Friday, December 09, 2005

Our Differences, Our Class

My friend and favorite Kurdish activist always says, quoting Tennyson: “I am a part of all I have met.” I cannot help but echo the words of Ulysses tonight. I am a part of all whom I have met, and all that I have learned this semester in Masterworks.

And what have I learned? From my Grandfather, I learned that it is impolite to discuss religion and politics, and improper to do business with friends. From Inayatullah and Blaney, I learned that life is about overlap and social connection. Somewhere in between these two refrains, I find myself. We are who we are because others exist, others who may be very different from ourselves, but by their very diverse existence define us. Analogous to the aforementioned, religion and politics are but two conversational divides that attest to the difference betwixt men and their perspectives. Lastly, I learned that it is up to us, to each individual, as a member of their collective society, to “search for excellence within, such that the rich difference of the other becomes a catalyst for appreciating the potential richness of the other within the self (and vice versa)” (159). This may be the greatest lesson I have come across thus far, one that has in fact shaped me. Difference and coexistence can only be accomplished by respect. Maybe this is how we might find Kant’s perpetual peace.

In a world of competition, if we can run the mile and at the same time share our experiences with others, I believe that we have succeeded. We have internalized “difference” and accepted it as our own. Accepting difference will never be easy, but it lends us “infinite creativity” that not only empowers us, our perceptions, but ultimately makes our world spin. “How dull it is to pause, to make an end,” but now so I must. Fellow bloggers and classmates, I encourage you to “strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” in your convictions, nor beliefs, nor constant questioning of all that is just in our world, and in our future professions. That we all may continue to learn…
Adios amigos! Que te vaya bien;) Sonrisitachamita

Particular Actions vs. Purposeful Meanings

The big issue the discussion on Tuesday night got hung up on was the one concerning a) religion and b) are there irreconcilable differences. (these two are so related to each other that I viewed that entire span of time as one integrated conversation) In so doing, some described wars of religion, some detailed how the "major" religions are all based on the same tenets, and some completely refuted any possibilities for humans to bridge the divide and finally treat each other as equals. One thing that was missing from the conversation, though, was the issue of bridging particularity in order to achieve peaceful coexistance (or something of a nice sounding nature).
I believe it was Owen that argued for the mutual beliefs and values of religions world- and culture-wise. (how Kant's page 124 (#?) footnote didn't come up in the conversation astounds me...his exact point was basically being made in more words by Owen and his camp) The problem is, that religion, as pointed out, is a very particular thing.
Fighting over whether wine is blood or a symbol of blood sounds rediculous to most of us "cultured" and generally cosmopolitan folks in class (here, taking both meanings of cosmopolitan), but clearly to others it's a matter to kill over. Yet, blood or wine, the point is to remember Jesus' Last Supper and the legacy he left from his teachings and death. The Koran can be read and translated in order to support the killing of innocent people and abuse to women, but most Muslims shun these practices and cannot find it in the Holy Book itself without grasping at straws. In the mix, factions of both of these groups, Christians and Muslims, lose sight of the vast majority of similarities and shared values, both within and between each group. In looking at the trees, the forest is lost on them.
If humans could somehow realize that values, actions to overcome necessities, meanings and more general, deeper rooted purposes are what really matter, then we could overcome many of the "irreconcilable" issues that face the race. Like Anjali pointed out about Hinduism, if we could understand (which we slowly are starting to) that belief in a (G)god that is supreme, that is the basis of life, that affects our live, etc. is more imporatant than if you worship on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday we'd all be doing a lot better and many less stupid arguements and conflicts would result.
Assimilation between two groups necessarily destroys one group, and integration destroys both. Tolerance and viewing purposes and meanings of acts and points of culture can both allow the groups and cultures to survive while keeping them on friendly terms, which generally leads to favorable conditions, peace, and prosperity on both sides. By accepting that not all people ACT the same but are fundamentally ALL PEOPLE, of equal standing and equally deserving of respect, the problem of difference can be addressed and remedied (ironcially almost by not trying to remedy it). It is greater understanding and tolerance that is necessary, not greater meddling in other's lives.
If America, for instance, wants to continue to be the "City on a Hill", it can set an example for others to follow, if they wish. If our way is indeed leaps and bounds the best, others will voluntarily come to our side (this will not happen in less than a decade, certainly not overnight after our tanks roll through, however). It is not to us to decide for others what they want, but rather for them to figure it out. 100 years ago most of America didn't look that much different from the developing world. Enormous loans to corrupt governments, stringent budgetary controls from outsiders, and massive military aid to leaders that attack their own people would probably have stopped France from developing out of its agricutural backwardness as well (fifty years ago, let's not forget). It is difficult to set our example on the hill when we're in the mud and grass trying to drag everyone up with us. The problem is getting masses of people to view the world another way and to understand the value in the wait.

Dominant Development

I & B Reflective

Wow do you want to talk about the power of perspective?  I am enrolled in a development course this semester, globalization and human rights.  All semester long I have been struggling to think in a mode that will get me through this class with at least a passing grade.  The professor was trying to get everyone in the class to think in a manner that transitioned from normative to policy.  He wanted us to move past the normative and apply what we have learned to apply a human rights framework to policies.  This whole situation reminded me of the diagram that professor Jackson had designed, the practitioner vs the theorist, etc.  What I have realized from this experience is that I don’t think that the normative realm can ever be separated from practice or should be.  I also realize that the practice of development does believe that life SHOULD be a certain way and that it is their responsibility to make things that way.  Lesson learned:  I hope I don’t fail but I will never get roped into taking a development course again.

How does this tie into Inayatullah and Blaney?  It ties in that there are groups that believe that there is a universality of perspective and that it is their duty to fix the “problem” and bridge the gap between developed and developing, signifying that all roads lead to development.  Where does the line between development and Christianity diminish, is there a line?

“Despite the self-defeating character of imperialism, listening to others will not be easy for the dominant.  It is painful to hear alternative interpretations of events and ideals that are held precious, even sacred, particularly where those interpretations paint the self as cruel or unjust” (320).


International Communication Rears Its Ugly Head

“In order to discuss religion, people have a hard time being neutral.” Jen brings up an excellent point – I think part of the core of Inayatullah and Blaney’s “solution” to the problem of difference (see p. 220). In my final IC class meeting this semester, we discussed the ides of interpretation of communication – how the recipient of a message cannot come to it neutrally. They have a life worth of experiences, belief systems, personality, general disposition, and environment manipulating everything they hear. We got into such a volleying discussion on Tuesday because people have different backgrounds, and belief, as we discussed, is often non-negotiable.

In their “solution” I&B place responsibility on the oppressed to approach the oppressor in the oppressor’s language and with the oppressor’s self-interest in mind. I think this is a good way to go about it – the more clearly something is presented to the recipient of a message, and the more this recipient’s predisposition is considered in the communication of the message, the greater the chance that the recipient hears what the communicator is saying. However, approaching such a sensitive issue as religion, or development, or any imposition of one culture’s norms onto another’s is very difficult to consider neutrally at all.

I think it is good that ProfPTJ brought up development (as, you know, the book talks about it a lot). People talk about cultural imperialism like it is a horrible thing: OMG, there’re more McDonalds around the world than anyone could imagine, my Starbucks coffee in Paris tastes exactly like my Starbucks coffee in my hometown, everyone with a television on earth has a chance to know about the joy and wonder that is Friends, we need to make the world more democratic and consumerist so they can play the game of life on the same level as us (slight exaggerations, I know). Wait…isn’t making a country more democratic and giving them marketplaces and our forms of economic interactions…development? Yes, there are fundamentals in life – being alive is sometimes considered a good thing, animals (including humans) tend to need sustenance of some sort, hydration is also important, as is (more arguably) community. However, the bar that the dominant nations set as “developed” may not be the only way to survive happily and productively. I think I&B are right with their spatio-temporal difference observation following from Todorov’s assimilation idea: in order to be able to communicate effectively (including economic ties, intellectual exchange, humanitarian ideals, everything else that could be construed as a kind of communication), we need to make the “other” more like us so we can understand them. Their “solution” also presents what I see as a viable means for solving difference – NOT eliminating difference – but having difference be less of an issue. I think, however, there should be a role for the oppressing nations too – to listen and hear what those in difference are trying to say. IF (and this is the hopeful side in me talking) this could happen, then possibly we would know what other people want and need, and not have to assume that we’re all the same.

I think it is quite accurate that Ben and Jen bring up the parallel between high school and life: I present to you my own brief anecdote: I have spent 7 summers working at a residential summer camp (under the auspices of a religious organization, but not limited to those belonging to it). Every week, 16 kids show up. I’ve had groups with every high school stereotype imaginable: cheerleaders, jockish popped collar boys, introverted “I write poetry because it is the only way I can express my discontent with society” kids, really down to earth kids you’d think were 80 if you weren’t looking at them, kids who follow laguna beach more closely that current events, etc. They all initially look at each other like, “I’m supposed to spend a week with him?” The student council member or the class clown usually tries to take over for awhile, but it doesn’t really work. They seem to be entirely dysfunctional because of their differences, and none of them will compromise the person they were coming in to be able to get along with the rest. However, if you were to see the group at the end of a week of shared experiences, challenges, and disorientation with their surroundings, you would see the same kids with all their differences having something in common. Though they all go home, they all know that there are 15 other people from around the state with whom they get along.

Communication and hearing are the keys to what I think I&B are saying. Yes, there are many things about self and other and lines, but the key is how the lines are crossed and how self finds other in him and other finds self in him. I see no need for self or other to become same, or for either to not exist – I like how I&B present the third possibility of equal but not assimilated…I think it is a worthy goal to strive towards.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Change and Pace

Inayatullah and Blaney's book, in a way, reminds me of Hobbes' Leviathan in its composition. Hobbes takes the first 50 or so pages of his political book to describe language, while Inayatullah and Blaney use the first half to describe to the reader ways of viewing "Others" and ways in which these facts may influence (which they later prove) the methods with which "we" (humanity) deals with ourselves nowadays. This got me thinking about something that has touched the class without mass amnesia, but it is something that I think taints many of our conversations.
The fact of the matter is, Inayatullah and Blaney are right; medievel conceptions of "the Other", most typically a black, brown, red, or yellow "Other" from most "cilivized and intellectual" perspectives still hold sway and greatly influence the way in which we view relations between groups (and hence, states). The thing that many of us forget is that our tolerance and modes of thinking, our acceptance (at least vocal acceptance) of differences, and our scholarly distance are actually very new ways of viewing the world.
In this, and many of my other classes, my classmates become frustrated when they don't understand how a leader could possibly look to treat some other group in the way they do. They don't understand how a group could be perceived as inherently inferior. The answer is; time.
Thinking in years in terms of politics and IR is risky, because to us in the present (especially Americans) 20 years is enough for a whole revolution or epoch to pass. That's only one GENERATION. These changes aren't occurring yet because old habits die hard, especially if those that grew up with them haven't yet.
Three generations ago (roughly 60 years give or take) our field of IR was almost still a teenager. International travel was expensive and rare, international communication was decades away, and interracial relationships were cause for lynching. Understanding anyone different was exceptional, and rare. 85 years ago, very little was different socially than it was, really, in the Renaissance. Only since after WWI and II have the great changes in society and perceptions actually occurred. Society and the world generally have changed drastically and rapidly since then. Being connected means being willing to look for similarities and cooperate. This is the atmosphere that most of "us" (in class and at AU generally) have been raised to view the world. That is why we have sometimes have trouble understanding why this is that way.
Inayatullah and Blaney are exactly right to say that we need to view IR, and each other, in different ways than we traditionally have. In this time of rapid change and daring social exploration, hopefully their theory will have a chance.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The "Other," your Brother?

Becca, I think overlapping sovereignties can co-exist within the United Nations. While some may contend that the more omnipotent nations, say in the Security Council, command a greater presence, I say, let’s believe in the UN!

Ok, so we all come from different backgrounds, cultures, walks of life. And so we are told we are all different. But how different are we, and is this important? Across most major religions, there do exist some basic congruencies. For example, Budhism finds God/god within each individual. While Christians may believe that there is only one compassionate GOD, most children are taught in Sunday school to sing “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” These lyrics attest to our faith in God in the world and within. Hence, a small point made— major chasms do not separate you from your fellow compatriot, brother, or even your twin;)

With this said, Inayatullah and Blaney acknowledge the importance of difference recognition in international relations. They point out that “the other” “lurks as a perpetual threat in the form of other states, foreign groups, imported goods, and alien ideas, and as difference within, vitiating the presumed but rarely, if ever, achieved “sameness” (44). What are we to make of this? I think we need to realize what they are saying. Yes, sameness is a rarity, but I do believe they are offering us a different frame of mind, one that considers the two opposites of “you” and “me,” a mutual recognition founded on respect that falls somewhere in between. In other words, let’s celebrate our differences! It can be done with a little salt, some faith, and a whole lotta sugar.

I believe we can find our IR recipe most clearly in the epilogue: Shed your claims to exclusivity and recognize your particularity. There you have it! You are now “one step toward the realization of the universal in the self” (221). I posit that without a little optimism and idealism we are in the pre-Westphalia phase. History need not repeat itself, IF we can realize that RESPECT goes a long way.

Overlapping sovreignty?

In the chapter on multiple and overlapping sovereignties, there is an anecdote about the transition from Pre-British ownership India to colonial Indian. (beginning on page 191) The land ownership situation began with land-owners and cultivators. Their rights of ownership are defined differently from Locke’s definition: the landowners own a title to a constant share of production (and serve as the intermediate between the cultivator and the government), and the cultivator has rights to occupy and cultivate the land, but could not alienate it by any means to another. When the British colonized India, they transitioned in their own taxes, changed the land ownership system to their own, and eventually eliminated the Indian land ownership situation. However, there was a time in between when a land-owner’s land was their sovereign property, but the rights of trees and their fruits were still vested in those families who had planted them, regardless of the official ownership of the land on which they were planted.

This overlap of sovereignties is evident when looking at political borders versus multinational corporation properties, communications technologies, religions, etc. I think that this overlapping of sovereignties an accurate description of the current organization of international relations. However, in this kind of system, how would the order of sovereignties be communicated and enforced? It is funny in class to talk about opening up diplomatic relations with Shell or IBM...but what if their sovreignty was recognized by the world? Albiet, by Inayatullah and Blaney's text, this acknowledgement of sovreignty would lead to awareness of the "contact zone" and thus better relations. As I try to imagine a world where there are different kinds of sovreignty, I wonder if it is even possible for one organization to keep track of them all.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Whose Context?

Inayatullah and Blaney – Substanive

Well, I’m going to take a stab at this with no direction on where anybody else from the class is going to go in relation to this book.  I would first like to point out the difficultly in understanding and concentrating on the core content of Inayatullah and Blaney’s book.  I would like to immediately say, in jest of course, is that this is the reason that some IR theorists would rather just avoid the whole subject of behaviorism.  But of course I do recognize the importance of understanding individual perspectivism in building up IR locally.  States are not simply distant entities that that act on a singularity of unified perspectives.  No, international relations are instead built by individuals making decisions.

A major point that the authors attempt to relay to the audience is the socially conditioned structures of the environment (politically, socially, ets.) in which people live.  Because an idea exists does not mean that its existence is natural and real.  For the most part structures and institutions are created and should not be dogmatically accepted.  If the idea was not intentionally created then it would not exist to begin with.  This critique appears to be aimed at realist notions of the inevitability of the political environment in which international relations/politics must occur.  Hedley Bull’s defense of the anarchical society as an inevitability for example is a misleading assumption, which creates a cycle of dependence on the current political structure.  The authors of this book seem to call forth a questioning and re-examination of preexisting notions, from internal to external, from local to universal.  But then can we say that just because these features are socially constructed that we can act in a manner that is inconsistent and which does not recognize the constructions.  No, I believe that it would be foolish to act in a manner that disregards major social constructions, the international realm for example, even though our authors believe that they are created by the dominators of policy.  We can of course work toward the deconstruction of the present system but only working to build a replacement system so as not to create a political vacuum.  Who exactly should build/create this new realm?  How can one be created that takes into account differences while not relocating the “other” spacio-temporally into a zone that identifies it as backwards?

The Moral Maxim, or Minimum?

In his Preface to the Third Edition, Walzer declares that “when crimes are being committed that ‘shock the moral conscience of mankind,’ I argue, any state that can stop them should stop them—or, at the very least, has the right to do so” (xii). Who could not help but concur with this point? Initially, it seems easy to agree, but as all have blogged and queried in class, just what and who defines this morality, supposedly to be ingrained in all?

Of all the authors, Walzer has by far been my favorite. His text echoes truth to my moral soul, as I believe that International Relations should inherit a human right culture—a new perspective paradigm, or lens. In the case of the Srebrenica massacre, who should intervene, should “they” (the US under the Clinton administration) do so with UN Security Council approval only, and utilizing what magnitude of force? These are all questions that can apply to any human atrocity and scenario that questions the necessity of international humanitarian intervention.

Basically, war is hell. Yes, as Miss A.S. points out, Walzer does not fail to mention this many a time. But why, Walzer? And his answer might read: “War is a world apart, where life itself is at stake, where human nature is reduced to its elemental forms, where self-interest and necessity prevail” (3). Hence, in cases of war, this monster “social creation” of men, perceptions and information are distorted, contorted, and then we are left contemplating the “facts of the case” in the first place. My point is that in war, “there are sharp disparities in the weight we attach even to values we share, as there are in the actions we are ready to condone when these values are threatened” (12). The end result is morality made into a world of good-faith quarrels, ideology, and verbal manipulation. Consequently, how are we to discern what is just under such conditions?

In Bait and Swtich, pertaining to the US “War” in Iraq, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International Affairs at Princeton, raises the following point— “America is also, according to Mr. Bush, fighting for the values embodied in its constitution, against an enemy that would destroy its way of life. How then can it violate those values in the process?” (Mertus 66). Good question. Any takers? From the heroic rescue of Jessica Lynch, held captive with “multiple gunshot wounds,” to media replays of daily events, someone is the author of what we are all told and allowed access to view. And who is the author, the one omniscient narrator? Right now, we elected Bush. While his foreign policy stresses a “distinctly American internationalism,” I find it far from any Walzerian universalism. Has anyone read the 2002 National Security Strategy? Why have human rights, when some are worthy of “human dignity” alla limited list according to Mr. Bush himself!

In regard to the moral standing of states, Walzer makes a valid point. Self-determination is only “the right of a people “to become free by their own efforts” if they can, and nonintervention is the principle guaranteeing that their success will not be impeded or their failure prevented by the intrusions of an alien power. [And] It has to be stressed that there is no right to be protected against the consequences of domestic failure, even against a bloody repression” (88). Walzer acknowledges that states a) must be able to stand on their own and b) they will not be invaded each time a domestic dispute arises. At the same time, this does not mean that one people should be left to destroy another. Our initial Kantian duty is to respect state sovereignty and self-determination, but if the state acts in extremes, disregard of the aforementioned is valid in specific cases. In other words, in a world of universal human rights, nonintervention is ethically impossible, as in cases “when a government turns savagely upon its own people” or when human rights violations are “so terrible that it makes talk of community or self-determination…seem cynical and irrelevant” (101 & 90). Hence, according to Walzer, morality, even if a basic minimum exists. I CONCURR! Sir Francis Bacon, Mao was mistaken ;)

Sunday, December 04, 2005

CNN? Do you actually want to give them power?

I think it was very interesting how, in class, one of the first things cited as a source of universal morality for mankind was CNN. The idea of a media source known to be favored by the US military (most of the gulf war press pool was from CNN), and critiqued as making instant history with repetitive images and catchy headlines is almost…funny. But then again, the fact that it was brought up in class shows that it’s sneaky propaganda scheme is working.

Is it possible that universal morality is just something that, to exist, must be enforced? Professor Mowlana wrote in an article that to have war in the world now, the country trying to start the intervention must be capable of global total propaganda, because of the financial implications of conflict on the rest of the world. So, perhaps CNN as universal morality was a good idea…until someone figured out that it was a biased/kind of government-favored source.

Considering this idea of media as a source for universal morality, I think of the three main moral texts in circulation worldwide now: the Torah, the Bible and the Koran. All three present moral values, and all three are very widespread.

I also thought it was really interesting how then there came the idea of CNN/media activating (by presenting predigested knowledge) a previously existing universal morality that people just didn’t know existed. I don’t like to think that this is the case, but, as Waltzer notes, the actors in war must appear to be in the right. (20) Nobody appears more right than in propaganda geared to muster support…PR has gotten too good for our own good. I think if there was a universal morality, exactly the wrong way to find it would be to conform to what the television

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Morals in General

Waltzer – Reflective

A majority of the discussion in the previous class was directed toward the possibility of a universal moral consciousness, déja vu?  No.  It’s true we have seen and discussed this topic at length in relation to Kant.  A majority of individual wills in the class proposed and supported the notion that there is no such thing as a universal moral consciousness, that it is subjective in nature and changes meaning with differences.  My take, however, on Waltzer’s universal moral consciousness is similar to that of a Rousseauian general will, which is general in nature.  Perhaps then it a general moral consciousness?  But this then brings us back to Rousseau and the possibility of a universal general will.  In any case, the moral consciousness, like the general will exists in every person whether they know it or not, it is what is good for the population in question.  The general moral consciousness then is not the majority of individual morals but the morals of all in general.

Quoting Jacie from the H.M.S. Blogty:  “In the quote on page 107, from which all this conflict arises, he makes a very general and ambiguous claim when he talks about the “moral conscience of mankind”. If we don’t know (or can’t agree upon) what the moral conscience of mankind is (or if it even exists) then how can we decide if human intervention is justified or not?!”  

To respond to this quote I would like to reiterate why the moral consciousness of mankind is like Rousseau’s general will.  Does mankind simply express the idea of humanity by simply being human?  What then do we say of serial killers, rapists, and other social delinquents of the sort?  Does the idea of humanity simply disappear because of the lack of humanity in these individuals?  Can it still be considered universal although these individuals fail to fall within the boundary of the excepted definition of the universalism of humanity?  I would like to hope that we could still consider humanity as a positive attribute to all mankind despite the occasional outlier.

Likewise, I would propose a general moral consciousness to be universal in that humans, for the majority, throughout time have acted in a repetitious moral structure.  Beneath our differences in morals lies a general structure that we use to calculate our moral actions.

What do you think?

Immoral by Inaction?

The part of Walzer's book that really intrigued me, and came up a lot in class, was the rules for "just intervention" in civil wars and domestic problems experienced within other states. The problems arise from the state system that basically governs the world (although changes are already beginning to happen) and the idea of sovereignty. When, then, is intervention in another state's affairs "moral", and when it is "better" to allow another state's citizens to die instead of defy the state system?
Walzer uses three cases in which intervention is allowed. They are Seccession, Civil War, and Humanitarian Intervention. When another state can become involved is described shortly, and I think that this chapter could have been explored at greater length. (perhaps he did not want to become a citation for justifying a future military "intervention" built on faulty grounds?) This made me think of a case I've always found fascinating through his eyes (or, generally, using his descriptions).
The breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990's was caused by an ambiguous mixture of people employing an ambiguous mixture of several of Walzer's categories. Starting as a war of seccession between the Serbs (excuse me, "Yugoslavs" far as that term could still be used to describe the rump state) and the Slovenes, soon to be followed by the Croats as well. These two fared decently well, although there were already war crimes and ethnic cleansing during the latter war. (the former lasted approximately a week and involved casualties in the hundreds, I believe) The one that is interesting is the Bosnian situation.
Originally a seccessionist conflict (Serbia didn't want Yugoslavia to lose everything, after all) it quickly took the form of an international conflict, but one with a twist; within Bosnia both the Serbs and Croats started further seccessionist movements of thier own. Launching the brand new country into civil war (one that the new Bosnian government probably could've handled if not for interference, meeting Mill's "self help" criteria) it led to hundreds of thousands dead. The problem, from Walzer's point of view, is that the majority of these were civilians.
There was intervention and at first open, then discrete, supply and support coming from both Serbia and Croatia during this time. Under this situation, Walzer supports counter-intervention, to undo the effects of the other's involved. However, the international community refused to trade arms with the Muslim Bosnians in order not to meddle with a "domestic" conflict. Even when the UN sent troops, they were far too few in number and permission to be effective. Through the entire conflict the international community played down the events and refused to intervene; for it, thousands of innocent civilians were killed.
How could this happen then? Walzer's conditions were all met, yet the world stood by. It's now viewed as one of the worst humanitarian violations since WWII. Can we then say that the world, particularly the US and European powers, acted immoral during this time? Was it their moral duty to stop the violence? Walzer goes into this question very little in his decription of interventions, but it is one that is becoming increasingly more important. With most wars being fought within domestic borders or by non-governmental organizations, it seems that Walzer's theory holds less weight and met a problem for which he has a limited solution. I wonder what his views on the "War on Terror" are; maybe they could help policy makers understand exactly what their moral prerogatives should be.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Seeing the Elephant

Can I give you a tour of my house? "The building is large, its construction elaborate and confusing" (xxi). Can I give you a moral conscience? The judgments and moores are many, its narrator, "we."

Here is a link to The Blind Men and the Elephant. Enjoy!

My last thoughts of the night...
Is morality a prism, in which we see different colors-- a fragmentation of International Relations? Or is it that we "Rail on in utter ignorance, Of what each other mean?"

Owen, I do believe men such as Mao may be void of "universalism," a code, or even an ounce of moral being, but then is not morality but perspective, subjective-- mine vs. his? I, or "we," judge Mao to be incapable of moral conscience that could be shocked, as he is responsible for the death of so many, more than Hitler and Stalin. But if we concurr that universal morality does exist, what are we to make of men, in which the universal flame of morality has been extinguished?

Just Wars? (to be completed...)

(after retrieving my unhappily lost book with all of my notes in it...)

Initially encountering this text, I thought how it was very interesting how Waltzer divides actors in wars:

p. 33
If you...
start war - you are wrong and to blame (and you have the option to end it)
resist war - you are right
join war unwillingly - you are blameless (but in hell)
join war willingly - you are not in hell, but you're also not particularly useful.

This early in the book, his view of morality surrounding wars is curious - if you don't want war, you are obviously in the right.

Intervention, however, is treated a little bit differently. Although joining war willingly is dumb and starting war is wrong, there are situations when not intervening is worse than intervening. However, these are only really truly just when it is a requested action from the inside of a country that will be intervened. (see page 105 for a great example of humanitarian intervention - the Bengalis called for it, and the Indians were in and out really quickly. Basically, this is the shining star).

I think it is interesting, though, how he seems to conclude his thoughts on interventions by making clear that there should be rules about them...because if they are completely outlawed, they will be ungovernable, but if they are regulated, then there is a kind of allowance for them to happen…

I cannot help it...

Una pregunta= a ?
--> Territorial integrity and political independence of invaded states is secondary to violation of human rights. In other words, intervention is acceptable when: two nations exist within a state, with one party seeking succession; in cases of civil war, in which perhaps, other countries should not get involved; and where violations of human rights occur, as to render irrelevant any notion of self-determination (90). With this in mind, could counter-intervention in Iraq have been a viable option?

Lastly, I leave you with a sihloutte, that of the hypocrite...“He pretends to think and act as the rest of us expect him to do. He tells us that he is fighting according to the moral war plan: he does not aim at civilians, he grants quarter to soldiers trying to surrender, he never tortures prisoners, and so on” (20). He wields and deals in areas of grey. Now, I ask YOU, are we led by him, or that demigod that is our media, that feeds us what we are to be told?

Bush's Foreign Policy

Washington—November 27, 2005: Senator John Warner, a Republican from Virginia, suggested that President Bush update the American public on progress in Iraq via FDR-like “fireside chats,” perhaps, “podcast chats.”

With this thought, and a particular Bushism in mind (“It is in our country’s interest to find those who would harm us and get them out of harms way.”), I cannot help but wonder if we are all riding in a wagon without wheels. When did the war in Afghanistan and the fight against Bin Laden turn into the crusade to crush Saddam? Could someone please remind me why we are soldiers are still in Iraq? I think I could use a few explanations from good ole George W. to quell my queries.

This is what I do know…we live in a nation reminiscent of 911. We are fighting a war, although undeclared or approved by the Senate, against terrorism. This of course means we have not one, but many enemies, and they are lurking somewhere in some absconded crevice of the international world. But what does this mean for you and me, peons in a world hegemon?

Let us first look to US involvement in Iraq. To avoid specific detail, we have here a totalitarian ruler and a victimized Shiite population. While no individual, due to their humanity, should be subject to human rights abuse, what makes Iraq worthy of our attention and “humanitarian” intervention? Even an idealist cannot negate that US involvement in Iraq does not come without strings attached. In circumstances such as these, case specific, the oppression of Iraqi citizens, Walzer points out that “members of a political community must seek their own freedom, just as the individual must cultivate his own virtue. They cannot be set free, as he cannot be made virtuous, by any external force” (87). So why did the United States choose to intervene in Iraq, as opposed to Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur? If we are to discount a Millian view of self-determination, to aid struggling nations, then surely Walzer is the expert on such matters. In Just and Unjust Wars, Walzer stresses the fact that humanitarian intervention “involves military action on behalf of oppressed people, and it requires that the intervening state enter, to some degree, into the purpose of the people” (104). We cannot intervene on a people’s behalf and then neglect to serve their ends. Rather, it is our Kantian duty to leave their lives in tact after the fact. Along this same vein, Walzer suggests that intervention is balance and rescue, imitating nonintervention as much as possible. Thus, in Iraq, the US task is twofold—to respect local autonomy and redeem the oppressed.

Reality: Our troops are still in Iraq, long after Saddam has been overthrown, and is currently being tried. So, is our intention in Iraq benevolent intervention or conquest of an economic monopoly after all? Or are we just holding Iran at bay?

Like a child told to be “seen and not heard,” so to should intervention manifest itself—the silent helping hand. Call me an idealist, but if economists subscribe to an invisible hand in market theories, why can’t we champion the same in political science, as the magic factor of International Relations?

Walzer warily warns that if foreign intervention, “if it is a brief affair, cannot shift the domestic balance of power in any decisive way toward the forces of freedom, while if it is prolonged or intermittently resumed, it will itself pose the greatest possible threat to the success of those forces” (88). While life is not black and white, nor the realities of war and military maneuvers, we, the American people, must question the information disseminated to us. “Moral talk is coercive; one thing leads to another,” and sooner or later we will be asking ourselves how our great nation fell (12). Could not American participation in Vietnam easily characterize our involvement in Iraq today—“we steadily escalated the struggle, until finally it was an American war, fought for American purposes, in someone else’s country” (101)? Where should we draw the line? Are we just?

The REAL realism?

Waltzer – Substantive

I have been studying IR theory for a few years now and this is the first substantial book on the role of morality in war that I have read or heard of.  Of course, Thomas Aquinas is often referenced to the theory of just war as are many secular proponents, but Waltzer’s method just seems different.  Mr. Waltzer is not attempting a completely detached theory or justice from the reality of war, idealism, he seems to be intermixing normative and practical approaches.  What he seems to claim at the beginning of the book is that realism is not a true account of what life is really like, or perhaps the view of realism is not quite accurate in its undertaking.  On the Melian Dialogue, Waltzer says:  “For all its realism, however, it fails to get at the realities of that experience or to explain its character” (11).  Realism without morality just isn’t real, it is a view of life that is distanced from actual perception.  He calls this view the “moral reality of war…all those experiences of which moral language is descriptive or within which it is necessarily employed” (15).

Mr. Waltzer uses lots of examples that people would not immediately choose to further an argument of justice.  The reason for doing so would be to show that war may not only be just from the side of the victor.  For example, he gives several incidents of justice shown on the part of the axis powers, especially Germany.  He is also successful in turning the six days war, carried out by the Israeli army, normally considered to be a preventive attack into a justifiable attack in the course of a war that had already existed (82).  Mr. Waltzer likes to keep us on our toes, perhaps to not accept what is readily acceptable and to question the moral foundation of every decision we make and every decision that is made, either by ourselves or from above.  Not to move off the topic but I was watching a program on PBS this weekend which was filmed in the late 70’s, roughly about the time of this book that seemed to follow it in pretty good detail.  In any case, the narrator pointed out the fact that Stalin was totally against the war crimes tribunal of Nuremberg.  He just couldn’t understand why we allowed for the Nazi ringleaders to explain their actions.  He suggested that they be lined up and executed at one time to which Harry Truman thought was a joke and laughed.

So is realism in it’s current view really realism, considering that it acknowledges morality on a limited basis only to mask true reasons?  And even if morality were used as a façade of true perceptions then why do people feel the need to mask their true reasons?  Why does mankind restrain actions, hide perceptions, and feel the need to justify actions?