He May Be An SOB, But He’s Our SOB

One of the difficulties of postwar (that is, post-WWII) America was the massive increase in clandestine government intelligence and the resulting permanent state of “war” and the resulting reduction in liberties and freedoms as a result of the fear of massive conflict. One of the difficulties of a state of near-permanent conflict with a great amount of fear on the part of leaders is the tendency to engage in cutting corners and ends-justify-the-means calculations which end up in serious moral failings as we try to secure power and prestige and safety for ourselves individually or as part of our nations. When we make that sort of decision, there are a lot of untended results that often come into play.

One of these cases is that we tend to look at people based on what they are doing for us rather than the way that they are behaving as individuals. We can value, for our own selfish reasons, behavior that could be harmful for disrespectful to others. Our awareness of someone’s behavior and conduct and character may not lead us to proper responses if their bad behavior is tied to the fulfillment of our own selfish desires and plans. Let us put some flesh to these bones and examine how the mentality that someone behaves in a troublesome fashion would not lead us to behave wisely in response.

This is the sort of problem that may be especially common in the field of clandestine services rendered to a nation. Someone may be an assassin, and generally we may expect people to have that kind of skill set to carry with it some undesirable qualities, but if the person is serving in a way that is viewed as being desirable to the best interests of powerful figures, then that person will be considered as valued for mercenarial reasons apart from the difficulties and problems that they have as a result of their own behavior and conduct. Those who are valued and appreciated for doing the dirty work that is judged as being necessary or proper in our society will carry with them the baggage of doing evil on our behalf.

Our response to that evil is important. Even God’s government has employed wicked means for godly ends, such as the story where the prophet Michaiah relays that a council of God and various angelic (and demonic) hosts led a demon to volunteer on God’s behalf to deceive King Ahab and send him to his death at Ramoth Gilead. This does not make the evil good, although the evil worked for the good in the end. God reserves for Himself the right to determine to what extent our service to Him and our love for others may mean that our mistakes and shortcomings are overlooked. For example, the deceptions of David against Achish of Gath as well as Rehab the innkeeper of Jericho concerning the spies she hid from her ruler (one of whom she later married) were forgiven by God because of His own graciousness and mercy in the light of the difficulties of being godly when dealing with the wicked and corrupt and ungodly.

Nevertheless, our own societies seem to take this estimation on themselves to extreme degrees. This is especially true of allies whose behavior is extremely harsh but who are judged as beneficial on geopolitical aims. In the Cold War this was an extreme problem, but it has been true in history for quite a while. The Roman Emperor Augustus once famously said that he would rather be Herod’s pig than his son based on his cruel and paranoid treatment of his own children as a result of his own insecurities, but that same Augustus cynically used Herod for his own purposes, just as Herod had cynically played power politics to preserve his own lesser kingship as a Roman client in a strategic border area. The same has been true of many leaders, who have parlayed their support of a power into carte blanche to behave in a cruel fashion so long as they supported the larger aims of their ally, even for dishonest and wicked purposes. The fact that this appears to be a common estimation even in regular politics [1] ought to be seen at the very least as evidence of a worrisome trend.

[1] http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=8204

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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