During World War II, there was a great debate among the Allies about the use of bombing raids against German cities. Collateral damage was the concern. The Germans built their munitions plants near population centers. There were those in the high command who said that if the Allies used aerial bombardment against these facilities, then they would be no better than the Germans. It would be much better to maintain their principles and lose than win and be judged as morally equal or even similar as the Germans.
Of course, that never happened. There was some debate about the morality of certain tactics, but only in so far as they would result in retaliation. That was the lesson of the Great War. The use of poison gas, for example, just resulted in the use of gas by the other side. As Greg Cochran pointed out, the Soviets may have resorted to germ warfare against the Germans, but fear of retaliation certainly shaped their thinking. If they used biological agents, it was out of desperation and covered up after the fact.
The point here is that in war, the first priority, the overriding priority, is winning. You do that first and worry about morality later. Principles are the things the winners create after they have secured victory. Principles are the way in which the winners consolidate their gains after victory in a war. Imagine if the Civil War had gone the other way and the South had won. Would anyone today tremble at the accusation of racism? Obviously not, because the victors would have had no reason to make racism a mortal sin.
The obsession with principle has always been the central defect of what the kids now call “Boomer Conservatism.” The BoomerCons accept, without argument, the principles and moral framework of the Left and then they try to out-righteous the other side in a pointless game of virtue signalling. It is the basis of the DR3 meme. Even if you are able to “prove” that the “Democrats are the real racists,” all you have done is prove they are right and that racism is the worst thing ever. Even if you win, you end up losing.
And yes, I know, not all Boomers think like this and many younger people fall into the same trap. Lots of young people like the Rolling Stones and The Who, but it is still Boomer music. The cultural upheavals going on today are due to the cultural upheavals that went on yesterday, when the Boomers tossed over the culture they inherited and created the prevailing orthodoxy of today. All of us now live in Boomer Land, which means we live in the moral structure created by the Boomer generation.
Now, the folks with the tricorn hats and “heritage not hate” signs can be forgiven for not seeing the folly of their tactics. They came of age when the general consensus said that the goal is a color blind society. If the bad honkies would just open up their hearts to the black man, all the race stuff would melt away. It was all nonsense, but a whole generation was raised on it and now they struggle to let it go. For most Boomers, egalitarianism is their heritage, so it is understandable that they cling to it.
Of course, the libertarian boomers have turned their love of principle into a ready excuse for not getting into a serious fight with the Left. You see it in this post on the American Conservative.
This month, three conservative protesters rushed onto a New York City theatre stage—and briefly into the national spotlight—enraged by the mock-execution of a character dressed to look like Trump. As a New Yorker fond of civilization I was alarmed at this barbaric behavior because this is how cultures unravel.
Well, that’s how culture wars work. Each side tries to impose their cultural preferences on the other. If you are in opposition to the prevailing culture then what you seek, by definition, is an unraveling of the culture. That’s how you win. Otherwise, you confine yourself to tactics that will never work. For guys like Todd Seavey, principle is a coffin they think will give them comfort as the Left lowers them into the grave.
Again, the Boomer generation can be forgiven for clinging to their principles even if it means defeat. They came into an America that was the colossus, standing astride the world as the defender of freedom and the exponent of economic prosperity. The principles they inherited were cooked up by people who conquered the world. America in the 50’s and 60’s was a society that was sure it had things figured out. If you were ten years old in the early 60’s, truth, justice and the American way made perfect sense.
The last fifty years, however, have proven to be a cultural disaster for America, one that will have to be addressed by the coming generations. In order for that to happen, a counter culture must form that is willing to be called unprincipled as they rush the stage or shout down the people with the megaphones. What ponytails and recreational drugs were for the Boomers, fashy haircuts and race realism will be for the next generations. The young who are rebelling are rebelling against those vaunted principles the Boomers cherish.
The only way a counter culture gets any traction is if it is indifferent, or even hostile, to the prevailing morality. There are two types of principles a people live by. There are those that precede their demise and those they create after they triumph. The people desperately clinging to their principles, lecturing those willing to do what it takes to win, will be buried with those principles. The winners, meanwhile, will be busy crafting a new morality. That’s the lesson of history. The people with a future get to write the past.