Friday, May 15, 2009

Post No. 118: Principle, Pragmatism, or dePends?


© 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?

14 comments:

  1. Q - 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?

    A - No. The US should have prevented Pakistan from obtaining nuclear weapons and otherwise stayed out of their business. Even if it meant war, or precision strikes to hinder and halt their nuclear program. Otherwise the same scenario will play out in Iran, North Korea, and countless other nations who are under the delusion that building a nuclear weapons program is more important than providing an adequate economy. We should lead by example, and also protect ourselves and the world from such threats.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Someday, probably someday quite soon, Americans are going to wake up to the reality that America's ability to prevent other large nations from doing what those nations feel it is in their best interest to do is nonexistant. For instance: before preventing Pakistan from developing nuclear weapons, it would have been necessary to prevent Pakistan's historical enemy, India, from obtaining them. And there is a regression from that point that would lead one directly to China, and thence to the U.S.S.R. and a nuclear holocaust. The rest of the world does not see America the way Ronald Reagan described America to the drooling yahoos out there in Television Land. Wake up: this ain't a dream no more, it's the real thing.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rodak has a point, though I might phrase it much differently, about the US capability to control the fates of other nations. We actually do try to help them grow into developing nations and then we fret over the directions they take. He (rodak) is absolutely right about India. And China. Russia (then the USSR) I am not so sure we could have done anything about. Maybe if we had let Germany win out in the east by not propping the Soviets up but who knew then? And there were more pressing needs and goals, it seemed, at the time.

    We were not, by the way, the only world power propping up dictators. A fact that seems to be ignored as if we are supposed to be some pure and angelic idyllic nation-state spreading enlightenment and justice throughout the world. To survive, we must also be pragmatic.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Let's assume, just theoretically, that Iran, Pakistan, North Korea, Russia, Syria, and Venezuela were able to develop or acquire biological weapons.

    1. Should the U.S. pursue the development or further development of biological weapons also?

    2. Should the U.S. launch preemptive strikes against these countries if diplomatic negotiations fail, once they learn of their biological weapons capability, and the U.S. feels that there is a clear and present danger of their being used?

    3. Moving beyond whether water boarding is torture per se, let's assume that sticking 10 penny nails under an enemy combatant's toe and finger nails, and drilling in their teeth with a dental drill without anesthesia, are acknowledged forms of torture. If enemy combatants actually launched an attack here on the U.S. mainland, and we caught some of them, should the U.S. use torture to gain intelligence info, if other means of interrogation fail to work?

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love hypotheticals... Though they often get me into trouble.

    Should the U.S. pursue the development or further development of biological weapons also?

    In order to develop countermeasures, one has to develop the weapon. At least to a point short of stockpiling for use.

    Should the U.S. launch preemptive strikes against these countries if diplomatic negotiations fail, once they learn of their biological weapons capability, and the U.S. feels that there is a clear and present danger of their being used?

    Perhaps, if we really though of ourselves as the world's policemen. Are we?

    Moving beyond whether water boarding is torture per se, let's assume that sticking 10 penny nails under an enemy combatant's toe and finger nails, and drilling in their teeth with a dental drill without anesthesia, are acknowledged forms of torture. If enemy combatants actually launched an attack here on the U.S. mainland, and we caught some of them, should the U.S. use torture to gain intelligence info, if other means of interrogation fail to work?

    Let me answer that with a question:

    Would you be more angry if it wasn't done and another, worse, attack occurred?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Why shouldn't other countries, be able to develop or acquire the exact same weapons and number of them held by the United States? Other than trying to exert its power and influence over others, what justifies the U.S. thinking that it can responsibly manage and use the weapons and others can not?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Fortunately, President Obama's selection for Secretary of State has no such problem...some might even say some experience...with the practice of situational ethics. Perhaps that's why he picked her.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Inspector, perhaps a discussion of just what is "torture" and what isn't in terms of interrogation would be interesting. Is non-stop questioning for 12 hours at a time torture? How about hot lights? Questioning the subject while keeping him in absolute darkness? Keeping the temperature a couple of degrees too warm or too cold? A constant high pitched, barely audible whine played throughout? Does it have to be overtly physical?

    And just what are other methods of interrogation?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Pursuant to the suggestion of Douglas, here is the link to the Wikipedia article on "torture."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture

    ReplyDelete
  10. Here are two tweets/comments from our readers through Twitter:

    "There is no contradiction is espousing the virtues of a republic state, while dealing with other forms of government."

    "It would be insane for the US to only support democratic countries."

    Our most immediate response to these comments is that the issue is not just the "form" of the government with which we are dealing, but also the "conduct or practices" of "those in charge" and whether that conduct or practices should be tolerated, condoned, or supported by the US explicitly or implicitly.

    However, is there another response to these comments which comes to mind?

    ReplyDelete
  11. Yes, there is. It has been mentioned before. It's called pragmatism. Think of family gatherings. There is always a relative you do not like, one who has annoying habits or is rude, or about whom you know something that is distasteful in some way. Do you implicitly or explicitly make this known to all other members of your family?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks to all who shared comments responsive to this article. We are trying a new method of dealing with comments. Instead of responding to each, individual comment, we hope that you will engage others in analyzing the issues, and we'll just pose additional questions along the line.

    We welcome all points of views, and value them. Thanks for visiting.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Q - 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?

    A - No. The US should have prevented Pakistan from obtaining nuclear weapons and otherwise stayed out of their business. Even if it meant war, or precision strikes to hinder and halt their nuclear program. Otherwise the same scenario will play out in Iran, North Korea, and countless other nations who are under the delusion that building a nuclear weapons program is more important than providing an adequate economy. We should lead by example, and also protect ourselves and the world from such threats.

    ReplyDelete

"There Are More Than 2 Or 3 Ways To View Any Issue; There Are At Least 27"™

"Experience Isn't Expensive; It's Priceless"™

"Common Sense should be a Way of Life"™

Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"

This forum was designed to be YOUR forum for the civil exchange of ideas by people with all points of views. We welcome the submission of articles by all of our readers, as long as they are in compliance with our Guidelines contained in Post No. 34. We look forward to receiving your submissions.