Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Keeping the Moral High Ground.

A little reminder on the tactical and strategic value of maintaining the moral high ground.

t r u t h o u t | The Moral Character of Our Country: "What the revisionists fail to understand is that morality is not a tool of advantage for the strong and/or the privileged to be used and appealed to when it is in their interest to do so, and when it is not, to be modified, ignored, or manipulated. Nor is morality a prop, a fa├žade through which we may proclaim our superiority and/or condemn others. If morality is to have any meaning at all, it must recognize as a fundamental principle the dignity and the rights - the lives and well-being - of ALL human beings. If we do not value persons, all persons, not just members of our particular community, religious group, ethnic group, gender etc., and respect their dignity and their rights, then all other things, whether it is property, possessions, national boundaries, the flag etc., lose their meaning and their value as well. Like justice, morality is blind and requires universal and equal application, holding everyone to the same standard. It is the hypocrite, the rogue nation, that attempts to modify the tenets of morality, or argues that it be ignored, or rationalizes loopholes (collateral damage) through which to pursue their individual or national interest.

Further, the refutation of revisionism rests not on moral argument only but on sound war fighting science as well. Contrary to the view of the revisionists, knowledgeable military tacticians who understand the nature of asymmetrical/counterinsurgency warfare, realize that despite what may have been the perception in the past, morality and military science share common concerns. Consider, for example, the status of noncombatants. While much mental effort has been expended explaining ('rationalizing' is probably better) that innocent deaths, though regrettable, are necessary and justifiable as collateral damage, both the moralists and the military theorists such as Gen. Stanley McCrystal, the commanding officer of the NATO forces in Afghanistan, agree that killing noncombatants is not only immoral and illegal but counterproductive to achieving the military goals necessary for success (victory) in asymmetrical/counterinsurgency war, i.e., winning the hearts and minds of the people. It has become clear, therefore, that morality and military science are fundamentally compatible and the move to abandon or 'modify' the former indicates a lack of understanding of the latter. Collateral damage, then, is not only morally disingenuous, it is militarily unsound and those who advocate that we abandon or modify this particular moral (and legal) criterion are both morally and militarily misguided and lack expertise in both areas of study."

Emphasis mine.

This argument apples just as strongly domestically as internationally. It applies to the "war on drugs, the "war on terrorism" and the "culture war," particularly when we see these situations re-framed in such a way as to make our ethical principles "more flexible" to "fit the emergent nature of the situation."

The author was pointing out the moral dimension of health care reform, and reasoned their way to this observation. Ultimately, all actions are governed by ethics, simple, broad principles from which we draw our morals.

Warfare, far from being a "special case" in which the "ordinary rules" do not apply, is a case wherein the the cause and effect dynamics of human nature are painted in blood for all to see. The Karma of war has sharp teeth and moves swiftly indeed; actions that are unethical, unjust and stupid breed resistance from the enemy and demoralize those who are supposedly on "your side."

This is exactly the situation celebrated by chairman Mao's observation that "The revolutionary swims in a sea of peasants." And that very understanding is being illustrated with rocket grenades built, smuggled and even fired by ordinary Afghans and Iraqis of no particularly fixed religious or ideological orientation more complex than "get the HELL off my LAWN!"

You would think that Republicans would understand that most basic motivation. The fact that they do not indicates some moral and practical confusion as to who's lawn it actually is.

And so I draw the circle closed. When one group of people sees another group of people in terms of a problem that stands in the way of achieving their goals - problems that can, may or must be eliminated to achieve that goal - what we have are incompatible moral structures. It's not exactly a stretch to understand why people targeted for elimination will determine that to be an immoral act, one which entirely justifies a response. Obviously, there are no better placed people to understand the depth of delusion here than - in the alleged words of Boss Tweed - that half of the poor hired to kill the other half.

When morality becomes a means to rationalize expedient action, instead of a framework to define RIGHT action, it becomes, at best, an impediment. It's certainly not an argument that is persuasive to those who, in examining it's tenants, can easily see themselves as being "the next group up against the wall." C.F. The Solidarity Movement.

Ideology counts, but it counts with a sword. And in the other pan of the balance, we weigh the Politics of Personal Survival. That which weighs more, well... I suppose in pragmatic terms, it depends on where the sword cuts - and it's a persuasive argument against using it at all.

Ideological movements tend to create their own antithetical movements which in turn tend to be traduced by opportunistic bastards who see them as a horse to ride to immortality and damnation.

It's an environment that encourages the development of absolute moral systems that work from xenophobic first principles. To mention two, but hardly the only examples, the Dominionist theocratic movements within the Conservative Evangelical Protestant movement and of course the equally un-scriptural and immoral theocratic Islamic movement exemplified by Osama Bin Ladin.

Each show distinct similarities in rhetoric and rationalizations to the equally delusional religions of Communism, Fascism and "New World Order Neoconservativism."

For both groups, "right" is defined as actions that advance the group and "wrong" as things that disadvantage the group - as defined by their hierarchical leadership, of course.

Frankly, I attribute much of the growth of these groups to the breakdown of the concept of the rule of law and respect for the individual, much of which was sacrificed on the alter of the Cold War by all participants.

But ultimately, all individuals of any intelligence must come to the conclusion that if a nation or cause would not hesitate to sacrifice them in the name of "national interest" or "national security" or "for the good of the People" or for the "advance of the Cause," they understand that the most fundamental tenant of the social compact with them no longer exists.

That fundamental tenant is that they are as significant to the society as any other person, that their value does not flow from wealth or position or status; that these things are role and reward, a product of a complex interaction between fortune, necessity, opportunity and education, all of which depends upon those that the pathological narcissist would dismiss as being "Useless Mouths."

When you are somewhere within the top third of the pyramid, it makes very little sense, even in an hierarchical, patriarchal, disorderly authoritarian sense - to blow up the bottom third.

It makes the creation of a different pyramid an imperative, for it defines the leadership as being unworthy, having violated the social compact. Self-preservation is the strongest motivation of all, and there is no higher cause for creating a social order than mutual self-interest.

Therefore, violating that compact is a misdeed that is both grave and self-defeating.

When you have large numbers of people within a culture who see their interests as being in conflict with a much greater number of individual, lawful citizens, and who see no problem with acting unethically toward those people, who rationalize their unethical and unjust activities with exactly the same words and reasons as do incompetent generals who are quite willing to "destroy the village in order to save it," they have made a fateful choice. They have designated more enemies than they can possibly dispatch, and, short of a dignified redefinition of the terms of engagement, they are in a situation defined long ago by the Great Sage of War, Sun Tsu.

12. Therefore, in your deliberations, when seeking to determine the military conditions, let them be made the basis of a comparison, in this wise:--

13. (1) Which of the two sovereigns is imbued with the Moral law? (2) Which of the two generals has most ability? (3) With whom lie the advantages derived from Heaven and Earth? (4) On which side is discipline most rigorously enforced? (5) Which army is stronger? (6) On which side are officers and men more highly trained? (7) In which army is there the greater constancy both in reward and punishment?

14. By means of these seven considerations I can forecast victory or defeat.

Note that the moral high ground is Sun Tsu's most important consideration. And here's another observation from him that is of immense importance to the current world situation.

2. When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men's weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength.

3. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

4. Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue.

5. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays.

6. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

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