Editorial from Church & State, Summer 2008 (Number 93)
Morality And The Nation
The Hiroshima event usually pops into the news briefly at this time of the year. As a demonstration of the moral influence of brute force it must be judged an outstanding success.
Equally successful was the terror bombing of Dresden and many other German cities and towns a few months earlier.
The Japanese and the Germans have behaved themselves ever since. They have acted morally. That is to say they have acted in accordance with the will of their conqueror.
If in the secular world there is a source of morality other than the will of the conqueror, its existence has yet to be demonstrated. The lesson of Hiroshima and Dresden is that might is right and that the end justifies the means. The ideologists of the conquerors do not suggest that the incineration of hundreds of thousands of non-combatants by area bombing and nuclear bombing was a good thing in itself.
They hold that it was a good thing because of the end which it helped to bring about.
That end was not merely the defeat of Japan and Germany. They were defeated already when these things were done. Dresden and Hiroshima were undefended cities. They were open cities because the Germans and the Japanese states no longer had the means of defending them.
They were defenceless in the face of the enemy. But they did not have the opportunity of surrendering to the enemy because the enemy armies were not present in their vicinity. Their populations were exterminated from a distance for the purpose of teaching a moral lesson to the rest of the German and Japanese population.
At the end of the Cold War a small liberal fringe of British liberals began to question the justification of the bombing of Dresden, which lacked a military purpose. The outstanding British historian of the past generation, Andrew Roberts, who writes history in accordance with the actual way of the world, told them sharply that Dresden was not a military, but a moral event. Its purpose was to burn into the souls of Germans, in the moment of their defeat, the fundamental maxim that they must never again do what Britain does not want them to do.
And it worked. The Germans have known their place in world affairs ever since—or their places, because they had two conquerors, who barely held back from going to war with each other when Germany had been dealt with.
Nazi Germany was defeated by the Soviet Union. Britain made war on Germany with the intention that others should do the fighting. It withdrew its Army from France in June 1940 and did not return for four years. Its military ventures in every instance led to the expansion of German power. It returned to France in June 1944 only because German power had been undermined by three years of warfare with the Soviet Union, and any further delay in opening the Second Front might have brought the Red Army to Calais.
The population of Dresden was incinerated as part of the wanton area bombing of undefended German cities and towns, and sometimes even villages, by Britain and America in the Spring of 1945. But it was the Red Army that liberated Dresden.
The survivors in Dresden and the North-East of Germany learned the moral lesson they had been taught just as diligently as did the Germans in the West. They complied with the will of the United Nations—which was the name the conquerors were calling themselves.
But the United Nations was a make-believe within which another great War was brewing. And the conqueror with whose will the inhabitants of Saxony, Brandenburg and Mecklenburg complied was the wrong conqueror. They became 'collaborators' with the evil Power that had resisted and destroyed the Nazi regime, and they were disgraced because of it fifty years later.
So what would you have done if you had been a Dresden survivor in the Summer of 1945?
In August 1914 John Redmond's chief ideologue, Tom Kettle, spearheaded, in the London papers, the Crusade against the great evil which made the Great War necessary. He called it Nietzscheanism. The evil philosophy of Nietzsche, he said, had gained control of the German state, and that was why the German state had to be destroyed.
Nietzsche blurted out two great evils: the will to power was the dominating element in history, and the history of morality was itself immoral.
What is the lesson of Hiroshima and Dresden? Moral submission to power!
Why was Hiroshima not a war crime, a crime against humanity, or an act of genocide? Because it was perpetrated by the victor, and there is no legal or moral power in the world capable of finding the victor in a world war guilty of committing crimes or sins in the course of winning the war, or consolidating his dominance in the aftermath of victory.
A decent pretence is made that the victor won because he was right. It is felt that this is a more moral way of presenting things than a truthful statement that he is right because he won.
It is hinted that there is a kind of general morality in the world that operates independently of victory and defeat in war, and that in the long run right and wrong are established by this transcendental morality. But it is more easy to believe in the existence of this moral power if one takes it entirely on trust and does not seek it out. But trusting belief of this kind is surely not reputable in the era of Enlightenment!
There was perhaps a source of morality independent of military power in Europe in the Dark Ages, when Church and State were distinct though interwoven entities, represented by the Pope and the Emperor. But all of that ended with the Reformation enacted by the English State, in which Church and State were made one, and the national state became the source of its own morality, and the nationalist English state became an Empire dominating the world, before becoming a dependent ally of its Puritan offspring, the United States.
The United Nations is not in any sense a restoration of a source of morality independent of military power, which the mediaeval Papacy was in some degree. It is an arrangement made by the victor powers of 1945 to perpetuate their power. That was what it was intended to be. That is what it was until 1990. And that is what it is becoming once more.
From time to time these Powers find it expedient to set up subordinate Courts in which the leaders of weak or defeated states can be tried on criminal charges for doing, on a small scale, what the five Vetoist Powers do as a matter of course whenever they feel like it. Judges are found who will conduct these trials under a pretence of international law, even though they know very well that the Powers who set up the Courts for them, and catch the criminals, have conferred on themselves comprehensive freedom from this law. They are judges on a leash, carrying out orders.
If the UN is not, and is incapable of being, a source of moral authority independent of military power, and if morality is a construct of the nation state pioneered by Reformationist England, then the possibility of the existence of a morality which is not totalitarian lies in the conflict of nation states.
In the world of nationalism inaugurated by England, the stronger nationalisms seek to destroy or intimidate the weaker, without themselves ceasing to be nationalistic. The internationalism which has often been appealed to in Ireland has usually been nothing more than an attempt to make Ireland submissive to English nationalism.
The Irish nation state was forged in military conflict with England after England had over-ruled the outcome of a democratic election in Ireland, thus giving the lie to the British moral propaganda of the Great War. In 1919 the world was waiting to see how the victor who had made most moral noise during the War would set about constructing the new world order that had been promised. The setting aside of the Irish election result, and the resort to military rule, set the pattern for all that followed in Europe.
There is no uniform morality which rules the world, because there is no global state. A global state is conceivable only as the total dominance of a Great Power which has destroyed all the other other Powers and cowed their populations into passive obedience. And the possibility of that arrangement is not imminent. It seems more remote than it did fifteen years ago.
The philosopher Kant observed two centuries ago that perpetual peace under a world government is an ideal from which reason cannot dissent,but that every attempt to realise it is necessarily premature. This is the paradox, or antinomy, in which we live.
His successor, Fichte, aspired to resolve the antimomies, or leap beyond them:
"All men together constitute a single moral community. It is the moral disposition of each one to diffuse morality outside of himself, as well as he is able…; or, in other words to make all others of the same disposition as himself, since each one necessarily holds his own to be the best; for otherwise it were immoral to retain it. But each one also holds his conflicting opinion to be the best, and for the same reason. Thus there results, as the collective object of the whole moral community, to produce harmony respecting moral objects. This is the final end of the reciprocal activity amongst moral beings" (Science Of Ethics).
This is the vision of the capitalist Utopians called Neo-cons—the ideologues who came into possession of the immense military and propaganda power of the United States a few years after the counter-vailing power of the Soviet Union had crumbled. But that apparently unstoppable globalism is now stopping. It might have lasted longer if it was more cunning. But it was bound to fail because its vision was Fichtean illusion. The world remains Kantian. Attempts to realise the indisputable ideals of perpetual peace and world government will always be premature.
The transcendental illusion of the United Nations occurred when Gorbachov and Yeltsin lost sight of Russian national interest when they set about destroying what they called Stalinism. They thought they were serving some higher ideal when they did what the West told them to do. They privatised public property, and let rip the 'democracy' of a score of parties, not one of which knew what it was doing, or was representative in the way that enables party government on the basis of a general franchise to be functional in Britain, the USA and France. The result was anarchy, in the sense of chaos, which the West praised as democracy, plummeting life expectancy, and widespread starvation. A halt was not called until Western enterprises began to buy up the most valuable natural resources. It was only then that the fact sank in that functional capitalism is nationalist at base.
Putin got popular support to shape the open capitalism of the Yeltsin era, which left Russia open to plunder, into a national economy.
Russia has now restored itself as a countervailing force, economically, militarily, and as a Vetoist power on the Security Council. The illusion is over. The UN is once again what it was meant to be!
Talk of Stalinism being restored is nonsense. What Putin has done is assert the national interest of capitalist Russia.
Arthur Griffith would have understood.
And it is about time that Ireland rediscovered its nationalist interest, instead of thinking that, by letting Oxford and Cambridge take over its mind, it was broadening it.
Contents of Number 93
Morality And The Nation .
McKinley On Conquest Of Philippines.
Europe: Hierarchy Speaks.
Europe: Priest Attacks 'Godless' Treaty?
1688, It Is Not !
The Cooneyites:—Amish-type Farmers?
Christian Brothers Step Back.
Dabney: Confederate Theologian And Warrior.
Blind Loyalty In Israel.
Animosities In A Vacuum.
Bush & Hitler.
The Second American Revolution And The Sense
Problem In The West (Part Two).
Communism & Christianity.
Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai's Election Programme.
There Has To Be Democracy In Zimbabwe, Says
The Land War In Cork: 'Remember Mitchelstown'.
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