Friday, August 31, 2012

Paul Ryan is no Objectivist

As soon as Paul Ryan was chosen to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential candidate, there was dialogue in both parties about how he was supposedly quite libertarian, to the point where he was inspired by Ayn Rand. If Paul Ryan was inspired by Ayn Rand, it is likely that upon finishing the reading of Atlas Shrugged he said "I want to grow up to be just like Wesley Mouch."

The weaker version of this argument comes from Republicans. They act as if simply mentioning that Paul Ryan has read Atlas Shrugged is sufficient to convince Ron Paul voters to abandon all principle and support the Romney/Ryan ticket, even though it is far from sufficient and Ron Paul supporters are not buying it. Then there are those who should know better. The Ayn Rand institute has an article on various statements made by Paul Ryan that would indicate that he leans that way, ignoring the rich history of conservatives saying one thing and doing another. Objectivism does not advocate ignoring reality, and the reality of Paul Ryan's voting record is something that should not be ignored.

There is a slightly stronger version of this argument from Democrats. Many of them also act as if simply mentioning that Paul Ryan has read Atlas Shrugged is sufficient to tar him as libertarian. But there are a few who are making a very interesting argument to try to support that accusation.

Their argument is based on the principle of rational self interest. They argue that, even though Paul Ryan’s voting record is antithetical to Objectivist principles, that same voting record is exactly the series of choices a person would make if he had the goal to rise through the ranks of his party.

It is true that, given a particular goal certain choices become inevitable if one actually wishes to achieve that goal. But there is a problem with that interpretation. Objectivism does not allow for seeking power over others as a rationally chosen goal. Nor would it advocate any goal that would lead to the choice to violate the rights of others as a means to achieve that goal.

Assuming the best about Paul Ryan, an assumption he does not deserve, the character then to compare him to would be Doctor Robert Stadler. In the novel, Dr. Stadler decided that the use of ignoble means was appropriate to achieve noble ends; specifically, to use politics to advance the quest for knowledge. It was that contradiction that eventually led to Dr. Stadler's downfall. But since Paul Ryan isn't up to the level of a Dr. Stadler, he has more in common with the Eugene Lawson, Chick Morrison, Wesley Mouch, and Mr. Thompson characters. One could say that Wesley Mouch made all the choices one would rationally choose if the desire is to become "economic dictator of the economy." But becoming "economic dictator of the economy" is not a rational choice.

Also, by that same logic, one could argue that Barack Obama made all the choices one would rationally choose if the desire is to rise through the ranks of a political party. He made all the right choices given his situation for one desiring to become president. But yet the argument is not made that Barack Obama is an Objectivist for that reason, and is in fact refused. The fact that the argument does not work both ways is proof that there is no genuine substance behind it, and that it is only a rationalization instead of a proof.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Russia Confronts Britain regarding Assange

Russia's Foreign Ministry has issued a statement today warning Britain against attacking the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, saying it was unthinkable for a nation to violate "the spirit and the letter" of the Vienna Convention, which makes diplomatic premises inviolable - This really is a fascinating situation on many levels, given the threat by members of the British government to use force to extricate Julian Assange from the Ecuadorean Embassy.

The first thing to notice is the role reversal involved given the cold war history between Great Britain and the United States on one side and Russia on the other in its former guise as the Soviet Union. It was the United States and allies that were considered the guardians of human rights and the protectors of international law. The western powers were those most involved in protecting the sanctity of the embassy against more despotic regimes. Granted, Russia is not the Soviet Union, but this is a situation that would cause uncomfortable feelings were politicians in Great Britain and the United States capable of feeling irony.

But there is more to this situation than this. The premise that the Russian officials are operating from is that they are actually warning their British counterparts against setting a precedent with undesirable results. Great Britain currently has residents that are claiming asylum, and a significant number of them are from Russia. The Russian government has asked for these people to be extradited, and the British government has refused.

If the British government breaches the sanctity of the Ecuadorian embassy, then the precedent set is that it is perfectly acceptable to use force to gain extradition of wanted fugitives from foreign lands. The Russian officials are saying "The British are saying it is acceptable to send troops in to foreign territory to apprehend people claiming asylum. The British has people claiming asylum in their territory. We have troops we can send to apprehend them."

What would the members of Parliament say if the Russians were willing to follow through on that threat to the final conclusion? Would they protest that this is somehow different? Actually, that does seem somewhat likely, as it appears the mindset of the United States Imperium is that international law is there to protect the Imperium and to punish those who resist.

If a third world war does break out, Britain and Russia would be on opposite sides making this a very dangerous game of brinkmanship. It will also encourage more countries from Latin America and South America to side against the United States Imperium. Venezuela is already opposed, and the residents of Columbia are being heavily punished for supplying a product that people in the United States are eager to purchase.

The only way this can end well is if the British government backs down. It would be an embarrassment to the United States, and the emperor has an image that needs to be maintained. This is a no-win situation for the western powers, unless one is willing to say that victory comes from being willing to descend to any level to get what one wants. Or perhaps the Russian officials, in making these veiled threats, are not intending to follow through.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Would India Fight Against Russia?

In response to Worst Case War Scenario the comment was made that a portion of the scenario was off because India would not fight against Russia.

It is true that, for a while during the Cold War, India and Russia were close to each other. This was a balance to closeness between Pakistan and the United States, which was part of an encircling attempt around Iran. This does not mean that India wouldn’t fight on the side of the United States in a worst case war scenario.

A key point in the scenario is that China and Russia are allies against the United States. However, there was a time during the Cold War, when China and the Soviet Union were very close to going to war against each other. That was part of the strategy behind President Nixon visiting China, as part of the plan to eventually pull out of Vietnam. By visiting China, President Nixon caused concern in the Soviet government that the United States and Chine might coordinate against the Soviet Union.

But as bitter enemies the United States and the Soviet Union were during the Cold War, they were allies during World War Two. The Cold War blossomed under President Truman as a way to justify intervening in Greece, turning a former ally into an enemy.

In World War Two, Germany and Japan were the main enemies of the United States. Today both are considered friendly countries. Germany in particular is now the anchor to the European Union with many former enemies.

Political alliances shift constantly. It is part of the nature of the game. Just because two governments were enemies doesn’t mean that they cannot shift to allies, and just because two governments were allies doesn’t mean that they cannot shift to enemies. George Orwell noticed this, which is why he included it in "1984" when he had Oceana constantly shift between alliance with Euraisa and alliance with Eastasia.

So, why would India side with the United States against Russia?

There exists tension between India on the one hand, and both Pakistan and China on the other. There has been concern at times that if nuclear war were to break out it would be in the Himalayan Mountain range, either between India and Pakistan or India and China. There is still disputed territory at the intersection of those countries, and religious conflict is particularly strong between the people of India and Pakistan. Plus, relations are souring between Pakistan and the United States while relations are improving between Pakistan and China.

If India were to intervene on the side of the United States, going against Russia would be incidental instead of purposeful. Just as Finland, by being an enemy of the Soviet Union, was an enemy of chance against Great Britain and the other allied powers, India would be fighting primarily against Pakistan and China and not primarily against Russia.

Pakistan and China would both be against the United States in that scenario. That would mean, even if India doesn’t intervene, that India would be closer to the side of the United States and therefore farther from the side of Russia. If India doesn’t intervene, that would make that country a silent ally instead of active ally of the United States, similar to the role played by Spain to Germany in World War Two.

Of all the parts of the scenario, that is the one with the lowest probability. Just because India would be favoring the United States and experiencing poor relations with both Pakistan and China doesn’t mean that intervention has to happen. The government of India has the least cause of all the countries mentioned in the scenario. That could mean that some sense would break out, the government of India could choose to sit out the war, and therefore emerge as very dominant in the area after China, Russia, and the United States finish tearing each other apart. But if it were to intervene, it would not be on the same side as China and Pakistan, and therefore on the opposite side of Russia.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Worst Case War Scenario

It is becoming increasingly likely that eventually either the government of the United States or the government of Israel will launch an attack against Iran. The current support for the Syrian rebels by President Obama is to undermine a mutual defense treaty between the governments of Syria and Iran that if either is attacked by the United States the other would respond. If the rebels take control of Syria, that isolates Iran from one more ally.

But if either the United States or Israel attacks Iran, not only will the other country be brought into the conflict, many other countries are poised to be brought into the conflict as well. The support that the government of the United States shows for the government of Israel has been a source of discontent in many other Middle Eastern countries.

If Israel attacks Iran, it would be with the understanding that the United States will support Israel against a counter-attack, thus proving the dangers of entangling alliances once again. As the Iranian military launches what counter-attacks they are capable of, the government of Israel will be calling upon the United States to save Israel from destruction.

If the United States launches an attack against Iran, Israel will likely be drawn in by popular sentiment among the peoples and government of the other countries in the area. Popular support no longer exists for the United States in most countries, and the various "Arab Spring" revolutions have not brought to power governments friendly to the United States. It would not be hard to imagine these new post-revolution countries retaliating against Israel for an attack by the United States against Iran.

A general war against many Middle-East countries is not the worst scenario though. The whole situation can get very bad very quickly if the governments of Russia and China get tired of provocations by the United States and come to the aid of Iran. The government of Iran has been carefully cultivating ties with both of those countries, and China in particular is very interested in more sources of petroleum.

It could start like Vietnam, with the armies of various countries supporting one side and armies of various countries supporting the other side. It would be a terrible war for the Persian people, with United States troops fighting Russian and Chinese troops on Persian soil, but there is no need to believe that the war would be maintained there.

With the United States so heavily engaged in Iran, the government of Pakistan would finally see an opportunity to act against the United States in retaliation from drone bombings. Working with the people of Afghanistan, the Pakistani military would also come to the support of Iran. China and Pakistan have been cultivating closer ties in an effort to put pressure on a mutual rival of India.

A general Muslim uprising coupled with Russian and Chinese support would force the call-up of the NATO allies. Britain would already be heavily involved because the United States is involved, but this would mobilize the militaries of several other countries, especially former Warsaw Pact members. In 2008 the government of Georgia tried to pull the United States into a conflict with Russia over the Georgian province of South Ossetia. The government of Russia saw the admittance of former Warsaw Pact and former Soviet Socialist Republics into NATO as a provocational encroachment.

Although the war would not be directly between NATO and Russia, the war would be directly between Europe and the Middle East. Many European countries are already experiencing difficulty assimilating immigrants, although it is politically incorrect to discuss the subject. These people would be easily made into scapegoats for the problems in various European countries, from Algerians in France to Pakistanis in England to Turks in Germany. A similar conflict might also occur in Australia.

The country with the most to lose at this point is Turkey. Straddling the border of Europe and the Middle East as it does, being a predominantly Muslim country with a secular government, already a NATO member and trying to gain entry into the European Union, a war between Europe and the Middle East spells disaster for Turkey no matter which side is chosen. Relations between Turkey and Israel have cooled significantly over the Gaza flotilla issue. While Turkey wouldn’t mind a weakened Iran, giving Turkey more influence in the Middle East, it is questionable if the population would support Turkey siding with Europe. Siding with the Middle East, on the other hand, would be in violation of both treaties and political objectives.

Finally, in the worst case scenario, tension between Pakistan and China on one side and India on the other brings India into the conflict on the side of the United States. Although that would be a great relief to the United States considering the population of India rivals that of China, it would in the long run only make the war worse for everyone. Plus North Korea might try to take advantage of the confusion to attack South Korea, although that would not work very well for North Korea. It could draw the United States into another front, fighting North Koreans and Chinese on the east side of Asia.

With the United States, Israel, India, and NATO on one side, and China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East on the other, this would be a devastating war. So devastating, in fact, that it is surprising that politicians in office today are still calling for action against Iran. This is not the only possible outcome, and might not even be the most likely outcome, but World War One was started by a complicated series of entangling alliances as well.