April 1, 2011

The Ethics of Expedience

Ted Rall's work can be a bit hit or miss from my perspective, but when he's dialed in, he's capable of highly incisive social commentary, as the cartoon above illustrates.

I don't think the conundrum described - that "our stragetic interests are at odds with our values" - is unique to the Obama Administration, or, for that matter, any of its predecessors.  But while it's something with which all presidents struggle to one degree or another, it's a fight our values seem to have lost more often than not in recent years, whether in the arena of foreign policy or here at home.  Worse, as in the case of civil liberties, the morality to which we aspire is increasingly outweighed not by strategic necessity, but by tactical expedience.

Ethics are often inconvenient, but how well a nation adheres to its principles in difficult times is the measure of its character.  Anything less is hypocrisy, and the fundamental issues of genuine consequence - things like equal justice, due process, and the rule of law; not ginned-up wedge issues like "traditional values" or ersatz socialism - seem not just to be of fading importance, but the subjects of outright dismissal, as if America can no longer look itself in the mirror.

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