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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cowardice And Moral Equivalence

Recently, I attended a personnel meeting at my firm to deal with a dispute that had developed between two employees. I have come to not look forward to these systematized efforts at "resolution" because rarely do they do resolve anything. Instead, they leave both sides feeling vindicated and empowered in some way or another. As I left the meeting, I thought to myself that, sadly, this process is much like what passes for diplomacy in the Middle East generally, and as between Israel and Hizbollah specifically. As the EU calls for an immediate end to hostilities followed by a "sustainable" cease fire, and an American congressman goes on record as saying that he is not one to "choose sides" between Israel and Hizbollah, I began to think about the lack of moral clarity that pervades much of post-modern thought, as well as the almost pathologic fear of deciding which side is right and which side is wrong. Just like the manner in which much of corporate America deals with personnel issues, the same namby-pamby approach, masquerading as some form of judiciousness, pervades global politics. Many, many times and in many, many different circumstances, one side is in fact in the right and, conversely and necessarily, the other is in the wrong. This is not to say that the party with logic and justice on its side has acted pristinely or perfectly. However, perfection in words or actions is rarely the sole province of any party to a conflict, and such a lack of perfection on one side does not necessarily define that party as the moral equivalent of the other. Returning to my personnel issue, I was convinced based upon my evaluation of the facts that one party clearly had the upper hand when it came to the justification of his actions. Those actions were a completely appropriate response to the provocations from the other. The fact that some lesser criticisms could rightfully be levied did not, in my mind, create anything resembling an equivalence between to two actors in this office drama. Unfortunately we live in a world of cowardice and moral equivalence (I consider the latter to be a subset of the former) where the desired result is one where a totally unfullfilling "middle ground" is reached, and where no one is deemed officially to be completely right or completely wrong. Thus, neither party was clearly criticized or remonstrated and the truth, as usual, was found to be "somewhere in between." This may be a tolerable approach in the world of personnel management, but it is absolutely dangerous in the world nations inhabit. The need to take sides is of paramount importance because it sends various salutary messages. It tells all involved, and just as importantly all interested observers, that we have evaluated your respective conduct and, in so doing, we have reached a determination of who is deserving of support versus opprobrium, that we are not frightened to reach these conclusions, and that appropriate action will be taken thereon. Israel is the aggrieved party here who was prompted into action by the completely reprehensible and unjustifiable conduct of Hizbollah. To treat it's response to this aggression as in some manner morally equivalent to that of its attacker because, in the minds of some, legitimate criticisms of Israel's conduct may be raised, is to turn the entire process on its head. That may not come back to haunt in a personnel dispute, but it most certainly will in the Middle East.
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