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Friday, February 18, 2011

Means vs Ends

Rarely am I as conflicted as I am about the report that the Japanese whaling fleet has apparently been stopped largely due to the efforts of Sea Shepherd.

Ending whaling is superb, and long overdue. My conflict is with the methods used to accomplish this. To Sea Shepherd's credit, no human lives were lost on either side, and they were apparently successful where all other means have failed. And also, as one who has been a fairly constant critic of Sea Shepherd, at the end of they day they've done much more to protect the whales than I have. I recognize that, and grudgingly respect it. Sea Shepherd has however displayed excreble seamanship at times, and their tactics are often no more than terrorism.

I say this with no strong bias; I spent ten years as a nuclear terrorist myself, on behalf of the US Navy. It's an ugly way to fight a war, but sometimes it's an effective one. At the end of the day neither the US or Soviet Union were willing to nuke the other, out of fear of retaliation against civilian population centers. The Cold War is now over, the Chinese won, and most of all of the player's cities and citizens were still standing. The end result was a positive one, mostly. But it was still terrorism, and at the end of the day we were all basically willing to commit genocide against complete strangers, who had done us no more wrong than being born in a place which had different ideas about how to share property. Did the end justify the means in that case? Maybe.

Did Sea Shepherd's ends justify their means? Again, maybe. Perhaps the road to heaven is sometimes paved with evil intentions. For the moment, the whales are not being hunted. Maybe it really is as simple as that, ethics and seamanship be damned.

Will post more on this in a few days, will be on the water this weekend. Here's the story in the New York Times:


  1. Let us not count our chickens er whales before the next season. The viewpoint of NAUTICAL LOG is well known as is our opinion of SSCS. You can read it in the many posts written over several years. If an action is wrong in and of itself it is still wrong even if the cause is good.
    Good Watch.

  2. Hi Peter,

    I hoped you'd weigh in on this one. Frankly, you're able to take higher moral ground on this one than I can. Because at the end of the day most of Sea Shepherd are true believers, however misguided. When I was a terrorist it was mostly for monetary gain. That I was basically a mercenary and a nuclear terrorist is inexcusable, but I can't change the past. But I'm not willing to compound those sins by being a hypocrite. I forfeited my moral high ground years ago when it comes to such things. Time will tell if Sea Shepherd's higher-speed craft have in fact brought about and end to Japanese whaling. But the fact remains that they placed themselves in harm's way to save the whales while I sat at home and did nothing.

    John Brown, the abolitionist, was cut of a similar cloth to Sea Shepherd. He was genuinely psychotic, dangerously irresponsible and basically a nutburger. And, he was probably more directly responsible for emancipating the slaves than Lincoln was. Sometimes the ends do justify extreme means. And sometimes the road to heaven really is paved with evil intentions.
    Zealots, regardless of their cause or motives, scare the hell out of me. But Emerson once said "blessed is the rebel, for without him there is no change".
    For now, the whales are not being killed. For now, maybe, that is enough.

  3. As usual very nicely summed up and quite true. It is always difficult when one believes in the cause, stopping whaling, but abhors the tactics used. 'Wats-his-name' is a self-centered cult leader whose ego has burst its banks, if not yet a blood vessel
    Good Watch.