Monday, August 16, 2004

Free Will and Michael Moore

Some days ago, I caught Michael Moore on Bill O'Reilly's show. In the at times uncivil discussion, Moore asked O'Reilly a question: "Would you be willing to sacrifice your son for Fallujah?" OReilly was taken aback, but answered, "No", then added he would be willing to sacrifice himself. That question would take any parent by surprise (who would want their beloved child to die under any circumstances??), and at the time I thought O'Reilly handled it well. Now, through Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping, there is a link to someone who spent more time considering an answer than I did, and who has some thoughtful and important points to make. Moore's question is:

... a rhetorical device and not a substantial question at all. This is true in four aspects.
First, it has the high standard of "sacrifice." No normal parent is prepared to sacrifice his child for any reason or objective, including military objectives. The same could be said of any desirable objective. Would you, for example, sacrifice your child to expand health care to the uninsured? Or even ... to save the life of another of [your] children? It is hard to imagine any objective for which one would sacrifice one's child.
...Second, the question is addressed to the wrong person. All [members of the armed forces] are adult men and women in their own right. And it is they, not their parents, who choose to serve in the armed forces.
...Third, the objective of Fallujah's pacification is too narrowly stated. Would anyone [even] enlist for the specific purpose of keeping supply convoys moving into Baghdad? Or to open a road to a dusty town? Or to pacify a town or the occupants of a house? Or to be killed by friendly fire? Many young Americans have lost their lives in just such ways. But these are tasks incidental to the larger purpose of military service: protecting the interests of the United States.
...Finally, the question ignores the issue of consequences. We all know that the full consequences of our decisions are impossible to predict. So are the consequences of our indecisions. If there are risks and sacrifices entailed by action, there are also risks and sacrifices entailed by inaction.

Even more so now, I think O'Reilly's answer was brilliant. I would never presume to make that choice for my daughter when she becomes an adult. At some point in her life she will make the decision whether to serve her country and participate in the military or not. She talks now about going to the Naval Academy and becoming a Marine like her Grandfather was in WWII (when she's not talking about becoming a professional soccer player). Whatever she does; whatever she thinks; it will be her choice and her thoughts--not mine. Do you see the error in thinking implicit in Moore's question now? He does not believe that people have free will. If it were up to him, he wouldn't tell them to go sacrifice themselves in Iraq only because he doesn't believe in that particular cause. He would consider their deaths worthwhile only in a cause he believed in.

This is the way every statist thinks--that your life, or your child's is at his/her disposal for whatever cause he happens to believe in. In a free country, everyone's life is his/her own, and they make that choice for themselves. If you join the all-volunteer military, you better be aware of the risks and obligations of that choice (even the various Military Reserves) or you shouldn't choose it. A soldier recuperating at Walter Reed who happened to be included in Michael Moore's movie without Moore obtaining his consent said:

"I'm not a child. We sent ourselves over there" as volunteers for a cause, he said. "It was all our own doing. I don't appreciate him calling us children."

Neither do I.

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