Monday, March 28, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Suppose you’re a skilled swimmer walking along a beach. You hear a cry for assistance and observe someone struggling in the water a hundred feet offshore. Although it’s highly likely that you can bring the endangered swimmer safely to shore, there’s a small chance that you can’t, and a smaller but not negligible threat to your own safety. You also know that no one else can act with equal odds of success. Would it have been right to walk on by?
Since Kant, we have been familiar with the proposition that “ought implies can.” But in some circumstances, the reverse also holds: “can implies ought.” Our massive, ongoing investment in military capacity has a range of consequences for defense and diplomacy. It also has moral consequences. Because we can act in ways that others can’t, we are not as free as they are to ignore threats that we have the power to abate.
 UPDATE 10/17/12: I wasn't entirely accurate about this: As with my confusion of Exxon with Chevron, it goes to show you the limitations of (my?) memory. He was not called the godfather of the Iraq war by the wall street journal's editorialists. He was called the "father" of the "Bush doctrine" of preemption by Wall Street Journal editorialist Dan Henninger. See here and here.
Saturday, March 12, 2011
If Muammar Qaddafi takes Benghazi, it will be Barack Obama’s responsibility. That is what it means to be the American president. The American president cannot but affect the outcome. That is his burden and his privilege. He has the power to stop such an atrocity, so if the atrocity is not stopped it will be because he chose not to use his power.It must be lovely to live in a world where you believe these kind of moral imprecations have weight. I think the few of us who care about the Congo long ago abandoned that hope; when we ask that our country help Congo, we do so not as Jeremiahs but as little Oliver Twists, asking please for a little more.