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Between Nihilism and Utopianism_ Military Intervention

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Between Nihilism and Utopianism:Military Intervention, the Tragic andRescuing theHuman
Daniel. M. Bell, Jr.CGSCF Ethics Symposium 2016
Manymen have imagined republics and principalities that never really existed at all. Yet the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation; for a man who strives after goodness in all his acts is sure to come to ruin, since there are so many men who are not good. Hence it is necessary that a prince who is interested in survival learn to be other than good, making use of this capacity or refraining from it according to the need.
Introduction: What Matters More?
Reflect on intervention in terms of our moral identity, in terms of the best that we claim to be about.Offer an account of theAmerican experimentthat asserts the primacy of the moral / the good in politics against realism, while avoiding the pitfall of utopian idealism.Reclaiming tragedy, which is crucialboth tohonoring the good in this world where indeed, as Machiavelli says, so many are notgood, and to rescuingthe human.
1. Never Again, and Again, and Again…
Things ThatMatter More(S. Power“A Problem from Hell” America and the Age of Genocide)1. National Sovereignty2. Geopolitical Influence and Foreign Relations3.AmericanLives4.DomesticPolitics5. National Interest
1. Never Again, and Again, and Again…
The 20thCentury:ASuccess Story“Before I began exploring America’s relationship with genocide, I used to refer to U.S. policy toward Bosnia as a “failure.” I have changed my mind. It is daunting to acknowledge, but this country’s consistent policy of nonintervention in the face of genocide offers sad testimony not to a broken American political system but to one that is ruthlessly effective. The system, as it stands now,is working.”“The real reason the United States did not do what it could and should have done to stop genocide was not a lack of knowledge or influence but a lack of will. Simply put, American leaders did not act because they did not want to. They believed genocide was wrong, but they were not prepared to invest the military, financial, diplomatic, or domestic capital needed to stop it.”
2. Just Who In This Hell Are We?
“This is not just a vote about Bosnia. It’s a vote about America. It’s a vote about what we stand for.Aboutour humanity and our principles.”Realism’sDance with the DevilHansMorgenthau: “political ethics is indeed theethicsof doing evil.”ThePrimacy of Politics: Ethics Subordinated to InterestsNationalinterest is the standard for political action
2. Just Who In This Hell Are We?
TheAmerican Experiment and Justice forAll(2 visions of America)Realism:Americais a collection of possessive, self-interested individuals –egoists.Civic Republican: Humanends (not interests but life, liberty,“happiness”)asa project shared withallof humanity. Requiresgovernments andpower.Declarationof Independence&ConstitutionAvision of a moral politics, which includes the moral use ofpower/force.“Justice for all” ~ people united in a common moral project ofsharedwelfare and flourishing that embraces all of humanity
2. Just Who In This Hell Are We?
The Primacy of Morality and Military InterventionAmericanexperiment – America embodying a moral project of ordered liberty for all – foregrounds deliberations regarding military intervention.Recognizesthe primacy of morality in politics.Contrastswith 20thcent.utopianism, which ignored power.
3. The Tragic Between Nihilism and Utopianism
Realism, Nihilism, and the Loss of the HumanRealistsoften claim the mantle of tragedy against utopians: Human imperfectionRealismis not tragic but fatalistic. Resignation. Despair. = NihilisticDeficientunderstanding of the human:Abeast with a bad conscience
3. The Tragic Between Nihilism and Utopianism
TheIrony of RealismCannot openly admitnihilism and rejection of American experiment.Therefore, cynicallyfeedsutopianism / Americanexceptionalism- perfection
3. The Tragic Between Nihilism and Utopianism
Defining TragedyTragedyrecognizes imperfection of humanityButalsorecognizes thatgoodis a genuine possibilityGenuinelytragic politics = has a real possibility of achieving good but is vulnerable to missing the mark.TheAmerican experiment is just such a tragic politics.Seeks a genuine goodBut does not ignore possibility of falling short.
3. The Tragic Between Nihilism and Utopianism
JustWar and Reasonable Chance of SuccessTragicpolitics rejects Crusade in favor of Just WarJustWar: aims at good, recognizes possibility of corruption / failureExample: Reasonable Chance of SuccessTragicsense that sometimes we cannot attain thegood we desire.
Conclusion: Tragedy and Rescuing the Human
Realism, and the utopian offspring of its cynicism, cannot dealwiththe human.Cannotdeal with less than perfect results, failure, etc.Example: Wounded warriorsOnlytragic vision can face human suffering and act to overcomeit.Recognizesfailure and limits but does not despair.Alsorecognizes thegood.More than Beasts…
Human Nature
CorruptandevilEgoists seeking domination This ispermanentconditionFatalistic
MoralitysubordinatetoPoliticsNational Interest isprimaryStruggleof wills forpower
Ends JustifyMeans
Imperfect:canfail +limited ThereforepowernecessaryGoodispossible
Morality primaryinpolitics Humanendsaresharedmission
Experiment inJusticefor All Capableofgoodbutneedpower,checks & balances
Just War:pursuegood, recognizeneedfor restraint
ReasonableChanceofSuccess: Maynotbeabletodoall thegoodthat wedesire
Humansaregoodbecomes goodvevil Don’tneedpowerbecomescrusade
Morality primary Isolationbecomescrusade
AmericanPerfectionbecomes Exceptionalism
Pacifistbecomes Crusadernorestraint





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Between Nihilism and Utopianism_ Military Intervention