Himmler, Mark Shea and False Equivalence

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false-equivalence-jesus-and-hitler

False Equivalence-A common way for this fallacy to be perpetuated is one shared trait between two subjects is assumed to show equivalence, especially in order of magnitude, when equivalence is not necessarily the logical result. False equivalence is a common result when an anecdotal similarity is pointed out as equal, but the claim of equivalence doesn’t bear because the similarity is based on oversimplification or ignorance of additional factors. The pattern of the fallacy is often as such: If A is the set of c and d, and B is the set of d and e, then since they both contain d, A and B are equal. d is not required to exist in both sets; only a passing similarity is required to cause this fallacy to be able to be used.

 

Oh good.  I was afraid that we would miss on the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima Mark Shea’s usual histrionics:

 

Or the rhetoric of those who champion the incineration of thousands of civilians for the Greater Good:

If nuking these cities was a major U.S. war crime, illicit under international law and Church teaching, then we are put in the position of demanding a higher price in blood to salve our consciences. There are times in real life when one must commit a wrong in order to avoid an even greater wrong. These instances arise frequently in wartime. Another example: the terrorist who must be “tortured” in order to find out where the bombs are.

Jimmy, you’re right when you say that we were participating formally in evil when we dropped the bomb. Unfortunately, our participation in evil began almost four years earlier when we entered the war. This is the nature of war. There is much, much evil in it, and we do ourselves a disservice when through our well-meaning but futile efforts to mitigate its evil we prolong it and make it even worse.

What ties each of these stories together is perverted courage. For instance, note the sick logic at work in Himmler’s remarks: the willingness to commit murder is transmuted, in Himmler’s diabolical imagination, into a brave act of self-sacrifice. He consoles the SS soldiers by telling them they are tough men willing to do the dirty work of war. They don’t moralistically refuse to do acts that risk hell but bravely undertake the work of sinning gravely for a higher cause. They have the guts softer men lack to butcher thousands of innocent Jews and are willing to endure this hardship—the psychological trauma that goes with doing monstrous evil—for the sake of the love of country without looking for any loopholes.

Myers uses the same curious rhetoric of bravery to undergird his stirring defense of his Kermit Gosnell view of life – which also turns out to be a stirring defense of the Dr. Josef Mengele view of life. These men, like Myers, were “unafraid” to reduce millions of other, slightly older, human beings to “pieces of meat”. Once again, the language of “courage” and “bravery” is deployed to describe the embrace of grave evil.

And it doesn’t stop there. The Croatian butcher likewise speaks of his monstrous evils in tones indistinguishable from Milton’s Satan. As though the filthy charnelhouse he helped to staff was an act of noble rebellion against an unjust God whom he had no choice but to defy, what with His simplistic ideas of “just war” that get in the way of what Needs to Be Done to Win. He speaks of his participation in slaughter as a beautiful act of patriotism that none but the bravest could undertake. Sure, he’ll go to hell for it. God is unjust! But our brave soul will spend his eternity in Hell secure in the notion that He Did the Right Thing.

This is much of a muchness with our last quotation from an American who argues (like ever so many Americans) that God asks far too much when he imposes Just War criteria on us and seriously expects us to believe that not even we can directly intend the mass slaughter of innocent human life. This reader doesn’t mess around with pretenses that Hiroshima and Nagasaki weren’t violations of Just War teaching. Instead he simply declares that God is wrong, we are right, and we have to have the courage to just go ahead and do monstrous evil because it’s the Right Thing to Do and God is a fool to say otherwise. You must “commit a wrong in order to avoid an even greater wrong.”

 

Go here to read the rest.  Mark, a respectful suggestion.  Before mining history to support your positions, you might want to learn a bit of it, especially before making apples and rock salt comparisons.

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40 Comments

  1. So Shea thinks we should have taken an additional million casualties so he can feel better about his countrymen? Do I have that right

  2. The toughest thing the fat man ever had to do was push himself away from the kitchen table. Monday morning quarterbacks get paid zip.

  3. Ken, he does not do the toughest thing you say he does for if he did, then he would avoid surrending to that one particular of the seven deadly sins that causes his condition. And having surrendered to one, surrender to others – wrath against Conservatives and Pride in one’s own flawed thinking – follows as surely as the night does the day. This criticism would not be leveled if a certain pompous blogmeister would at least acknowledge that he is not the divine dispenser of apostolic wisdom.

  4. One of the problems with this whole you can’t do that! It’s immoral/atrocious/criminal line of thought (besides the whole isn’t war is organized immorality/atrocity/criminality question begging I mean) is that it renders ideas about just war and self defense futile. So, say Putin decides to take back everything that used be behind the Iron Curtain, and he’s prepared to use nuclear weapons to do it. Are we supposed to let him? Apparently yes. Because using nukes is always wrong/bad and you can’t do a wrong/bad thing, even to achieve a good end.
    .
    That’s not to say that A-bombing Japan was a good thing. Only that it was the least bad choice among a range of increasingly worse ones.
    .
    And if that seems too worldly, as perhaps it is, then it further seems to me that Ghandi had the right of it after all: All of Europe should have marched happily into that Nazi death camps and trusted in God to change the hearts of men.

  5. Mark Shea is the Catholic blogosphere’s version of Jon Stewart.

    It is a waste of time to point out the militarization of the Japanese population. It is a waste of time to point out that the firebombing of Tokyo and other Japanese cities were deadlier than Fat Man and Little Boy. It is a waste of time to point out that President Truman’s job was to end the war as fast as possible with as few American casualties as possible.

    I don’t know this for sure, but I doubt Mark Shea has spent little or no time with war veterans from the Pacific Theater.

    the LAST think I want to hear from Mark Shea, given his distaste for traditional Catholics, is a lecture about Just War or anything else. St. Thomas Aquinas did not live in the 20th century and did not face the monstrorus evils that existed in the 20th century.

  6. I would think that the surviving Jews of Europe would be insulted to be compared as equivalent to the Japanese who material supported their war effort. That is exactly what Mark Shea is doing with his word games.

  7. I would argue that destroying a city to kill one soldier is immoral, but destroying a military base with one civilian among 100,000 enemy soldiers is acceptable(would Mark Shea agree with the second statement? ). Somewhere in between, a line is crossed. I think a debate about that line would be very illuminating for this argument. It would at least tell us a lot about Mr Shea.

  8. Or to rephrase, what proportion of combatant/non combatant defines a location as a valid military target vs off limits/war crime?

  9. For myself, I’d like for one of these titans of moral insight to tell us we should have done in 1945 instead of telling us why what we did do was wrong.
    .
    Just once

  10. MikeS wrote, “I would argue that destroying a city to kill one soldier is immoral, but destroying a military base with one civilian among 100,000 enemy soldiers is.”

    Take the case of the Lusitania. She was carrying contraband of war (a small cargo of arms). Was topedoing her justified?

  11. Penguins Fan said it. He’s Jon Stewart. What does anyone really expect from him? A wise professor once told me to always ask who’s ox is getting gored. If Mark Shea’s was the life that was spared by Truman’s decision, something tells me he would have a different view of the matter.

  12. MPS,

    I believe the traditional answer would be if there were proportionate reasons. Sinking the Lusitania would likely not meet that criteria as the death of a large number of civilians could not be justified by destroying a small arms shipment. If there were a small number of civilians on a freighter carrier munitions, aviation fuel etc., that would be different.

  13. For myself, I’d like for one of these titans of moral insight to tell us we should have done in 1945 instead of telling us why what we did do was wrong.

    Well, you can go on his site and ask. The following will take place: (1) one of his pet pit bulls will make rude and snide remarks in reply, (2) Shea himself will issue a denunciation of you in the comments section or a succeeding post, and (3) all of your remarks will be deleted. About the most patient description of the quality of his commentary on any subject was offered just the other day by a competing blogger: “Shea’s signal-to-noise ratio [has] long since dipped below the level I’m prepared to deal with”.

  14. “I wrote about this some time ago (here) saying that I thought it had been a mistake for the movement against abortion to adopt the term “pro-life.” Not that it’s not accurate, and not that I don’t understand the rationale for it. But it invites the response which it regularly gets: “You’re not truly pro-life, because you don’t support [some other cause] in addition to your own.” The other causes can be anything that the speaker believes to be good for people, or for that matter for animals, or the entire planetary ecosystem.

    For reasons that are obscure to me, this tactic is used even by some people who are actually anti-abortion. I can only conjecture that they are so repelled by the right-wing associations of the pro-life movement that they want to distance themselves from it. A few weeks ago, for instance, I saw a link to a piece by Catholic blogger Mark Shea that appeared to suggest that insufficient concern about gun violence disqualifies one from calling oneself pro-life. I say “appeared to suggest” because I didn’t read more than a few sentences, Shea’s signal-to-noise ratio having long since dipped below the level I’m prepared to deal with; the link appeared on my Facebook feed because someone I know had commented on it. Then a few days ago he pointed out that you aren’t truly pro-life if you don’t consider illegal immigrants to be human.

    I dare say that almost all pro-lifers are opposed to the use of guns in settling disputes or committing crimes, and believe immigrants, legal or otherwise, to be human. But it doesn’t matter. The tactic is so tempting that those who use it often don’t even seem to care whether the charge is true. I.e., the thing they say pro-lifers should support (or oppose) is often something that many or most of them do in fact support (or oppose), although perhaps not embracing the specific solution proposed by the leftist who is the usual accuser. But it does seem to be an effective way of changing the subject, at least for those who want to change it, and of putting the anti-abortion side on the defensive.”

    http://www.lightondarkwater.com/2015/08/pro-life-vs-anti-abortion.html

  15. “For myself, I’d like for one of these titans of moral insight to tell us we should have done in 1945 instead of telling us why what we did do was wrong.”

    And also explain why such an outrage against Catholic morality was apparently missed by the entire hierarchy of the Church.

  16. Since I refuse to go to Shea’s website can someone give a brief description of how Shea brings Planned Parenthood into this? I remember reading on another blog a year or two ago the argument that there is a direct link between the bombings and Roe v. Wade, and I am wondering if Shea was trying that same historically ignorant approach.

  17. For Brian English:
    It can roughly be approximated as, “it took false courage for the Nazis to massacre Jews, it takes false courage for PP to dismember children and it took false courage for us to drop the bombs.”
    He also sets up a straw man who says that all war is evil anyway, so the bombs weren’t any worse.

  18. Oh, and another logical fallacy is the agumentum ad hominem.

    I think Mark is a putz most of the times on most issues. That does not mean he is wrong this time. In fact, the responses I see are the same type of crazed bile that *Mark* is usually noted for. And still, none can square the bombings with Church teaching, and simply repeat the mantra that “a million” were saved, which, even if true (I do not grant it: the Pentagon only predicted 50k casualties, but we can never know), would not justify incinerating Grandma, Grandpa, and little Suzy in order to terrorize the Jap government into surrendering. It’s profoundly immoral to kill innocent people in order to get a bad guy to stop doing bad things. That’s what it all boils down to stripped of the verbal vomit.

  19. (I do not grant it: the Pentagon only predicted 50k casualties, but we can never know),

    You continue to promote this fraud. There isn’t a judge in Virginia who should take a word out of your mouth at face value.

  20. Tom, your last post was really crippled by that 50k comment. It is simply not true as a realistic estimate. Your inclusion of it shows you are in denial about the realities.

    And to repeat: do you think starving Grandma, Grandpa, and little Suzy to death in order to force (terrorize is a word reserved for the innocent) the ‘Jap’ government into surrendering during a 1945-46 blockage is not profoundly immoral?

  21. Can someone point me to one respected moral theologian who has concluded that the bombing was morally right?

  22. Judging from the attitude of the American people, I’d suggest that their “respected moral theologian” in this case is named Harry Truman. WJ, can you name any “respected moral theologian” who has written about the atomic bombings who was slated to participate in Operation Olympic? Oh, and I’d put Father Wilson Miscamble up against any “respected moral theologian” you’d care to name.

    Go to the links below to see an example of why I put “respected moral theologian” in quotes:

    https://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/ctsa-considers-resolution-contraception-mandate

    http://ncronline.org/news/faith-parish/theological-society-backs-vatican-criticized-nun

    http://www.cardinalnewmansociety.org/CatholicEducationDaily/DetailsPage/tabid/102/ArticleID/3523/Prof-Explains-Controversial-History-of-Catholic-Theological-Society-of-America.aspx

    http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/resources/life-and-family/sexuality-contraception/reluctance-among-clergy-to-speak-about-the-catholic-sexual-ethic/

    https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2014/08/in-the-wake-of-heroic-theology

    In practice the Catholic Theological Society of America is, in the main, merely a left wing pressure group.

  23. Tom,

    In the past I would be inclined to agree with you. Given the information on the conscription of most of the population of Japan, one is inclined at least to give ear to those who would look at Japan as one large island fortress. The Church has never declared that there can be no civilian casualties in battles. Thus the poor grandmothers and babies line is subject to criticism.

    As TomD intimates, a blockade would also be immoral (JPII declared the sanctions on Iraq were immoral and asked they be lifted due to the effects on ordinary people.) An invasion would likely have cost huge numbers of casualties and at some level lend itself to the question of its morality. That leaves us with negotiating peace with a Japan militarized in a total war mindset and in control of foreign territories.

  24. “That leaves us with negotiating peace with a Japan militarized in a total war mindset and in control of foreign territories.”
    And as Don McClarey has pointed out over and over, in control of the monthly murders of tens of thousands of civilian citizens of nations were had agreed to fight for. A failure of responsibility to force Japan to surrender would be seen today as complicity in these civilian deaths of our Allies. There is no denying it.

  25. Tom D wrote, “A failure of responsibility to force Japan to surrender would be seen today as complicity in these civilian deaths of our Allies. There is no denying it.”

    We must not confuse foresight with intention, which is at the root of most of the moral dilemmas posed by consequentialists.

    Miss Anscombe details the result of such confusion, “Christianity forbids a number of things as being bad in themselves. But if I am answerable for the foreseen consequences of an action or refusal, as much as for the action itself, then these Prohibitions will break down. If someone innocent will die unless I do a wicked thing, then on this view I am his murderer in refusing: so all that is left to me is to weigh up evils. Here the theologian steps in with the principle of double effect and says: “No, you are no murderer, if the man’s death was neither your aim nor your chosen means, and if you had to act in the way that led to it or else do something absolutely forbidden.” Without understanding of this principle, anything can be–and is wont to be– justified, and the Christian teaching that in no circumstances may one commit murder, adultery, apostasy (to give a few examples) goes by the board. These absolute prohibitions of Christianity by no means exhaust its ethic; there is a large area where what is just is determined partly by a prudent weighing up of consequences. But the prohibitions are bedrock, and without them the Christian ethic goes to pieces.”

  26. “But if I am answerable for the foreseen consequences of an action or refusal, as much as for the action itself, then these Prohibitions will break down.”

    Ah, but the Church has always taught that we are just as responsible for sins of omission as sins of commission. “For what I have done and what I have failed to do.” is not merely a string of words we recite at Mass. That is precisely the Hiroshima Dilemma that Ms. Anscombe attempted to “solve” by simply ruling out the potential sin of omission clearly involved. Clever, but ultimately unconvincing, at least to me, especially if we had chosen what she assumed was the moral course, ignoring the clearly foreseeable consequences, and millions more had died as a result.

  27. Donald R McClarey wrote, “Ah, but the Church has always taught that we are just as responsible for sins of omission as sins of commission…”

    But a sin of omission requires a positive duty to perform a particular act in all the circumstances of the case. Thus, St Alphonsus gives the case of a man who jumps to his death off the top of a burning building. His intention is to escape the flames; his death is merely the foreseen, but unintended consequence. Now, the prohibition of suicide is absolute, but the duty to preserve one’s life is not, so his choice is a legitimate one (S Alphonsus Liguori, Theologia moralis, lib. III, tractatus IV, cap. I, 367) Another example would be giving a dose of an analgesic to a patient sufficient to prevent his suffering, even though its foreseeable effect is also to terminate life.

    Cases where it is not permissible not to do x are very rare.

    Of course, the principle of Double Effect can be abused; thus, Miss Anscombe rejects several examples drawn from the Jesuit casuists, “that it is all right for a servant to hold the ladder for his criminous master so long as he is merely avoiding the sack by doing so; or that a man might wish for and rejoice at his parent’s death so long as what he had in mind was the gain to himself; or that it is not simony to offer money, not as a price for the spiritual benefit, but only as an inducement to give it.” All these were condemned by Innocent XI.

  28. “But a sin of omission requires a positive duty to perform a particular act in all the circumstances of the case.”

    Indeed? If an assailant is killing my family, I doubt if I have a duty to intervene, but I have no doubt that it would be a great sin if I did not. Additionally, let us say that I kill not only the assailant, but also his friends who are cheering him on and might pose a threat to my family. I perhaps have committed a crime in doing so, but have I sinned? Under the circumstances I think not. This is not as clear a moral area as Ms. Anscombe mistakenly thought.

  29. “We must not confuse foresight with intention, which is at the root of most of the moral dilemmas posed by consequentialists.”
    Thank you Don, for showing that the distinction between foresight and intention is not a clear cut as some would think. I could rattle off many examples of people and indeed nations taken to task over their intentions when the issue is really one of foresight. The philosophers’ distinction hardly matters to politicians and their supporters. It should, but it often doesn’t.

  30. I”Cases where it is not permissible not to do x are very rare.”

    MPS, I would submit that the case of it being not permissible to not do the necessary acts to end the Japanese murders of Chinese and other civilians in 1945 would be one of the rare ones.

  31. Estimates are estimates. There was a wide divergence concerning the potential casualty figures for an invasion. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Downfall

    Obviously, it is impossible to know how many casualties would have been suffered, because there was no invasion. The 1 million assumes Don’s theory that the entire Japanese populace would have fought, a very unlikely occurrence in my opinion. Some would have, many or most would not have, or would have only done so reluctantly and ineffectively, like the boy soldiers of the Third Reich.

    In any event, it’s all immaterial, irrelevant, and beside the point, which is that under Christian moral reasoning, you cannot kill civilians as a direct war aim to attempt to induce surrender. That is doing a direct evil in order to bring about a good, something impermissible, for Christians anyway.

    The populace of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were not combatants in any sense of the word. Their direct murder to compel Japanese surrender was simply immoral.

  32. Tom D wrote, “I would submit that the case of it being not permissible to not do the necessary acts to end the Japanese murders of Chinese and other civilians in 1945 would be one of the rare ones.”

    That is far too widely framed. I am obliged to rescue a drowning man, but only if I can do so without imperilling my own safety.

    Again, a ship’s master is under a duty to pick up people in a lifeboat, but only if he would not endanger his own vessel, or risk the deterioration of his cargo or the loss of his market, by reason of diversion or delay.

    That is why I say that an absolute positive duty is so rare.

  33. “Again, a ship’s master is under a duty to pick up people in a lifeboat, but only if he would not endanger his own vessel, or risk the deterioration of his cargo or the loss of his market, by reason of diversion or delay.”

    Probably under nautical law. I doubt seriously that the Church would look at it in the same way.

  34. @MPS – Funny, when I read Matthew, I see that what separates the goats from the sheep and drives the former from the master’s sight is what the goats did NOT do, not what they did.

    Seems the Boss takes inaction as seriously as He takes actions.

  35. “That is far too widely framed. I am obliged to rescue a drowning man, but only if I can do so without imperilling my own safety. ”
    No, it is not too widely framed. We were at war. it is impossible to equate a violent and implacable human enemy with a body of water. The safety of our servicemen was already imperiled. The only way to avoid the peril would be to agree to a cease fire that would have negated the war aims.

  36. Tom D wrote, “The safety of our servicemen was already imperiled. “
    In absolving the government of the Netherlands for liability for the deaths of some 8,000 civilians at Srebrenica on11 July 1995, Larissa Alwin delivering the unanimous opinion of the International Court at the Hague on 16 July 2014, repeatedly stressed the paramount duty of military commanders to ensure the health and safety at work of the troops under their command and to carry out (and record) proper risk assessments to ensure that they operate in a safe working environment, “principals long enshrined in Public International Law and International Humanitarian Law.”
    By contrast and applying the same principals, the court found that, by cooperating in the deportation of some 300 men from the Dutch compound by Serbian forces, the Dutch acted unlawfully.
    Because troops are already, in some measure, “imperilled,” their government is not absolved from its duty of minimising that risk and every case will turn on its own facts.

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