Morality and Force

Over a century ago, Teddy Roosevelt sent the Great White Fleet around to show other nations the US was a powerful entity, not to be trifled with.  Also to demonstrate they had better toe our line or else. Teddy’s motto was “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”  By Jingo!

We have not abandoned our tendency toward assuming moral superiority backed by gunpowder.  A few years after Teddy, the US Marines were roaming around Central America, toppling and establishing governments on behalf of the United Fruit Company. (Cheap bananas, anyone?)   And how many “regime changes” has the CIA engineered?  If sneaky won’t work, there is always massive force.  Sometimes, there is even a whiff of legitimacy, as when Bush I drove Iraq out of Kuwait (and promptly forgot about it.) Sometimes there is a fabricated case as when Bush II claimed Iraq was going to dump weapons of mass destruction all over everyone so we had to invade them (and promptly forgot about it when we didn’t find them).

Sometimes, as in WW2, we know what we are fighting for, and what to do when the war is over. But mostly, as in Afghanistan, we rush in without a clear path to get out, or even to know when the mission has been accomplished.

The USA telling other –sovereign — countries how to live their lives has always worked out so well, don’t you know? If it was wrong for Bush II, it is doubly wrong for any who come after, since they got to see what happens when we do that sort of thing. Hubris, thy name is Yankee. (‘Cause we are so much better than those heathen nations, don’t you know…)

I simply feel, regardless of the right or wrong of any issue (other than matters of genocide) the rest of the world is getting really tired of the USA assuming a morally superior stance on any issue and demanding others do what WE think right. Come to think of it, they already are sick and tired of it.

They are certainly tired of our military exercises on their soil. Other means are resented also.

An embargo is, ipso facto, an attempt to employ economic force to achieve a goal. If we tell US companies not to trade with evil nation X, we will be embarrassed when they keep on doing just that. The notion we should not spend American lives to prop up other countries leaders is not something that should depend on whether they are politically correct or not, we just should not be in the business of World Cop.

I’m not sure how we leave a country alone “culturally”. We stop sending them McDonald’s franchises and Pixar cartoons? (I am not one of those who feel we must, Must, be putting our noses into other people’s business, any more than we want them to do that to us.)
The question is, where do you draw the line. Genocide? Female genital mutilation and ‘honor killings’ of women? Refusing refugees? No national healthcare? And, due to the chaos of opinion in the USA regarding foreign policy, I doubt we could ever get past an incoherent diplomacy. But, I could be wrong.

Also, I do not think it is wise to use the term “genocide” with reference to sexual orientation. This makes an implicit assumption of “apartness” which in the long run is just as damaging as the often-repeated claim that “it’s genetic, it can’t be helped.” (The underlying thought of , ‘the poor gays, they can’t help being that way’, is rather insulting if you think about it. I would far rather someone get up enough courage to say, “It’s a choice, it’s MY choice, and what’s it to you?”)

In many places worldwide, it may be a social deviancy, but so is wearing a tinfoil hat. I actually resent, now that I think of it, the silly notion gays are victims of biology. It is demeaning both on the surface and in the substance. But, that is just my silly opinion. (Imagine someone saying to Glen Beck, “I’m gay and you’re an idiot. If I decided to sleep with a woman tomorrow, you will still be an idiot.” OK, it’s just an imagine.) It Doesn’t Matter! whether it is biology or choice! It Is None Of Mine Or Anyone Else’s Damn Business!!! But, politically, I feel they are exploited. By the Left. So, there. That’s my silly opinion. And we all know about opinions (everybody’s got one).

The politically correct in my neighborhood are little different from arch fundies, just a slightly different ideology… er theology…. They still think of themselves as superior to the “victims”. Didn’t say these PC folks were “liberals”. That is a non-useful designation along with “conservative”, “progressive”, or “reactionary”.

I mind a friend of my twins, who realized in H.S. he was living in the closet and came out. Whether it was biology or choice is irrelevant. He is a good guy (and the only one who knows as much about movies as I do.) He was also there for one of my kids in a horrible time. He is not “my kid’s gay friend”, he is a friend of the family. He is NOT a victim, and I will not have him treated as such.

The US has no business moralizing to other countries. Unless we are prepared to go in and kick the living shit out of them. And, that’s not very moral. Better, we should be that shining city on a hill (shiny!), that gains favor by being attractive, not by being a real badass. Because being a real badass only means you are just an ass. But, what do I know?

Some people on the Left are using the Bush argument for intervention (recycled from Woodrow Wilson)? “This country needs to do what is right in a moral sense and not worry about what others think.” Or were they only making a case for domestic politics? Also, with a slight rephrasing, ie if what applies to a nation also applies to a person (the whole point of Plato’s Republic), then with each individual making a moral choice according to their beliefs, you have made a case for something else as well. A person can, by your rule, decline to be a photographer at a gay wedding because it is against their beliefs. Hobby Lobby gets to void the parts of the ACA it doesn’t like. And the instances multiply.

In any social order, there must be order, and some people will be forced/coerced/bullied into some things which offend their moral sense at the expense of other people’s moral sense. Now, we may not like some folks “moral sense”, like WBC’s obscene antics, but given a situation wherein each person/group’s Moral Sense is supreme, they are quite as justified as any other bigot. I guess what I am saying is that venturing into this area is one in which what Gandhi called “soul force” is the only way to go, for when people use the apparatus of the State to enforce morality in areas where there is conflict of opinion, we end up in a nasty free-for-all. (But, wait, that is exactly the situation we are in.)

There are certain areas wherein we agree collectively on morality. Murder, theft, child molestation, are all justly condemned. There are other areas in which the majority opinion is changing, and in those areas, we should exercise caution. (Not that the majority opinion is always right, but what else have we got? The diktat of a minority?) This is probably fueled by my distaste for operating a society via “ideology”, which I regard as a secular religious dogma of one sort or another. (Dogma is fine for a religion, damned awful for a society.) Ideology is fueled by “triumphalist thinking”, which in the beginning as well as the end is the attitude of “Our side has the biggest guns, so do what we say or else we will blow you away.”

This comes down to asking what it the basis for morality in a society. I reject the argument that only theists can be moral as too limited and nit-picky. In a pluralistic society and not a theocracy, you cannot have a religious basis for laws. But laws are there to enforce morality. What common rationale can you use to decide what is moral and what is not? Majority consensus is flawed – in Nazi Germany, the majority wanted the Jews removed from society. Nor can you trust an “enlightened” minority, a “vanguard of the people” — as we saw in the Soviet Union and Red China.

I do not have a good answer.