Monday, August 09, 2004

Stop Birfurcating...

I had planned to start writing about more interesting things than war, but I remembered I had another pet beef - the Birfurcation Fallacy.

This was a favourite of that noxoious get Orwell - who, after going around claiming he was prepared to go underground to oppose the Second World War, started working for the propaganda services, and calling opponents of war fascifists. To him, all opponents of war were objectively pro-fascist.

The same sort of line is trotted out by the pro-war left, that the opponents of the Iraq war 'wanted to keep Saddam in power', or some varition thereto.

Obviously, that is not necessarily the case: the opponents of *that* war could well hae wanted to remove Saddam, even via *some* war, but merely disagreed with the means that were being employed on this occasion.

If I needed surgery, I might concur with that requirement, but might object to the proposed doctor. I would only have to accept that doctor if they were the only doctor who was available/could perform the operation.

But opposing war is not objectively pro the enemy. In the first instance, passive rejection, all the opponent is doing is failing to help one side or another. Obviously, when one side feels they need more resources, they may begin claiming that those who are not directly contributing to the capacity to wage war are acively holding it back. But, unless that capacity is being handed over to the other side it is not actively helping them.

'With us or against us' is merely a bully-stick to try and con people into joining one side against another. The reality, as any logician could tell you, is that if you are not with us, you are not with us. Whilst one may try and demonstrate instances of what failure to wage war may entail, as Kamm does here, that is a valid basis for argument. Obviously, Kamm believes in peace through superior firepower (perhaps I'll expand this thesis in another post).

This applies in other conflict situations, say, a strike. Scabs are not actively helping the boss, they are failing to suport the strike, they only start actively helping the boss when they start to organise scab buses, or persuade fellow workers to scab. Not helping, though, gives the appearance of actively assisting the enemy.

Even, though, someone who actively opposed the strike, is not necessarily working for the boss. A union member calling for a re-ballot, or a ballot to call off the strike, could be said to be pro-union, but agaqinst the strike for other reasons.

The lesson is, really, that it is not the headline position that counts, but the theoretical basis, and realistic consquences of a persons postion that matter, and that mudslinging can only confuse rather than refine debate.


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