The morality of conquering territory for living space?

Belgarion

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,490
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
13,495
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
24,531
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#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
6,490
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
24,531
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#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
24,531
Lago Maggiore, Italy
#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
3,839
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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