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April 16, 2007

Moral Posturing


People are engaged in moral posturing when they say they want to "do something" about a problem but then reject all options that involve risk or pain. Their words make them sound concerned, but they are not willing to sacrifice anything to achieve the objective. They don't want to do anything that would actually solve the problem, they just want to sound like they care.

Let's look at three areas in which people posture constantly


Everyone wants to save Darfur. Hundreds of thousands are dying there and many more have become refugees. The essence of it is simple enough; the Islamist government of Sudan is trying to put down a rebellion in Darfur, and has adopted the most severe scorched-earth policies to do so. Rather than use the Sudanese Army, the government in Khartoum funds and supplies a militia group known as the Janjaweed, which carries out it's nefarious word. Rape and murder are the favorite intimidation tools of the Janjaweed.

So far the governments of the United States and United Kingdom are just about the only two on the planet interested in "doing something". The something they have been doing has been limited to private economic sanctions, trying to work through the United Nations Security Council, and sending in humanitarian aid to the people of Darfur.

It's not working, of course. The sanctions thus far imposed don't impress Khartoom, the French, Russians, and Chinese all prevent the Security Council from taking serious action, and all the humanitarian aid in the world won't prevent murder and rape.

But we all want to "do something", right?

So let's consider some real options and see if you're still on board.

We could put trade sanctions on China. Why China, you ask? Well, the Chinese have decided that Sudan is going to be their main source of foreign oil for their growing economy. They've got big contracts with Khartoum, and the last time I checked some 5,000 troops in Sudan to help protect the oil fields. This is why China stifles our efforts in the UN; they don't want to make the government mad at them.

So let's force the issue by twisting China's arm. Let's make them feel some pain and maybe they'll put pressure on Khartoum.

Course we know this will mean higher prices at the store for us, and harm to US businesses that trade with China, but we're on board because we want to save Darfur, right?

If you don't like that option we could sail an aircraft carrier off the coast of Sudan and tell the government that we'll put a few JDAMs on key buildings in Khartoum if they don't play ball. Heck we could even do it with a B-2 one night. If you don't like that we could send in special ops forces to supply and train Darfur resistance groups.

Course, Sudan might retaliate by getting back in the game of terror, which is where they were during the 90s. And sooner or later some of our special ops guys will get killed. But hey, we're all for saving Darfur, right?

Or if you don't like those options let's do this; trade sanctions against all countries that trade with Sudan. Course, that would mean sanctions against France, Russia and most of the world, and it would hurt our economy too, but we're all for saving Darfur, right?

Global Warming

We're all supposed to believe that the earth has a fever and that unless we do what Al Gore says civilization as we know it will come to an end. We are told by Gore and those like him that mankind is the main cause of global warming and that we must change our ways.

So in the late 90s they came up with someting called the Kyoto Protocols, which would requite a 5.2% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from what we were emitting in 1990. Calculated up this would mean about a 29% reduction from where we are today. And all this is not really guaranteed to cure our planet but might slow down the process.

Well we all want to care so you hear otherwise intelligent people prattling on about how oh yes they too want to stop global warming. Anyone who doesn't see things their way is not just wrong but probably a holocaust denier too since everybody knows that all real scientists are 100% on board with everything Al Gore says.

But since all good people are on board, let's do something about global warming! On board, everyone?

Good, because here's what you're going to need to do; trade that SUV for a mini-cooper or Prius, shut down that air conditioner in your house unless it gets over 90 degrees, put your big-screen TV out by the curb for the trashmen to pick up, and everyone in the house shares one computer.

And by the way, we don't really need all those streetlights, do we? Just bring a flashlight for parkinglots because it's really such a waste to light them all night long too. Don't mind the workmen at your office, they're just there to bust out the windons and install the type you have at home that you can open up on a hot day. You didn't think you could run the A/C all day at work, did you?

Free Tibet!

We've all seen them; the little bumper stickers on the back of cars like the sort posted above.

Tibet, if you're not sure, is a mountainous region in northwestern China. Existing for centuries, Tibet was most of the time an independent country but in the 1950s was taken over by China, which now rules it as the Tibet Autonomous Region.

For whatever reason a number of Americans have decided that not only is it unjust that China continue to rule Tibet, but it's worth doing something about.

That something is putting a bumper sticker on their car. To show that they care.

But how much do they care? Enough to suffer any pain in the cause of freeing Tibet? Run a few risks?

Start talking about putting trade sanctions on China or funding Tibetan resistance groups and suddenly these people aren't so ardent over the cause anymore. Suggest sailing our carriers into Chinese waters to threaten destruction of their navy unless they free tibet and they'll grasp their chests and fall to the ground.

My Position

Of the three subjects above I think that we ought to take stronger action with regard to Darfur, including some of the things that I suggested. I think that the earth is in a natural warming cycle and that the actions of mankind are not contributing in any meaningful way to it. As such, it would be foolish in the extreme to listen to Al Gore ore any of his fellow alarminsts. I would like to free Tibet, but it would be impossible in practice to achieve. As such, you won't find a Free Tibet bumper sticker on my car.

Moral Posturing

You know someone is posturing when they proclaim themselves oh-so-concerned about a problem but aren't willing to make any sacrifices to see it achieved. Solving any real problem will involve risk and pain, whether it's saving Darfur, reducing man-made emissions, or freeing Tibet. If you really care about solving a problem you've got to be willing pay a price somewhere.

Lots of people today are looking for free solutions. They want to sound caring and concerned. But when presented with options that might involve any risk or sacrifice on their part, they suddenly back down. Suddenly it's not such a vital issue any more.

This is why I think that UN resolutions are so popular. They allow the caring and concerned person to go on record as being caring and concerned. The problem with the UN Security Council, of course, is that it's a lowest-common-denominator affair. Only in the most wildly egregious situations (think the Falklands or Saddam's invasion of Kuwait) will you get all members on board. But most of the world couldn't care less about Darfur or Tibet, and the less-developed countries of the world (think China and Russia) aren't about to make any economic sacrifices to appease Western environmentalists. As a result, the only think that comes out of the UN on most issues are resolutions that have all the strength of a milquetoast sandwich.

But to far too many people it's all about how you sound, not what sacrifices you're willing to make or what risk you're willing to run to achieve the objective. As a result, you have lots of moral posturing.

Posted by Tom at April 16, 2007 8:03 PM

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Stunning post Tom. You are absolutely correct. I have written on the plight in Darfur myself. I also posted a question as the title of the post:

Why is there’s no real action taken to help Darfur
I am not pumping this here -- I just want you to know that I am not just talking the talk.

"So why has this been allowed to continue for years with intervention failing for the most part? In the closing days of last year, the president sent a message to Sudan’s commander in chief, Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, that if he did not accept the U.N. plan to end the genocide in Darfur by Jan. 1, there would be consequences. And the president’s special envoy to Sudan, Andrew Natsios, said that if al-Bashir continued to stonewall, the Bush administration would implement its “Plan B.” However, because “Plan B” is classified, we don’t know the details. We are still left with very few answers and or solutions."

I also made this point:

"Until governments around the world face what is happening in Darfur - the genocide will continue as it has been and countless peoples blood will be on the hands of those governments around the world that turned a deaf ear and a blind eye. Why is there no real action taken to help Darfur? Do we really want to allow a modern day Auschwitz to continue? Have we not learned the lessons of the past? It is sad that one must have to ask these questions - because obviously if lessons were learned, they would not be being repeated today - let alone allowed to continue."

Tom, on a personal level I wish I could do something, but at this point what could I do other than write about it and make people aware? It is very frustrating to see people we elected into office do so little, yet say they care.

I am no goverment official to make a difference through the government here, there in Darfur, or the U.N. But I have joined Be A Witness.


I have signed every petition they put forth, donated money and have writen about Darfur. I have also put a logo in my sidebar promoting the saving of Darfur.

I have done what I know to do within my means - but at the end of the day it will take a lot more than all the me's to save Darfur. What the solution is - I am not sure.

First of all I do not any longer believe in sanctions. They are not working anywhere in the world. Countries just laugh in the face of them and its the people of those countries that suffer at the end of the day.

I realize people cringe at the mention of military force - but at the onset this should have been the action taken by the US-UK-UN.

There are times when it must be realized that force is the only thing understood by thugs that carry out such atrocities. If reasoning worked in these cases then we would have seen a solution.

This is a complex issue and one that we should all think about, do something about -- even if it is only to sign the petitions -- but it is an issue that is not going to go away.

Just my thoughts and humble opinions.

Posted by: Layla at April 17, 2007 5:42 PM

Hi Tom,

I left quite a long comment to this stunning post yesterday, which I gave much thought to when I responded because you made some excellent points and posed a fair question. Did you not receive it?


Posted by: Layla at April 18, 2007 4:42 PM

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