July 28, 2003

Loyalty or Honesty

Which is more important? This comes again and again in all aspects of life, but especially in politics. Suppose you are working for the president, and you discover facts that completely invalidate his position, whether it be on a domestic issue, like taxes or health care, or a foreign policy issue like war. Is it more ethical to come out with the truth and push that to the media, or is it more ethical to demonstrate loyalty and toe the line?

More generally, if you are associated with someone or something that you generally believe in that does something dishonorable on one occasion, what do you do? You can't really distance yourself from that person or thing you believe in just because of one bad thing. You can't have it perfect. But how many bad things add up to something more important than loyalty?

There are other examples I am thinking of, but suppose you are a staunch conservative. At what point would you no longer support the Iraq war? Suppose you brush off the misleading comment from the SOTU about uranium and Africa. Do you go on and brush off the lie about the aluminum tubes? Do you then brush off the lie about the Iraq/Al Qaeda linkage?

What if the government that replaces Saddam in five years is actually much more dangerous internationally (due to their support of radical Islam, terrorism, etc) than Saddam was? Do you continue to assert that the Iraq war was the right thing to do? I would like to find out where people like George Will or whomever (name your favorite conservative pundit) would finally stop and say, "You know what, Bush is wrong here, and he's hurting the country." Is there a conceivable set of circumstances under which that would occur?

In business, loyalty is pretty much the most important consideration when you are trying to make a sensitive hiring decision. The same is true, I think, when you are talking about intelligence and security in the government. But when does the loyalty become a liability and lead to disaster? If Bush surrounds himself with nothing but loyal "yes" men, who is going to provide the much needed reality check that keeps us from going into another Vietnam-like quagmire?

Posted by Observer at July 28, 2003 01:48 PM

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