In a comment on my previous post (America’s Empty Foreign Policy: “What Our Enemies Must Understand is … ”) Burgess Laughlin of Making Progress raised interesting questions regarding “moral courage.”

To my pleasant surprise, Wikipedia describes moral courage fairly well:

“Physical courage” is courage in the face of physical pain, hardship, or threat of death, while “moral courage” is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement.

In my judgment, most American and other Western politicians have terribly mixed premises: half-formed and half-acknowledge premises upholding the protection of the citizenry, and similarly half-baked premises in favor of altruism. When they appease evil nations, these politicians are also appeasing the altruists in their own nation. These politicians must know that, in so doing, they are betraying their premises upholding the protection of the citizenry. In this respect, they lack moral courage. Moreover, and more importantly, they must know that they hold contradictory premises. In this case, the deepest form of moral courage would be to face these contradictions and commit to resolving them by identifying and upholding the right principle.

Physical courage requires a certain degree of integrity, a willingness to bear the physical consequences and risks required to uphold the ideas and values that one has already accepted. Moral courage requires something deeper even than integrity: independence.