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FEBRUARY 9, 2013 1:23PM

Why Drone Strikes Aren't Dictatorial: Socrates and The Demos

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For MEB, forever. And Peace Liberallibbynyc, and I am sorry about any intemperance as to expression, once, and won't visit in cyberspace, or of course anywhere else, since I don't know if you are even here or in ...Argentina for all I know or care, just a mea culpa here, and may the road rise up to meet you OS, the sun always shine on your face....

As to drone strikes as assaassination and therefore dictatorship, there are concerns for the future that should there be a war that is a horrendously bad idea, but popular because misunderstood as to origins by the mass of people, that legalizing the notion of drone strikes anywhere on Earth on American citizens could be a problem as to the United States becoming a real dictatorship, mainly though for said war's predictors and/or opponents, if we are hardly there yet, nor is that very likely.

Hard cases also make bad law.

There is still plenty enough of information for people to draw their own conclusions, nor is there any reason to believe that otherwise will be the case.

If the Internet was banned, that would be more concerning than taking away guns in my view, or even if past translations of works were altered and/or made unavailable, as so long as that is the case, people can judge, and speak.

Whether anyone listens is of course another story, but then no government is perfect, made of men as Madison said, not angels.

As to the title, Athens executed Socrates on a majority vote, a drone strike of sorts, and it remained very much a Democracy, not a dictatorship.

We chose differently to protect speech by and large, if we ostracize those who speak differently than our social subset, as to the limitations of speech even with an amendment.

As to the democratic character of Socrates death, his existence was found by the majority to be incompatible with theirs at that time and place, and so they ordered his death or exile. He chose death, because he accepted that he was not a dictator as to the choices, and was loyal to his country among the two.

He accepted that sentence wisely and with equanimity, expressed so timelessly in Apology and Crito as to his political justification for chosing death over exile.

As to the contemporary risks and drone strikes, all governments having their risks, the real danger of becoming a real dictatorship in the United States even then will really not be because of drone strikes per se, but because of something Alexis DeTocqueville warned about as a feature of American like, if it happens in all societies, dictatorship or not, like with Socrates: social ostracism.

"No man can be happy alone, lest he be a wild beast or God, for man is a social animal." Aristotle.

This is why social ostracism is always the most powerful means of social control, because human beings are not wild beasts or gods, and therefore go mad if ostracized sufficiently.

Since that can happen in all societies, that cannot be said to be undemocratic per se, nor dictatorial per se.

Think about that when you see homeless people, however, and have some pity, as sometimes that's really who they were, like in the movie The Fisher King.Maybe they just never quite fit in anywhere, maybe because of just poor reading of man as a social animal, possibly the main issue with the schizophrenics, who of course are not a small percentage of the homeless.

There is also so much social diversity in the United States that one can avoid that in the vast majority of cases, and so we remain free, not living in a dictatorship.

You also can't escape that problem, of some people not fitting in to where they are perceived to belong, or the problems of envy or rivalry resulting in some people's destruction, all the sins of the world, whatever the form of government, as that's just life.

Democracy or not, that is life as to not conforming enough.

That is the human condition in any society, democracy or not, if sometimes in that cirumstance, perhaps just spelling out a little more clearly what people want solves  lot of problems, "Shut up" being high on that list.

If enough people say that, one should listen, or that makes you the would-be dictator.

That is somewhat harsh as to making people do things that they don't want to do at times, but, in the grand scheme of things,  it cannot be said to be unfair, or even unfree, as life is a game of musical chairs, democracy or dictatorship, Capitalism or Socialism.

As to the limits of freedom everywhere, democracies included, the Soviet Union's dissidents weren't in fact always good people at all, but like everywhere, in many cases, like everywhere, people who just didn't fit in to the social order, or their little subset of that, and democracy or dictatorship, there is always a social order.

Man is a social animal. No man can be happy alone, lest he be a wild beast or god.

The alternative to a social order is not freedom but chaos, if some social orders are freer than others too, like democracies with free speech and elections.

The vast, vast majority of the American people have access to competing views in the United States, and so we are free enough as compared to the other possible alternatives, which therefore means we remain a democracy, and can keep it, especially if we are respectful of opposing opinions.

Athens executed Socrates on a majority vote, and it remained very much a democracy, their version of a drone strike.

Fortunately in the United States, we mainly merely ostracize.

If Socrates had gone to Sparta, his preferred form of government, and given a mortal rival advice, to the extent that it was effective, that would have justified a drone strike as well, depending of course mainly on Spartan reaction, not any rights of Socrates.

Socrates was unable to find a safe place in Athens because he did not refrain from repeatedly mocking opinions that were the majority opinion, and because he demonstrated his opinion in a way others found disrespectful.That made him at least as intolerant as the majority, and in the context of those times a de-stabilizing influence.

Executing him on a majority vote was many things, but undemocratic was not one of them, and he accepted that with equanimity.

Toleration of dissent and disagreeing opinions as a species we are not very good at of course, but then that is why a democracy/republic like we have is a good if fairly novel form of government, historically speaking, like Franklin said, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

People who's opinions are unpopular can take up other activities too, if necessary, merely emailing one's opinions to oneself.

That is still freedom.

If the State ordered one to leave, and was killed by that State if one influenced a government overseas in ways thought dangerous, or if said State ordered one to a certain death combat situation, in neither case would one be unfree so long nor would that be a dictatorship as long as that was a some process that the majority of the Democracy accepted.

That is just as if the State ordered one to leave on a majority vote, or face death, one is not unfree, like Socrates.

He could have shut up a long time before it came to that.

Socrates set a good example in regards to the real and unavoidable issue of majority rule and minority opinion in the Apology and especially in the Crito, no matter the form of government, and Athens was very clearly a democracy.

He was free to leave, and chose not to, and accepted the metaphorical drone strike.

Moreover, if he had proceeded to Sparta, and had advised the Spartans how to wage war on his own country, would not the Assembly have been justified in calling in a drone strike, especially the more and more as it was more and more the case that his advice was effective?

Hard cases make bad law, and all societies have to have social rules which always restrict some people's freedom a good bit, because the alternative would be chaos.

The Condorcet Paradox proves this point, if Socrates identified the issue long, ong ago, as to its timelessness.

"I only wish, Crito, that they could; for then they could also
do the greatest good, and that would be well. But the truth is, that
they can do neither good nor evil: they cannot make a man wise or make
him foolish; and whatever they do is the result of chance." Crito, earliest version of Condorcet result about majority rule as to randomness being an isomorphism to cycles. There is nothing new under the Sun.

Executing such a person would not be unjust if done by majority vote or by some process by representatives of majority vote's consequences, nor could it be said to be a dictatorship.

We of course chose differently as to just speech, for good reasons, but it cannot be said either that what happened to Socrates was unjust, nor did he see it that way either.

Would it not be a rare case that there existed a person who other states would regard as a super weapon, to be used against his own country, if who was hated by his fellow countrymen as to the exile, and again who's presence in other states in fact would be extremely dangerous to their home state, say because of strategic mind, like say John Nash?

Would not a drone strike on such a person actually be justified, and not limit the freedom of others?

I think so.

Would not Athens have been justified if Socrates had gone to Sparta and waged war against the democracy?

I think so.

That's also not very likely, if it wouldn't be very fun to be that person either, as it would mean all friends and family in their native country had abandoned them, but then if one just reads the Apology, that would provide comfort as to it just being one of those weird cases in life, not something to lose sleep over, and in fact a good cautionary tale as to the need for all people to conform to their situation rather a lot.

Man is a social animal. No man can be happy alone, lest he be a wild beast or a god.

As to what is then really at issue with drone strikes as to assassination and dictatorship, to date, the Obama Administration has used them to kill Americans in the presence of known al Qaeda representatives.

Since we are at war with al Qaeda, or have at least authorized the use of force against al Qaeda by Congressional resolution, one could in fact merely call in a drone strike on the notion that there existed an Al Qaeda target, the nationality of the target being unimportant.

That is always done in wars, of every state.

What some might really object to is then how that notion could be applied in other wars, say for example against Marxist-Leninist or de facto White Supremacist revolutionaries, the most likely cases for the United States.

Let us say for example the Occupy Wall Street had become a violent revolutionary movement, blowing up banks, or that White Supremacists left the country and/or seceded to take up arms against a government they thought run by Marxist-Leninists.

Would that be just to call in drone strikes on such people organizing the violent overthrow of the American government under our Consitutional order?

Was Lincoln justified in using force to return the Southern states to the Union?

Were the FBI and local law enforcement justified in harassing people working for the Soviet Union's foreign policy as part of KGB operations to overthrow the American government and make it submit to the will of Moscow, even if they just thought they meant well, and weren't even paid or formal agents of the KGB, just agents of its influence?

I think so.

Those are not fun choices, and yes in fact, you do become more like your enemy in the process, but who's fault is that for not playing by the rules and results of our Constitutional order in the first place?

In conclusion, was Socrates wrong to say in terms of the following defense in the Crito of taking the hemlock instead of the proffered exile, free to leave, and instead peaceably accepting the drone strike:

Then consider the matter in this way: Imagine that I am about
to play truant (you may call the proceeding by any name which you
like), and the laws and the government come and interrogate me:
"Tell us, Socrates," they say; "what are you about? are you going by
an act of yours to overturn us- the laws and the whole State, as far
as in you lies? Do you imagine that a State can subsist and not be
overthrown, in which the decisions of law have no power, but are set
aside and overthrown by individuals?" What will be our answer,
Crito, to these and the like words? Anyone, and especially a clever
rhetorician, will have a good deal to urge about the evil of setting
aside the law which requires a sentence to be carried out; and we
might reply, "Yes; but the State has injured us and given an unjust
sentence." Suppose I say that?

  Cr. Very good, Socrates.

  Soc. "And was that our agreement with you?" the law would sar, "or
were you to abide by the sentence of the State?" And if I were to
express astonishment at their saying this, the law would probably add:
"Answer, Socrates, instead of opening your eyes: you are in the
habit of asking and answering questions. Tell us what complaint you
have to make against us which justifies you in attempting to destroy
us and the State? In the first place did we not bring you into
existence? Your father married your mother by our aid and begat you.
Say whether you have any objection to urge against those of us who
regulate marriage?" None, I should reply. "Or against those of us
who regulate the system of nurture and education of children in
which you were trained? Were not the laws, who have the charge of
this, right in commanding your father to train you in music and
gymnastic?" Right, I should reply. "Well, then, since you were brought
into the world and nurtured and educated by us, can you deny in the
first place that you are our child and slave, as your fathers were
before you? And if this is true you are not on equal terms with us;
nor can you think that you have a right to do to us what we are
doing to you. Would you have any right to strike or revile or do any
other evil to a father or to your master, if you had one, when you
have been struck or reviled by him, or received some other evil at his
hands?- you would not say this? And because we think right to
destroy you, do you think that you have any right to destroy us in
return, and your country as far as in you lies? And will you, O
professor of true virtue, say that you are justified in this? Has a
philosopher like you failed to discover that our country is more to be
valued and higher and holier far than mother or father or any
ancestor, and more to be regarded in the eyes of the gods and of men
of understanding? also to be soothed, and gently and reverently
entreated when angry, even more than a father, and if not persuaded,
obeyed? And when we are punished by her, whether with imprisonment
or stripes, the punishment is to be endured in silence; and if she
leads us to wounds or death in battle, thither we follow as is
right; neither may anyone yield or retreat or leave his rank, but
whether in battle or in a court of law, or in any other place, he must
do what his city and his country order him; or he must change their
view of what is just: and if he may do no violence to his father or
mother, much less may he do violence to his country." What answer
shall we make to this, Crito? Do the laws speak truly, or do they not?




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I will come back to reread this. Excellent. I hope it is widely read. Since you have the word "Drone" in the title, that should be easily accomplished.
Hi onislandtime. Thank you.

We are not a democracy. We are a Republic ( Literally Latin "thing of the People") Republics do not take votes of majority rule. Republics choose (wise) representatives to determine what will be accepted by ALL the people as JUST. Just is not a formula of logic- It is a judgement of feeling. Like any community (Latin- Strengthening Together),"When in the course of Human Events--) you are no longer "Strengthening Together" good manners", if not actual good sense ( come on, we can take em- let's kill them all) allow for a parting of the ways Hopefully to remain good neighbors if not actual "Family".

Our country is not founded on the model of Imperial (Roman - Napoleonic) law in which power is assumed to belong to the state and allowed only in such dabs as the ruling elite sees fit to dish out.

Our country i founded on the model of the Teutonic/danish "All thing"" which assumes the independent free will and right of each individual member, including the right to no longer participate.

As a practical matter, individual obedience is always the choice of a free person, no matter the coercion. You should check out the innovations in the 3-d printing- not just guns, electric rail guns that shoot ball bearings ( Compressed air "guns" by the way, are not "firearms")

Anyway, someone who wants to do real damage to a society these days uses a computer- social engineers are far more destructive than "Shooter". And that's the main problem with Obama- he thinks he has the authority to "Social Engineer", where he is actually only granted the "authority" necessary to administer a rather large and cumbersome zoo.

That he has the POWER to do more than that was the subject of my mockery of his "Skeet Shoot" photo Op. He also has the arrogance to get away with it until he is stopped. I'd prefer impeachment.

Lincoln wasn't assassinated for freeing the slaves, he was executed for treason- ask Mr Booth. ( or any number of unregenerate confederates)
You went on too long...and too obliquely for my taste, Don…but you were making some good points.

In any case, history shows that it is almost certain that America, like every great society before us, will flounder…and my guess is that it will happen a good deal sooner than many of us would like. My guess is that we will be recognizably on our way to an end during the lifetime of many people reading these words.

I fear that whatever it is that replaces what we have will be a step down from here.

Franklin warned that we “have a republic, if you can keep it.”

I doubt we can…and I doubt that democracy in any real form will ever work either. In a republic and a democracy, I suspect the people will always get like they are here…pissing and moaning because they have any limitations imposed on them at all. People seem unable to reconcile the need to give up freedom in order to gain greater freedom...or to paraphrase Spock, the needs of the many must outweigh the needs of a few.

The seeds of destruction of a democracy or a republic are born with those institutions…and I doubt they can be removed. They will germinate…and we will fall.

We have to consider ourselves lucky to live during the heyday of our particular republic.
Frank is too pessimistic. There was no bitching or moaning allowed in Nazi Germany by the people. The Amerikan Republik is raucous, uncouth, ill-mannered, coarse, ignorant and uneducated. Therein lie its strengths of being always able to generate creative political forces from below. It is a tiresome business though, the public arena, and it chews up each generation. We who are old and tuckered out by life must simply observe new forces and movements being born, maybe being aborted, but so it goes.

Herr Rudolph is too extreme. How is Obama foisting a tyranny on the people? Obama's popularity rating with the people is above 50%. I may not like Obama either but I am not going to fantasize about fictional tyrannies, at work only in the minds of loonies like Rudolphus Rex....wink
My point was mainly that Socrates has much to teach. He was annoying, and they took his life by majority vote, and he accepted that, since he could have shut up, per the decision to participate in politics at all.
It is coercing people to participate in politics Herr Rudulph that you correctly identify as the core of totalitarianism, although I see the Confederacy in a different category as to special case.
In practice, if one is annoying to the majority, you will be socially exiled, although one can find social spaces no one can find, or really has an incentive to find, hide in plain sight.
I didn't mean to be negative, as there just exist certain situations one could see that would basically require the elimination of a citizen, for the greater good, or, that person would need to shut up, for the greater good, as there exist people for which reactions of others are bad for everyone else, just one of those things.
Per the post, as to those who take up arms against a country, that I find unsurprising that they are targets.
As to those who would be dangerous to have foreign powers talk with, that is unfortunate, but life too,since if allowed, there exist states that would do us great harm. Socrates moving to Sparta was not a fanciful example, as it would have discredited his own state, one in competition with other powers, and so as in the Crito, he obeyed the will of the many, democracy, even if he thought they made mistakes too.
I think his definition of obligation is important, and not easy to get around actually, if most people would not in the nature of things have much cause for concern, since they are the majority.
I am not advocating a purely majoritarian democracy Herr Rudolph, as I see big problems with that, Socrates being the limiting case, even as I think Frank is correct that in the end, one has to give up much freedom to live in society just as to generalized social confomity having little to do with politics, in order to have life first, and then liberty.
As to why those who are unpopular in the moment should sometimes shut up, if they polarize debate, they mess things up for those who do not have that effect.
Donny is always concerned with US citizens having sdome kind of intercourse with Russia or China. Volodya's Russia is all washed up Donny. Volodya had to go out of his way to prohibit adoptions of Russian orphans by Americans. Once we get to the point that a US President gets involved with dealing with Russian or Chinese adoptions of US orphans I'll start worrying about a change in the correlation of forces vis a vis the Russkies and the Yankees...winkles to you!
Hello Comrade Yezhov, hope all is well, and nice to see you Frank and Herr Rudolphus, not meaning to be too informal. :)