Monday, May 25, 2009

Dr. Dolittleism in Foreign Policy

Last Saturday morning I happened to catch glimpse of a cartoon called The Replacements while reading the paper. By the time I had walked in on the episode, the two main characters, a brother and sister, were talking about the brother's bullying problem. At one point the sister exclaimed "Well, I'm going to show you that everyone can be reasoned with" and proceeded to let into the brother's bedroom the very bully he had been complaining about. The sister walked out of the room, to let them "work it out", and then the bully proceeded to beat the brother out of his senses.

The lesson is obvious: not everyone can be reasoned with. It is obviously very typical of a children's cartoon for characters to be characterized as astoundingly ignorant in some way, if just in only one area of knowledge. In this case, the sister was portrayed as being ignorant of the psychological workings of a vicious bully, even going so far as to letting a bully into her home to beat her brother within the confines of his own bedroom, all under the pretense that it was the logical thing to do in order to solve the bullying problem. Though there is something more tragic than this fictional situation: the ignorance of the sister has a very real counterpart in uncartoon-like people, the people in charge of handling U.S. foreign policy.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran, has announced the successful testing of a long-range missile capable of traveling 1,200 miles. This should be unnerving news for any possible targets within that range, but then again, why should anyone be surprised? As of far, nobody has done anything productive to actually try and stop Iran, and other hostile nations, from developing such weapons. Of course, unless you take into account diplomacy and count that as "productive".

Truth be told, when negotiating with dictatorships, diplomacy has never worked and will never work. The error committed with diplomacy is the same error the sister above has made: believing everyone is capable of being reasoned with. To be more exact on a philosophic level, the error is a failure to distinguish between human-like animals and actual humans.

In the context of all the evidence we have available to us, the distinguishing characteristic of humans, the characteristic that distinguishes humans from other types of animals, is that humans possess the faculty of reason, the faculty which can focus on reality and integrate and retain knowledge on a wider scale than any other animal. A wild animal's mind can only work with instinctual knowledge and memorized actions. Humans can go beyond that by learning the nature of reality itself, rather than just merely acting within reality, and can develop their minds indefinitely, up until death.

Keeping this in mind, it is literally possible for a human to retrogress into an animal. No, not in the sort of science-fiction fashion where a man will walk into a machine at one end and come out a chimpanzee the other. A man ceases to be a man when he dispenses with his distinguishing characteristic, his faculty of reason, and therefore his mind. A mindless man is an animal.

The men who maintain and control dictatorships are men that have dispensed with rationality in the belief that it is irrational to treat men as rational. They have given up on trying to deal with men with logical persuasion, that is, reasoned arguments, and have instead resorted to the only option left: brute, physical force. There are no other alternatives.

A consequent implication of man's distinguishing characteristic is that it leads to the conclusion that rational persuasion as the proper way to deal with other men; a consequent implication of other animals' lack of a faculty of reason is that the only way for them to deal with other animals is by physical force. Humans use mind; animals use violence.

It goes without saying how humans have, and must, deal with animals. Despite all your protests, your pet dog will not stay where you want him to without being retrained on a leash. Despite all the PETA advertisements about how meat is murder, a lion will not be persuaded to cease eating meat, and killing to get it. Despite all the talking you do, a cockatiel will never understand the conversation.

It may be difficult to tell when a human has ceased being a human, but the moment comes when a person ceases to think and refuses to think. It is important to note that the actual refusal to think is an important aspect. By refusing to think, the person has given up his mind and rationality, and therefore his humanity, literally. When that has happened it does not necessarily follow that the person must be dealt with by force, only when he decides to use force, but it does follow that he can only be persuaded like an animal can: emotionally. All the logic in the world will not make such a person agree with you unless what you say stir his emotions so.

This is why diplomacy with hostile dictatorships will not work. Those in charge of a dictatorship have reduced themselves to the level of an animal. Certainly they do pretend to act like humans and may even convince themselves that they are human, but it is not so. By making violence as the rule to deal with people they follow the law of the jungle not the law of the city.

We can already see what fruit diplomacy has bore. That is, none. No matter all the chastising, negotiating, and agreements that goes on, nothing less will impede those that operate on violence than the *only way* they leave themselves open to be dealt with. They are impervious to being chastised because they have given up their mind and therefore the only thing that could grasp the rationale behind the chastising. Negotiation never satisfies them because of the nature of compromise between good and evil: in a compromise in moral issues, good loses absolutely and evil wins absolutely as well as being encouraged to demand more compromises. Agreements are non-binding to them because "the end justifies the means"; they have lost belief in reason and only use it as a means to duping others into going along with them.

So long as our Dr. Dolittle politicians fail to distinguish between how to properly deal with a human and how to properly deal with a human-like animal, these human-like animals will be able to develop their power. For such an error, we may pay the price.

Edit: Changed Doolittle to Dolittle.


khartoum said...

Great post!

When a person ceases to use his distinguishing characteristic, the faculty of reason, he ceases to be Man. A point well put.

Grames said...

Animals have a certain nobility in their muteness, their inability to deceive, their inability to be other than what they are. To anthropomorphize them for a moment, they act as person would with an infallible integrity. Dictator is then not even like an animal, but a new thing, a monster.

Benpercent said...

khartoum: Thanks!

Grames: That's an incredibly interesting observation.