October 25 Is One Of The Really Bad Ethics Dates

This one is so bad that it warrants a special post. The only thing benign about the 25th is that almost no historical villains have it for a birthday, which is odd. Only Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbi, aka “The Butcher of Lyon,” born on this date in 1913, fits the bill, unless you are inclined to be harsh on East German Olympic swimmer, Cornelia Ender (born 10/25/1958), who became one of the symbols of the Soviet bloc’s cheating by shooting up its female athletes with steroids. I’m not, since it seems clear that she was a victim.

The events that took place on this date, however, could sustain an ethics tome, so as I am fond of quoting Willy Loman’s wife, Linda (actually Arthur Miller), “Attention must be paid”:

The Charge of the Light Brigade (1854) has been referenced here more than any other milestone on this date, because it is one of the prime examples of how hierarchies, cultures and bureaucracies often do evil, destructive, stupid or disastrous things because nobody has the courage to stand up and scream, “STOP! This is crazy!” despite the fact that almost everyone in the chain of command knows it’s crazy. This was the phenomenon examined in historian Barbara Tuchman’s “The March of Folly.” In the now-legendary charge, Lord James Cardigan led the Light Brigade cavalry in a frontal attack against well-defended Russian artillery during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. It snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, as the saying goes.The British were winning when Cardigan received a mistaken order to attack the Russians. It was obviously a terrible idea, but he charged on anyway down a valley and his cavalry was shot to pieces by the heavy Russian guns, suffering 40 percent casualties. Lord Cardigan, who survived the battle, was hailed as a national hero in Britain. No, he wasn’t. A real hero would have had the integrity and competence to refuse the order.

The Teapot Dome Scandal (1929) started getting its just desserts when Albert B. Fall, President Harding’s Secretary of the Interior was found found guilty on this date of accepting a bribe in the form of a $100,000 interest-free “loan” from Edward Doheny of the Pan-American Petroleum and Transport Company, who wanted Fall to grant his firm a valuable oil lease in the Elk Hills naval oil reserve in California. That site, along with the Teapot Dome naval oil reserve in Wyoming, was transferred to the control of the Department of the Interior as part of the criminal machinations of Fall, a corrupt crony of the 20th President. one of many. Fall realized the personal gains he could achieve by leasing the land to private corporations. He became the first Cabinet member in U.S. history to be convicted of a crime while in office.

The U.S. invaded tiny Grenada in 1983, an unethical use of U.S. military power. The justification cited was the threat posed to American nationals on the Caribbean nation of Grenada by that nation’s new Marxist regime There were nearly 1,000 Americans in Grenada at the time, many of them students at the island’s medical school. President Reagan ordered the Marines to invade to secure their safety, or, in other words, overthrow the government, which was accomplished in days. About 2,000 U.S. troops descended on the island, and by the time the smoke had cleared, nearly 6,000 U.S. troops were there. Nearly twenty American soldiers were killed and over a hundred wounded. More than 60 Grenadan and Cuban troops died. Reagan declared a great victory, though critics suspected that the attacke was a PR move to counter the deadly explosion, just a few days before, that killed over 240 U.S. troops in a U.S. military installation in Lebanon.

Yecchh.

South Carolina mother Susan Smith launched one of the most terrible crime stories of all time in 1994, when she reported that she was carjacked and the man took her two small children along with the vehicle. Smith finally confessed after nine days that this was a lie, and that she had driven her Mazda into a lake, intentionally drowning her children, three-year-old Michael and one-year-old Alex. It’s tempting to excuse Smith as being sick, but the evidence suggests that she was sociopath. She and her husband, David Smith, used their children to manipulate their messy marriage, as both engaged in serial adulterous affairs. At the time of the murders, Susan’s current paramour was a man who did not want children, so she eliminated them to preserve the relationship. Smith is a perfect example of when capital punishment is appropriated, but she’s still alive, serving a life prison sentence.

On October 25, 1944, the Japanese deployed the first kamikaze (“divine wind”) suicide bombers against American warships.during the Battle of the Leyte Gulf, The tactic was regarded by the U.S.as barbaric and a sign that the Japanese did not respect human life. It was a move born of desperation: conventional naval and aerial engagements had failed to stop the American offensive.

The first kamikaze force consisted of of 24 volunteer pilots, and the targets were U.S. escort carriers. Eventually more than 5,000 kamikaze pilots died, killing more than 3.000 Americans while sinking over 30 ships. Was it an unethical tactic in warfare, or just an especially repugnant one?

That’s a topic for another day.

52 thoughts on “October 25 Is One Of The Really Bad Ethics Dates

  1. Does the fact that this is St. Crispin’s Day help balance the scales, or was that another suicide mission that somehow came out right? (Moral luck, and all that.)

    • Agincourt, in fact, is one of the more famous English victories of the Middle Ages. It is used to demonstrate the fearsomeness of the English longbowmen and as an omen of the passing of the era of armored knights.

      Henry’s speech reminded me of Montrose’s Toast (during the English Civil War):

      “He either fears his fate too much,
      Or his desserts are small,
      Who dares not put it to the touch,
      To win or lose it all!”

    • No, it’s more like 1) slaughters like that one can’t really be called ethical, and mainly 2) Shakespeare’s poerty notwithstanding, the real Henry 5 was pretty horrible, and one of England’s bloodiest and cruelest monarchs.

      • Henry V is the only Shakespearean King who is played as pretty much a straight hero. Obviously Shakespeare was trying to stay on the House of Lancaster/Tudor’s good side. I actually drank some of the Kool-Aid and put Henry V on my list of history’s 30 greatest heroes, for his great victory against overwhelming odds at Agincourt. However, in retrospect, there’s really nothing all that heroic about deliberately reigniting a war that had come to a resolution decades ago, and doing it on a tenuous claim to the French throne. I can think of at least five other Kings of England who were a lot more heroic.

        Btw, it’s a fallacy that the Battle of Agincourt was won purely by free-moving English archers against lumbering French knights, for that it hailed the beginning of the end of the age of chivalry. The English had both armored men at arms and a small force of cavalry. The reason that the archers were very effective, was that the weather was rainy and had turned the battlefield into a quagmire. The French knights actually approached dismounted because riding barded horses through muddy fields was hopeless. Slogging through mud and weighed down by their armor, they were incredibly vulnerable to English longbow fire, leaving them open to attack by the men at arms who could quickly bring them down and dispatch them with thin bladed daggers.

        Heavily armored cavalry had its place in European warfare, when the conditions were right. Disciplined forces of knights defeated the second Mongol attempt to invade Europe, 200,000 Mongols in Hungary. Heavy Navarese knights brought down the Almohad standard at Las Navas de Tolosa. The Gotterdammerung of the Teutonic Order at Tannenberg (or Grunewald) was MANY heavily armored knights on both sides, and same deal with the latter stage of the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses. Agincourt did not by any means mark the end of the time of chivalry. It might have marked the beginning of the end, but it would reach quite an apex before it really starts to reach its end. I’m not sure where to put the formal end. I think you can look to three events to mark the end of chivalry: one would be the final French defeat of the English at Castillon, using heavy artillery against which armored cavalry was helpless, the second would be the ascension of Henry the 7th in England and his prohibition of noblemen maintaining private forces, and the third, would be the fall of Granada and the subsequent discovery of America, which changed everything.

        • Nobody was hurt by “English longbow fire” at Agincourt or anywhere else. There is no such thing as longbow fire, as that weapon is not a firearm. As you are covering technical matters, mentioning the consequences of firearms like small guns and artillery at other points, this is no quibble.

          Knights in armour remained significant until at least Henry VIII’s time. However, like the significance of battleships, they became less effective without other support and their main effect was to force the other arms of their enemies to fit around them (as German and Japanese armoured vessels did in 1939-45, even in harbour). That was not nothing; it shaped any war zone where knights etc. were present (or think of the king in chess, though the parallel is inexact). Henry VII’s measures were a marker but not a cause of the changing state of the Art of War; things like the 16th century hakbut (predecessor of the arquebus, which in turn preceded the longer musket) probably did more along those lines (other things happened too, like Hussite and Swiss tactics).

          Don’t confuse our host. He has enough trouble with Granada/Grenada as it is.

          By the way, the Hundred Years War had not ended by Agincourt, just stalled, and Henry V’s claim to France was one he couldn’t even appear to waive without undercutting his legitimacy in the British Isles; it was all precarious, and all part and parcel of the same shifting set of claims.

          • Well, considering military history guru Trevor Dupuy used the term bowfire, I think we’re ok, in the modern era. Of course no contemporary person would have used it, and I think the command to release the arrows was “loose!” One point I did miss that I intended to make was that English longbowmen weren’t the ultimate weapon of their time, in fact at Bannockburn, by attempting overhead shots, they hit more of their own men in the back than Scots in the front.

            Knights did play a part, I believe, at Flodden Field and in the defeat of the Scots, in fact it was the last battle in the British Isles in which they did. The apex of chivalry had come and gone, though, and, as you point out, firearms were becoming decisive, in fact artillery had already proven so a few times prior.

            I don’t know about stalled. I’ve usually seen the HYW broken down in to the first phase, which ended in 1369 or 1389, and the second phase, beginning in 1415. Edward III laid claim to the throne because he was a sororal nephew of the last direct Capet king, but Henry V wasn’t even a Plantagenet, he was a Lancastrian, and his claim was much more tenuous. He may have succeeded on the battlefield, but he did not get to enjoy his victory long, since he died in 1422 of either dysentery (common) or of heatstroke from hacking and banging in full armor on a broiling hot August day. Everything fell apart in France after that, and it was all for nothing.

            • I don’t know about stalled. I’ve usually seen the HYW broken down in to the first phase, which ended in 1369 or 1389, and the second phase, beginning in 1415.

              I was thinking of the late but effective French realisation that it was better to avoid open field operations unless there were overwhelming advantages. While they followed that in a Fabian way, there were lots of sieges, many small, and much raiding, but nothing decisive happened. So I think of it as stalled but still there.

              Edward III laid claim to the throne because he was a sororal nephew of the last direct Capet king, but Henry V wasn’t even a Plantagenet, he was a Lancastrian, and his claim was much more tenuous.

              Wow.

              Not a sororal nephew of the last direct Capet king, but the closest direct descendant of the last direct Capet king. Once you ignore that Salic Law stuff, that seemed compelling to many – but not to the other contenders. (The Salic Law cropped up again in the early nineteenth century, in regards to Hanover and to the Schleswig-Holstein Question.)

              Henry V was a Plantagenet; what do you think Lancastrians were? The trouble was that all claimants from both York and Lancaster were Plantagenets, right up until so many got killed that the kin of Jasper Tudor got in via a tenuous link (which may have been why the Tudors got rid of other nobles with a somewhat clearer link, even though they weren’t making claims yet). What caused so much argument later was that, once Richard II was pushed out, there were lots of secondary claimants. Yes, Henry V only had a tenuous claim to England – but it was as least as good as any other. And that is why resiling from an extant claim to France would have hurt him: he would have been announcing less legitimacy than others who weren’t resiling. from claiming France.

              Everything fell apart in France after that, and it was all for nothing.

              Don’t let that fool you into a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Also, it wasn’t all for nothing: it bought time before the Wars of the Roses, and the Pale of Calais was an enduring gain of great benefit clear until Mary Tudor’s day.

        • P.S. A lot of the English archers at Agincourt were half-naked, because dysentery was so rampant there was too much risk of soiling their breeches. However, I’ll refrain from making poop jokes.

  2. The Susan Smith story and kamikaze pilots must not come to mind for those who repeat the quote, “All’s fair in love and war”!

  3. At the time of the Grenada caper, I remember thinking it was engineered by a generation of military officers anxious to give each other some combat ribbonry before they retired. Who knows.

  4. October 25th is also the anniversary of the 1415 Battle of Agincourt, as alluded to by Curmie above. Shakespeare’s version of Henry V’s Saint Crispin’s Day speech is an inspiring message for any century.

  5. Re: Susan Smith.

    It’s yet another notch in the annals of poor race relations because Smith blamed a black carjacker, police obligingly looked for a black suspect while searching for the children and African-Americans all over the country blamed them for A) looking for a suspect that matched the description given by the only alleged witness and B) for believing said witness.

    • To this day, every time I stop at a flashing traffic light late at night I think of Susan Smith. They knew from the get-go that her story didn’t add up. At the time of night she claimed to be sitting at a red light, that intersection would have been flashing. When asked if there was any cross traffic (which would have triggered the lights to change) she said there wasn’t any. They knew right away she was lying.

  6. 1. It’s not that simple. As one of the resident military history people I think I need to speak up. Yes, the British were winning the Battle of Balaclava, one of several in this one major war amongst “Queen Victoria’s Little Wars.” First the 93rd Highlanders successfully defeated an attack by the Russian Hussars, then the Heavy Brigade of the British cavalry defeated the Russian cavalry and sent them retreating. THEN would have been the time for the Light Brigade to move, as the additional men would have turned it from a retreat to a rout. The mistake was made when the British commander Lord Raglan saw the Russians about to take several guns from redoubts they had occupied early in the day. As an artilleryman (he had lost his right arm fighting at Waterloo) he viewed the capture of guns as a disgrace, like an infantryman would the unit’s flag. Not inclined to allow it, he ordered the cavalry commander, Lord Lucan, to prevent it. Lucan worded the order clumsily, and had it delivered to Cardigan (his brother in law, with whom he was not on good terms) by the haughty Captain Louis Nolan. When Cardigan asked what guns, Nolan made a big sweeping gesture with his arm, which seemed to indicate, instead, the Russian artillery emplacements on Balaclava Heights at the end of the nearby valley. Cardigan would have been more than justified in demanding clarification, but, thinking he’d been given a deliberately suicidal order, he decided to get on with it. Supposedly, when Nolan saw which way the brigade was headed, he started to yell that this was wrong, but was shot dead before anyone noticed. You know the rest. The whole engagement actually only took about 20 minutes. Cardigan did survive, but afterward the brigade of five regiments (the 17th Lancers, the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons, and the 8th and 11th Hussars) could muster barely one regiment’s strength between them, in large part due to the loss of 375 horses killed, plus an unknown number wounded (most of whom were probably put out of their misery by a pistol shot from the army farriers afterward). 110 men were killed, 129 wounded (so about 1/3) plus 32 captured by the Russians. Cardigan was hailed as a hero for leading the attack, in many ways emblematic of the whole war: brave soldiers being led by high officers who were past their pull date (Raglan fell into clinical depression and died soon after) and bureaucrats who just didn’t care.

    2. Albert Fall was probably the first of the “up yours” high officials of the 20th Century. He outright handed a fat, juicy contract to Edward Doheny without competitive bidding and was well paid for it. That was just the culmination, however, of a career that involved being de facto counsel to a gang of cattle rustlers who may have murdered a rival attorney and his eight year old son and the dirty dealings of the “Ohio Gang” of politicians who served Harding as a sort of shadow cabinet (most of them were booted after his death by his successor, the underrated Calvin Coolidge). No one ever bothered – or perhaps dared – to ask how Fall got so rich, so fast. He deserved a lot more than the year in prison he got.

    3. I think a picture from the time showing an American soldier standing guard with a sign that said “Communism stops here,” tells you all you need to know. The US needed a victory and needed it then. Of course that then set up Reagan’s brush war in El Salvador and Nicaragua, Bush the elder’s invasion of Panama, and may have laid the groundwork for Desert Storm, as the US became unafraid to use its power again.

    4. You realize those kids drowned upside down, right? Yeah, Susan Smith was a monster and should be six feet under now.

    5. It was a tactic born of desperation, born of the Japanese decision to create relatively few elite pilots rather than a large number of competent pilots like the US. Their whole offensive force was built around the six carriers who his Pearl Harbor. However, once the Shokaku and Zuikaku air groups were badly decimated in the Coral Sea and the other four carriers were sunk at Midway, the Japanese might as well have cut their losses. At that point the US production machine had ramped up fully, the US air corps was expanding, and soon the F6F Hellcat would outclass anything they could put in the air. You know the rest: Guadalcanal, island-hopping, the Philippine Sea, etc. In fact this deployment was during the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which would destroy the last of the Japanese carrier force as well as sinking three battleships and six (!) heavy cruisers for the loss of one US light carrier and a few smaller ships. The Japanese Navy was down to about four battleships, almost nothing in the way of carriers, and a few support ships. There’s no way they were stopping a force now composed of 300 ships (including 8 fleet and 8 light carriers) and 1,500 planes from going all the way. Plus the British were soon (about a month later) to send their fleet also, with 6 fleet and 15 smaller carriers. This is before we even figure in the land-based planes. Japan was done, and they knew they were done sooner rather than later unless they could knock out a large number of carriers. Doing it conventionally was not possible now. The whole Japanese warrior code was based on dying for the cause being the highest ideal – so they turned to sending individual pilots to shortcut the way, by crashing explosives-laden planes into American ships in suicide attacks. It wasn’t enough. However, it did show that the Japanese were going to fight to the end, ultimately leading Truman to use the atomic bomb. Admiral Onishi, who had come up with the idea, did the only thing he could do – in his study he unsheathed a sword and disemboweled himself. Is it ethical to fight to the death? For individual warriors, maybe. At the expense of others? Probably not. The Japanese government and military did not grasp the idea that it was wrong to take the Japanese civilian population down with them, but, perhaps that is not as surprising when you understand that Japan arose from a rigid class system with the warriors way up top, followed (far behind) by the farmers (considered valuable because they fed everyone), the artisans (who made useful items), the merchants (who facilitated trade), and then everyone else, and the state, in the form of the emperor, was essentially a god. If their god was going to go, so were all its worshipers.

    • Thanks for the Kamikaze note, Steve. I suspected it was terribly effective but hadn’t seen the numbers until Jack provided them. It’s my understanding the war was essentially over at Midway. As I recall, the number of carriers built during the war by the U.S: 14. By Japan: Zero.

      • It’s a bit more than that:

        Fleet carriers (Essex class): 24
        Light carriers (Independence class): 9
        Escort carriers: 122

        So about 150 or so, although I believe that covers both oceans Source – Gerald Ford Museum.

        In addition the British also built aircraft carriers — apparently around 12-18.

        • Maybe I was thinking of 14 current carriers by US vs. everyone else who, a few years ago, had no more than one each. Maybe China has two now, purchased from Ukraine.

          In any event, the war in the Pacific was a colossal blunder by the Japanese military.

        • Sounds about right, although not all went to the war against Japan, of course. I just pulled the numbers I quoted here from the Leyte Gulf order of battle, for carriers that would have been available for use immediately on this date.

    • A splendid summary on all accounts.

      1)One thing I have been reminded of, on occasion, is that the Light Brigade did actually reach their objective — the Russian guns — but their ranks were so devastated there was no way they could hold on (somewhat akin to Pickett’s Charge which reached the Union lines but was repulsed). The Wikipedia article on this battle references a counterfactual study that suggests that, had the Heavy Brigade supported the attack, it might well have succeeded, albeit with heavier casualties.

      5) I believe the term kamikaze translates roughly to ‘divine wind’ and is a reference to a typhoon that struck and defeated an invading Mongol fleet in 1274. I am sure the Japanese leaders were hoping for some such miracle deliverance once it became obvious that conventional forces were not going to be adequate to win the war. Certainly all I have read indicates that being attacked by kamikazes was a terrifying experience to American and British seamen. I imagine that part of the calculation was to try and inflict enough casualties to force the Allies to the peace table.

      The Japanese were stockpiling these aircraft in anticipation of our invasion of the Home Islands and I am sure would have attempted to go after both our carriers and amphibious ships. However, Allied defensive doctrine evolved under these attacks and it’s not clear how effective they might have been if the planned invasion had actually come off.

      • The Heavy Brigade WAS supposed to join the attack, but Lord Lucan, seeing how badly things were going for the Light Brigade, decided sending them in too would just have resulted in their destruction, and ordered them to halt. The heavies supposedly cheered in each regiment of the Light Brigade as it returned, trying to maintain morale, but ugh. The French Chasseurs D’Afrique heavy cavalry did intervene and rode down some of the flanking Russian artillery during the return. Eh, ultimately what would the success have gained them? Not much, and if I were Lord Lucan I would not want my whole division destroyed for nothing.

        Kamikaze does mean divine wind (Kami=spirit kaze=wind)and does refer to the providential storm that destroyed the Mongol invasion fleet in 1274. Being attacked by one was terrifying, but, in the end, it wasn’t going to save the Japanese, especially not if/when the USSR joined the war.

        • Definitely agree on the kamikaze. At best, the Japanese were grasping at straws (although kamikazes fit in with their culture). Somewhat akin to the prospects of the Confederacy by 1864. Neither side could realistically hope to win — their best hopes were the war weariness of the U.S. public.

          Had we not dropped the bomb and been forced to invade in late 1945, it’s a good question just what would have happened. We were bound to prevail as long as we stayed the course, but would we have with those kind of casualties? I think so (Pearl Harbor), but that was about Japan’s only real hope.

          • We weren’t going to “lose” in the Pacific. We merely had a set of options for victory from which to choose.

            1) Nukes
            2) Invasion
            3) Unprecedented island-sized siege lasting years

            Any of those scenarios might fail to gain an unconditional victory over Japan, but not gaining unconditional victory over Japan isn’t the same as losing the war. We’d have still won.

            • It’s not that the U,S. was in danger of losing the war in the Pacific (nor losing to the CSA). However, it is possible that public opinion in the U.S. could have forced Truman to accept something other than victory over Japan.

              If the bomb hadn’t worked, we would have invaded Japan (at least the island of Kyushu). Plans were underway, we were transferring divisions and air forces from Europe, our allies were mustering their forces, etc. Even the Soviets were about to get into the act. But the cost was likely to be huge and, just like in the Korean War, it would have been the veterans who had already fought who would’ve had to lead the way.

              A years long siege of Japan (which I’ve not ever heard of as something being considered) strikes me as the most likely way of ensuring we would not have won. It’s really hard for a democratic country to sustain a long and seemingly unproductive war — especially after already suffering many losses. I don’t know that Truman could have kept us for years of what would seem to be little progress but lots of casualties.

              • That last would have been quite practical, militarily speaking, though slow. However, it would have brought in colonialist methods and colonialist assistance from Britain, France and Holland, including native troops brought in from elsewhere (just as France and Holland used in their attempts at coming back – there was no great drain on their metropolitan military establishments). That would have worked against U.S. agendas just as the time scale would have, so it might have been politically difficult.

              • I think we need to decide what “win” means here. If by “win”, you mean absolute and unconditional victory, and anything else counts as a “loss” – then “losing” also would somehow include a Japanese “empire” reduced to it’s island borders, 3.6% of it’s population killed (the bulk of this reducing it’s fighting aged demographic by a rough guess of 16-17%, the loss of its *entire* navy, the loss of its industry.

                I disagree. That’s still a “win”. But even then, we have to be clear what “win” means in geopolitics. Sometimes win doesn’t mean the bad guy goes away, sometimes it just means the bad guy is severely degraded for the time being, and some sort of favorable condition is established.

                We could walk away from the war in the Pacific in the conditions I described above and call that a win – even if the military elite that dragged Japan into the war was still in power. Granted, it would only be a “win” until Japan got back on its feet (presuming the military elite still kept control). But in Geopolitics, over long time scales, “win” looks more like “holding off the bad guys”.

                • Of course, I am sympathetic with the “unconditional victory” is the only kind of “win”. As an inheritor of American culture (one of the “new era” “proselytizing” cultures), winning should be as more about getting rid of the bad actors or removing them completely from power than it is about just gaining marginal advantages in the long run (an “old ear” “mature” realipolitik).

      • Okay, you asked for it. What is the name of the only surviving kamikaze pilot?

        Chicken Teriyaki!

        Honk! Honk! Wocka! Wocka! 😂

      • OK, here’s a macabre footnote to the discussions on the Japanese war that I just found on Wikipedia:

        In anticipation of the invasion of Japan the War Department made so many Purple Heart medals that they still had 120,000 in stock when we invaded Iraq in 2003.

        A different kind of war……

    • Plus the British were soon (about a month later) to send their fleet also, with 6 fleet and 15 smaller carriers.

      Well, yes and no. American manoeuvring minimised British re-entry into that theatre for political purposes. It didn’t raise as much of a stir as it might have because of British war weariness, partly but not only manifested by a new government committed to pulling back from nearly everywhere.

  7. Re: “Klaus Barbi.”

    I recommend a movie called, “The Resistance”, which tells the story of Marcel Marceaux’s actions to save Jewish children in Lyon by helping them cross the mountains into Switzerland. Excellent movie.

    jvb

  8. Also on this day China was added to the United Nations and the United Nations of the Nationalist Chinese government of Taiwan was expelled.

      • Well, the United Nations is an unethical enterprise to begin with – granting legitimacy to grossly unethical regimes. There’s no hope then that anything coming out of such an arrangement can be ethical even if it looks like it.

        Is it ethical for a crime family to use stolen and violently gained money to fund an orphanage?

          • Ah! But I wasn’t using the analogy as a way for the crime family to “atone” for its crimes. I rather ask – can an entity that is by its own unshakeable nature unethical – such as a crime family – be capable of ethical acts that derive directly from it’s capacity as an unethical entity?

            If the UN is by its nature unethical, then regardless of its pronouncements on ROC versus PRC, it’ll be wrong…right?

  9. Re: Grenada
    If I recall correctly the Cubans were building 10,000 foot runways that could potentially support heavy bombers. The socialist president had just been assassinated by the communists. Claiming the runways were for tourist operations seems unlikely when only a 7000 foot runway is needed to support the type of equipment landing there.
    It may have been a PR move or it could also have been a successful strategic decision. I don’t believe one can categorize this as an unethical use of military force without considering the confluence of events that led to the decision to invade.

    • One can absolutely categorise it as unethical, given that it completely undercut the low key but continuing British connection that had always resolved such things before (e.g. St. Kitts and Nevis). Reagan demolished British avenues then and ever after, without even notifying let alone consulting anyone already handling things.

      • The Brits had just almost been made fools of in the Falklands. Maggie wasn’t in a position to quietly resolve this behind the scenes. Plus, Reagan was sending a message to all the other little islands in the Caribbean: Don’t do this, or we won’t wait for diplomacy to do its work. We’ll take action, and if people get hurt or stuff gets destroyed, that’s on you.

        • Some of that is just ahistorical, and some actually illustrates what I was trying to bring out.

          The Brits had just almost been made fools of in the Falklands.

          Well, no. Even a defeat would have been read as showing a willingness to act. (Full disclosure: because my grandfather had been an itinerant schoolteacher there, I had been paying close attention to developments there all along, before as well as during and after. I even dropped in on some meetings of the Falkland Islands Association that were also reviewing developments.)

          Maggie wasn’t in a position to quietly resolve this behind the scenes.

          True but irrelevant, as that is not what I was suggesting at all. Just as Harold Wilson couldn’t and didn’t resolve his version of the same behind the scenes, but could and did send a small force to do so in a low key way (jokingly described as sending a couple of policemen), so also could Britain have done the same with Grenada. Most likely that would have succeeded because the commitment it showed would have flagged willingness to invoke U.S. assistance, which would have been a fallback if it had failed (that backing may have helped Harold Wilson too).

          Plus, Reagan was sending a message to all the other little islands in the Caribbean: Don’t do this, or we won’t wait for diplomacy to do its work. We’ll take action, and if people get hurt or stuff gets destroyed, that’s on you.

          And that is just precisely the damage I was pointing out. It left that as the only option ever available, ever after.

          For what it’s worth, the Carter Doctrine did similar damage in the Middle East. I stored an article in The Times from a few years before that outlined how British handling was then the standard western approach (it now only survives in a small way, in Oman).

        • Drat. Something went wrong with blockquote. It should have been this:-

          Some of that is just ahistorical, and some actually illustrates what I was trying to bring out.

          The Brits had just almost been made fools of in the Falklands.

          Well, no. Even a defeat would have been read as showing a willingness to act. (Full disclosure: because my grandfather had been an itinerant schoolteacher there, I had been paying close attention to developments there all along, before as well as during and after. I even dropped in on some meetings of the Falkland Islands Association that were also reviewing developments.)

          Maggie wasn’t in a position to quietly resolve this behind the scenes.

          True but irrelevant, as that is not what I was suggesting at all. Just as Harold Wilson couldn’t and didn’t resolve his version of the same behind the scenes, but could and did send a small force to do so in a low key way (jokingly described as sending a couple of policemen), so also could Britain have done the same with Grenada. Most likely that would have succeeded because the commitment it showed would have flagged willingness to invoke U.S. assistance, which would have been a fallback if it had failed (that backing may have helped Harold Wilson too).

          Plus, Reagan was sending a message to all the other little islands in the Caribbean: Don’t do this, or we won’t wait for diplomacy to do its work. We’ll take action, and if people get hurt or stuff gets destroyed, that’s on you.

          And that is just precisely the damage I was pointing out. It left that as the only option ever available, ever after.

          For what it’s worth, the Carter Doctrine did similar damage in the Middle East. I stored an article in The Times from a few years before that outlined how British handling was then the standard western approach (it now only survives in a small way, in Oman).

  10. Charge of the Light Brigade and Caine’s Mutiny –

    What do you do when you think your commander’s order is crazy?

    It’s easy in starkly obvious situations. But this is on a continuum – with Charge of the Light Brigade on one end, the most well-thought out and well-communicated but inherently risky, and in between, Caine Mutiny. At the “good” end – subordinates behave insubordinately to refuse orders. At the other end, subordinates are ethically compelled to refuse.

    But, on that continuum, somewhere is a line that divides between the two. And I’d submit, that point is probably closer to the bad end than we’d like to admit (and necessarily so).

    How many military plans, that aren’t the best plans, would fall apart leading to defeat or even a costlier victory, if subordinates became accustomed to not following orders when things looked “tougher” than they felt like they should be?

    • I wish I could ask my father that question. I think I’ve mentioned here that he challenged a superior’s orders three times as a captain during World War II, and all three times the superior backed down. Although maybe what he did say is where the line is: “You better be 100% sure you are right.”

      Also, remember that Barney’s indictment against the mutineers wasn’t that they were wrong during the typhoon, but that they has already undermined Queeg’s command long before that, leading to the crisis.

    • “But this is on a continuum – with Charge of the Light Brigade on one end, the most well-thought out and well-communicated but inherently risky, and in between, Caine Mutiny.”

      THis SHOULD say:

      “But this is on a continuum – with Charge of the Light Brigade on one end, the most well-thought out and well-communicated but inherently risky on the other end, and in between, Caine Mutiny.”

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