Friday, May 15, 2009
© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Earlier this year, in our Post No. 95, entitled 27 Situations Where People We Respect Claim that “Lying” is Appropriate, we sought to get some sense of how closely people adhere to the principle that one should not lie.
By the end of the day, we concluded that we should have let sleeping dogs lie.
Much to our amazement, the vast majority of the people visiting our blog felt that there are goals, and thousands of them, sufficiently important to justify outright lying. In fact, in some instances, telling the truth was viewed as “selfish.”
Of course, there was no consensus about when lying is appropriate, but they generally did not have a problem with lying.
Interestingly, few wanted to be lied to.
And so it appeared that pragmatism won out over principle.
At least on that day.
We’ve been concerned about the stability of Pakistan for several years now. When General Pervez Musharraf resigned under pressure in August of last year, it was generally agreed that the civilian leadership would have difficulty maintaining order and fighting the Taliban and other dissident forces.
The United States, for one, was critical of some of the dictatorial and militaristic actions taken by Musharraf, including the imposition of martial law. In years past, the U.S. was known to prop up the regimes of some fairly unsavory characters. We frequently heard reference made to the “lesser” amongst many potential evils.
And while it was generally acknowledged that Musharraf was a man of many faces, he was at least one with whom the U.S. could work, and he kept the lid on the teapot.
But there was a problem. With all of our talk about democracy, and our efforts to artificially inseminate the democratic egg in the womb of the Middle East, it appeared as though we were sanctioning and financing Musharraff’s less than democratic rule.
In this instance, the principle ruled the day. And now we are seeing the consequences.
Apart from the insight which we gained in the principle versus pragmatism debate in connection with lying, we saw it again in connection with the torture debate.
And so we pose the following question:
Should the U.S. have continued to pursue a pragmatic approach and tolerated / supported the less than democratic rule of Musharraff, or was it correct in advocating the more principled route?
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