Greetings, fellow inactivists!
Recently, there has been much talk of taking action in the world. Specifically, American action. As I know we’ll all agree, American action is bad, bad, bad, and must be opposed at all opportunities. But what if the arguments for action are truly compelling?
Fear not. I’ve provided below a primer on five key Moral Stances which, used properly, will allow you to eloquently oppose action of any kind, while simultaneously allowing you to appear wise, thoughtful, and most importantly — morally superior to your activist opponents.
On to the stances!
Moral Stance #1: We cannot act because our hearts are not pure (past tense).
Role Model: Robert Fisk, 9/13: “Mr Bush spoke of the tens of thousands of opponents of Saddam Hussein who had been arrested and imprisoned and summarily executed and tortured ‘all of these horrors concealed from the world by the apparatus of a totalitarian state’. But there was no mention, unfortunately, that all these beatings and burnings and electric shocks and mutilations and rapes were being merrily perpetrated when America was on very good terms with Iraq before 1990, when the Pentagon was sending intelligence information to Saddam to help him kill more Iranians.”
Advantages: Good argument to use against strayed sheep (lefties who have drifted over to the warmongering side) as it plays on their historical memory of genuine American misdeeds. Where possible, use examples from the current conflict, but when in doubt fall back on old standards (See Cambodia, East Timor, Chile). If all else fails, point to the American genocide of Native Americans. Added bonus of this stance is since it also has the benefit of eroding American confidence in our own nation, the more you use it, the more effective it becomes!
Disadvantages: Some irritating traitor to their sexual orientation may point out that this only increases American responsibility to fix the problem: “Fisk’s argument (Like Sontag’s) for doing nothing is that at some point in the past the U.S. had dirty hands in the matter. But even granting them this point, doesn’t that make it more incumbent on the U.S. now to set things right?” (Andrew Sullivan, 9/13)
Moral Stance #2: We cannot act because our hearts are not pure (present tense).
Role Model: Robert Scheer, 8/6: “What the heck, let’s bomb Baghdad. Sure, it’s one of the more historically important cities in the world, and many of its more than 3 million inhabitants will probably end up as “collateral damage,” but if George the Younger is determined to avenge his father and keep his standings in the polls, that’s the price to be paid.”
Advantages: Almost always handy, since as long as you can find some benefit to the United States in the action being proposed, you can accuse its proponents of acting in Naked Self-Interest. In the case of a politician, if the action is likely to be popular, you have a made-to-order accusation that they’re simply doing it to beef up their poll numbers.
Disadvantages: Somebody may point out that the process by which politicians are influenced by the ignorant masses and act in a manner which they believe those masses will support (and thereby keep their “standings in the polls”) is known as “representative democracy”.
Moral Stance #3: We cannot act because there are other evils loose in the world that we have not acted upon.
Role Model: Hesiod, 9/12: “The Bush administration has released this document detailing the case against saddam Hussein. Note, however, they don’t make the case for war. Pick a dictator. Any dictator. Why aren’t we invading Cuba, North Korea, or Iran?”. (See also: Maureen Dowd).
Key Advantages: Gives the illusion that you support action, just not this action.
Disadvantages: You do run the risk of someone actually calling your bluff if and when the other action you point to comes up. Don’t sweat it, though; most folks don’t have very good memories so you’ll probably be able to get away with using the same argument again then too.
Moral Stance #4: We cannot act because the risk of action is too great.
Role Model: William Niskanen, Cato Institute, 12/13/01: “In the absence of strong allies and regional bases, the successful prosecution of another war in Iraq may be more costly in time, lives and resources than the Gulf War. If Saddam already controls weapons of mass destruction, the costs could be unusually high.”
Advantages: Displays prudence and concern. Caution always sells.
Disadvantages: Often requires actually admitting that the threat which proponents of action are attempting to remove is genuine, which can be awkward if you’re attempting to simultaneously argue that there’s no need to worry, nothing to see here, and would everybody please just move along.
Moral Stance #5: We cannot act because we have not debated/analyzed the problem sufficiently.
Role Model: Senator Tom Daschle, 9/13: “Mr. Daschle said, first, it was important to gauge foreign reaction to Mr. Bush’s speech. He also wondered whether a major diversion of military resources to Iraq would undermine the war on terrorism in Afghanistan, and he said the administration had yet to address ‘to whom will we turn for leadership in Iraq’ after Mr. Hussein was overthrown. But Mr. Daschle said the Democrats were ‘not prepared to make any commitment’ to voting on a war resolution “until we’ve had more of an opportunity to answer these questions.”
Advantages: You can never have too much information, or too much discussion. There’s always questions that remain unanswered, so this approach is a guaranteed winner.
Disadvantages: There’s the nagging possibility that if you use this tactic long enough, your questions may be answered by the murder of large numbers of your fellow citizens.
As you can see, these approaches provide a solid foundation to oppose any action, at any time, about anything. By combining them creatively, you can be assured that no matter how compelling a case is made for action, you can sow sufficient doubt to at least confuse the issue entirely, and in the best case, ensure deadlock and indecisiveness for weeks, months, even years.
Greetings, fellow inactivists!