Thursday, August 14, 2008

hollow point bullets


I'm hanging out with a fellow parent at some kid thing, talking to an ex-army guy. He tells me that hollow point bullets are illegal via some convention. That is, these bullets generate so much damage in the body, they are immoral, and so illegal (whatever that means in international law). Whenever you shoot at someone, in theory, you are OK with killing them. So instead of hollow point bullets, we just have bigger caliber bullets? Do these people understand that bullets kill people, and getting rid of hollow points just invites compensating adjustments?

It reminds me a little of the torture debate. Torture is never acceptable to many people, because it makes us no better than 'them'. But, even the biggest lefty recognizes the right to use lethal force in certain circumstances, which is why our armed services and police have guns with bullets. Clearly, killing is one thing, but torture is much much worse, though I would much rather my children be tortured than murdered. It's all about being able to rationalize one's moral supremacy. I think such people need to understand that arsonists and firefighters deal with fire, and they are very different people.

23 comments:

Sameer said...

What's interesting of course is that hollowpoints are illegal in war, but perfectly legit in civilian use.

I'm not clear that you are right "instead of hollow points we have higher caliber" -- the military issue M16 using .223 caliber. Not all that high. However, it sort of acts like a hollowpoint because it "wobbles" a bit in flight, so when it enters the body it tumbles around causing more damage, rather than just going straight through. This is considered a safety feature because that way you are less likely to shoot through your target to an unintended bystander.

Fundamentally your point stands. We can't use hollowpoints in war so we find a bullet that acts like a hollowpoint instead.

Anonymous said...

John McCain Says: We shouldn't torture because we don't think it's ok for our people to be tortured. And he knows something about that.

As a Libertarian, I'm concerned about restraint on government power. It's all a balancing act based on personal beliefs of limits on government power. I'm not comfortable giving the government the power to torture ... but have no problem with them using lethal force against an armed enemy.

Anonymous said...

Another argument against torture is that the information it produces is unreliable. People will tell you anything to get you to stop torturing them. If "truth serum" exists, it would probably be more reliable and humane.

Mr. Nosuch said...

I think you are forgetting the purpose to which lethal force is used by the state, and the purpose of torture. As an earlier commented pointed out, it is very hard to legitimately claim a just use of torture, since besides being inhumane, it also produces dubious results.

Saying killing is killing no matter how you do it does ignore the suffering aspect, which is part of what we mean by "being humane". Sometimes process matters as well as result.

Anonymous said...

I've been to a lot of kid things. So far, no discussions on ammo.

Anonymous said...

Bigger ammo =bigger guns = less mobile infantry.

I believe there is also an accuracy is with hollow points that makes them ill-suited for distance.

Hollow points take what might be a simple "penetration injury", which would likely immobolize someone but allow them to survive after surgery, and cause so much additional internal damage that they bleed to death. We have to accept that our soldiers will be subject to the same bullets if we use them.

Anonymous said...

Interesting timing, yesterday I was at the shop and heard a guy ask for hollow-points. The employee said, "we're sold out, people are stocking up."

I think it was a statement on perceptions on our economy.

Anonymous said...

Torture doesn't work. Also, it's used on many people in an attempt to extract information, not just guilty people. You don't just shoot someone, but if you have him you might as well torture him, if you're allowed to.

karl k said...

Torture doesn't work, eh?

Read this:

http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/09/how-the-cia-bro.html

And is waterboarding REALLY torture? Christopher Hitchens was waterboarded, and claimed it was torture, but he's still alive and kicking with no apparent physical harm.

The fact is there are all kinds of "interrogation" techniques. Some are successful, some are not.

I find it quite amusing that folks get all hot and bothered over the fact that we waterboarded a morally repugnant slime bucket beheader and homicidal thug like Khalid Sheik Mohammed. Him..and what was it...FOUR other guys we wateboarded?? FOUR??

I am sorry, these people are murderous repugnant villains for whom the niceities of a "liberal" society are too good. This notion that somehow WE have to be perfect and that if we DO use on an occasion -- a very RARE occasion -- some effective interrogation technique -- we are in fact at the same moral level as these pigs is absolutely laughable.

All the arguments against the use of non-lethal non physcially damaging torture techniques -- and the very SELECTIVE use of such techniques -- are all specious: we are "just as" bad as the thugs, they'll do it to our guys (no, they will CUT THE THROATS of our guys)...yada yada yada.

Amazing. Simply amazing.

Dave said...

Hmmm. According to Wikipedia, the ban on hollow-point ammunition in warfare ultimately comes from the St. Petersburg Declaration of 1868 (by way of the Hague Convention of 1899), which renounced exploding small-arms ammunition. The justification was that the goal of disabling as many enemy soldiers as possible "would be exceeded by the employment of arms which uselessly aggravate the sufferings of disabled men, or render their death inevitable". I find this hard to understand but I think they meant that a regular bullet would disable a soldier so an extra-deadly bullet is unnecessary. So it wasn't that HP was extra-immoral, it was just thought that renouncing HP would mitigate the harm caused by warfare without reducing military power.

Military science has moved on a bit since 1868, so I doubt the specific prohibition on HP has the same effect it once did. In fact, I found a U.S. Army legal opinion on sniper ammo that notes that modern military full metal jacket rounds often fragment on impact and are equally deadly to HP. The opinion also says HP for snipers is actually legal because it doesn't cause unnecessary suffering and the improved accuracy may reduce collateral damage.

The laws of war aren't perfect but they're also not useless feel-good liberal nonsense, and they were designed and interpreted by thoughtful people that were trying to reduce the amount of death and destruction in the world.

So far, I haven't heard of any similar justification for legalizing torture. I also haven't yet seen evidence that current "legal" torture is actually a good thing. (For example, karl k above skillfully mocks liberals and other anti-torture folks but doesn't offer either type of justification.) So for now, I am totally opposed to legalizing torture.

By the way, I find the financial posts on this blog fascinating.

karl k said...

Waterboarding -- assuming waterboarding IS torture -- worked as a technique to extract information.

In that sense it IS, or rather WAS, a good thing, because we learned things we might not have otherwise learned.

This issue, like so many others, turns on the issue of judgment versus a kind of hog-tieing legalistic precision. Personally, I don't have a problem with reasonable people applying non-physically injurious techniques to extract information from obvious "persons of interest."

But, hey, for some who pompously want to impose all-inclusive restrictions, no matter what the consequences, that's way too loosey-goosey.

Commons sense gets replaced by moral haughtiness and a bunch of lawyers. Not a good sign for a robust society.

Anonymous said...

I went to the link provided on waterboarding. The info there concerned extracting evidence for proof of guilt. It did not report any actionable intelligence was obtained ... and the folks who spoke to reporters about it were trying to justify their actions.
So what was the point? We sink to their level and get information that can't even be used in court?

None of this happens in a vacuum.
The Soviets ended the cold war without a shot under GHWB. We just containted them, and eventualy their people were turned on them because of the inhumanity of their system. If we behave like beasts, we validate the terrorists claims.
We can only contain Islamic terrorisism. It can't be destroyed until the support and sympaty that allow them to survive dry up. The day the entire Islamic world turns on the terrorists like the animals they are is delayed if we use a different standard in fighting them then we regard as civilized if applied to our own citizens.

Anonymous said...

excerpts from the Declaration of Independence... "He" is King George.

... He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power. ...
...He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; ...

...For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried ...

...For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, ...

...He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, ...

... and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation. ...

Anonymous said...

Friggin' lefties just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Here's what I've learned today:
1) Just because you think a blog is about finance and economics, doesn't mean it is.
2) Liberals and Conservatives are both interested in finance ... but are passionate in their feelings for/against HP bullets and Ammo and can't resist commenting on it.
3) Liberals and conservatives aren't consistent in their beliefs.
3a) Liberals who are comfortable with big government, somehow rational limits on government power when it comes to torture and humane weapons.
3b) Conservatives who dislike expanding government and generally want to limit the government's power/authority, are able to rationalize it's ok for individual government agents to decide when to torture, and are comfortable using weapons that are more destructive than neccessary to achieve their goals.

As Yakov Smirnov would say"What a country."

As Churchill would say (approximately): "Democracy is a terrible system. Except that every other system is worse."

karl k said...

We "sink to their level?" Really?

When a CIA agent or a Marine at Gitmo, wearing a hood, uses a rusty knife to behead an al Qaeda operative using a slow, methodical sawing motion, and then has a digital movie of the incident posted it on the internet, you'll be sure and let us know, OK??

Mr. Nosuch said...

Vengeance != Justice

Torture != Interrogation

Though, there is a valid point about torture having it's uses. Without it, a lot of witches would have gotten away unburned, as well as heretics. So perhaps we should return to those more effective days of old of achieving our ends.

karl k said...

Mr. nosuch falls prey to the perils of moral equivalence and complete lack of nuance...ironic, no doubt, because he probably believes that he is being more enlightened.

Just so we're clear on something...

Waterboarding is NOT burning at the stake, and you can juxtapose the two until the cows come home and it won't make them analogies in any universe that a rational thinking person inhabits.

Meanwhile, something else to ponder...some want us to make a blanket repudiation because, you know, they think we will be heading down a "slippery slope" if we don't.

Just so everyone is clear about his slope thing. Some slopes have mild angles, and some acute. Some slopes are slippery, but others have pretty good footing. In the end, they're just slopes, some of which we can descend slightly, and return to the summit.

I hope this isn't too nuanced for some.

Anonymous said...

Karl K do you and your neocon ilk have any f*kin idea why the US was attacked in the first place ? The CIA coined term blowback might ring a tune.

Anonymous said...

The "lefty" thoughts on killing and torturing your enemies are not inconsistent. If you are in enough control of the situation to torture someone (you are in complete physical control of them) it is wrong to kill them and to torture them. It's okay to kill opposing soldiers during battle, but not once they are your prisoner. What's so hard about this concept?

karl k said...

Anonymous, read The Looming Tower if you want to know why we were attacked on 9-11.

Then again, that might destroy your paranoia about neocons.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that people are forgetting that things have changed since the Hague conventions. Numerous soldiers have talked about how their M-16/M-4's have over penetrated when fired. Meaning the round punches straight through the target with usually a minimal of damage. Bullets that pass through someone don't stop. They go, and either ricochet, or hit someone else. Hollow Points do not punch through a person. They stay there. When the Hague conventions were made, battles were usually fought out in nice big open fields. Not tight quarters in buildings and rooms. Hollow Points have greater killing power. Why we would give our soldiers ammo that is sub-par, (I used to use .223 for varmint hunting)based on some law made over a hundred years ago is perplexing. Pilots in the military are allowed to use Hollow Point rounds to minimize damage to their planes should they have to use a weapon. So the simple solution is to give all of our soldiers a couple hundred hours of flight sims and call them pilots and give them the hollow points. Now as for the justification for it. Muslims have killed using rocks, knives, and bombs strapped to retarded woman. Are our soldiers evil for using better bullets? I mean really. The morale high ground never won a war. In WWII we bombed entire cities into rubble with no problem. I consider the German people to be far better than terrorists, save for the hard core 'Final Solutionists' in Hitlers time. Both deserve death and nothing else. And to the fact that HP's cause an 'immoral amount of damage' what about artillery? When a 155 MM shell goes off near you and a chunk of shrapnel takes off your leg and leaves you crippled... are we supposed to stop using artillery now? Weapons are supposed to kill. Thats why we have them. If America didn't have guns we'd either be wiped off the map or speaking some language that isn't our own. And to those that think killing terrorists is wrong, if you think that negotiating with them is right then go ahead and sign up with the Diplomatic Corps and try and sit down with dear ol Osama. Lets see where that gets you.

van said...

I realize that I am late to the party, but had to say a three quick things.

You might think I am liberal because my house is solar powered, and you might think I am conservative because all of my home protection devices are loaded with hollow points (or 000 buck). Labels don't matter.

The Hague convention (where hollow points were banned) also prohibited dropping bombs from aircraft. Things have changed.

Assailants are stopped by hypovolemic or neurogenic shock. The faster you induce those, the better chance you have of surviving a life-or-death encounter. Let us hope than none of us ever have to learn first hand what it takes to do that.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.