Thursday, August 12, 2010

Divide and Rule--What Kant said about Perpetual Peace

Okay, I admit it.  I went to a liberal arts school.  It's taken me a while, but I've recovered and hopefully taken the best parts away with me.  One of my favorite courses was philosophy.  Of course I was the only one who read and actually started conversations but there you go.  I'm a nerd.  But anyway, something that's been bothering me for a while (I think there will be several posts with variations on a theme) is Divide and Rule--because I'm seeing it EVERYWHERE.  All of the social dichotomies, EPA rules, the maxed out race card, etc.  Maybe I need to start folding a tin foil hat, but here is installment 1.0.

There have been a lot of folks, most with more insight and brainpower than me, who have written about Divide and Rule (in older days, Divide and Conquer).  Sun Tzu mentioned the strategy in The Art of War, Caesar used it, the Old French Republic used it, Machiavelli discussed it, the Brits used it, Bacon, Madison, and Jefferson talked about it.  And now it's come down to the United States government using it against its own people in order to control and maintain control of the populace.  In Appendix I of "Perpetual Peace; a philosophical essay" by Kant, he discusses three methods for maintaining control over the populace.  See if they look familiar to you--I've bolded some pertinent passages.....

i. Fac et excusa. Seize the most favourable 
opportunity for arbitrary usurpation either of the 
authority of the state over its own people or over 
a neighbouring people; the justification of the act 
and extenuation of the use of force will come much 
more easily and gracefully, when the deed is done, 
than if one has to think out convincing reasons for 
taking this step and first hear through all the ob- 
jections which can be made against it. This is 
especially true if the first case mentioned, where 
the supreme power in the state also controls the 
legislature which we must obey without any reason- 
ing about it. Besides, this show of audacity in a 
statesman even lends him a certain semblance of 
inward conviction of the justice of his action ; and 
once he has got so far the god of success (bonus 
eventus) is his best advocate. 
Hmmmm... Democrats own the House and Senate (for now).  Democrat in the White House.  I'm seeing something here....
2. Si fecisti, nega. As for any crime you have 
committed, such as has, for instance, brought your 
people to despair and thence to insurrection, deny 
that it has happened owing to any fault of yours. 
Say rather that it is all caused by the insubordi- 
nation of your subjects, or, in the case of your 
having usurped a neighbouring state, that human 
nature is to blame; for, if a man is not ready to 
use force and steal a march upon his neighbour, 
he may certainly count on the latter forestalling 
him and taking him prisoner. 
Continuing Bush derangement syndrome.  Continued blaming of all problems on Bush, even though it was a Democrat congress that caused a bunch of the problem.
3. Divide et impera. That is to say, if there 
are certain privileged persons, holding authority 
among the people, who have merely chosen you 
for their sovereign as primus inter pares, bring 
about a quarrel among them, and make mischief 
between them and the people. Now back up the 
people with a dazzling promise of greater freedom ; 
everything will now depend unconditionally on 
your will. Or again, if there is a difficulty with 
foreign states, then to stir up dissension among 
them is a pretty sure means of subjecting first one 
and then the other to your sway, under the pretext 
of aiding the weaker. 
There are too many instances of this.  Choose your own.

 Kant also says the following--which seems to be a direct commentary on our executive branch as it stands today.  I have again bolded some interesting parts:
It may be that despotizing moralists, in practice blundering, often violate rules of political prudence through measures they adopt or propose too precipitately; but experience will gradually retrieve them from their infringement of nature and lead them on to a better course. But the moralizing politician, by glossing over principles of politics which are opposed to the right with the pretext that human nature is not capable of the good as reason prescribes it, only makes reform impossible and perpetuates the violation of law.

Instead of possessing the practical science they boast of, these politicians have only practices; they flatter the power which is then ruling so as not to be remiss in their private advantage, and they sacrifice the nation and, possibly, the whole world. This is the way of all professional lawyers (not legislators) when they go into politics. Their task is not to reason too nicely about the legislation but to execute the momentary commands on the statute books; consequently, the legal constitution in force at any time is to them the best, but when it is amended from above, this amendment always seems best, too. Thus everything is preserved in its accustomed mechanical order. Their adroitness in fitting into all -circumstances gives them the illusion of being able to judge constitutional principles according to concepts of right (not empirically, but a priori). They make a great show of understanding men (which is certainly something to be expected of them, since they have to deal with so many) without understanding man and what can be made of him, for they lack the higher point of view of anthropological observation which is needed for this. If with these ideas they go into civil and international law, as reason prescribes it, they take this step in a spirit of chicanery, for they still follow their accustomed mechanical routine of despotically imposed coercive laws in a field where only concepts of reason can establish a legal compulsion according to the principles of freedom, under which alone a just and durable constitution is possible. In this field the pretended practical man thinks he can solve the problem of establishing such a constitution without the rational idea but solely from the experience he has had with what was previously the most lasting constitutions constitution which in many cases was opposed to the right.
 Those who do not learn from history (or philosophy) end up with an Obama for president.  I guess that liberal arts education came in handy after all.