S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

On Courage and Convictions

This new year is presenting great challenges to USA leaders and warriors.
There is nothing more frightening to a young soldier than standing before a closed door, about to kick it in. But the soldier does not run; he moves forward anyway. This is the definition of heroic courage.
There is nothing more frightening to a legislator than taking an unpopular stand on a divisive issue. The Senator or Representative speaks out against conventional wisdom, risking defeat at the polls. This is the definition of leadership. Today's post pairs quotes about courage with current events that call for acts of courage.
"Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts."

Courage to lead - Kathleen Reardon, writing at Huffington Post, used Aristotle's teachings as a basis for calling upon today's leaders to be courageous. To quote from her post,
"Where among us is a truly courageous leader?"
. . . The moral virtues, then, are engendered in us neither by nor contrary to nature; we are constituted by nature to receive them, but their full development in us is due to habit."
Aristotle went on to argue that it is through learning about and performing "just acts" and "brave acts" that we may become capable of being just and brave. By doing things well, Aristotle proposed, we develop excellence just as the builder who builds well becomes a craftsman. "It is the way that we behave in our dealings with other people that makes us just or unjust, and the way that we behave in the face of danger, accustoming ourselves to be timid or confident, that makes us brave or cowardly."
. . . Where, too, are the leaders who have demonstrated true courage in the past? We need to call upon them again to ask tough questions about what amounts to a faith-in-Bush-based military strategy and to demand explications and examinations of alternative options. Thousands of lives depend on the emergence of courageous leaders from under the radar.
Now is their pivotal courage moment when preparation is converging on opportunity to save countless lives and a great country held hostage by unbridled greed, stubborn myopia, and shocking ignorance. Could it be that Barak Obama, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, Jim Webb, John Warner, John Edwards or some little known senators and congressmen have this kind of courage? Maybe Chuck Hagel? Surely somewhere there are those who have performed "just" and "brave" acts in their lives preparing them for this moment - to be among the fortunate who in their lifetime take a risk and make a substantial, positive difference in the lives of all others.
"The desire for safety stands against every great and noble enterprise."
Tacitus Roman historian.
U.S. leadership role? People around the world have an increasingly negative view of the current do-nothing administration's fear of admitting mistakes and changing course. They do not see it as a great and noble enterprise. The BBC News reported on a survey of world opinion (average of 18 countries) about the role we play as leaders.
The view of the US's role in the world has deteriorated both internationally and domestically, a BBC poll suggests.
The World Service survey, conducted in 25 nations including the US, found that three in four respondents disapproved of how Washington had dealt with Iraq.
The majority of the 26,381 respondents also disapproved of the way five other foreign policy areas had been handled.
Ralph Waldo Emerson (probably erroneously):
"Whatever you do, you need courage. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising that tempt you to believe your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires some of the same courage that a soldier needs. Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them."

Pelosi's trip - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) just returned from a very risky trip to Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. The San Francisco Chronicle story about Speaker Nancy Pelosi's trip to the Middle East reports that she remains resolved. Pelosi will continue to try to get the administration to change course in Iraq in favor of more emphasis on winning in Afghanistan. To quote,

Three days in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan have made House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even more certain of her view that moving troops out of Iraq is the best way to bring stability to the region, she told The Chronicle on Sunday.
. . . The high-level meetings highlighted Pelosi's determination to place Iraq near the top of the agenda for the new Democratic Congress. It also emphasized on a world stage the enormous differences between Congress and the White House over the way forward.
. . . By bringing an array of committee chairs and a Republican -- five of the seven lawmakers voted in favor of authorizing the use of force in Iraq in 2002 -- Pelosi said she intended to deliver the message to al-Maliki that "this is not about the politics of America, it's about the policy (in Iraq) that the American people are objecting to.''
. . . In addition to Pelosi, lawmakers traveling in the group were Reps. Tom Lantos, D-San Mateo, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the Armed Services Committee; John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the Pentagon's appropriations; Nita Lowey, D-N.Y.; and Dave Hobson, R-Ohio.

"The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now."
Attributed to Goethe.

To Afghanistan - Regarding the early 2007 trip to Afghanistan, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wasted not time in taking the delegation to the volatile Middle Eastern region. She and many other members of Congress support funding for the war in Afghanistan but, courageously, not the war in Iraq. To quote a Yahoo! News story,

Pelosi, D-Calif., and Karzai discussed plans announced last week by the Bush administration to ask Congress for $10.6 billion for Afghanistan, a major increase aimed at rebuilding the country and strengthening government security forces still fighting the Taliban five years after the U.S.-led invasion.

"In the age-old contest between popularity and principle, only those willing to lose for their convictions are deserving of posterity's approval."
Gerald R. Ford

Pakistan's role? CNN's story about the Congressional visit to Afghanistan discussed another aspect of the war, what to do about Pakistan's failure to close out Al Qaeda from their border area near Afghanistan. Because of the vacuum of leadership from the executive branch, Congress has been forced to get more courageously involved in advocation of policy change. To quote,

The Pelosi-led delegation's visit comes amid concerns over a provision in a U.S. bill limiting military aid to Islamabad.
The bill, already endorsed by the House of Representatives, calls for ending U.S. military assistance to Pakistan if the country fails to stop the Taliban operating from its territory.
"Courage is being scared to death—but saddling up anyway."
John Wayne.

Troop maintain courage - The struggle to take and hold Afghanistan has been a long and hard one. But U.S. and NATO troops have continued to "saddle up" despite the difficult dangers. The BBC News reports in this story that more troops are needed. To quote,

More troops are needed for a year-long push to defeat the Taleban, the British general in charge of Nato forces in Afghanistan has said.
. . . Military commanders must be given more money to "orchestrate the overall campaign, certainly while serious fighting continues", Gen Richards said.
"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflections."
Thomas Paine
Battle to recover - Regarding Senator Tim Johnson, who suffered a life threatening stroke, the Washington Post has a story about how Senator Johnson is currently faring. To quote,
Johnson speaks only a few words at a time. "He's not conversational, in terms of long conversation," Brendan Johnson says. "He's clearly registering when we discuss topics. I think he loves to hear about how his [three] grandkids are doing. I also keep him updated on what certain baseball teams are doing."
Johnson has three hours of therapy every day, working with parallel bars and practicing naming objects, according to statements by his doctors released by his office. An MRI showed that the speech center of his brain is undamaged. And an angiogram showed that the surgery successfully repaired the original problem, called an arteriovenous malformation.

Margaret Chase Smith:
Moral cowardice that keeps us from speaking our minds is as dangerous to this country as irresponsible talk. The right way is not always the popular and easy way. Standing for right when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.

Courageous Maine lawmakers - Regarding the Real ID Act,

CNET News reported that this legislature is joining a group iof courageous state legislators resisting any kind of national ID card. To quote,
Maine overwhelmingly rejected federal requirements for national identification cards on Thursday, marking the first formal state opposition to controversial legislation scheduled to go in effect for Americans next year.
My favorite quote on courage: comes from Winston Churchill:
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

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Todd Epp at S.D. Watch said...

Thank you for your kind comments about Sen. Tim Johnson, my senator from South Dakota. He is a brave person and will need all his courage--and his family's--as he recovers from his AVM.

Best regards,

Todd Epp
S.D. Watch

Carol Gee said...

My best to you and his other constituents, and, particularly to his family. I "send white light" in Senator Johnson's way.