The danger of America’s declining moral authority
November 18th, 2013
08:29 AM ET

The danger of America’s declining moral authority

By Kristin Lord and Paul J. Saunders, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Kristin Lord is executive vice president of the U.S. Institute of Peace. Paul J. Saunders is executive director of the Center for the National Interest and served as Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs in the George W. Bush Administration. The views expressed are their own.

So far, the twenty-first century has been a frustrating one for Americans. The United States has extraordinary military might and technological prowess, which it uses to protect itself, its allies and its partners. Yet, for many here and around the world, the ways in which America exercises this power – revealed in part by Edward Snowden's one-man crusade against the National Security Agency – have contributed to searching questions about the United States’ future and its international role. Such questions have begun to undermine America's moral authority – and U.S. leaders ignore them at their peril.

The United States is not just a great power, but an idea. Americans like it that way and we are justifiably proud of an exceptional if complex history. Particularly during the twentieth century, moral authority became one of our nation's most important strategic advantages, a source of strength that pulled allies closer and proved difficult for adversaries to challenge. The value of this strategic advantage endures today.  Losing it could do more to harm American power than any realistic military or economic threat on the horizon-and regaining it could take decades.

U.S. moral authority has suffered real damage over the last two decades.  There are many reasons for this, ranging from well-intended military interventions that have produced mixed results, to perceptions that the United States has applied human rights standards inconsistently, allegations of torture and other abuses like those at Abu Ghraib, a major financial crisis, and apparent political dysfunction within our own borders.

Some of the change in global attitudes toward the United States is inevitable in the post-Cold War information age – social media, 24 hour media cycles, and the rise of entertainment news expose (and sometimes overblow) every misstep.  Meanwhile, the existential confrontation between democratic capitalism and communism (never actually that simple) has ended and a decade has passed since the 9/11 attacks.  Though a wide range of threats still loom, few appear existential, raising new questions about whether America can continue to justify what many consider extraordinary means.

The reality is that U.S. actions, like recently revealed Internet and telecommunications monitoring, do influence how others view us and the potential reaction to U.S. policy decisions should weigh heavily as U.S. leaders consider their options.  Even U.S. allies and friends like Germany, France and Brazil have objected forcefully to the scope of National Security Agency intelligence gathering operations as well as some prominent targets. It is unclear what intelligence would justify offending an important ally like German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who called President Obama to complain that her cellphone was monitored.

More from GPS: Intelligence oversight situation unacceptable

Indeed, this episode could have serious practical consequences if U.S. friends limit future cooperation or impose stringent privacy restrictions on American firms to satisfy angry populations.  It may also undermine counter-terrorism cooperation and standards of openness on the Internet.  Within the International Telecommunications Union, a U.N. body that facilitates international cooperation on information and communications technologies, a network of authoritarian governments and developing nations persists in challenging the U.S.-supported institutions that establish norms and practices for the Internet.  This movement has in its sights the open Internet that promotes commerce and allows dissidents to remain anonymous.  Will the United States be able to credibly defend these standards as its security agencies monitor millions of people around the globe?

Most dangerous of all, however, may be the growing perception – one that spans the ideological spectrum – that the United States shows too little concern for international rules and norms.  Many are especially troubled by the U.S. use of force, whether on a large scale or in unilateral, low-level drone attacks, as well as by the monitoring and intelligence gathering from even our closest allies. This perception undermines a central goal of American foreign policy for much of the last century: developing a rule-based international system that advances U.S. interests, promotes peace and prosperity, and sustains American global leadership.

More from CNN: Don't underestimate risks of government spying

Vital American national interests may require the United States to go its own way at times and ignore global opinion more frequently.  The United States must do what is necessary to protect its most important interests.  But creating the impression that U.S. leaders have a casual disregard for international rules and norms undermines American leadership, which is ultimately founded upon our ability to solve common problems-not our skill in looking after ourselves.  This is a central reason that governments like those in China or Russia can often challenge U.S. leadership but are unlikely to supplant it.

With this in mind, strengthening America's moral authority should be an important goal of U.S. foreign policy, and it must be attempted honestly and seriously if it is to succeed.  Moral authority is not a product of pious pronouncements or noble intent.  Nor is it earned through moral-sounding policies that fail to deliver moral results. On the contrary, we can earn moral authority only by delivering demonstrably moral outcomes, abroad and at home.

Two gifted orators, Presidents Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, have referred to the power of America's moral authority in describing the United States as a "shining city on a hill." The challenge is to more consistently match word with deed, something that requires being more deliberate about what we do as well as what we say.

Restoring the power of the American example will be no easy task – balancing immediate national security concerns, like transnational terrorism and cyber threats, with America's overarching reputation and values, is simply hard to do.  But it might prove easier if American leaders remember that these values are fundamental to American power.

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Topics: United States

soundoff (113 Responses)
  1. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I think that all nations spy to the extent that they can. Some are caught doing it, and sometimes the spying is announced. It becomes embarrassing.

    November 18, 2013 at 9:15 am | Reply
    • adam101

      100% Agree on the spying side. I think the moral authority is declining because of the American foreign policy double standard especially in the Middle East.

      November 18, 2013 at 11:10 am | Reply
      • Citizen


        November 18, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
      • j. von hettlingen

        The "American foreign policy double standard" is one thing. The other is that the authors have failed to realise that what Obama personally and his administration think and want to do, is not always what the Americans in general think and want. Moral authority should start at lower level, with the people. Educate them! Politicians are only at the bidding.

        November 19, 2013 at 10:43 am |
  2. KaPueo

    Having moral authority requires morals; the U.S. has none.

    November 18, 2013 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • Hamlet


      November 18, 2013 at 9:40 am | Reply
      • Ted

        It is not my intent to excuse our lack of morality, but do you honestly believe any other "major player" country lives up to your standards?

        November 18, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • Michel

      Are you really saying that none of the 317 million people in the U.S. have morals?

      November 18, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Reply
  3. cbsinjon

    Another lame and very measured criticism of America's already lost " moral authority" if it it ever existed in the first place. From our treatment of native Americans to slavery, and now the the economic oppression, imperialism and destruction of the environment by capitalism, we have very little to be smug about. We are the same rotten, sometimes good people that live in the rest of the world.

    November 18, 2013 at 9:47 am | Reply
    • MichaelNC

      Couple of problems here. One we aren't very imperialistic. We dont have colonies, we arent seizing foreign resources. I admit we have helped to overthrow quite a few governments. Capitalism? I don't feel its the issue you do. In the end, its about reward for work. Do you believe people should get rewarded for their work? Sure, some get more than others. Big deal... Look, we may fit right in at Mos Eisley, but so do all the other leading countries. I don't see the big issue.

      November 18, 2013 at 12:16 pm | Reply
      • Baa

        What is your idea of hard work. Do you believe an investment banker making 100x what a teacher, policeman, or brick layer works 100x as hard. For that fact, are they 100x as important. It is a big deal.

        November 18, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
      • NanaBella

        Capitalism by definition is a reward for having capital, not for working. Ask anybody who works for a low pay to support a capitalist.

        November 18, 2013 at 4:12 pm |
  4. Andrew

    Moral authority is not a real thing. I mea governments want to go around doing whatever they want, supporting who the like, war with others. Moral authority is just a justification for global control and tyranny. Which is unsustainable.

    November 18, 2013 at 9:56 am | Reply
  5. Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

    I consider an equal opportunity to succeeed or to fail very moral. The USA once had more of that, but it still has some. That is some morality.

    November 18, 2013 at 9:59 am | Reply
  6. OnTheRoad

    We are the same moral people that we have always been! Our problem is the complete lack of morals of our political leaders (from both sides of the isle)!

    November 18, 2013 at 10:00 am | Reply
    • KHS

      Why should the leaders be more immoral than the people who elected them?

      November 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Reply
      • Michel

        THAT is an excellent queston! The answer (I believe) is Greed.

        November 18, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
  7. JerseyJeff

    Though the perception of US moral authority is waning right now from the repeated scandals from the defector Snowden and Obama's poor foreign policy planning results – I would not be so worried.

    The US will regain this lost credibility with time. The fact that we are the only major power in the world that acts when others don't in situations without a clear benefit to ourselves says a lot about America and even more about rising powers (China) or falling powers (Russia).

    The fact is, there is no other option for the moral authority outside of the West. These scandals might rock the boat, but when push comes to shove – what is the alternative to the West and our ideals?

    Relax America. Keep the course, standing for what is right and acting when others are ready to watch.

    November 18, 2013 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Good grief JerseyJeff, do you honestly believe that mumbo-jumbo above? What a corny comment!

      November 18, 2013 at 11:10 am | Reply
    • winstonchurchill1940

      But Obama has made it worse! Maybe Bush got us into Iraq, but that was in response to claims of chemical weapons and support for terrorism after their invasion of Kuwait and the 9/11 murders. Obama just kills people in other soveriegn countries with drones and laughs if anybody gets upset about dead children in their countries. He spys on the press in the US, political opponents and allied leaders. Would you trust such a man? He flip-flops all over the place in foreign policy. First He is for "democracy" in Egypt, then when that becomes a radical Muslim Brotherhood takeover of the government, he is for an army coup, well sort of for it (because He is never wrong). He struts about a "Red Line" in Syria, then when His bluff gets called, well its "the World's Red Line". In the USA, His lapdog liberal press minimizes this. In foreign countries, he gets well-deserved contempt for being a milktoast. He bows to the Saudi king, and then denies He did so. He insults our British allies and throws a bust of Churchill out of the White House. He gathers American Jewish liberal votes, but sells out Israel. (and because of him, that war is coming). He gets billionsof dollars in 'stimulus funds", but uses to to bail out big unions, overspending state governments and substidize liberal showcase projects that fail. Lets admit it, the world sees Obama as an acting clown, who is an amateur at governing and a misplaced narcissist dangerously placed in a position of power.

      November 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Reply
      • Nodack

        Gee, you wouldn't happen to be Republican would you? I bet FOX News is on 24/7 at your house. I bet you have a statue of Reagan somewhere. Of course all that is wrong in the world today is Obama's fault. He killed Jesus. He started the two wars, not Bush. He destroyed the economy, not Bush. Bush didn't double the debt, that was all a lie by Obama. Obama led the KKK. Yada, yada, yada..,blaa, blaaa, blaa

        November 18, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  8. David Vaughn

    We have nobody to blame for our moral decline but ourselves. We took social mores here in the US and threw them out the window in the name of tolerance and acceptance not taking the time to think of the ramifications of that. Why should we be stupid enough to think we wouldn't try and flaunt international mores and throw those out the window as well without thinking of the ramifications. We are now the most immoral (bordering on amoral) nation in the world and liberals are not only OK with this, they proclaim it proudly and try to further advance it! But it's whatever. All I personally can do is fight it within the family while it's still legal for me to have one.

    November 18, 2013 at 10:14 am | Reply
    • Sarah S.

      Wait, are you honestly saying that tolerance and acceptance are a BAD thing? That is the definition of amoral if I have ever heard it. Also, the idea that it would ever not be legal for you to have a family is absurd and just further proves your lack of insight and compassion toward people who actually are denied fundamental rights.

      November 18, 2013 at 11:58 am | Reply
      • Michel

        “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
        ― Edmund Burke

        November 18, 2013 at 1:31 pm |
  9. Really?

    Agreed with the other commentators here, clean up your own house first before finger pointing, lecturing, restricting, accusing etc.. Other countries. Time to clean house!

    November 18, 2013 at 10:47 am | Reply
  10. Joseph McCarthy

    Moral authority, what moral authority? Does anyone here remember the heinous bombing of the Amriya air raid shelter in Baghdad, Iraq on Feb. 13, 1991, killing well over 414 civilians which had nothing to do with the Gulf War? To this day, no one has ever been held accountable for this dastardly deed! Then again, what about those cowards who operate those deadly drones, slaughtering people with total impunity halfway around the world. In short, just who are we Americans to talk about moral authority?!

    November 18, 2013 at 11:07 am | Reply
    • winstonchurchill1940

      That bunker was thought to be a safe haven for Iraqi leaders- instead it was used for them to secure their families and in-laws.

      November 18, 2013 at 12:46 pm | Reply
    • TiredOfPaying

      Yeah, I remember. That Air Raid shelter was being used by the Iraqi armed forces as a Communications Center during the day, then Air Raid shelter during the night. We used 2 'bunker-busting' bombs so that the first one could start the job of busting through and the second could finish it. The news reports of the time stated that the US had electronic signals eminating from it during the day. So we are to blame when the Iraqi soldiers went home for the day and used it as an Air Raid shelter at night? You want to point a finger at anyone, point it at the Iraqi High Command.

      November 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Reply
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Please TiredOfPaying, don't fall for that right-wing bla-bla-bla about it being some kind of "command post"! It was used for civilians so that they could be reasonably safe during the night. Unfortunately, the military came up with another "miracle bunker-busting bomb" so they chose to try it out on this shelter and then lied to cover up this atrocity. It wouldn't hurt if more people were open minded about this and pay less attention to the right-wing media.

        November 18, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • ger344

      People who plant bombs on the side of the road and detonate them from half a mile away while pretending to be civilians shouldn't talk about "cowardice", nor should their enablers. Moral Equivalency is pleb tier politics.

      November 18, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Reply
  11. Allan Kinsman

    The United States gained a reputation through and up to the world wars. Post world war 2 a political environment grew toward a different paradigm in Washington. Failed economic policies leading to hijacking the Social Security fund in 1957 to spending more than the government has brought in and extending a foreign policy using it's military might has deepened a perception of irresponsiblility in the world. When we have shipped jobs overseas, given foreign governments the edge by influencing policies through political donation we find the world begins to understand we are for sale. When integrity heads down the road so does everything else. This is just not the current government but fifty years of unprecidented policy failures voted in by Americans thinking the Repubilican or Democratic parties had any true leadership in them. President Einsenhower suggested if we do nothing about the industrial military complex it could ruin us is proving true.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:26 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Well said, Allan. Thank you.

      November 18, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Reply
  12. OIF/OEF Veteran who doesn't buy into the US propoganda anymore

    The US has always deluded itself into believing that it is some good nation who is out for human rights and democracy. It's all just a load of garbage. From slavery, blatant racism throughout our entire history, wiping out the entire native american population, and invasions of nations for no legitimate purpose whatsoever and never leaving afterwards (i'm not just talking about Iraq, but even in the 1800s). This country is hardly a respectable nation. Oh, but what about all the good we do for other nations with charity? We provide the largest dollar amount of any nation, but we provide among the smallest amount per GDP of any industrialized nation. This nation is a disgrace, but it's my disgrace to live with so i'll make the best of it. You all can buy into the propaganda of being a "good American" and living in the "greatest nation in the world", but you would just be another fool. Don't get me wrong. The US has a lot of good, but the government is NOT our friend and it never has been. It's simply a necessary evil as Thomas Jefferson said.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:34 am | Reply
    • Allan Kinsman

      Well said, thanks for taking the time.

      November 18, 2013 at 11:43 am | Reply
    • Martin Edwin Andersen

      An important but insufficiently-debated analysis of how U.S. tribal authorities are mostly kept at the margins of U.S. government efforts to fight terrorism correctly and effectively can be found in "Peoples of the Earth; Ethnonationalism, Democracy and the Indigenous Challenge in 'Latin' America."

      November 18, 2013 at 11:59 am | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Very well put, OIF/OEF Veteran who doesn't buy into the US propaganda. I couldn't agree more! Only an ignorant fool today would believe anything that comes out of Washington D.C. anymore.

      November 18, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  13. Martin Edwin Andersen

    The problem of declining moral authority is bi-partisan (and far too politicized) and goes hand-in-hand with the shrinking possibilities federal employees have for ethical dissent. (The American Foreign Service Association's "Dissent Award" is a notable but not sufficiently promoted and publicized exception.) On this 50th year anniversary of his being taken from us, it is time to read and re-read John F. Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage."

    November 18, 2013 at 11:41 am | Reply
  14. edm49

    The strange thing about all this is that those who are always "pushing the envelope" think that now morals are better.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply
  15. Brian Fr Langley

    How do you have ANY moral authority when, 2 out of 4 fathers abandon their children? (3 out of 4 in some communities) when 47 million folks take food stamps? You abort nearly 1000,000 babies annually? You over print what is the world's reserve currency? (cheating your buyers for your own gain) Then teach your children that premarital and extra marital relationships are okay? (they'll all just do it anyway) U.S. moral authority is now just a joke. Just imagine how the world's normal folks view the above litany of immoral and unethical behavior? Shameful in the least.

    November 18, 2013 at 11:54 am | Reply
    • TiredOfPaying

      How do you have any moral authority left when CEO's make 340 times the wages of the average worker, when Corporate Welfare gives big businesses tax breaks in the form of Food Stamps to its workers because they don't pay a Living Wage? When 95% of everything in the country is owned by the top 5%? When saleries for the average worker have remained the same for 30 years, while productivity of that worker increased 200%? How do you have any moral authority when the US imprisions more per capita than ANY nation on Earth, mostly due to a failed War On Drugs which causes people to be unemployable because of a single drug conviction? Time for the Revolution to begin!

      November 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Reply
      • Dean

        Get an education and get a job.......................sheeeesh!

        November 18, 2013 at 3:25 pm |
      • banasy©

        The fact is that the majority of SNAP recipients ARE employed, Dean.

        November 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • TiredOfPaying

        I have both an education and a job, Dean. So do the vast majority of Americans. Do I have to get a second job for you to be happy? Did you even read any of what I wrote – for example how a single drug conviction prevents a person from EVER getting a job? Do you have any counter-argument or shall I just write you up as another old white man that won't change their opinion EVER and just wait for you to die so the country can make progress?

        November 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm |
      • NanaBella

        Agree with every word but the last sentence. Revolutions are dangerous. "Evolutions" are better. Perhaps China is evolving now from a Communist dictatorship to a modified democracy in a balanced manner. Taking such a huge ship off course only ends up in terrible violence and suffering. The US should move in the opposite direction, moving from pig capitalism into a decent social democracy. To an outsider, the difficulty in implementing a public health system common almost everywhere else is really astonishing, but that might be the first step.

        November 18, 2013 at 4:31 pm |
      • TiredOfPaying

        Nana, the problem here in America is that there are so many people who are so isolated from the problems of the Average Man that they make truly horrific decisions. The individual who I initially responded to seems to think all our problems are from a declining *RELIGIOUS* moral standard, hence their condemnation of Abortion, for example. Just like an Al-queda extremist, they believe that ANY force is acceptable to make people follow THEIR religious code. As an American, I grew up thinking that we would 'be reasonable' and compromise on the Big Issues for the betterment of all. That childhood niavetee is now gone... all I see are people so set in their ways that the only alternative is to wait for them to die off. I truly do believe that we cannot continue on this course much longer, and that the best way to go forward is a full-blown French-style revolution. As one of our Founding Fathers said: 'The tree of Liberty must occasionally be watered with the blood of Patrots.'

        November 18, 2013 at 4:56 pm |
  16. Rick McDaniel

    It appears we have forfeited any leadership we might have had, by abusing our leadership position.

    November 18, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Reply
  17. brads2sense

    Well, I would not say its a problem of morality or religiosity (as some post) but a problem with discipline. And I do not mean punsihment, I mean an emphasis on self-discipline as a social value or virtue. It seems like its been fashionable to be "counter-culture" or "anti-authority" to the extreme. Even the hokey, idealistic images of the 50s and early 60s send an interesting message..there was a sense of restraint, putting others before the self, modesty, a sense of appropriate personal and inter-personal boundaries. All of which reflect individuals/culture that value a sense of self-discipline. In the late 60s and onwards, these "values" were considered "square," nerdy, etc.. Being more unrestrained or rebellious became cool. Maybe now we are paying the price. Leaders who act on their "id" impulses without personal restraint, immodest cultural icons who behave like angry children, media that break appropriate boundaries, schools that cant do their jobs because parents dont want to believe their kids are disturbed, etc. Once we, as a culture, begin to re-value self-discipline, self-sacrifice, appropriate boundaries and compassion for others, I think we will be successful as a nation once again.

    November 18, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Reply
  18. Allan Kinsman

    When our government first formed our forefathers realized power corrupts. They wanted real people to serve 2 years and return to their jobs. Thus they thought, we would be guided by a rotating leadership and keep it real. We would be continously guided by an underlying common sense. We have long ago left common sense behind and let politics become overly influenced by special interests not the common good. We argue now and point fingers all the while the republic fails with a blinding speed only surpassed by the volumn of delusion spilled by every corporate form of media. Emerson once wrote " our responsibilities as human beings is to hold a candle up in the dark so that others can see". We need more candles.

    November 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Reply
  19. Yakobi

    It's called being a global leader...something this administration is lacking in.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Reply
    • And

      And your solution is to elect republicans? So they can start MORE "unfunded/off-the-books" wars?

      November 18, 2013 at 4:49 pm | Reply
  20. Jerry Okamura

    The relevant question to me is what is so important that we need to go to war to protect?

    November 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • Michel


      November 18, 2013 at 1:35 pm | Reply
  21. Guest

    People tend to forget that there are two keywords here, moral and authority. In order to be an authority, one will have to be better in all aspects than most people or nations or be better in most aspects than all people or nations. If one only looks at the normal standards, there will be no authority.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  22. Nodack

    Iraq had zero to do with 9/11 and we knew it. We searched for WMD in Iraq for a decade and then all of the sudden Bush takes the word of a cab driver in Bagdad that no America ever met to go to war? We killed hundreds of thousands there based on a cab drivers word we never met. I can't express how angry that made me. I went from not caring who was elected to being a staunch anti Republican over that massive blunder, especially when we all found out it was based on lies and fabrications and you guys still reelected him.

    Now Republicans fight to keep Americans from having health insurance.
    I will never ever vote for another Republican as long as I live.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Reply
    • paul321

      I agree – Bush Jr was getting back for Saddam's plot to kill his old man and dragged the entire world into a personal vendetta.

      November 18, 2013 at 3:04 pm | Reply
  23. K. Wilson

    Moral Authority can't exist because morality is completely subjective. One man's morality is another's sin and so forth.
    It is and has always been about protecting our position of power and wealth in the world.
    The concept of moral authority is actually very dangerous. It implies that "we have it right" and therefore everyone else "has it wrong." This is verifiably not true. Our brand of extreme capitalism is just as flawed as any other form of governance and structure in the world. Many fail to realize this because we overemphasize the good and de-legitimize the bad ("the poor must just be lazy" e.g.)
    The world will continue to be a very nasty place as long as the basic premise that humans in other parts of the world are different than humans anywhere else. Its this flawed logic that allows the average person in America to get through their day without feeling absolutely horrible about the state of affairs.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Reply
    • allenwoll

      K W - YOU have nailed it REALLY well ! ! ! . GOOD job ! ! ! .
      Just HOW well will be illustrated by just WHO rakes you over the coals for your opinion.
      Know ye best by your enemies ! !
      Extremism is NEVER good - just for the VERY reasons you state ! ! . Always follow the line of MODERATION - WITH moderation ! !

      November 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Reply
    • banasy©


      Well said.

      November 18, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Reply
    • NanaBella

      Wasn't there something in early American history called "Manifest Destiny" to justify conquest, territorial expansion and maltreatment of native people and other nations giving a divine moral authorization to the aspirations and self interests of a specific group of people?

      November 18, 2013 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  24. Person of Interest

    I started reading this and then I remember one of the authors was "Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State" in the Bush Administration. This guy is talking about moral implications in Foreign Policy when "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" and attacking Iraq, due to false information that wasn't adequately checked, all happened under his watch. I call for a hypocrisy check.

    Intelligence of this level probably could have helped us realize the information we got about WMDs in Iraq was wrong thereby averting a costly war. Every country that is complaining about this (including Germany) wishes they could tap POTUS phone calls (if they haven't). This is all about warfare and avoiding war, read your Sun Tzu.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:48 pm | Reply
  25. pappu

    US gained a lot of goodwill after WW2 especially in Europe and emerged as a benign power in the world. Many people don't know this but US was instrumental in granting independence to a lot of British colonies since British empire had no moral justification to hold onto them after fall of Nazi empire. However US influence has waned. US foreign policy has been hijacked by myopic leaders who do not care for human rights or innocent lives. That' why US killed millions of innocents in Vietnam, sponsored terrorists like OBL to fight the Soviets, sponsored genocide by supplying weapons to a failed state like Pakistan which used them against Bangladeshi Hindus. US middle east policy is in disarray. US needs JFK and his foreign policy again and needs to remember the warning issued by Eisenhower about Military Industrial Complex.

    November 18, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Reply
  26. my10cents

    This article is a load of excrement. Morals are a subjective ideal that is never attainable because any minor deviation of morals to achieve a goal, regardless of how noble the intent of the goal, is tangible proof of a lack of morals. History has many examples of where morals were put aside because the deeds required to achieve a goal required many to commit horrific acts the defied common morality. Does he starving man who steals bread lack morals? How about the starving man with starving children who steals bread? Is one less morally wrong than the other? That is the problem with morals; they aren't logical because we can subjectively apply the rules. Right and wrong can depend on which side you are looking in from.

    “History is written by the victors.” – Winston Churchill.

    November 18, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  27. Bob

    The author refers to well intended military interventions. For most in the world the US intervention in Iraq was not well intended ( rather it was conceived to be entirely self serving and motivated on a falsehood), and the consequences horrendous. I am equally unclear as to how our drone strikes, obviously killing civilians amongst others in a deliberate precisely targeted manner, can be considered 'moral'. So small surprise.

    November 18, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  28. Matt Hollingsowrth

    We are what we choose to be. All of us individually have capacity for "good" or "evil". Let's not shoot the messenger. This is a public wakeup call. There is no "they"... only "us". If you choose cynicism and point fingers at others and the past then nothing changes. If you think "this is hopeless. There are too many problems. We must look out only for ourselves and move to a cabin in the woods" then we will all fall further and further behind, endure more hardship and become more and more unhappy. This is a democracy. We have a vote. We control our own actions. Let's stick together and wake from this nightmare slumber that has taken the US in the wrong direction. Doing the right thing feeds on itself. If leader "x" seems hopeless in representing this resurgence, wait awhile. Things will change. But it takes individual action. Make change or move out to your cabin in the woods

    November 18, 2013 at 2:35 pm | Reply
  29. sly

    Let's see – America has bombed over 20 nations since the 60's.

    And we average about 5 guns per person, and have one of the worlds highest murder rates.

    Hmmm ... maybe this article is accurate.

    November 18, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Reply
  30. Dean

    Moral authority begins at home. Political correctness and the removal of God from our daily lives have destroyed this country from within. Nikita Khrushchev was partly right, except we are burying ourselves.

    November 18, 2013 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • Jasila Kelton

      Now we have information saturation so we see a lot of stuff people didn't see and may not of heard about 150 years an example could be 50 years ago)....all the human behavior we've seen was/is for always ...and anyone who says this country is in decline is looking at the big picture of what happens when a country has too a fragmented population caused by immoral, unethical action in the workings of government.

      November 18, 2013 at 4:15 pm | Reply
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