A Philosopher's Blog

The Fast & the Foolish

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on December 8, 2011
English: Official portrait of United States At...

Too fast, too furious?

Most folks are probably familiar with the “Fast and Furious” gun running sting operation. The idea was that guns would be allowed to fall into criminal hands but they would have tracking devices to allow law enforcement to track them. While this sort of idea would work in the movies, it failed miserably in reality. Unless, of course, success is marked by providing criminals with guns.

Given that the plan was remarkably stupid and had seriously bad consequences, it seems reasonable that those involved should be punished appropriately. One question that is currently being addressed is how far the chain of responsibility goes.

Republicans are, not surprisingly, gunning for Attorney General Eric Holder and others in the Justice Department. They are, of course, right to push this issue and determine the extent to which the upper officials were aware of the plan and hence accountable for said plan.

If it is established that the officials in question were aware of the details of the plan (and had reason to believe it would turn out badly) then they should be held responsible for the operation to the degree that they were aware and to the degree they had the authority to control the operation.

It might be tempting to simply hold that officials are fully responsible for every action conducted by those beneath them in the chain of command. Of course, this would be absurd. After all this would make the President of the United States fully accountable for the actions of all military personnel, all the way down to the buck privates. It would also make corporate CEOs accountable for every employee (at least in terms of what they do on the job). On this view, if a private leaked secrets, then the President would be responsible. Or, if an employee of BP overcharged you for a hot dog at the store, then the CEO of BP would be accountable.

It is far more reasonable to assign responsibility based on the extent of the official’s knowledge (and also what s/he should know) and authority in the matter. In the case of Holder, while he is the Attorney General it does not follow that he can be aware of all operations and their details. The same can hold true of some of the officials under him. However, it obviously is not true of all of them and what needs to be sorted out is where the accountability for this incident legitimately ends (at least in terms of who should be punished).

Enhanced by Zemanta

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. T. J. Babson said, on December 9, 2011 at 4:30 am

    It seems that Holder (1) knew about the plan; (2) said that he did not know about the plan, but was caught in a lie; (3) had the authority to stop it; and (4) did not stop it.

    There is also some speculation that the real purpose of this patently dumb plan was to lay the groundwork for increased gun control in the U.S.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on December 9, 2011 at 3:10 pm

      If he knew about the plan details and could stop it, then he is accountable. Whether he should be fired or not is another matter, of course. After all, think of the guy who handled Katrina-he got a “heck of a job Brownie” and a medal.

  2. magus71 said, on December 9, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Why is Holder still Attorney General?

    Holder is one of the most dangerous people in Obama’s camp.

    I actually saw similar things in Afghanistan, where we (the US military) did not bomb or otherwise destroy known IED factories, hoping to track the people and bombs coming from them to other locations. This type of thing works fine when we are not talking about dangerous weapons. But we must know that we will lose track of some of these things and that we will be partially responsible for the death of innocents or American military personnel.

    Law Enforcement has in the past used this baiting technique, but it has always been with inert weapons or fake sensitive parts so that even if they fell in to the wrong hands they would be useless.

    This is quite possibly one of the dumbest things ever done by the Justice Department and Holder needs to be fired. The fact that he has not speaks volumes about Obama.

    • anon said, on December 9, 2011 at 10:58 am

      “Holder is one of the most dangerous people in Obama’s camp. ”
      – How?

      “where we (the US military) did not bomb or otherwise destroy known IED factories, hoping to track the people and bombs coming from them to other locations. ”
      – This is how you find out who is in charge of the whole operation and if there are others involved. Simply shutting down a single IED factory might make you feel “good” but sometimes if you are smart enough to wait a bit and see who is coming and going (and to where) you might find more you didn’t know about and can shut them down too.

      “has always been with inert weapons or fake sensitive parts ”
      – not really true but doing so when possible is highly desired

      “This is quite possibly one of the dumbest things ever done”
      – very true

      “The fact that he has not speaks volumes about Obama.”
      – Really? Obama personlly knows everything about what Holder may or may not have known/done?

  3. magus71 said, on December 10, 2011 at 8:07 am

    -” How?”
    Umm. Fast and the Furious isn’t a good example?

    “This is how you find out who is in charge of the whole operation and if there are others involved. Simply shutting down a single IED factory might make you feel “good” but sometimes if you are smart enough to wait a bit and see who is coming and going (and to where) you might find more you didn’t know about and can shut them down too.”

    Yeah. Thanks. I get it. And then we get the Fast in the Furious. It’s a bad theory. We should stop implementing it.

    “Really? Obama personlly knows everything about what Holder may or may not have known/done?”

    Holder’s admitted many things about the Fast and teh Furious that should get him fired. Obama can and should fire him.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: