Suppose that you have — somehow or another — conclusively proven that there is just no way to have a modern war without bombing cities and massacreing innocent people. That leaves you with a hard incompatibility claim between moralism and militarism — so if you go around morally condemning military tactics (like the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, say, or the firebombing of Tokyo) because they killed innocent people, then you’d end up having to condemn any modern war at all as immoral, no matter who fought it or how it was fought.
Many people, when they reach this point in the argument, want to shove it at you as if the incompatibility made for an obvious reductio ad absurdum of any kind of moralism about military tactics —
Oh, well, if it’s always immoral to bomb cities then you couldn’t have any wars. That’s why it must not always be immoral to bomb cities. I honestly don’t know why so few of the people who give this argument ever even seem to have imagined that their conversation partner might take the incompatibility as an obvious reductio ad absurdum of any kind of militarism —
Oh, well, if it’s always immoral to kill innocent people, you can’t bomb cities, and if you can’t bomb cities, you can’t have any wars. And that’s precisely why you shouldn’t have any wars.
- Anthony Gregory @ Facebook (August 7, 2013) provided the inspiration for this post.
- GT 2006-09-01: One man’s reductio makes a similar logical point.
- GT 2003-09-30: Why there are no arguments for terrorism makes an even stronger claim.