Glenn Reynolds still appears to be confused by a few simple semantic issues related to the meaning of "pro". Here's a few thought experiments that might help clarify the thinking about that.

Let's say you can push a button, with the following effect known ahead of time and assured to happen: Saddam is deposed and a new enlightened government is installed in Iraq. Everyone in Iraq (other than Saddam) is better off; everyone else worldwide is no worse off than before.

Do you push the button?

If not, then I would agree with Reynolds that you are "objectively pro-Saddam". For while there are good reasons to press the button (making people better off), there is only one possible bad effect: the effect on Saddam. The only possible motivation for not pressing the button would be because you want to not hurt Saddam.

Most people, I think, would push the button. I would.

So now let's alter the experiment slightly. The same button, and the same effect if you push it. But as you make your decision, you only believe (with some degree N<100% of certainty), that the effect is as described. You also believe that there is some chance that pushing the button will have no effect on Saddam, while causing the death of 3000 innocent Iraqis.

Should you push the button?

I would say "no". Morally speaking, you should not. The reason is quite simple: you must always act on the basis of what you currently know. Since it is immoral to hurt (much less kill) innocents no matter what the end, you cannot morally endanger them by pushing the button.

By Reynolds' logic, however - only the effect on Saddam matters - I am still "objectively pro-Saddam". Presumably he would push the button. The Great Evil must be exterminated, and "the price is worth it".

So let's try a third experiment. Let's now dispense with the realistic (but complicated) lack of knowledge about the future in the previous experiment. Assume that somehow all effects of the magical button push are known in advance.

Let's assume that pushing the button does both effects previously described. That is, that Saddam is deposed and a new western liberal democracy appears in Iraq; everyone worldwide is no worse off except that 3000 innocent Iraqis are killed.

Presumably it is still "objectively pro-Saddam" to refuse to push the button; for this is, essentially, the war that Reynolds propounds on his blog. America will attack Iraq. Lots of innocent Iraqis will die under American bombs and whatnot. Saddam will be deposed. If the world is very, very lucky, "nation building" will work. (I'm not holding my breath, but assume so.) I would not push this button, but Reynolds clearly would.

Now I note that there is no difference, morally speaking, between killing innocent Iraqis and killing innocent Americans. Human rights spring from our mental abilities, and have no relationship at all to national borders. So, whatever conclusion one comes to in the previous experiment should remain the same if the 3000 innocents are Americans.

So it is "objectively pro-Saddam" to refuse to push a button which would depose Saddam at the cost of 3000 innocent Americans.

This leads to my final thought experiment. It's 9/10/2001, and someone offers you a button. If you press it, Saddam will be deposed and a new western liberal democracy will appear in Iraq; but two airplanes will hit the WTC and kill 3000 innocent Americans.

Do you press it?

If not, according to Reynolds' logic, you are "objectively pro-Saddam".

I really think Reynolds would not press the button. That makes him in retrospect "objectively pro-Saddam".

Join the crowd, Glenn.

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