Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/15/20: Dresden, Bloomberg, Snopes, Climate Change, And “The Chalkening”

Good Morning…

1. Dresden bombing ethics. February 13-15, 1945 witnessed the Allied firebombing of Dresden, Germany, with the resulting deaths of between 22,000 and 135,000 civilians. depending on whose propaganda you choose to believe. Regardless of the number, the destruction of the German cultural center and questionable military target so late in the war—after its loss in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s defeat was just a matter of time—was instantly controversial, and is still intensely debated today.

The attack, which dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city, destroyed more than 1,600 acres. By all accounts, the human toll was horrific. Lothar Metzger, a survivor, wrote,

We saw terrible things: cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from.

Was the firebombing of Dresden a war crime?  If the Allies had lost the war, it would have become a war crime. As we have discussed here before, the concept of war crimes is confounding and hypocritical at best. If the attacks were deemed essential to ending the war as soon as possible, then they were ethically defensible.

Much of the debate over the years has focused on whether the bombing was terrorism. Of course it was, as were the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and General Sherman’s March to the Sea. Terror is a legitimate weapon in warfare, when the objective is to destroy the enemy’s will to fight. Attacks on civilians for revenge and to inflict gratuitous death and pain for no legitimate strategic purpose are unethical . The distinction is usually in the eye of the beholder.

Wikipedia has an unusually thorough article on the Dresden attack, and I found this paper interesting as well.

2. Climate Change ethics, from the “Don’t confuse me with facts, my mind’s made up” files: According to an IEA report,

“The United States saw the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis – a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt. US emissions are now down almost 1 Gt from their peak in the year 2000, the largest absolute decline by any country over that period. A 15% reduction in the use of coal for power generation underpinned the decline in overall US emissions in 2019.”

Here’s a chart:

This should make you angry. When I had one of my periodic discussions with a Trump Deranged friend and asked, “Tell me exactly what you feel makes this President an existential threat to the United States?” the huminahumina-delayed answer I got back—Wouldn’t you think that people who have been screaming at the sky all this time would have a persuasive answer to that query by now? They don’t, because the echo chambers and bubbles never consider anything but general outrage at tweets and manufactured outrages, like the current Roger Stone sentencing mess—was that Trump is appointing horrible judges (a matter of opinion, and not impeachable), and that the President’s rejection of climate change hysteria will destroy the world.

She believes the latter because this is what the news sources she listens to and her social media friends tell her. Note that the chart indicates that much of the rest of the world, including noble signatories of the Paris accord, is paying no attention to climate change whatsoever. Attacks on the Trump administration using climate change fearmongering are a deceptive tactic to seize power, and to justify “state of emergency” Constitutional violations.

Do let Ethics Alarms know if you see any references to the IEA report on CNN, MSNBC, or the major networks.

3. Res Ipsa Loquitur. Snopes is beneath contempt, and I hate to keep kicking a dead factcheck horse, but some jerk tried to defend the dishonestly partisan site yesterday, and every time that happens, I’m going to remind the world of how transparently biased and untrustworthy that unethical website is.

Thus we have this, from two days ago, in which the “resistance” mouthpiece does a “factcheck” on whether a Trump tweet is quoting “Mein Kampf.”

4. Fighting a return of “The Chalkening,” and that dangerous phenomenon, free speech. “The Chalkening” was the social media moniker for pro-Trump chalk messages on sidewalks  on college campuses in 2016. Prior to the Iowa caucuses, Iowa State University banned political speech from being chalked after students complained that the messages had become discriminatory and divisive.

Well, assertions of political positions are always divisive in some respect, and what the Left calls discriminatory during its recent drift toward totalitarianism seems to be a matter of strategy. Among the messages cited by those favoring university censorship were “MAGA,” “Build the Wall,” and the ever-perplexing, “It’s OK to be white.”

Iowa State instituted its anti-chalking rule in November. A civil liberties group, Speech First, sued the university in January, alleging that the new policy violated the First Amendment.

5. Integrity test. It all depends on whether blind hate alone is enough to win an election. Personally, I don’t think it is.

I had an amusing exchange with a stranger on Facebook who wrote that Mike Bloomberg could win the Democratic nomination and the Presidency “easily.” You know I couldn’t let that pass. Modern day incumbent Presidents never lose reelection bids if the economy is doing well, and it takes special circumstances to defeat any sitting President who was initially elected to the office. This has only happened eight times.

Four of the one-term losers are in the rarified category of “Men who would never have been elected or even considered but for the strong support of a super-popular predecessor, and then looked so wan in comparison that they were dumped”: John Adams (endorsed by George Washington), Martin Van Buren (Andrew Jackson), William Howard Taft (Teddy Roosevelt), and George Bush the First (Ronald Reagan.)

Of the remaining four, one, Herbert Hoover, was sunk by the Great Depression. John Quincy Adams had lost the popular vote and was only elected because of back-room dealing in the House of Representatives: after four years of claiming that he had been robbed of the Presidency, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote a second time, and Adams was out. President Grover Cleveland  won the popular vote but lost the Electoral college to Benjamin Harrison, and then, Jackson-like, returned to beat Harrison and retake the Presidency. The remaining one-term loser was Jimmy Carter.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg would have to overcome an unprecedented  mass of historical obstacles. No one has been elected President whose sole executive experience was being a mayor. He would be the oldest President elected and the first Jewish President. Then there are his political problems.He’s a white male, and a converted Republican. He is charisma-challenged. Bloomberg’s style is at least as “autocratic” as Trump’s, and he’s not a true progressive. His stop-and-frisk policy in New York City was widely assailed as racist, and he has almost as many past ugly quotes in his baggage as Donald Trump.

The latest revelation of these, and you know there are more to come, turned up in The Washington Post, here. 

Yikes. And all the young, woke, socialist, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter progressives will hold their collective noses to vote for this guy, because they hate hate hate the President so much? I don’t think so.

The Beatles were exaggerating when they sang “All You Need Is love,” but “All You Need Is Hate” is really ridiculous.

17 thoughts on “Saturday Ethics Warm-Up, 2/15/20: Dresden, Bloomberg, Snopes, Climate Change, And “The Chalkening”

  1. That Snopes piece was idiotic. All they verified was that the attributions were correct but admitted whether the quotes echoed each other was subjective. Basically, they were purporting to fact-check an opinion.

    And, regarding the Presidency, Trump and Obama have really flipped the paradigm. Pete has more “executive” experience than Obama had and Trump is probably the only president that has neither been elected to public office nor served in the military.

    No wonder some believe that anyone can get elected President.


    • JutGory wrote, “No wonder some believe that anyone can get elected President.”

      What the political left is trying to do it to permanently poison the public against electing any Republican from this moment in time on, that way they can “win” by default. Republicans are the deplorable tribe and should be held in utter contempt. Currently this is the 21st century version of the Scarlet Letter.

      Contempt: The feeling that a person or a thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.

      If your great, great, great, great grandfather walked by a slave owner on the street and offered a cheerful “Good Morning” in passing then you and all your descendants would forever be deemed racist and unfit for public office. If you have not publicly screeched your hate towards Trump and his supporters then you and your descendants will be smeared for all time. This generalized tactic can be twisted and used to smear all Republicans for just about anything. The the political left’s unspoken antiology* (see below) purity standards are absolutely absurd and they only apply to those they oppose or those that are trying to beat those they oppose. The enemy of my enemy is my friend; Bloomberg is one of those that is trying to beat those they oppose he’ll be grandfathered in and anything he has done or said will be white-washed with rationalizations, say he evolved (all is forgiven if evolving into a progressive), or just ignored.

      *Antiology is derived from the following words:

      anti: opposed to; against.
      ology: a subject of study; a branch of knowledge.

      1) a distinctive doctrine, theory, system, or practice of being anti, or being opposed, against; an -ism.
      2) the study of being opposed to; against.

      3) against the study of; against gaining knowledge.

      The newest form of political ideology in the United States that is not FOR anything they are only AGAINST, it’s called political antiology.

  2. 2. Jack, Jack, Jack! Look at the chart! The Euros did BETTER than the U.S. under Trump! Can’t you read?

    (Of course, the cost of electricity in Germany has tripled.)

  3. I consider any nation that initiates an unprovoked attack on another sovereign nation a crime. I do not hold that any retaliation to an attack must be proportionate and limited to military targets if civilians were targeted by the initiator of the conflict.

    Proportional responses are enabling responses and lead to (unethical) calculated risk taking by those who wish to build empires. If the possibility exists that the attacked nation would exterminate every last man, woman and child of the initiator’s nation in defense of there own nation then it is more likely that we will not see as many wars let alone 20 year long conflicts that cost trillions of dollars.

    If Adolph Hitler or the German people believed that the allies would exterminate every last German as a result of his (Hitler’s) grand desires early on, I believe things the mid-twentieth century would have been a bit more peaceful. Bullies, sociopaths, and psychopaths rely on their victims not willing to go berserk on them when they push.

    • There is another aspect of this relating to technology, distance, and anonymity. The more technological the generally more distant casualties can be inflicted and the less distinctly human or more anonymous those casualties are.

      War is inhumane. It inflicts misery on all, including bystanders. As you point out the shorter and fewer the conflicts the less inhumane misery, excepting if the brevity is created using technologies rendering them few and brief, but horrific.

      When most wars begin each side usually believes it will be brief and they will prevail by rendering the military of their opponents impotent. As technology and weaponry has advanced the targets have become less military and more generalized toward population demoralization and diminishment.

      Had we known at the beginning of WWII how technology would change warfare to the point of weapons capable of evaporating cities and setting fire to almost everything, we might have found the Axis more reasonable, but no one can see the future that clearly.

      Now we have reached the point of mutually assured destruction. This has lengthened wars and inhumanity without deterring second tier technologies. As long as we avoid using the top tier technology.

      This is a serious ethical problem, especially for those who have the power to exterminate vast populations with little resistance. In retrospect, we probably were technically war criminals, but that is 20/20 hindsight. Being in the fight with family and friends in harms way tends to make one less sensitive to the plight of the humans who are the enemy and seem intent on ending your way of life.

      • I agree that technology makes it easy to annihilate people. I am merely employing a derivative of the concept of mutual assured destruction in which the defender survives but then is entitled to exterminate the aggressor’s people. In the words of Obama, that might change one’s calculus.

        Proportionality is merely tit for tat. We have a divided Korean Peninsula and have spent hundreds of billions protecting the south because Truman did not want MacArthur to cross the 38th parallel out of fear that the entire Chinese army would overwhelm us. We spent years in Southeast Asia trying to contain the aggressive Chinese sponsored Viet Cong for the same reason. We have spent the last twenty years in one mid east country after another using proportional responses to hostile actions. The only beneficiaries of such tactics are the arms makers who are maximizing their long run profitability.

        Proportionality escalates with technology. Right now, too many rogue actors have or are gaining the ability to initiate a first strike using weapons we having chosen to never use. What proportionate response would be appropriate if a 5 kiloton dirty bomb explodes in a major city? Never give an aggressor a second chance to kill you first, because aggressors are predisposed to do just that.

        • Point taken.

          Considering the Bush Doctrine, I worry the US will eventually make a decision humanity will regret and find us to be war criminals without needing much hindsight.

          The swiftness and finality of an inappropriately disproportionate act place us in a precarious position.

          One can easily imagine Tehran or some other hostile capitol being obliterated in the heat and urgency of the moment, only to find the target should have been Karachi or some other place. The margin for error is very small indeed.

  4. On point 3.
    The words reflect functionally two different issues; Trump says he wants a free but fair press and while anyone can write anything they want it is not all true. The passage from Mein Kampf states that the entire press is holding the German people because it continually seeks to tear down long standing cultural institutions and norms.

    Perhaps most importantly, does this writer understand the word “literally” ? If Trumps words were a literal translation the English translation of Mein Kampf would be exactly the same. They are not exactly the same because they have two absolutely different meanings.

  5. Looking back on the Bombing of Dresden, it was a horrific decision that was strategically unnecessary that saved few allied soldiers lives. Unlike the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings which were horrific but strategically necessary, the decision to destroy Dresden was criminal.

    • Most generally agree with the distinction, but I do often wonder if Emperor Hirohito had been shown a film of the atomic bomb test in New Mexico, he might have decided to surrender after Hiroshima rather than wait until after Nagasaki. Either way it would have been very likely necessary to bomb Hiroshima.

    • Wayne wrote, “Looking back on the Bombing of Dresden, it was a horrific decision that was strategically unnecessary that saved few allied soldiers lives.”

      You cannot use hindsight such as that to judge that which you had absolutely no part in the strategic planning, plus throwing in that piece of unprovable consequentialism in there doesn’t help your argument. I don’t believe there’s any evidence to support that the action saved few allied lives and they certainly wouldn’t have known that one way or the other at the time they made the decision and there’s literally no way to prove such a claim today, there’s only opinions.

      Wayne wrote, “Bombing of Dresden…was strategically unnecessary”, “Unlike the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings which were horrific but strategically necessary, the decision to destroy Dresden was criminal.”

      I disagree.

      If it had been agreed by the commanders in the war planning room that the bombing was “strategically unnecessary” then it wouldn’t have taken place, period! It’s been stated over the years that Dresden’s destruction was intended to overwhelm German authorities and services and clog all transportation routes with throngs of refugees. In an effort to force a surrender, the Dresden bombing was intended to terrorize the civilian population locally and nationwide. It certainly had that effect. In the end the number of official dead were, as stated in the Official report: Dresden bombing killed 25,000, not the wildly hyped up estimates from 150,000 all the way up to 500,000, those numbers blew the whole damn thing way out of proportion as the “the biggest single massacre in European history”, the extrapolations to absurdity and propaganda hype was false. Yes the bombing of Dresden was strategically necessary in the eyes of the military commanders in the field at the time.

      There are two ways to win a war, you either literally destroy the enemy or you destroy the enemy’s will to fight, it’s always a combination of the two. Dresden was part of the destruction of the enemy’s will to fight in exactly the same way as the fire bombing of Tokyo and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. You must prove that they were not isolated from the destruction of war and permanently destroy the enemy’s will to fight any longer. Some bombings were done using conventional weapons and other using nuclear weapons – both had the same results – complete and utter destruction.

      By the way; without exception, war is very cruel and all wars and everything that happens in wars can be deemed someone as criminal.

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