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CRAFTING CRUCIAL CONVERSATIONS
August 3, 2016
Michael G. Sabbeth, Esq.
As Presented at the Conference
Table of Contents
I am honored to be among you
So many insightful comments and perspectives… I have tried to integrate many of your comments into this talk
You have devoted much of your lives to conservation, writing, hunting advocating for hunting rights. I am a relative newcomer
Words are needed for conversations. I am here to share my thoughts on how to have effective conversations; persuasive conversations; conversations that advance our goals.
Words can persuade toward virtue and words can subvert virtue.
words spread truth and words spread lies. I
I hope, to advance and defend hunting.
It is my hope Russian hackers who are hunters will take interest in these files on my computer.
The environment in which we must operate
Factual and Moral Clarity
Rhetoric with an emphasis of not surrendering the language to our opponents
How to Use Compassion, Kindness and Altruism to Refute Anti Hunters
Arguments for Fighting Back
Katie Couric, Cecil the Lion and the Black Rhino Auction in Dallas
And some concluding thoughts
Mgs hunting kudu in Natal, S Africa… with Marcus Luttrell my only big game hunting experience
Lady Colorado Division of Wildlife
The Worm Story
John Storm: change is constant. Yes, but some things do not change. Human nature does not change. And that is important to us in crafting our messages.
Vanity, narcissism, wanting to do good but wanting to take the easy route… all that has not changed.
An era .. a culture where oten truth does not matter;
-where consequences do not matter
Political Correctness: the emphasis is on the political, as in George Orwell’s prescient 1946 essay Politics and the English Language : it’s about politics and politics is about only one thing… one thing: power: who has it and who does not; who controls others; who can hurt others and who cannot. Who defines the permissible language.
Clarity is vitally important. Clarity should precede agreement or disagreement because clarity illuminates values, contradictions, moral strengths or moral flaws of an argument or policy.
Only when you can master the moral and Intellectual foundations of an argument can you fully defend it or craft strategies to refute the argument.
Non hunting Examples:
If you favor a minimum wage, you favor increased unemployment for minorities and youth generally
that was discussed.
Here are some thoughts
We are judged, according to many of our speakers, in part by our motivation for hunting.
Should we permit such a standard of judgment without fighting back?
If food from hunters is distributed to the needy, is the motivation of the hunter morally relevant?
If a village gets cleaner water from the fees of the hunter, is the state of mind of the hunter morally relevant?
Why is motivation important?
Why do they get to judge the merit of our motivation?
We have to fight that.
My point: why give the anti hunter authority to define the rectitude of our behavior?
Such a powerful illuminating example on many levels…
I wrote an article for Fair Chase Magazine Boone and Crockett, Black Rhinos and Strong Horses: A Template for Applying Persuasive Arguments
I interviewed Simeone Niilenge Negumbo, the Republic of Namibia’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Tourism and his colleague, Elly Hamunyela, Namibia’s Deputy Director of Wildlife Utilization.
Aged rhino; non reproductive; was destroying other rhino and other animals; was destroying property; the money from the auction would be used for anti poaching programs, clean water programs, land reclamation, schools, and so forth.
Those are the facts.
Angela Antonisse Oxley of Dallas, who was recruiting opponents to protest on Saturday, the evening of the auction, asserted it was barbaric to hunt and kill an animal just because it was old and unable to reproduce. Ms. Oxley’s assertion merits scrutiny.
Here is how I deconstruct her words.
Her character, her integrity—and those who think like her—are discerned not only by what she thinks is barbaric but by what she thinks is not barbaric. Herein lies the strategy for gaining moral clarity of her beliefs and which offers the most persuasive method to refute her positions.
Clarity: they prefer impoverishing children and consuming dirty water, increased poaching and, by the way, killing the animals rather than get money from a hunt of one animal in a very unique class. Those are the consequences; There is no argument.
We now know with clarity their values. That must be our message…
The three species of African antelope — the scimitar-horned oryx, the addax and the dama gazelle — are already nearly extinct in their native Africa. But they are thriving on the plains of Texas, mostly on ranches where hunters pay thousands of dollars for the privilege of hunting them.
Priscilla Feral on TV program: Sixty Minutes: I would prefer they all die rather than inhabit their non-natural habitat in Texas
Since 2005 an exemption to the Endangered Species Act has allowed ranchers to raise the three species, and hunters to stalk them, without a special permit. In all, Texas ranchers had about 1,800 of the animals in 2004. With the exemption in place, those numbers swelled to more than 17,000 by 2011.
CBS News aired a “60 Minutes” feature story about the controversy on Jan. 29. Priscilla Feral, president of the animal rights group Friends of Animals, told correspondent Lara Logan that she has waged a seven-year legal battle to get the exemption overturned.
Thank you, by the way, for the epic legal work done by our own Anna Seidman and the SCI legal team for defeating Ms. Feral’s legal attack.
: Feral was using Danae’s word, blunt. And
about as subtle as having Lucca Brazzi wearing a tutu and dancing in Swan Lake ballet
-now, she may be vicious; she may be spiteful; she may hate animals… but whatever else she is, she is clear…
This, I suggest, comprises our strongest arguments in defense of hunting…
This should have been our finest hour
We should have spoken confidently…. Aggressively… and as any trial lawyer and any communications expert knows, confidence trumps content…. … that is not a political endorsement…
Confidence scares off people who are uncertain, which is most of humanity most of the time.
As Osama Bin Ladn pontificated, people prefer a strong horse to a weak horse. We became weak, I suggest.
Instead, we became defensive, reacting, letting the anti hunters define the context; frame the issues…
We missed an opportunity
Here’s a key point: we aggressively counter attack and refute the Oxleys and Ferals, not because we expect to change their opinions, but to influence the vast middle… the people who are open to reason, to facts, to logic, and who care about animals.
That is our target audience … not the strident anti hunters
A few thoughts here:
To argue with a person who has renounced the use of reason is like administering medicine to the dead. Thomas Pain
And, as we lawyers say, It is pointless to argue with a person whose living depends on disagreeing with you.
And, in terms of persuasion, As a general proposition, people do not thank you for pointing out how stupid they are.
Here is the skill: focus on the consequences – not the platitudes.. that’s how we can make the best arguments to defend and advance hunting and be most credible for that vast middle ground
focus on reality; not abstractions;
Nature is not a Rousseau painting, where the lion lays down with the lamb waiting for a meal of tofu and steamed broccoli
We need to be practical; to think practically: What the Greek philosophers called practical reasoning: phronesis:
Here’s a joke that illustrates phronesis:
Here’s a joke that embodies practical reasoning.
Our’s is prettier
Don’t wear anything expensive
Every form of addiction is bad, whether the narcotic be alcohol or morphine or idealism. Carl Gustav Jung
Barbara Oakley: Cold-Blooded Kindness, a study of a murder of her husband by a woman who took advantage of people’s decency: P. 206
But, as polymath science fiction writer David Brin observes, this feeling of certainty can feel so good that it can sometimes become an addiction. We can see this addiction first hand in self-righteous people, who are keen to wallow in the wonderful feeling that they are right and their “opponents are deeply, despicably wrong. Or that their methods of helping others is so purely motivated and correct that all criticism can be dismissed with a shrug, along with any contradictory evidence.” Good intentions don’t somehow elevate us above this personal conundrum.
We can be accused of this defect also.. but the accusation is fallacious. We seek truth; we act based on consequences; we make corrections when evidence dictates. That’s the difference between us and them.
And also: p. 212
McGilchrist goes on to point out that left-hemisphere dominance seems characterized by “denial, a tendency to conformism, a willingness to disregard the evidence, a habit of ducking responsibility (and) a blindness to mere experience in the face of overwhelming evidence of a theory.”
Here are some quotations that provide a useful framework to think about the rhetoric of caring and compassion:
"Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when it is done with a good conscience." Blaise Pascal,
Recently wrote an article on this topic for Scott’s Mountain Hunter Magazine
The rhetoric of Compassion Caring, Empathy: these are the current God like terms in our culture’s nomenclature… caring… I feel your pain… not caring is the equivalent of child molestation or not recycling aluminum cans…
--deer and elk freezing; starving; hunters and Colo Div Wildlife made heroic efforts to feed the animals asked for help from so called animal rights groups, so called conservation groups --- they all refused to help: they gave primarily 2 reasons for refusing to help:
• Why should we help you save animals that you are going to kill?
• It Nature’s way
Let’s examine the arguments:
Kill animals.. how many? Which will yield more animals?
Nature’s way: an orthodoxy they don’t believe
Romanticized notion of Nature: the lion sitting with the lamb, as in a Rousseau painting, waiting for a dinner of tofu and steamed broccoli
Nature is death; Nature is disease; Nature is starvation; Nature is cruelty
If they get cancer, get into a car crash, get attacked during a crime.. they don’t care about Nature anymore. They want the best medical care; unrelenting prosecution of their attacker;
They made a calculation.. a moral and financial calculation.. that they would prosper better if the animals died
Why do they make such false arguments?
Because they work
They are Darwinian: they survive because they are useful
Why do such false arguments survive?
Because, in part, we have not been effective in refuting them and shaming them and humiliating them.
The argument: who has compassion? Hunters or so called animal rights group?
The hunters have compassion and the anti hunters choose to kill the animals.
That’s the argument
That’s the argument we must make: the facts are on our side; morality is on our side; consequences are on our side. We just need to step up our game in the rhetoric field.
True, most people want to do something; they want to do good. But wanting is not enough. And here is a point we must make: motivation does not matter. Either you do good or you do not do good.
A person is morally responsible for the logical consequences of his or her policies and beliefs.
They want to do good, so they say, but they are actually doing harm.
We can state this message gently or harshly, but the message must be communicated. Intent is not enough.
Mark Duda said “It’s not what you say that counts; it’s what people hear.”
Well, he’s technically correct. But certainly what you say and how you say it dictates in large measure what people hear.
Aristotle’s teachings on rhetoric: ethos, pathos, logos: focus on the audience
Rhetoric is persuasion. But it’s a lot more:
It’s how to refute; how to stop an argument; how to counterattack
One of the hunter education instructors I interviewed said this regarding the anti hunter: first, shut them up, then push them back and then have a reasonable conversation.
That requires skills in rhetoric
What does the phrase mean?
Wayne LaPierre: I told him.. the NRA should present itself as the most effective gun control organization in the nation…
So should the NSSF etc..
What does the phrase mean?
What is the effect when we commit to using words that have no meaning?
Who opposes gun control?
The rhetoric exhibits the logical fallacy of the Straw Man argument: it creates a false target and then seeks to gain moral authority and intellectual credibility by destroying the false target.
Armed teachers is not the answer: logical fallacy: strawman argument: it is not the answer.. true… but the question is: is it a partial answer?
Put with Gun Culture and Michael Corleone…. The Molinari family guaranteed Fredo’s safety…
It is dangerous to use phrases that have no meaning; it is more dangerous to allow people to demagogue by using phrases that have no meaning.
I think of the scene in The Godfather when Michael Corleone responds to Moe Green’s challenge to ‘talk business.’ Michael Corleone: “The Corleone family bankrolled your hotel; the Molinari family guaranteed Fredo’s safety. You want to talk business, let’s talk business.”
You want to talk about gun culture then let’s talk about lots of cultures. Let’s talk about the culture of dependency; the culture of fatherless families, the culture of violence Each one of the cultures leads to social decay and crime, including crimes with firearms.
So, you want to talk culture, let’s talk culture. If you can make such a rhetorical connection, I assure you the only culture your opponent will want to talk about is the culture in yogurt!
Evidently safari now has a negative connotation
Safaris save animals
Safaris provide for schools
Safaris feed needy people
We have to be very cautious when we allow opponents dictate what words we can use. Recall Orwell and political correctness
The word ‘trophy’ seems to be causing a lot of misery for us, especially when the word precedes ‘hunting.’
Well, there are sports trophies; even trophy wives, and now we have trouble with trophy hunting.
What does the phrase mean?
If you kill an animal and give the meat to the needy, is that trophy hunting?
Think of my words regarding motivation
If you kill an animal and thereby allow for greater reproduction by younger male animals, is that trophy hunting?
If you hunt and consume the meat but mount the head etc on the wall, is that trophy hunting?
If killing an animal thereby helps sustain a village, is that a defilement of the animal?
If not, what is the stigma to trophy hunting?
• You want to preserve the animals?
• You are in favor of policies that preserve the animals?
• Preserving the animals is your main value?
• You are against trophy hunting because it slaughters the animals for no purpose than to display it and you think it reflects the hunter’s vanity?
• If I demonstrated that hunting saves the animals, would you change your mind about hunting?
• Give data
• If the animal is eaten, does it matter if the animal is eaten by the hunter?
• Do you now accept the reality that a trophy animal for one participant may be needed food for another participant?
• Do you accept that trophy hunting preserves animals?
• Do you now accept trophy hunting as legitimate?
So: ponder this: you are accused of being a trophy hunter.
Your response: damn right, and proud of it.
There effect: defang the attack; take away their power.
The anti goes apoplectic: I’m trying to insult you and you agree with me?
Perhaps my next article will be: Proud to be a Trophy Hunter!!
Again: the danger here is allowing the anti hunter to control our language.
And for whatever it’s worth, not using the word ‘trophy’ won’t change the minds of the anti hunter. Most likely, they will see us as weak. Strong horse and all.
Dealing with Wayne Parcell strategy: in the debate, changing topic to lying tobacco experts. How dare you!!
How dare you make a moral equivalence between shooting an animal and methodical lying about human health.
We have to find the wit and will to break through the rhetoric of the mass culture, kind of like Andy Dufresne slogging through all that sewage in the Shawshank Redemption…. We might have to get a little dirty…
reasonable gun controls;
We are using words and phrases that have no meaning; thus, they mean whatever the audience wants it to mean; it’s like tofu… you make out of it anything you want
Again, words that have no meaning… this is important to understand, because it affects our ability to persuade and to get people over to our side or at least make people neutral who previously were opponents:
Example: in a debate: I have seen.. pro gun pro hunting people with more brains in their urine sample debating anti hunting / gun folks and they get creamed… I saw it.. how people from the audience gathered around the anti speaker and ignored the better informed and better qualified pro speaker… because the anti spoke in terms of being reasonable and sensible.. and who stated, I think gratuitously, that he really didn’t want to restrict gun rights.
There is a point to be learned here: debates: don’t do it.. unless you have extraordinary skill. Don’t enter a debate with the mindset: we’ll each tell our side and we’ll let the audience decide. That’s a recipe for total disaster. It’s a model for losing. Don’t enter a debate unless you totally confident you can destroy the opponent as if you ran him or her trough a Cuisinart. Anything less is a defeat.
You are a murderer!
How can you kill those beautiful animals?
Do you know how many animals there would be if you hunters didn’t kill them?
You knuckle dragger clinging to your guns and your religion and your anti immigrant sentiments!!!
That question was thrust in the face of a hunter education instructor friend of mine. He had the good sense to grittily reply: Zero. He shut her up.
Here’s the point: if we are going to have conversations, crucial or otherwise, then we better have a method, a goal, a measure whether our conversations are effective and we better be persuasive. That is, we better win. Otherwise, the conversation has not advanced our cause: defending and advancing hunting.
We must use the language of compassion, caring, empathy; being offended; saving lives; helping little children; developing clean water systems; Describe ourselves as animal rights activists.
We propose fair rules and policies; reasonable rules and policies.
Fair and reasonable are words that have substantial rhetorical power.
Just because there’s a subtext doesn’t mean the actual text isn’t important.. and the killings were horrific and needed to be addressed on their own terms.. and then the subtext had to be addressed
I suggest our response should have been : what can we do to join forces .. with anyone… any group… to increase the odds of preventing this from ever happening again… we’re all in this together. We are all parents and someone’s children.
We are always reacting.. on the defensive… the shootings—Orlando, San Bernadino, Sandy Hook, Charleston Church… our response should be;
• We are open to any argument that will advance policies that will reduce or eliminate these horrific killings
• We will work with any organization .. whether we have agreed or disagreed with them in the past… that will help create policies that will eliminate or reduce the likelihood of such horrific actions
• We are willing to reassess any positon, any policy, any argument, that we have advanced in the past in order to reduce these horrific crimes
• We want reasonable controls; things that work; common sense solutions… use the language of the attacker…. Sensible controls
• We want what works
Talk about the economic impact of hunters, gun purchases, rights, Second Amendment are not effective responses.
And that’s what it should be when the next psychopath does something horrible
The analogy Cecil is the Twin Towers of Big Game Hunting
Cecil: should have been our greatest triumph; could have been our finest hour…
I call it the lost opportunity
Walter Palmer: a dentist; an employer; a tax payer; a conservationist; a man who spent tens of thousands of dollars hunting and thereby preserving animals…
He tracks a wounded lion 14 hours or so… .and it was legal…
True: one of the audience made the very astute point: we didn’t know the facts, so we didn’t respond as quickly.
But not knowing the facts didn’t stop the anti hunters and immediately the attack reached tsunami force
Our response: we should have been more agile with our rhetoric.
So, we should have immediately shifted from the specific—Cecil—to the general:
We don’t know the facts… but:
Have you ever seen a lion starve to death?
What do you value more? An aging lion or food for a village?
An aging lion or medicine for a village?
An aging lion or anti poaching efforts?
We should have challenged them immediately: What are your values?
Why didn’t we ask the questions:
• Have you ever seen a starving lion?
• Ever see a lion die from hunger or disease:
• Ever see a lion ripped apart to death by younger lions?
• Ever seen the huts and shacks these natives line in?
• Ever drank dirty water rather than your Perrier or what have you?
• You will be able to think of better questions. Let’s use them… stop the anti hunters in their tracks; get them out of their comfort zone;
• Speak in terms of their moral weaknesses and inconsistencies
• These are people who would rather feel good than do good.
• Clarity: do you want animals to survive?
• Would you agree that policies that increase the survival of animals are good policies?
• Do you accept that people who enable animals to survive are doing good deeds?
• If a ban on hunting or a ban on importing ivory or a ban on importing animal skins led to more deaths of animals, would you still support the ban?
This would have been the textbook case of shutting them up, pushing them back and then offering to have a reasonable conversation.
• I Am Cecil: Jes Sui Charlie…
• Smug middle-aged woman carrying a poster: “I Am Cecil,” a vile loathsome leeching a moral stance off the dead and wounded in the Charlie Hebdo Magazine attacks by muslim killers on the publishing office in Paris, France, January 7, 2015, and the #JeSuisCharlie" placards. Contemptible loathsome moral leeching.. a country she never heard of; the life cycle of an animal she knows nothing about;
• And the point here: people believe so intensely in matters in which they are totally ignorant.
• How much has she contributed to conservation? How many impoverished natives of Zimbabwe did she elevate?
• The perverse morality of affluent leisured westerners arrogantly unconcerned about the consequences of their policies.
• They attack us on our photos.. we should have done the same with this moral outrage .. in this unique instance.
The problem with Cecil.. we stopped.. we were first and goal on the three-yard line and we stopped; we didn’t get the argument over the goal line. A few great essays, editorials, newsletter commentary… and we stopped… we didn’t make the best arguments and we stopped; we lost an opportunity. Will we be ready for the next opportunity?
And here is the key message point:
And now the self righteous airline bans… why don’t we have a unified message: Lufthansa or whatever kills more lions than a hundred Walter Plamers!!
The poachers’ camps; the landowners will poison; the farmers will kill them. Allowing hunters to take their trophies ensures much needed monetary input into these very very poor countries who derive an incredible amount of revenue from Elephant and Safari hunters alike. Not to mention the 10s of thousands of lost jobs. The hunting and import of ivory by sport hunters is a win / win scenario. The ban on ivory imports by viable Sport Hunters is a lose / lose. It’s that simple. Hunters stop poaching- Not governments
-everyone in this audience knows of the poaching that flourishes as soon as a hunting ban is enacted.
Why didn’t we have a unified aggressive policy position on that?
Our messaging should have been:
Poachers love hunting bans!!
Poachers Thrive; Animals Die!!!
Craig Boddington explained that the leopard populations have rebounded with estimates of between 700,000 and 2 million animals, which increase is specifically the consequence of the value that hunters have placed on the leopard.
Katie Couric’s execrable loathsome deliberate altering interview footage of gun owners…
Katie Couric accused of deceptively editing gun documentary
May. 26, 2016 - 2:22 - Gun rights activists seem to have difficulty answering questions in the film
“Under the Gun,” Monday.
“I take responsibility for a decision that misrepresented an exchange I had with members of the Virginia Citizens Defense League,” Couric said in a statement.
At one point in the film, Couric asks the Virginia Citizens Defense League, “If there are no background checks for gun purchasers, how do you prevent felons or terrorists from purchasing a gun?”
Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2016/05/31/katie-couric-finally-apologizes-for-deceptive-editing-of-anti-gun-documentary-video/#ixzz4EfZO8ZXC
Strategy Note: VCDL President Philip Van Cleave …Other scenes in the documentary, says Van Cleave, “accurately” represent the input of his fellow gun owners. But not the exchange on background checks. Van Cleave says he has audio of the entire interview with Couric — a backstop against bogus editing that he learned from his dealings with the media. “I do that as a matter of course when I’m doing things like that,” says Van Cleave. “It has saved me a few times.”
And then the obligatory apology when caught.. but the damage is done…
TV does not illustrate reality
The manipulate the media; they lie; the omit and edit. They are bereft of ethics and integrity. They abuse the public trust. They are not there for illumination and education. They are there to destroy us; to humiliate us. If any of us cannot grasp that reality, it is best that person has no conversations at all.
And any of our spokespersons who cannot grasp this reality will hurt us.
Katie Couric lied.. people died…
Churchill; the lie travels halfway around the world before the truth gets out of bed in the morning.
Gives us all a black eye
And Tom Opre’s statement: we are no better than our lowest common denominator:
Tom, with respect, I gently disagree
What is the message: that we hunters give moral legitimacy to be judged and attacked by the worst hunter offenders.
We would be saying.. I am no better than the worst out there.
I agree to have every hunter judged by the measurements of the worst among us.
I don’t accept that
Imagine what would happen if a thousand lawyers attending an American Bar Association conference were told: if even one of you overcharges a client, we all have back eyes!!
Are you kidding me or what?
The lawyers would rush the stage and beat the speaker to death with his $1,000 Italian shoes!!
What should hunters nurture this suicidal impulse?
As any trial lawyer would do, We should acknowledge our shortcoming, condemn bad behavior and then move on.
Don’t condemn the mass collectively.
I was part of a discussion several years ago at a conservation organization near Chicago. Beautiful place. Some unethical hunter did something terrible.. I forgot what… and the torrential self-flagellating began: this hunter gives all of us a black eye.
Not at all.
What other profession, activity, field of endeavor would accept that categorization? None
Only we can give ourselves a collective black eye.
Like the common trope from anti hunting anti firearms folks: The NRA gets blamed for crimes none of its members commit.
Lesson: this should have unified every gun and hunting related organization, newspaper, magazines, speaker, lecturer, writer…
If Wayne LaPierre says it, fine… if NSSF writes an email to its members, fine… but if twenty million twitter, facebook, websites, have a unified message; a powerful confident hard-hitting message, then you have something..
Make them pay a price for their dishonesty.. that makes the cost increase and we will get less of their dishonesty.
Issue: do we have the brain power to identify these opportunities and then use them to advance our cause?
If not, how do we get that brain power?
“We need to nourish ourselves with meaning as much as with food, especially in a modern world where meaning continually seems to be set aside in the name of convenience, progress and conformity…… In the act of hunting, we rekindle what Carl Jung called our “ancestral soul,” which is that primal part of us shared with all human history.”
“As the Hunter’s Moon rides across the autumn sky, the pulses of nature quicken, and so too do the souls of humans, even among those who do not hunt. What is right for one time, place, and person may not be appropriate for another. The primal energies of the hunt live it within us, as well as in the natural world around us, and they can be expressed in many ways. Our personal challenges to learn to do the right thing for us to be whole, individually and as a society. In learning how to respond to the magic and mystery of hunting in modern times we may find important keys to happiness, health, and peace, as well as ecological balance and proper relationship among species. The hunt can be a great teacher of much more than just the technique of killing.”
-you are part of a larger process.. the big picture.. you are helping manage wild game.. helping preserve wild game.. you are keeping the culture alive; you are keeping the animals alive…have your clients see the big picture… elevate them… in your advertising, your brochures….
Part of the big picture is learning how to use words; and using those words to craft winning arguments and to refute immoral or illogical arguments. If we don’
My opinion: if you want to change hunter’s behaviors, appeal to their honor; to their integrity;
-make them aware of the big picture: that their actions will influence whether or not hunting survives.
Thus, we must be unrelenting, inexorable, unified, unapologetic, confidence is more persuasive than content…
Our conversations must have a purpose. Winning the conversations; converting people to our cause with our conversations; defending and advancing hunting and our heritage are the goals of the conversations. Thought, skill and preparation are the foundation for effective persuasive crucial conversations.
I hope my words have helped toward those important goals.
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Eight Strategies to Effectively Handle the Next Cecil
By Michael Sabbeth
Walter Palmer killed a lion bestowed with a name—Cecil. For a while, much of the hunting world, particularly hunting iconic African big game, imploded as if into a death star. For months people uninformed about lion hunting, who never heard of the Hwange Game Park and who couldn’t find Zimbabwe on a map if their fat-free soy lattes depended on it, issued death threats on social media, threatened the person and business of the hunter, condemned much of hunting with broad-brush swipes and raised fortunes for predatory opportunistic animal activist groups.
Drenched in ignorance, energized by a luscious sense of moral superiority and the need to feel good, they were unmoved by the damaging consequences their demands would have inflicted. Unleashing a flash mob of hate, death threats and physical intimidation, they illustrated their deceit in purporting to value life.
Another Cecil-esque event will occur again, either by the act of a hunter or by an event orchestrated by an anti-hunter in a propaganda hit. We must be prepared to mobilize factual and rhetorical defenses for that next event. I offer eight strategies for crafting our defenses.
Strategy 1: Understand the Moral and Intellectual Terrain
We are in a defensive asymmetrical war against people and organizations that do not value reason, logic or consequences. Indeed, reason, logic and consequences are an anathema to anti-hunting people and organizations. Ignorance is a virtue for it facilitates self-righteousness. Hunters tend to see defending hunting and conservation as a high-minded chess game, winnable by reasoned strategy. Consequently, hunters over-value truth and facts. We tend to see the battle through a narrow lens. This small aperture stifles a comprehensive understanding of hunting’s opponents. We tend to ignore the complexity of human nature; its narcissism and need to feel morally superior, its cowardice, its lust for easy solutions, the avoidance of pain and the pervasiveness of predatory opportunistic greed.
Our opponents operate on a more primal and effective level. They see anti-hunting in terms of power and the opportunity to advance anti-human and anti-conservation ideologies. Hunters value the research of South Africa’s Ron Thomson and are motivated by the stirring speeches of Shane Mahoney and the narratives of Craig Boddington. The anti-hunters disregard them totally.
In his Four Quartets, T. S. Eliot wrote that “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.” Eliot is partially correct. Often human kind does not care much about reality. Reality impedes their ideological advancement. The anti-hunters grasp this fundamental truth; the hunting community does not. Our failure to grasp this point jeopardizes our ability to effectively refute the anti-hunters.
Strategy 2: Use Social Media More Effectively
We know a picture is worth a thousand words and that a lie travels around the world before the truth gets out of bed. Social media has exposed several undesirable qualities of the hunting community: its aloofness from reality, its complacency, its inability to present a unified front and, worse, its lack of confidence. For example, powerful forces in the hunting community turned on Palmer before the facts were known.
The new media era battle space is complex. We must be willing to fight fire with fire, as the expression goes. We must show the vile wires, snares and traps poachers use and the resultant loathsome injuries they inflict on animals. We must highlight the consequences of children with unclean water and food deprivation. Show the decapitated rhinos with a subtitle screaming: “This is what hunting bans cause!” We should have illustrated the vulgar immorality of the self-satisfied somber-faced American woman arrogantly carrying a sign “I am Cecil,” attempting to parasitically leach morality from the Charlie Hebdo slaughter in Paris. We must show the images; employ powerful iconography and trenchant rhetoric. We must change the social media paradigm!
Strategy 3: Shed our Delusions:
I attended the annual meeting of African Professional Hunters Association at the 2017 SCI convention. Wonderful dedicated all! However, one statement troubled me. Citing Cecil, an attendee said that “that the world will not tolerate unethical behavior.” I disagreed. There is no world in any unified sense, I said. Moreover, the world is incapable of distinguishing ethical from unethical behavior. Indeed, the Cecil event proved my point rather than the speaker’s. Additionally, this so-called world has no interest in ascertaining ethical behavior or supporting it. A hunting community, I argued, that seeks to appease ‘the world’ and which acts upon the belief that the world will embrace hunting if hunters are universally ethical is doomed to commit suicide.
It is delusional to believe that the organized anti-hunting advocates—well-funded animal organizations and European and American NGOs—will come to accept elephant, rhino, leopard hunting and remove bans on trading ivory and rhino horn if only they knew the facts. This thinking is self-destructive. It is idiocy. They know what we know. They read the reports, the data, the arguments. Secrets do not exist. Rather, they don’t care. They have different agendas; they submit to different ideologies, they make their money based on different arguments. We must understand that reality if we are to craft winning strategies and rhetoric.
The anti-hunters are willing to impose on the world’s hunting regions, generally, and African hunting nations and their populations, specifically, costs that these far-removed wealthy elites will never pay. African hunting nations, specifically, find themselves in the untenable and frankly, absurd, situation of being dictated to by people who will pay no consequences for being wrong.
Strategy 4: Shift the Paradigm
We should focus less on the virtues of hunting and focus more on the arrogant and deceitful character of those that oppose hunting. Extolling hunting’s conservation virtues is a necessary but insufficient process to persuade the vast middle ground.
We know from studying the facts regarding Cecil the lion and the black rhino hunting auction orchestrated by the Dallas Safari Club that hunting saves animals and people. No rational decent human being can intellectually and morally refute these claims. Yet such hunting is opposed. What is the explanation? Let us not flatter ourselves. We do not have an exclusive divine link to wisdom and knowledge. I accept that many anti-Cecil protesters are decent but uninformed yet that is only a small aspect of their personality structure. What kind of person rejects a rhino hunt knowing that many young rhinos would be saved? What kind of person demands a ban on rhino horn trade knowing that the result is more poaching, more rhino deaths and more hunger for the local populations? These are the messages hunters must make. Data puts people to sleep. Mutilated animals inspire people to fight those that enable the mutilation.
Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, we know that those who choose animal protection over animal conservation will get neither. And we know that airline trophy bans will kill more lions than a thousand Palmers. We know that the feelings business is profitable and the thinking business not so much.
Strategy 5: Focus on the Proper Audience
Mark Duda of Resource Management estimates that as many as 60-80 percent of the population is non-committal regarding hunting in a general sense. My reading of Duda’s material leads to the favorable conclusion that most of these people can be reached by reason, ethical arguments, caring for native populations and passion. Thus, our strategy should be to forcefully refute the radical anti-hunters, not expecting to change their minds, but to persuade the large ‘middle’ of uncommitted people. This vast group will align with those that seem to have winning arguments.
Strategy 6: Get Legislation and Enforcement
We must develop strategies, including legal action, to combat the extreme anti-hunters’ sadistic fetish for violence and intimidation. Civil and criminal legal action should be taken in extreme cases by skilled lawyers. We should lobby state legislators to pass legislation assessing criminal and civil liability against those who make credible threats, whether in person or through cyberspace, against hunters, their families and their businesses. Paraphrasing Michael Corleone, we must become wartime consigliaris.
Strategy 7: Don’t Avoid the Fight
I spoke with many people who advise hunters to maintain a low profile when confronted with a Cecil-like situation. “Let it blow over; don’t draw attention!” they say. This passive avoidance is self-destructive. Our strategy should be to make the anti-hunting attacker pay a price for its misinformation, greed, narcissism and the unethical consequences of its beliefs. Let us be guided by two of the most fundamental laws of human nature: avoidance is interpreted as weakness and weakness invites aggression. Unlike donors to the anti-hunting causes, the animals we fight to conserve do not live in a therapeutic utopian world. Nature’s one constant is life-and-death brutality. The lion does not co-habit with the gemsbok waiting for a dinner of locally sourced, non-GMO, gluten free, organic steamed broccoli. We must fight for reality if we are to conserve the animals.
Strategy 8: Unify with a Central Resource
Our focus must be on persuasion, which is not the same as spewing out data and making abstract arguments. We must identify and then use people who are smart enough and intellectually agile enough to deconstruct future anti-hunting attacks in concise, simple language. We must identify and emphasize the morality or lack of morality of the consequences of policies advanced by the anti-hunters. We must give our hunters the words to fight back. We must craft arguments that align the virtues of animal conservation and human enrichment with the values of the larger audience. Strategic thinking and action offer the best hope for conserving animals and those in the hunting world who lives are affected.
Michael Sabbeth is a lawyer, writer, lecturer and consultant in Denver, Colorado. Please see his book, The Good, The Bad & The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values, available at Amazon.com http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu
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Why Are We Turning On Ourselves?
Fair Chase, Legacy, Crossbows and Joe Bell
For several reasons I felt compelled to read Joe Bell’s article, Thoughts on Fair-Chase Bowhunting, http://pope-young.org/comm/article_details.asp?uid=F95B5128-3B16-4239-8FD0-A23EED172325I aspire to be a student and practitioner of Fair Chase and ethical hunting. I write, lecture and consult on hunting and shooting ethics; and, coincidentally, I am learning to shoot and hunt with a crossbow. Given the article’s title and the prestige of the Pope and Young Club, I figured I could learn something about how bow hunting relates to Fair Chase. I share my thoughts about Mr. Bell’s article and my respectful disagreement with his arguments and conclusions.
I cannot divine Mr. Bell’s mind and soul but I can study the words he actually wrote and what he did not write and then draw conclusions from them. His title includes the phrase Fair Chase, which is a noble concept. I looked forward to seeing how Mr. Bell discussed it. The Pope and Young website has a definition of Fair Chase: http://pope-young.org/fairchase/default.aspThe definition is curious because it defines what Fair Chase is not rather than what it is. Example: “The term “Fair Chase” shall not include the taking of animals under the following conditions:…..” The definition ends with the even more curious and vague rule: “Any other condition considered by the Board of Directors as unacceptable.” Not much guidance there.
“To begin with, the Club defines a bow as a hand-held, hand-drawn device, in which you pull the bowstring back using your body's strength. This is where the energy comes from to propel the arrow forward. We believe anyone that uses such a tool is an archer and therefore a bowhunter when pursuing game.”
Mr. Bell writes; "This is why the Pope and Young Club does not accept a crossbow as a real archery tool. For this reason, we are against them for use in archery-only hunting seasons."
On the surface, Mr. Bell gives the appearance of weaving Fair Chase principles and ethics into his arguments. His motive is obvious: his arguments and conclusions will gain credibility and moral justification if he can successfully draw upon Fair Chase and ethics to support them. However, Mr. Bell does not show why Fair Chase principles or ethics supports his definitions. He just says so.
Mr. Bell writes: “But lines must be drawn, and the "bow" is a great place to make it clear cut. Again, it must be hand held, hand drawn, so your body takes up the power of the bow's force in order to propel the arrow forward.” He doesn’t say why a line must be drawn. He doesn’t explain why, based on ethics and Fair Chase, anyone would care or should care if a line is drawn. He does not provide an explanation based on ethics as to why a line must be drawn. Again, he just says so.
Mr. Bell’s policy recommendation is limited: “Are we against the person using the crossbow? No, absolutely not. This is foolishness. We are simply against the "tool" for use during archery-designated seasons.”
Does Mr. Bell make a case based on ethics and Fair Chase principles for restricting the crossbow? I don’t think so.
Mr. Bell doesn’t offer evidence or show which Fair Chase principles support his conclusion that it is more ethical to ban crossbow hunting from archery-designated seasons. Mr. Bell simply says it is so. More specifically, Mr. Bell offers no evidence that the “hand-held” bow is in any way more ethical or more consistent with Fair Chase principles than the crossbow.
No references are made to arrow speed, accuracy, range, power or other variables that might provide an ethical basis for distinguishing crossbows from hand-held ones. Mr. Bell has a bias against crossbows, which is fine, although he writes that the use of any kind of bow is up to the subjective sense of the individual hunter. But his bias is not supported by facts or ethics or Fair Chase principles.
Mr. Bell writes: “This is why the Pope and Young Club does not accept a crossbow as a real archery tool.” Okay, fine. He is entitled to his opinion; but he is not entitled to make up or ignore facts or twist the meaning of Fair Chase or ethics to support his opinion. Mr. Bell’s subjective definition of a ‘real archery tool’ has nothing to do with Fair Chase or ethics, and, in fact, he doesn’t try to show that it does.
Mr. Bell has a bias against crossbows “Because it severs the line between what is archery and what is not.” It is easy, of course, for Mr. Bell to reach his conclusion because he defined the terms of bow and archer in such a way that no other conclusion is possible. His conclusion is not grounded in ethics but in manipulating definitions.
Mr. Bell wants the moral authority gained by saying his arguments are supported by the Fair Chase doctrine but he never shows how any of its principles apply to any of his arguments or definitions. He simply writes Fair Chase as if the words alone stops all debate. He does not show why or how a vertical bow is consistent with Fair Chase and a crossbow is not. By itself, whether an animal is taken with a hand held bow or with a slice of month-old pizza has nothing to do with Fair Chase.
I try to understand and do justice to Bell’s arguments and then write accurately about my understanding. To do otherwise would be unethical, as if I, as a lawyer, misstated to a judge the facts or holding of a legal case. It may well be that, in Mr. Bell’s words, “it’s the practice of Fair Chase and high-ethical standards that keeps all Pope and Young Club members branded as one.” But he doesn’t show how ‘real archers’ advance these goals better than crossbow hunters.
Primitive-Like and Legacy
Another part of Mr. Bell’s bias against crossbows is that they are not ‘primitive-like.’ He writes: “we owe it to them and our sport to protect this legacy, which is to keep the sport primitive-like and as challenging as possible...to keep bowhunting a full-body shooting engagement.”
Several issues leap out. First, ‘primitive-like’ is a suspiciously flexible term that defies precise meaning. Thus, like tofu, you can make ‘primitive-like’ into anything you want. Second, defining the modern compound bow as primitive-like defies reason. Made of space-age materials such as carbon, titanium and specialized steel alloys, deriving great mechanical advantages from pulley systems, boasting luminous sight sticks, range finders and release triggers and machined to stunning tolerances, these bows are marvels of modern technology and precision. They are as primitive as a Porsche.
Third, Mr. Bell’s reference to ‘legacy’ is unhelpful. Legacy is a morally neutral concept. Some legacies are good; some not so terrific. Slavery comes to mind. Mr. Bell limits legacy to one factor: the mechanical action of how a string is drawn. Again, fine, but he fails to show how such a legacy in any manner advances Fair Chase and ethical hunting. Appealing to legacy without explaining why the legacy is virtuous is not a persuasive argument. Moreover, I would bet a substantial sum that the animal cares not a whit how the arrow was released.
When evaluating Mr. Bell’s arguments, another factor deserves attention. I have volunteered on hunts with many severely disabled persons and persons not disabled but afflicted with upper-body injuries. They cannot draw a compound bow. They might be able to shoot a crossbow. Is Mr. Bell going to look into the eyes, for example, of the fourteen-year old I accompanied on a pronghorn hunt (rifle hunt) last year, a boy with no legs and two withered arms, and lecture to him that he can never be worthy of the title ‘archer’ or ‘bowhunter’? That he can never hunt according to Fair Chase principles because, at best, he can only use a crossbow? I hope not. But if so, the key question is: what benefit is derived from that argument?
Why Are We Dividing Ourselves?
I read and re-read Mr. Bell’s article, and several questions kept haunting me. Why did he write it? What was he trying accomplish that deserved to be accomplished? Why start the equivalent of an Animal House movie cafeteria food fight among hunters using different bow platforms for the trivial goal of eliminating some of them from the archery-designated season?
Hunters of every platform face real problems, problems that threaten every kind of hunting. We live in perilous times. If interest rates creep up, if the welfare state continues to consume the economy like a metastasizing cancer, if the economy contracts a little, the billions of dollars for hunting and conservation raised through Pittman-Robinson taxes will dissipate like smoke from a campfire. When photos appear showing an animal with an arrow through its head or neck, thereby creating the equivalent of Cecil the Elk or Bear or Deer or whatever, the Great White shark of viral social media won’t distinguish how bows were held or how the arrow was drawn. When hunting is ended and the animals are dead from starvation and poaching and so forth, it really won’t matter which bow platform you liked and disliked.
Much of the world has gone insane, and viciously insane, feasting on reptilian predatory opportunism. Turning bowhunters against each other strikes me as self-destructive and void of logic and reason. I’d much prefer we hunters focus on meaningful issues. Let us develop strategies for fighting anti-hunters that buzz drones over the animals and who on social media threaten injury and death to hunters and their families.
Let us absorb the fact that we are one Supreme Court Justice away from perhaps losing the individual right to own or possess a firearm. “What’s that got to do with me?” some bowhunters might ask. Well, consider that Scotland is now enforcing its Air Weapons and Licensing Act, https://www.nraila.org/articles/20160304/scotland-sets-july-deadline-for-airgun-licensing
requiring registration and permits to possess an airgun. Is there any rational basis to believe this could not happen to bows?
I never met Joe Bell. Pope and Young is an honorable organization. I believe Mr. Bell is passionately dedicated to preserving and advancing bow hunting. But, in this instance, whatever compels him, he allowed passion to dominate reason, and generally nothing good comes from such a dynamic. I conclude Mr. Bell did not make his case. He did not persuade that the crossbow restrictions are justified by Fair Chase or ethics. We cannot afford to fracture the hunting population, bow hunting included. The stakes are too high. We need to pull together, not create division, especially when there is no moral or factual reason to divide us.
Michael G. Sabbeth is a lawyer in Denver, Colorado. He lectures on ethics and rhetoric. He has written the book The Good, The Bad and The Difference: How to Talk with Children About Values. It is available on Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/c5flmmu He is now working on a book titled No More Apologizing! Arguments to Defend and Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports. Visit his website www.thehonorablehunter.com and his Facebook page www.facebook/thehonorablehunter.
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by Michael G. Sabbeth
In Polymnia, the Seventh Book of the History of Herodotus, Demaratus, a betrayed Spartan, warned Persian King Xerxes against attacking the Spartans. “Valour is an ally whom we have gained by dint of wisdom and strict laws,” he said. Xerxes, scoffing, said the Spartans were weak because they are free men under no direct authority. Demaratus admonished Xerxes, “They are the bravest of all. For though they be free men, they are not in all respects free. Law is the master whom they own; and this master they fear more than thy subjects fear thee... It forbids them to flee in battle...and requires them to conquer or die.”
Xerxes ignored Demaratus and was defeated in the naval Battle of Salamis. The Spartans fought for a noble purpose, not personal glory or wealth.
Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer-SS, commander of the German Schutzstaffel(SS), the Nazi concentration camps and the Einsatzgruppen death squads, expressed an elastic view of noble purpose in his speech to SS officers in Posen, Poland on October 6, 1943: “Most of you know what it means when a hundred corpses are lying side by side.....and at the same time— apart from exceptions caused by human weakness — to have remained decent fellows, that is what has made us hard..... a page of glory in our history... We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us.”
Like beauty, noble purpose is in the eyes of the beholder. Himmler illustrates the infinite capacity of the human mind to behold the vilest evil as noble. The lethality of modern weaponry dictates that the survival of the human species and much else will be a consequence of the proper determination of the nobility of purpose our professionals in arms are commanded to implement.
Leaders determine what is noble, but they, even if democratically elected, offer no guarantee of wisdom and virtue. Ascribing something as noble is an easy rhetorical stunt, but, in George Gershwin’s words, “It ain’t necessarily so.”
Noble purposes do exist. A realist’s perspective on noble purpose should incorporate criteria to measure its nobility, its consequences and the likelihood it will be pursued. The inherent ethics of the purpose, the existence of power to implement it, the moral clarity possessed by leaders assessing it and the existence of moral will to implement the purpose must be assessed. Those who choose a life of service within the profession of arms are duty bound to understand the morality of their assigned purposes and to make moral judgments among conflicting noble purposes.
In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” ― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
In Once an Eagle, a seminal novel on military honor, Anton Myrer expressed a noble purpose: “but what excited him (Sam Damon) most of all were the stories of Cincinnatus and Dumouriez and Prescot, of farmers and citizens who took arms to confound tyranny and crush it, who stepped into the mortal breach to save their native lands...”
Of the six purposes cited in the Preamble of the United States Constitution that justify its creation, one imposes a noble purpose on the nation’s profession of arms: provide for the common defense. The Preamble is derived from the classic Greek tragedian concept that the natural state of man is conflict rather than peace
due to its predatory and opportunistic nature. Thus, society has a duty to protect its citizens through deterrence and battle. In Western culture, the mission of the profession of arms is to serve the rule of law and individual freedom.
Augustine of Hippo, generally considered the greatest Christian theologian, asserted: “Peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin.” The premise of the ‘just war’ was that the evil of war could be justified only if war could prevent greater evils.
"Evil is never done so thoroughly or so well as when it is done with a good conscience." Blaise Pascal
Moral clarity, the intersection of the rational and the ethical, allows nobility of purpose to be judged on its own ethical integrity. A fighter pilot in Gulf War I was instructed to shoot Iraqis fleeing Kuwait. Deductive reasoning compels that the mission to get Iraqis out of Kuwait had been accomplished and the rationale for shooting them no longer existed. The pilot requested a change of orders. The granting of modified orders negating the instruction to shoot acknowledged a noble purpose premised upon sanctity of life, among other virtues.
Either a purpose is noble or it is not, based on reasonably objective criteria discerned by scalpel-like questioning: does the purpose advance ethical principles such as Autonomy, Justice, Sanctity of Life and individual liberty and personal freedom? Himmler’s didn’t. Neither did Mohamed Atta’s, the Egyptian hijacker who piloted American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower on September 11, 2001.
The absence of moral clarity leads to moral confusion and false moral equivalencies, risking an Orwellian linguistic dishonesty where the narrative of the enemy defines the noble purpose. Moral clarity must distinguish between reasoning and rationalizing; between rational and sophistic rhetoric.
The nobility of a nation’s purpose is a function of its power to actualize that purpose. As power drains, what is noble becomes malleable. John Keegan, the great military historian, observed that a nation without a military is in a sense no longer a nation. Author Mark Steyn noted that “in a more general sense, nations that abandon their militaries tend also to abandon their national interests: Increasingly, instead of policies, they have attitudes.”
When nations lack the power to address serious issues, they become consumed with trivial ones, where, for example, concerns for windmills trump concerns about Iran’s nuclear weapons. The nation becomes a bystander in its own fate.
Executing a noble purpose requires power. Nations promised fortunes in aid in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Sumatra, Indonesia. As food and goods piled up on docks, to be stolen or to rot, the United States military saved lives because it had the power—helicopters and pilots—to reach stranded and wounded people. If you’d wanted to donate to a useful charity to save lives, you’d have given your money to the United States Navy.
In the absence of power, a nation may, at best, mask its impotence by couching its noble purpose in narcissistic moral preening. The most assertive action almost any nation can now take to confront savagery around the world is to get a UN resolution expressing concern.
Moral will is the distillate of several qualities, including ethical character, the capacity to analyze facts and, through logic and reason, evaluate foreseeable consequences of actions and inactions. Character, however, is the most salient attribute of moral will. The essence of moral leadership is the ability to inspire loyalty and confidence through force of personal example; the difference between the officer yelling "Follow me!" as opposed to "Charge!"
Moral will in its most honorable incarnation is duty but duty does not define its boundaries. The most motivating force in war is not country or flag but protecting your buddy. ‘Leave no soldier behind’ is the quintessential expression of moral will.
Moral will is the willingness to risk all for a noble purpose. U. S. Army Ranger Sergeant Leroy Petry, the second living soldier since the Vietnam War to receive the Medal of Honor, saved the lives of at least two men in his unit by lunging for a grenade before it could kill them, amputating his hand. "It's not courage," he said. "It was love. I looked at the two men next to me that day and they were no different than my own children or my wife. I did what anyone would have done." Anyone would have done? If only!
Moral will directs behavior. It demands that the exigencies of the present not be cravenly ignored. It demands a credible deterrence against those that desire to undermine you. Rather than having perverse mesmerizing awe for the aggressive self certainty of those inflicting harm, the exercise of moral will effects an unalloyed commitment to defeat them. The nation that lacks moral will acquiesces in barbarism.
Lack of moral will degrades into moral confusion, undermines confidence in noble purposes and can lead to appeasement, the appearance of weakness and possibly the preemptive compromising of those values the arms professionals have sworn to uphold. Moral will enables a nation to have the right enemies and the right friends. You can be liked by all or you can be a great noble power. You can’t be both.
CONFLICTING NOBLE PURPOSES
Noble purposes often conflict. A soldier’s work is inherently conflicted among obligations to the object of the conflict, the welfare of the men and the broader ethical context of the mission. If these conflictual choices are not recognized and their resolutions deliberated, there is nothing for the professional in arms to profess.
Conflicting noble purposes are evident in innumerable choices and decisions such as those pertaining to the release of prisoners from Guantanamo, the use of drone attacks, the concern for collateral damage as a factor to limit or reject lethal action and the rules of engagement.
We nobly aspire to be a nation of laws, not men, yet when decisions are made on the basis of bureaucratic legalisms, risks increase that released prisoners will return to kill Americans. The noble purpose of avoiding or reducing what is euphemistically called collateral damage is undermined when those targets are spared and, thus, allowed to kill more innocents. When the rules of engagement give greater value to the lives of enemy fighters than one’s own, its nobility of purpose begins to dissipate like smoke at a campfire.
The inherent conflicts among noble purposes are ineluctable and elude the consistent application of the same solutions. In harmony with the Greek tragedian sense, leaders must be adaptable and, with grit and nobility of character, struggle to find new solutions. However, consistent principles should guide leaders to find resolutions on a case by case basis. Classist and military historian Victor Davis Hanson advocates pragmatism and prudence but acknowledges that for them to have moral value, pragmatism and prudence must be wrapped in an ethos that defends the nation and its core values of individual liberty and personal freedom.
But what is strength without a double share Of wisdom?
A discussion of noble purposes and the profession of arms should raise the kinds of questions informed engaged citizens must ask if they are to gauge and hold accountable the moral integrity of their society and the arms profession that defends it. Noble purposes should be premised on a commitment to truth, for the greatest evil is done by those who believe lies. Noble purposes should advance the principles of individual liberty and freedom. They should be identified unambiguously and vigorously defended without apology or equivocation.
Noble principles are not self-executing and ethics are not self-actualizing. Thus, leaders of moral character must be cultivated, nurtured and rewarded. Paraphrasing Thomas Sowell, ignorance draped in confidence is a dangerous quality and a leader’s ignorance conveyed through brilliant rhetoric will lead to national disaster.
If the leadership chain fails to interpret and advance noble purposes and allows them to morph into philosophies contoured by momentary convenience and expedience, then noble intent becomes polluted like a toxic chemical seeping into an aquifer, subverting the mission of the profession of arms.
The kinds of questions a society and its arms professionals ask—political, military, cultural, financial—illuminate their level of courage and honor. Noble purposes are more likely identified and achieved when leaders are not, in Edmund Burke’s phrase, “intoxicated with admiration at their own wisdom and ability.”
Those who have dedicated their lives to the profession of arms can best realize nobility of purpose through ruthless introspection of their wisdom, character and moral will. Spelunking into the labyrinthine caverns of their souls to confront the tyrants within may be the noblest purpose of all.