Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Transcendental Deduction Of Malkin

I spoke recently to a friend at another school, not a raving-righty by any stretch of the imagination, who thinks it's a cheap shot to say that Michelle Malkin's internment book argues for rounding up and interning all our Muslim citizens and resident aliens. Malkin states explicitly, after all, that that's not what she's for.

So as a service to my friend and to anyone else who's interested, I'm going to proceed to settle the matter right now. This just so happens to be the sort of thing deducible from a small number of given premises that don't even require reading her book (no, really, it's true). I'm going to prove that Malkin does indeed offer justification for the internment of all Muslim-Americans, and then I'll take into consideration what's really going on with her avowed stance against such internment. All the premises are either provided by Malkin, are non-controversial matters of fact, or are inferential statements that very few people would find contentious and that Malkin, certainly, could only reject on pain of contradiction.

I'll present the argument formally; it has two lemmas (minor conclusions), A6 and B10, and one major conclusion, C:
A1: In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Japanese-Americans and Japanese aliens residing in the United States constituted a certain level of risk, R1, to US national security.
A2: In wartime, extraordinary measures are morally justified in order to protect the nation's security.
A3: The nation's wartime leaders, with access to credible intelligence concerning the nature of R1, concluded that R1 was sufficiently high to necessitate extraordinary security measures being taken against Japanese aliens and citizens of Japanese descent as well.
A4: The particular measure taken, the internment of the Japanese population of the west coast of the United States, was morally justified on national security grounds.
A5: If any resident sub-population P, in time of war, constitutes a threat level greater than or equal to R1, then the government would be morally justified in taking the same measure R1 against P.
A6: Therefore, in wartime the government would be morally justified in interning any resident sub-population that constituted a threat to national security greater than or equal to the threat posed by the Japanese and Japanese-American sub-population during World War II.

B1: The United States is at war in 2004.
B2: One of the primary (or at least best-known) tactics of the United States' enemies is to infiltrate Western nations and create furtive terrorist cells within them.
B3: The membership of such cells is overwhelmingly (very close to if not exactly 100%) Muslim.
B4: "Sleeper" cells have been uncovered all over Europe, and the men who hijacked the planes on Sept. 11, 2001, were operating out of such a cell.
B5: There is a discrete, non-zero probability, likely greater than .5, that sleeper cells are operating out of the United States right now.
B6: The aims of such cells are far more directly violent and injurious to Americans than the espionage that could potentially have been conducted by Japanese citizens and residents during WWII.
B7: The proportion of Japanese citizens and residents who could credibly have been suspected of endangering national security during WWII was very small relative to the entire sub-population.
B8: The proportion of Muslim citizens and residents who could credibly be suspected of endangering national security in this war is, similarly, very small relative to the entire sub-population.
B9: The conjunction of B6, B7, and B8 entails that the threat to national security posed by Muslim citizens and residents in 2004 is certainly no less than and in all likelihood greater than the threat posed by Japanese citizens and residents in 1942.
B10: Therefore the risk level, R2, constituted by the resident Muslim sub-population in 2004, is greater than or equal to R1.

C: Therefore the government would be morally justified in interning the sub-population of Muslim-American citizens and Muslim resident aliens.
Very few of these premises should seem contentious. In fact, there are only two, A3 and A4, that I think are false, and one more A2, that I think is true as long as it is not interpreted overly broadly (and that means some significant constraints). Of these, A4 is the major argument of Malkin's book, and A3 is an ancillary argument she offers in support of A4 (I think Eric Muller and Greg Robinson have sufficiently discredited Malkin's "scholarship" already).

If Malkin wants to deny the conclusion, C, then she has to find another proposition to reject. None of the B propositions (except maybe B1) are very good candidates; they are just a realistic, historically contextualized assessment of the potential threat posed by covert enemy agents inside the United States. If Malkin were to argue that we're not at war now (~B1), then there could be no inference made on the basis of A2, and thus she would not be committed to C. But I doubt, somehow, that Malkin would say that we're not at war now.

Malkin's statements that she is not calling for a round-up of Muslims therefore look like a flat rejection of A5, the conditional premise that says that what's morally justified in the case of one particular threat would be morally justified in the case of an equally severe or greater threat. And that, dear friends, is a move she's not entitled to make. She might offer non-moral reasons for not resorting to the same measures in a later case that were used in an earlier one, but she most certainly is in no position to argue against the moral justification of such measures in the later case. (Note that the foregoing argument is completely neutral about what moral system is in play. It will be valid for any coherent set of moral principles.)

So Malkin is committing herself to having no moral objection to the internment of Muslim citizens and residents. Hasn't she already given up the game? And if the government were to start rounding up Muslims, how, exactly, would she argue against doing so?

UPDATE: In the comments section, I responded to "cpl" asking, in effect, what's so bad about a non-moral case for opposing the internment of Muslims. My condensed answer is that it does Malkin and us no good to argue that it wouldn't be wrong per se, but merely non-efficacious, to intern our Muslim neighbors. Put it this way: I don't want the sanctity of my civil rights or those of any of my friends to be contingent on Michelle Malkin's calculations of what is and what isn't strategically efficacious.

All the foregoing, of course, redounds to the enormous discredit of Malkin apologists like Glenn Reynolds (this is what really soured me on the guy, if anyone's curious), who should know better than to sign onto a project whose ultimate end is the undermining of the moral foundation of civil rights.

8 Comments:

At 9:46 AM, Blogger cpl said...

Even if the moral argument fails, there may be pragmatic reasons. I don't have any data on the current Muslim population compared to the Japanese population during WWII, but the size of the Muslim population, and its geographic distribution may make it impractical to imprison them.

But, looking at the sizes of populations, the moral argument may have a case. With this in mind, A5 must be re-examined. Rather than looking at R1 in absolute terms, it should be compared to the size of P. If the ratio of danger of a subpopulation to the size of that subpopulation is greater than R1 was to the size of the Japanese subpopulation during WWII, then the government is morally justified.

If you don't take this into account, then you risk imprisoning more innocent people than can be morally justified. I don't know how to draw that line, but if we're going to use historical precedents, it seems that comparing population sizes is necessary.

 
At 9:53 AM, Blogger Finnegan said...

Well cpl, the point of B9 is to account for the proportionality argument that you raise.

I didn't mean to imply that I was denying the possibility of some argument against present-day internment on the basis of efficacy or some other non-moral principle, only that Malkin is committing herself to rejecting moral arguments against interning Muslims. And I think it's awfully significant that she can't offer a moral argument against such a measure.

Or think about the counterfactual. When Malkin claims to oppose the internment of Muslim, she never actually gives a reason for doing so. In her radio debate with Eric Muller, e.g., Malkin claimed that internment of Muslims "would be ridiculous," which doesn't amount to much more than "because I say so." I think Malkin is clued in to her dilemma (here's the counterfactual): she understands how callous it would sound if she offered an explicitly non-moral case for not interning Muslims, and she simply can't, because of the entailments of her argument justifying the Japanese interment, offer a moral case.

 
At 6:34 PM, Blogger cpl said...

Ah, good point. I hadn't read the proof as closely as a should have.

 
At 2:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

B6 is self-evidently false, given that Japanese espionage would have been in conjunction with a state-sponsored attack, which is generally not the case today. And that's true even if you consider al Qaaeda to be a quasi-state. Japan as a whole was more dangerous than al Qaeda as a whole, thus the risks of Japanese espionage were more dangerous that the risk of al Qaeda linked terrorism.

 
At 2:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The uncertainty surrounding the magnitude of the quantities R1 and R2 is the critical weakness in this line of reason. However, if this is indeed the argument that Malkin made, then her statement clearly does contradrict her own conslusion.

 
At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One big problem I see with your logic is that you're ignoring the effectiveness of an internment. It's debatable whether the internment/relocation of Japanese-Americans prevented any sabotage, but it's very unlikely that it could work today even if the moral issues could be ignored as though it were only Juanita Broaddrick's bloody lips.

Note that your premise A3 read, in part: "concluded that R1 was sufficiently high to necessitate extraordinary security measures being taken against Japanese aliens and citizens of Japanese descent as well." I'd argue that effectiveness should be included in that calculation.

For one thing, the Japanese relocation policy was limited to regions where sabotage could have been a real danger. If such a policy could be tried now then it would need to be done across the country. That's a much bigger can of worms -- as if the WWII one wasn't bad enough.

As for effectiveness, if there was an internment of Muslim-Americans then it's very unlikely to hold any but a few of those who might pose a danger. We'd have tens of thousands of decent Americans in custody, but does anyone doubt that the Mohammed Attas would evade that law? So even if one was to accept the Japanese relocation as worthwhile, there's no way it could be thought so today.

 
At 3:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think B1 is problematic too. Oh, I believe we're at war--I just don't think there's a single type of war. I guess I'm thinking of the fallacy of ambiguity.

Is our current war similar in fundamental ways to the Second World War? What about the Cold War? Should not extraordinary measures taken to secure the nation in time of war be contingent on the elements of the war in question?

An above commenter hits on this in regards to the level of threat of R1 vs. R2. The argument seems to work only because certain terms are kept vague.

 
At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How's this for a moral premise:

It's wrong to intern someone on the basis of their religious beliefs.It very definitely a moral premise that would differentiate between the two sets of data.

The Japanese in the 1930's and 1940's were most definitely not trying to gain new members, whereas Islam is a religion that welcomes conversion. Similarly, virtually all Japanese outside of the United States were at war--at least in a formal sense--with the United States. The same cannot be said for Muslims. That alone would change the overinclusive/underinclusive nature of the two situations, and grant a reason for differentiating between nationalities and religions.

It's easy with a logical proof to make something logical by overlooking the differences between two dissimilar sets. The U.S. wasn't "at war" with Shintoists, much less Buddhists, and we're not "at war" with Muslims in the same sense that we were "at War" with the Japanese.

You might get away with this in some imaginary hypothetical: would Malkin support interning American Catholics if the Vatican invaded the U.S.? But I just don't see that likely enough to worry about.

Why not amend B1 to include who we're at war with in 2004? Why not place a statement about who we were at war with in WWII? Or is B1 just an irrelevancy? You think Malkin was saying that if the U.S. is at war with anyone, we may make plans for the internment of any group felt to be a threat, irrespective of the relationship between the group attacking and the group interned? I've not read Malkin yet, but certainly for your logic to hold, that's the premise you have to support.

A. Rickey
http://www.threeyearsofhell.com

 

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