"In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."—MLK

Friday, September 23, 2016

Hola Camp Massacre Speech, House of Commons Debate, 27 July 1959

"Those documents, that evidence, prove to me conclusively that the responsibility here lies not only with Sullivan and Lewis, but at a level above them. It lies with those to whom they actually appealed for help, whom they warned of the danger, from whom they received indeed a decision which transferred responsibility upwards, but no other help or guidance. That responsibility, transcending Sullivan and Lewis, has not been recognised; but it cannot be ignored, it cannot be burked, it will not just evaporate into thin air if we do nothing about it.

I am as certain of this as I am of anything, that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State from the beginning to the end of this affair is without any jot or tittle of blame for what happened in Kenya, that he could not be expected to know, that it could not be within the administrative conventions that these matters should be brought to his attention before or during the execution. When I say my right hon. Friend was in this matter utterly and completely blameless, that is of a piece with his administration of his high office generally, which has been the greatest exercise of the office of Colonial Secretary in modern times. It is in the name of that record, it is in the name of his personal blamelessness, that I beg of him to ensure that the responsibility is recognised and carried where it properly belongs, and is seen to belong.

I have heard it suggested that there were circumstances surrounding this affair at Hola Camp which, it is argued, might justify the passing over of this responsibility—which might justify one in saying, “Well, of course, strictly speaking, that is quite correct; but then here there were special circumstances.”

It has been said—and it is a fact—that these eleven men were the lowest of the low; sub-human was the word which one of my hon. Friends used. So be it. But that cannot be relevant to the acceptance of responsibility for their death. I know that it does not enter into my right hon. Friend’s mind that it could be relevant, because it would be completely inconsistent with his whole policy of rehabilitation, which is based upon the assumption that whatever the present state of these men, they can be reclaimed. No one who supports the policy of rehabilitation can argue from the character and condition of these men that responsibility for their death should be different from the responsibility for anyone else’s death. In general, I would say that it is a fearful doctrine, which must recoil upon the heads of those who pronounce it, to stand in judgment on a fellow human-being and to say, “Because he was such-and-such, therefore the consequences which would otherwise flow from his death shall not flow.”

It is then said that the morale of the Prison Service, the morale of the whole Colonial Service, is above all important and that whatever we do, whatever we urge, whatever we say, should have regard to that morale. “Amen” say I. But is it for the morale of the Prison Service that those who executed a policy should suffer—whether inadequately or not is another question—and those who authorised it, those to whom they appealed, should be passed over? I cannot believe that that supports the morale of a service.

Going on beyond that, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, South-East (Mr. Peel) reminded the House how proud the Colonial Service is of the integrity of its administration and its record. Nothing could be more damaging to the morale of such a service than that there should be a breath or a blemish left upon it. No, Sir; that argument from the morale of the Prison Service and the Colonial Service stands on its head if what we mean is that therefore the consequences of responsibility should not follow in this case as they would in any other similar case.

Finally it is argued that this is Africa, that things are different there. Of course they are. The question is whether the difference between things there and here is such that the taking of responsibility there and here should be upon different principles. We claim that it is our object—and this is something which unites both sides of the House—to leave representative institutions behind us wherever we give up our rule. I cannot imagine that it is a way to plant representative institutions to be seen to shirk the acceptance and the assignment of responsibility, which is the very essence of responsible Government.

Nor can we ourselves pick and choose where and in what parts of the world we shall use this or that kind of standard. We cannot say, “We will have African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home.” We have not that choice to make. We must be consistent with ourselves everywhere. All Government, all influence of man upon man, rests upon opinion. What we can do in Africa, where we still govern and where we no longer govern, depends upon the opinion which is entertained of the way in which this country acts and the way in which Englishmen act. We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places, fall below our own highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility."


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

Seth Barrett Tillman, Some Thoughts on Professor Garrett Epps’ “Trumpism Is the Symptom of a Gravely Ill Constitution”The New Reform Club (Sept. 21, 2016, 2:04 PM).

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Some Thoughts on Professor Garrett Epps’ "Trumpism Is the Symptom of a Gravely Ill Constitution"

The funny thing is ... I don’t disagree with Professor Epps’ core thesis, which I restate here in my own words, as: something is wrong in the United States, and some of what is wrong relates to our Constitution.

That said: some of Professor Epps’ specific claims strike me as, at the very least, odd. How much worse than odd, if at all, I leave to you, the reasonable reader.

Now to brass tacks. Professor Epps wrote:

“Political correctness” is out of favor, so I won’t pretend that “both sides” bear responsibility. The corrosive attack on constitutional values has come, and continues to come, from the right. It first broke into the open in 1998, when a repudiated House majority tried to remove President Bill Clinton for minor offenses.

Garrett Epps, Trumpism Is the Symptom of a Gravely Ill Constitution, The Atlantic, Sept. 20, 2016 (emphasis added), http://tinyurl.com/zhv3rbw.  Let us (for a moment) leave aside Democratic opposition to the Supreme Court nominations of Judge Bork and Justice Thomas. Let’s go with Epps’ In 1998, the Republicans “first” started America’s descent into constitutional hell fire & brimstone.

Still what precisely does Professor Epps mean by a “repudiated” House majority? The 105th House was elected in 1996. The Republicans had a wafer thin majority of 8 members among 435 voting House members. In 1998, during the midterm election, the Republican’s majority was clawed back from 8 members to 5. A loss of 3 seats. But the Republicans retained the majority, and then its members proceeded—as they had indicated during the election—to impeach Clinton during the lame duck session. (On the Senate side, the Republican had 55 members before and after the 1998 election.) So what does Epps mean by a “repudiated House majority.” Its majority was returned, albeit ever so slightly reduced, and it was the Democrats who stayed in the minority. It appears Epps is unwilling to recognize the democratic legitimacy of the then Republican Congress, which is odd, very odd, because his claim against today’s Republicans is that they “have simply refused to accept [President Obama] as the nation’s legitimate leader.” Id.

Next point. What does Professor Epps mean by “minor offenses”? If Epps had said, “Clinton was innocent, and the Republicans knew he was innocent,” such a position, true or false, would be comprehensible, particularly as it depends on disputed facts. But Epps is not saying that; instead, he is saying the alleged offenses were “minor.” How so? Paula Jones claimed that Bill Clinton unlawfully sexually harassed her in violation of Section 1983 and Section 1985 of title 42 of the U.S. Code. These provisions, and their sister provision Section 1984, are more than a hundred years old, and tens of thousands of U.S. litigants annually use these provisions to mount civil rights actions under the Bill of Rights, particularly against state and local government officials. When has anyone, particularly anyone on the left, suggested that such allegations were minor? Indeed, the very fact that Congress has passed these statutes and provided federal forums to vindicate these rights establishes that the democratic arm of our government thinks these allegations are serious, not minor. Furthermore, Clinton was impeached for perjury in relation to his conduct in opposing Jones’ Section 1983 and Section 1985 claims. Perjury is not a minor wrong; it is a crime—a felony of longstanding. What court has ever suggested that perjury was a minor offense? It is sad to hear such arguments put forward by political scientists and historians, but for a law school professor to put such arguments forward is catastrophic. Why? Because Epps’ position will be heard, by students and by practitioners and by the lay public, and some number of people who hear it may come to believe it true: that perjury is minor. And when we reach the point that perjury is widely thought to be minor, we may have to reconsider if we need judges and courts at all, and if we don’t need them, we certainly won’t need American law professors.

Only Professor Epps can explain what he means by “minor.” I surely don’t know what he meant. But I can make a fair guess how many readers will understand him, albeit it is just my guess.

Clinton was an important person: the elected President of the United States. And Paula Jones was a nobody, and probably just a tool of the President’s opponents. He was important, and she was “minor.”

I think that is how a lot of people will understand Epps’ article in The Atlantic. If I am correct about this, and if Epps really wants to know why many people are voting Trump—he should just look in a mirror. It is writing like his that has and is pushing many Americans to do just that.

Now as you can see, I think Professor Epps is entirely wrong. Allegations that a defendant has violated someone’s civil rights, i.e., in violation of the Bill of Rights and federal statutes, are not minor. But for a moment, let us accept Epps’ position. Let us assume that sexual harassment and perjury in relation to allegations of sexual harassment are minor. If that were true, then the Democratic Senators who proffered Professor Hill’s allegations against Justice Thomas were ... only bringing up “minor offenses.” In that situation, Epps should date our polity’s descent into constitutional hell, not from 1998, but from 1991, and the fault would lie, not with Republicans, but with the Democrats. Epps’ position is all so odd. Very odd.

One last point. Professor Epps wrote: “Stanley Milgram’s ‘obedience to authority’ experiment suggests that others, who know better, will simply stand aside as the toadies take over.” Id. No: A thousand times no. The Milgram experiment suggests no such thing. The only lesson of the Milgram experiment is that some (hopefully few) academics are willing to impose on and to lie to people, i.e., ordinary people—sometimes struggling students—trying to pick up some spare change, and that Milgram and those like him will do these things in order to advance their academic careers, wholly without regard to the consequences endured by their experiments’ subjects. Furthermore, academic bodies and professional associations, which should maintain ethical boundaries and standards, will give positions, honors, and grants to such men. If Professor Epps thinks there is something else to be learned from Milgram’s experiment, then his judgment here is far worse than his misremembering and misunderstanding the events of 1991 and 1998. 

When the elite of our society quote Miligram and honor him, then other people will take the hint. Some of these ordinary people—who used to be called “citizens” and “voters,” but are now called “deplorables” and “irredeemables”—just might think they have more in common with Jones and the subjects of Milgrams experiments than they do with Professor Milgram and with Professor Epps. And if these people vote for Trump, I know why.


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, “Weighing” Good & Evil, and What We “Forgive” in History, The New Reform Club (Sept. 21, 2016, 5:25 AM). [Here

“Weighing” Good & Evil, and What We “Forgive” in History


I do not suggest that Sakharov, Longstreet, or Rommel were evil men, but they did serve bad causes. I do not say that the good they did (or attempted to do) during their lives is made void by the bad. But I do say it is wrong to suggest that the bad is outweighed by the good. Cf. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) (“I do not say [God forbid], I do not say that the virtues of such men were to be taken as a balance to their crimes; but they were some corrective to their effects.” (language in square brackets is Burke’s)). Such a moral quantification of right and wrong is not possible by mere mortals, and those who attempt such a calculus only callous our consciences.

Seth Barrett Tillman, The European Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, The New Reform Club(Sept. 18, 2016, 4:38 PM), http://tinyurl.com/hnmm7uz (emphasis added),


One can try to excuse [Jefferson] Davis by pointing out that we honor many historical figures who committed various moral wrongs. For example, many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves, just like Davis did. But the Founders deserve commemoration because the evil they did was outweighed by other, positive achievements, such as establishing the Constitution (many of them also hoped and wrongly expected that slavery would soon disappear). By contrast, leading a war in defense of slavery was by far Davis’ most important historical legacy. Few would remember him today, otherwise.

Ilya Somin, Renaming Jefferson Davis Highway, The Washington Post—The Volokh Conspiracy (Sept 19, 2016), http://tinyurl.com/jlupdfg (emphasis added).

Compare also:

The Battle of the Atlantic was the key battle of the war. And Ireland made it easier for the Germans. Patrol aircraft available in 1942 didn’t have the range to cover the entire Atlantic, even including airbases in Iceland. If there had been airbases available in Ireland they could have closed the gap, but the Irish government refused to allow it. Churchill even wrote a letter to the Irish government saying that he understood why the Irish didn't want the UK operating from Irish soil, and instead suggested that the Americans build and operate an airfield there. “Surely you don't think the Americans would use it as a base to reconquer Ireland, do you?” well, the Irish turned that offer down, and it wasn’t until the development and deployment of Escort Carriers that it was possible to give air cover to convoys all the way across the Atlantic.

During that period, hundreds of cargo ships were sunk which might not have been if only there had been adequate air support. A lot of the crews of those ships were Americans, too, who died when their ships were torpedoed.

There were a lot of things the Irish did that I object to, but this particular one I cannot forgive. There was no good reason for them to refuse to permit American airbases on Irish soil.

Steven Den Beste, Comment, Ireland and World War II, The New Reform Club (Sept. 20, 2016, 11:28 PM), http://tinyurl.com/gthoczn (emphasis added),


Disgraceful. And ignorant. Not one single word in that about 1,000 years of Anglo-Irish conflict, the murder of Irishmen and women during the Rising, the Civil War, the Black and Tans and Partition. Maybe we weren’t in much of a mood to help Britain out. If this nudnik wants to swing by my farm in rural Clare, he would see the results of the British occupation, written in stone and blood.

David Kahane, Comment, SETH BARRETT TILLMAN: Ireland And World War II, Instapundit (Sept. 20, 2016, 9:09 PM), https://pjmedia.com/instapundit/244334/#comment-2907852245 (emphasis added). 


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, You know you are getting old when ..., The New Reform Club (Sept. 20, 2016, 2:46 PM). [Here 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

You know you are getting old when ...

You know you are getting old when you prefer the old folk song to the national anthem.

You know you are getting old when you prefer the old national anthem to the new one.

You know you are getting old when you agree with the ambassador’s thought on the national anthem: (The Dish at 39:40 to 42:11).


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, The Nuclear Option and Political Responsibility for Obamacare, The New Reform Club (Sept. 20, 2016, 4:43 AM). [Here

The Nuclear Option and Political Responsibility for Obamacare

As Obamacare costs and premiums skyrocket and if the new Congress is willing to address these issues again, it is important for all of us to remember who did what. Political Accountability.

In 2013, after Reid and the Senate majority nullified the Senate cloture rule (requiring 60 members to break a filibuster), I wrote:

The Senate’s use of the nuclear option pins any defects in the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) on the Democrats. Until the nuclear option was used, Democrats said that they had to pass an arguably defective bill because they could not get around a minority Republican-led filibuster in the Senate. In other words, although the Senate was able to invoke cloture and pass the ACA when it had Senate Ted Kennedy’s vote, once he died and was replaced by Senator Scott Brown, the Democratic majority in the Senate was unable to pass an alternative bill or substantively amend the ACA.

But the use of the nuclear option undercuts that narrative. We now know that the Democratic majority always had the ability to change the rules and to end debate on any amendment or amendments to the ACA. The Senate Democratic majority always had the power to terminate debate—it is just that the Senate Democratic majority refused to exercise that power.

If Obamacare is defective, it is not because the Republicans filibustered or threatened to filibuster any amendments, but because the Senate Democratic majority refused to terminate debate using a power which was always within their reach. It follows that political responsibility for any virtues or defects in the ACA rests entirely with the Democrats who passed it.

Randy Barnett, The Nuclear Option and Political Responsibility for Obamacare, Volokh Conspiracy (Nov. 26, 2013, 10:57 AM), http://tinyurl.com/zwh2p85


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, A Successful Tweet: over 20,000 impressions, The New Reform Club (Sept. 20, 2016, 4:18 AM). [Here]

A Successful Tweet: over 20,000 impressions


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, Ireland and World War II, The New Reform Club (Sept. 19, 2016, 2:34 PM). [Here


Monday, September 19, 2016

Ireland and World War II

I am an American. I currently live and work in Ireland. But, I carry no special brief for Ireland and its people. When you wrote: “Ireland, like Sweden, has gotten a pass for behavior during World War II that doesn’t deserve a pass.” That’s true. But it is not the whole story either. 

Tens of thousands of Irish peoplefrom the Republic (albeit technically not a republic until 1949)volunteered to fight for the Allies and against the Axis. At the conclusion of the war, these people were not punished by the Irish legal system for what they did. (They might not have been publicly praised either, but have our troops returning from the recent Asian conflicts received parades?) 

That said, Irish citizens already serving in Ireland’s armed forces who deserted from the Irish armed forces to fight for the Allies and against the Axis are somewhat different. What do you think an American court would have done to an American soldier who deserted the U.S. armed forces just prior to the outbreak of WWII, who after the war ended, returned to the United States? He risked prosecution, jail, and, perhaps, worse. Much worse. The Irish did not jail such soldiers/deserters. They denied their former soldiers/deserters government work for seven years. That is hardly out of line with the practices of greater humanity. 

Ireland made every effort to stay (at least, formally) neutral. It is difficult for democracies to fight wars when not attacked. Ireland was not attacked by the Axis.* Its action here was not praiseworthy. But Ireland’s conduct was not much different from the United States, which also stayed neutral until actually attacked in 1941. It is true that even when neutral, the United States favored the Allies. But, so did Ireland. When Allied flyers bailed out over Ireland, they were escorted to Northern Ireland (then and now a part of the UK) where they rejoined their companies. Axis fliers (and naval personnel) were interned for the course of hostilities. 

The British did not exactly jump at the chance to fight either. By the time of British entry, Italy and Spain had already fallen to fascism, (former) Czechoslovakia had been abandoned by Chamberlain, and Japan had conquered large chunks of China. For millions, especially in Asia and Africa, WWII began long before 1939 and the Phony War of 19391940. 

The British delayed entering the war until they were ready and until they thought their most essential interests were at stake. Then they fought. 

Please keep in mind that the story you linked to is from the BBC. One would think that the first question the BBC should have asked is how did the post-WWII British government treat Irish and other expatriate soldiers who fought for Britain (and humanity) during WWII. That question might take some serious introspection, but don’t expect that from the biased BBC (http://biased-bbc.blogspot.com). It is so much easier for them to attack foreigners. Just think how the BBC reports on the United States: its government and its people. 

Again, the conduct of the Irish during WWII was not all one could have hoped for. There were (some) people here during WWII listening to radio reports and hoping Britain would fall: oblivious to the fact that they were next in line. Cheering Hitler’s victories. Old hatreds don’t die so easily. But, today, the Irish children and grandchildren of such people do not (at least, openly) praise their parents’ and grandparents’ behavior, and Irish society is reexamining its wartime conduct. (http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/ian-odoherty/ian-odoherty-im-proud-to-wear-the-poppy-for-the-fallen-kids-and-mad-larry-2932241.html) In America, we still have people who think Julius Rosenberg was innocent or praiseworthy, and others who believe that C.S.A. soldiers were patriots. There is a lot of room for self-improvement all around.


The above was originally posted on InstapunditSee Glenn Reynolds, This Doesn’t Reflect Well on Ireland: Why Irish Soldiers Who Fought Hitler Hide Their Medals: Another Update, Instapundit (Jan. 2, 2012, 6:16 PM), pjmedia.com/instapundit/134529.  

For another take on these events and times, see Seth Barrett Tillman, Advice to the Allies—1945, 15(2) Claremont Review of Books 13, Spring 2015, http://ssrn.com/abstract=2478600,  http://tinyurl.com/pbhmrox.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, The Irish Courts, The New Reform Club (Sept. 19, 2016, 2:38 PM), http://tinyurl.com/j7qej3j.  

*Actually, Germany bombed Ireland on several occasions during WWII. The German government claimed these were accidents and, by mutual agreement, it paid reparations to Ireland during the war. On two occasions, the Germans bombed Irish areas with Jewish populations, not that there were that many Jews in Ireland during WWII. Make from that what you will. See http://tinyurl.com/z29cauq

The Irish Courts

Seth Barrett Tillman, Has the Irish Court of Appeal Solved the Judicial Backlog? Can it?, 34(14) Irish Law Times 210–12 (2016) (available on Westlaw.ie), 
http://ssrn.com/abstract=2816458 (abstract only, but a copy will be posted on SSRN circa October 2, 2016). 

Connor Gallagher, Court of Appeal backlog ‘could take over a decade to clear’, The Irish Times, Sept. 19, 2016, 1:00 AM, at 6, http://tinyurl.com/jdnqfkn (quoting Tillman interview extensively, and quoting Tillman’s article in Irish Law Times). 

Mark Tighe & Catherine Sanz, Half of cases overturned on appeal, The Sunday Times (Irish ed.), Sept. 18, 2016, at 1–2, http://tinyurl.com/hvl3x3x (quoting Tillman interview extensively, and quoting Tillman’s article in Irish Law Times) (available on Nexis).  

Mark Tighe & Catherine Sanz, How we scraped for data on appeal decisions, The Sunday Times (Irish ed.), Sept. 18, 2016, at 6, http://tinyurl.com/zcmd4hl (quoting Tillman interview) (available on Nexis).


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, The European Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, The New Reform Club (Sept. 18, 2016, 4:38 PM), http://tinyurl.com/hnmm7uz 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The European Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

A new year. “A new age: of hope, and peace, and spiritual growth, et cetera. And I am still here for my sins.” See Prime Minister Francis Urquhart, To Play the King [YouTube, (at 1:47ff)]. And another year for the European Parliament to award the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. 

This year's nominees include: Can D√ľndarn (the former editor-in-chief of Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, was arrested last November after his newspaper reported on Turkey’s intelligence service smuggling arms to rebels in Syria); Mustafa Dzhemilev (former chair of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars People (Tatar parliament), a former Soviet dissident and a Ukrainian MP); Nadia Murad Basee & Lamiya Aji Bashar (advocates for the Yazidi community and for women surviving sexual enslavement by Islamic State); and, Ilham Tohti (a peaceful advocate of China’s Uyghur minority, who is serving a life sentence in prison).

Once again, I do not have much to say about the absolute or relative merits of the nominees for this great European prize.

Instead, I will comment on the prize’s namesake: Andrei Sakharov. The prize’s website explains: 

The Russian physicist Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov (1921-1989), who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, first came to prominence as the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb. 

Concerned at the implications his work had for the future of humankind, he sought to raise awareness of the dangers of the nuclear arms race. His efforts proved partially successful with the signing of the 1963 nuclear test ban treaty. [Here]

This is pretty thin gruel. Let me add a few details: Andrei Sakharov devoted the major part of his professional life towards developing thermonuclear weapons for the Soviet Union. He did this work under Stalin and under his successors. Sakharov’s work made it more difficult for the United States and the world’s other democracies to press for human rights reforms in the Soviet Union and the countries in its orbit—just as his work made it easier for the Soviet Union to threaten its neighbors and the countries of the world.

It is true, by the late 1950s, Sakharov had some second thoughts. He stood for human rights and arms control. And, I do not doubt that in doing so, he put his career, and indeed, his very life, at some real risk.

I guess the prize is associated with his deeds during the second phase of his life, not the first. General Longstreet killed a lot of Union troops, but after the Civil War, he broke with his former Confederate colleagues, led an integrated militia in battle in the 1870s, and even became a Republican! (See James Longstreet Timeline: http://www.longstreetsociety.org/timeline.html.) Is there a James Longstreet Prize somewhere? I suspect there is not. Rommel was part of the conspiracy to kill Hitler, and he was killed for his (failed) efforts. Is there a Rommel Prize somewhere? I doubt it.

I do not suggest that Sakharov, Longstreet, or Rommel were evil men, but they did serve bad causes. I do not say that the good they did (or attempted to do) during their lives is made void by the bad. But I do say it is wrong to suggest that the bad is outweighed by the good. Cf. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) (“I do not say [God forbid], I do not say that the virtues of such men were to be taken as a balance to their crimes; but they were some corrective to their effects.” (language in square brackets is Burkes)). Such a moral quantification of right and wrong is not possible by mere mortals, and those who attempt such a calculus only callous our consciences.

I suspect there is no General James Longstreet Prize, and if someone asked me if such a prize should be created, I would say “no”. There is no Rommel Prize, and if someone asked if such a prize should be created, I would say “no”. (Just to be clear: I am not comparing Longstreet and the Confederacy to Rommel and Nazi Germany.)

There is a Sakharov Prize, and if someone had asked me prior to its creation whether it should be created, I hope I would have had the moral clarity to say “no”. There were and there are other people in Europe and elsewhere who this prize could have been named for: persons who were not quite so morally ambiguous. E.g., Average people—people who were not heroic or even particularly bright. Perhaps it could have been called the Ivan Denisovich Prize. It speaks volumes about the modern European zeitgeist that a major prize is named for Sakharov, but the founders of NATO—which protected Europe from Sakharov’s warheads—remain largely unknown. It goes without saying that the American taxpayer who paid for Europe’s defence (and who continues to do so) is entirely lost from sight. Europe’s cosmopolitan transnational elites much prefer believing that the years of peace and plenty were their creation, as opposed to their being the beneficiary of American good will beyond their control.  

Now here is the hard part: i.e., hard for Burkean conservatives. This prize has existed since circa 1988. What may have been a mistake in its conception is now a public tradition, which—in fact—may do some good in the world. Jacobin perfectionism demands old things be torn down or renamed. But Jacobinism does not perfect the world, it just destroys remnants of our historical past. So, although no one is asking me, I am for letting the Sakharov Prize continue, even under its current name, but in doing so, we ought not heap undeserved praise on Andrei Sakharov.  

Still, you might ask: Why not honor Sakharov?”  

Shigera Yoshida pushed Japan’s elites towards surrender and peace as World War II progressed towards Japan’s ultimate defeat. But during the 1930s and 1940s, Yoshida was part of the imperialist movement which led Japan into disaster and destruction, and also led Japan into war with the United States. In fact, during the last year of the war, Yoshida was Japan’s armaments minister. Maybe—just maybe—Yoshida’s countrymen should think well of him. He was morally ambiguous: a mixed bag. But we of the United States and the Allies should remember: that he supported killing our people during the war and, also, that had he had the tools to prevail over us, he surely would have used those tools. Perhaps, just perhaps, he is deserving of a prize in Japan. But there should be no room for a Yoshida Prize in the United States or among the Allies.

The same is true for Sakharov. Perhaps Sakharov is deserving of a prize in Russia and the former Soviet Union, but not in Western and Central Europe, or in the United States. What we owe our country and countrymen is different from what we owe others. The fact that Yoshida did some things which were, in a highly abstract ahistorical sense, praiseworthy, and which were motivated by selflessness—not to benefit us or humanity—but were for the benefit of his country and his countrymen is no reason for us to recognize his deeds as virtuous. The same logic applies to Sakharov. 

Yoshida was always working for Japan—which included its war aims—he just recognized, circa 1944 after millions had died, that Japan’s interests had changed from war to peace. We in the United States and among the Allies benefited from that change of heart. Sakharov too had a change of heart: from arming the USSR with thermonuclear weapons to arms control and human rights. But—as far as I know—in regard to both Sakharov and Yoshida—their change of heart was rooted in self-interest and the interests of their polity. Sakharov stated: “I am no volunteer priest of the idea, but simply a man with an unusual fate. I am against all kinds of self-immolation (for myself and for others, including the people closest to me).” (emphasis added) [source: Wikipedia] If anyone should honor these men it is their polity (or their successor polities). Not us; not the United States; not Western & Central Europe. To the extent we have honors to give out, they should go to people who had the decency, wisdom, and courage to oppose Yoshida and Japan prior to 1944 (i.e., prior to Yoshida’s change of heart) at the risk and cost of their lives, and also to those who opposed Sakharov prior to the late 1950s (i.e., prior to Sakharov’s change of heart), at the risk and, not infrequently, at the costs of their lives.


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman ) 

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, Advice to a Friend, The New Reform Club (Sept. 18, 2016, 6:24 AM) [Here

My prior post on this subject: Seth Barrett Tillman, The European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought 2015, The New Reform Club (Oct. 18, 2015, 3:33 PM) [Here]

Advice to a Friend


Now issue XYZ is an entirely different issue. Your addressing this different issue is tangential and distracting from your main point, and addressing it in this fashion (in a cursory footnote) will only buy you immense bad will—among those who disagree with your conclusion. Issue XYZ is an interesting and important point, and it is entitled to full-length development, if not an entire free-standing paper. ABC and DEF wrote such papers, albeit I disagree with their conclusions. By burying such an issue in a mere footnote, it will appear to (some) readers that you are sticking a finger in their eye by indicating that an important point about which they have thought long and hard is one which you can casually write off in a footnote, OR, they will think you just don’t understand the importance or complexity of the issue and that’s why you can dispose of it in a mere footnote. I speak from experience here: having caused myself needless aggravation in the past by writing just such (lengthy) footnotes in my own publications.


Twitter: https://twitter.com/SethBTillman ( @SethBTillman )

My prior post: Seth Barrett Tillman, An American Brexit Referendum: Should the United States continue to participate in NATO?The New Reform Club (Sept. 15, 2016, 12:27 PM