I’m not generally concerned with the specific case of genocide as defined today, but more the general case of mass killings. Genocide can be seen as a specific sort of mass killing, but as we will see, its underlying logic is the same: surgical excision or more broadly, a kind of physical removal. If you have a cockroach problem, you could try to get the cockroaches to clean up after themselves, be responsible with the number of eggs they lay, and so forth, and thereby establish a more just society (or at least, patronage), or you could simply physically remove the pests, which might in fact be the most cost-effective way of handling their tendency to foster disease and damage your property.
Generally the logic of ‘why not genocide?’ for a particular pest problem, or again, more generally, ‘why not mass killing?’ depends mainly on an emotional argument. That is, lots of people dying is awful. And it is. That is, provided those dying you care for in some way; if they are hated enemies or subhuman (as in the case of cockroaches), you might end up with the Conanical Response:
Mongol General: What is best in life?
Conan: To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.
So as I noted above, while the will exists to extend familial or affine bonds to any given human this emotional ‘logic’ will work fine, but as we can see, it has no rigor and can be quickly turned on its head—the things which worked to make it awful make it all the more delicious. Thus ends the explanation of the popular or vulgar argument against genocide and also the popular or vulgar argument for it.
To correctly oppose mass slaughter of men, we must properly understand the arguments for it. To do this is a bit of an act of faith; I have some assurance that without manipulation I’ll come to the conclusion that there is something wrong with the practice (at least in general) without having to distort the facts or warp the truth in my favor. It may be a wild ride!
As I have outlined above, there are situations where both a large group of people contains or presents a problem and it is either more effective, or only effective, to physically remove them from your jurisdiction. I outlined it analogically as a cockroach infestation. In this sense, the cockroach infestation is the “absurd” end of this species of problem, classically named “questions.”
“What shall be done about the [group]?” is the general formulation. Its answer is not necessarily physical removal—but we have to appreciate that the cockroach situation can arise. As a quick example, squatters often act as cockroaches (not that they are)—they may start a fire somewhere to keep warm which might damage the structure, they probably don’t keep very clean, given there is no running water, etc. The proper solution with squatters is to evict them as quickly as possible from the abandoned building, before they make it worse than it is. Like cockroaches, they don’t own the place, and if it turns into a giant heap of sewage and sawdust, they can move on.
Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. (Kill them all. For the Lord knoweth them that are His.)
In the Albigensian crusade, this notorious quote is attributed to Arnaud Amalric, and the cause of it is simple: The heretical Cathars hid themselves among regular people in Bezeirs, and the only way to remove them was to remove everyone—like having to get some healthy tissue when removing a tumor because it is attached. Most people these days see this as an excess of religion, but from the perspective of the liberal, Muslims can present the same issue, though the liberal be as irreligious as Voltaire.
In either case, your dispute with Amalric is not his method, but rather the weight he gives to the problem of the Cathar heresy. Sherman certainly saw the same logic flow from different premises; the form remains and persists, though the premises mutate through time.
Out of everye corner of the woode and glenns they came creepinge forth upon theire handes, for theire legges could not beare them; they looked Anatomies [of] death, they spake like ghostes, crying out of theire graves; they did eate of the carrions, happye wheare they could find them, yea, and one another soone after, in soe much as the verye carcasses they spared not to scrape out of theire graves; and if they found a plott of water-cresses or shamrockes, theyr they flocked as to a feast… in a shorte space there were none almost left, and a most populous and plentyfull countrye suddenly lefte voyde of man or beast: yett sure in all that warr, there perished not manye by the sworde, but all by the extreamytie of famine … they themselves had wrought.
This is Edmund Spenser, known and well loved English poet, calling for a scorched earth policy against Irish resisting English rule. The logic here is similar, but different—in this case, example is to be made of rebels by inflicting some variant of what we might colloquially call ultraviolence—the purpose of this ultraviolence is to prevent the need for future ultraviolence, but also establish peace and dominance from which law and order can be also established. This, if done well, will prevent further rebellion, death, famine and so on. Even the victim’s group (what is left of them) wins, provided the rule is effective and those who submit are not punished just for their associations.
And this last case makes the logic of ultraviolence in the hands of power clear: it is preventative. It may be wrong to say that its purpose is to preclude the need for more such violence, but that is certainly part of the case for it, as even though it is easier to poison cockroaches than to train them, neither is cost-free and slaughtering anyone—even engaging in just warfare—has costs both material and spiritual. Particularly in the case of ultraviolence, rather than actual warfare, the latter is usually outsized.
More than this, the idea is that overall orderliness should increase when the “questionable” group is physically removed. There is no way to argue effectively that this is impossible; there is a good reason that countries have exiled their gypsy populations from time to time. It helps in that case that gypsies may be acting intentionally parasitic; but it does raise another point.
Why not simply exile these groups? In some cases, this does seem to be a good idea; in fact, when disputes arose between Jewish minorities and their host countries that were unresolvable, the usual response throughout history has been exile.
Cockroaches are a special case of creature, like Carpenter bees, that I call vermin. I have never in my life actually run into human vermin—but a brief definition is that vermin don’t at all understand that you are about to inflict ultraviolence on them, even if you keep escalating. So even though you kill one, two, three, bees, ten, twenty, sixty cockroaches—they never get the message that their whole group is threatened and will continue to infest, despite the violence visited upon them. In that case, they either must be de-verminized (in the case of animals, that would mean domestication or taming), or physically removed by killing all of them. In particular, vermin have the nasty feature of returning when you exile them; as a group and as individuals, they are incapable of acting rationally.
And it is that latter part that makes them most verminous—but let us say that you can get the raccoons—as an example of a reasonably intelligent but pesky creature—and get them to some place where they cannot come back to your back yard, like half-way across the state?
I was told by animal control once that the infestation of raccoons of an area is generally territorial expansion. That is, raccoons infest an area because they competed for, and lost, territory to other raccoons (or something else). That’s well and good, but I was told that they were forbidden from killing the raccoons (I don’t know what law or statute established that) but they confessed that in the end, the exiled raccoons would likely die, since wherever they took them would likely be the more well-established domain of other raccoons, with whom they would immediately have to compete. Even if successful, the chain reaction of that competition might just find a new set of raccoons ejected into that piece of territory known as your back yard. But generally, they said that the new raccoons would just be killed off by their competitors. So the practice was to release the raccoons, and then shoot them while they were running away. (I can’t absolutely vouch for the latter practice). This was regarded as a more humane and less grisly way for the doomed raccoons to perish. Your mileage may vary.
But it brings us to our point about exile—exiles have to go somewhere—and if you exile a group of people to wander the wastes and simply starve to death (similar to Spenser’s grisly image), you may not have killed them, but you very surely condemned them to death. As with the raccoons, it might just be better to kill them swiftly and with as little pain, rather than leave them to perhaps some form of cannibalism.
Most people in our day in age think the obvious way to deal with “questionable” groups is to accept their demands and try to appease them. They forget that this is generally the tactic known as “Mutt and Jeff”—and if you aren’t the one receiving remunerations to concede the viciousness of Mutt, that is, Jeff, you’ve been basically duped by Jeff, and not only will Jeff keep getting paid, but Mutt’s problematic activities will likely only increase. Except in cases where there is some orderly precedent, like for example something is stolen and needs to be returned, some custom has been denied and could reasonably restored, simply conceding to the demands of the questionable group can have the effect of emboldening them rather than quieting them.
To know where the line lies here requires judgment—that characteristic of leaders that is most sought-after. But it is safe to say that people generally appease their friends when their friends are acting badly, and punish their enemies. Thus, you can usually tell whose side people think they are on based on whom they wish to appease and whom they wish to punish. (That still tells you nothing about how orderly the result would be.)
So we can see that there is reasonable logic, despite being rather morbid, behind ultraviolence—and that it is the logic of sovereigns. It would seem, at a gloss, that individuals never want to be killed, but governments may wish at their discretion for men to be killed if they are problems. In that sense, there must be some kind of eternal war between the rights of sovereigns and the rights of men. Efforts to make governments more ‘humane’ are in part due to this fear and the ultimate anarchy it promises, if the rights of man should prevail.
But this appearance only applies to a certain class of lazy, unimaginative and abusive sovereigns; abusus non tollit usum. We can begin by noting that there are plenty of situations where governments have dealt with problematic groups without resorting to mass slaughter; but we note Paul’s words that governments have the right to use the sword “as a boon to good and a terror to evil.” That the sun can flare does not make it a solecism.
Now that we understand the logic of ultraviolence and see how it could be legitimate, we still find it disturbing. Since I don’t hold to the idea that the ends of a good sovereign and a good subject are necessarily at odds (though they can conflict), I don’t think that this is necessarily a case where in order for the government not to slaughter its citizens at will, the citizens must themselves restrain it from doing so.
There are two ways to go about this: the first would be to look at history and see how problem groups were dealt with and infer a pattern from that, or to examine why, in more general terms, one should oppose mass slaughters as answers to questions from the perspective of a sovereign.
Note to begin with, the idea that a sovereign which values the lives of its subjects in the Christian sense would never resort to mass slaughter is nonsense; while you may think of a scale where, on one side is the value of the problem group living and the value of them dying, and the value of their unique, individual lives as pushing the scale to one side, you’ve fallen into a trap of willful cognition: a general consideration of the cases of ultraviolence puts individual lives on both sides of the scale. Increasing the value of each can possibly alter resulting calculations, but not consistently away from ultraviolence. In fact, in cases where small numbers of people are threatening much greater numbers, this principle might make harsher punishments seem more rational against the few.
On the metaphysical level, the reason the sovereign is granted from God the power of the sword—which includes the power to kill whole groups—is for the maintenance of order. As Moldbug put it, “men are social, territorial and violent. They must be governed.” Christians must note that prelapsarian man was governed—in the Garden he may have walked with the Master in the cool of the afternoon, but there was at least one commandment—and it was to be obeyed without understanding why. Thus, we look to understand how ultraviolence against men, despite seeming like a boon to order and the good, actually turns out to be either a terror to good or a boon to evil, that is, in what way does ultraviolence of this sort undermine the sovereign’s raison d’etre?
To show this, we need to show at least how ultraviolence itself, aside from creating an attractive opening for another power to interfere with the present power’s affairs, who does not have intellectual sovereignty (in other words: does not define the terms of its rule but must accept those given by another power) might cause it to lose its mandate. It could do this for a number of reasons, but the best is that it loses the capcity to rule its own realm and descends into anarchy.
Note that one obvious example of this phenomenon is the French Revolution itself, not rather that the king had done such, but that the revolutionary government annihilated itself through ultraviolence and the reigns were seized by another before anarchy could fully develop. Of course, anarchy is often a state where much potential power is bouncing around, waiting to be grabbed (it could argued that the real motivation of the mostly criminal anarchists is to create this environment where they can then seize power with maximum despotic cruelty. But I digress.)
In the case of war, one is glad to not die; the law in that case is that all enemies can expect to die, which includes non-combatants. War is civilized to the extent that it limits its combatants, but the general law holds. However, in peace, the reverse is true; I live as I do in the United States because I have a reasonable expectation that USG is not going to kill me. If I expected it would, I would either move or live in constant hiding.
Given that, it is definitely true that the people the government would most like to remove are those who know this and evade either detection of their offensive activities, or simply evade being caught in some way. While resisting the power is unwise, some small number do fall through the cracks, like the cockroach that always seems to survive and re-institute the colony.
So what we are referring to primarily is a group of people that are probably not in open warfare with the governing authority; those who try generally get crushed. It’s notable that if you consider the example of the Branch Davidians, our government’s method of evading the appearance of mass slaughter is to provoke the questionable group into violence, after which the government can slaughter them in self-defense. (If you think our government was in any way threatened by the Branch Davidians, perhaps there is a bridge for sale that you’d like to consider the purchase of.)
Note that this doesn’t solve the problem and doesn’t actually oppose mass slaughter actively by handling the underlying problems differently. It just avoids people feeling bad about it. Given that the opposition to mass slaughter is mainly the vulgar one I proposed above, this adaptation in a democracy is nearly impossible to avoid. It does not actually avoid mass slaughter and this is not an entity we can in any way trust to responsibly handle problems for which genocide might seem an attractive and cheap solution.
So this group of people thinks they are on good terms, or on non-war terms, with the government. Then the government begins rounding them up and killing them. In the case of the two most notable genocides, the shoah and the Armenian Genocide, there were groups within those two groups, like the Cathars among the people, who indeed were at war with the government in some sense (for each the groups were: Revolutionary Communist Jews and Criminal Revolutionary Armenians) and certainly deserved to received the penalties associated with resisting the power. In both cases however, the action of the government taken against say, bombers, or assassination plotters, is relatively unquestionable from the perspective of the people; the plotters were at war and expected to be killed; like the Cathars, their knowledge of this was the reason they were hiding.
But for the rest, the case is different. We must however exclude those who aid and abet, that is, moderate Muslims who, while they would never bomb or shoot for Allah, would hide terrorists in their basement, since they do so knowing that they at the very least are standing on the edge of war with the power. But in all of these groups there were people who had no more knowledge of opposing the government or breaking a law as did you or I.
And therein lies the essence of the potatochip problem of Genocide. It goes like this: everyone who is not completely atomized must have associations to some group or other—they could, like the people living Beziers, that they simply lived next to someone housing terrorists—and now they don’t know that they can’t trust their government to do the same to them.
That’s well and good on its own, and is clearly a case of phobarchy and is probably not the intended result of the ultraviolence itself; but the more vocal and somewhat powerful (relatively) groups now know that they could be next. To prevent this, they will do things to attempt to prevent it. Depending on the existing relationship between them and the central power, this may be relatively desperate. And the more desperate it is, the more likely it is to become, especially among the paranoid, revolutionary agitation against the present government.
And revolutionary agitation against the present government is what caused the Turkish government to overreact and slaughter Armenians en masse.
We must grant that the Armenians would not have tried this if they had not thought they had a chance to succeed; and that is a fault of English radicals who meddled with the affairs of Greece, for example. But they could also, not having much hope of success, do so anyway if they felt they had nothing more to lose.
And the situation of repeated mass slaughters serves only to increase this sense, which creates a perverse and negative-sum belief in people, and galvanizes them uselessly against the governing authority. While in the case of the first mass killing the government might have misjudged the amount of order preserved or gained by removing the problem-causing group in that way, in the case of these reactive exiles or slaughters, it is the previous botched attempts to restore order that cause the next botched attempt to become or seem ‘necessary’, but the result from an outside observer is clearly a case of autophagy.
Of course, if people believe the proper result of a bad government decision is to replace that government with one they think won’t make bad decisions, it’s also clear that what they mean is that any mistake the government makes is grounds to threaten the government itself. Revolutionary ideology clearly sensitizes governments to internal threats, almost making certain that overreaction will occur. Thus, it is not at all odd to find the genocide perfected in the era of democracy, perhaps starting with the Haitian one.
Therefore, we know that USG’s tendency to transform problem groups into temporary rebellions, or in other words to change “questions” into “war,” is a defensive strategy that is very sensible given revolutionary ideology; the government sees (and perhaps rightly, perhaps wrongly) a mishandling of a “problem group” as grounds for a threat against its existence; it therefore cheats its way out of the problem as hard as it can. This is characteristic of insecurity—short term solutions must be sought because long-term solutions often do not resolve the problem quickly enough. It is the difference between building in winter and building in summer; in winter you may not have time to spend to put up a decent structure; when it gets windy you will pay for it. Likewise unstable structures must quickly cancel out anomalies or topple, whereas stable structures have time to execute a more thorough handling of the underlying problem.
The characteristic of ultraviolence by which it tends to foment distrust and disloyalty—even setting aside ideologies that literally teach that use of ultraviolence is cause for distrust and disloyalty—is where it involves the uninvolved in death. This holds true also for exile, but less so, (but exile has its own problems.) There is a line at which distrust outweighs the gain of physically removing the problem group. Notice, however, that no one in your house worries that because you poisoned the cockroaches, you might also poison them. Of course, every cockroach is a problem, whereas everyone in Beziers was not.
Even though we must absolutely reserve the sovereign’s right to use the sword, we could oppose genocide on the grounds that it is the broad, easy path which leads to destruction, that is, anarchy. This, and not some emotional qualm, is sufficient grounds to recommend against its use.
Most cases that justify it can either be handled by exile or are cases where war is actually present but being denied. (With the Cathars, it is likely a case of the latter.)
One additional and final point to consider is that as a class of mass slaughters, genocides will be more likely to contain a lot of uninvolved people, and so they are likely to generate distrust in the quality of the judgment of the government, which in turn could easily outweigh the gain that that form of physical removal might get you.
This is, of course, why the Turks deny the Armenian Genocide and the Soviets denied the Holodomor.
At the end of the day, we would hope a secure sovereign could look at addressing the underlying problems causing the “question” to arise and deal with them, perhaps removing the need for physical removal altogether.