Gongol.com Archives: September 2023

Brian Gongol

September 8, 2023

Threats and Hazards It's not a binary question

If there is one lesson to take away from the social sciences, it is that human behavior can often be predicted in the probabilistic sense, but events are almost never subject to simplistic determinations. In other words: Some patterns are much more likely than others, but rarely does just one set of rules or causes apply. ■ Every honest person knows this from personal experience. The odds are reasonably high that any individual will share a considerable number of important opinions on matters like politics or religion with their parents or with a spouse. But nobody agrees completely with anyone else about everything -- not even with a husband or a wife. Not even dear old Mom. ■ Thus, when the world's richest person, who controls a number of ventures, including the Starlink satellite Internet service, comes under particular scrutiny for using his corporate control of the service to prevent Ukraine from attacking Russian warships with the crucial aid of its technology, then it should be no surprise that he might seek to defend his personal honor. ■ But the defense he offers ought to be held to some standard of logical rigor. It is one thing to say "I was afraid of being labeled as an accomplice in an act of which I did not approve". It is another to say, as Elon Musk has done, "Both sides should agree to a truce. Every day that passes, more Ukrainian and Russian youth die to gain and lose small pieces of land, with borders barely changing. This is not worth their lives." ■ As a matter of decency, the bloodshed in Ukraine ought to end. But it won't be ended by a fantasy. Musk subscribes to an excruciatingly over-simplified understanding of matters when he posits that the solution is "a truce". Russia initiated the war (breaking the "truce" that preceded it), it violated Ukraine's territory to commit the violence, and it is responsible for committing war crimes against the people whose homeland it has invaded. ■ All that is required for hostilities to cease is for Russia to withdraw from where it invaded. Until then, calling for a "truce" is like saying that a homeowner should make peace with a violent squatter, as though the acts of theft and self-defense are moral equals. They aren't. Reducing the question to a binary matter of "fighting" or "not fighting" is foolishness. And ignoring the many reasons why fighting in self-defense today may be necessary to achieve a real state of peace tomorrow requires a willful blindness to the real nature of human affairs.