Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Imposition

Oh, boy.  I must have missed the class of the century.  Looking at Jacie’s comments at her posting “Final Blog” (This title sounds so depressing!  A lot of us choose it though… it is, so, final), she noted:
“I would also like to say that I strongly disagree with Kimberly’s assertions that anyone who is a “good”, “true”, or “real” Christian would HAVE to impose their beliefs on all others. I think it is exactly this close-minded interpretation of religion that will make it irreconcilable in practice.”
Yet, this is the interpretation of the Christian Bible that is so pervasive in conservative Christian circles.  It certainly was the general thought in past decades – the crusades being only one such example.  Religion is, almost by definition, “close-minded.”  Kill the non-believers, they are “inhuman” “savages,” it seems, is the pervasive argument.  Acceptance is only a function of tolerance, and then only because death over religion alone is much less tolerable.  At least this seems to hold when one can see and hear the “other”; it is not so certain when the other is around the globe.  Just do not label it as a crusade, call it something else instead.
“ Furthermore, I was truly frustrated by the fact that people were so upset by the discussion that they wanted to leave class. If we can’t even discuss these issues in an open and diverse academic environment, then how can we ever expect to make progress in the real world? We can’t.”
Well stated.

Does Communication Always Equate to Understanding?

K1234 in her posting “Last Blog,” noted:
“On this topic of irreconcilable differences, I think they exist. Whether we make them irreconcilable or not (as someone brought up in class the possibility of religion being subject to social manipulation and employed to legitimize different arguments) I think is a questionable argument. But more importantly, I agree with the authors that accepting fundamental differences is, in itself, a sort of homogenization and I think this is the point where real, effective dialogue can begin.
On page 168 they say, "Thus, knowledge of the other is not merely a source of self-knowledge; it is also a prelude to the hope of a future conversation of self and other." I think it's important to note that they didn't say, 'complete and utter comprehension of, and reconciliation with, the other' is either necessary or required.
However, I DO think it's absolutely necessary to acknowledge our differences and not to rely on avoidance of difference or each other as a means to solve these problems. Our interconnectedness, especially today with such advanced technological capabilities, betrays this notion of 'to live and let live'. We can't do that, nor should we want to. Whether we like it or not our direct or indirect dependence on each other commands that we find some way, some level of compatibility.”
However, I must ask how this would work in terms of scale?  Perhaps a more important question: will, over time, communication facilitate the understanding that the authors assert is necessary to move toward acceptance?  Or, as I would assert, does this more efficient communication and availability of information make it easier for similar groups to understand each other and for dissimilar groups to discover why each are even more different then they previously thought?  One can argue that the French people and the American people, for illustration alone (of course), understand each other better due to the availability of easy information on each other via the Internet and other mediums, and the ease of travel between the two countries.  Nevertheless, at the same time, one can find that the same communication mechanisms that fostered understanding between Americans and French people, may have contributed to increased discontent between Muslims and Christians – particularly from a Muslim perspective.
Perhaps “easier” communications and facilitation of understanding does not always produce acceptance – but, in some cases, can produce even larger fissures between groups.

Rebecca's paradox

Rebecca in her blog entry “International Communication Rears Its Ugly Head,” makes some interesting assertions.  She starts:
“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 must wonder, however, if neutrality is even a possibility at all.  It is not merely difficult to consider neutrality, it may be impossible.  What is neutrality in this context?  It may simply not exist – if one were to be neutral, under the most common perception, that person considers the communication from the perspective of the deliverer.  However, that perspective will always be clouded by one’s own experiences.  The recipient’s lens will always be skewed regardless of the intent of the recipient in his or her approach.  Experiences are ingrained in each of us and they always influence us – I intentional or otherwise.
I also want to comment a bit on the following comment that Rebecca made in her post:
“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 [sic] 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 [sic] 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.”
Is this not also the paradox?  I noted in a post of this morning that there exists a problem of scale in the application of dialogue in this context.  Surly the 15 youth go back and understand each other.  However, do they understand and accept the other jocks, introverts, and the like, or only those with whom they had the contact to be able to accept them?  It would seem that the latter is the more accurate assertion here.

Is any intervention per Waltzer actually warranted?

I wish to take a moment to quickly comment on an older blog penned by Neda at H.M.S. Blogty.  She stated:
“Walzer [sic] allows for intervention based on human rights violations, but such violations have to be aimed at a group and so wide and pervasive that the human rights violations theaten [sic] a community within the nation state. In threatening a group, the human rights violations would then shock mankind to justify intervention. Then, intervention based on human rights violations are just.”
It seems to me to be a problematic jump from the intervention criteria to the justness of an intervention action under Waltzer.  Because of Waltzer’s high standard to justify intervention, and the unlikelihood that the standard can be met, is any intervention per Waltzer actually warranted?  Perhaps not.

Beyond isolation of differences

This is not my last post. Sorry folks. But, it is my last treatise on the texts – the rest of my posts will be comments on others’. However, for here, I wish to delve a bit deeper into the Problem of Difference.
In particular, there is an overriding concept developed in the text, highlighted most significantly in chapter two on Westphalia. As the authors note on page 44:
“Internal others are managed or governed by some combination of hierarchy, eradication by assimilation or expulsion, and tolerance.” They continue, “External others are left to suffer or prosper according to their own means, interdicted by border crossings, balanced and deterred, or, in appropriate cases, subjected to coercion or conquest.”
Differences, it seems, need to be isolated – or at least that has been the common thread throughout time. But, how does one surmount this seemingly inherent need to isolate differences? Is it even possible? As I noted in an earlier post, the book argues that dialogue is the key to acceptance. I asked if this was too simplistic – if this is too much of an ideal and not something that can be expected to prevail in reality.
My answer now is simply that it is too simplistic – at least when scale is factored in.
How is scale involved here? Well, simple. Dialogue is a viable way to get small groups of individuals to understand and accept the differences of others of which they have regular direct contact. This contact is a requirement – without continual contact, the dialogue of the past will slowly erode in its effectiveness.
We can look at Seeds of Peace for an illustration of this effect. The group brings Israeli and Palestinian teenagers together and through dialogue is able to generate understanding between the participants. The problem, however, is twofold – first, the understanding does not necessarily transcend the individuals in the program to their corresponding populations, and second, the effects of the program wear off as the youths are exposed again to their homeland and the biases and conflict that go along with it.
This is not to say that they again associate the individuals in the program to their corresponding ethnic group in the negative, but rather may treat the individual as an exception, not the rule.
The issue then becomes, how do we deal with scale in implementing dialogue-based solutions? I am reminiscent of a workshop I took earlier this semester with a couple of representatives of World Vision. The organization has developed a framework called “Community-Based Local Capacities for Peace.” The goal of the program is to develop the capacities of local groups of people and use these capacities to foster understanding between the groups. The framework could use, for example, the groups’ common need for water from a river, to foster understanding between the groups on their corresponding societal needs and wants and how these needs and wants are similar. You build from one to another, then onward to yet another level. Eventually, you have enough understanding to build a peaceful coexistence, though not necessarily acceptance.
The problem again is scale. Such a framework works in a small scale implementation, but in a larger scale, it collapses. There is too simply too much diversity. It is not realistic to believe that we can bring enough of two populations together (as in the case of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict) to generate enough understanding between the two groups to foster peace – much less acceptance. If anything, there is too much diversity in religious interpretations, and too much historical angst. In the end it is unlikely that dialogue will be the answer to the conflict.
If this is the case, then, how can we suppose that dialogue at a wider scale can also be effective? We certainly can increase the degree of understanding that can be fostered through institutional change (such as an effective education program in diversity in the public school systems). But this will not be a final solution. It cannot be. Where there is diversity, there will be conflict – at least to some degree. Diversity breeds factionalism – dialogue may facilitate understanding and acceptance between some factions of various demographic, religious, and other groups, but not all, and not necessarily even a majority.
If we focus the author’s argument then on dialogue between countries, then there certainly can be a case made for efficacy – if you understand and accept another country, it is unlikely that you will initiate conflict. Perhaps this is the conundrum we now face in the world – conflict between countries (at least outside of rhetoric) is not the primary concern from a security standpoint – rather, conflict between factions are. This is the arguably the current problem of terrorism – a war between factions and not between countries.
In any case, I have ranted enough. I invite comment.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Last blog

Before I say anything about Inayatullah and Blainey, I just wanted to say that a small lightbulb went off when Professor Jackson described the grand diagram explaining scholars to experts to Scholar-activists to practitioners...finally a simple answer to the constant question in my head, "why are we doing this?" Maybe that's too simplistic. I understand the need to discuss these important issues and to discuss how we come to understand the various issues we've touched on throughout this semester. I've just always had a real problem spendingt too much time nitpicking on the specifics. I guess I agree with Walzer in that the specifics are irrelevant if we can agree on the larger picture.
Secondly, I think it's too bad we didn't have a chance to discuss the Inayatullah and Blainey text in greater length because, while I felt they didn't necessarily offer any particularly helpful solutions, they were calling for us to understand the situation in a different way. Much of their writing felt foreign to me which was interesting, more interesting than say, Locke, which has become almost natural to our way of thinking (in some instances).
On this topic of irreconcilable differences, I think they exist. Whether we make them irreconcilable or not (as someone brought up in class the possibility of religion being subject to social manipulation and employed to legitimize different arguments) I think is a questionable argument. But more importantly, I agree with the authors that accepting fundamental differences is, in itself, a sort of homogenization and I think this is the point where real, effective dialogue can begin.
On page 168 they say, "Thus, knowledge of the other is not merely a source of self-knowledge; it is also a prelude to the hope of a future conversation of self and other." I think it's important to note that they didn't say, 'complete and utter comprehension of, and reconciliation with, the other' is either necessary or required.
However, I DO think it's absolutely necessary to acknowledge our differences and not to rely on avoidance of difference or each other as a means to solve these problems. Our interconnectedness, especially today with such advanced technological capabilities, betrays this notion of 'to live and let live'. We can't do that, nor should we want to. Whether we like it or not our direct or indirect dependence on each other commands that we find some way, some level of compatibility.
But I guess I find myself right back where I was at the beginning of this blog, or maybe the beginning of this semester...I just don't know if talking about our differences will really solve anything, I don't think Inayatullah and Blainey offered much in that department and from all the reading we've done this semester I think it's safe to say there is always disagreement, none of these 'solutions' is absolutely 'effective' and it would be too utopian or idealistic to hope they would be.

Of Force n Ethics

December 7, 2005

Dear Mr. Inayatullah and Mr. Blaney,

For the last thirteen weeks I have been writing letters to your likes about our common humanity. It has been a challenging experience to say the least. All of you, one way or another, have tried to make sense of our stay in this world. Reading you, it dawned on me that some of us have been blessed with relative anonymity. I suspect some parts of the world have never heard of someone like Locke and may never feel the need for it. But if you live in this country, America, and care about the business of government no such course is available to you. We have to not only understand people like Locke but also the greater humanity with its proclivities as well as propensities. A number of my classmates have tackled these issues in their blogs relative to your work. I wanted to put in two cents worth as well.

Jess, in her posting titled after your names, brings up the issue of, “We avoid confrontation with difference in the culture of the other because we do not want to deal with internal tensions that would be illuminated by such confrontation [1].” This very topic popped up somewhat unexpectedly in our last class discussion as well and dominated the conversation. And if you ask me what came of it, I am afraid the answer is not much. Rebecca summed it up for me when she mistakenly said, is there universal mortality, but what she really wanted to say was, is there universal morality? It was a Freudian slip apropos for the Masterworks class that began with Thucydides and ended with your names. In other words, yes, there is universal mortality; and no, so far, there is no sign of universal morality.

And if you ask me, as Professor Jackson does sometimes, can you unpack it a bit more, I will start by saying that none of you saw eye-to-eye and so why should you expect us, your diligent students, to do anything less! But Jess’ point raised another issue with me and that was the way the Freedom House defines freedom and puts out a status report about it once a year. Their 2003 map is quite revealing. It lists 88 countries free out of a total of 192. They constitute about 44 percent of the world’s population. I couldn’t help but think of the incongruity of the situation. Here we were, free, unable to reach a consensus about our universal morality. Add to the mix 66 percent of the world that is not free, then you realize the mess that we are in as the hapless children of this hapless earth.

But then I hadn’t yet read Ben’s very telling example about the importance of dialog between contact-zone parties with intractable problems [2]. He talks about a group called “Seeds of Peace” that hosts a group of Israeli and Palestinian students in America. They are housed together in the state of Maine and provided with opportunities to engage in dialog. The hope is that by the time their stay is over they will be transformed individuals who will have no need for notions like domination. Has it worked? Ben says there is a problem with this manufactured “activist identity” for it collides with the “civic identity” of the state, in his words, “the set of relationship that embed the individual with the political order.”

A couple of things screamed at me as I went over Ben’s dilemma. The first is that as the old adage goes, Rome wasn’t built in one day. The other is that Ben has a point about the price these students have to pay for coming to terms, in your words, with their recessive and repressed sides. Have we got a less costly alternative? Walzer, if you recall, had shared with us the story of one French soldier who had refused to be part of his government’s oppression in Algeria and how alienation had become his lot. But I still think a Gandhi could emerge out of these group of students for Sharons and Arafats are a dime a dozen. You agree with me rather than Ben, right?

One last point: Jen calls you, the Zen of IR [3]. I wasn’t sure what Zen meant, so I looked at the Here is what they wrote, “A school of Mahayana Buddhism that asserts that enlightenment can be attained through meditation, self-contemplation, and intuition rather than through faith and devotion and that is practiced mainly in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.” I do agree with Jen. Given what we face as members of estranged humanity nothing but contemplation would say, let’s try to bridge the language of self-interest with that of ethics. It is indeed, “a challenge for us all [pg. 221].”

(Inayatullah and Blaney)

(The Zen of IR)

Last Class

Weber stated, "What matters is the trained ability to scrutinize the realities of life ruthlessly, to withstand them, and to measure them inwardly" (91). I feel this is Inayatullah and Blaney place westerners reading this book. Some of the questions posed throughout the semester, for me, gained great momentum after last class. Most of these questions refer back to reality. What is the reality of the system we are living in? At this point, dismissing Descartes' panic attacks over perception seem premature. Unfortunately, we will not be able to discuss it in class:(

As for the conclusions this book draws, I am having trouble discerning them. When discussing property, it is stated, "Perhaps it is here that a more heterogeneous, overlapping, and relative sense of landed property can help us rethink sovereign property"(203). Is this a call to rethink the state system? My other issue is that the authors seem to only be asking the west (possibly the US) to acknowledge differences. If only through 'scrutinizing' examination of one's culture's history, a critical interpretation of education, and an honest realization of our own bias we can pinpoint our location in the system, how practical is it to suppose the rest of the world will begin the same practice? And how much education is needed to even begin that journey?

Europeans tend to discuss Americans as having an ignorant view of the world. The odd thing is when they discuss this as though they have a correct perception of reality. To me, it is an ethnocentric argument against ethnocentricity. The kind of communication between people tends to lean towards defensive stances, so no one is actually hearing. They are just trying to be 'right,' because at some point being right became more important than open communication and understanding. Is the problem of difference actually solvable, or is it an inherent aspect of humanity? Rebecca brought up some great points about communication. This reminded me of the saying that one should practice hearing, so that they can learn to speak. I would like to point out that I am in absolutely no position to speak. I feel that this final book gave great insight into beginning reading the previous works... again.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Too Simplistic?

nternational Relations and the Problem of Difference by Inayatullah and Blaney was quite a refreshing read! I actually took the time to read both the forward and the introduction - twice.
There is much to be discussed in this book in this introductory posting. It is an interesting set of circumstances too as I type this (and post it) while riding in the back of a car. But, I digress. I am just too eager to get my two cents in here.
I debated on posting some comments on chapter 2 (The Westphalian Deferral), but it presents an argument much better suited for a post-class dialogue between us all.
Rather, I want to comment on an overriding theme in the text, and what is perhaps best summed up in the epilogue starting on page 219. Can communication - dialogue - be the solution to resorting to war? The big question here is if this is sufficient to prevent oppression, or to escape from oppression's grasp.
I must ask if this text presents a seemingly simplistic view of the role that mere dialogue can play. The authors argue that "in a world of cultural and ethical complexity, it is difficult to 'make sense,' to know how to 'go on,' if one's not able to listen to the voice of others." They note that the challenge today is the "multiplicity" of global visions. But, will this challenge be met through dialogue, or will there need to be other factors? There is a difference between understanding and accepting others. One can understand those about to be oppressed or killed by one's hand, but that does not mean that the other's views, culture, or systems are accepted. There were removed from one's sphere. The end result, to the winner, remains essentially the same. Thus, what motivation does an oppressor (or former oppressor as the book centers around) have to engage merely in dialogue? I argue that dialogue, in reality, is more a function of convenience… it may to be too simplistic to argue for dialogue, understanding, and forgiveness between the oppressed and the oppressor.
In any case, there is much more to discuss amongst us all…

About 'The Problem of Difference'

Throughout my blogging efforts this semester, especially towards the beginning, I really focused a lot on culture and human nature, or rather emphasizing the importance of the individual as a force for change. Beyond that, I also believed that the works we read earlier lacked a 'human' component, denying the ability of individuals and perhaps those outside of the 'dominant group' (whatever/whoever that may be) to enact some sort of change for themselves....after reading Inayatullah and Blaney's work I found the writing extremely interesting but the outlook afterward somewhat disappointing.
What are we supposed to do now that we've identified the issues? "Here we arrive at the suggestion that modernity may not solve the problem of difference: rather than waiting for difference to disappear, we may have to develop alternative postures towards its presence"(95). So what are these 'alternatives'?
Secondly, a couple blogs back I know I talked about the underlying universality of some moral principles. While I think this still holds true to some extent, 'The Problem of Difference' has forced me to rethink my dedication to the idea of universality on some level. More specifically, this work has forced me to question whether a universal morality is even desirable or necessary...we spend so much time discussing whether it exists...but would we even want it to be so? I think it's a very interesting argument they put forward about rethinking the assumptions of Hobbes and Locke: that social harmony and political unity are primary (37) especially considering the diversity of cultures, people, communities and faiths that exist to this day. It also seems counter-intuitive in some respects that 'commonality...must actually be nurtured'(102) yet it seems logically consistent with the global situation. This reading certainly provides a new way thinking about competition and how we view equality and inequality (considering the growing disparity today) but does it really mean anything if we can't, in reality, make any changes accordingly?
Finally, just one last thought... we are clearly in the period of 'globalization' whether this is new or not is something for another blog but Inayatullah and Blaney have no doubt been influenced by it... I just wonder if thinking about the problem of difference in terms of globalization and regionalism, fragmentation, etc doesn't particularize their argument somewhat and complicate it unnecessarily. I think an analysis of the problem including globalization would be more effective if they were proposing where to go from here, 'solutions' so to speak...but in identifying the problem...I think the problem of difference exists whether 'globalizing [of] the modernization process'(105) is happening or not.


I enjoyed the format and examination of the book in a historical and practical sense, without interference by frequencies. The issue of 'Westphalia' as a kickoff was a great start. Actually, simply identifying the historical conditions and basis for the western study of international politics seems to be avoided in previous works. Walzer actually denied the need to examine such issues, when describing morality. Morality just was. Also, the influence of economics was something that our previous readers had on occasion momentarily touched upon, but much of this book was dedicated to the influence of economics. After reading many blogs where one book would appeal more than others, this book definitely appealed to me. The attempt to not only move away from ethnocentricity, but to recognize and find possible origins of 'Westphalia,' seems to me the only way to begin examining IR.

So, I basically agreed with the authors... Basically. I considered the writings to be objective and not emotional arguments or one-sided arguments, until the end. At one point it is argued, "But it is unnecessary to enter into the great debates over the costs and benefits of colonial contact and the consequences of modernity" (201). Really? I was just getting started thinking about colonialism and the creation of states that now exist in the state system. If we are completely objective, shouldn't we examine every aspect regardless of whether we would personally find the results offensive? Also, isn't the problem of difference explained by looking at history and examining the aftermath? I felt Chapt. 6 on was more emotionally driven. Still, I appreciated the attempt to place the issues examined into present day practical matters.

Deutsche, when describing the requirements for an amalgamated security community, explains that there must be a "mutual predictability of behavior" (56). I could conceivably be able to predict your behavior, while still wanting to extinguish such behavior. This is comparable to my problem with difference. Is it plausible for humans to recognize and appreciate difference? Aren't most arguments in life to say, "I'm right, you're wrong, see it my way." Still, I appreciate their call to creative endeavors.

Making An Appeal to the Other's Recessive Side!

December 5, 2005

Dear Mr. Inayatullah and Mr. Blaney,

What happens when Westphalia travels east and meets Jerusalem? How about a young lad, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, travels west and attends school in London? They enter a “contact zone” you say, in your book, “International Relations and the Problem of Difference”. Some cannot take it and become the casualties of such encounter. The lucky ones rise to the challenge and make the best of it. To the first group belong the hapless resisters who succumb to the superior firepower of the stronger party or idea. In the second group you find people who adapt to the “times” or learn “to listen to the voice of others [pg. 220].” But if the price becomes “loneliness” on the part of the traveler(s) and “alienation” on the part of the host(s), it is the task of indigenous revolutionary forces to initiate change provided they have not only “local/global” vision, but also the capacity to “read” the signs of the times [pg. 220].

Jerusalem becomes a divided city when it meets Westphalia. Its leaders and residents become aloof and live in their respective, primarily Jewish and Arab, neighborhoods. “The Empire of Uniformity” accentuates the differences. Jerusalem becomes sick and needs healing to move onward. You think the situation offers a challenge to the residents of the city “to engage … in a perpetual conversational process of renegotiating boundaries so that they promote relationships that recognize both equality and difference [pg. 213].” But you are not as hopeful when Walker looking at the same state of affairs notes, “Indeed, a world of overlapping and multiple sovereignties may be a site for unleashing new democratic energies beyond those associated with bounded political communities. And these energies might found a politics organized around movements that ‘connect, converse, and learn from one another,’ but avoid translating a ‘politics of connection’ into a “united front [pg. 214].”

Your reservations stem from the absence of an even playing field. You note, “The danger is that these movements, networks, and connections operate to largely produce patterns of domination and subordination and a dialog of unequals [pg. 214].” So far, no Palestinian leader has come up with a way to bring about equality to the table. And you insist that the onus lies with the oppressed [pg. 220]. You add, “In a world of cultural and ethical complexity, it is difficult to ‘make sense,’ to know how to ‘go on’, if one is not able to listen to the voice of others [pg. 220]”.

One person who has met that test is Mahatma Gandhi. You attribute his success to several factors. In your words, “The potential success of this strategy [to bring equality to the table] requires that the challenges to oppression begin by directly engaging the oppressor in his or her own language and in terms of his or her own self-interest. … Sharing to some degree the symbolic world of the dominant makes it easier to draw connections between recessive aspects of the dominant self and the ideals and goals of the oppressed [pg. 220].” Gandhi schooled in London, uses the tactic of nonviolence to kindle the recessive aspects of the West, i.e., he brings to mind the Biblical injunction through the turning of the other cheek. But he also insists on his goal of independence for India.

I was pleased to read your admission that the task is not an easy one. In your words, “… [T]he demand that the oppressed must bear the burden of adapting the communication to the language of the oppressor, the additional demand – the oppressed must appeal to the self-interest of the dominant, who maintain (we presume) an interest in their oppression – must seem too much to ask [pg. 220].” The word amen came out of my lips with no effort. The whole thing got me thinking about another Biblical injunction, “To those much is given much is expected.” I wonder if Gandhi ever thought of it. If he did, would it have worked? This dialog of disparate parties has been one of the highlights of your book and my class. The marriage of force with the ethics responsibility may actually prove to be a new beginning for order without domination in a world bloodied through the hubris of ignoramuses. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Is Waltz' Ethics Ethical?

As usual, class beacons a different direction with my reflective posting. So, on page 107, Waltz discusses the merits of humanitarian intervention in a country. He states: Humanitarian intervention is justified when it is a response (with reasonable expectations of success) to acts that shock the moral conscience of mankind.
This seems to be a very high water-mark to get over in order to justify intervention. It is so high in fact, that one can be forgiven for thinking that it is an attempt to agree with the principle of intervention, yet make sure that in practice it could not be justified.
So, when is mankinds conscious shocked? As I argued in class, it is tough enough to get a population in the US to care more about a real issue than Britney Spears love child. God forgive us if it actually requires true shock. For most Americans, it seems that a tragedy on the national news is really sad and it should not be happening but that seems to be the limit of the shock. Caring is a function, it seems, of tangible impact there exists a need for people to feel the problem in order to truly care enough about it to meet Waltz definition.
Even still, mankind is a very broad constituency. No one can realistically expect to outrage the conscious of them all, correct?
Would even World War II meet Waltz standard?
In all, perhaps the only group to have their moral conscious shocked to the degree that Waltz implies are the victims themselves and perhaps those standing by watching them be slaughtered.
So, how can Waltz standard here be ethical in itself? I pose this to the world.

Of "Defensive" Wars -- Are They Just?

December 2, 2005

Dear Mr. Walzer

I have been reading some of my classmates’ blog entries about you. Rebecca in her brief but thoughtful entry wanders (footnote 1) if there ever could be just wars or if people of goodwill could set up universal rules about how NOT go to war. Holly, on the other hand, raises the issue of so called “REAL” realism (footnote 2) and asks, “So is realism in it’s current view really realism, considering that it acknowledges morality on a limited basis…?” Then two knockout lines in tandem, “And even if morality [is] used as a façade of true perceptions then why do people feel the need to mask their true reasons? Why does mankind [I think she means, realists?] restrain actions, hide perceptions, and feel the need to justify actions?”

I guess I will start with Holly and then tackle the question that Rebecca raises in her blog. In an ideal world, I don’t think the realists like the idealists and vice versa. The problem is that we are both condemned to share the same “spaceship” or “global village” to borrow two words from Mr. Bull. As it often happens in life, in such situations, we compromise, we fudge, and we dissemble to put up with the unpleasant facts of life. But sometimes we take the matters into our own hands and try to force change for our own good. My limited forays into the human history leave me with the inescapable observation that those who call themselves realists have had more blood on their hands than those who call themselves the idealists. Adolf Hitler is a good example of might makes right school of thought. The world had to forgo some 65 million of its children to test the latest reincarnation of his hypothesis. Herr Hitler, to his credit, was a realist with an honest veneer. As our professor pointed out in class, he laid out his plans in his book, Mein Kampf, and followed them to the dot.

Having said that I also want to share with you a quote from one of my favorite historian, Tacitus. With his inimitable style he says the following perhaps, one could say, in support of the realists that I view as liabilities in our world. In his words, “More sins are committed from the desire to please than from a wish to injure.” One probably can site Stalin and Mao as examples of this point of view. Both, if you really sat down and talked to them, would tell you that they were aiming for greater good and had no choice but to give in to the small and essential bloodletting on the part of some of their respective “parasites”. Someone like Immanuel Kant, Mahatma Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. might have also considered the idea of greater good, but would have recoiled from the recommended course of action. In other words, none of them would have prescribed murder, on the scale that these “true believers” did, for the sake of a virtuous life.

But in this unregulated life of ours, we deal with the deck of cards that life has prepared for us. If our times are guided with the realist types, we have no choice but to abide by their rules. But, is this really so? You note, “If, in a particular case, reprisal is certain to fail, then obviously it should not be tried. [pg. 221]”. Europe at one time looked like the playground of Hitler’s invincible Wechmart. Although Churchill adopted the tactics of unjust wars, no one was counting on their ultimate success. But what kept England fighting in that hopeless year, 1942? I would venture to say that faith played a significant role, a characteristic often attributed to the idealists. How many planes was it worth? In other words, this scribe still maintains, realism cannot explain everything. Without idealism or morality if you will, this world of ours would be a dark place indeed.

As to coming up with some rules that could prevent wars, the best ones that I have heard are those of Marcus Aurelius who in his book, Meditations, speaks of just wars only in defensive terms. But then the cynic in might say, well, it was fine for the Roman emperor to say he was only interested in defensive wars since most of the known world was under his sway anyway.



Comparing Walzer

I think the point bri brings up below regarding the foundations of morality, or lack thereof, is a valid argument if you were looking strictly at Walzer's work in itself. However, I don't think you can look at this work on its own and I think Walzer was expecting us to view it in light of previous works. Like some have said in class before, why bother reinventing the wheel EVERY time you want to talk about IR. Further, I think the fact that it took him 300 pages without explicitly referring to the groundings of morality serves his point that we have to start accepting some basic fundamentals in order to avoid arguing for the sake for arguing.

Walzer's work reminded me of Rousseau. As Rousseau had said that there is no way to oppose war because of the general will: On page 154 Rousseau had asked the question, Does silence mean consent? This problem resurfaces in Walzer's work as well...and I think he does a more thorough job of addressing the nuances involved in democratic participation (aside from drawing conclusions about the issue itself)
But Rousseau also says that there might be different General Wills, that different communities 'will' different things (165). The problem with Rousseau was if there are many different ‘general wills’ then how do you come up with a ‘universal will’?
In our discussion of Walzer I think we were weaving the ideas of Rousseau and to some extent Kant ( there can be different nations highlighting different aspects of the SAME universal standard, although I don't agree here with Kant's extreme argument that essentially one 'way' prevails altogether) and I think, while perhaps Walzer did not end up 'answering' the problem of difference and a 'Universal Will' I think he highlighted or further developed another way of thinking about the possibilities for reconciliation.

We are all different but that doesn't mean our differences overtake what we have in common. We are still all human beings…Walzer continues where Rousseau left off in that there can be differences in communities but essentially it’s different shades of ultimately the same problems. But we do have to strip down to the bare minimum similarities to see this…don’t harm one another, don’t steal, etc.

Walzer also reminded me of Rousseau in that he didn't explicitly define the will/role of God in relation to this idea of the 'universal will', just as Rousseau didn’t. But I think this has a different or perhaps bigger impact in Walzer’s work. In Rousseau it led to the question of higher authority and checks being placed on the general will which Rousseau declined saying the general will is first above all. However, in Walzer’s work he doesn’t really talk about the role of God but yet he pretty much puts himself in the position of ‘ultimate’ narrator so to speak and I think here there is too much liberty in his ability to ‘see all’.

Secondly, his discussion of entering the state of war and giving up some rights (but still there exists a moral content) reminds me of other authors we’ve read in regard to man entering into the social compact and leaving the state of nature. As opposed to comparing it to Locke saying that once in a state of nature, anything goes.

At first, I found Walzer’s classification of War as a social contract different but….I guess now I picture Walzer's classification of War as an institution more as a reason to define it separately from the State of Nature. He allows us to talk about War without reverting back to the State of Nature anymore, I think his contributions here are valuable in that he's accounting for the different shades of possible human experience, that it's much more complex than a State of Nature and complete anarchy or a social compact where order is enforced. Does this make sense or are my comparisons way off?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Wickedly Righteous

I just can't decide if I am wicked, simple, or just one of those people who weren't supposed to read the book. Walzer claims, "... practical morality is detached from its foundations, and we must act as if that separation were a possible (since it is an actual) condition of moral life" (xxi). If we can't determine and appreciate a base, what keeps the discussion from moving into the realm of opinion? I'm not implying a 'moral basis' or 'universal moral point of view.' I am looking at a more detached view of morality, in which we can say: people have morals. I could not say whether one person's moral POV is more moral, that would be taking a moral POV on a moral POV. That is just redundant. Walzer just jumps right into his/our moral POV. I appreciate that in daily life we do not stop and question the basis of morality before we decide whether or not to strap babies to cars. But in 300 page books, I think we could find the time. Also, this might lead us to grounding opinions in some sort of scholarly manner, thereby legitimizing the opinion.

Oddly enough, I found Walzer's examination of individuals and society interesting. Though there are several places where Walzer flip flops between the rules of the individual and those of society, it is intriguing. Mostly I am intrigued by the question of society vs. the individual. True, humans behave differently as individuals than as groups. Still, is there some Big-Bang moment between the individual and society, where all rules of social science break down? I know it is random, but it seems to be a common issue of rules for the big not working with rules of the small, and vice-versa.

Here is my point: any book written on 'practical morality' is anything but practical, especially when examining war.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Preemptive Waltz

[Note: This was published before class, but somehow ended up in "draft" status. This is a repost in the hope that it properly stays in normal mode]

"We want to live in an international society where communities of men and women freely shape their separate destinies. But that society is not fully realized; it is never safe; it must always be defended," [pp.72] says Waltz in this week's assignment, Just and Unjust Wars.

Waltz continues,

"The defense of rights is a reason for fighting. I want to now stress again, and finally, that it is the only reason."

Aggression, goes Waltz, is something that governments go to length to avoid being tainted as having committed; to absolve guilt; to justify ones action in the face of another's commission of aggression.

To this end, Waltz spends a lot of time in a discussion of the ethical problems of the concept of "preventative war." "Preventative war presupposes some standard against which danger is to be measured. That standard has nothing to do with the immediate security of boundaries. It exists in the mind's eye, in the idea of a balance of power, probably the dominate idea in international politics from the seventeenth century to present day." [pp.76] He continues, "A preemptive war is fought to maintain the balance, to stop what is thought to be an even distribution of power from shifting into a relation of dominance and inferiority."

Yet, one asks, if the only just war is one in which one is defending rights (not necessarily one's own, though that makes the determination of justness much easier), then how, if no rights are immediately at risk, can one justify preemptive war?

We, as a human race certainly have tried. Yet, Waltz sets what can be argued is a high bar -- "... what it means to be threatened. Not merely to be afraid, though rational men and women may well respond fearfully to a genuine threat, and their subjective experience is not an unimportant part of the argument for anticipation." [pp.78]

Of course, this is an arbitrary standard -- yet it implies the necessity for the threat to be eminent. Even without this subsidiary standard, one has to take the latest Iraq war in this context and ask: "Is it a just war?"

How does the case put before us contrast against Waltz' determination framework presented in this text? This is the question I present here, and to which I will attempt an answer after we discuss the nuances of Waltz' work in tonight's class.

On Walzer

Perhaps I missed it somewhere in the introduction but I'm wondering first, about his use of the legal paradigm, what is it about the legal paradigm that makes it a valid argument whether he is arguing for or against it?
Secondly, why or how can rules of war exist...more specifically, if people and citizens of these communities he talks about are willing to abide by these "rules of war" what does this say about the possibilities for a world without war and in that case perpetual peace?
Thirdly, on page 116 he says, "We might consider a new version of the domestic analogy, oriented toward collective rather than individual action." yet on page 58 and 59 he discusses the difficulty in putting the domestic analogy on an international level because of several differences, "It is unlike domestic society in that every conflict threatens the structure as a whole with collapse. Aggression challenges it directly and is much more dangerous than domestic crime, because there are no policemen." Are domestic and international society too different that the same types of rules and systems can't mutually apply?
I think this might have something to do with Walzer's description of the international other works we've looked at (Waltz I believe) there is total anarchy in the international system and nothing to stop states from going to war...however Walzer has described this international system ordered by legal and moral codes (is that what he's trying to say?) so is that where the connection between the domestic and international society can be drawn? Does there exist a kind of 'social contract' between states? On page 54 he touches on the contract between memebers and states, "If they are not natural, then we have invented them, but natural or invented, they are a palpable feature of our moral world. States' rights are simply their collective form."(54). Then is there a possibility of contrived, or invented rights between states?

Next, on page 99, discussing the Vietnam war case, he talks about the 'self-help test' and how that could or could not lead to internvention by another power. In a more current situation, what would this mean for a nation like Taiwan? They have been slow to accept arms packages and such from the US in order to defend against a possible Chinese invasion, does this mean they are unwilling to defend themselves and therefore others shouldn't be willing to intervene on their behalf? Is there more to it?
Finally, one last thought, overall it seems he pretty strictly adheres to these 'rules of war', does he discuss them as if they are precedents that have been set or laws that have been followed and will continue to be followed? Does history follow these patterns or have these laws been set up for war time decision makers to follow?

Well, It's Official... I'm Right.

As CP discusses, we all have moral points of view. I found Walzer to weave his way through examples and quotes, only to end with his moral point of view. Also, his word choice seemed to illustrate a kind of one-sidedness. One of my favorites is as Walzer discusses the duties and rights of states being synonymous with the men who compose them, he states, "And it is the correct view" (pg 53). Very good. All I needed to know. We can all go home now. Walzer continuously uses skewed language to discuss his 'theories.' He states, "Though chivarly is dead and fighting unfree, professional soldiers remain sensitive (or some of them do) to those limits of restraint that distinguishes their life's work from mere butchery" (pg 45). Okay.

So, can one talk about morality, justice, right vs. wrong in a moral vacuum? If not, what is the point in writing definitive books outlining justified moves in war if , like CP states, we all have a moral point of view? Also, do war and morality stem from the same place? If war is a social structure and morality innate, does morality transfer into society with the same purity? To live in society, the individual must give up some of his rights. Possibly, morality has a similar change. I'm not even sure morality is an innate quality. Doesn't it reflect the zeitgeist more than nature?

Walzer flowed in and out of defining terms and defining 'practical morality.' His examples only seemed to be the set up for his moral determination. And I appreciate his moral point of view. I am just not sure how practical his MPo'V is. It seems dificult to argue morality as the highest priority, in a society based on property. It is just not practical.

Of Our "Common" Humanity

November 29, 2005

Dear Mr. Walzer,

I guess I want to start by saying that I congratulate you for daring to look at our enduring problems of war and peace through lenses that were ethical. What you saw behind them was not a pretty picture. Your own youth was marked with an unpopular war in Vietnam. Your immediate past had seen monsters like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung. Although you did not add people like Winston Churchill and Harry Truman to the list of destroyers of humanity, I was pleasantly surprised to see you accuse them of being major accomplices. And of course you were quick to supply your “historical illustrations” to prove your point. I was already familiar with some of your criticism of the Englishman; the American president was a little bit of an unknown to me.

Your task was not an easy one considering your challenge. How can you distill sense out of people who are part of the events that are sometimes beyond their control? At the end of the day, they looked to you, as they do to me, as individuals who had committed murder on a scale unmatched in the darkest annals of our miserable past. In your words, “These deaths are nothing more than the inevitable consequences of putting deadly weapons into the hands of undisciplined soldiers, and armed men into the hands of stupid or fanatical generals [pg. 130].” And I liked it very much when you buttressed your point by quoting Napoleon who had said, “I do not care a fig for the lives of a million men [pg. 136].”

That is what I liked about your book in terms of my initial impressions. But then as it invariably happens with me with all kinds of other authors as well, there were parts of your book that did not sit well with me. To begin with, I did not like the fact that you allocated scores of your pages to monsters who had tortured and bloodied our world, but paid lip-service to the courage of the German man who had stood up for our common humanity. That nameless German had refused to shoot civilians. Along with the other hapless Dutch, he too was murdered. I thought, you would have left no stone unturned to find out his name and perhaps even considered dedicating your book to him. I think it would have said a lot about your opposition to the unjust wars. Why didn’t you?

I also thought there was this patronizing attitude on your part towards the Israelis. The children of Holocaust, as far as you were concerned, were acting like role models in the hell known as war. One Israeli was murdered in Athens. Police arrested his killers and identified them as Palestinians. The Israelis then landed at Beirut airport and destroyed 13 civilian planes. And that you thought this was an achievement worthy of your book. In your words, “From a military point of view, the raid was a spectacular success -- and, I think from a moral point of view too [pg. 219].”

Did you really think so? I had never heard of this story before, but you yourself note in your book that the attackers were Palestinians while the destroyed planes belonged to the Lebanese civilians. If Israelis wanted to punish the Lebanese government for issuing fake passports to Palestinian terrorists, why didn’t they attack the property of the Lebanese government? This guy Bin Laden is angry at America, has declared a war on it, and yet, we don’t think he is justified to attack a civilian structure, like the Twin Towers. Why do you think Israelis should be exempt from such opprobrium?

Oh, I really liked your little ditty by Rolf Hochhuth by way of a question, “Is a pilot who bombs population centers under orders still to be called a soldier [pg. 324]?” Explicit in the question is the honor that we attribute to the brave men in the uniform who do not rape for example. And you found a quote from Machiavelli, I was surprised to see the crafty Italian capable of such candor, to say that, it is very rare “that a good man should be found willing to employ wicked means.” Never a friend of the crafty Italian, you kind of forced to think differently about him. Thank you.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

If America Can be Slave-Free; Can World be Anarchy-Free?

November 26, 2005

Dear Mr. Bull,

In my last letter, I paid you some compliments. In this one, I want to take a little bit of it back. Then I had not finished your book. This morning, I crossed it out from my list of books to read. I retired your book but not its parting shot, which has not left me as I started to write this letter to you, “It is better to recognize that we are in darkness than to pretend that we can see the light (pg. 308)”? Were you trying to say we are as helpless as when we started your tome? If so, why did we have to read it? Or better yet, why did you write it? Yes, Mr. Bull, an expert in world politics is not like a car mechanic. The latter can often tell you what is wrong with your vehicle; the first can offer you, at best, an insight or two about a crisis that may be confronting you or your society. I know you would go home feeling better about the prediction of your local car dealer; I would urge you to find some solace in the pontification of your favorite professor of international relations as well.

If you say, Tully, “I wrote the book, burnt many midnight candles doing so, have scores of scholars subscribing to what I say, took on scholars like David Singer of University of Michigan and so on and so forth and who are you to tell me what to do?” I will only say relax and pay heed to the admonition that: “none of us are as smart as all of us.” Yes, Mr. Bull, the task you undertook was not an easy one. Sophocles in his play Antigone quips, “Many are the wonders of nature but nothing walks stranger than man.” I bet you had a similar insight into the human heart, or mind if you will, to say things like, one should not look for “solutions” or “practical advise” in international politics. I do join you in thinking that it is next to impossible, or very, very difficult, to quantify the overall human behavior. And yet I am not ready to throw in the towel and start a profession in plumbing. The fact that our job is hard doesn’t mean that we have to quit it. I am all for the expansion of knowledge even if its goodness is not immediate or its profit not instantaneous.

Speaking of plumbing or of things that can be gauged with some kind of certainty, I think you liked order too much for a scholar of world politics. I know you talked about justice, but I noticed that not much was expended on the word, liberty. I liked your references to Professors Ali Mazrui and Richard Falk, even though both were your critics as you noted so graciously in your book. The first, if you recall, had suggested that had the African and Asian states played the leading role in the formations of international institutions, such as the United Nations, they would have placed a higher emphasis on human rights at the expense of order (pg. 85). Professor Falk, on the other hand, had brought up concepts like “world order activism”, “consciousness raising”, “survival universities”, “peacekeepers’ academies”, and “ark of renewal (pg. 292)” to save, to borrow the title of his book, “This Endangered Planet”.

The vision you had of our planet was quite different than that of Professor Falk. He strived for global village and spaceship earth, but you used quotation marks around his goals to differentiate your take from that of his. When people dreamed of a slave-free America, their critics were quick to use quotation marks around their outlandish idea as well. In other words, progress occurs, even it happens at a very slow rate. I happen to think your criticism of Mr. Falk said more about our common future than your own take on the canons of world politics. You said of him, “I believe, however, that his is one of the most significant points of departure in the study of world politics today, and the attention I devote to refuting him should be taken as a compliment (pg. xxx).”