Friday, December 16, 2011

Mercenaries and Just War Theory

Today's post is particularly out of left field (and particularly long-winded), as it is word for word my final essay for the subject Ethics of Global Conflict. Having never really considered the use of mercenaries in warfare, or even what the phrase "just war" even means, this was a thoroughly educational and interesting exercise. Though the essay itself is incredibly slapdash, the facts and ideas contained within are really quite fascinating if I say so myself. Do try and read to the end...

Though there are many moral issues concerning the discussion, nations that wish to adhere to Just War theory should feel free to employ mercenaries and private security/military contractors. The issues that exist around employing these groups as combatants stem largely from a misattribution of responsibility between states and private corporations, and the failure of international legislative bodies to adequately understand and respond to the changing role of mercenaries in contemporary politics.

Similarly, many of the moral issues surrounding mercenaries and PMCs derive from the (often implicit) belief that only soldiers are justified in engaging in combat, and that non-military combatants are essentially a moral transgression because they do not share this justification. This essay will endeavour to show that these moral objections are baseless and that mercenaries and PMCs are not strictly the “whores of war” that they have been called.

The definition of “mercenary” is a particularly contentious one. Because of the long history of mercenary groups and the vested interests inherent in creating a definition, a workable understanding has proved difficult to produce; this in turn has impeded attempts to regulate the activities of mercenaries in the present day. A comprehensive definition is that proposed by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which divides mercenaries into three broadly distinct groups:

1. Soldiers of fortune and “volunteers” that enlist to fight on behalf of a cause or power for financial gain, and may possibly have an ideological motivation.

2. Servicemen enlisted in foreign armies, such as the Gurkhas and French Foreign Legion. Governments can recruit foreign nationals either temporarily or permanently to serve in their armed forces – this is a practice that predates the modern concept of a national standing army.

3. Private Military Contractors (PMCs) which provide a range of security and military services to both state and non-state groups. PMCs have become increasingly relevant to modern warfare and its ethical considerations since their rapid expansion in the 1990s.

Private military contractors have their roots in the condottieri of Renaissance Italy and the Free Companies of France, who acted as independent military forces which fought for states on a contract basis. The industry experienced a surge during the 1990s and PMCs have been deployed from Papua New Guinea to Angola, though they are most infamous for their deployment in Iraq following the 2003 invasion. Though private military contractors are popularly understood to provide combat personnel, they far more commonly serve a support role for their employers. This can take the form of advice or training, as well as logistics support and security operations – however, this does not preclude them from fighting as “the distinction between combat and non-combat operations is often artificial”.

A criticism commonly levelled against mercenaries is their “mercenary” motivation for fighting: the problem of combining “financial motivation and military force”. This leads to a distinction between soldiers and mercenaries, and in the case of PMCs, between commanders and businessmen. The argument put forward in favour of national military personnel over mercenaries is that soldiers are fighting for a single cause, which they presumably view as just, and that they in some way share in the state’s vested interest.

Mercenaries, on the other hand, fight for whoever holds their contract and will employ lethal force for financial gain rather than for furthering a national cause. This distinction seems jarring, though, when one considers that proper, altruistic motivation is not a requirement for soldiers and militaries often present themselves in terms of careers and financial gain when recruiting. Furthermore, a combatant who falls under the definition of “mercenary” may very well be ideologically motivated and could conceivably have a greater vested interest in the outcome than a soldier.

Pattison objects that rather than mercenaries lacking a suitable motive for fighting, the problem is “the presence of an unsuitable one”. He asserts that financial gain is an immoral motive for fighting, and one which is particularly highlighted when mercenaries offer their services to unjust causes such as drug cartels and dictators. However, though this is intended as a response to the claim that soldiers and mercenaries may share motivations and ideology, it fails to overcome this claim. His assertion that soldiers serving these groups are more justified stems from the questionable belief that these soldiers are motivated primarily by “misguided patriotism” and that mercenaries are fundamentally seeking “private gain”, and goes on to explain why the latter motive is unacceptable. However, he fails to address the underlying argument that soldiers as well as mercenaries can act with self-interest and the desire for private gain, and that therefore his all-important separation between the two becomes meaningless. To argue that soldiers have an acceptable motive simply by being soldiers is pointlessly circular and lacks the necessary supporting evidence.

Contrary to the popular concept of mercenaries as excessively violent and unrestrained combatants, Lynch and Walsh posit that employing fighters who are essentially neutral in a conflict can have positive moral effects. They argue that nationalism, xenophobia and revenge – all very realistic motives for war – are likely to be absent in third party combatants brought into a conflict, and that profit as a motive is far more conducive to rationality than national pride or other “higher” ideological motives, which can often lead to dehumanising the enemy and a “search for transcendental personal glory”. They cite Machiavelli, who accused Renaissance condottieri of lacking the necessary desire to slaughter the enemy and sacrifice their own lives for the Republic, and question the assumption that mercenaries, by their (purportedly) immoral and unsavoury nature, are more inclined to cause destruction and suffering than their soldier counterparts.

Just War theory is the conflation of two principles concerning warfare: firstly, that there exist a numbers of conditions that, when met, justify a declaration of war; and secondly, that there are proper principles to abide by when in a state of war. The first of these is referred to as ius ad bellum (“right to war”) and the second as ius in bello (“right in war”). Ius ad bellum (IAB) is principally concerned with the declaration of war and the legitimacy of the war itself; the conditions that must be met are:

Just cause – exactly what constitutes just cause is contentious, but common examples are self-defence against an unjust war or assisting an ally in similar circumstances. More controversially, causes such as humanitarian intervention and pre-emptive war have been considered “just” with regard to IAB.
Legitimate authority – this requires that military force only be utilised “if it is authorised by a political body that is widely recognised as having this power”. Again, it is contentious whether this allows for sub- or super-state national groups to legitimately wage war, or whether all states should be afforded this power regardless of their moral record.
Right intention – this stipulates that the war must be fought with the primary objective of fulfilling the just cause. If the just cause is, say, defending an ally from an unjust war then their defence must be the primary consideration while waging the war. Similarly, if a pre-emptive war is launched then the primary objective must be preventing the enemy’s capacity to launch the intended unjust attack.
Last resort – Military force is not permitted before other non-violent alternatives have been exhausted. These can include diplomacy or international intervention and adjudication. Without these prior steps – “within reasonable limits” – the war cannot be considered just.
Reasonable hope of success – this again refers back to the just cause: this time, the objectives laid out must be reasonably achievable and should not require great sacrifice or suffering on either side, especially with regard to non-combatants.
Proportionality – this simply demands that the harms caused by the conflict should not greatly outweigh the benefits.

Jus in bello (IIB) is concerned with the conduct of military forces within a war, and it stipulates that combatants must observe:
Discrimination – combatants in a war must discriminate between other combatants and non-combatants, and only target the former. Similarly, collateral damage involving non-combatants is to be considered when pursuing military objectives.
Proportionality – unlike the IAB definition of proportionality, it here means that force must be within proportion to the objectives being pursued and that “destruction beyond what is necessary to reach a military objective is morally suspect”.
Benevolent treatment of POWs – enemy forces which have surrendered and been taken into custody cease to be considered “engaged in harm” (though are still combatants and to be detained). Thus they should be treated with “benevolence” and not mistreated.
No means mala in se (“evil in themselves”) – this bans the use of weapons and tactics which are considered too destructive or immoral, such as mass rape, ethnic cleansing or weapons of mass destruction.

The use of private military contractors is most contentious when examined from the perspective of ius ad bellum. The first condition of IAB is just cause, and here is seems that PMCs must fail because “material gain” is specifically the kind of motive that the just cause stipulation is designed to guard against. This, however, is much like the issue of legitimate authority – the question is whether PMCs have the authority to open hostilities with those they are employed to fight. Those against the use of PMCs indicate that the corporate structure has no place in the contemporary understanding of legitimate authority.

This equivalence in authority between military and corporate, however, is misattributed; the contractor is not declaring war. Pattison writes “the employment of PMCs is largely consistent with the principle of legitimate authority... since states – not PMCs – tend to authorise the use of force”. Ultimately, this principle applies to all the points of ius ad bellum, since IAB is concerned with the declaration of war and PMCs do not actually declare war – the responsibility of adherence to IAB lies with those who employ the mercenaries.

The principle of ius in bello in a more troubling for PMCs since it has direct relevance to their activities in combat. However, though contemporary examples may surface of companies such as Xe Services (né Blackwater USA) violating the principles of IIB, this does not prove that PMCs inherently violate JWT any more than the historic excesses of national militaries prove that nations themselves violate JWT. The distinction that needs to be made is that many current PMCs and mercenaries are not subjected to the level of regulation and oversight that is necessary to ensure military forces comply with IIB.

Advocates of PMCs such as Malliard and contractor Triple Canopy’s CEO Ignacio Balderas argue that the industry needs far more stringent regulation from employers to ensure that the standards of Just War theory can be met by states employing mercenaries and contractors. None of the particular points of IIB are relevant to this discussion, since with sufficient regulation from states there is no reason for non-military combatants to commit any more egregious transgressions than soldiers themselves.

Despite arguments to the contrary, private military contractors and other mercenary groups do not, simply by their existence and deployment, violate the tenets of Just War theory. As a result, states which employ PMCs should not be considered to defy JWT. Though there are legitimate objections to the use of mercenaries from the perspective of JWT, most opposition is due to the conduct of contemporary contractors rather than what they fundamentally represent. States wishing to conform to the principles of Just War Theory should feel justified in employing mercenaries, especially with regard to the principle of ius ad bellum. However, these contractors should be subjected to strict regulation and oversight, especially with regard to ius in bello.

TL;DR - This one was particularly L, but hopefully it was R by a few people. Essentially, mercenaries cannot be considered to violate the concept of Just War by their very nature, and those who claim they do (which happens to be most people writing on the subject) are guilty of intellectually disingenuous scholarship. Cop that!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

rammstein pussy feminism

Today's thoughts:

I know, right? Less than three weeks have elapsed since my last post! What is this?

Well, it has been brought to my attention that I'm getting a good percentage of my traffic (more a reflection on how little traffic I get, rather than how much) from Google searches of "rammstein pussy feminism". This is bringing people to an old post I wrote which just happened to contain references to both Rammstein and feminism, back when my posts were the slightly demented collation of my hypomanic thoughts.

Since this was clearly an injustice to those who wanted a simple analysis of the song, I've decided to write one, right now, off the top of my head. So without too much further ado, here is the clip. I should advise that this is just about the most explicit film-clip ever.

Rammstein Pussy Explicit 2009 by superzerocool

So! Starting with the song itself:

Is this song sexist?
Possibly. The song is extremely objectifying, with the protagonist making it fairly "explicit" that he's only interested in sex. Other considerations must come second to the fact that "you've got a pussy". That said, I've made it clear before that I do not see a necessary and inescapable link between objectification and sexism. I'm far from claiming that I do understand the relationship - rather, I think it warrants a lot of discussion, instead of the knee-jerk association everyone bestows upon it.

Thus, I don't think the objectification here makes it sexist. The man wants sex, and has clearly been deprived of it for some time. Unfortunately for him, it takes two to tango and here he's found a possible partner. Good for him! Is he dominating or coercing her? No - he's extending an invitation for fun because it's something they both want.

So why did I say it was "possibly" sexist? Well, in a stunning blog-plot-twist, I think the argument could be made that this song plays into an gross stereotype/caricature of men. Though the song is satirical (I'm getting to that) it's satire based on the idea of men as desperate and childish where sex is involved. I don't personally think it's particularly sexist, but it's still worth bearing in mind.

Is this Rammstein's own view of women?
This song has generated a lot of controversy since it was released, mostly thanks to the knee-jerk morons I mentioned earlier (did I not mention that they were morons? They are). What they are utterly failing to get is that this song is taking the piss. Rammstein rarely write songs expressing their own views - instead, they like to get into the mind of other people and explore their thoughts. They didn't write a song about eating people because they liked eating people, they wrote it to understand the mindset of both parties involved in the Armin Meiwes case.

In the instance of Pussy, the clue that it's not meant to be taken completely literally is that so much of it is written in English. They've only done that once before, in the blatantly satirical Amerika - if a band with six albums almost wholly in German suddenly starts writing in English, you can bet they're doing it for a reason.

Here, it's because the song is about sex tourism. He "can't get laid in Germany" so he's gone abroad, speaking his pidgin English and making suggestive remarks in commonly understood German. It's quite deliberate that he uses words like "autobahn", "bratwurst" and "blitzkrieg" - they're German words that everyone knows. "Fahrvergnügen" ("driving pleasure") was used in Volkswagen's international advertising. Instead of being a childish song about euphemistic naughtiness, the song is actually painting a picture of a lonely, desperate man who's trying to get laid. As I said before: just because the band sing in first-person doesn't mean they enthusiastically endorse the song's message. Wiener Blut would get them arrested otherwise.

But wait! What about the clip itself?
Well, this is part of a larger discussion. You can hear director Jonas Åkerlund himself talking about how the clip is based on clichés from 70s porn. I'm not especially interested in launching into an examination of gender roles in pornography, but I think it's pretty clear that Åkerlund wasn't deliberately putting women in subservient roles (maid, secretary, etc.) - rather he was lampooning the male-centred fantasies of porn culture.

I see. So is there anything at all that disappointed you about this song?
I'm glad you asked! This film-clip actually entails one of the two disappointments I have ever had from Rammstein (ongoing failure to see them live notwithstanding). Here, it's the fact that they used body doubles for the actual sex scenes. That just seemed such a cop-out given their usually exacting standards of boundary pushing and general hardcoreness. For shame.

TL;DR - Links! So many links!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Jesus Stole My Classmates; or, Why the fundies were right about atheists wishing violence towards believers, but for the wrong reasons

Today's thoughts:

Uni's back! Amongst the three subjects that make up my delightfully paltry timetable, I find myself studying a subject called God, Freedom and Evil. Its outline presents it as a unit which seeks to understand how the concept of God can interact with the seemingly contradictory notions of freedom and evil. Duh.

So in signing up for GFE, I was excitedly anticipating a subject in which we could definitively demonstrate that faith is both self-refuting and an undesirable and destructive facet of our society. In my wildest homework-related fantasies (which are entirely a fiction, I can assure you) I imagined printing off these very blog posts and submitting them to an admiring (and, somewhat irrelevantly, buxom) tutor.

But as you have no doubt concluded, dear reader, this was not flawlessly imitated by reality. Instead, I found myself in an oversized class of some twenty-five drips who at no point during their mindless pontificating stopped to question what they or anyone else was saying. Imagine, if you would, a discussion on the nature of the Easter Bunny. As with any unfalsifiable hypothesis, we have absolutely no evidence as to what traits God - sorry, the Easter Bunny - could possibly have. So what did we do? Spent the hour making shit up and treating it as if it was self-evident fact, whilst everyone else nodded sagely at just how self-evident it was that the Easter Bunny works in ways too mysterious for his creation to contemplate but can choose to reveal wisdom to certain humans to counteract the evil that he did not create, obviously, but, like, somehow allowed to slip in because we can't comprehend what God's intentions and actions are. Which we know. Because we don't.

Lest at this stage you think that I'm simply assuming God's non-existance to be a foregone conclusion, and not giving believers a chance to sway me with their no doubt superior knowledge of religion and its apologies, let me give you an example of how much of a shit this lot gave about any viewpoint besides their own foregone conclusions. The tutor asked whether anyone knew anything about concepts of God outside of Judeo-Christian traditions. I asked whether Islam counted (it does; both Islam and Christianity are Judaic sects) and was told it doesn't, which made me the only person in the class with knowledge outside of the J-C paradigm.

And what made it worse was that there were a couple of atheists in there with me. However, they spent the whole time nodding along with everyone else and declaring how important it was to respect people's faith and that everyone's opinion is valid and true for them. Well, it's not and it's not. Furthermore, people's opinions and beliefs are not private, regardless of whether they proselytise or not. Quite apart from the day-to-day interactions which are going to be shaped to a lesser or greater extent by those beliefs (the further away from reality they are, the more they are obviously going to impact me), we happen to live in a democracy. That means that these beliefs are directly shaping the society in which I and others who do not share the beliefs live. Don't like gay marriage? Put people in power who will prevent it from happening. Enjoy disenfranchising minorities? Vote for the party that endorses it (the Liberal Party).

My ultimate frustration with this subject - and here I will admit that I may be judging too early, only one hour into the entire course as I am - is that it exists in a place of learning and human betterment, yet seems to promote and encourage those social forces which would undo these cornerstones of our society. Nihilist that I am, I place great store by society and thus the foundations which hold it up. It's all that stands between us and oblivion. The acute rage I felt yesterday after class had ended was at the moronic beliefs that are thrown around all too freely; the ones that are basically concerned with the right to invent any crap you like and subject your fellow citizens to your self-satisfied ignorance and prejudices.

If anyone wishes to disagree with my assertions, I'm all ears. Challenging ideas and acknowledging intellectual failures is a great way to keep us out of the dark ages.

TL;DR - One tutorial in and I already hate my classmates. I've gone into a subject at uni anticipating a rationalist's paradise and come out saying

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nietzsche Primer

Today's thoughts (but mostly thoughts from about two weeks ago):

Given my desire to write about Nietzsche (I'm still writing that proper essay in my head) I thought it best to share this synopsis of his philosophy. Obviously, given how complicated he is, it's not a full explanation of his work but just a basic description of some of his ideas. It's exercepts from an essay I wrote for uni, from which I've removed the political analysis and just left the more descriptive elements. I know it's not as readable as my usual work (which I've previously admitted is not very readable) but bear with it.

In Nietzsche’s The Gay Science,* it is a madman who proclaims “God is dead”. He is searching for God in a marketplace and is mocked by the atheists who congregate there, but he rounds on them and accuses them all of being God’s murderers. He concludes that he has “come too early” since none there understand the meaning of his words; none can see the implications of their deicide. What Nietzsche refers to here is not the physical death of any divine being, but the secularism and atheism that had arisen primarily as a result of the Enlightenment. To Nietzsche, “belief in the Christian god has become unbelievable”. Humanity is left without “transcendental principles or forces to guide them” and have thus lost the foundations of their morality and meaning; these in turn are the foundations of society, politics and order. Such a complete destruction of our systems and institutions, Nietzsche believed, constituted the “greatest recent event” in human history.

However, like the atheists in The Gay Science, secularism has not yet come to terms with the death of God. Our secular politics and governments are still based on the ideas of morality and meaning, only without God or a metaphysical to give these ideas any basis. Nietzsche calls this the shadow of God: “God is dead; but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. - And we - we still have to vanquish his shadow, too.” Without their source, these shadows are no longer philosophically tenable, but Nietzsche understands that it will be a long time before we acknowledge this.

In God’s place, Nietzsche sees only what he calls “will to power”. This is not an ideology or a morality – the death of God has brought an end to such things. Will to power is rather what is left after God has passed: the only truth in a world now devoid of truths. He writes "... do you want a name for this world? ... This world is the Will-to-Power — and nothing besides! And you yourselves are also this will-to-power and nothing besides!" It is crucial to understand that the will to power is an observation, not a creed – the pleasant blindfold of order and meaning that God represented has been stripped away, and we are left with the truth: will to power. The need to emphasise the disparity between will to power and previous understandings of the world arises because this dichotomy is so important to Nietzsche’s writing.

Will to power is, to Nietzsche, the constant desire for life to expand its influence and exercise its strength. This is not strictly about dominating others or seizing “power” in any political sense, but rather enjoying agency over one’s actions. Nietzsche writes that not just humanity but any “living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power”. Nietzsche viewed any morality as an attempt to limit the will to power of the individual, and so was firmly opposed to its constraining influence. He saw a world “beyond good and evil” and the death of God laid it bare.

Ultimately, Nietzsche’s works suggest an observation that morality and the politics that necessarily spring from them are baseless after the “death of God”. Both behoove humanity to act in a particular fashion, but in a secular society they lack the metaphysical foundations that lend them any credence and are thus doomed to dissolve once the “shadow of God” is finally banished. Nietzsche presented no specific idea of what post-morality society would look like, although there would be no state and no morality to limit the free exercise of the will to power, because “where the state ceases… [there are] the rainbow and bridges of the Übermensch” who discharge their strength freely. The impact of the death of God on politics is to destroy its foundations and herald its demise, and reveal the truth of will to power.

Outside of Nietzsche’s own writings, the secularism that “death of God” describes still has profound political impact – whether or not one accepts will to power as “life itself”, the observation that without a metaphysical we no longer have any basis for a universal morality is particularly resonant in our contemporary “slave morality” democracies.

* Oh, grow the fuck up.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

And another-nother thing.

Today's thoughts:

I wish to propose something to you, dear reader. It's a little thought puzzle, and you can play it right where you're sitting. Imagine:
- A china teapot orbiting the sun between Earth and Mars, too small to be picked up by even our most powerful telescopes and thus utterly unprovable.
- A magical unicorn that is both invisible and pink, its contradictory nature chalked up to divine mystery and invisibility rendering it utterly unprovable.
- A giant bee which lives inside the sun, using its infinite invisible arms to manipulate all matter in the universe. Oh, and it's completely and utterly unprovable.
- For bonus points, why not make up your own! It's fun, and the only rule is that they have to be entirely without evidence. Go wild!

Now for the fun part: I want you to believe that each of those exists. You can believe in them one at a time, or all at once - it's up to you. They're all unfalsifiable, so their non-existence cannot be any more proven than their existence; it's all up to you to decide whether they exist or not. So can you bring yourself to truly believe in them - simply acknowledging that their existence is a possibility doesn't count - after honest and rational scrutiny? Or are they too obviously made up to prove a point?

I bring up this odd and mildly patronising exercise because I realised I didn't cover everyone in my last post - the one about how you're either a theist or an atheist. I still believe that, but I left one possible group out: those who are in the middle, undecided, but still think faith deserves a chance. If you think faith is valid evidence, then I would suggest you still count as a theist even if you're still unsure about the existence of a specific divinity. All the examples I listed earlier rely on faith, yet they're so ridiculous that no remotely rational person would consider them to actually exist.

So why do we consider faith an acceptable form of evidence in some cases but not in others? Or rather, why do we consider faith anything other than a delusion in some cases but not in others. I'm not trying to argue now that faith is bad or anything like that. I'm just trying to get a consensus that faith is an unacceptable source of "evidence" and is simply people convincing themselves of something which is completely without proof (and thus they have no reason to believe). Which it is. Don't back out on me now - we've already shown that. Once we're on the same page about that, then we can discuss whether theism is a force for good or evil in this world. Otherwise we're going to be talking past each other and no productive debate can occur.

TL;DR - A short tack-on to my last article, in which I acknowledge that I wasn't completely thorough and set out to rectify this lack of insight. Essentially, if you still consider faith to be remotely valid, I classed you as a theist. Apologies.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Agnostic vs. Atheist

Today's thoughts:

Firstly, but also for the last time, I'm going to apologise for not posting more often. I just haven't had all that much inspiration recently, coupled with too much persiration. I have, however, been cooking up a post analysing Neitzsche's concepts of "will to power" and "beyond good and evil" with regard to Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now and Far Cry 2. Seriously. So that might be up here soon... or it might not.

I just wanted to do another clarification (and demonstrate yet another change of position) - this time on the definition of "agnostic". After watching QualiaSoup's excellent video "Lack of Belief in Gods" for the umpteenth time - I've drawn on it a lot - I realised how far behind I am in terms of definitions. Pun intended.

If you didn't watch the video, and even if you did (it's confusing), he talks about the actual definitions of "agnostic" and "atheist" instead of their popular ones. Instead of agnosticism being the middle ground between theism and atheism, it actually occupies its own unrelated and largely irrelevant category. Ignore it for the moment.

This middle ground is in fact also atheism, termed "soft" atheism to differentiate between it and "hard" atheism which asserts that there is no god or gods. Soft atheism is instead the skeptical perspective which makes no claims either way, but in the absence of evidence does not believe there to be a divine. Hard atheism is a more faith-based position, in that there is no evidence for there not being a divine either. This unfalsifiable certainty is what nets atheism the charge of being as faith-based as religion, but actually makes up a very small percentage of atheists.

Hmm.. perhaps a diagram is needed.


Point 1 is theism. It is a faith-based position which claims there is a divine.
Point 2 is hard atheism. It too is a faith-based position, since the lack of evidence either way does not definitively exclude the existence of a divine.
Point 3 is soft atheism. Without evidence for the existence of a divine, it does not believe in its existence. Should evidence arise, however, it would willingly change its position.

Agnosticism actually refers to knowledge, not existence. It claims that nothing can be known about the divine, regardless of whether it exists or not. In this way, it is actually possible to be an agnostic theist or an agnostic atheist. It covers both categories, but - due to its unfalsifiable claims - is another faith-based position.

Finally, I thought I'd chuck in a bit about "falsifiability" since I've thrown it around a lot in this post. Falsifiability is the ability for a claim to be proven wrong - such a claim doesn't have to be wrong, it just has to be evidence-based so that its veracity can be shown one way or the other. Thus a claim which is "unfalsifiable" cannot by definition be proven or disproven, and is thus scientifically and skeptically irrelevant/bullshit. There is no case that can be put forward to prove it - no one has any reason whatsoever to think it true except for faith. And we all know what that means...

TL;DR - If you consider yourself an "agnostic", you're most likely an atheist. Agnosticism isn't the middle ground between theism and atheism - it's a completely separate and largely irrelevant category.