The morality of conquering territory for living space?

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,624
Australia
#11
What exactly does this mean?

I think what aggie is saying is that we can't judge the attitude to conquest in the past by the moral standards of today. Up until failry recently it was perfectly acceptable for strong nations to conquer and/or absorb weaker ones. The men who ran the British Empire for example mostly genuinely believed they were doing the right thing by bringing civilisation to the benighted heathens, as did the Spanish, French, Portuguese etc.
 

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
17,807
SoCal
#12
I think what aggie is saying is that we can't judge the attitude to conquest in the past by the moral standards of today. Up until failry recently it was perfectly acceptable for strong nations to conquer and/or absorb weaker ones. The men who ran the British Empire for example mostly genuinely believed they were doing the right thing by bringing civilisation to the benighted heathens, as did the Spanish, French, Portuguese etc.
OK. I get aggie's point now.

That said, though, I would still draw a distinction between acquiring a territory due to a country's desire to use this territory as living space (without any expulsions of the existing population, that is) and acquiring a territory for some other reason. After all, the former would eventually be consistent with national self-determination due to the changed demographics of this area while the latter would remain inconsistent with national self-determination.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,875
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#13
Morality is variable with reference to time and to space. It's like the conception of crime: what we consider a crime today was common and socially accepted in an other age [think to slavery].

Regarding US and living space we could add a consideration also about the conquest of the territories of the Natives. That was an invasion as well [and the Native populations didn't know a marvellous destiny]. In this Americans haven’t been different from European colonialists.

And here we can come to the matter of “morality”. If a nationalistic-Christian-Western vision of the world [in XIX century] make Westerns think to be superior, to have even the duty to rule the other populations of the planet [because Westerns will give them progress and under Western domain they will live better …] … and so on … and so on … Westerns thought it was absolutely morally justified to colonize other lands.

The same, of course, reasoning on a mere religious base [like both Christians and Muslims have done conquering large parts of the world]. If you think to be right what you do is morally right. What else?

Today we are observing a world where the greatest cultures [with their civilizations] tend to gather into a “global village”. There are still evident resistances and it’s not sure this process will reach a final point of arrival … anyway nowadays cultural backgrounds sustaining a certain kind of superiority of a civilization on the others are no more dominating [even if they are still well present].

This has generally made less “moral” to conquer the territory of an other sovereign country. Today its about geopolitical interests. If there are geopolitical interests to allow a country to conquer a territory … politicians will invent a plausible moral justification, no problem.
 

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,624
Australia
#14
OK. I get aggie's point now.

That said, though, I would still draw a distinction between acquiring a territory due to a country's desire to use this territory as living space (without any expulsions of the existing population, that is) and acquiring a territory for some other reason. After all, the former would eventually be consistent with national self-determination due to the changed demographics of this area while the latter would remain inconsistent with national self-determination.

While the conquering nation may feel that the need for living space was a justified reason for invasion as opposed to any other, the conquered people would not see any justification whatsoever.
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,875
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#15
The problem of "national self-determination" is that it should work like personal self-determination [of the individual] in a society ruled by law.


My self-determination cannot damage or subjugate the self-determination of an other citizen if not in the cases ruled by the law [private property is a typical matter which allows, because of existing laws, a citizen to limit the self-determination of other citizens: you cannot enter my home without my permission even if you need "living space"].
 

AlpinLuke

Ad Honoris
Oct 2011
25,875
Italy, Lago Maggiore
#16
Different matter is the "reconquest". It's all evident, going back to the example of the private property in a society ruled by laws, that if someone else expels me from my home ... I've got a certain "right to return" ... it's the case of the Jews and the State of Israel. A case which can be debated regarding this or that excess, but [like about private property regarding a home] if a population has had the possession of a territory for a relevant period of time ... that population has got some rights about that territory.


Obviously, there was [almost for any country and nation] a moment when a territory had conquered [it's simply history and as I've said above, this was among the common and accepted behaviors of the past ... to make war to conquer].
 

Fox

Ad Honorem
Oct 2011
3,905
Korea
#17
I was wondering what everyone's thoughts on the mortality of conquering territory for living space--whether in the past or in the present--is.

...

Anyway, any thoughts on this? Indeed, do you view the U.S.'s expansion into northern Mexico and Russia's expansion into Siberia and northern Kazakhstan as being illegitimate?
From a long term, systematic perspective, to claim any territory as one's own is an act of implicit violence; saying, "Do not come here, or if you do then accept our governance and authority, lest we forcibly eject or kill you," is of a character with saying, "Leave this territory, or if you remain then accept our governance and authority, lest we forcibly eject or kill you." Both the invader and the defender want the same thing: access to and control of a particular patch of land, both are willing to achieve that end through violence, and neither can be said to have any intrinsic "right" to exclusive access to the land in question. Conquest necessitates violence, at least implicitly, yet governance itself necessitates violence. Accordingly, if we treat violence as absolutely unacceptable, than it is not conquest, but sovereign governance itself which is the problem. By contrast, if we treat violence as something only to be minimized (i.e. a relative prohibition), then we must prove that conquest never leads to a long-term reduction in violence, yet that deals in counterfactuals, it would be difficult to prove in any meaningful way, and it is at least intuitively possible that conquest could lead to a long-term reduction in violence in some cases.

One might object, "But the defender was there first, and that gives them precedence," yet putting aside the fact that the populace of the defender may well have been an invader in a previous era, that principle is at its core nothing more than the elevation of human status quo bias to the level of moral law, transferring as it does the emotions we feel about individual humans in the moment onto what we claim is imperative for societies as a whole. Yet few people today genuinely believe that territorial distribution should be governed by the borders and governmental systems of the past, so why should we demand the future be governed by the borders and governmental systems of the present?

One might object, "But conquest, at least in the moment, impacts human welfare in an unacceptable way, regardless of any potential long-term benefits which might arise," yet the impact on human welfare has two sources: the actions of the invaders, and the obstinate refusal of the invaded to comply and submit. Without irrational status quo bias on their side, there's no clear reason to favor one over the other; the impact on human welfare could be mitigated by the invaded being more pliable, and if a potential long-term advantage could result from the conquerors administering the territory in question, one could make a case that the invaded should submit in at least some cases. At least if one is approaching the matter from a human welfare perspective, that is. Yet if one is not, then the foundation of this objection to conquest crumbles as well.

This is just a brief summary of the matter, of course, but overall it seems to me that it's difficult to make a case against conquest, in-and-of itself, that doesn't invalidate all sovereign government in the bargain. A committed, uncompromising anarchist might be pleased by that, but most people are not committed, uncompromising anarchists, so if one is going to make a case against conquest which is internally consistent without leading to the logical conclusion of anarchy, it's going to have to be on more limited grounds than attacking conquest per se.
 
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Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
5,369
Portugal
#18
Pardon me to resurrect this thread from the dead, but I am here in the sequence of a change of posts with Futurist about this theme in another thread, I felt invited to come here, and I consider that, to not derail the other thread, this is probably the most adequate space to post.

To begin, I will break the OP in its four paragraphs:

I was wondering what everyone's thoughts on the mortality of conquering territory for living space--whether in the past or in the present--is.
We are in a history forum, I like to consider that we are here because we like history, so I think we can say that in general terms we, here, have a better knowledge of history than the general internet user population.

So, as people that like history, it is important to divide our reasoning, because you say “in the past or in the present…” The past belongs to history. The present not that much, it only will be incorporated in the future.

And this separation is essential since if we are talking about this in the present, for the present, or for planning the future, than it is not history. It’s politics.

So, a timeline must be established, even more because your emphasis is on “morality”, a concept that changes in time.

Analysing the present with our current morality is quite normal, and here I can answer directly that, from my political and moral perspective, since this is a political issue, no, it is not moral to conquer “living space”. Period.

And for our analysis of the present a historical perspective can be introduced. Most specially our recent history, that influenced all of us directly, and “Living space” (“Lebensraum” in German) has a strong significance since its use until the end of WWII. And this significance is still quite present today in our historiography.

While analysing the past, I consider that we should avoid any presentisms, we should avoid to take sides, we should understand the past as it was, contextualized in the societies of their time, and not trough the lens of our moral conceptions of today. To give you an example: the fact that I try to understand and study a cannibalistic society of the 19h century doesn’t mean that I defend the cannibalism, or that I immediate begun to criticize that society for being cannibalistic. But on the other hand I can understand the critics that were made at the time, to Europeans, that with their moral values at the time, while in cannibalistic societies experimented a certain kind of meat.

I mean, I feel rather conflicted about this considering that, on one hand, I support national self-determination--for instance, allowing territories to secede from the country which they are a part of. (This is evidenced by my support of the break-up of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia.) On the other hand, though, I really do have a soft spot for the U.S.'s conquest of large amounts of Mexican territory back in 1848 due to the fact that the U.S. managed to make excellent use of this territory afterwards (by turning it into its living space, et cetera). (I also like the fact that the U.S. gave U.S. citizenship to the people who were living in this territory at the time that it was conquered. Indeed, if one is going to expand, this is certainly the proper course of action.) In turn, this makes me wonder--if it was fair game for the U.S. to expand into northern Mexico in order to acquire living space, and it was fair game for, say, Russia to expand into Siberia and northern Kazakhstan for the same reason, shouldn't it be fair game for other countries to do this as well if these countries genuinely have an overpopulation problem and have a lot of people who are willing to settle on newly acquired living space?
From what I said previously, I think that you understand that while in principle I also defend the idea of “national self-determination”, so today, while studding history, I don’t have to defend (or attack) the “break-up of the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire, the Russian Empire” or even more recently, in my lifetime, “the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia”. It happened, it is history. I had (and still have) an opinion about the last three because I lived it, so it was not a historical position, it was a political one.

As for the terminology “Living space”, and we already know the strong reference that we have in this terminology in historiography terms, was it used in the 19th century by the USA in its wars against Mexico? Or by Russia in Asia? If it wasn’t maybe today the use of that terminology is not the most adequate.

I mean, we certainly have international law right now. However, powerful countries have the luxury of violating international law with relative impunity if they so choose--for instance, take a look at the U.S.'s invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and Russia's annexation of Crimea. In turn, this makes one wonder if the current system of international law is the best one out there. I mean, I certainly don't approve of what the Nazis wanted to do considering that it involved mass ethnic cleansing and genocide, but if a country genuinely has an overpopulation problem (and Nazi Germany did not) and wants to expand its territory and also grant citizenship to everyone who is already living in its newly acquired territory (like the U.S. did in 1848), I'm not so sure that having this country expand is the worst thing that can happen.
Any law has its face value if it can be implemented, in the last resource, by force. In a country this means that we have a police force and a judicial system that implement it. In international law we don’t have a international police force that can entry in every corner of the world and a judicial system that can make a prosecution in every corner of the world. So “international law” is often an euphemism. Even so I think that the post WWII “international law”, often under the banner of the UN, with all its problems, is the best that we have since the beginning of history.

Your last sentence here concerns me. Because it is not about history. If I understood you right, it is about politics, today or in a near future. And is the kind of sentence that legitimates the aggressive grab of territory from a country at the expenses of other, under the banner of “living space”, and that then gives citizenship as a booby prize to the survivor inhabitants of the grabbed piece of land that meanwhile didn’t run away and joined the huge mass of refuges that we already have on the planet. Today is totally amoral and immoral.

Anyway, any thoughts on this? Indeed, do you view the U.S.'s expansion into northern Mexico and Russia's expansion into Siberia and northern Kazakhstan as being illegitimate?
USA and Russian expansions were not legitimate, not from their foes perspective, but were legitimized by force and time, just as many others in the history of Mankind.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,345
Sydney
#19
Might is Right ,
like it or not , that's been the reality and probably will remain so
debate about the morality of it somewhat smell unrealistic .
 

pugsville

Ad Honorem
Oct 2010
8,801
#20
That said, though, I would still draw a distinction between acquiring a territory due to a country's desire to use this territory as living space (without any expulsions of the existing population, that is) and acquiring a territory for some other reason. After all, the former would eventually be consistent with national self-determination due to the changed demographics of this area while the latter would remain inconsistent with national self-determination.
It is NOT consistent with self determiniation. If the invader respect self determniationof the esisting popuylation then they would determine not to have more ppulation. Once a floof of invaders have stacked the dmeograhics teh esxisting popylation can do what with their self determination? It has been destroyed.
 
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