“Here’s what I would have – I would have done a better job of determining who the opposition is and I’m sure that our intelligence people have some of that information. Based upon who made up that opposition, OK, based upon who made up that opposition, might have caused me to make some different decisions about how we participated. Secondly, no, I did not agree with Qadhafi killing his citizens. Absolutely not. So something would have had to been – I would have supported many of the things they did in order to help stop that. It’s not a simple yes-no, because there are different pieces and I would have gone about assessing the situation differently, which might have caused us to end up in the same place. But where I think more could have been done was, what’s the nature of the opposition?”
—–Republican Presidential hopeful Herman Cain, responding to a reporter’s question asking for his opinion of President Obama’s handling of Libya. The comment followed an eleven second pause and one false start, as Cain appeared confused and unprepared for the question.
The ethical problem with Cain’s answer was not that he fumbled it, but that like his stated position on abortion, it is unethical and intellectually lazy.
I know that there are prominent voices on the right who argue—disgracefully—that the U.S. should not have assisted in the overthrow of a brutal and quite possibly insane dictator in Libya by a popular uprising because the opposition was not necessarily in accord with American goals and policies. Cain’s answer echoed their anti-democratic and un-American sentiments, as did his recent comments endorsing water-boarding, another un-American and unethical position.
“The nature” of the Libyan opposition was absolutely irrelevant to the question of whether the United States should support the people of any nation when they revolt, as Thomas Jefferson said they must, against a tyrant…especially a tyrant as unequivocally brutal as Gaddafi. Of course we should, and it shouldn’t take even eleven seconds for a qualified presidential candidate to come up with that answer.
To take eleven sentences and come up with this answer shows to my satisfaction that pizza ethics don’t translate into foreign affairs.
18 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Week: Herman Cain”
I’m starting to think Cain doesn’t really have any knowledge of policy. He acts all high and mighty but he’s nothing but bluster and paranoia.
I’m with you all the way.
Was Thomas Jefferson correct? Many of the founders (including George Washington) disagreed with Jefferson’s desire to support the French Revolution. Given how that event turned out, Washington et. al. were probably right. Like Herman Cain, I would take a lot more than 11 seconds to determine whether the Libyan Revolution was more likely to end like the French one or the American one, and thus whether or not it would be wise to support it.
Two separate questions. The French people had a right to throw off the chains of a monarchy; the U.S., of all countries, can never dispute that. What the people do with their liberty is a different matter. The fact that the French Revolution turned blood does not retroactively make the decision to revolt unjust. Democracy is dangerous,risky and messy, and idiots, fools and miscreants getting into power is part of the package—as we well know.
The French might have had the right to revolt, but that does not mean that the United States should have supported them militarily or even diplomatically. The U.S. could (and did) remain neutral. I generally believe that countries should not interfere with other countries’ internal affairs, but one could be an active interventionist and agree that one should consider the long term consequences as well as the relative costs and benefits (for the intervening country and the people of the country undergoing the revolution) when deciding whether to interfere in a revolution.
To give another example, would it be right to interfere in the Russian February Revolution against Tsar Nicholas II if you knew the most likely result was the victory of the Bolsheviks, rather than the provisional government of Kerensky?
>To give another example, would it be right to interfere in the Russian February Revolution against Tsar Nicholas II
Aside in case you weren’t aware: we did interfere with the october revolution – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polar_Bear_Expedition
Yes, on the side of the Provisional Government against the revolutionaries.
Had the French revolution been tempered by direct American influence, perhaps it would have turned out differently. It’s impossible to say with certainty. But we can’t espouse all these lofty ideas of democracy and self-governance yet turn our backs when people want it for themselves.
It is impossible to say what effect American intervention would have had on the French Revolution, but that is no reason not to consider the likely consequences of American intervention in that war. Washington did, and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t a good plan.
It is possible to believe that democracy and self-governance are the greatest form of government and that all countries should adopt it, but to act on that belief through direct military intervention whenever a people wants (or claims to want) democracy is a recipe for endless war and global instability.
You are also right. But at the point where a dictator’s efforts to hold power that his people have judged him unfit to hold any longer tramslate into mass murder, the US should not hesitate to participate or lead an international intervention on behalf of the opposition. We should certainly never, in such situations, utter support for the tyrant—which we have come perilously close to doing in Syria, for example.
I agree that the United States (or any other country) should not support a tyrant who is murdering his own people. I think that the democracies should be hesitant to intervene on behalf of the opposition, however. For example, the people of Hungary and the people of Czechoslovakia rose up against their governments (and the control of the USSR) in 1956 and 1968, respectively, but intervening on their behalf might have led to a third world war against the USSR. This would have been bad for the U.S. and, ultimately, probably bad for the Hungarians and Czechoslovakians. Before intervening, countries should consider the consequences of their interventions.
Hesitant to openly intervene or intervene at all? My history knowledge is sub-par at best, but without French encouragement and support, the American Revolution would have been much different… if it ever happened at all. France was simply trying to reduce British influence in the region, and they used the colonies to that end. Worked out pretty good for the U.S., I think.
Sometimes interventions work out well and sometimes they do not. Those who would like to intervene should carefully consider the possible consequences of intervention before they intervene, whether openly or tacitly.
Well, French aid worked pretty well for us Americans. It didn’t work out so well for the French monarchy, though.
Yes. and I think reciprocity was on Jefferson’s mind when he thought about the US stance toward the French Revolution.
“Of course we should, and it shouldn’t take even eleven seconds for a qualified presidential candidate to come up with that answer.”
Surely not in every case?
“A tyrant as unequivocally brutal as Gaddafi”? Every case.