October 08, 2006

Suicide Bombing

I'm watching Battlestar Gallactica right now and apparently the humans settled on a planet and then the cylons came and took over. Now, the humans are engaged in an insurgent war against the occupying robot critters. In this episode, the humans planned and executed a suicide bombing.

One of the insurgents pretended to join the cylon's human police force and, during the graduation ceremony, detonated his explosives and killed a bunch of would-be police and some cylons who probably just did their robot voodoo and came back in new bodies.

After this happened, the new president (formerly the vice president who constantly imagined seeing some blonde lady all the time) and the former president (who was having visions of snakes at one point a while back) were discussing it. Actually, the new president wanted the old president to make a public statement with him condemning the practice of suicide bombing.

I question the tactic of suicide bombing from the perspective of someone who holds his own life as his primary value. I could understand it in a situation where life isn't worth living, but in all those situations, I don't know how a person would also have access to explosives and enough freedom to plot doing that.

More simply: if you can plan and execute a suicide bombing, there are undoubtedly more effective tactics you could employ that do not involve killing yourself. Why not plant your explosives on one of the traitors and blow him up? Suicide just isn't the only, final option to an individual in that situation.

But as a war tactic, assuming that there were some rational reason for the individuals who do it, I really don't see a problem with it.

When it comes to war, I think people should be very, very cautious to start one. But once started, I think people should shed all hesitation and completely and utterly destroy their enemies without mercy and by any means necessary.

If something is worth starting a war over, you should act like you mean it.

Also, can someone tell me why the hot guy on Battlestar Gallactica was allowed to get so fat?

Posted by: Flibbertigibbet at 05:17 AM | Comments (8) | Add Comment
Category: In the News
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1 Actually he didn't get fat. They are using makeup and a fat suit to make him look fat. It is part of the plotline. He'll be back to normal size later in the season.

Posted by: Don at October 08, 2006 07:18 AM (Exqmm)

2 I do not accept suicides as a legitimate war tactic--regardless of how rational the reasons maybe (e.g., fighting a dictatorship). And I'm certain that this tactic would not be consistent with the Objectivist ethics of a man being an end to himself.

I agree that in war, there should be no hesitation to obtaining victory. However, victory for who? For one's own self, primarily, and by extension, victory for one's country or army.

Suicide as a tactic is antithetical to that because you simply have to ask "suicide to what end? To whose end?" If one is fighting a war to win, presumably its because one wants to experience life in a certain way for which he is fighting. But, if suicide is his intent, then it is clear that he is fighting not for himself but for some other end--i.e., primarily for the benefit of his country, family, for someone else to derive the benefit of his self-sacrifice.

Note, dying in war.. or willing to die in war is different from having a clear intent to commit suicide as a tactic of war. The former is heroic and worthy of praise. One can be willing to die in war as a legitimate possibility of waging war. However, the main intent is not to die but to win and live. A suicider's main intent is not to win and live but to die--simply die, for a victory he will never know of.

Employing suicide as a tactic of war--like the Japanese Kamikaze pilots--is a reflection of a disgusting philosophy of self-sacrifice (of the ultimate kind) for an end that one will never live to experience, which one willfully chooses as a legitimate claim upon his own life for the benefit of an end that is someone else or something else.

Suicides as such is unacceptable. Rand, I think in AS said, a thing more disgusting than a man committing suicide is the man who advocates it as legitimate.

Posted by: Ergo at October 08, 2006 10:50 AM (kj9AT)

3 P.S. that's not an exact quote.. I took it from memory, though the idea is the same.

Posted by: Ergo at October 08, 2006 10:51 AM (kj9AT)

4 I wonder why I bothered writing two paragraphs questioning the act of suicide as a rational fighting technique.

If anyone can remind me of its relevance to this discussion, I would be quite pleased indeed.

I'm already QUITE happy that hot guy isn't actually a great big fat person now.

Posted by: Trey Givens at October 08, 2006 04:21 PM (hSSAt)

5 I'm sorry, Ergo, that comment was sarcastic and rude.

Please re-read my post. I took the time to point out that I do NOT see a situation in which suicide would be a legitimate fighting technique for the very reasons you gave at some length.

The scope of my post is not an analysis of suicide as such, but merely in the context of war, and so whether or not it is legitimate as a combat technique.

So, my argument is this: If there were a reason that suicide were rational, then it would be ok to do it in fighting a war.

I actually said, "But as a war tactic, assuming that there were some rational reason for the individuals who do it, I really don't see a problem with it."

Therefore, if there is no rational reason for individuals to commit suicide, then it is not rational to use it as a combat technique.


I'm not advocating suicide or suicide bombing without the proper rational context and it's slightly irritating to drop the context of my entire post to present a counter-argument that I've addressed.

Posted by: Trey Givens at October 08, 2006 04:28 PM (hSSAt)

6 I think there *are* situations in which it would be rational to commit suicide, and therefore, to do so as a combat tactic. The person in question had lost his wife to a Cylon raid in one of the "webisodes" that SciFi released prior to the start of season 3. Losing his wife made life not worth living. As I understand it, the fundamental question to ask oneself is whether or not life is worth living; if the answer is yes, the Objectivist ethics follows. If the answer is no, though, the only rational choice is to end it. As such, it was rational for him to commit suicide. In this case, why not do so as a means to others ends, if you too value those ends? (although, at this point, I am not sure whether the concept of value still applies, since if one does not choose to live, there is no standard by which to measure value any longer -- any ideas?)

It's like if you were in a room with others that was slowly filling with water. You are all going to die, unless one of you shuts off some valve that will result in your death, but save everyone else. Should everyone die, just so no one sacrifices? Granted, no one should be *forced* to sacrifice; but would it be *immoral* to volunteer? I argue no, since morality is a guide for how to live; given death, that code is no longer applicable.

So, does my argument imply supererogative actions? i.e., "heroic" actions that are above and beyond the requirements of morality?

It is worth noting that Rand herself said she would take a bullet for her husband, since she did not think life would be worth living without him.

Any comments would be appreciated.

Posted by: Justin at October 10, 2006 04:33 AM (ToYLF)

7 The problem is that you have no "ends" beyond the point of your own death. As Ergo points out, you have to ask why dying in this case provides the greater value to you.

In the case of leaping in front of a speeding bullet to save the person you love, the decision is made in a split second between the following alternatives: life with or life without that person.

Because this person is of such extremely high value to one's own life, keeping them alive is the only way one can selfishly fulfill one's obligation to one's self even if that means one dies. The alternative, of course, being that actions to the contrary would mean achieving something of lower value (a life without his love) at the expense of something higher (the life of his love.) which is morally reprehensible.

In the example of drowning to turn off the water, the options are 1) turn off the water, die, but save all the other people 2) hope someone else turns off the water but maybe die because they suck and you're a wuss.

In the case of the suicide bomber who has lost his wife, he would have made the same decision, but is not presented with the context in which to make it. Instead he is confronted by life without her and must decide how to live.

I suppose that if one is living in extreme pain due to terminal illness and death is, within the context of present scientific advancement, inevitable, then suicide/euthanasia could be morally acceptable since the alternative is life doped up on pain killers and numb to the world. The question there is certainly as you put it, Justin, whether or not life is worth living. I suppose, it is possible to imagine other hopelessly doomed and insufferable conditions where death is emminent and suicide is preferrable than merely waiting it out in torture.

I am not able to project a situation in which the loss of love presents a similarly intolerable situation, though. And that isn't the situation in the show.

In the case of the show, we're talking about able-bodied people who are grief-striken and oppressed. The actions they take should still hold their own indivudal lives as their primary value.

Posted by: Trey Givens at October 10, 2006 06:33 AM (TGk/b)

8 I don't see suicide bombings as inherently immoral. As with so much, it depends on the context. If a truly human existence is not possible than such could be a legitimate tactic of war if the situation is truly helpless. However, the circumstances of BSG do not warrant such a tactic. It has only been four months of the Cylon occupation and everyone knows that Adama's fleet still exists somewhere. Four months would not be a long enough time to give up hope for a rescue. So the guy that killed himself b/c of his wife's loss was acting selflessly, IMO.

But I think its pointless to argue this. BSG is a really entertaining show but it is totally frakin liberal and the liberal politics is getting worse by the episode. It seems that the entire premise of the occupation plot arc is a critique of the Bush Administration. I have a feeling that they are going to end up with the idea that no side is really better than the other; moral equivalency run amok.

Maybe they will suprise me, but I doubt it.

Posted by: D Eastbrook at October 13, 2006 06:24 PM (jWCY6)

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