Liberty and Power: A Dialogue on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy
J. Bryan Hehir, Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Charles Krauthammer, Columnist, The Washington Post*
Walter Russell Mead, Henry Kissinger Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Louise Richardson, Executive Dean, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University
Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development, University of Maryland; Nonresident Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution
E.J. Dionne, Jr., Senior Adviser, Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life; Senior Fellow, the Brookings Institution
*A last-minute emergency prevented Mr. Krauthammer from participating in the event.
LUIS LUGO: Good morning and thank you all for coming. My name is Luis Lugo, and I am the director of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. The Forum, as many of you know, is a nonpartisan organization, and we do not take positions on policy issues, including the issue under discussion this morning.
The one issue we do take a position on is cell phones, so kindly turn off the ringers to your phones and pagers. Thank you. In fact, I’ll check mine just to make sure.
It is my pleasure to welcome you to what we believe will be a thought-provoking discussion of religion and U.S. foreign policy. This event is taking place in conjunction with the release of a new volume, which you may have seen outside, entitled Liberty and Power: A Dialogue on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy in an Unjust World. The book is the fourth in the Pew Forum Dialogue series, which looks at the moral and religious dimensions of important public questions.
Let me get the hucksterism out of the way and just let you know that Liberty and Power is available for sale at a table just outside this room at a very reasonable price. For those of you who are too busy in this season to read the whole volume now, we also have an executive summary that is available for an even better price – it’s free – also outside. If you haven’t picked one up, I would encourage you to do so before you leave.
The publication of this new book could not be more timely, if I may say so myself. The events of 9/11 signal the end of this country’s post-Cold War holiday from history, and as a result, Americans are once again paying more attention to international affairs. According to a recent poll conducted by our colleagues at the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, for the first time since the Vietnam War, foreign policy and national security issues are more important to voters in this election than are domestic issues – and that includes the economy, stupid. A recent Pew Forum survey demonstrated very clearly that religious groups across the board have taken a major step away from isolationism in their thinking. This is all quite a contrast, of course, with the state of affairs during, say, the 1992 presidential campaign when by a ratio of 18 to 1 voters judged domestic issues to be more important than foreign policy concerns.
Now, this renewed focus on international affairs offers, I think, an excellent opportunity for us to revisit a very important question: what role, if any, should religion or morality play in the making of U.S. foreign policy? Much of the American diplomatic establishment for quite some time has believed that religion is best left to the private realm and should not intrude on the practice of statecraft. Their view is best expressed, perhaps, by the late Dean Acheson, President Truman’s secretary of state. “Moral talk was fine preaching,” he said, “for the Final Day of Judgment, but it was not a view I would entertain as a public servant.” In light of this country’s current struggle against a religiously informed ideological movement, is Acheson’s advice wise, an indispensable counsel for the policy maker, or is it short-sightedness masquerading as tough-minded realism? – to put the question in a very stark way.
Now, opposing points of view on that question form the basis of Liberty and Power and of the discussion we are about to have here today. The volume came out of a public event hosted by the Pew Forum in February of last year, about a month and a half before the United States invaded Iraq. That fascinating discussion is the basis for the essays that appear in the book.
Putting the volume together, of course, was no easy task, and I want to express my gratitude to the editors, E.J. Dionne, Jean Bethke Elshtain and Kayla Drogosz, for their very fine effort in bringing this volume to press. I also want to take the opportunity to thank the contributors to this volume for their very fine essays. It is quite an impressive piece.
It’s my pleasure to introduce E.J. Dionne, who will in turn introduce the speakers and moderate the discussion for us this morning. E.J. is a co-founder of the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life and now serves as senior adviser for the Forum. Among his other and lesser duties, he is also senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, columnist for The Washington Post, professor of government at Georgetown University, and a regular commentator for National Public Radio. E.J. is the author or editor of more than 10 volumes, including the best-selling, Why Americans Hate Politics and, as I just mentioned, Liberty and Power. Please help me welcome E.J. Dionne.
(Aside.) Knock ’em dead.
E.J. DIONNE, JR.: Thank you very much, Luis. This crowd, all of you here, I think is a great tribute to two things. One is how much interest and concern there is about this subject. The other is the very hard work of the Pew Forum and particularly my colleague Kayla Drogosz, who is so good at getting the word out I think she could gather a large crowd for a discussion of Greek paleontology in the third century, B.C. I mean Kayla, got to love you for getting the word out and for being so instrumental in putting this book together.
I was thinking when Luis was talking about the executive summary that there are only 105 pages in this book. And Abraham Lincoln once said of a political opponent, “Never has someone forced so few thoughts into such a large number of words.” And this book, thanks to our distinguished authors, is exactly the other way around. Luis gave a very good introduction to the discussion so I won’t belabor the point, but I think it’s important to say two things. One is that there is a lot of unease over introducing religion into foreign affairs. The first reason is that it can be a conversation stopper and it can retard, rather than advance, an honest discussion of morality.
The second fear, which Father Hehir talks about in his essay at some length, is rooted in the bloody history of wars over religion in the past centuries and of course in today’s acts of terrorism that are often justified in religious terms. Father Hehir reminds us of the importance of the Treaty of Westphalia and the Westphalian consensus, which was designed to have the world move decisively beyond the century of religious warfare that ravaged European politics.
So there is a lot of unease about this subject, and yet all our authors here in a very powerful way demonstrate why this is such an important subject. I should say, incidentally, that I am sad that Charles Krauthammer was unable to join us today because of an unexpected doctor’s visit. He apologizes very much. I love Charles’ voice in this book. Charles and I are very dear friends even though we don’t always agree. We happen to share a love for Canadian politics, and after the 2000 election – if you recall the results of the Canadian election – I left a message in Charles’ office saying, “We’ve got to get together and talk about the election.” And he knew I was talking about Canada and not the recount. (Laughter.)
But Charles in this book – just to give you a sense of the strength of his reply to some of our authors – he says, “I am sure one can find any message one seeks in the Bible, depending on where one looks.” It’s very sad that we can’t have Charles’ voice here.
When Kayla and I were doing this book, Kayla sort of reminded me, as we were writing the introduction, that really the central issue here was raised by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the anti-Nazi theologian who was imprisoned, as you know, for the plot to assassinate Hitler, and later killed. And Bonhoeffer judges very harshly those who were retreating into what he called “the sanctuary of private virtuousness” when confronted with hideous injustice. And he goes on: “Anyone who does this must shut his mouth and his eyes to the injustices around him. Responsible action involves contamination – one cannot altogether avoid getting ‘dirty hands’ when acting in the political world in responsible ways.” But how dirty and bloody must one’s hands get? At what point does the contamination of which Bonhoeffer speaks become a threat to the responsible action to which he rightly calls us? Ultimately, these are the questions with which our authors grapple and that we will be confronting today.
So I’ll briefly introduce all of them. Father Bryan Hehir – I have been running an unsuccessful Hehir for Pope campaign for many years. (Laughter.) I still think it’s a good idea. Although the more I say it, the less likely it becomes, I suppose. Father Hehir is the Parker Gilbert Montgomery Professor of the Practice of Religion and Public Life at Harvard’s Kennedy School. He was president of Catholic Charities. He has so many distinguished titles. He was really the moving force behind the Catholic bishops’ famous letter in the ’80s on nuclear war. I love to bring Bryan to very secular audiences because many of the smart people in the audiences are stunned that this Catholic priest actually knows a lot more than they do about almost every subject. (Laughter.) And so I am very grateful to Bryan.
Louise Richardson is executive dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard. She was an associate professor as well as a head tutor of Harvard’s government department. At Harvard she was awarded the Levinson prize, given by the undergraduate student body to the best teacher at the university, so we can count on her being as coherent, and funny, and engaging in this talk as she was before. She’s an expert on international terrorism and international relations theory and British foreign policy. She is the author of When Allies Differ and has contributed to several journals and books.
Shibley Telhami is my colleague at the Brookings Institution and has one of the greatest titles in the world. He is the Anwar Sadat professor for peace and development at the University of Maryland College Park. He also has – and I didn’t know this when I asked him to do this book – he has a graduate degree in philosophy and religion from the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley. Most people know Shibley as a foreign policy specialist and we were talking before – how was I to know that we had somebody who can bring the study of Kierkegaard to bear on international relations? He’s the author of many books, including The Stakes, Identity and Foreign Policy in the Middle East and Power and Leadership in International Bargaining, and he’s contributed to a long list of very distinguished publications and newspapers.
And finally, we are very grateful to have Walter Russell Mead as a commentator on this panel and on the book. I always have this sense as a journalist of what adjectives automatically get attached to a name by a computer. And two that came to mind for Walter were “brilliant” and “provocative.” Walter, I believe, is the only American who would think of reviving Andrew Jackson as the central figure in our foreign policy thinking today – that’s the provocative part. The brilliant part is he actually makes it work and makes us believe that he’s right that Andrew Jackson is a central figure in American foreign policy thinking today.
He is the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow in U.S. Foreign Policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He also serves as co-director of the religion and foreign policy program that is jointly sponsored by the Council and the Pew Forum. His publications include Power, Terror, Peace, and War, Special Providence, and – I don’t see on this list – Mortal Splendor, which I believe was his first book, and the first time I came into contact with Walter. He also has published in many places including The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times – and Worth Magazine – that’s intriguing; you’ll have to tell us about that.
I’m grateful you’re all here and grateful to our panel. And Father Hehir will lead opening prayer. (Laughter.)
J. BRYAN HEHIR: I simply deny several things that E.J. said. (Laughter.)
MR. DIONNE: But he really is running for Pope. (Laughter.) Because you always have to deny that you’re doing it.
MR. HEHIR: First of all, let me express my appreciation for this second round of a project, one of whose most attractive elements has not only been the intrinsic significance of the ideas we were asked to deal with, but the colleagues that one was able to engage – both agreeing and disagreeing with them since last February.
Since last February, three things have happened. One, the book has appeared; two, we’ve gone to war; three, we are close to a presidential election. I do not want to argue that those three have the same weight, but they do provide a frame of reference as to what we’re supposed to do at this panel now that the book is out.
Basically, what I thought I might do usefully – at the beginning, anyway – was I looked at this large agenda that we had and each of us have ten minutes and I said, how do you reduce your ideas to coherence and brevity? And my first instinct was to say, “In the midst of a book with many good ideas and discussion with good ideas, I find three bad ideas, and I will focus on them.” Then I thought about that and recognized that it wasn’t intellectually honest; that I didn’t think the three ideas were all bad. There were two I thought were bad and one I disagreed with. So I think that’s the more appropriate way to put it. So I will discuss two bad ideas and one I disagree with, which doesn’t necessarily make it bad.
First, let’s start with a good idea – the way this project states the question: religion, morality and politics. The reason why that’s a good idea is evident when one looks at the commentary of the presidential debates, which talk often about religion and politics. I think this is a bad way to state the question. In a religiously pluralistic society like our own and, perhaps more importantly today, in an even more pluralist world, it is a bad idea to translate religion directly into politics. As Michael Walzer says in his essay, “A faith-based foreign policy is a bad idea.”
The appropriate way, I think, is to discuss religion, morality and politics. When you insert the third term, it helps greatly because all of us, whether we have religious conviction or not, must be interested in the moral content of foreign policy. To state the question that way allows some, who draw their moral ideas from religion, to enter the debate, and it allows others, who have no direct religious connection at all, to also enter the debate on the basis of their moral conviction. Moreover, it allows religious groups to enter directly into the discussion, but I want to suggest they must, I think, justify their deepest religious conviction in moral terms that are accessible to all. Once again, I don’t like the translation of religion directly into politics – domestically or internationally.
Now I come to the first bad idea. It is from my friend Charles Krauthammer. In his commentary on religion and politics, as E.J. has already indicated, he makes the statement that you can draw almost any idea from the Bible or religious traditions. Or to put it more specifically, he says, “Religion as an abstraction will not tell, inform, or guide anyone about how to act collectively or individually.”
I think what Krauthammer has done is taken the pluralism of conclusions that circulate in religious and moral debate and gone from that pluralism to an argument that there is no intelligent, coherent content to religion. I think that is a deeply bad idea. It is particularly a bad idea when people want to use religious ideas and translate them directly into politics. Religion ought to be subject to critical commentary, critical debate and analysis. But if you start with the assumption that it has no content, if you will – that anybody can fill any idea with any content – it seems to me you erode the way in which religion can be subject to questioning and argument.
Indeed, if I had a longer period of time, I would take an idea dear to Krauthammer’s background, history and writing – namely realism – and illustrate that there is as much pluralism in realism as there is in religion. We have classical realists, neo-realists, Kennanist realists, Niebuhrian realists, Walzean realists. And if you find that kind of pluralism and say because of that, you can fill any idea with any content, I think you make a mistake in politics and I think Krauthammer has made a mistake in religion.
Secondly: war and morality. Indeed, the interesting thing about the pluralism of realism, I think, is that, in my view, the best article in the debate leading up to the war in Iraq was written by two card-carrying realists who came out very differently than Charles Krauthammer on the war. The two people I refer to are John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, who wrote an article called, “An Unnecessary War.” This was before the Iraq war began.
This points to the second bad idea. That Iraq was a war of choice. I think – either if you take just war theory as a whole or if you take, specifically, the two criteria of last resort and proportionality – wars of choice are a bad idea. The function of just war, as Michael Walzer has said, is to legitimate some wars in a world in which some war may be necessary. I wholly support the proposition that war at times may be necessary, and I wholly support the proposition that if it is to be necessary, it must be framed by moral restraint to be legitimate.
Therefore, one of the criteria of war should be that it is necessary; not that it is optional, not that it would be, quote, “a good idea,” not that it provides a moment of opportunity to carry out objectives that are not necessary. War must be absolutely necessary, demonstrably necessary. The very unpredictability of war – its violence, its organized, systematic taking of human life – means that if you are to go to war, you must justify it, and wars of choice, I think, bear an enormous burden. In this case, it was not justified.
How do you judge when war is necessary? Well, the self-evident case is self-defense, reaffirmed by the just war tradition, and reaffirmed by Article 51 of the UN Charter. The exemplary case is Afghanistan. The United States was attacked in a classical act of aggression and responded appropriately. But beyond the clear case of self-defense, as embodied in both just war and the UN charter, then the question of what wars are necessary becomes much more complex.
One of the ways of keeping states honest in a world in which there is no central authority is precisely to make them test and justify their going to war. This means that there should be a context surrounding the debate about war, and here again is where Krauthammer and I deeply disagree on the discussion about unilateralism and multilateralism.
He is entirely right to say that you simply don’t get better moral judgment by adding voices to the debate. In my own Catholic tradition, we have a saying that you don’t count moral opinions, you weigh them. I think that’s entirely appropriate. But the purpose of international law and organization is to translate some of the norms that are rooted in moral grounding into a visible framework in which states must go before the world and justify what they are to do, not only in terms of what they think, but in terms of what they are capable of persuading others is legitimate to do. That is where multilateralism places restraints on states.
Charles has said in the past that those who favor multilateralism simply want to restrain and tie up U.S. independent judgments about what it ought to do. I fully agree that’s what they want to do. And in fact, when you have a superpower of enormous capability, it is not a bad idea to place it in a framework of law and policy, moral argument and legal argument, and force it to justify what it should do. It was a bad idea to have a war of choice.
Thirdly, a third idea that is not a bad idea, but one that I simply would want to discuss further, is Professor Telhami’s discussion of the role of religion in world politics. I think he rightly points attention to the significance of the organizational and institutional structure of religions as giving them significant capability to function in important issues of world politics. The one place where I would modify the judgment is that I think to some degree he underplays the significance of the intellectual content of religious traditions. I would want to say it is a combination of ideas and institutions together that give religious organizations a capability to translate their convictions once again into usable, moral arguments about war and peace, justice and injustice, and human rights.
Indeed, the examples he uses in the Catholic case of the Philippines and Latin America – illustrating the organizational strength of the church – I think are to some degree proof of what I mean. In the Philippines case, before the bishops organized demonstrations in the streets that led to the overthrow of Marcos, they had made an intellectual judgment that the election was invalid and illegal, and therefore should not be sustained. The intellectual tradition preceded the organizational activity.
Similarly, in Latin America, while the organizational structure of the church undoubtedly is one of the resources that it uses, you cannot ignore the discussion about human rights, even the religiously based notion of the auction for the poor, which again has to be translated, I think, into moral content. These ideas, along with the institutions, along with the communities they represent, are precisely the resources I think religion brings to both domestic and international politics. It is not a bad idea, it is a very good idea – I would just want to modify it at the edges. Thank you.
MR. DIONNE: Louise, go teach them.
LOUISE RICHARDSON: Good morning. I would like to join Father Hehir in thanking E.J. and Kayla for bringing us all together today and for corralling us into producing our work in almost a timely fashion. I would also like to join E.J. in his movement of Hehir for Pope. (Laughter.) I would be delighted to march behind that banner any day. Might even get me back into a Catholic church. (Laughter.)
As will be self-evident in a moment, I’m not a moral thinker. I come to this subject from the perspective of somebody who thinks about the bad guys and I’m faced with the injunction from E.J. to be brief this morning. I decided I really couldn’t collapse the arguments I included in this book coherently and briefly, so I hope that you will read them and I hope you may – some of you – even agree with them. But in any event, I decided not to recapitulate them.
I think we’ve just heard Father Hehir demonstrate that one can indeed engage in reasoned contemplation of serious issues and articulation thereof in a few minutes. But it seemed beyond me. So I decided to be very brief and very prescriptive, and deviate a little from my contribution to this volume because I want to make just a few points. And the central point I would like to make this morning is one that I made somewhat obliquely in my contribution, but I make it more forcefully now, because the situation seems to me to be even more urgent than it was when we last met to discuss these issues.
I think the prevailing and oft-repeated view is that, in light of the nature of the threat we face from terrorism today, we cannot afford the indulgence of all our civil liberties and constitutional protections; that we must balance liberty and security; that we must, in effect, trade liberty for security. And I would like to claim the opposite. I believe that it is precisely because of the nature of the threat that we face that we must adhere to democratic principles and constitutional constraints in countering it.
My point is that an ethical counterterrorism strategy is likely to be the most successful counterterrorism strategy, not because it is ethical per se, but because in this instance, regardless of all others – and I will leave that to the moral thinkers amongst us – but in this instance, an ethical approach is likely to be the most effective approach. And by ethical I simply mean abiding by the principles we’ve established for the ordering of our own society and our own government.
The threat we face from terrorism is not a military threat. If it were, we would have won long ago. We have the strongest military in the world – infinitely stronger than the bands of terrorists arrayed against it. The threat we face is fundamentally a political and a psychological one, and it must be fought – and I believe can only be won – on those terms.
I think we must resist the temptation to believe that even though we have been the victims of an unconscionable atrocity, that we possess a monopoly of virtue in this conflict. I think we must resist the temptation to adopt the Manichaeanism of our opponents. I think we must remember that terrorists believe that their actions are morally justified, too. I have never met a terrorist who did not believe that his actions were morally justified. I think this point was illustrated most beautifully years ago by Camus in his play about Kaliayev and the Russian anarchist, Les Justes.
More recently, bin Laden’s fatwas have been attempts to spell out the moral basis for his actions and his justification for the expansion of the category of those considered legitimate combatants. And most chillingly and most elaborately, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, in a detailed justification of the September 11th attack, claims that our actions justify theirs; that their actions are justified so long as they do not kill more than four million Americans or make more than 10 million Americans homeless – that is the number of casualties he believes we have inflicted on them.
Now it seems to me that we will never persuade the perpetrators of the terrorist acts against us of the evil of their ways, and I’m not sure that it’s worth trying to do so. I believe that the focus of our counterterrorism campaign should not be on this handful of terrorists, but rather should be on the potential recruits of the terrorist movements and the societies from which they claim support.
I think it is imperative that our actions in this campaign be easier to square with the principals we espouse and which form the basis of our society than they are to square with the motives attributed to us by our enemies. Looking back on these past three years, it’s not clear to me that they have been, and that is why I think we are losing this campaign against terrorism.
But I do not think that we have to lose this campaign against terrorism – and note that I use the term “campaign” advisedly, and not the term “war,” which I think is a mistake for reasons we don’t have time to go into. Certainly the historical precedents, I think, are not auspicious. I think that throughout the Cold War we elevated anti-communism to the status of prime virtue and allied ourselves with repressive thugs around the world who trampled on the principals we espoused, but were loyal anti-communists. We turned a blind eye when their citizens, who did share our values, tried to claim them for themselves. I fear that we are at risk today of falling into the same problem in which anti-terrorism becomes the sole requirement for alliance with us, and in so doing makes enemies of those trying to change those governments from within.
I believe that there are a great many lessons to be derived from the experience of other countries in counterterrorism. I think our allies have, with some irritation, pointed out to us that terrorism was not in fact invented on September 11th, and a great many countries, several of them allies of ours, have a great deal of experience, and some have experience of success in countering terrorism.
But for the negative lessons first. Several democratic governments, including our most loyal allies, I think, provide object lessons in what happens when democratic leaders, under intense pressure from an aroused public and a frightened public, demand results; and under this intense pressure, forget the principles their democracies were designed to defend in the first place. One example is the shoot-to-kill practice of the British security forces in Northern Ireland, who for a time simply shot onsite suspected members of the IRA. Or other cases in which members of the security forces colluded with Protestant paramilitaries to target Republicans and their sympathizers. In most cases difficult opponents of the state were eliminated, but in the longer term many more were generated, quite aside from the cases when innocents were killed by mistake.
Another ally, Spain, provides an even more egregious example: when senior members of the security forces created the GAL, a counterterrorist death squad with a mandate to murder the leadership of the ETA, the Basque terrorist movement. They did kill several ETA leaders and even more people who had nothing to do with the ETA, but they seriously undermined popular confidence in Spain’s nascent democracy. There are many other examples, too, but those, I think, are the two most egregious from two of our closest allies.
But there are also a great many positive lessons. And let me simply – quickly – stipulate them. I think success depends upon separating the perpetrators from their potential recruits. These lessons suggest that we must limit our punishment to the evil doers. We must refuse to participate in the cycle of violence into which the terrorists are trying to provoke us, and we must refuse to give in to the most common motive of the terrorist – the very human desire for revenge.
I think we must make an effort to understand the impact of our policies on the ground. None of us took the time to care that our forward deployment of troops in Saudi Arabia was massively unpopular for years and enabled our enemies to use it as a rallying cry against us. We had not bothered to take the time to think about the impact of our policies on the ground, which is not at all hard to do.
We must also understand the nature of the opponents we face and understand the differences between them – and there are very deep differences amongst the terrorists we face. And lumping them all together as terrorists or even all together as religious terrorists is a recipe, I think, for failure.
Above all, we must understand the nature of the appeal they have to their potential recruits. I think an ethical and efficacious counterterrorist strategy would use our wealth constructively to drain the swamps that spawn our enemies: the impoverished refugee camps of the Middle East and the madrassas in Pakistan. It would engage in a campaign of public diplomacy with the same skill, the same relentlessness, and – dare I say it – even the same resources as the military campaign in an effort to sell our case to the potential recruits of the terrorists. In a recent document, the Carnegie Foundation calculated that if one puts together the budgets of all the offices in this town responsible for public diplomacy, you come up with three-tenths of one percent of the Defense Department budget. That seems to me an unwise ratio, to say the least.
I think an ethical and efficacious counterterrorism strategy would abide by international law and use international institutions in our efforts to bring our enemies to justice. But above all, we should ensure that all our actions are consistent with the principles we espouse and not with the motives attributed to us by our enemies.
In looking back at the past few years, it seems to me that the tragedy of September 11th was compounded by our failure to adhere to a set of firmly held and widely shared principles in the proper conduct of our foreign policy – our refusal to allow ourselves to be constrained by the international community and our failure to seize the opportunity afforded us by this atrocity to build a stronger international system. The bad news, I think, is that we are losing this campaign in our behavior over the past three years. The good news is that we can combine an ethical and efficacious policy, and if we do so, if we play to our strengths, we actually can win. Thank you.
MR. DIONNE: I just want to warn Louise that I might not be able to resist asking the question at some point in this discussion, why not the word “war” and why the word “campaign”? I think that has moral as well as etymological implications.
Shibley Telhami – Bryan probably would not – being a Christian sort – would not have even taken on Charles Krauthammer if he had known that he wasn’t going to be here, but Shibley can actually reply. (Laughter.)
SHIBLEY TELHAMI: Well, there’s nothing to reply. First let me also thank the Pew Charitable Trusts and also thank my colleague E.J. Dionne, who taught me about an intellectual force in this town and nationally – E.J. is certainly one. And thanks to Kayla Drogosz for organizing this.
The national interest in this subject, I think, is a function of two things. One is the questions that we all have about America’s moral role in the world that came out certainly after 9/11 and after the Iraq war, but also of the perceived rise in the influence of the Christian right. And those are the two that have put this issue right in front of our agenda.
And I want to start with the proposition that in our democracy, which is a pluralistic democracy with vibrant and active interest groups putting forth their issues on the table regarding domestic and foreign policy, religion should be allowed to put forth its own interests on the table as part of the mix. There is no reason why – if we allow people who are making interest for the agricultural sector, or the commercial sector, or any sector – we shouldn’t have groups putting forth their moral views on the table of American foreign policy. I think it is a good thing for America. I think, however, there are two issues here that have to be sorted out.
First, I do worry a little bit about the increasing role of religion in America for a reason that has less to do with politics and more to do with society. When in fact religious convictions are the subject of the national political debate, and when in fact you have religious groups organized to lobby, mainstream churches may not like what the Christian right advocates, and therefore they want to put their ideas – their convictions – on the table of American politics. They’re going to lobby for them, and they should if they want to have their voices heard in this mix. If we allow this to happen without any check or thought, we may end up having far more internal religious conflict than we may anticipate by only looking at politics, and it’s just a cautionary point at the outset.
But the most important point here is why religious groups in America should be conceived as just another lobby; the fact that they’re religious does not give them the high moral ground. And that I think is the issue that has to be considered much more when we are thinking about evaluating our foreign policy and the content of our foreign policy. A religious person may be driven by an internal conviction that they’re hearing the word of God, but society will evaluate the behavior of that individual not because of what that person is hearing – they may be having a delusion – but on the basis of what they do. Ethics is about societal standards, not about the internal convictions of individuals or groups, and we’ve got to sort this out.
The third point I want to make refers to Father Bryan Hehir’s point about religious organizations. Actually, we don’t disagree. I don’t think religious organizations are the only way to examine the power of religious groups. I think ideas matter, of course. In fact, the reason why you have organizations to begin with is because their ideas are resonating with the public. Society has religion not because of the role that religion plays in politics but because of conviction, and the strength of an organization is often linked to the strength of belief and conviction.
But when we ask about the role of religious groups in politics – and you look at it historically, you look at it in America, you look at it elsewhere – it is clearly, at least in part, and often largely, a function of the power of the organizations, not the power of ideas. That is why in America we often have – whether you have religious convictions or secular convictions – interest groups that have far more weight in policy than would be otherwise indicated by the general public opinion. They have more weight largely because of their organization. And I think in this particular case, when you look at the influence of the religious right in America, it is certainly a function of the organizations.
And you can look at that even in areas related to other religions – Muslims, Jews, Arabs as ethnic groups in America. When you look at, for example, the relative influence of Jewish-Americans and the relative non-influence of Arab- or Muslim-Americans, I think you find that certainly there are differences that have nothing to do with religion – the political differences, ideational differences, historical differences, socio-economical differences. But the fact is that in the Jewish community, you have organized religion to which most people would have a relation, and it does provide a forum for communal interest where you can think more collectively and you can organize better. Whereas the majority of Arab-Americans who are Christian, most of them don’t belong to Arab churches, they belong to other general churches. They don’t have a collective identity in that regard. Most Muslims are not Arabs, but among those who are, apparently less than 10 percent of them have a relationship with the mosque. The organizational capacity is not there, and we often underestimate the importance of the organizational capacity in influencing politics, not in explaining the contents of ideas as such.
But let me move very quickly to the notion that convictions – religious convictions – do not determine what is ethical for society. Michael Walzer, in his argument (another author who’s missing today), has made a very provocative argument in his essay suggesting that American foreign policy in fact is often motivated by values, not interests, and in fact “interests” is used to rationalize and justify values. I happen to agree with that to a great extent, but I think when you look at what is suggested by “values” in this particular case, it is far from what we, as a society, would identify as ethical. Often it is what we call ideology.
And here I would put on the table the differentiation – to use Max Weber’s terminology – between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility. There’s a big difference between the two. A person can be moved by the ethics of conviction; society must judge by the ethics of responsibility. There are many ways of unpacking that differentiation, but one way to unpack it certainly pertains to what we seek to do and our concern for the consequences of what we do. And in this particular case, if you examine, for example, the notion that we ought to advocate democracy in Iraq or in the Middle East, that that is our aim – put aside for a moment our right to do so, but focus on accepting that notion. Do we not have a responsibility to examine the consequences of what we do for democracy? Do we not have, in going to war with Iraq, the responsibility, the ethical obligation, to listen to the experts about whether in fact our action is likely to lead to less or more democracy? Today, by the way, in the Middle East, in surveys I’ve conducted, the vast majority say the Middle East today is less democratic than it was before the war. The vast majority of people think Iraqis are worse off than they were before the war. That is troubling because it goes to the heart of our obligation, ethically, to make an assessment of the consequences.
Final point: who decides what’s ethical? We can decide what’s ethical for us; we can decide what’s good for us. Can we decide what’s good for America? This obviously is what the ethical question in foreign policy is. I start with the notion that if your actions affect someone else even more than they affect you, you cannot make the decision alone about that action. And in that sense, I think I am fully in agreement with Father Hehir about the need to have some sort of consensus internationally about what we do, and that consensus need not be always having a coalition at the UN And let me give you three different examples to drive the point. I’ll end with that.
The first is the war in Afghanistan. Certainly there was a UN resolution and there was a huge coalition, but put that aside for a moment. Had the United States decided to go it alone in Afghanistan, I think most people around the world would have understood, for one reason: because there is an international norm that most people accept, even if they don’t vote accordingly in the UN, that says when you’re attacked you have a right to defend yourself. And everyone – most people, anyway; even those who were not persuaded that we had made the case for the link with the Taliban – understood we had that right. And even had we done it alone, I think it would have been seen as an ethical action.
If you look at another occasion, Rwanda, where we did not, certainly, intervene – the UN didn’t intervene; the UN didn’t get a resolution to intervene, and they were responsible. Anyway, we had a huge genocide in the international system – not one that threatened the security of the U.S. or anyone else. Had we decided to do it alone without the UN, most people would have applauded. It would have been a unilateral war; it would have been a war of choice, not of necessity, but I think most people would have accepted that it was an ethical war.
Contrast that with the Iraq war. The difference was not only that we didn’t get a coalition; the difference was that the consequences of the war were vitally more important to every single major actor in the region than they were to us. We can pick up and go – we’re a powerful nation – even without resolving it. Jordan is going to have to live with it for decades. Turkey is going to have to live with it for decades. Of course the Iraqi people are going to have to live with it for decades. The Iranians, the Syrians, the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Europeans – it was far more consequential for them than for us, and they didn’t want it to happen and we made it happen. In this case, this was an issue about the consequences for everyone else versus the consequences for us. And in this case, we went against the norm, and for that reason, I think, our actions have not been deemed as ethical from the point of view of international standards.
Thank you very much.
E.J. DIONNE: Just before Walter comes up, I want to say a couple of things. First, the original discussion – which may be of interest to people here – the original discussion that led to this book occurred on the eve of the war, and I think it’s still on our website and it might be interesting for people to look at it. Some of the people who are here today were also here then, and we had a lively argument at that time.
The second point, by the way, on Michael Walzer: we tried to schedule this in a way that would allow him to come, but he had a preexisting commitment, and so we were juggling as best we could. And besides, Luis and Mike Cromartie think that Kayla and I organize not panels but small conventions when we put together these discussions.
Last quick point and then I’m looking forward to Walter’s reply. One is very conscious of these things in debate weeks when you keep looking at a watch or a cell phone. I’m just keeping an eye on a family member who is recovering from an illness, so if you see me get up briefly, it has nothing to with my lack of respect for the speaker, but I’m just checking on that.
Walter Mead, thank you so much for joining us today.
WALTER MEAD: Well, thank you very much for having me. You know, I’m probably the least ethical person in the room, so I feel –
MR. DIONNE: Got a lot of competition. (Chuckles.)
MR. MEAD: – but I’ll do my best. And I should say probably before beginning here that while I am the Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow at the Council – and I’m very happy to be such – Dr. Kissinger and I have an arrangement, which is that I’m not responsible for anything he says and he’s not responsible for anything I say. (Laughter.)
But we’re very grateful at the Council to be working with the Pew Forum on religion and foreign policy issues. We have a joint project that’s now in its second year, and we have a lot of excitement and a lot of hopes, and it’s interesting that a subject that maybe a few years ago wouldn’t have drawn a lot of interest in the American foreign policy world now has. In the book we have an essay by the director of studies at the Council, Jim Lindsay, and they were successful in dragging me all the way down from New York to be here with you this morning. So certainly from the Council’s perspective, this is an issue that is much higher on our list of priorities and our understanding of what’s important.
I can’t really join the Father Hehir for Pope campaign as an Episcopalian, and you know campaigns to be Archbishop of Canterbury just aren’t that exciting or dramatic – (laughter) – so I guess only to be bishop of New Hampshire does it get exciting – (laughter) – or dramatic in the Episcopal church, and I’m not sure he’s got his hat in the ring for that one. So I won’t be involved.
And certainly in the Episcopal/Anglican tradition, we have a long history of ambiguity about morality and foreign policy. I mean, to some degree, you know, they say that an Anglican faced with an ethical dilemma asks, “What would Henry the Eighth do?” (laughter) – and derives the insight to move forward. And Dean Acheson, who’s been quoted here today as an example of how not to blend religion and foreign policy – or morality, even, and foreign policy – was of course trained in an Episcopal school. But I would actually like to defend Dean Acheson just a little bit in the sense that where I think Acheson made his most important published reflection on morality and foreign policy is actually in an essay, which I think is called “Stern Daughter of the Voice of God.” It is an essay on Canada, and there he makes the distinction between moralistic foreign policy or moralism and morality. And I think it’s a substantive distinction, and it’s one that indicates that, in fact, for Acheson, these questions that we’re talking about today were important questions – he didn’t dismiss them – and his own religious background and, I think, beliefs did very much for him. They helped shape a foreign policy at the end of the Second World War, beginning of the Cold War, which he was personally convinced was moral, however questionable some of the incidents along the way may have been.
But I’m less interested in passing judgment. You know, professionally, I find out I do pretty well if I just keep up with what’s happening and have some sense of what’s happening on the ground rather than sort of ruling, “Okay, this one is good, this one is bad, this one needs a little improvement.” To me, it feels a little like the New York Times editorial board approach to the world; you know – “Promising, but needs improvement; deplorable; excellent.” And it’s useful – we need people who do that; it’s just that I’m not very good at it so I don’t try. And instead what I try to look at is why religion is becoming more salient in our discussions today and why it is becoming more troubling, and why a lot of people who would’ve rather spent their entire careers without thinking about religion even once now find themselves thinking about it over and over again and trying to understand how this mysterious force works and why, in spite of the fact that a lot of people think we shouldn’t be talking very much about faith-based foreign policy, why in fact so many of our foreign policy discussions are assuming just this kind of tone.
And there are several reasons. One of them, I think, has to do with an evolution in American society. A lot of the views that are put forward in this actually quite excellent booklet that the Forum is putting out reflect an old consensus in American foreign policy, or in American society. Mainstream Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, which had been profoundly challenged by its encounter with that mainstream Protestant conviction, reached in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s a kind of social consensus. And it could be taken for granted, and when someone like Dean Acheson could talk dismissively about religion and faith and foreign policy – you know, we’ve kind of got a sort of a general agreement on the way things ought to be.
But primarily, I think, because mainstream Protestantism has declined somewhat demographically but also in terms of its cultural hegemony and ability to shape theological reflection and because evangelical Christianity and other forms of Christianity have risen, we now find in American society a lack of this basic consensus. And I would say you can now talk about two different views of the world, the way it ought to be, and I couldn’t possibly cover it exhaustively, so I’ll just skim.
And, say, let’s talk about a “small c” catholic view of the world, which is to say, one that sees universal institutions, for example, as basically good things – that it’s a good thing that there be an international criminal court, which tries to provide a global framework for some of these things; a good thing that the United Nations and the Security Council be, in some sense, the arbiters of international law; and that it’s a good thing to try to make the world more and more like the European Union. And that should be the goal of moral people in foreign policy, and it can be religiously defended, and it can also be defended in terms of rational enlightenment, secular terms. But it’s where the old consensus more or less wanted us to go, though perhaps more slowly than some European countries would like us to get there.
But you have now a very influential dissenting view, call it “small p” protestant or maybe “small p” puritan, if you would like to, which says, no, universal institutions are bad. This is the kind of ultra-reformation, this is seceding from the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, from the Anglican church in the seventeenth century, those poor misguided unfortunates. And it means a kind of a rejection, a sense that, in fact, these global institutions are tyrannical and misguided.
And this is rooted in American civic politics as well as in religious belief – you know, the fear that the further away from the grassroots a level of government is, the more elites use this to oppress, deceive and plunder ordinary people, and I think you can see both the secular and the specifically religious side, which might see the UN as the harbinger of the anti-Christ kingdom. And, you know, while many intellectuals like to sniff dismissively at this, we have got books, selling tens of millions of copies, that explore just these kinds of themes. It’s a powerful force. So we actually don’t have an American society close to a universal consensus over something as basic as this.
There is another element to this that has a lot of practical significance, and that is the role of Israel in history. You have, let’s call them Zionists – and they can be Jewish Zionists, they can be Christian Zionists and they can be secular Zionists – who believe for various reasons that there is a unique historical significance and role to the Jewish people and Jewish state, and that it should not be judged by the same criteria, perhaps, that one uses for all states, that there is a special right to possess a certain land or in any case that the eye of God or the eye of history rests in a particular way on this. It’s very influential in the United States. It can take hard and soft forms. My understanding, for example, of President Bush is that it’s probably in a soft form, that he believes that Christians – partly because of the history of persecution and partly because of his understanding of God’s continuing care and concern for the Jewish people – that Christians have a special obligation to protect Jews.
But in any case, this is a very strong force. And on the other hand, a lot of people in the world want in a sense to normalize Israel, want to treat it as one state among many and generally see it as a rather troublesome state that is not necessarily in compliance with a lot of the norms that other states are expected to observe. And these are very basic differences, and all of these positions I’m talking about can be justified and defended in purely secular or moral terms. But they are cultural, and they often are attached to religious views of the world, and the arguments between these parties play a significant role in U.S. domestic politics and in global international politics.
Then there is one other trend from where I sit that seems to be bringing religion more into salience for people who think about and care about foreign policy. And this trend, I suppose – you know, to justify E.J.’s description of me as provocative – you know, why don’t I just come out with it and call it the apocalypse – the trend toward apocalypse in contemporary life – which is to say that more and more it begins to feel to a lot of people in the world as if we are in some kind of end time. You can look at polls and see significant numbers of Americans believe that the events described in the Book of Revelation are coming true before our eyes in the Middle East. But you can go beyond that, too, in the sense that there is a more general feeling – and one doesn’t have to be religious at all to perceive this – that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, both in terms of numbers of people who can get their hands on them, and also the types of weapons – you know, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction – increases the threat of the annihilation of the human species. And this is more frightening than it was in the Cold War. And what you will now hear from quite serious statesmen and people in both political parties and so on is that we are now in a place where even the mutual assured destruction logic of deterrence of the Cold War doesn’t work. So the genie is out of its box, and this nuclear-biological-chemical specter of mass destruction is now much more frightening and more formless than ever before.
This, I think, has a tremendous psychological impact on people because it now appears that the stakes in politics are ultimate stakes – stakes of personal survival, yes, family survival, yes, but also survival of the species. So questions of ultimate concern and questions of basic meaning now are much more a part of political controversy. It would even be true in something like the environmental movement, where the fear of a runaway greenhouse effect means that the question of regulating, you know, CAFE limits for fuel emissions in cars might be a question of the survival of the human race, and people can make quite strong legitimate arguments about these things. So questions of ultimate concern are fusing with politics in a way that is, I think, quite strong.
Again, the prominence of the Jews and of Israel in world history in the last 60 years has a powerful reinforcing effect here. One of them would simply be that Hitler’s attempt to destroy the Jewish people in the Holocaust is the kind of thing one would read about in the Bible. That is, you know, this is Pharaoh trying to get rid of them all, this is Haman trying to get rid of them all and Esther saves them all. This is a kind of ultimate evil that in the Westphalian state system in the modern secular rational world was just not supposed to happen, and here it is. And then the fact that the return of the Jews to Israel is the kind – in a funny way, Herzl trumps Darwin in terms of apologetics – (laughter) – that, you know, you can argue about what all those fossils mean, but on the other hand, people can make a very plausible case that what you see – what you are reading about in your headlines today – was predicted thousands of years ago in these biblical books. And therefore, there is some connection between the God of history and history, and it’s a powerful connection that shapes your life and shapes your options.
So all of this, I think, is pushing religion into foreign policy and into politics in a new way, and it’s kind of idle, I think, to speculate about whether that is a good thing or a bad thing because it is happening, and it’s going to go on happening whatever judgment we may come to about the wisdom or desirability of this trend.
I think there is another factor that is also pushing this, and that is globalization and the sense of cultural endangerment that that creates in a lot of people. The rapid changes in technology, the challenges to long-established ways of life and values that inevitably accompany this process of globalization that we are in the middle of are, I think, giving a lot of people a sense that they are living in an end time of some kind, that, you know, the nation, the culture, the soul is in some sort of existential danger as a result of historical processes. And that turns up the temperature, turns up the rhetoric and again leads people to make a leap to apocalyptic thinking.
And then, of course, there are things like HIV/AIDS, which is a plague literally of biblical dimensions in much of the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, I think it’s no coincidence that in Rwanda, before the genocide, already HIV prevalence rates were at levels of 20, 30, 40, 50 percent in parts of the population so that you are looking at people who are living with the knowledge that everything they see is passing away. This scourge, which is greater in some cases proportionally than the black death, which also spawned an age of apocalypse in history, is now among us.
So given all these things, I’m not surprised. I’m not particularly pleased, but I’m not surprised to find that essentially we are entering an age of apocalypse, which does not necessarily mean that the world is going to end, just the possibility that it might in one way or another becomes a real fact in history, and I think that is where we are. So, you know, all of us, I think, can now reflect on these things and ask ourselves, what would Henry VIII do? – (laughter) – and hopefully we will come up with some answers. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. DIONNE: Well, now you all know how entertaining it is to listen to Walter. I think “Herzl trumps Darwin” was worth the whole discussion, and I realized we should have called this book “Apocalypse Now” and it would have gotten much bigger sales.
I want to invite Father Hehir, who, with Michael Walzer, sort of wrote the original anchor essays for the volume, to respond. And then I want to invite the audience in, and partly because we are feeling Charles’ absence, I would particularly invite early on people who share essentially a perspective like Charles’ on the war in Iraq. I would like somebody who wants to talk back to some of the statements that were made here. If he or she wants to put him or herself at the front of the line, I would be grateful because I think I would like to have us mix it up a little bit on that topic, but Father Hehir, I would just like to hear from you first.
FATHER HEHIR: Well, again, this is pretty rich fare to do justice to, but let me make three points. I come from a tradition that says that faith complements reason, therefore, faith may take you beyond reason, but it should never take you beneath reason. I need to state that first because I also want to say, secondly, when I’m in this debate about religion and politics – or as I say more appropriately, religion, morality and politics – if anything, I’m pushed in the direction of being more rationalist than I normally am by my tradition. That is why my original critique of my friend Charles Krauthammer was that I feared that he was promoting what I would call a version of nominalism; that is to say, that ideas don’t really have content, or you can fill them with any content you wish. And I think that is a huge mistake if you are talking about religion, because you undercut the ability to test religious claims by rational and moral public argument.
So as I listen to my colleagues, I’m still pushed in a rationalist direction. For example, I think the points that Walter Mead has made – that this is simply a fact of life, that religion will be a part of the discussion – is a point I would thoroughly agree with. I would put it a little bit differently: I don’t want to debate whether it’s good or bad; I think it is much better to recognize that religion is inherent in the human condition, whether you talk about individuals or the macro version of history. The key question is, by what standards are we going to relate religion to moral argument, to political, economic, strategic issues? And here, I just want to press the rationalist case. I understand how many books are being sold in the country under the title of “Apocalyptic Instinct,” and I fully understand that everyone is free to read them, follow them, et cetera. But if they are going to be part of the public policy debate, then a lot of us have to press very hard on the question of what is the content of these ideas and what do they mean? In other words, you can say anything you want out of your religious conviction, but you don’t get to translate anything you want into the law and policy of a society or the world.
So I’m pushed to rationalism over against what I thought was nominalism in Charles. I’m pushed to rationalism precisely because of the persuasiveness of Walter Mead’s point about how this is going to be present. We are in better shape to recognize that religion is part of world politics than a kind of false division that went on for a long time in the study of international relations where religion was ignored. But the standards by which it is to be tested is the key point.
And then finally, that is going to take us to the question of how you engage rational standards out of a religious or moral tradition and make them viable in the political, economic and strategic world. And I want to make the argument that the doctrine that Michael Walzer and I both used, namely, the just war ethic, is a good example of what you want to do. That doctrine arises primarily out of a religious context, but it has now become secular property. You do not need to affirm any religious faith in order to argue the questions involved in just war ethic. So once again, I hope that that is a set of rational standards that people have to meet. It may owe a background – it does owe a background – to religious tradition. But it is no longer the property of one religious tradition.
MR. DIONNE: If people who would like to join the conversation can put up their hands, I’m going to ask one other question. First of all, on this whole issue of the rational content of religious tradition, Michael Walzer writes in our book that “traditions are sites for arguments and that is not less true of religious and secular traditions,” and I think that is a helpful thought for this whole discussion. And I would just like to ask Shibley and Louise and Walter, if you would like – there are two interesting paradoxes that emerge in this book for me. One is how realist arguments are often a cover for moral arguments. And Michael Walzer uses the excellent example in the book of the debate in Britain, within the British government, over the strategic bombing campaign against Germany in World War II, where there were two very sharply divided sides, one side essentially saying that this bombing campaign against civilians would demoralize the enemy, the other side arguing that it would in fact make the enemy fight more.
And what Walzer notes is that at the time, no one wanted to make a moral argument. I quote Walzer again: “Inside the government, there seemed to be a ban on moral talk: there is no one here but us realists!” writes Walzer, and yet after the war, it became clear that people who were making a realist case on one side or the other were in fact moved by their moral convictions when you saw positions they took on other questions. Similarly, Shibley talks about how – and this was inherent in all of what Louise said – how morality has highly practical uses. To quote Shibley from the book, “A strong instrumental argument can be made on behalf of international ethical behavior.” I happen to like irony and paradox, and I would just like you both to comment on sort of the irony and paradoxes here.
MR. TELHAMI: Let me start with the security argument, since I come from a realist background myself, and initially wrote from the realist tradition. I think there is a misconception about what realists say. Certainly, they emphasize power and the distribution of power in international relations, but when you look at the interpretation of history – particularly for the most powerful states – there is a difference between a powerful state and a weak state. A powerful state has a lot of capabilities that would give it a lot of leeway to do things that are not driven by security.
And if you look, actually at – Father Hehir quoted the realists Mearsheimer and Walt, in relation to the Iraq War – but if you look actually at the content of realist writings about the entire episode of the Cold War, which in our thinking was the one episode that could very much be explained by the threat to American national security, that was certainly the justification. And there was a lot of that in realist thinking, but if you look at specific foreign policy decisions, many of the realists opposed the Vietnam War. They opposed the arms race because they thought it was wasteful and unnecessary. They thought that the Reagan foreign policy was largely ideological. Most of them opposed the Iraq war and took an ad in The New York Times opposing the Iraq War.
Now, all of that should be understood in the following way: what they are saying is, they can make an argument about security, but the fact is the state – particularly a powerful state like ours, which can get away with a lot beyond security – often behaves for other reasons, and whether or not security is used as an argument, there is something other than security that is motivating that state. And whether it’s ideology, whether it’s an interest group, we can debate that, but there is something other than security. And I think in that sense, there is a very important statement that is made here by Walzer in that regard. That is that, sure, security is often used particularly by powerful states to explain behavior that has another motivation, and we have to come to grips with that. That other motivation is not necessarily ethical – we have to come to grips with that as well; that is, ideology and ethics are not the same, interest groups and ethics are not the same, but we have to come to grips with that.
Now, in terms of consequences, I make the argument that ethical behavior, by which I mean behavior that roughly conforms to notions of international norms – the UN is one key area – is self-serving. Aside from being, you know, a good in itself, it’s self-serving. It’s self-serving in two ways. In one way, there are certain arguments that we make when we are fighting the war on terrorism. In the end, our argument against terrorism is moral. What we – the international community – are saying above all else is that you cannot accept the notion that the ends justify the means. We don’t accept that means the moral argument in the end. And to make that argument, certainly you have to be in a position for people to listen to you. When you make a human rights argument and you go and say to people in a dictatorship in the Middle East or elsewhere, “Open up your prisons,” and then we have pictures of Abu Ghraib, it’s very difficult to make that argument. We can’t succeed; you can’t make that argument.
So in a sense, that is part of the instrumental issue, but finally, it’s a question of whether people then have faith in what you are doing. We can’t do it alone. It’s clear in Iraq. Israelis couldn’t do it alone in Lebanon. So what you need in carrying out your interests, no matter how powerful you are, is allies. And the question is, can you get them to join you only through coercion when in fact they believe even when they join you, they are not serving their vital interests? How could that be? And so we have something here that has to be inserted into the debate about the self-serving nature of ethical international behavior.
MR. DIONNE: Louise and Walter, do you want to talk about that briefly?
MR. MEAD: Let me just say very quickly that I think the key arguments in a lot of these things really turn out not to be about principles of ethics but about estimates of probability – you know, what you think will happen if you do or don’t invade Iraq may at the end of the day have – if you honestly believe that it was going to be flowers and candy for the troops and that there would be rapid transition, that might be a mistake in belief, but it would lead you to an ethically self-consistent view of the war that might be different than if you thought that the most natural outcome would be, you know, perpetual civil war in Iraq or whatever else you might suppose. So in general, I find when we are making these kinds of decisions as a society about whether or not to do X, the real heart of the decision – I guess in a way this supports Father Hehir’s concept – is a rational calculus of probabilities that ultimately carries the most weight in thinking these through. Although, every now and then something might be so heinous or so terrible that you simply are obliged as a human being to say, well, even if that works, you should not do it.
MR. DIONNE: Louise, do you –
MS. RICHARDSON: I just – very, very briefly – I would actually like to disagree with that. I think the problem is the evidence is usually ambiguous and then once the evidence is ambiguous, what do you bring to bear on that? And there I think that Walter is actually quite right, that what you tend to bring to bear on it is a subtler state of moral conviction, and I think Hehir is right that we would all be better off if we were more explicit about what these are that we are carrying around with us and then assess them, because evidence is ambiguous and the fact is we believe we are acting morally and we believe our enemies are not, and they believe exactly the reverse. So there is that complete dialogue of the death in the absence of some sense of the basic things we are arguing about.
MR. TELHAMI: If I may, I just want to engage Walter a little bit on that. I agree, actually, on the notion that it is always ambiguous, but I think we have an obligation to seriously consider the consequences, and when you have a system that tolerates consistent underestimation, or consistent mistakes, and something bigger than just that is at stake. And so there was no absence of knowledge, for example, about what the risks were or the consequences were in the Iraq War, and it would be hard to believe that it’s just a failure of people in estimation because it was a deliberate, often an automatic, discounting of views that went the other way. And so that is where I say, then, in those kinds of cases, you have to make an assessment about whether there were motives other than what is just obvious.
MR. DIONNE: Bryan, and then Walter to reply, and the gentleman – whoever has the mike on this side of the room, and we will go over that way.
FATHER HEHIR: Only one point – I really would disagree with Walter Mead’s point that you reduce ethics to a calculation of probability. That is one style of moral argument: it’s called consequentialism. It is not the only inhabitor of the moral universe. And indeed in foreign policy, the tendency is to say, if you are going to use ethics at all, use the ethics of consequences. I think you can’t have a good ethical foreign policy without ethical consequences. I also think that unless you have got some firm principles that you will not violate in spite of the consequences, you will not have an adequate ethic, and the clearest example of that is the principle of bombing civilians directly. If you reduce that to an ethic of consequences, you are sooner or later going to bomb civilians as we did readily all during World War II. But if you have got a firm principle that says, that is undoable, then you have got part of the shape of an adequate ethical foreign policy, which can then count the consequences as a secondary and important rule.
MR. DIONNE: Could I ask a quick question about that, though? In just war, the likelihood of success is, in fact, one principle, which gets you into Walter’s territory in terms of probability.
FATHER HEHIR: It gets you into Walter’s territory, but again, if you go into Walter’s territory using the possibility of success and consequences as your only judgment, you have a standard that says, in theory you can do anything in order to succeed. And that was exactly the argument that was made with obliteration bombing in World War II, and exactly the argument made in the debate leading up to the decision to drop the bomb in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
MR. DIONNE: And now we will hear form the apocalyptic consequentialist.
MR. MEAD: Well, I’m going to be very mild and very short in my answer, which is that, again, I’m trying to describe what it looks to me like people are doing rather than prescribe what they ought to do here. And the widespread use of civilian bombing in World War II would support my contention that I’m describing the process as it mostly happens.
MR. DIONNE. Thank you. Somebody had the mike over here. Two things – we are going to be publishing a transcript of this, so we would be grateful if you would identify yourself. Be forceful, articulate, and if you could, please be brief.
RACHEL BLUNTI: Hi, my name is Rachel Blunti. I’m from Regis College. In the past few years, we have seen a great deal of internal church politics in the news – the Catholic Church crisis in Boston, the schism in the Episcopalian church over the homosexuality issue. How does that affect the church’s – or any church’s – ability to enter the public sector as a lobbying group? What is the public’s opinion of that, and honestly, does it decrease the efficacy of any type of lobbying?
MR. DIONNE: That is a good question. I’m going to be uncompassionate and ask Bryan to answer that question.
FATHER HEHIR: Well, it is a very good question, and not a hard question to answer. It is disastrous for us – disastrous. Anytime we try to answer the discussion now, we have got to climb a mountain of doubt and skepticism about the intrinsic reality of the organization. So you have got to both demonstrate that you have an accurate moral view, and then at the same time now, you have to overcome a great deal of apprehension and doubt. So it’s disastrous for us.
MR. DIONNE: Could you also address the first half of that, which is this notion that most religious bodies are in some ways split in their political views? I mean, the Catholic Church is a good example of where different figures put very different emphases on one set of issues or another as being decisive.
FATHER HEHIR: Right, and I think that is a very complicated question because it varies by tradition, but I think you can’t say that all issues are equally significant in terms of their intrinsic morality, particularly when you are talking about not only the intrinsic morality, but also how you translate that into public policy. In the Catholic tradition, when we are at our best, we do not say that every moral judgment you make should automatically be translated into civil law in society. There is a further test about whether the issue at stake is of such significance for the public ordering of society, that there should be a moral case made for it. Secondly, you have to ask how you can translate that into law, and thirdly, you do have to test the consequences, which – Walter is absolutely right – you can’t have any public morality without a testing of consequences. It is all a question of where they fit in the framework of moral analyses.
MR. DIONNE: Sir, in the front.
NICK BERRY: Yes, Nick Berry, Foreign Policy Forum. Shibley, you talk about the right of churches to speak out on foreign policy, but you decry the fact that if one church challenges another church over foreign policy, that it would somehow fracture society. Maybe I’m misreading you, but isn’t a vigorous public debate a sign of a healthy democracy?
MR. TELHAMI: No, I said the former but not the latter. My position is that, given the way our system works, the more active you are – the more passionately advocating your causes you are – the more likely you are to have impact on foreign policy. There is absolutely no reason why churches – whatever their agendas, whatever their moral views – shouldn’t be powerfully playing a role in selling their views to the policymakers just like any other interest group, and that is my belief – that is my strong belief.
I said as a cautionary note – not about, you know, the description of it, but as a cautionary note – I am worried about what is going to happen down the road in society. I can’t stop it, and I still think it’s the right thing to do because that is what the system is, but I’m just looking ahead to say, as they become more active will they start, in essence, looking at each other as the enemy? And if so, there is a difference between looking at each other as a political opponent and seeing the other as a threat to your conviction. And that is something that I just put on the table for us to think about as a society down the road, rather than to say, don’t do it.
MR. DIONNE: Please.
HALIF TERAN: Halif Teran from University Saint Joseph, Beirut, Lebanon. First, I would like to raise the idea of Ms. Louise Richardson in the book concerning the intervention of American troops in Lebanon and their withdrawal in the ’80s. Now it has been 20 years ago, and your conclusion makes sense – the withdrawal brought us to chaos, and at that time, there was no war, no campaign. We had American intervention, and it was, according to a lot of sources, very ethical at that time. So this means the withdrawal was not ethical 20 years ago.
The second thing, about the consequences raised by Dr. Telhami of the intervention in Iraq – we live in the Middle East, we know what we are talking about – the consequences were disastrous. I can tell you one thing which is extremely sad – believe it or not, the minorities were more secure with a dictator. Now we have 150,000 coalition forces, they don’t feel secure, they are escaping, they are leaving the country for the neighboring countries. Thank you very much, and I congratulate the organizers for this very good meeting. Thank you.
MS. RICHARDSON: Well, thank you. I use the Lebanese case because it’s a case that is constantly invoked by bin Laden, for example, as demonstration of the fact that we are corrupt, that we will not stand and fight. And I think bin Laden and others, they cite our withdrawal from Somalia and especially the withdrawal you mentioned from Lebanon as an example, that all they have to do is kill some of us and we will – (audio break, tape change) – that it wasn’t ethical and I was arguing that it wasn’t efficacious either.
MR. TELHAMI: On the Middle East – no question that what you said is verified by the public opinion surveys I’ve conducted in the summer in the Middle East. And the majority of people think that there is more terrorism today, less democracy today, more instability, less peace. They’re more pessimistic than they were before. No question that’s the finding.
I want to say that, in part, because you can make an argument as to what Walter suggested – that some people miscalculated – and I agree with that. Some people miscalculated. Or other people who will make the argument, wait a second now, it’s too early to tell. If it’s disastrous now, but 10 years down the road it’s going to unleash a process that is going to still – Iraq is still going to be a democracy – and let’s hope it will – that’s not what it looks like now. We’ve got to wait – and in 10 more years, the Middle East will be transformed in a positive way. It’s not a silly argument, but it certainly doesn’t match the facts.
Let’s assume that that was a conviction that is based on some real assessment of reality – probability about how history unfolds. In order for that to happen, you’re going to have to persuade people in the region, and allies, and everybody else to stick with you for those 10 years to make it happen; and if they don’t, it’s not going to happen.
And so that brings me back to the same argument about the absolute necessity of having some notion of ethics that is in essence tied to people’s notion of their own interests. The majority of people around the world – in the surveys that were done after 9/11, when we discovered that much of the world, let alone the Middle East, resented America – when you ask them what is the single most important issue, they said, “We’re being ignored; America doesn’t think about our interests.” That’s the issue that we have to address, because that’s even beyond the existing international institutions and governments, but it’s a question of psychology and how people perceive the value of what we do.
MR. DIONNE: Let’s see. You’ve got the mike right there.
DAN CONSOLATORE: Dan Consolatore, a student at George Washington University and a U.S. Institute of Peace researcher.
Perfect place to jump in. Dr. Telhami, you spoke at USIP a few weeks ago and you talked about the public opinion surveys that you had done, and I wanted to raise that issue particularly with Dr. Richardson, and I think, just for me, you nailed it in talking about the apocalyptic idea in the States. Dr. Richardson, you particularly talked about terrorism and the importance of distinguishing between the agents of violence, essentially, and the potential recruits. You don’t talk much about the public opinion – hearts and minds, street opinion – all of these things that Dr. Telhami has considered, and you also say on page 59 in the book, essentially, that throughout the Cold War, we mistook nationalism – and incidentally Robert McNamara figured this out 30 years too late and wrote it in his memoirs – we mistook nationalism in Vietnam for Communism. Don’t you think that we’re doing the same thing now? Red menace, green menace – but isn’t the issue much more than the recruits, public opinion, popular base support for Islamism? And isn’t that parallel to what Walter Mead is talking about: alienation, fear of globalization, culture threat? It’s not a coincidence that Osama bin Laden and Jerry Farwell share such similar opinions.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. I admire anyone who can already quote from a page number in the book. Thank you. Who wants to go first?
MS. RICHARDSON: Well, thank you for that point. Yes, you’re right. I don’t address opinion on the street, and public opinion, and so on in this piece, but it is clearly the implication of everything I’ve said, that this should be the focus of our policy – that we should indeed be waging a campaign of public diplomacy, that we should be buying far more satellites than we are tanks, that we should be engaging in public debates in each of these countries, that we should be mobilizing or trying to persuade moderate opinion within each of these countries of our position. And if I were king, that is exactly what we would be doing. So I am entirely in agreement with you that that is where I think the focus should be.
MR. DIONNE: Just very quickly because we want other voices –
DAN CONSOLATORE: One more word: democracy. How does democracy fit into that – American foreign policy and democracy – that’s what – (inaudible.)
MS. RICHARDSON: Oh, I see. Well, we have something of problem when it comes to democracy insofar as we’re big fans of democracy so long as it elects our friends. The Algerian example is a classic case there. There was a relatively moderate Islamic movement about to win in Algeria and with our connivance the – we lost interest in democracy all of a sudden. We’re not solely responsible for the tens of thousands of deaths that ensued in Algeria, but I think it’s a huge blot on ethical standards that we participated in this. So I think this is a huge problem we have. If we’re committed to democracy and if that is one of our guiding principals, we have to be prepared to accept the election of people who disagree with us fundamentally. I think we should be perfectly happy to do so.
MR. DIONNE: Go ahead, Shibley.
MR. TELHAMI: Yeah, on this issue, particularly on the link between public opinion, democracy, governments and our policy, I think when you look at it, there’s been, in a way, built-in contradictions. Some of them we cannot ignore and we really cannot avoid in a way. I think it is right to say that there are national security issues that often will trump our advocacy of democracy, and that’s inevitable. And in that sense I’m a realist. For example, in Pakistan today, there is no doubt that America’s priority is to defeat al Qaeda and that General Musharraf remains a central component in that fight in any foreseeable future. And in that sense, if you look at it that way, it is hard to envision how the U.S. is going to push for something that is going to weaken that priority.
Once the decision was made to go to war with Iraq and we discovered 90 percent of the public in the Middle East opposed it – and then you have to persuade the Egyptian government, and the Jordanian government, and every government in the region that was needed to support – they come to you and say, “But look at my public opinion.” Well, we need their support, that’s priority number one for the war, and therefore do what you have to do. That is why what the public sees, just as we’re advocating democracy, that these governments often have to repress more in order to pursue popular policies. So the outcome of what we do is exactly the opposite of what we say we aim to do. That part we have to address, especially when it is not a necessary war.
That’s where I go back to Bryan Hehir’s argument, which is, look, we all know compromises have to be made historically. They have to be. When there is a major security threat to you, it’s inevitable, if you’re a responsible politician, you’re going to have to make some tradeoffs and sometimes you have to compromise. But when it’s not a war of choice, you better have an argument as to why you’re doing it.
MR. DIONNE: Thank you. Here’s what I’d like to do. Walter, did you want to come in? Please.
MR. MEAD: Just very quickly to kind of deepen the problem. You know, one of our issues in Pakistan – or interests in Pakistan – is preventing nuclear war between Pakistan and India, which is also tied up perhaps to some degree with maintaining Musharraf in power, even if at times he doesn’t get the George Washington award for separation of military and civilian, and so on. (Laughter.) But then again, that’s a fairly humanitarian objective, and there are a lot of very serious people who think that our relationship with Musharraf did in fact significantly help prevent the world’s first real nuclear exchange between two nuclear powers in the last four years.
So it’s a very complicated set of issues, and the trouble is you can never just isolate one and deal with it alone so that the sort of probabilistic calculus – you end up actually dealing with fairly low probabilities because you have so many variables.
MR. DIONNE: Here’s what I’d like to do. I’d like to bring in quickly two more voices and maybe whoever is closest a mike – and if you could be brief. But I want to put the closing question to you now so that it can be in the back of your head. Given what each of you has written in this book – and Walter, you elsewhere – I would just like to ask the question, was there a humanitarian case for this war that might have trumped all the other reasons? And if not, why doesn’t the humanitarian case for throwing Saddam Hussein out of power trump some of these other concerns? But I’ll go to the audience first. Go ahead.
JOE LOCONTE: Yeah, Joe Loconte with the Heritage Foundation. I appreciate the comments that the panel has made about the need – or the danger, I should say – of unrestrained unilateral action on the part of America as a superpower. I perfectly agree with those comments. But I do want to suggest a little bit more humility about the capacity of the international community – the UN, et cetera – in effectively securing justice and security, because behind some of the remarks, it sounds to me like a kind of utopian assumption about the capacity for those international institutions to act more justly than, say, some of the other Western democracies.
And two examples, or reasons, for more humility – one of them we all know about. The Oil-for-Food scandal right now in the United Nations – France, Russia, Germany, the son of Kofi Annan, maybe Kofi Annan himself – are engaged in this exchange of military hardware to one of the most thuggish regimes on the planet for oil, as Iraqis are dying. It is a moral outrage. And those very UN Security Councils members were deciding whether or not the United States should wage war in Iraq. That’s a reason for humility, number one.
Number two – a little more personal – I had a conversation earlier this week with Bishop Gassis from Sudan. His archdiocese extends into the Darfur region, where the genocide is going on right now. He told me that the one government the Khartoum regime fears is not the European Union, not the African Union, and not France – it’s the United States. And they feared the United States because of the Bush administration’s policies in the Middle East – their willingness to use military force.
Now there’s a downside to military force. I perfectly agree with the unforeseen consequences, but not all the consequences are bad. I’d love to hear from you.
MR. DIONNE: Joe, thank you very much. Let me ask Walter to reply first because Walter has to go to another Pew Forum engagement – back-to-back Pew Forum engagement.
MR. MEAD: Yeah, I’ll just very quickly say that in my mind, the real criticism of the Bush administration’s policy in Iraq is not so much the decision to invade – I think that there were good strategic reasons for that – but especially given the way that so many people in the Bush administration saw the reconstruction of Iraq as key to a very broad set of changes in the Middle East, to then fail so abysmally to create the conditions – to realize, for example, that as an occupying power, you do have a tremendous moral responsibility to provide security to the population. I don’t think anybody would now say that the Bush administration approached that with a sufficient seriousness of purpose or had the resources for security on the ground in place, although, again, I don’t think it was conscious evil that was at work here.
So in my mind, this is a real problem and it suggests, again, the difficulty of doing these kinds of things. It does say you should not do them unless you have to, but I would take your points also that we don’t have a choice between bad American unilateral action and good, functioning multilateral processes; the real choice we have is between unilateral action, which almost always does involve more costs and more unforeseen consequences than we would like, and a largely dysfunctional, often quite corrupt, multilateral system. So it’s not necessarily that there’s always a good choice. That’s characteristic of foreign policy decisions. There is not always a good choice to be had.
MR. DIONNE: Could I just say – we’re close to the time for the meeting and I’d like us to end very close to on time because a lot of people have appointments. Since Joe Loconte asked such a good, provocative question, it allows people to put a lot on the table in closing. So what I’d like to do is just thank Walter very, very much and – (applause) – Walter also trumps Darwin. And let’s just go right down the panel and I’ll let Father Hehir have the last word.
MR. TELHAMI: Well, let me start with the international institutions. I put it on the table again that in terms of my view of world politics, I still am a realist about the role of powerful states. They are the most dominant, and international institutions still are relatively weak. The issue is not that. The issue is how does a powerful state use international institutions and empower them in the service of its own interest as well as the interests of others who participate?
After World War II, the U.S. emerged as the most powerful nation on Earth. Clearly it had choices. And before it embarked on any major policy, including, ultimately, the containment of Soviet power globally, it went on a mission to build international institutions – the UN, the international trade system, NATO as an alliance, the Marshall Plan as a way of developing and empowering Europe in that context. And powerful states, in the process, not only bring alliances but, in fact, they shape the norms of these institutions. They have extraordinary power. No other state has as much influence as those powerful states that put the system together. And it is understood that these institutions serve the interests in the long term, because you can’t manage alone – it’s too costly to do it alone – and therefore you have to swallow sometimes in the short term in order to keep the legitimacy of the system, for people to know that they are serving themselves at the same time that you are serving your interests.
That has been the way American foreign policy has approached it, including in the first Gulf War in 1990 and ’91. What we might have now is a failure of international institutions – that we need a new post-Cold War system that we haven’t developed in the same way that we did after World War II, that we need to take initiative to put our power into institutions that help our interests and somebody else’s interests. It’s a different approach from saying, “I can do it all alone; I’m going to disregard everything else, including the norms that we put in place.” Remember, most of the norms reflect our interests, our ideas, our relative power. We already have enormous power, more than anyone else at the UN and everywhere else.
Also, on the Sudan, I don’t really agree with you. I think that we are weaker today after the Iraq war. I think today one reason why there’s been reluctance to intervene is because, number one, we are weaker; number two, there is far more anger in the region to accept the intervention. I think had the Iraq war not taken place, the possibility of intervention would have been far greater than it is today. So it hasn’t actually increased the chance; it’s really decreased it.
MS. RICHARDSON: I would largely agree with that. I would indeed argue that I think there is a stronger case for humanitarian intervention in Darfur than there was in Iraq. And I absolutely take your point that international institutions are weak and disappointing and much weaker than they should be. And I certainly take the point that our failure to act in Darfur is a real indictment of us, and not the U.S. alone but the Western world in general. We have sat by as people starved to death and we could have done something about it.
My own view is that had we not been so preoccupied in Iraq, we are more likely to have done something about Darfur, but I don’t want to fall into the category of blame America for everything, or blame us for everything. But, in fact, it seems to me that as a leading power in the international system, had we invested in international institutions throughout these past 30 years or 50 years, they would be stronger. And the United Nations is not the institution we wish it could be, and it would be had we invested in it, had we engaged in the hard slog of understanding other countries’ interests, trying to persuade them to come on board with us. But instead we’ve dealt with it pretty much as a nuisance and not used the opportunity to engage it. When we could easily get consensus to what we wanted to do anyway, we were fans of the UN, and if we weren’t, we didn’t take the time or make the effort to try and bring the world community behind us.
And as I said, I think one of the real tragedies of September 11th has been compounded by the fact that it presented us, I think – because of the international nature of this atrocity, because of the fact that people from 80 countries were killed in this attack, that it really was, as we said at the time, an attack on all humanity; not us – because of the nature of that attack, it really gave us an opportunity to mobilize the international community and strengthen its national institutions by way of fashioning a response, and the fact that we completely failed to do so, I think, has compounded the tragedy.
MR. HEHIR: I’ll try and answer E.J.’s question and comment on Joe’s comment at the same time. Let me begin with the imperfection not only of international institutions, but of international law. We have talked about the ethical implications undergirding international law, but international law at times needs to be criticized and reformed. On the question of intervention in the 1990s, the standard positive international law would have ruled out almost all the humanitarian interventions that in fact should have been undertaken, so international law is in need of revision and international institutions clearly are vulnerable and fragile. It is the very nature of an anarchic system that it is hard to build those institutions. It does not mean that you should derogate them, you should denigrate them, you should call them useless in order to further your own policy ends. That’s a very different question.
Secondly, was there a humanitarian dimension to the Iraqi case that trumped everything else? I think it was undoubtedly a humanitarian case in the Iraqi case. I mean, let us not at all argue that the criticism of U.S. policy is an advocacy for maintaining Saddam Hussein in power in that sense. There was a huge humanitarian dimension. However, it was one part of a larger policy puzzle, and the question was, did it trump everything else? I think it did not trump everything else, and then that brings us to the other factors in the U.S. policy.
When you look at the other factors in U.S. policy, I would not want to be one who says my critique is that the war was all right but it was managed wrong. I’m personally dissatisfied with that proposition. I think it was managed wrong and that’s self-evidently clear. I think almost everybody today agrees, and I will use George Will as my footnote – so the point is that that’s not hard to see. I think the decision to go to war is the issue that we ought to go after and make very clear: this war was based on setting precedents in the international community that I think are dangerous precedents. That is to say, do you want to make a casus belli – a justifying cause for the use of force – regime change? Now, there are a lot of regimes in the world – if you read Amnesty International and others – that certainly are candidates for being changed, but do you want to make an argument that there is a justifying moral or legal reason for regime change?
Secondly, how do you deal with weapons of mass destruction? We’re going to be faced with a world of weapons of mass destruction. What precedents we set about military intervention to weapons of mass destruction is a very serious question, but the question is, what standard triggers justifiable intervention? Is it that the country has the capacity to build weapons; a desire to build weapons; has built the weapons and not deployed them; has deployed them but not used them; or the argument that was made in the ’90s – certain kinds of regimes are all right to have them but others are not? I think it’s a very confused conception of how you ought to think about this issue. The war, I think, was conceived in confusion, carried forward stylistically with arrogance, and has produced, indeed, a great deal of chaos. That’s where the ethics of consequences kick in.
MR. DIONNE: Bryan, are you running for some other office than pope? That was very well stated.
I just want to thank everyone. I want to say three things. First, all this talk of Dean Acheson made me think of James Chase, whom many of you know, who passed away last weekend, and I wish he could have been with us for this discussion. He was a very thoughtful man.
Secondly, I just want to thank our panelists. One of my favorite lines in this whole book, which we used as a headline for his piece, is Jim Lindsay’s simple sentence, “Morality is really hard.” And I think that we have heard that today. I’m grateful to all of you for coming to try to grapple with that fact, and I want to thank our panelists for doing the same.