A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!
Listening to the President’s speech on sending more troops to Afghanistan last night, I found myself drifting off. So many words I’ve heard before in the rhetoric of war: they no longer stir me. Instead, they fill me with unease.
Then a line calls me away from the homework to which I’ve drifted, no longer held by the expectation of hearing truth or inspiration.
Now we must summon all of our might and moral suasion to meet the challenges of a new age.
All our might? 30,000 troops who are already tired and too much pressed into service are not all our might. They’re a little bit of it. Enough to keep the pot of constant war simmering, the businesses of security prospering.
Moral suasion: what is that? I’ve heard it many times before and assumed I understood. The application of fine explanations to enhance understanding of our moral beliefs, maybe. Persuasion in service of the good. I decide to look it up.
It’s an economic term. The first definition that pops up on Google search is from Investopedia:
What Does Moral Suasion Mean?
A persuasion tactic used by an authority (i.e. Federal Reserve Board) to influence and pressure, but not force, banks into adhering to policy. Tactics used are closed-door meetings with bank directors, increased severity of inspections, appeals to community spirit, or vague threats. A good example of moral suasion is when the Fed Chairman speaks on the markets - his opinion on the overall economy can send financial markets falling or flying.
And here’s a disputed but intriguing explanation from Wikipedia:
During the mid to late 1960s, the Administration of American President Lyndon B. Johnson tried to deal with the mounting inflationary pressures by direct government influence. Wage-price guideposts were established, and the power of the Presidency was used to coerce big businesses and labor into going along with these guideposts. This approach came to be known as "jawboning" (sometimes known as "moral suasion") — an unofficial but usually quite effective technique of arm-twisting to prevent labor and businesses from getting big wage or price increases, which works essentially by the implicit threat of future Government "regulation" of their industry that would or could impair their profitability.
Not what I had in mind at all. But at least it offers a peek at what lies underneath: money.
This morning, Professor Juan Cole described the situation in Afghanistan on Wisconsin Public Radio.You can read more here. Who we are fighting, he said, is a segment of the Pashtun. "There are no al Qaeda in Afghanistan." And yet Obama’s speech reiterated the dread words, al Qaeda, just as Bush invoked Iraq in summoning the troops in the wake of September 11, 2001.
The boogey man we fear continues to elude us, but it comforts us to think we are bringing him to his knees. Bringing anybody to their knees, it seems, will do.
Back to last evening. Obama continues:
Finally, we must draw on the strength of our values – for the challenges that we face may have changed, but the things that we believe in must not. . .And we must make it clear to every man, woman and child around the world who lives under the dark cloud of tyranny that America will speak out on behalf of their human rights, and tend to the light of freedom, and justice, and opportunity, and respect for the dignity of all peoples. That is who we are. That is the moral source of America’s authority.
The words have the hollow sound of abstractions.
In 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower spoke more clearly to human rights and freedom:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.
He called on us to “dedicate our strength to serving the needs, rather than the fears of the world.”
The test of truth, he said, is simple: “There can be no persuasion but by deeds.” In the new age Eisenhower painted, the deeds would lead to different kinds of monuments:
Roads and schools, hospitals and homes, food and health.
Those words we all understand. They aren't empty.