My sister told me a story from her military ethics class: there were a bunch of refugee boats off the coast of Cuba?, and a storm was coming in. Dozens of people in the boats would likely die when the storm hit, but the boats hadn’t made it to international waters yet, where a bunch of US ships were waiting. The US ships asked permission to enter territorial waters to pick up the refugees, and were refused.
Going into those waters after being refused permission is a clear act of war, breaking treaties and other agreements we’ve signed onto. My initial reaction was that while terrible, [potentially] starting a war would result in far more lost of life and misery, not to mention sets a bad precedent that we’ll violate our own rules and agreements whenever we think its the “right” thing to do.
What the US did, apparently, was posture up, push in anyways, pick up the refugees, and leave. Nothing [immediately] bad came of it, as far as I know.
Now, I’m glad that was the result, at least knowing post-hoc that no violence came of the action. But its also a bully move: “I’m stronger than you, and I’m going to do what I think is right, despite saying I wouldn’t. What are you going to do about it?”
Using superior strength to force certain behavior is the definition of bullying.
So bullying is bad…except when you’re doing the right thing? And how do you know its the right thing? Is it still the right thing if you start a naval battle, and create an international incident where hundreds of people died?
All I really know for sure is its damn nice to be the strongest, because then you get to make the decision between following the rules or bullying your way into saving dozens of people. The other side gets to make the decision between being justified in starting a fight they’ll lose, or letting The Man™ do whatever it thinks is right.