09 September 2004

According to Kerry our traditional allies are irrational

Yesterday (090904) Hugh Hewitt played for us just a bit of an interview that MTV did with John Kerry. The senator was asked how he would bring our allies into the war. His answer revealed just how irrational he must truly believe our (traditional) allies to be.

It seems, listening to Kerry, that these traditional allies are not with us in Iraq because, among other things, the US have not signed the Kyoto treaty. I have my doubts about that. But let's say, for purposes of argument, that Kerry is correct. If that is the real reason for their reluctance to go into Iraq with us and our coalition of the 'bribed and unwilling' then these allies are being just a bit irrational.

Let's just review for a bit how I conceive of rationality, in order to see why I believe this. Borrowing a bit from C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, Chapter 1) let's say that I have been threatened by a man, and his relatives, who wants to kill me because he thinks I maligned his girlfriend. Let us further say that yesterday, when you were set upon at the mall by a squad of minimum-wage-earning high school graduates (because of your position against raising the minimum wage), you asked for my help as a favor. I obliged. Today, I am asking for your help as a favor.

You ask, "Why should I help you?" I respond by appealing to a sense of fairness: "Well, yesterday, when you were in an unfair fight, I helped you."

You could respond in one of several ways and still be rational. (1) You could help me, assenting to my claim of fairness. (2)You could deny me help, explaining that my giving you help yestersay did not create in me a right against you to respond in kind--ever, regardless of circumstances. (3) You could tell me that, unlike my circumstances yesterday, you have a sprained ankle and that, as a consequence, you could not possibly help me in a fight today. (4)You could even tell me that you just don't feel like fighting today--for reasons that satisfy you. ( And if I were here to try the 'but-I-helped-you-yesterday argument', you could, rationally, tell me that if it creates an obligation in you to give me a hand today, then helping me would not be a favor; it would be re-payment of sorts.)

Conversely, there are several ways you could respond which would be irrational. But let's just say that you tell me that you are not going to help me because I won't agree with you not to run my air conditioner at a setting that I find satisfactory. (Bear in mind that helping me means helping me not get killed!)

In these examples, what I am getting at is a sort of ratio between the request for help and the response. Clearly, the first set of examples are all rational, even if we do not agree with the end result. (We might want to say that there is some other consideration which would overcome the denial of help. That would exceed the narrow limits I have set for myself here.) But what reasonable relation can there be between help in an unfair fight and the setting of an air conditioner such that your agreement to help me can (and ought to) be predicated upon my agreement to run my air conditioner at a setting that you approve of. Rationally speaking, can't you help me in the fight and table the discussion of the air conditioner for now? It seems to me irrational for you tacitly to assert that I can only save my life by setting my air conditioner in accordance with your demand.

Now, if John Kerry is correct, then our (traditional) allies are being a bit irrational in predicating their refusal to join us upon our refusal to sign Kyoto. What is the rational connection between clean air (assuming the fairness of Kyoto's stipulations) and a fight against people who fly jets into skyscrapers, slice people's heads off, take hostage children in schools and kill them, and so on? It would be more rational to come to our aid and table Kyoto for now. If our (traditional) allies are going to be this irrational about the matter, then we shouldn't bother ourselves about them.

The unanswered question here is this. Is Kerry right about all this? Is he really saying that our (traditional) allies are this irrational? Frankly, I don't think he has reflected adequately upon the matter. I believe he stopped thinking as soon as he came up with something he could throw at Bush and didn't bother thinking through any of the implications. And if he does believe all this and, furthermore, believes that our so-called allies are justified in this sort of reasoning, then his priorities are screwy. Clean air over the physical lives of your supposed allies? Is he serious?

Perhaps the US should sign Kyoto. But in order, now, for the US to sign Kyoto there must be a US. And at this point, in order for there to be a US, the US must win the present conflict against terrorists. Otherwise Kyoto will be moot, since there won't be a US pumping impurities into the air. Perhaps that's what these so-called allies really want. Well, that's what Kerry seems to think.

As for me, I believe those who have argued that these so-called allies have other, economic, interests which simply are not served by joining the war in Iraq. And I certainly don't fault these nations for acting in their economic self-interest. But I do believe that they have sacrificed other, long term, interests. They will pay dearly for it, unless they get help from us again--this time against Islamo-facists, who seem to be taking--without a fight no less--what they could not take by arms in the eighth century. (Thank you Charles Martel!) Of course, Europeans were a whole different breed back then.

At any rate, if these allies are going to make their decisions so irrationally, then we shouldn't worry about doing whatever it might take to bring them to the table. Kerry's conviction that he can, and should, bring these people into the conflict in Iraq by the US's signing onto Kyoto, and whatever other terms they may wish to dictate, is a sign of his own irrationality. He and these so-called allies of ours are well-suited to each other.


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James Frank Solís
Former soldier (USA). Graduate-level educated. Married 26 years. Texas ex-patriate. Ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.
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