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Chicken Little logical arguments on internment

Reader comment on item: Why the Japanese Internment Still Matters

Submitted by Ted Kay (United States), Jan 7, 2005 at 09:35

Here is a very good logical analysis of the internment issue from Dan Koffler. He probably disagrees with me that profiling is now necessary and legal, and he would also probably disagree with my proposition that "iff" (if and only if) it was discovered that Muslim men in multiple American cities were stockpiling weapons, ammunition, making bombs, communicating between groups, AND said communication involved a plot to initiate an assault (not necessarily a specific target), then the US government would have the right to inter all Muslim men associated with (not just a pizza delivery dude) each group in those specific cities, which would include social interaction that may not involve specific organization and communication with the plot. Length of internment and post internment monitoring for nonconvicted individuals would have to be debated.

We cannot have another repeat of the government surrounding and/or attacking a place like Mt. Carmel in Waco because of legal weapons purchases yet bogus child molestation charges (or terrorist charges) and in doing so killing 20 or so young children and other innocent adults. I say this because what is needed is weapons collection + proven intent to organize some type of attack or assault. Koresh was minding his own business and in his own warped theology, wanted "protection" against parts of the government that he considered evil.

Start Koffler:
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 take 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.
Submitting....

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