up their money. This isn't hard. As for greater good because it provides services that is exactly my point. Causing actions that are harmful for people's own good.
No disagreement on the first, except that this is different from saying it to be a true or false system of morality, but on the second, if the individual is okay with paying taxes, then you cannot say that taxes are harmful in and of themselves. Not everybody views taxes as a knife in the heart.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

Bakustra wrote:You haven't provided a universal system of morality, you ghoulish jackass. Provide it. At least PeZook and Stas can provide arguments against me, idiotic though they are. All you can do is smarm about how old and decrepit you are.
I don't have to. You made the proposition, it is your responsibility to support it or concede the argument. Simply repeating your original statements doesn't cut it. By the way, you might like to reflect on the fact that I may (arguably) be suffering from the ravages of old age but I've (much aided by the expert assistance of everybody else) exposed you as the ignorant, childish moron that you are.
So if given a situation like that in the OP, I probably would choose to order the bomber to attack the subs,
So, you do concede the argument. So why do you continue to waste our time?
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Zinegata »

Why are people here still arguing about the "morality" of a wartime action?

To quote Jackie Fisher, speaking to the first attempt to draft a formal document outlining the "Rules of War" in the Hague...

"War should be terrible. You may as well talk of civilizing hell!"

And it's worth noting that among the rules outlined in the Hague was that submarines are not allowed to attack non-combatant ships (including liners such as the Laconia) unless they could do the following:

1) Get the ship to stop.

2) Board the ship and verify it is carrying war materials.

3) Make sure that the entire civilian crew has been evacuated.

Then, and only then, was the submarine allowed to sink a merchant ship/liner.

This proved to be completely impractical in wartime, and the Germans engaged in unrestricted submarine warfare. Sinking some 6,000+ ships over the two World Wars, and killing tens of thousands of civilian merchant sea men.

The only reason why the Germans were not prosecuted for war crimes with regards to their submarine warfare stance was because America had practiced unrestricted submarine warfare too, and leading US Admirals such as Nimitz actually defended the German Kriegsmarine and said that these actions were really necessary in wartime.

So in any discussion involving the Laconia incident, people have to remember that this whole situation wouldn't even have happened if submarines weren't allowed to attack merchant ships willy-nilly in the first place.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by K. A. Pital »

Bakustra wrote:I disagree with classifying it as a good decision without some clear distinction between the least of evils and absolute goods for reasons I re-outlined above.
I think Simon already covered that. So I feel I have nothing more to add.
Simon_Jester wrote:A philosophy that revolves around something like "least-bad is still bad and must never be called in any way 'right'" is therefore largely useless. It shudders away from situations where it could be of use, refusing to consider the issue seriously and insisting that there must be a happier solution. It's more appealing to people who like to keep up the purity of a black and white worldview from a nice safe armchair than it is to people who have to make actual decisions.
Bakustra wrote:At least PeZook and Stas can provide arguments against me, idiotic though they are.
The argument that the least of evils can be called "good" when there are no other choices present under the circumstances is not "idiotic". We can call it the "best" decision, because it is really best. Although you might note that all of the posters, including Stuart, noted that this whole dilemma is a product of the circumstances of that war, and the best course of events would be the war never happening. So don't pretend others are idiots.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by PeZook »

Wait, so the entire argument was about semantics? About me calling the choice of a lesser evil moral, instead of immoral but necessary?

Is this accurate?
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by General Trelane (Retired) »

Zinegata wrote:[. . .]And it's worth noting that among the rules outlined in the Hague was that submarines are not allowed to attack non-combatant ships (including liners such as the Laconia) unless they could do the following:

1) Get the ship to stop.

2) Board the ship and verify it is carrying war materials.

3) Make sure that the entire civilian crew has been evacuated.

Then, and only then, was the submarine allowed to sink a merchant ship/liner.
[. . .]
So in any discussion involving the Laconia incident, people have to remember that this whole situation wouldn't even have happened if submarines weren't allowed to attack merchant ships willy-nilly in the first place.
I know this thread has gone on for quite a few pages, but please do try to keep up. Laconia wasn't just a "liner", she was an armed merchant cruiser and thus was not entitled to such 'due process' before sinking. In my opinion, it is precisely such mistaken claims that prolonged this entire thread.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Patrick Degan »

To return to a central argument which seems to have been forgotten: an armed combat unit can enjoy no particular protection by simply slapping a Red Cross on its side because it is still an armed combat unit, can shift in an instant from a supposedly humanitarian purpose to a hostile purpose, and in fact could be using the Red Cross as a cover, a false flag in fact. That is why such a unit is regarded as a legitimate military target.

An early episode of the television series M*A*S*H illustrates this: in it, the 4077th was being visited daily by a very inept North Korean pilot flying a junkheap trainer plane and who kept trying to drop a grenade on them but couldn't hit the side of a war to save his own life. Five O'Clock Charlie became a pleasant diversion to the usual routine; his daily bombing runs being attended like a football match from the edge of the camp and with a betting pool being run on just how far he would miss the target. The reason Charlie was there at all, though, was because Gen. Clayton deliberately located an ammunition dump right next to the 4077th and even gloated about how the enemy would never dare attack a hospital, which was supposed to make the dump safe. Frank Burns, being the idiot asshole he is, naturally panicked and insisted on arming the 4077th with an antiaircraft gun to shoot down Charlie. Hawkeye and Trapper tried in vain to argue that to do that would be to invite a real attack with MiGs, which would do a much more thorough job on the ammo dump and the hospital. From that moment, and indeed from the moment the dump was located where it was at all, the 4077th became a legitimate military target and all the Red Crosses plastered all over the buildings, tents and vehicles mattered not one jot. Of course, this reality was lost on both Gen. Clayton and Frank, so Hawkeye and Trapper contrived a means to eliminate the ammo dump and thus any reason for arming the hospital. The dump went away, the gun went away, and the 4077th went back to its protected status as an unarmed hospital. But for as long as those combat assets were located within the zone of the 4077th, all its Red Crosses were false flags. The North Koreans, from their point of view, would have been well within their rights to have reduced the 4077th to a smoking crater field. In reality, that's what would have happened as well.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

General Trelane (Retired) wrote: Laconia wasn't just a "liner", she was an armed merchant cruiser and thus was not entitled to such 'due process' before sinking.
Not quite. She had been taken up by the Admiralty in 1939 and converted to an armed merchant cruiser but had been returned to Cunard, reverted to civilian status and was being used as a trooper. As an AMC, she had eight six inch guns and two three inch anti-aircraft guns but I don't know what she was armed with as a trooper. In reality, this makes very little difference except that, as an AMC she was Royal Navy and thus HMS Laconia while at the time of sinking she was a Cunarder and thus RMS Laconia (RMS being Royal Mail Ship)

Sadly, exactly the same thing happened to her predecessor in 1917. The first Laconia was also taken up from trade and converted to an armed merchant cruiser and then later returned to her owner and used as a trooper. She was torpedoed and sunk off the Azores in 1917. Her wreck was discovered quite recently.

The real problem was that this was yet another case of technology getting ahead of our ability to control it. When "the rules" were written, raiders were surface ships that could act in the way laid down by law. It's worth noting that these rules were established as a price paid for the elimination of privateering. Once the submarine came along the established rules were pretty much unworkable but nobody wanted to admit that. When aircraft came along, they also threw a massive wrench into the legal systems that had been evolved. How, the devil, for example, does a ship (or a city) surrender to an aircraft? All the ship (or city) has to do is to wait until the aircraft leaves and then revoke its surrender. One of the debating points we had years ago when studying this kind of issue was this. "You're the commander of a B-17 formation over the Ruhr in June 1944. You're on your final bombing run at a German city when its civil authorities radio you and surrender. What do you do?"
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by General Trelane (Retired) »

Patrick Degan wrote:To return to a central argument which seems to have been forgotten: an armed combat unit can enjoy no particular protection by simply slapping a Red Cross on its side because it is still an armed combat unit, can shift in an instant from a supposedly humanitarian purpose to a hostile purpose, and in fact could be using the Red Cross as a cover, a false flag in fact. That is why such a unit is regarded as a legitimate military target.
I didn't think this was forgotten at all. It is clear that all major posters in this thread agree that simply slapping a Red Cross flag on a warship should provide no special protection to that warship precisely because it is a warship. It may bear repeating for people new to this thread, but it doesn't seem to have been forgotten.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by General Trelane (Retired) »

Stuart wrote:
General Trelane (Retired) wrote: Laconia wasn't just a "liner", she was an armed merchant cruiser and thus was not entitled to such 'due process' before sinking.
Not quite. She had been taken up by the Admiralty in 1939 and converted to an armed merchant cruiser but had been returned to Cunard, reverted to civilian status and was being used as a trooper. As an AMC, she had eight six inch guns and two three inch anti-aircraft guns but I don't know what she was armed with as a trooper. In reality, this makes very little difference except that, as an AMC she was Royal Navy and thus HMS Laconia while at the time of sinking she was a Cunarder and thus RMS Laconia (RMS being Royal Mail Ship)
Yeah, I can find no authoritative source confirming whether she was still armed at the time of her sinking. The Cunarders site states simply:
www.thecunarders.co.uk/Laconia wrote:Sadly at the outbreak of the Second World War the Laconia was requisitioned as an Armed Merchant Cruiser initially. From 1941 she was released from naval service and converted into a troopship. The Laconia survived as a troopship for just over a year, sadly sucumbing to a torpedo attack launched by U156 on the 12th Sep 1942.
It seems logical that her weaponry would be removed before being "released from naval service", but I'm not sure about that. If you can supply an authoritative source that it was, I'll willingly eat crow over this. But interestingly, regardless of her actual status, Hartenstein's warbook apparently still had her listed as armed (I don't mean to imply that this makes it legitimate to sink her without warning).
The real problem was that this was yet another case of technology getting ahead of our ability to control it. When "the rules" were written, raiders were surface ships that could act in the way laid down by law. It's worth noting that these rules were established as a price paid for the elimination of privateering. Once the submarine came along the established rules were pretty much unworkable but nobody wanted to admit that. When aircraft came along, they also threw a massive wrench into the legal systems that had been evolved. How, the devil, for example, does a ship (or a city) surrender to an aircraft? All the ship (or city) has to do is to wait until the aircraft leaves and then revoke its surrender. One of the debating points we had years ago when studying this kind of issue was this. "You're the commander of a B-17 formation over the Ruhr in June 1944. You're on your final bombing run at a German city when its civil authorities radio you and surrender. What do you do?"
I have to admit that I enjoy this kind of discussion far more than semantics regarding philosophical points of morality.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Stuart »

General Trelane (Retired) wrote:It seems logical that her weaponry would be removed before being "released from naval service", but I'm not sure about that. If you can supply an authoritative source that it was, I'll willingly eat crow over this. But interestingly, regardless of her actual status, Hartenstein's warbook apparently still had her listed as armed (I don't mean to imply that this makes it legitimate to sink her without warning).
It's a good question; the truth is that transferring ships from naval to civilian control and then back again really blurs lines of responsibility. Also, the British were notably reticent about such transfers. For example, in Janes Fighting Ships of 1914 (a copy of which happens to be on my desk :D ) the Lusitania is listed as an armed merchant cruiser. This was a point strongly made by the Germans following the sinking who stated that if the ship was listed as a warship in Britain's primary naval reference book, who were they to disagree? As a result, in the 1939 edition of Janes Fighting Ships (also on my desk) there are no lists of armed merchant cruisers at all. So, even the best-willed and most assiduous of ship's captains have a hard job working out which is what. To make things even nastier, some ships in the same class were used as hospital ships, others as troopers or AMCs (the Japanese were particularly bad at that; it the end the US Navy gave up trying to tell the difference and sank the lot).
I have to admit that I enjoy this kind of discussion far more than semantics regarding philosophical points of morality.
Me too, and the issues raised are much more important (philosophy and semantics plus $3:50 will get one a cup of decent coffee). There's much made about the coming 'singularity' but that's been with us with warfare now for at least fifty years. Our means of making war are far in advance of our ability to control them. We are doing our best but everybody is hopelessly behind the curve. For example, what point is there in operational security when up-to-date aerial photography can be had from the 'net or troop deployments obtained by analysing facebook entries? People are worrying about a few conventional bombs or missiles going astray when the whole war machine is careering down the tracks while the crew are reading the instruction manual from the previous model of locomotive in an effort to find the brakes.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by General Trelane (Retired) »

Stuart wrote:It's a good question; the truth is that transferring ships from naval to civilian control and then back again really blurs lines of responsibility. Also, the British were notably reticent about such transfers. For example, in Janes Fighting Ships of 1914 (a copy of which happens to be on my desk :D ) the Lusitania is listed as an armed merchant cruiser. This was a point strongly made by the Germans following the sinking who stated that if the ship was listed as a warship in Britain's primary naval reference book, who were they to disagree? As a result, in the 1939 edition of Janes Fighting Ships (also on my desk) there are no lists of armed merchant cruisers at all. So, even the best-willed and most assiduous of ship's captains have a hard job working out which is what. To make things even nastier, some ships in the same class were used as hospital ships, others as troopers or AMCs (the Japanese were particularly bad at that; it the end the US Navy gave up trying to tell the difference and sank the lot).
Thanks for the Jane's references. Clay Blaire's books Hitler's U-Boat War makes the following assertion:
Hitler's U-Boat War: the Hunted, 1942-1945 wrote:According to the rules of war being observed by Axis and Allies alike, Hartenstein was in no way guilty of any infraction. Laconia was armed (two 4.7" naval guns, six 3" antiaircraft guns, and so on), zigzagging, and blacked out, hence a legitimate submarine target.
I no longer have these books, but various internet sites quote this, so I'm inclined to believe the wording is accurately lifted from his book. But this says nothing about his veracity. How much homework did he do to confirm that Laconia was still armed when she was sunk? I have no idea.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Zinegata »

My point wasn't to insist that sinking the Laconia in the first place was wrong.

My point is to show that the "rules of war" - which would have prevented sinkings of ships while their crews were still onboard - was decreed impractical by all the warring powers, and hence allowances were made. Submarines are allowed to sink merchant ships without warning, and without even verification if the ship is a combatant. Sucks to be the merchant marine, but that's war.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by General Trelane (Retired) »

Following up on whether or not Laconia was still armed at the time of her sinking, Eugene Davidson writes the following in his book The Trial of the Germans (which I've referenced earlier):
Eugene Davidson wrote:The Laconia was a legitimate target for a U-boat. She mounted two 4.7-inch naval guns of Japanese manufacture from World War I, six three-inch anti-aircraft guns, six 1.5-inch guns, four rapid-firing Bofors guns, and two groups of two-inch rockets--more than was needed to sink a submarine. Further, on previous voyages she had served as a troop ship.
He seems to confirm that she was still armed, but then he's primarily focused on the legal proceedings of the Nuremburg trials, so I'm not entirely convinced that he had these particular facts right. But then again, these facts would be directly relevant to his discussion of the legalities. Also, I'm curious about his inclusion of the fact that she was used as a troop ship. Back in those days (or even today), were unarmed troop ships exempt from those protections due unarmed merchant ships?

Zinegata wrote:My point wasn't to insist that sinking the Laconia in the first place was wrong.

My point is to show that the "rules of war" - which would have prevented sinkings of ships while their crews were still onboard - was decreed impractical by all the warring powers, and hence allowances were made. Submarines are allowed to sink merchant ships without warning, and without even verification if the ship is a combatant. Sucks to be the merchant marine, but that's war.
In that case, my apologies for completely misreading your post.
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Re: Laconia incident

Post by Thanas »

Okay, I'll try and keep my reply as concise as possible:

First, to Stuart:

You bring up Weddigen as the original perpetrator of such violent actions. There are a few differences here, though, namely regarding the laws of the sea he was operating under. First, it was Admiral Fisher who scutlled any attempt at getting a law of the sea and of what could be considered legitimate targets codified. In fact, he openly announced that he would committ any breach of such a law if it would serve his country. Second, not one of the British cruisers indicated by any means that they were not still in combat. On the contrary, both tried to ram the sub and fired at it as well. Meanwhile, the legal situation was a bit different in the incident at hand, especially with regards to the London protocol, under which subs were required to offer assistance to surivivors. No such protocol existed for the first world war, no small thanks to British efforts to derail any change to the law of the sea.

That said, in my opinion he should not have torpedoed the third ship engaged in rescue operations (after it had stopped firing at him), however I still rate firing at that target as different from firing at Hartenstein's sub, which after all was rescuing noncombatants.

I also question the use of bringing up these past incidents, as this serves nothing. I mean, we could bring up the actions of other sub captains like Herbert Schultze or the British machinegunning German seaman in the water on the coast of Norway, but I really doubt this is of any help here.

As for the current situation, the American commander (all legality aside) should not have given the order to attack. Even considering he had the legal right to attack, I think he should not have done so out of a moral duty. The subs were not really helping their combat capability in any way by picking up survivors (the argument that they would use them as human shields is laughable in the extreme, somebody please tell me what good a deck full of humans, reduced food stocks and reduced speed with lifeboats in tow would do) and they were clearly behaving in a non-aggressive manner. Likewise, attacking to avoid detection would not do much, seeing as how there were multiple subs there and there was no way the bomber could sink all of them.

So in the end it comes down to what action is more beneficial - the sinking of a sub or the value of the live of the shipwrecked survivors? I recognize that there are legitimate argumenst to be made for the value of the sub being destroyed, however in this specific instance, I have to say that the potential help of people in need carries for me a greater imperative than just denying the enemy one sub out of many, especially seeing as how the sub has already rendered itself pretty much useless for the time being.
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