Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Cooperation, Punishment, and Asymmetrical Warfare   posted by Matoko Kusanagi @ 7/25/2006 10:53:00 PM

I was arguing with Dave Schuler at the Glittering Eye about the concept of a "just war". Dave argues that hizb' actions do not comprise a "just" war. I told Dave that there was no such thing as a "just" war. But that is not strictly true. War is a case where individuals sacrifice their chances to reproduce by aiding others.
Darwin (1874:178-179)says:
It must not be forgotten that although a high standard of morality gives but slight or no advantage to each individual man and his children over other men of the tribe, yet that an increase in the number of well-endowed men and an advancement in the standard of morality will certainly give an immense advantage to one tribe over another. A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection.

In theory, the tribe with Right on their side would win any war. Darwin is, of course, talking about genomes. I am lately (like MC Coffee Mug) kindasorta interested in memomes. In the MC's post, he quotes Joshua Green--
"...our social instincts were not designed for the modern world. Nor, for that matter, were they designed to promote peace and happiness in the world for which they were designed, the world of our hunter-gatherer ancestors."

And perhaps this is true. But we also have a built-in mechanism to compensate for our hard-wiring, culture. I quote from Chapter 9 (Punishment allows the Evolution of Cooperation (or anything else) in Sizeable Groups) of the swell new book i am reading, The Origin and Evolution of Cultures.
In most existing models, reciprocators retaliate against noncooperatives by witholding future cooperation....[but there are] alternative forms of punishment known as retribution. It seems possible that selection may favor cooperation enforced by retribution even in sizeable groups of unrelated individuals because, unlike withholding reciprocity, retribution can be made only against noncooperators, and because the magnitude of the penalty imposed on noncooperators is not limited by the effect on the outcome of cooperative behavior.

The death penalty is a good example of retribution. Now to return to the topic of this post, can asymmetrical warfare ever be considered a "just" war? It is most likely "immoral" to deliberately draw fire on civilians of the host population. It is possibly "immoral" to deliberatly target civilians in the adversary population. Neither of these behaviors is punished by terrorist groups.

Strategypage says, "Terror is the tactic of the weak, or those short of better ideas." But is it really? What if it is a new paradigm? That is what i think, a mutant strategy that rewards immoral actions. Not punishment, not retribution, but reward. In a "just war", the society with higher moral values will triumph. But what about an unjust war?