Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wendy C. Hamblet's "Emmanuel Levinas: From "innocent violences" to the ethical "just war"

Hamblet's essay (in Philosophical Perspectives on the War on Terrorism Gail M Presbey, ed.) begins by explaining that according to Levinas, existence is more or less zero sum and thus all living is murder because your life must come at the expense of someone else's. Moreover, without reference to the other we necessarily do not recognize this obvious fact. Western civilization as a whole is actually built on a bedrock of callous violence as witnessed in Homer's Iliad; where the heroes who often have an opportunity not to kill enemies, do so nonetheless. This is consistent with Hitler's Nazism and Western civilization is poised to repeat the Holocaust unless we cease to value the heroic ethos. But, Hamblet claims, Levinas does leave open a space for life not being inherently murderous if one can actively cultivate an extreme passivity, especially toward their oppressor.

In her quick Levinasian analysis of the Iliad she issues a blanket condemnation of each of the heroes for failing to make the right choice. What bad choice did they all make? In each case the hero ends up killing someone - each hero failed "to respond in a human way to his pleading victim" and thus "violence is the sole victor . . . Never does it occur to the hero that snuffing out the life from a defenseless suppliant is an inherently cowardly act." (p. 414)

Of course this assumes that there is a "human way" of responding to a pleading victim. It also assumes that Hamblet and Homer share the same concept of "victim". The picture we get of the ancient world, especially as it comes to us from Homer is that the line between victim and aggressor is unclear, even to the participants. We also get a clear picture that the role violence and death, and even life itself, played in the ancient world was not the same as the one it plays in ours. Both the victims and perpetrator of violence perceive the other in a different way today as they would have in the past. As such, a Levinasian analysis (which would presumably include the usual insistence on infinite responsibility for the other. . . ) still must be understood differently today as it would have been in Homer's time.

The objective content of the subjective nature of violence is forever shifting in ways that reflect the social circumstances. After all, people in the ancient world had a more intimate relationship with violence than did Hamblet or even Levinas. In the ancient world many more individuals were acquainted with violence as a way of life, not just as an occasional breach of the peace that takes a few years of their lives every generation or two. People in the ancient world knew violence as a way of life; they understood violence both as victims and also as perpetrators. One does not expect ancient literature to reflect any squeamishness about violence.

Levinas himself saw violence first hand under the Nazis. But Hamblet cannot even pretend to understand it. In a society like the one she lives in (Canada) freedom from violence is guaranteed (or at least well protected by) - for starters - a standing army that has 87,000 people who stand ready to do extreme violence on her behalf. This protects citizens from all knowledge of violence but then puts them in the naive position of being unable to understand even the role it plays in ancient literature. Not to mention, Canada was settled by people who essentially quashed the ability of the indigenous people to use violence against her long before she was born. Also, a police force and serious law enforcement and forensic infrastructure to make sure citizens are protected against domestic violence. Moreover now citizens have many of their material needs met by a huge bureaucracy who pretty much all make sure that they have all their material needs met thus making moot the need to use or even understand the context of most violence. Modern Canadians are able to subcontract out their violence to paid police forces who are authorized to use force and presumably have a large amount of superior firepower at their disposal. And if there were someone who were to so much as insult her race, steal her possessions, or sexually assault her, her modern nation state would seize the offender and lock them in a cage until such time as he was deemed fit to roam the streets again.

The heroes of the Illiad did not have the option to have others commit or threaten violence on their behalf. They had no one to cleanse "their lands" of undesirables. They had no way of having their material needs met by others. They had no way of ensuring their children's' safety. They did not have trillions of dollars at their disposal rearranging the world so that they were insulated from the stark realities of pre-modern society. Living was harsh. Life really was mean, nasty, brutish, and short regardless of where you lived and who you were. And to contemplate the otherness of the oppressor is to court your own nonexistence.

But let me get to Hamblet's main points. I take it that her main point is to argue - from a Levinasian standpoint - that as long as we value a "heroic ethos" we stand poised to repeat holocausts. As a corollary, the US is clearly guilty of such things and she gratuitously points out, even the German Justice Minister has compared Bush to Hitler. (p. 418) (As a German government official, undoubtedly I suppose, he should know!)

The Levinasian strategy she recommends (which she somehow finds radical (p. 416), though to me seems like a rehash of Levinas) is for the hero not merely to "lay down his weapons and show the greater courage of resisting the urge to violence" but moreover "he would need to resist the comfortable disposition toward mere life and actively cultivate the human life, even at the great risk of thinking. . ." And a thinking being would "need to assume responsibility even for the irresponsibilities of the other, more dangerous passer-by, heroes and other enraged torturers who delight in the crushing of innocents.

It does sound like she is advocating that we take responsibility for the Uday and Kusays of the world, for the genocidal Saddam Husseins of the world, and look in the face of their victims. Of course she thinks that this must only be done in a non-violent way. But this strikes me as problematic for a number of reasons. First, I do not know what it means to take responsibility for another. Does that mean I bear the moral or legal burden for what they have done? That seems like a statement in contravention of all intuitions about law and ethics. It is also just simply bizarre. There is this idyllic philosophical position taken that claims that it is our virtues of manliness and heroism that cause us to start wars. This ignores the complexities of the real world, and then the position is used to justify a condemnation of real individuals (and fictitious ones) for not meeting this impossible philosophical standard. Moreoever in the modern era, those who start wars are never the same as those who fight in them.

We have to care about the Other, Hamblit belives, even as the other is shooting at us. Failure to live up to this clearly shows that Bush is like Hitler. (This is Hamblit, not my sarcasm.) I assume she sleeps well knowing that she is morally superior to the ancients who had to fight for their very existence.

As the paper clearly illustrates, it is much easier to look at peoples of other places and other times and condemn them than to try to understand their place in history. It is easy to ignore and even condemn the military underclass in our society than to contemplate what life would be like without them. This essay exhibits both ivory tower idealism and moral imperialism of the worst kind.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Call For Papers: War and Peace (May 2010: Prague, Czech Republic)

I got this is the mail but I don't think I'll be able to make this, but it looks promising:

Call for Papers
The opening decade of the 21st century has seen war assume a number of
new forms - new at least in relation to the 20th century. So, for
instance, the West's war in Afghanistan is already longer than WW2, and
shows no sign of coming to an end; the nature of those engaged in war
has widened to include a variety of non-state agents; and war itself has
come to include as arguably justifiable tactics and strategies
previously either excluded or at least not recognised as legitimate. In
short, the distinction between war and peace is becoming increasingly

The 2010 conference is part of a continuing and explicitly multi- and
inter-disciplinary conversation that aims to bring together people from
a wide range of disciplines to focus on this centrally significant
aspect of our social lives in order better to understand the nature and
place of war and peace.

The main themes are outlined below: however, we are also pleased to
receive proposals that extend or complement these. We seek contributions
from both practitioners and academics, and from the widest possible
range of intellectual interests and commitment.

1. What Counts as War; What Counts as Peace?
~ The militarization of civil life: legislation; economics;
surveillance; "terrorism"; torture.
~ "States of exception" and their role between peace and war.
~ Possible forms of warfare: economic blockade; propaganda; drones;
virtual weapons and wars; alternatives to physical force.

2. Actors and Agents
~ The nature and evaluation of non-state combatants: private companies;
ad-hoc supranational organisations; the UN.
~ War and capitalism: state, corporation and globalization; war as an
arm of domestic policy; "low-level" wars since WW2 as forms of testing
and preparation.
~ Responsibility for and in war: social and individual agency.

3. Explaining, Understanding and Judging War - and Peace
~ Killing: why is it prima facie wrong?
~ War and utopianism: ideals as motivation for/cause of war.
~ The interplay between language and physical reality in warfare and its
~ The representation and communication of suffering.
~ War as aesthetic object.

The Steering Group particularly welcomes the submission of pre-formed
panel proposals. Papers will also be considered on any related theme.
300 word abstracts should be submitted by Friday 27th November 2009. If
an abstract is accepted for the conference, a full draft paper should be
submitted by Friday 12th March 2009.

300 word abstracts should be submitted simultaneously to both Organising
Chairs; abstracts may be in Word, WordPerfect, or RTF formats with the
following information and in this order:

a) author(s), b) affiliation, c) email address, d) title of abstract, e)
body of abstract.

Please use plain text (Times Roman 12) and abstain from using footnotes
and any special formatting, characters or emphasis (such as bold,
italics or underline). We acknowledge receipt and answer to all paper
proposals submitted. If you do not receive a reply from us in a week you
should assume we did not receive your proposal; it might be lost in
cyberspace! We suggest, then, to look for an alternative electronic
route or resend.

Joint Organising Chairs:

Bob Brecher
Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics
Faculty of Arts, Brighton University,
United Kingdom

Rob Fisher
Network Founder and Leader
Freeland, Oxfordshire,
United Kingdom

The conference is part of the Probing the Boundaries programme of
research projects. It aims to bring together people from different areas
and interests to share ideas and explore various discussions which are
innovative and exciting.

A number of volumes of eBooks and themed hard copy volumes are in
preparation and/or in print from the previous meetings of this project.
All papers accepted for and presented at the conference will be eligible
for publication in an ISBN eBook.  Selected papers may be developed for
publication in a themed hard copy volume(s).

For further details about the project please visit:

Review of War and Ethics

I found Nicholas Fotion's book War and Ethics: A new just war theory a bit confusing. The book itself is well written and engaging, but I had assumed - because of its title that it would present a Just War Theory (JWT) that was different from the old one. The old JWT is, on my view, very out of date and thus I was looking forward to a new theory about how to morally assess a war. In some sense it eventually does present a new theory, but I was left somewhat baffled about what the new theory was. I'll explain.
Fotions's book does not exactly critique the standard Just War Theory (JWT). A critique of a philosophical theory shows how the theory's premises are in some way mistaken or lead to counterintuitive conclusions. Fotion's tactic is to show that the theory's premises are not used by the people who should use them.

Chapter One is an introduction to the idea that we take some principles or rules of ethics as accepted by most (1-2). Chapter two is an introduction to (what I call) the main dogmas of traditional JWT. These are the familiar restrictions on war that force one to invoke a just cause, competent authority, reasonable chance of
success, proportionality, discrimination, etc when entering into or fighting a war. Chapter three is called "Objections to JWT", and this is the part I found strange. There are four objections presented: 1) Nations do not employ JWT. 2) Nations hide behind JWT to justify their actions, not to attempt to use its principles. 3) JWT is plastic enough to be used to justify almost any side of an argument about just war. 4) JWT is too idealistic to be useful (25-27). These are interesting objections, but none of them are, except perhaps the third, objections to the theory. The theory is a normative theory, it tells us how one ought to behave. The objections mostly claim, in some way, that people do not in fact behave in the way the theory says they should. I suppose that if too few people behave in
accordance with a theory about how one ought to behave, and too few people think the theory is practical, one ought to have problems with the theory. But we do not find many philosophical arguments that point to all the thieves in all the prisons as proof that the "theory" that one ought not to steal is false. After all, one can claim that a complete prohibition against stealing is not practiced, not realistic, mostly used by people to justify why others shouldn't steal from them. . .

A counterargument to a normative theory is to show that one of its principles are counterintuitive or perhaps that the theory is somehow inconsistent. To show that something is not used is not to show that it is wrong. It is merely to state an empirical fact about the nature of some humans. That tells us little about the theory itself. But let me resume the discussion of the book itself.

Chapter four superficially analyzes a few "easy cases" of just war theory. That is, Fotion tells us that Germany was in violation of some Just War principles when she invaded Poland and when she conducted operation Barbarosa; and Japan was in violation of JWT when she invaded China in 1937 or attacked Pearl Harbor during WWII. I am not sure what this tells us about just war though, except that there is some matching up between the fact that many of us judge one side of a war to be bad and the fact that they violated some of the just war principles. Moreover, on Fotion's objections, Germany didn't seriously consider JWT when attacking (a point he later takes up) and I would doubt many people in Japan would have heard of JWT at the time - it is a set of dogmas that originates in Christian ethics and Christian thought was not widely known in Japan at the time.
The other case Fotion discusses under the banner of "easy cases" is the case of the Korean War. He judges the North Koreans to be the aggressors who started the war without a just cause (50). But then four pages later he makes the case that China, entering the Korean War to help North Korea, appears to have met the principles of JWT because their cause was just since they were helping an ally (54). This is on the one hand very counterintuitive but also rather interesting. If
one agrees with both of Fotion's assessments, then there is something counterintuitive about a pair of allies on one side of a war, one who is just in fighting it and the other who is not. On the other hand, if this can be the case, it is certainly worth exploring. But Fotion is content to point out that North Korea was unjust and China probably was just. But, under the heading of "hard cases" a few pages later Fotion proceeds to claim that Serbia's allies were unjust in helping Serbia fight World War I because the commitment to help an ally does not apply when the ally is the aggressor (60).

As an aside, in many cases Fotion takes care to point out that some of the principles of JWT were satisfied by one side of the conflict. But to my mind, it is does little to give me faith in the theory to tell me that Nazi Germany was a legitimate authority, so at least the Germans met one condition of the theory whilst invading Poland. Or even worse, Fotion points out that that at least Germany had a
reasonable chance of success when they were fighting Poland. Again, how is this supposed to show that Standard JWT is worth anything? So much worse for JWT, I say.

Moreover, Fotion keeps saying that "JWT can deal with" certain kinds of cases (e.g., 64). By this he appears to mean that if you break down the cause of a war into simple categories like "country X was the aggressor" or "country Y had a reasonable chance of success" then you get an answer about who was unjust and who was just. But a theory "dealing with a case" does not mean that you get an answer for each case, but rather that you get a good answer for each case. Fotion does nothing to show for any case that his answer is better than any other alternative. His theory can produce any answer and he would still be able to claim that JWT "deals with it".

What he might mean is that most wars can be described as having a clear aggressor and a clear victim or clear authority or not. But that hardly invokes our commonsense notion of justice. Looking at the hard cases we are still not given much insight into how JWT is supposed to work. A hard case is apparently one in which the facts are simply not clear. In Kosovo in 1999 it was actually unclear
to most observers how many people were killed when the Serbs counterattacked against the Kosovars after the Kosovars initiated actions aimed at ethnically cleansing the Serbs (66). But again, the facts may be unclear, but how does that impact the theory? Would it make sense to argue that frogs are a hard case for the theory of
evolution because they are hard to catch?

Fotion is to be admired for his treatment of the Iraq war - the final hard case. As we learn at the end of chapter 6, for reasons he does not explain he believes that the current Iraq was started unjustly. But in chapter 5 he rehashes in the most short and superficial terms liberal boilerplate arguments against the war: It was a
neo-conservative plot, there were no serious humanitarian issues, and no weapons of mass destruction found. Therefore the war was unjust. QED. Alone this would make him a run of the mill liberal pundit, and not a very good one at that. But chapter 6, despite its ending on an unsupported negative judgment about the justice of the war, is dedicated to explaining how the mere few paragraphs explaining that there were no WMDs found in Iraq, is simply an inadequate way of making a reasonable judgment about a war. The war was started for a wide range of reasons and some of them have some moral merit. Alone, most of the reasons do not justify going to war, but collectively, they may even add up to a compelling case for some. Pedagogically, there is great merit in showing 1) that it is rare that a case for or against a just war can be made in a mere few paragraphs; 2) that is is not only
the big reasons that count. The fact that Saddam Hussein did not fire a nuclear weapon at the United States, does mean that there can be no case made that the US was still justified in attacking him.

Chapter 7 continues on the theme of explaining that JWT is inadequate. However, by "inadequate" Fotion usually seems to mean that a superficial analysis will not do and what is really required is a more nuanced look at the causes of a war. The more nuanced look will often show that the superficial look was just quot;inadequate". But when we take a more nuanced look we see what appears to be a counterexample to some principle or other of JWT. So Fotion claims that JWT needs some kind of exception. For example, Castro didn't look like he had a
chance of success, so we gerrymander Castro's rebellion in to the kind that does not need a good chance of success. Fotion does not tell us that it might just be the case that Castro was unjust because he didn't have a good chance of success. Then again, Fotion, like us, takes it for granted that Castro, in actuality, did succeed. So Castro's chances of success might not have actually been low enough to warrant the exception in the first place and hence our intuition that it is worth making it for this case.

Similarly for proportionality: sometimes we are told that it is "the nature of the beast" (91). If that counts as a good excuse, so does anything. After all, lots of things are the nature of war, and the goal of JWT is not to tell us the nature of war, but rather to strictly delineate what can and cannot be done in the context of entering or prosecuting a war.

Nonetheless, these sorts of exceptions form the heart of his "new just war theory". Fotion's suggestion is that there is standard just war theory (JWT-R) that be kept in place for regular conflicts, and a second just war theory (JWT-I) that be emplaced for irregular conflicts. Those are the conflicts that typically involve "rebels" or irregular fighters who fight symmetrically. JWT-I allows for different sets of rules to apply for different sides so that, for example, the just cause restrictions are relaxed in the case of smaller groups of rebels who have a legitimate grievance against the larger entity (e.g., a nation-state) and the discrimination restriction is relaxed for an entity like a nation-state who is fighting a group with no uniform that looks like any other group of civilians.

I am not completely sure what the new version of JWT actually does beyond saying that our judgments about war are sometimes different from what JWT says they should be, so we come up with a new version to JWT to accommodate this new one. So in case the some aspect of JWT does not seem to apply, you have JWT-I that does. But JWT-I is just either a set of exceptions to JWT or worse, it is the opposite, assuring us that one of them will give us the judgment that we want. While I do not like this, my bigger problem with the book still rests on the constant focus that Fotion places on the fact that JWT is worthwhile because it is so often invoked and the biggest threat to JWT is that it is not invoked often enough. I still do not understand how that is a threat to the theory. I suspect that it is not invoked as much as we would like for a number of reasons. First, it relies on categories of war that are no longer applicable. It is the same reason we do not invoke Sun Tzu often in addressing the nature of war - because his work is obsolete. He is quotable, but not very informative. Also, JWT is very Western. Moreover, as I mentioned above, it is Christian. Fotion's discussion of the conflict in Sri Lanka in terms of JWT is odd precisely because it would probably be very foreign to all participants: one side of which is Hindu and the other which is Buddhist. Foisting these odd categories of proportionality, discrimination, legitimate authority, etc on places that have no such concept is akin to buying real estate from peoples who have no concept of ownership of land - it just makes little sense to them. It is a paragon of cultural ethnocentrism to expect them adhere to it.

But nonetheless Fotion's concern to prop up JWT is admirable and his efforts heroic. I would prefer to see a good defense of the dogmas though. I find few of the "criteria" for a just war under the theory intuitive and would never invoke it unless I was attempting to convince someone who could be made to believe that those criteria are important. And at the end I am not convinced that JWT stands or falls on whether it is invoked by the public any more than legal realism or legal positivism stands or falls whether the populace, criminals, politicians, lawyers, or judges invoke it. It is a theory that has merits and problems regardless of which are invoked and that is the standard by which it should be judged.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Alan Ryan on "Risk and Terrorism"

Certain events shock us in to action despite the fact that we experience different events of identical or greater magnitude that do not shock us in to action. More technically, the (negative) value, v, of some event that we find acceptable may be greater than some v that we do not. So when we evaluate risk as the probability, P, times v of an event it should be relatively easy to calculate which of two events have the greater risk and subsequently act accordingly.

But as a matter of human psychology, we do not. There are many asymmetries we observe in humans that belie this obvious point. For example, many people think it worth insuring against misfortune whilst they are averse to a quantitatively identical gamble on fortune, that is even where the absolute value of the probability of (mis)fortune times possible loss in the insurance case is equal to the absolute value of the of the probability of gain times the value of the gain in the gambling case. (Insurance companies, by the way, make money because they do not differentiate between the two.)

A fairly concrete example, people are more scared of flying than driving despite the fact that we all know that planes are a safer mode of travel, statistically, than cars. That is, the probability of being injured on a plane times the severity of the possible injury is far lower than the corresponding number for a car.

There are numerous psychological reasons to account for the asymmetries in the types of cases illustrated above. Alan Ryan's paper "Risk and Terrorism" (in Risk: Philosophical perspectives, Tim Lewens, ed; Routledge: 2007.) claims that there are likely evolutionary reasons why we make the judgments we do, but the overriding reason we accept some risk is because of the way it is "framed". Airplane incidents, for example, when they occur, don't just go wrong, they go spectacularly wrong and it is the shock-value that causes us to mis-estimate the probabilities of certain kinds of events. Ryan refers to an event's salience, its size, proximity, and surprise factor that contribute to an event's ability to seize our attention (181).

Terrorists too take advantage of humans' inability to innately miscalculate P(v) by relying on spectacular incidents: attacking the World Trade Center or the Pentagon, a suicide bombing at the wedding of a coreligionist, or a videotaped beheading. Interestingly, most such terrorism accomplishes little. Moreover, groups that employ such tactics make few realistic demands of the governments they attack.

It seems to me that this all speaks to a number of issues including the ability of terrorists to use rational tactics (regardless of the immorality of the tactics or irrationality of their goals), and the fact that we need an approach to counter-terrorism that realizes that these are the tactics and the effects and thus we need to prepare accordingly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Philosophy in Islamic Countries

I came across a copy of John R. Burr's edited volume Handbook of World Philosophy: Contemporary developments since 1945 (Greenwood Press, 1980). The volume has chapters summarizing the state of philosophy in various countries as it was in 1980. The chapter on "Islamic Countries" was written by the eminent scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr was somewhat illuminating, but not too surprising.

The Islamic world is large. It includes many countries and many
people. The people are also as diverse as Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, and the Sudan and Pakistan. What we discover reading Nasr's essay is that from WWII to 1980 there was much philosophical interest in different brands of Islamic thought - from Sufism to wahabism, there were many people engaged in philosophical pursuits that descended from medieval Islamic thought and there was a rather large interest in Islamic political thought that was often very influenced by the 60s and 70s. Thus we find much Islamic neo-Marxism and the like. We also find that there was considerable philosophical work done comparing Islam and contemporary European philosophy.

I would be rather curious to see what an article would be like if it were written today, 30 years later. Obviously countries such as Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey have westernized philosophy being done in ways that are indistinguishable from contemporary Anglo or European philosophy - beside Islamic philosophy. But I am somewhat curious about the rest of the Arab world. In the US, I assume, one can go a whole philosophy career and not hear about about philosophy in the UAE, Syria, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Dubai, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Qatar, etc. They all have universities, and certainly Islamic universities, but little makes it to English, I assume. Other Islamic countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan are mentioned in the article, but I cannot remember seeing a philosophy paper from someone in one of those countries in a while.

Iran too is said to have some serious philosophical thought, but the political situation when Nasr's article was being written in the very late 1970s was quite different from what it has become now. I suspect
that it is to the detriment of philosophy.

Much has changed in many Muslim countries and philosophy is still a luxury that many Islamic countries cannot yet afford. But given that as many as one fifth of the world's population is Muslim, one expects more. Again, I'd be curious to know what advances have been made in recent years.

Update 2-May-2010: Brian Leiter has a post about philosophy in Pakistan.

On Nancy Sherman's Stoic Warriors

Nancy Sherman's <i>Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy Behind the
Military Mind</i> is an absorbing examination of Stoic thought as it
pertains to what is typically believed to be the military mindset. It
is a book that both engages stoic philosophy and attempts to capture
how it could work as a backdrop for a soldier's way of thinking about
various aspects of military life. Stoicism, as we have it from such
figures as Marcus Aurelius, Seneca, Cicero, and Epictetus is a
comprehensive approach to physics, logic, and ethics. Sherman is
mostly concerned with ethics and the prospect of understanding whether
a stoic ethic is a viable way of handling issues that are an expected
part of a soldier's life.

Given the writings we have, we are able to reconstruct a stoic
approach to certain relevant themes including: the body, grief, one's
bearing and decorum, anger, fear, trauma, and general emotional
resilience. Her analysis is generally insightful and clear. Sherman
and her approach to Stiocism has a lot to teach us about how soldiers
think and how soldiers ought to think. One thinks of stoicism and the
image of a solitary individual devoid of emotion, expression and
feeling. And while this does not exactly sum up Stoicism and it is a
simplification, it is not all that far off. As Sherman says in the
opening sentence of the preface "This book is about 'sucking it up'";
which is military-speak for maintaining your composure despite the
fact that something traumatic happened.

And military personnel are never far from trauma. Members of the
military perpetually face the risk of getting killed or kidnapped,
getting in to a fight, taken hostage, getting wounded, losing a limb,
killing someone, and losing a friend. Facing the prospect of this is
sometimes a bit scary, but having it actually happen naturally causes
soldiers to experience emotions - and to a greater degree - then much
of the rest of society. Anger, fear, grief, rage, post-traumatic
stress, regular stress, guilt, relief, and sorrow are all common in
the military, especially during times of war. People worry about
themselves and dealing with the trauma of injury, for example and they
grieve when the lose friends. And friendships forged in war are said
to be amongst the strongest.

The problem then is how a soldier is to express the emotions that he
or she experiences? A soldier, after all, is encouraged and
conditioned to "suck it up and drive on", "Charlie Mike" - continue
mission, and "maintain control". A soldier has a very small range of
expressions that are generally considered acceptable, especially in
public. Part of the appeal of stoic thought is that it provides a
worldview in which a lack of emotional expression is both possible and
commendable. It does so by encouraging one to realize that happiness
must not be dependent on circumstances and events that are external to
one's control. And one must train the body to act in alignment with
this philosophy and not exhibit these emotions.

Sherman analyzises a few important emotions in chapter-length studies.
She talks about anger in one chapter, fear in another, and grief in a
third. In all cases she looks to the work of the Stoics for
inspiration adn guidance. But she doesn't stop at saying that there
are similarities between Stoic philosophy and being "warrior stoic".
She fully engages Stoic thought and challenges it, often for going too
far, sometimes for not going far enough. This is not a book of
history of philosophy <i>per se</i>, but rather a book that engages
the history of philosophy in the laboratory of contemporary mankind.

The backdrop of each chapter is clearly some account of virtue ethics
that takes the right way to behave as a function of having the proper
outlook on life, or the proper habits and dispositions. It is an
important virtue ethics characterization of a soldier's propensities
to act the way we typically expect them too.

The book is not a typical philosophy book. It is replete with stories
that illustrate attitudes and events sometimes via fiction and other
times via anecdotes culled from (apparently) her own interviews with
soldiers. The book is also thoroughly enjoyable.

There is enough to quibble in with the book. Most of my qualms are
minor. Expecting every soldier to be familiar with the Geneva accords
in the way she does seems naive (p. 177). The interpretation she
borrows of Exodus and Numbers (p. 119) is a stretch. Finally, most
soldiers, even during war will not be in combat and most of the
"sucking up" in the military actual involves the annoyance that
accompanies having one's leadership make decisions for you that don't
seem to be in your or anyone's best interest but their own. But those
are all minor issues with respect to the book's point, and not really
worth elaborating on, that do not detract from the overall value of
the book. It is valuable to understand the origins of, and the
problems with, the behavior that we take to epitomize soldierly

Monday, September 14, 2009

On Scott Atran's "Religion, suicide, terrorism, and the moral foundation of the world"

If the Defense Department had its act together and its priorities straight it would find a way to put Scott Atran on the payroll.  I do not know what he thinks of the US or the current administration, but he seems to have a good handle on the latest and greatest research about suicide terrorism.  In his "Religion, Suicide, Terrorism, and the Moral Foundation of the World" (in Vilarroya and Argimon (eds.) <i>Social Brain Matters: Stances on the Neurobiology of Social Cognition</i>) he has an interesting discussion of the socio-biology of suicide terrorism.  

Atran begins by noting that religion survives because it is beneficial.  Supernatural agents contribute to that by assuring cooperative trust and trustworthiness of followers.  In general, we thus find that the more one is committed to the religion the more he is trusted.  

As yet, neuroscience does not really have a grasp on normal religious behavior.  Apparently even suicide bombers have no discernible psychopathology or socio-economic disadvantages as a group.  They do tend to have a rather acute sense of the grievances and needs of their own group.  

However, the root causes of suicide terrorism have been very misunderstood in the west.  Political leaders often construe suicide terrorism as the work of depraved individuals or as the product of an unfortunate social or economic situation.  But neither seems to be the case.  Organizational factors play a large role in explaining terror networks and their appeal.  Most Muslims who support suicide terrorism and bin Laden favor elected government, personal liberty, economic choice and educational opportunities.  Their support of terrorism generally correlates with the US support of weak or failed corrupt states.  And finally, the fact that in places where suicide terrorism thrives the societies tend to be more communal and less individualistic.  

A possible connection between suicide terrorism and religion might involve the role that ethnic religious groups play.  Religious groups which can take over important social functions when the expected opportunities that the youth have for for their future are not met, can find recruits willing to make extraordinary altruistic sacrifices for the welfare of future generations.  

Also, we must note the key role of the organization in suicide terror.  Suicide terrorism is almost never perpetrated by a lone terrorist.  And, although an individual commits a suicide bombing, it is not an individual choice.  

If we want to figure out a way to stop suicide terrorism, Atran seems to be the man to talk to.  Psychologists, sociologists, economists, and intelligence collectors have amassed a lot of data about suicide terrorism.  Scientists are starting to understand the reasons and socio-cultural mechanisms by which individuals are recruited, trained, and turned from ordinary people to suicide terrorists who transcend their genetic programming and kill themselves. His work merits further study if this phenomena is to be stopped.  

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Dando on the moral responsibility of scientists

Malcolm Dando has an Opinion piece in the 20 August 2009 issue of Nature ("Biologists napping while work militarized") arguing that new biological non-lethal weapons are being developed and the developers are not addressing the ethical issues that they generate. He opines that that "all use of novel non-lethal agents such as fentanyl for law enforcement should be prohibited, or at least heavily restricted." We must do this lest we head down a slippery slope toward the militarization of biology, including the intentional manipulation of peoples' emotions, memories, immune responses, or fertility. (More on fentanyl shortly.)

Let us ignore the fact that this argument, by its own admission, is a slippery slope argument, and see to the main points of the piece. First, and this is rapidly becoming a pet peeve of mine, it seems like there is a rapidly growing consensus that unlike the rest of philosophy, the last place you want to look for military ethics is the military. The article's main point, or one of them at least, is that "the lack of engagement with [the issue of the development of non-lethal weapons] among life scientists is alarming." The assumption Dando makes, as best I can tell, is that scientists have a particularly special moral obligation to be introspective about the uses to which their creations can be put. Moreover, they have some particular insight about how to address these ethical problems. Without this assumption, this is a general ethical problem that ought to be solved the same way society solves all its other ethical problems, and the scientists' job is superfluous.

If his assumption is correct however, then one can just as easily draw the conclusion that those with the most insight into this topic (i.e., the scientists) simply don't see the issue as worth engaging, and perhaps the mere fact that they are developing these weapons reflects the fact that they have no moral qualms about it, and Dando is in the minority in seeing a moral problem. After all, the scientists are not working on new ways to randomly torture people; because if they were and not engaging that, then we would be able to say that they are being morally negligent. But Dando assumes that they are morally able and responsible enough to engage a moral issue as they create them. Yet they do not.

I am also curious to know if Dando finds it alarming that the average designer of conventional weapons is not engaged with the moral issues facing the ways their products may be used or misused. If he does not, why the disparity between conventional and non-conventional weapons? Have all the ethical issues about conventional weapons been solved? Does he not trust the engineers who make conventional weapons? If so, why not trust them to be moral experts?

Finally, the piece does not do a particularly good job of giving us any reasons or arguments for why these new weapons are bad (beside for the possible slippery slope mentioned above). The slippery slope that the militarization of biology is said to be sliding own sounds like an urban rumor (with particularly nasty origins) that circulates from time to time: The US is poisoning the wells or putting something in the water to make our villagers impotent or sick, etc.

Dando does take a paragraph to refute the idea that advocates of the argument put forth - to wit that these weapons are often used to minimize the amount of people being killed. He refutes it by claiming that "historical evidence suggests otherwise". What historical evidence? In the Nort-Ort seige where the Russians used fentanyl to sedate Chechen terrorists who held about 800 hostages in a Moscow theater, the terrorists were ultimately shot dead instead of arrested. Second, when the US used CS "tear gas" to flush the Viet Cong out of their hiding places, they generally did so to increase the effectiveness of their conventional weapons, thus increasing the body count, not decreasing it.

But first, the chemicals in the examples (CS gas and fentanyl) are a) hardly similar to the biological agents he claims are now being developed; b) in the case of fentanyl, not particularly good, as the gas killed over 100 hostages in the process. Thus this is an argument for better non-lethal weapons and better training on how to use them. c) A primary goal of any law enforcement or military agency is to minimize loss of life of your own people, not the enemy. And finally, the better your weapons are, even the non-lethal ones, the stronger the disincentive to fight against you. In the long run that should save lives. Minimizing the loss of life is a long-term goal, not one that is measured by a few incidents describing where people were killed. We also have no reason to assume that more lives were lost using these approaches than the alternative. A post-hoc utilitarian analysis requires a discussion of the counterfactual case where we examine what happened versus what the alternative was. We are given no such thing in the article, and there is no prima facie reason to believe that the fewer people would have been saved by a conventional rescue of the Nord-Ost Theater. Thirty Nine of the forty to fifty Chechen terrorists were killed. Without the fentanyl (if that is what it really was) how many hostages could the terrorists have killed? 300? 400? More? Without the CS gas, would the VC have killed more US troops? Would we have resorted to other more deadly tactics? Did the US get more prisoners using CS gas that generated useful life-saving intelligence than we would not have had otherwise? These must be considered in any ethical analysis.

In general, scientists should be giving us options, politicians make the decisions, hopefully with the consent of the peoples they govern, and it is the job of intellectuals to inform the discussion. Scientists like Feynman and Oppenheimer all said after they created the first atomic bomb that they were involved int he project because of the technical challenge and only later did they consider the ethical repercussions of their actions. However, their discussions of the reasons behind their backpedaling are generally woefully inadequate as compared to the magnitude of the weapons they created. And this is fine. Scientists are entitled to their conscience and their opinions. But like any public intellectual, they have a responsibility to give us reasons and justification, not just their remorse couched as a philosophical treatise.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Review of Kelsay's Arguing the Just War in Islam

John Kelsay's Arguing the Just War in Islam is a very interesting introduction to the contemporary thought about just war within Islam.  The book begins with a particulary good background to the history and sources of Islam.  It does not give a comprehensive history or theology, but rather explains the Muslim drive for Sharia law in the context of the origins of Islam.  Kelsay discusses sharia reasoning and outlines of some of the history and disputes in different strains of Islamic legal and political thought.  

The next part of the book continues with the some central questions about who muslims may wage war against, when is violence called for?, Is a legitimate authority needed?,  Are there standards to determining "just peace" in Islam as there are in Western just war theory?,  Who is protected and how long do they stay that way?,  Is there a requirement and standard of proportionality?, and how is booty divided?  Especially discussed is the tradition from al-Shaybani, al-Mawardi, al-Sulami, and ibn Taymmiyya.  

Next the book addresses, in historical terms, what circumstances justify revolution, and what justifications exist for  the vatious struggles against, e.g., America, Israel, . . . There is an overview of some instructive contemporary texts calling for armed resistance, especially against the West, such as The World Islamic Front's Declaration on Armed Struggle against Jews and Crusaders, Muhammed al-Faraj's The neglected Duty, the Hamas Charter, and bin Laden's Epistle.  Each is held to scrutiny in light of sharia reasining to see whether they are consistant with Islamic precedent and legal standards.  Most importantly for Kelsay, he explores how they extend the tradition of sharia reasoning about just war.  

The book then explores the quesion about who has the right to wage war on behalf of Islam.  What is the true Islamic political order. Who represents the real Islam and what are the contemporary internal debates concerning the democratization of Islam.  

Finally, the book concludes by showing that some of the more recent pronouncements to come from Islam, from Ahmadenijad in Particular, are attempts to spotlight the worst aspects of democracy in an attempt to convince a muslim audience that an Islamic order is more consistant.  Kelsay is quick to point out that this does not mean that they have the better argument, but they are making a point that will resonate with Muslims and perhaps hurt the cause of reformist Muslims.  

Kelsay's book describes how Islamist groups whose goals are to voilently establish an Islamic order justify their goals end up being taken seriously in Islamic religious circles.  The history of Islam, does not necessarily, or obviously in any case, condone the various radical incarnations of contemporary Islam, neither does it quickly advocate condemning them.  There is some consistancy and continuity between the classical tradition of Sharia law and much that goes on today. 

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hayes' "Statistics of deadly quarrels"

Chapter 5 of Brian Hayes's Group Theory in the Bedroom and Other Mathematical Diversions is an interesting, if cursory, chapter on "The Statistics of deadly quarrels".  The bulk of the piece conveys the idea that there is really nothing we have found that seems to correlate with the magnitude of deadly quarrels.  That is to say that when we run the "numbers" of wars through various statistical schemes mathematicians have found nothing that really correlates with the magnitude of quarrels.  (Magnitude being defined as a function of the number of deaths.)  So there is no correlation, for example between a country's population, and the magnitude of the wars they fight. 

But there are numerous problems with such studies.  Beside the methodological problems setting an ontology for a war - which is an interesting philosophical problem in itself and given the statistical studies there now seems like there is a good excuse for philosophers to think about this - there has been no significant correlation between wars and a country's religion, economics, politics, or anything like that.  Mathematicians, or at least statisticians like the pioneer Lewis Fry Richardson, have not been able to correlate war with anything too significant.  

So the mathematics of war is a field that still needs a lot of work if it is to be informative.  

One thing Hayes wrote toward the end of the article caught my eye: <blockquote>Even if Richardson's limited data were all we had to go on, one clear policy imperative emerges: at all costs avoid the clash of the titans.  However painful a series of brushfire wars may seem to the participants, it is the great global conflagrations that threaten us most.  As noted above, the two magnitude-7 wars [wars that have a death toll in the neighborhood of 10,000,000] of the twentieth century were responsible for three-fifths of all deaths that Richardson recorded. . . </blockquote>  But the lesson hardly fits the data that Hayes nicely synopsizes. 

The fact that titans clashed and had a high death-toll hardly suggests that they are the cause of the death toll (as is certainly suggested by the quoted passage). In the case of WWII for example (one of the Mag-7 wars), I am not certain who the titans were  (Germany? Russia? The United States? All of the above?)  But the fact is that the US would not have been involved were it not for the the already high death toll and the threat of an even higher one, and had they not been involved, there is certainly a case to be made that the death toll, especially in the long run, would have just kept going up.  

Sometimes it is conceivable that if there is a war between one "titan" and some small groups or countries, it completely justifies, by some reasonable moral standard anyway, a second titan stepping in to stop the first. The aggregate death toll, especially given that the first titan may have no qualms about sacrificing their own soldiers or civilians for the sake of killing the more vulnerable populations.  I am not convinced that utilitarian considerations really ought to be the main focus.  The body-count of a war is hardly an indication of its moral status.  And as the author points out in the final sentence "would a war be only half as bad if half as many people died?" 

If there is an agressor in a war, justice seems to dictate that it is worth sacrificing some resources, including human life, to stop him.  If that brings the death-toll up, then so be it.  It is not the titans clashing that needs to be avoided, but unjustified agression that ought to be the focus.  

Granted, Hayes may have been merely pointing out that when you have great powers participating in a war it is a more deadly war.  But one must be particularly careful about suggesting causality when discussing statistics.  

Friday, August 7, 2009

Notes on Cook's The Moral Warrior

(Powerpoint presentation based on Ch 1 of the book can be found here.)

Martin L. Cook's The Moral Warrior: Ethics and service in the U. S. military is a somewhat connected set of chapters on a number of different issues in involving military ethics. Overall the book lacks a specific focus and coherence, and was written at an awkward moment in military ethics. It was published in 2004 based on articles from the previous few years. As such the book barely touched on the two current US military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. The book should probably be thought of as the last book in military ethics written prior to the resurgent wave of concerns about military ethics. The Kosovo conflict, and to a lesser extent, the first Gulf war provided much of the food for thought in this book. And while these are important examples, today they are very much overshadowed by the conflicts that have been ongoing since the September 11 attacks and the Bush doctrine where the ethical questions seem more pressing, controversial, and nuanced. Though the fact that the bombing of Yugoslavia was not a hotbed of controversy is also pretty telling. Was it not controversial because the president was popular, because there were few US casualties, because there was a real consensus that it was morally acceptable, there was agreement on the fact that the attack was within US interests, or for some other reason? All of these options are still open. The book also seems to spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about war from the perspective of the Air force, which is of course not a bad thing, it merely reflects Cook's position in the US Air Force Academy.

Cook's book opens with the story of the downfall of ancient Athens. One day Athens discovered it was an empire. It became haughty and took advantage of its power. Everyone stopped liking Athens. Athens lost its vision and moral compass. The other Peloponnesian states didn't want to put up with Athens any more because they didn't have to. So they went to war with Athens and won. Thus ended the greatness that was Athens. (I think some people might attribute this position to Plato.)

Cook's reading of the lessons of history then makes this an extended analogy with the US and NATO. The US has a lot of power. We are just like the Delian League (that Athens usurped), and we make the other countries in our sphere of influence pay tribute. The need for NATO is no longer justified by the Soviet threat. And there is an implied dire warning that the US will then end up like Athens.

But this analogy between NATO and the Delian League cannot withstand even the most superficial scrutiny. I do not know how the US will end up in the long run. Will we keep on rising? Will we collapse while another country takes over the role of global hegemon? Will the world stay the same? No one knows. I do know that such historical parallels are pretty loose.

Athens fell because they had really bad luck in the Peloponnesian war: about a quarter to a third of their people and fighters died in a plague. They also had Pericles who while enormously popular and able made some strategic mistakes getting them into the war and some rash decisions prosecuting it. Athens was put into some bad positions when Pericles let Athens get involved in Corcyra's war with Corinth. Then there was the Megarian decree which can be construed as amounting to economic imperialism that seemed to just make things worse. There was also the problem that Pericles tried using moderate strategies when genuine force was called for. . . But worst of all was Pericles' tactical blunder in calling for Athens to abandon the countryside and seek shelter in the walls of Athens. It was demoralizing and unhealthy. It was responsible for the plague and the loss of the war. The Sicilian Expedition too was poorly thought out and executed, ultimately decimating the Athenian military.

The war could have been avoided, and Athens saved, in a few ways, and most of them have nothing to do with Athenian imperialism. It is likely that imperialism did not really factor into the way the average Ancient Greek thought about conflict.

The parallels to the US and NATO are forced. We live in a world of intertwined economies. The US does not have enemies who both wish our complete annihilation and have the means to achieve it. For the parallels to be similar, the US would have to somehow be in a position to loose 100 million citizens including 750,000 soldiers and her ability to use her various non-convention weapons; the US would have to have her economy collapse; the US would have to have the same president or policy makers in office for 16 to 20 years without shifting strategies. And most importantly, this would have to happen while the rest of the world's economy stays stable, a disease that can kill 100 million Americans does not harm anyone else in the world and those who wanted to destroy us were immune to nuclear weapons. . .

It is trendy to say that the US is an empire like Athens, and it too will fall like Athens. But that is a case of a prediction based on buying your own propaganda. The US does not have colonies. The US is not an empire in any real use of the word except that it has far more power and influence that any other individual country. The US does not directly dictate the foreign policy of other countries (not counting Micronesia) nor does she build her own infrastructure by taxing other countries. Her debt is owned by the only country that really can be a threat, and thus has a strong disincentive to see her fail. . . So I was unconvinced by the parallels between the US and Athens in the introduction.

Chapter One is a good quick overview of the standard Just War Theory (JWT) that goes back to Augustine. This outlines the framework the author uses to drive some of the moral discussions throughout the book. There are the ad bellum considerations of just cause, legitimate authority, public declaration, just intent, proportionality, last resort, reasonable hope of success, and end of peace. Then there are the in bello considerations of discrimination and proportionality. More about those later.

Chapter Two is about the moral foundations of military officership. Cook claims that "morally serious and thoughtful military officers feel a deep tension in the moral basis of their profession." I am disinclined to accept this proposition on two levels. First as an empirical claim about military officers, I believe it to be false. I have met some pretty thoughtful military officers who do not feel such tension. Presumably if you teach an ethics course in a military academy and you tell people that there is a moral tension, they will nod their heads, but speaking officer to officer or enlisted to enlisted (and I've been both) I never sensed any such much moral unease. I have heard much debate about the morality of this war or that war, but never a genuine questioning of the extra-moral nature of the profession of arms itself.

Secondly, I believe that the reason for this lack of tension is that there is no genuine moral question inherent in being a military officer. I will grant that there are special moral questions that crop up in the military. I will also grant that on a superficial level it appears that the military has more opportunities for more serious moral breaches. But the fact that wars kill and members of the military do the killing is no more a reason for moral concern than the fact that our justice system kills, incarcerates and fines, often erroneously, and taxes pay the courts' bills and the executioner pulls the switch, is any reason for there to be a moral tension in being an executioner, taxpayer, or judge. At the very least, the proposition that there is a genuine moral tension needs to be argued for.

I am constantly reminded of the famous mistranslation of the Bible that people mention whenever act incredulous in the face of statements like "killing is evil". There is a commandment in the King James version that says "Thou shalt not kill". Ergo, people reason, any killing is a violation of this and hence immoral. But of course no one believes that, and the writers of the Hebrew Bible were not that oblivious. The Hebrew Bible has the commandment as "Lo tirtzach" which means "Do not murder" (Hebrew has separate words for killing (taharog) and murder (tirtzach). Like English sometimes "Killing" is used to mean murder (as in "cold-blooded killer" which means "murderer") but it never uses "murderer" for "killer". There are no plant murderers or people who are commanded to stone a sinner until he is murdered, and God never murders someone, for example). The Bible, and those who believe in it, would never entertain the idea that killing is inherently evil. The Old Testament (the testament with the commandments) heartily endorses the killing of animals, criminals, and enemies, among others. God's killing the Egyptian firstborns is seen as a great thing. Certainly God is not in violation of the commandment. It is the extra-judicial killing (to employ a nifty euphemism) that is morally repugnant to the Old Testament.

The same is true of the military profession. There is no serious consideration among military personnel, and I suspect among thoughtful people in general, that militaries are inherently evil to the extent that while they can see the necessity of an Army they acknowledge that it is a necessary evil. It is necessary. Period. If it were not necessary it would not exist. People who take self-defense classes to not acknowledge karate (or whatever) inherently evil, but necessary perhaps because of the fact that they live in a bad neighborhood. Karate is an art, a tool, that can be used for self-defense and it can be used for bad purposes say, if you decide to get violent with your wife, and it can be used to defend the helpless whom you see getting mugged on your street. But it is hard to imagine that being moral involves seriously reflecting on the morality on one's new-found power of the karate-chop, or the fact that you are taking self-defense classes.

I have heard thoughtful academics ask the following question that I find intriguing: Is there some inherent tension between what morality may demand and individuals who make war their whole lives? That is, is it morally healthy to spend one's whole life on a career that is solely geared toward cultivating warlike habits and instincts? Cook does not address this.

Chapter two reflects further on the nature of military service: Is the military merely, like Clausewitz claimed, just the way countries enforce their foreign policy? Why take the concept of the nation-state that seriously anyway? Aren't states just gangs of thugs like the Bible (I Samuel 8), Augustine (City of God 4:4) and Nozick (Anarchy, State, and Utopia) claim? And why risk your life and kill others for the sake of enforcing the foreign policy (and/or upholding the territorial integrity) of an artificially constructed nation-state? These are all excellent questions which do not really receive adequate answers in Cook's book. But the questions are far more important than any answer and the point is well-made that military officers need to reflect on those kinds of questions. However, in my opinion, it does not seem that these questions adequately justify the claim that there is an inherent moral tension about military service, especially when seen in the context of citizenship and civil service in general. Why support a nation state? Why take part in any voluntary organizations in a nation state? Why be employed by the nation state? (How many employees do the federal, state, and local governments have? Easily in the tens of millions. Is there a moral tension involved in paying taxes? Much of the money goes to support the infrastructure of the nation state, and (with the exception of the occasional Thoreau who refused to pay the poll tax to support the Mexican American War) good liberals tend to favor the expansion of the powers of the nation state without serious moral qualms. Civil service has never been seen as morally problematic, barring the occasional libertarian.) And, as Lackey once pointed out (Iyyun 55: 66-82) while the good soldier and the good cop are different entities, but they both have serious "in bello" considerations, and they are pretty much both equally removed from all the "ad bellum" considerations about going to war. And no one questions whether there is some moral repugnance or "tension" about being a police officer. Sure they need to use force and weapons from time to time, but whence tension? (Remember, law enforcement is just local politics by other means.)

Chapter two ends by pointing out the following dilemma: Critics have claimed that wars that are fought on behalf of some national economic interest are morally tainted (NO WAR FOR OIL!!!). On the other hand, when there is no national compelling interest and there are merely causes of human rights for foreigners (What are we doing in Haiti or Somalia!?!?) why are we involved?

(As an aside I fond both these criticisms odd. I am perplexed by the first and repulsed by the second. The first criticism must stem from some deeply held Marxist distrust of anything to do with money. I was once at a talk where a rather prominent philosopher argued, essentially, that surrogate parenting was immoral because money changed hands and thereby commoditized the child. I asked from the audience what the speaker thought of the following: Say I am poor and can't afford to have children. So my wife and I abstain from child producing activities. Then my father-in-law who wants grandchildren gave me a million dollars and suggests that now I can afford children. So I have a child. Does that make me evil? The speaker had no good answer. Why does the fact that money is involved make something evil? Has the child been thereby commoditized? Is charity evil? It is not as if money is the only (possible) justification for most of these wars. It is just one, and somehow that "taints" the morality of the war? I just don't get it. As far as the second part of the dilemma goes, I believe this is disingenuous. Critics of wars designed to help foreigners, unless they are truly right-wing isolationist critics, have little problem doling out foreign aid if it is in our nation's best interest. Why is aid in the form of military power suddenly bad - unless there is an inherent "tainting" of anything to do with military aid. Both of these are cases of creating an ethical issue where none obviously exists. It is like saying that because people drown in water sometimes, the fact that something involves water "taints" it and we need to consider the serious ethical ramifications of swimming in nearby lakes.)

Cook addresses the problem posed by the dilemma by suggesting that wars on behalf of others can be justified on the ground that we are moving toward a world where we are forging, in Michael Walzer's words "a common life". A common life, as it is practiced within a state, is worth defending. This "common life" is what is shared as a society of diverse individuals creates a cooperative contract based on their history and experiences. So if it worth defending within a state, given the way the world is heading, it may be that it is justified between states, and that may be worth risking the blood and treasure of one country for the sake of another. Interesting.

Chapter Three raises a host of what I think are important issues about the concept very much in vogue in applied ethics in general: professionalism. Since the end of the Vietnam war, when the US reverted to an all-volunteer force, the military has taken many steps toward striving to become a professional army. There was a renewed emphasis on the professional look and feel of the soldier, there was an emphasis on corporate structure, and evaluation reports. There were all the trappings of a corporate environment. (In logistics and intelligence, the element receiving supplies or information is known as "the customer", Lean Six Sigma is all the rage among Army brass, the emphasis on "professionalism" now more than ever reflects a mirroring of business culture . . .) (All this took place though without a real metric for measuring the quality of the product.) But what constitutes professionalism in the military?

Cook discusses a number of views of professionalism. He opens the chapter with the apparent tension between the subordination of the military to civilian control and the role of the officer corps providing unalloyed advice to the civilian controllers without political or cultural considerations. This tension becomes apparent when we look at the changing role of the military from a cold war force anticipating force-on-force conflicts (Powellesque?), to a more (Rumsfeldian?) unconventional fighting force; the missions that are now referred to as "social work with guns". The roles that the military knows, is trained for, is prepared for, wants to take on, may be different from what they are asked to do by the civilians who control them. The standards of professionalism are now unclear. Does the military take only those roles which it considers within its professional purview, or is it their job to accept the missions given to them regardless of what it is? (The Soldiers' Creed states that soldiers are proficient in their "warrior tasks and drills", but when was the last time a regular soldier needed to build a hasty foxhole or navigate through the woods using only a map and compass? That is what soldiers are trained to do, but that is hardly what they are needed for.)

Moreover (and I am sure this will resonate with many officers), the military as an organization is undergoing a shift wherein what is often taken for granted in professions such as apprenticeship, cross-generational mentoring, professional cohesion, professional motivation, shared identity, etc, may not exist in the US military. The professional mission that officers thought they were signing up for are no longer happening. (Also, I cannot speak for more than my class, but on the individual level, the overwhelming majority of officers in my BOLC III course did not pick the branch that they were in as their first or second choices. They did not sign up for what they were doing, and did not want to be there. A few did not even pick the component they ended up in. It is like if someone signed on to work for Microsoft and was fully intending to design software and was then put in charge of the dining room, and locked into the job for four years. So not only are officers not getting the accouterments of a profession, they are not even getting their chosen profession.) There is also deep distrust between the ranks (I would never trust a LTC or above; the assumption there is that the officer only made it as far as they did by being incredibly self-serving, as there is no way to measure how "profitable" an "employee" is, they have to find clever ways of being the only possible candidate for an LTC position, and by (ab)using their subordinates for their own purposes). So despite the fact that the US tries to maintain a "professional" army, and considers professionalism an important virtue, it is unclear what a professional is in the context of the military and it is unclear whether, by any reasonable definition of "professional" US military officers really see themselves as belonging to a profession.

Chapter Four elaborates the role of the military in insuring that civilian leadership has accurate information about the capability of the military. It also addresses what kind of advice the military should be giving.

Chapter Five begins section two and addresses the concept of Just Peacemaking (JP). Reading this was somewhat difficult. The chapter reads like a book review of an anthology on JP. It is almost as if the reader is jumping in in middle of a conversation and does not get any of the references. Cook gives us some views with little context. Moreover the chapter throws around references that involve the type of simplified gross generalization about cultures that philosophers ought to be a bit uncomfortable resting an argument on: e.g., "the clash of civilizations" and "Jihad vs McWorld". I tend to think the "international scene" is a bit more nuanced to be painted in such broad strokes, and I am hesitant to draw real philosophical conclusions from it.

Just peacemaking looks like it is supposed to start filling in some large gaps left by the intuition that Just War Theory is no longer (and may never have been) adequate to capture the ethics of modern war. It has lately struck me that using the old Augustinian war ethics is about as appropriate as thinking about the way computer ethics would have been developed for the abacus. So JP looks like it might be offering us a good update. But given what I have seen in the chapter it seems a bit Utopian for my taste; then again, so does JWT. JP expands what counts as "last resort" in Just War Theory. One view of JP advocates for states to cede control of much of their rights(?)/abilities(?) to use force to some higher organization like the UN. This view assumes that a group like the UN can, unlike the actual UN, take a genuine concern in the human rights of its member states given that there seems to be so little concern for human rights by many member states which support it. This is a pretty big assumption, and I would never be bold enough to assert it. Such an organization that has the power to do anything to improve human rights can only get this power from member states willing to give it. But a state willing to give it is usually not the state that needs to improve human rights, because if they would want to improve human rights they can do it without such an organization. On the other hand a state that does not want to improve human rights for its citizens has no incentive to give someone else the power to do so.

But JP does have value in that it definitely highlights the fact that the military is not structured as a peacekeeping and peacemaking organization. JP does suggest that there is an alternative to full war and conquest (as if people do that anymore in areas where people are literate enough to read JWT). The US, for example did not just defeat the Iraqi Army or the Afghanistan Army(?). We tried to keep the peace afterward. We attempted to rebuild (in accordance with the pottery barn rule). This inability to rebuild in our own image what we have dismantled is often seen to undermine the moral credibility of the US. After all, if we are attempting to overthrow a brutal dictator, and we do, but the ensuing aftermath is almost as bad, just as bad, or worse then life under the dictator, it seems we have accomplished little.

Chapter Six is a woefully inadequate (8 page) chapter on the applicability of JWT to the Global War on Terror (GWOT). As we mentioned, JWT cannot meet the ethical considerations inherent in modern conflict. JWT has no provision for humanitarian intervention, it is a stretch to apply JWT to non-nation actors, there is no accommodation for modern tactics, weapons, social conventions, ethnically diverse enemies, or the role of the modern civilian on today's complex urban battlefield. Also, and I tend to find this funny when philosophers criticize the Israel and the Arab countries when they fight each other, JWT is very Christian. Beside the fact that the standard criteria of JWT all seem to have genuine counterexamples (more on that some other time), state vs terrorist group is a morally and militarily asymmetric situation. It is not at all clear that the theory can handle this kind of asymmetry. The book would have benefited greatly from a genuine consideration of some of these problems.

Chapter Seven pits what is called the "force protection imperative" against humanitarian intervention. The force protection imperative (FPI) is the rule that the army should attempt to make its first priority to minimize US casualties, and any violation of that should be justified by US interests (nowadays, by the way, homeland security is top priority.) The FPI reflects the public's new-found need for casualty-free wars (think the first gulf war). (Think about Somalia to consider how casualty-adverse the US was to pull out after loosing a few people in the now famous "blackhawk down" incident.) But such wars will generally impede the military's ability to accomplish missions, especially humanitarian ones. Moreover, Cook claims, the public has little tolerance for for US casualties and will not support high-casualty operations that are not clearly and obviously in US interests.

This problem is compounded by the fact that the UN has no standing force that can really provide humanitarian aid. Therefore it is up to the member states to volunteer their help. But member states each have their own particular "social contracts" with their citizens (at least int he US case) and will generally have a tough time expending US blood and treasure to help foreigners.

Now I think that all of these are good and interesting points. I generally think I disagree with most of them, but they are important nonetheless. FPI is a luxury. No standing military can really take itself seriously when it says that their main goal is to protect themselves. Moreover, wars are rarely opposed on the grounds that there are casualties. Any war Clinton got us into was generally unopposed, i.e., Kosovo. George H. W. Bush got us into a virtually casualty-free war and it was strongly opposed. George W. Bush's war in Iraq was opposed months before the first shot, let alone the first casualty. The opposition to the Vietnam war seems to be tied to the fact that there was a draft and there were 500 casualties a day and one of them was likely to be involuntarily you. The (apparent) eventual popularity of WW II is accounted for because US soil was attacked by the Axis and we were helping the British, who were allies being bombed. The popularity of a war has a lot more to do with the president who started it, among other factors, than casualties. The American Left generally will oppose a war regardless of what it costs or what it is for. American isolationists will generally oppose any war. The political center fluctuates, though some of the fluctuation may have something to do with casualties and the political right will generally support most wars it is told to support. But casualties rarely seem to be the primary concern.

Chapter Eight attempts to apply some of the JWT framework to air power. Air power seems to pose a few special problems and some unique advantages to ethical war-fighting. In particular it allows one to look at a military technology once renowned for its low accuracy and indiscriminateness that is now known for its precision - we went from air bombardment with rockets to GPS and laser guided weaponry with relative pinpoint accuracy. Looking at this is a good lesson in the real world relation between real wars and their ethical components. That is, we can now look at how militaries which once did not have precision bombs treated air war as contrasted with now, when they do.

We are cautioned, justifiably so I believe, to keep in mind that just because we can precision bomb a target, and it is easy and tempting to do so does not mean we can ignore the fact that the military option should still not be the first resort. I do not think it should be the last, but we should certainly not do it just because it is easy.

The book concludes on a note of general caution about the new problems of humanitarian intervention and especially air warfare in humanitarian intervention. But I feel that as a whole the book is not sufficiently probing about the new nature of war. The current US involvement in Iraq was justified by the administration largely on humanitarian grounds. After the fact, so was the Afghanistan war. Moreover, while the war in Afghanistan was is less controversial, it is unclear why. (The current administration is expanding it will little reaction from the left.) There are no clear benchmarks, goals, or metrics for understanding how to measure success in the war in Afghanistan, nor was the reason for the entrance into the war clearly articulated. It was always assumed that you can say "9/11" as an answer to anyone challenging our presence there. The Iraq war has goals, benchmarks, standards for measuring success, and is at this point largely humanitarian (no oil benefits seem to be accruing), yet is still the more controversial war. Neither the attitudes nor their justifications, nor a means for assessing these attitudes or justifications can be gleaned from Cook's book.

All that being said, and I admit I do feel like I have been a bit too critical only nitpicking at what I take to be faults, the book was a very good read. It generated for me a lot of food for thought, much more than I wrote here. I suspect that I will be looking back to Cook's analyses frequently to assess my own views on ethics and modern war.