Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/15/2018: Remember The Titanic And The Bay Of Pigs Edition.

Good Morning.

This, the annual March-April Ethics Alarms traffic dip, is when writing the blog becomes a job, not a joy. I really have to learn to stop caring about click, follower and share stats. It’s pure ego—well, that and the fact that my wife keeps telling me that I should be spending the time on billable matters, or getting books out to publishers.

1. Ethics Observations on the Syria bombing:

  • I teach in my seminars that often decisions made early in ethical dilemmas cause future ethical decisions to become impossible, because only less-unethical ones remain. U.S. and international   policies regarding Syria  are as good an example of this phenomenon as there is. The United Nations, if it wasn’t worthless, would  have intervened to stop the humanitarian catastrophe early in the Syrian civil war. This isn’t hindsight: plenty of experts were saying so at the time. When it became clear, years ago, that this was a bloodbath tidal wave that was destabilizing the whole region (as well as killing untold numbers of civilians and children), U.S. led pressure should have been brought to bear on Assad. Now there are literally no good choices, nor ethical ones.

The United Nations is worthless, as well as toothless, gutless and principle free. If there was any justification for such an organization, it should be to prevent carnage like we have seen in Syria.

  • The U.S., British and French response to Assad’s use of banned chemical weapons was unavoidable, especially after President Obama had been thoroughly embarrassed and discredited by ignoring his own “red line” statement, and after President Trump had made his own veiled threats that amounted to “red line” pledges of his own.

Democrats were going to mock Trump if he did not have a military response to the latest chemical weapons war crime, and they are now criticizing Trump for following through. In doing so, they only make their own fecklessness, hypocrisy and expediency more obvious, if that were possible.

  • Was Assad emboldened by the President’s comments about how he was preparing to pull the military out of Syria? Who knows? Announcing troop movements in a combat zone before they occur is irresponsible and incompetent.

Obama did it repeatedly. Criticism of Trump’s equivalent conduct is valid.

  • Trolling the news media, the President used the phrase “Mission Accomplished!” after the attacks. Good. There is nothing wrong with the phrase, and the mission was accomplished. The mockery of President Bush for a banner he did not have anything to do with was a dastardly media hit job. Ann Althouse’s theory:

Trump is completely aware of how Bush was punched around for using that phrase in a celebration of a specific mission that in fact was accomplished, and he would like the naysayers to come after him the way they came after Bush, and when they do, he’ll show us all how to handle that kind of anti-military negativity.

  • Conservatives are angry about the bombing, even the ones who mocked Obama for being a weenie when Assad called his “red line” bluff. Alex Jones was actually weeping about the raid on his show . These people really are old-style Fortress America isolationists, and want the United States to abandon its traditional mission of being the world’s champion of the abused and helpless while modelling the ideals of democracy.

The non-interventionists are wrong. The ethical optics of the United States and Great Britain and France punishing a brutal dictator who flouts international law are perfect.

  • From the other side of the aisle, some Democrats are whining about the attack being unconstitutional, so some unscrupulous left-biased journalists are spreading the word. Now, the War Powers Act may be unconstitutional, but as long as it’s in force—and Democrats share responsibility for its continued existence—this is just more double-standard hypocrisy aimed at President Trump. The War Powers Act allows the President to take some military actions based on exigencies, as long as they do not extend into a protracted engagement.

This is why “Mission Accomplished” is an especially appropriate message.

2.  On April 15, The Titanic sank, Fenway Park opened, and JFK botched the Bay of Pigs. The latter was and is the object of another journalist cover-up of Kennedy misconduct.  The United States had promised the Cuban nationals that they would have supporting air cover when they invaded Cuba, butPresident Kennedy unilaterally withdrew the orders, leaving the force doomed and betrayed. He did not want the U.S. involved, he explained. Yet in his famous Inaugural Address, the idealistic new leader had proclaimed: 

“We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty!” 

The aftermath, which also included the USSR becoming convinced that the new President lacked fortitude, thus seeding the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later…

“When the smoke cleared and their ammo had been expended to the very last bullet, when a hundred of them lay dead and hundreds more wounded, after three days of relentless battle, barely 1,400 of them — without air support (from the U.S. Carriers just offshore) and without a single supporting shot by naval artillery (from U.S. cruisers and destroyers poised just offshore) — had squared off against 21,000 Castro troops, his entire air force and squadrons of Soviet tanks. The Cuban freedom-fighters inflicted over 3000 casualties on their Soviet-armed and led enemies….

“They fought magnificently and were not defeated,” stressed Marine Col. Jack Hawkins a multi-decorated WWII and Korea vet who helped train them. “They were abandoned on the beach without the supplies and support promised by their sponsor, the Government of the United States.” 

Inconvenient fact: President Trump would have provided the air power.

3. Now THIS is mass baseball incompetence: In last night’s baseball game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and the LA Dodgers, reserve infielder Devon Marrero hit a three-run homer in the top of the fourth inning,  or thought he did. But the runner on first base, Alex Avila, somehow thought the ball had been caught, and stopped running between first and second.  Marrero, running with his head down, passed the base-runner, triggering an old rule that is seldom enacted because most Major League players, you know, understand how to play baseball. Marrero was out for passing his own team mate on the bases. Thus he was credited with only a single, even though the ball had landed in the stands. Meanwhile, Diamondbacks first base coach Dave McKay was thinking of large-breasted women or trying to remember pi to the 50th decimal, or something. He never told Avila to keep running, and never told Marrero to make sure he didn’t pass him, and doing these things are the only excuses he has to be on the field.

I know this was just a baseball game, but it is exactly how catastrophes like the Parkland shooting happen. If any one of these bozos had paid attention and done their job competently, this fiasco wouldn’t have occurred. In the real world, disasters occur when the wrong group of goofs, fools and incompetents combine their weaknesses at the wrong time, in the worst possible circumstance.

4. The President pardoned Scooter Libby. Good. Libby  was convicted of one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury, and one count of making false statements in the wake of the ridiculous Valerie Plame investigation, a Democratic “Get Bush” scheme that was, if anything, even more dishonest than the current Russian collusion conspiracy theory. The Government and a journalist already knew who had leaked Plame’s CIA status, and it was nobody at the White House, and an accident. Nonetheless, a special prosecutor used dubious tactics to nail  Libby on the charge of deceiving him and lying before a grand jury to protect his boss, Dick Cheney, for being implicated in a non-crime that he had no involvement in anyway.

15 thoughts on “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/15/2018: Remember The Titanic And The Bay Of Pigs Edition.

  1. 2. Nice visit in Cuba is the Bay of Pigs Museum. Full Cuban view. Plenty of artifacts. (link below)

    3. Harvey Haddix lost his 12 innings perfect game, but lost in 1-0. The Braves got a runner on with an error and then Aaron got an intentional walk. Adcock got the first hit a three-run homer, but why 1-0? Aaron thought it bounced off the wall and the winning run had already scored so “Hammer” just tritted to the dugout and Adcock passed him. Goodbye, home run.

  2. Something I’ve been wondering about, are we 100% sure that it was Assad who ordered the chemical attack? It strikes me that terrorist groups who have a vested interest in Assad’s fall, or at least in continued destabilization of the region, could have launched the attack knowing Assad would be blamed.

  3. I heard the same theory being spouted by anti-involvement folks at work on Friday, before we’d responded.

    There’s a corollary that you have to be ready to answer when you ask it – What level of proof would you require us to accept? Do you need 100% certainty, with multiple eyewitnesses and Assad on TV laughing maniacally about the results? Because the truth is that we’ll never be a 100% certain, short of that – everything else might be misinterpreted orders that were carried out by an extremist in his forces, or a false flag operation by his enemies, or an industrial waste truck that accidentally hits an IED.

    Ultimately, we can’t have perfect knowledge of what goes on within another country’s borders, just like we can’t have perfect knowledge of what goes on within another person’s mind. We can only act on the most likely and plausible scenarios we see happening. And sometimes, when it comes to how we (the US) interacts with the world, the fact that we act is more important than whether we did so with perfect knowledge and justification.

    The history going into this attack is pretty well known – the Syrian governments records on human rights violations, ethnic cleansings, torture, etc, is exceptionally well documented, and has been since the 1980s. Civilian casualties in the current conflict are currently estimated at about 100,000, with more than another 150,000 missing. Of these casualties, more than 83% are attributed to Assad’s government and it’s forces – just 7,000 are attributed to the Rebel forces. Government forces using chemical weapons has historically happened, and been confirmed.

    The most likely situation is that the Syrian forces were responsible. Whether or not Assad actually ordered the attack, he has trained his forces to believe the use of chemical weapons against civilian targets is acceptable. Acting on the most likely scenario and seeking to intervene to stop such an egregious human rights violation is not unreasonable, even if our certainty of his responsibility is less than 100%, and even if we may be playing into the hands and desires of one side of the conflict or the other.

    If the UN, with it’s lofty declaration of human rights and stated goals of preventing these abuses cannot act to stop such clear cut atrocities, then it falls to those nations with the ability and national character to regard these crimes as heinous to take action. Which leaves who, precisely, other than the US to intervene?

    This reminds me of one of my early posts on the site, where someone suggested that maybe it would be Better if some country other than the US was the gatekeeper on nuclear weapons technology.

    Russia? Party to the very atrocities we’re talking about. China? Responsible for similar or worse, and showing no signs of wanting to get involved in the Syrian morass. Given their cultural tendencies to not really care about human rights and life, as well as the point in their industrial development that they’re at, we can’t really be surprised that they’re content to ignore the situation. The rest of the developed world? Unable to match Russian involvement.

  4. 1) Syria is about to sit on the chemical weapons regulation committee or whatever it’s called at the United Nations.

    That’s all we need to know about the UN.

    Pull completely out, give it the boot from our soil, build a new alliance of Republican nations that adhere generally to a Rule of Law that generally reflects our own and generally adhere to a free market, and have what we would consider to be free elections.

    The UN was still-born at the end of World War 2 when it came from the extremely flawed but expedient Anti-Axis alliance.

  5. “The non-interventionists are wrong. The ethical optics of the United States and Great Britain and France punishing a brutal dictator who flouts international law are perfect.”

    I’m not sure how to handle this – I agree that something needs to be done, I’m not certain strategic bombing raids solve much though if they aren’t part of a broader effort.

    I consider myself a strategic interventionist…only intervene when it makes strategic sense to do so- that is we can reasonable accept the risk to ourselves for the greater pay-off of whatever objective it is.

    Sometimes that means getting involved in mere humanitarian crises, sometimes it means bypassing them. It always means, don’t get involved if we aren’t going to finish a job as completely as possible.

    Obama’s complete recklessness and milquetoast approach to international messes gave us Syria. Had we nipped that in the bud with a tiny set of hand pruners, we wouldn’t be facing the massive thorn bush that grew from that bud that now requires chainsaws, gasoline and fire.

    So, I’m not certain lobbing a few missiles at a bad actor in the middle of a dozen bad actors means anything. Civilians and their children are still going to be getting killed by Assad and also by his opponents. The mess is so big, we cannot hope to solve the mess without going in big.

    This is the lesson of North Korea…It’s the lesson of Nazi Germany…it’s the lesson of every time we avoid the drop of sweat and later have to pay with a gallon of blood.

    • I can definitely see where you’re coming from Michael, and I agree with you. The strikes that were launched against their chemical weapons production facilities will really only matter if we make sure their ability to produce the weapons remains crippled… dropping a missile into ever facility we find them converting to production.

      Personally, I’d have said “Let’s make the personal cost for using these weapons too high to bear”, and have ordered the attacks aimed at Assad and his commanders, and their families, directly. I know, I know, there’d be outrage and aghast expressions – you’re not supposed to make war personal, targeting someone’s family for what they did isn’t fair, etc, etc, etc.

      But, it has always struck me that maybe, just maybe, if we made the costs committing human rights violations and atrocities something the violators had to bear personally, backed up by the knowledge that we could reach them and those they care about wherever they were in the world, it’d be a more effective deterrent than lobbing missiles at the foot soldiers and conscripts they don’t care about.

      • President Reagan shot at Gaddafi’s many homes (killed two of his thug children) and he stopped his actions.

        He later could not wait to turn over evidence that he did not have a nuclear program when we were ramping up to invade Iraq.

        Seems he wanted to live.

  6. The UN has been worthless by design from the get-go. Any institution that gives certain members an absolute veto over any action by that institution isn’t going to get anything done, especially when one of those members, the USSR and now Russia, is going to abuse that privilege. The institution as a whole is completely without a moral compass, and shows zero judgment or even consideration what nations it allows to sit on what committees. It’s a bad joke when Syria is about to sit on a committee concerning chemical weapons and Iran and North Korea can sit on committees regarding human rights. Other than Korea (because the USSR walked out), name one situation where the UN stepped in and took decisive action.

    As for criticism of the president for finally taking action, I think he actually did a pretty good job of fooling the media and probably others by making it look like he was backing off the immediacy of the attack to do some more coalition building with the allies and to let the USS Truman and its battle group get into position, which they should do in the next couple of days. Of course that led to a lot of talk about how this would just peter out, that Trump wasn’t going to enforce anything just like Obama didn’t and so forth. It turns out the coalition was already ready to go, and the forces in the area were plenty up to the task already. Maybe a dozen aircraft and five ships did the actual firing of weapons, including 30 missiles fired by the cruiser USS Monterey (a big reason to keep the Ticonderoga-class cruisers sailing).

    I can understand some of the reactions. It’s just politics as usual, necessary action when your party’s president does something, but reckless or wrong or whatever when the other side’s party does it. There are a few principled peaceful people saying any use of force is wrong under any circumstances who can be ignored and a few folks justifiably gun-shy because of the mess that Iraq became.

    Others, however, are just more attacks because it’s Trump, and Trump does everything with a bullseye painted on his back. He may have once been the coolest or the richest or whatever guy in the class, but now he’s a pariah. He’s the guy who can’t walk home from school without classmates poking fun at his bag, his clothing, his gait, his speed, or whatever they can think of, just because it’s him and they just hate him that much. It isn’t “good-natured ribbing.” It isn’t “toughening him up.” It isn’t “building character.” It’s just plain irrational hatred that can’t really be explained. It used to be that kids grew out of this kind of behavior. Sometimes the target struck back. Sometimes eventually even the bullies’ peers would tell them “come off it, we’re getting too old for this.” If that didn’t do it, hopefully some reasonably intelligent authority figure would finally say “Enough. No more harassment, no more name-calling, no more any of this crap. Take up fishing, take up painting, take up whatever, but you find yourself another damn hobby than this pathetic obsession with making your classmate’s life miserable.”

    I’m not saying Trump is above criticism. I’m not saying the president is above criticism. I’m not saying military action is above criticism, although I think there should be a presumption in support of the American armed forces when they go into battle. I am saying that policy-oriented criticism is one thing. Action-oriented criticism is one thing. Results-oriented criticism is one thing. However, treating the elected president of this nation like he is that kid who you used to mercilessly give crap to in class by mocking his voice or repeating everything he said, in activities or sports whenever something went wrong (because he could NEVER do anything right) and on the way to and from school just because he was him and you hated him is ridiculous, wrong, and frankly toxic. That’s why someone like a Charles Blow, who openly said he’s going to fight the president to the end, needs one of those authority figure speeches, and maybe the whole media sector needs to be told something along those lines.

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