Tag Archives: Syria

Comment Of The Day: “Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/15/2018: Remember The Titanic And The Bay Of Pigs Edition”

I’m always up for a little United Nations bashing, as a good argument can be mounted that an organization that pretends to further the aims of world peace and international cooperation and does so incompetently, fecklessly and corruptly is worse than no such organizations at all. I’m also always up for pointing out that this much maligned President is so much more competent at international politics and foreign affairs than Barack Obama that his domestic foes can only deal with it by double standards and transparent dishonesty.

This is as good a time as any to mention that Ethics Alarms passed the 9000 post landmark this week, and those posts (over less than nine years) have sparked 222, 231 comments so far, at a steadily increasing rate. Say what you will about the blog: it doesn’t lack for content. Or diverse topics: at last count, there were 24, 393 tags. That’s a lot even if you allow for the misspelled ones.

Here is Steve-O-in NJ’s Syria bombing-inspired Comment of the Day on the post, Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 4/15/2018: Remember The Titanic And The Bay Of Pigs Edition:

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 [in Syria], 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 President does it. There are a few principled peaceful people, who can be ignored, saying any use of force is wrong under any circumstances  and a few folks justifiably gun-shy because of the mess that Iraq became. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Week: Syrian Refugee Kassem Eid

If only more guests of the President Trump-Resistance enabling broadcast news media would expose the disgraceful journalistic bias like Kassem Eid, a victim of an earlier chemical weapons attack by Assad, now living in Germany.

Asked by CNN/s Brooke Baldwin about his reaction to the US missile response to Assad’s use of  Sarin against Syrian civilians., Kassem said he cried with joy.  “I thanked God…I was overwhelmed,” he said.

Then Baldwin noted, “At the same time, [President Trump] doesn’t want Syrians to come into this country with this refugee ban.”

(so please tell us why you hate him as much as we do, even though this interview is supposedly about yesterday’s news, the missile attack, and not the travel restrictions…)

To help feed the refugees expected anger and outrage, Baldwin then showed a clip of Hillary Clinton condemning the temporary travel ban,  in which she said,  “We cannot speak of protecting Syria’s babies, and in the next breath close America’s doors to them.”

“Quickly Kassem, how do you see that?” Baldwin fished…(and please, spare no emotion in showing your anger and outrage toward our racist, xenophobic and illegitimate President….)

Kassem responded…

“With all due respect, with all due respect,I didn’t see each and every person who was demonstrating after the travel ban… I didn’t see you three days ago when people were gassed to death…I didn’t see you in 2013 when 1,400 people were gassed to death. I didn’t see you raising your voice against President Obama’s inaction in Syria that left us refugees. If you really care about refugees, if you really care about helping us, please — help us stay here in our country. We don’t want to come to the United States. We want to stay in our country. We want to stay in our country. With all due respect, this is hypocrisy. If you really care, if you really care…help us stay in our country. We don’t want to become refugees. We want to stay in our country. Help us establish safe zones…Help us stay safe in our country. And if you’ll just give me a few seconds just to tell President Trump, once again. Please sir, what you did was amazing. What you did was a powerful message of hope for a lot of people inside and outside of Syria. Please don’t stop on this. Please. Help Syrians stay in their country! Please take out Assad’s air forces so they won’t be able to commit more atrocities using traditional weapons. 500,000 people were killed with traditional weapons — just so people can know what we’ve suffered in the past six years.”

Perfect.

Brooke looked like she had eaten a bug.

Good.

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Incompetent Elected Official Of The Month: President Barack Obama

Yesterday’s U.S.  missile attack on Syria prompted by Assad’s use of chemical weapons against Syrian civilians clarifies just how inept and feckless President Obama’s handling of foreign policy was.

In an article today in the reliably progressive and Democratic Party-boosting The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg writes,

“President Obama’s foreign policy doctrine, like many foreign policy doctrines, was contradictory at times, and it sometimes lacked coherence.”

1. At times?

2. Sometimes lacked coherence?

3. Notice the obligatory “like many foreign policy doctrines” to cushion the blow. Journalists are in permanent denial over just how epically awful the first black President’s administration was.

Goldberg eventually gets around to Obama’s “decision, in 2013, to go back on his promise to punish the regime of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad for using chemical weapons on civilians. Early in the Syrian civil war, Obama publicly drew a red line concerning Assad’s behavior, but later decided to forgo military strikes, even after being presented with near-definitive proof that Assad had crossed the red line in grotesque fashion. “  This inadequate description intentionally leaves out the dispiriting details of that fiasco. Here is what Obama said in August of 2013 when the first “red line” appeared:

“We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people. We have been very clear to the Assad regime — but also to other players on the ground — that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus; that would change my equation….We have communicated in no uncertain terms with every player in the region that that’s a red line for us and that there would be enormous consequences if we start seeing movement on the chemical weapons front or the use of chemical weapons.” 

Ethics Alarms:

Now, lawyers and grammarians may argue over what “a red line” means, what constitutes “use” and “a whole bunch,” and what the President considers “enormous consequences.” None of that matters. What matters is what the statement was understood to mean around the world, and it was widely understood to mean this: If chemical weapons are used against the Syrian people by Assad, the United States will act decisively. Last week, reliable evidence indicated that indeed chemical weapons had been used, and that the “red line” had been crossed.

Obama’s response? Double-talk, backtracking and word-parsing:

  • The President to reporters Friday with Jordan’s King Abdullah in the Oval Office:  “What we have right now is an intelligence assessment. And as I said, knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria doesn’t tell us when they were used, how they were used. Obtaining confirmation and strong evidence, all of those things we have to make sure that we work on with the international community. And we ourselves are going to be putting a lot of resources into focusing on this. And I think that, in many ways, a line has been crossed when we see tens of thousands of innocent people being killed by a regime. But the use of chemical weapons and the dangers that poses to the international community, to neighbors of Syria, the potential for chemical weapons to get into the hands of terrorists — all of those things add increased urgency to what is already a significant security problem and humanitarian problem in the region. So we’re going to be working with countries like Jordan to try to obtain more direct evidence and confirmation of this potential use. In the meantime, I’ve been very clear publicly, but also privately, that for the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches these issues. So this is not an on or off switch.”
  • A White House official to reporters Thursday: “I think what the Assad regime needs to know is that we are watching this incredibly closely. Were he to undertake any additional use [of chemical weapons], he would be doing so under very careful monitoring from us and the international community. There should be no mistaking our determination not just to get to the bottom of these reports, but to send a message … that Bashar al-Assad and his regime will be held accountable for these types of actions. We’re going to be methodical, rigorous and relentless … so we can establish exactly what happened…all options are on the table in terms of our response…If we reach a definitive determination that the red line has been crossed … what we will be doing is consulting closely with out friends and allies … to determine what the best course of action is.”

So those “enormous consequences ” of the “red line” being crossed is that the United States will start consulting with friends and allies?

Well, yes, in a word. Continue reading

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The Easy Ethics Verdict On Trump’s Middle East Immigration Suspension

immigration-protests

There are three steps to evaluating the ethical nature of any law or government action. The first is what was done. The second is how it was done. The third, and usually most difficult to assess, is why it was done, and whether the measure’s objectives are ethical, including whether the measure can reasonable be expected to accomplish them. . What President Trump’s controversial Executive Order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim nations is was covered in the previous post on the subject. Thanks to the fact that our mainstream journalists are incapable of reporting some news events without allowing their biases to distort or confuse the facts, the what was misrepresented to the public, and that misrepresentation is reflected in most discussions of the relevant issues on the web.

How the measure was implemented is an ethics  issue, as this involves competence, responsibility, accountability, diligence and leadership.

The Executive Order was incompetent and irresponsible.

There, that was easy.

It’s nice to be able to post an analysis here that nobody will disagree with. Usually I don’t even bother posting such verdicts.

The sudden order (you can read it here) caused world-wide confusion. Passengers were barred from flights to the United States. Customs and border control officials received notice and instructions in the wee hours of the morning, and many began work without knowing what they were supposed to do.  The order  blindsided Trump’s cabinet—what there is of it so far—including Homeland Security chief John Kelly and, incredibly, “Mad Dog”  Mattis, the new Secretary of Defense, who was not consulted by the White House during the preparation of the order and was not given an opportunity to provide input while the order was being drafted. Mattis did not see a final version of the order until a few hours before President Trump arrived to sign it at the Pentagon. Now he really has reason to be be mad. Continue reading

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The Media’s Unethical Reporting On Trump’s Refugee Pause Order: Does Telling The Whole Story Fairly And Accurately Even Matter To These Hacks Any More? Does Their Trump-Hating Audience Even Care?

How many of these protesters have read the Executive Order they are protesting? My guess; none of them.

How many of these protesters have read the Executive Order they are protesting? My guess: none of them.

I didn’t intend this to become Outrageously Unethical Journalism Sunday, but that’s how it is turning out. Not my fault. Don’t blame the messenger.

Here, for the sake of organization and clarity, are some things that you may not have been told about the Trump refugee order that all the Sunday Morning TV shows are and the news sources yesterday were going nuts over. I couldn’t watch all of the former, of course, and some are going on as I write this. Maybe some responsible journalism snuck in, and if it did, please let me know who was responsible, in both senses of the word. So far, however, the mainstream news media is doubling down on its determination not to allow facts to get in the way of its 24-7 effort to demonize President Trump, and my increasingly bats Facebook friends, and yours, I assume, are taking it all as the Utter Truth…

I. Calling the Trump Executive Order a “Muslim Ban” is a lie. Nothing less.

II. In 2011, President Obama ordered a halt to the acceptance of refugees from Iraq for six months (that’s twice the three months of the Trump order yesterday) with no adverse reaction from the news media whatsoever.

III. The seven nations targeted in Trump’s order were not his administration’s collection, but Obama’s, with the addition of Iran.

IV. All of this had to be included in any competent, fair and truthful report about yesterday’s order. As of yesterday, none of it was, at least in major news sources, or the information was buried deep in the reports under hysterical headlines.

Got all that?

It is 100% true. If you were not aware of it before, you are misinformed. If you or your family, friends or acquaintances were on social media proclaiming that the order proves Trump is Hitler, just as you suspected, without knowing the above, you are spreading fake news. If you did this while knowing the above, you are deliberately misrepresenting reality to press your misguided false narrative. Or, in the alternative, you are a rationalizing fool.

Remember, no ethical analysis can proceed without accurately establishing the answer to the question, “What’s going on here?” If one does not have the facts, one cannot perform the analysis. Answering the question incorrectly, as in “What’s going on here is that a xenophobic madman just violated the Constitutional right to the free exercise of religion!!!! ARGGGHHH!” also guarantees a flawed analysis.

You will note that the best sources for establishing the shockingly biased and unethical reportage of this event are conservative sources. This is because this right-biased alternative to the left-biased news media developed specifically for situations like this, in which the truth is deliberately skewed by political bias from the exact same people the public has been taught to trust to keep it informed. As the previous post also demonstrates, that trust is no longer warranted.

Right up front, I want to credit Prof. William Jacobson of Cornell Law School. Every single news source had an obligation to include the information he researched and posted on his blog, but none did.  Now, some details:

1. Read the order itself. Scroll past it if you want to my commentary, but as the professor says, “You should read the actual EO, because most of the media and leftist pundits either have not or are lying if they have.” It is long; I have formatted it for easier reading, but it is long. Nonetheless, the news media have proven beyond, not just a reasonable doubt but the shadow of a doubt that its journalists cannot be trusted to digest this kind of document and relay it truthfully.

Res ipsa loquitur: CNN, from which I obtained the text, headlines the order,

Full text of Trump’s executive order on 7-nation ban, refugee suspension

But there is no ban! That headline is fake news. If you don’t read the order yourself, and yet start ranting on Facebook about the suspension of freedom of religion or some other non-factual nonsense, then you are irresponsible, and you are spreading disinformation. Read it yourself, ascertain what it means if you are uncertain, or shut up about it.

And welcome the era of biased, untrustworthy, partisan journalism.

Here is the EO: Continue reading

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Ethics Quote Of The Month: Secretary Of State John Kerry

mitchell-kerry_140226

“…I’m proud of all the efforts we made to try to lead people to a peaceful resolution.”

John Kerry, in an interview on MSNBC, when asked if he had any regrets about the Administration’s handling of Syria;

The Sec. of State’s full answer:

Well again, Andrea, I’m going to have a lot of opportunities to be able to look back and digest what choices might have been made. I’m not going to do it now… Except to say to you, very clearly, that I’m proud of all the efforts we made to try to lead people to a peaceful resolution. And in fact, the only solution to Syria will be a peaceful agreement along the lines of what we laid out… and the several communiques that we issued, and the United Nations resolution that we passed. 2254. Those will be the basis for whatever happens, if they get there.

No, I’m not going to call Kerry’s statement an unethical quote, even as close as it came to making my head explode. Fortunately my expectations of John Kerry are basement-level low, from long experience. However, the latest fatuous sentiment from this veteran doofus is provocative and instructive.

In many pursuits, as we discuss here often, whether someone has done the right thing, made the ethical choice, should be evaluated on the basis of whether the conduct was competently considered and arrived at according to facts and ethical considerations before the conduct commenced. Judging its ethical nature  afterwards, when factors the decision-maker could not have foreseen or controlled have affected the result, is a fallacy: “It all worked out for the best” and thus the decision must have been ethical. This is consequentialism, and “the ends justifies the means” in its most seductive form.

A very recent example was the Republican leadership’s decision not to consider President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. No, the tactic wasn’t unconstitutional or illegal. It was unethical, however: obstructive, partisan politics defying tradition and fairness. It was also, as I pointed out at the time, stupid. When Obama, knowing of the GOP’s intent, appointed not a flame-breathing left-wing zealot but a moderate-liberal judge of impressive credentials, the GOP majority in the Senate should have rushed to confirm him, knowing well that a nomination by Obama’s presumed successor, Hillary Clinton, would unbalance the Court to a far greater degree.

The GOP lucked out, as we now know. Now President Trump will fill that vacancy on the Court, with major impact on important legal disputes for decades to come. That’s all moral luck, however. The ethics verdict on the conduct still stands. It worked, but it was wrong.

Success is not irrelevant to ethics, of course. Many jobs are ethically complex because getting a desired result is part of the mission. The result and the manner of achieving it are important. If your job is to win the war, you can’t say you did an excellent job if the war was lost. Competence is still an ethical value. A successful CEO’s company does not go belly-up by definition. Government is often analogized to sailing a ship to a destination, or flying a plane, with good reason. Part of the responsibility a government leader has is to make choices that work to the benefit of  those governed, and others as well. A captain whose ship sinks cannot say afterwards, “I did one hell of a job.” Continue reading

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