The Burden of Leadership: Hypocricy Might Be Ok (?)

My cat is sick. I have to take her to the vet to get bloodwork once a month. On the way back just now the radio station was discussing that people seem to be swearing more now a days. They blamed it on the recession. As evidence, they played a bleeped out tape recording of Fox news anchor Shepard Smith posturing about the U.S. torture policy. You can see the Huff Post article here. There is ‘right to the point’ clip in the huff post article. Here is the whole segment:

I can’t help thinking:

Where were you four years ago, ya hypocrit?

That said the issue of torture is not easy. It’s very clear, morally, but it’s not simple. It’s like killing civilians.

I saw an episode of The West Wing once (greetings Professor Sorkin; kind of like Professor Falkin in War Games) in which Bartlett decided to kill a ‘known terrorist’ who was an un-triable foreign national. Perhaps think Ghadaffi, or Hussein.

“You have to do this” says the Chief of Staff.

“Why?” say Bartlett.

“Because you won the election” says the Chief of Staff.

nagasaki-before-afterPunishing/killing people without trial, without probable cause is very bad. Not ok. Killing civilians is very bad. Not ok. Part of the outrage over Vietnam was that we were killing civilians.

But this is territory our nation has grappled with (I think) every generation. For example: to end World War II we dropped nuclear bombs that wiped out two entire cities in Japan. The image to the right is Nagasaki before and after the blast.

We killed entire populations of non-combatants in order to save lives going forward. Was that ok? Let’s assume that it did in fact end the war early. Was it ok?

There are moral absolutes in this world that every individual should adhere to, and be held to. Oddly enough, it is harder for our leaders – in our service – to live up to the same absolutes.

I am personally, absolutely, against torture and killing of non-combatants. I am not confused there. And I do not believe that the war on terror justified the practice. I think it was a clear abuse of power. But perhaps, sometimes, it really is necessary to pick the lesser of two evils. I believe that’s why they call it ‘The Burden of Leadership.’