A headline on the front page of the Chicago Tribune read, “Obama on middle path over Net spying”. In somewhat smaller print, the sub-headline includes the word compromise.
Taking the middle ground is often seen as being willing to compromise. It could also be interpreted as sitting on the fence.
To stick with the example of the president, in 2009, young adults in Iran took to the streets in their country in protest of the presidential elections they claimed were rigged. They chanted in their native tongue, ‘Obama, Obama. Are you with us or against us?” They were asking the newly inaugurated president of the United States to take a stand.
In response, the Obama Administration elected to stay out of it and refused to take a stand one way or another. The Iranian students weren’t asking for military help or even assistance from the U.S. intelligence community. All they were asking was for moral support in their fight against the tyrannical dictator who held the reigns of their country, illegitimately.
After the silence from the White House, the regime of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reacted with physical force, indeed violence, against the passionate but peaceful protesters. One young woman, 26 year-old Neda Agha-Soltan who was merely observing the protests, was shot in the heart by the Iranian military and killed.
Later, citizens of Syria tried to oust their own dictator, Bashar al-Assad, to no avail. This was another conflict the Obama Administration decided to stay out of completely. As a result, an estimated 80,000 innocent Syrians – men, women, children, and elderly – have been slaughtered by their own government. Meanwhile, Team Obama continues to ponder about what to do or not do.
Fence-sitters are often perceived as moderates or peace-makers. Too often, however, their failure to take a stand leads to very negative consequences.
There is an episode of the mini-series The Band of Brothers that almost entirely deals with this character flaw.
A Harvard-educated relative of some higher-up in the military is promoted because of his connections. On his first time out with his troops, he leads them straight into an ambush and then fails, despite their pleaded to make a decision.
Should they plow forward into the sniping by the enemy or pull back?
While Mr. Harvard sat frozen in fear, shock, and indecision, his troops were like sitting ducks – stationary targets – getting shot at. Many were killed before the second-in-command finally did what the commander could not. He made a decision and, in doing so, prevented more bloodshed.
Compromise is one thing. Lacking the moral courage to take one side over the other – say good over evil – is another.
There is a saying, “If you try to please everyone, you will only end up pleasing no one”.
A better course of action is always to do the right thing.