I've just had the great fortune of seeing the first two episodes of HBO's John Adams.
I also went out and bought both Night Watch and Day Watch, two Russian films that deserve wider spread recognition.
The topic this evening is not what the left thinks moral cowardice is all about: according to Talking Points, moral cowardice is thus:
A moral coward is someone who lacks the courage to tell the truth, to accept responsibility, to demand accountability, to do what's right when it's not the easy thing to do, to clean up his or her own messes. Perhaps we could say that moral bravery is having both the courage of your convictions as well as the courage of your misdeeds.
To put it bluntly: balderdash.
That isn't moral cowardice: what is described is hypocrisy. Cowardice is not a lack of courage: it is, for the coward, a positive feature, rather than a negative.
A moral coward is someone who, when they are face with a conflict in which only violence can resolve the situation, chose the path of appeasement, of abjectly surrendering their principles for the sake of non-violence: those that would decry that there are times when good can only triumph through the necessary evil of force. Force, the taking up of arms, the declaration of war, the fight, is not in and of itself an evil thing: if done for the good, it is recognized as something unavoidable.
This is not to say that the ends justify the means: it is, however, to say that conflicts between men cannot always be resolved by appeal to the sweet nature of reason.
Dickinson, John Dickinson, of Pennsylvania, as portrayed in HBO's John Adams series, is a moral coward: he wants to appease the Crown, to petition the Crown for redress to their grievances, and indeed chooses not to be present when the critical vote is made to declare independence. His Quaker religion forbids him anything else: yet if those who would end our freedoms by force of arms can know that all they need to do is take up arms secure in the knowledge that appeasement is, for us, vastly superior to conflict, then this will bring about war, rather than prevent it. The appeasers of that day searched high and low for reasons that conflict should not happen.
One of the key lines in the Day Watch (Russian title: Дневно́й дозо́р or Dnevnio Dozor) is (I'm paraphrasing since the original was in Russian and I can only, at this point, go by the subtitles):
"The difference between Night and Day is that Night can lie and distort and manipulate, because we (the Dark) are always the bad guys. Light always loses because they have to say the truth."
Without going into great detail, both films show what happens when the good guys (the Light) are lied to and misled by the the Dark, resulting in principles being broken: a man is willing to sacrifice a child's life in an induced miscarriage (i.e. abortion) when he is not told that it is his own, in order to keep his wife, who has left him and told him that the child is not his. This turns him into a monster of his own doing: first at the end of the second film, when he can answer "No" when he first answered "what the heck, yes", is the impossible situation that he finds himself in turned around and eliminated from even occurring.
Moral cowardice is refusing to make the choice. Refer the problem to committee, put it off for a while, we're not ready for a war, perhaps the King will see reason.
I've known moral cowards: they're the ones who would appease in order to avoid having to go to war. Anything is better than war: what they fail to realize is that when the bad guys realize this, then war becomes more likely, since if you are willing to use violence readily to achieve your goals, and yet are faced by those who are manifestly incapable of having the will to defend themselves, you are being invited to make war.
Were that human nature was that of sweet reason. More the pity that it isn't...