Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A "flaw" to be respected

From the LA Times article on Col. Ted Westhusing who committed suicide in Iraq

Westhusing struggled with the idea that monetary values could outweigh moral ones in war. This, she said, was a flaw.
Right, what a terrible flaw, thinking that in time of war morals should be the determinant factor rather than monetary concerns.

"Despite his intelligence, his ability to grasp the idea that profit is an important goal for people working in the private sector was surprisingly limited," wrote Lt. Col. Lisa Breitenbach. "He could not shift his mind-set from the military notion of completing a mission irrespective of cost, nor could he change his belief that doing the right thing because it was the right thing to do should be the sole motivator for businesses."
Have we turned a corner here? This psychologist thinks there was something wrong with Westhusing because he believed that war profiteering was unethical, that the primary motivational factor in a time of war should be whether the action is right or not, not whether the action will make a profit or not.*

If I had assessed his case I would have possibly concluded that he was unable to cope with perceived ethical violations, but I would not have gone so far as to say there was something wrong with him for believing there is something fundamentally amoral about doing an action because it is profitable rather than because its right.

*My conscience won't let me say this without qualification. The psychologist did not explicitly say this. She specifically stated Westhusing's problem was that he was unable to get past the concept that rightness should be "the sole motivator for businesses." This strikes me as spin and rationalization, though, as I find it difficult to believe that Westhusing was unfamiliar with the basic prinicples of capitalism and that at age 44 he would be driven to suicide by the discovery that businesses don't operate with the sole motivation that their actions are good.

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