War on Behalf of Noncombatants?
LCDR John Carlson, USNR
The status of noncombatants is central to moral
discussions about war and the use of force.
Usually, concern for noncombatants centers around the conduct of war—on
limiting “collateral damage” and unnecessary loss of life. In
Rarely, though, has the status of noncombatants been
so fully absorbed into the casus belli.
Rarely, that is, until more recently years. Consider that the suffering of noncombatants
in the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the former
these observations suggest is that noncombatants increasingly play into jus
ad bellum—not just jus in
But the well being of “noncombatants”—whether African-American slaves, European Jews, Afghan or Iraqi citizens—was not the ostensible reason for entering into any these wars. Rather, security and other national interests were the stated causes for war. In Afghanistan, for example, the US administration, which had taken few aggressive overtures against the Taliban before September 11, 2001, expressed publicly its intent to refrain from attacking Afghanistan if only the Taliban handed over Osama bin Laden—a statement which makes clear that the liberation of Afghan citizens was not the foremost objective. In Iraq, under UN-led and US-enforced sanctions, the lives of Iraqis were crippled for twelve years under Saddam Hussein’s pitiless circumvention of UN resolutions and their enforcement. Many were content to let the sanctions regime continue for quite some time—until, that is, Saddam Hussein’s regime of weapons of mass destruction were deemed an imminent security threat, which demanded preemptive military action. Clearly, if the United States had been foremost concerned with the flourishing of the Iraqi people, it might have taken other measures to ease their plight—up to and including use of force and regime change—before they formally assumed noncombatant status during the 2003 Iraq War.
This paper explores some tensions between morality and politics by seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between, on one hand, our moral memory of war (and here I’ll be focusing upon war’s impact for noncombatants) and, on the other, the political realities that historically have driven US entry into war. From the Civil War and World War II to current campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, the American experience of war has often been characterized by a disparity between the ostensible reasons for waging war and the ways wars are culturally and morally remembered years later. Since there are deep moral values at stake both in the political deliberation that anticipates war and the historical reflection upon war in the years that follow, this ironic disparity warrants careful investigation.
With a nod to the great Christian realist Reinhold Niebuhr, what makes this dynamic ironic is not simply to the incongruity of seemingly contrary elements—a disparity between moral and political affairs—but the quite intimate relationship between them that a closer inspection of war reveals. My argument is that without an understanding of the irony of American war, we are unlikely either to recall in morally sophisticated ways the role of noncombatants in the wars of distant and recent past or to exhaust the full range of moral deliberation concerning noncombatants and many other considerations when undertaking future wars.
This paper explores an apparent moral-political gap by proceeding along two paths. Part one provides a retrospective frame for viewing the misalignment between the root political causes of war and our moral and cultural memory of them years later through an exploration of historical precedents in the Civil War and World War II. Part two explores the deliberative dimension of force by contrasting “moralism” and political realism in the run-up to war. By realism, I mean realpolitik—a longstanding tradition with its attendant vernacular of states, their interests, and the balance of powers among them. Moralism, by contrast, sets noble intentions over and against limitations that realists accept as perduring features of political relations. I will close the distance between morality and politics and also draw together the two parts of the paper by demonstrating that, in war, politics triumphs over moralism yet remains indispensable to moral change.
Put differently, this paper contends that moralists should reluctantly accept—for moral reasons—the untidy business of politics that governs how wars come about; and for political reasons, proponents of realpolitik should embrace certain ethical concerns that moralists champion. I argue for a third way—a reinvigorated brand of “moral realism,” that is greater than the sum of the parts when moralism and realism are decoupled and a position that helps answer the question, “Shall we wage wars on behalf of noncombatants?” Moral realism better postures us to take the long view and consider how wars will be morally remembered, valued, and incorporated into our American ethos—and how noncombatants figure into our moral memory. At the same time, the lessons of moral realism also counsel us to think more deeply about the irony of American use of force as we deliberate about entry into future wars, particularly when such wars are waged, in whole or in part, on behalf of noncombatants.
Memory is a means of teaching the truth to others. Memory is often selective as it strives for clarity and coherence—no less germane to the remembrance of war. We generalize, simplify, and cull the moral lessons that war teaches us; they are usually assured by the victors of war—by the force of military might, the persistence of their values. Consider the U.S. Civil War. While we accept the war’s political successes—stamping out secession and preserving the Union (no doubt there are ethical dimensions to this)—the war’s great lasting moral legacy remains the demise of slavery. It was the first battle of a long-running struggle for justice and racial equality that extended through the civil rights movement and continues today.
Lincoln is oft remembered as the great emancipator, distinguished by the moral clarity with which he branded American slavery “a monstrous injustice.” Launching his illustrious Gettysburg Address (1863) by gesturing to the eternal yet unfulfilled promise of the Declaration of Independence, he spoke movingly of “the proposition that all men are created equal.” Two years later, Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address declared that slavery was somehow the cause of the horrific and bloody war that would eventually claim the lives of more than 600,000 soldiers and at least 50,000 civilians. But if the cause of that war would cease even before the war ended, as Lincoln himself asseverated, was slavery really the cause of this gruesome confrontation? Lincoln’s own deeds vitiate the very idea. So do his words:
My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union…I have here stated my purpose according to my official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men everywhere could be free.
Such realist pronouncements, which sever political duty from personal moral conviction, help locate Lincoln’s decision to deliver the 1862 Emancipation Proclamation as an issuance of total war against the South. Applied only to slavery in the rebel states, the Emancipation served well to ratchet up the rhetoric of war and support for its escalation, while, not coincidentally, depleting the Confederate adversary of numerous reserve recruits and enhancing the Union cause abroad.
Historian David Blight, eloquently describing Lincoln’s gracious yet ambiguous relationship to Frederick Douglass, displays just how far apart Lincoln, at times, stood from Douglass and other abolitionists in his commitment to use the war to end slavery. Prior to the Proclamation, Blight reminds us, Douglass had denounced Lincoln’s policy of returning refugee slaves to their owners and his plans to recolonize freed slaves. In oration and in print, Douglass had referred to Lincoln as “the most dangerous advocate of slave-hunting and slave-catching in the land”; as “an itinerant colonization lecturer”; and as a “genuine representative of American prejudice and Negro hatred.” That Lincoln distanced himself so starkly from abolitionists and defenders of Negro equality lifts any moralist veneer to reveal that the “great liberator” was a political realist through and through. In the words of revered historian Harry Stout, Lincoln “eventually turned emancipationist largely as a ‘war measure’ to promote a Northern victory.”
A final vignette,
taken from Stephen Oates’ biography of
One could apply
similarly skeptical readings to
literature on the relationship among Franklin Roosevelt, the allied war effort,
and the “Jewish question” manifests an unambiguous reluctance to implicate the
Jewish genocide into
Finally, all of these figures united behind President Roosevelt who offered the consummate consolation: that the best strategy for ending the plight of the Jews’ was to win the war. This claim has some integrity to it. As Professor Henry Feingold has explained, Roosevelt’s administration feared
that making the fate of Europe’s Jews central to the Allied war effort, as Berlin had done, would interfere with the mobilization of the requisite passion in the public mind to defeat the enemy and absorb the loss of lives that required. It is not that Allied leaders were anti-Semitic, as some would claim; they were probably less so than the general public… But to allow German propaganda to make points by arguing that it was a Jewish war and that Allied soldiers were being asked to sacrifice their lives to save the Jews might have had a deleterious impact on the Allied war effort. Instead, the Jewish aspect of the war was fudged.
Like Lincoln before him, Roosevelt had taken note of the moral stakes of the war, and then duly set them aside for fear that becoming moralistic in this way would jeopardize necessary support for the war not only in his own country but also among key allies like Russia and Great Britain. In the grand scheme of things, slowing the slaughter of innocent Jews would not help win the war. Throughout, Roosevelt’s administration viewed the inhuman drama as just one of many malicious consequences of Nazi rule that an Allied victory would arrest.
Upon the strident urging of Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (whose moral outrage at the genocide and at American obstructionism drove him to circumvent the Secretary of State), Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board, albeit belatedly in January of 1944. To its credit, the Board provided safe haven in the United States to some 200,000 Jews. (Of course, critics promptly accused FDR of placating the Jewish vote on which he would depend later that fall.) In March 1944, well after learning of Hitler’s iniquitous scheme, Roosevelt publicly acknowledged the Final Solution—“the wholesale, systematic murder of the Jews”—and issued a passionate plea to the world to provide assistance to these victims of “crimes against humanity.” But to be clear, Roosevelt’s moral outrage emerged from within a realist framework that sought to win the war. To wit, he first cleared this statement with Churchill and Stalin.
Finally, there is the proposal to bomb Auschwitz. For years, Undersecretary of War McCloy was accused of shelving the proposal and shielding the President from a plan that might have terminated or mitigated the Jewish genocide. But sources recently made available note that McCloy personally briefed the president on the proposal in June 1944. Roosevelt thundered back, “Why the idea! They’ll say we bombed these people, and they’ll only move [the camp] down the road a little way and we’ll bomb them all the more. If it’s successful, it’ll be more provocative, and I won’t have anything to do [with it]…We’ll be accused of participating in this horrible business.” Clearly, FDR viewed this rescue plan as contrary to the overall war aims and inconsistent with, to use Lincoln’s language, his “official duty,” no matter his “personal wish” or concern about the fate of millions of helpless Jews.
Let’s fast forward a bit. I’ve already alluded to the would-be moral legacy of the military actions in Afghanistan. Throughout the war in Iraq, recall, the administration spared no effort to remind the world of the horrors of Saddam Hussein’s regime—torture, execution, the withholding of basic necessities from the population, political repression, use of chemical weapons against the Kurds, and the deaths of some 300,000 citizens in the southern marshlands through ethnic cleansing. Yet in the months prior to the invasion, US officials maintained—and some still maintain—that Iraq was a primary battleground in the international war against terrorism, initiated because Saddam’s Iraq directly threatened US security interests.
The intent of this discussion is not to disparage Presidents Lincoln, Roosevelt, or Bush or their war aims, or to accuse them of moral cynicism. This survey in irony is simply intended to offer a few leavening reminders, particularly to those of us who concern ourselves with the morality of war. First, the moral causes we cherish are often inextricably bound up in the security interests of states. Slavery had a direct bearing on secession. Nazis who threatened US and allied security threatened the sheer existence of the Jewish race. Tyrannical regimes in Central Asia that inflicted atrocities against their own people threatened geopolitical stability as well. Moreover, the ethical stakes are more complexly imbedded than the political discourse may reveal. War often brings to light lurking, undervalued moral issues; and it may take military victory to resolve them fully. Second, the political refusal to embrace certain moralistic outlooks may be necessary to achieve wider political and moral ends; as our consideration of Roosevelt and Lincoln suggests, this doesn’t always make for a pretty picture. But let’s move now to consider why moral reasoning, absent realist sensibility, may be more problematic than adherents of moralism appreciate. This helps illustrate a reciprocal point: that moralists who take rigidly principled stances—a kind of perfectionist ethic—may, ironically, undercut the moral causes they so passionately and nobly seek to defend.
Moralism has been a recurring feature of American deliberation about war. When I speak of moralism, I am actually talking about a diverse family of ethical viewpoints, the varieties of which I lump together here for heuristic purposes. Moralism involves at least three elements. First, such ethical reasoning is inspired by a sense of authentic moral concern—even indignation—grounded in “pure” or disinterested motives often differentiated from political interests. Moralism issues a statement about the way things ought to be, political realities notwithstanding. Second, moralism is often articulated through coherent ethical frameworks with deep roots in religious traditions and moral beliefs. When the question of war emerges, moralisms will often take an explicit stance—for or against. Third, moralism often strives to check the interests and actions of states—to become an extra-political standard against which the behavior of states can be measured, or by which they are influenced. My argument is that the extent to which moral reasoning bridges the chasm with states’ realist deliberation will be the measure of its effectiveness.
We considered in passing nineteenth century abolitionism, which was nurtured by the evangelicalism and revivalism of the Second Great Awakening. Morally courageous abolitionists set themselves apart from many northern unionists who, despite their own contempt for slavery, profited from it or feared its end. For many abolitionists, there were two tenable choices: abolish slavery or let the South secede. With their rallying cry, “If thy right hand offend thee, cut it off,” they set themselves apart from the economic and political force that would ultimately end the mighty scourge throughout all the territories, as other abolitionists like Frederick Douglass had sought. Ultimately, it was not ethics but incursion into and attacks upon the North drew Unionists into war.
Another moralism we might identify was a nascent political humanism evident during the first half of the twentieth century, among Henry Morgenthau Jr. and Sr. Both father and son were morally outraged by horrible acts of genocide committed against minority populations during the respective world wars in which they served as statesmen. Going against the grain, both men became deeply frustrated by the political constraints that limited the United States from taking further action. Their religion (Judaism) was, they claimed, irrelevant to their indignation. So was the victims’ ethnicity. The Morgenthaus spoke as Americans, “on behalf of humanity.” If abolitionism reveals the ineffectiveness of a moralism that refuses to engage the force of political realities, then the Morgenthaus’ political humanism illustrates the unfortunate limitations of a moralism that struggles mightily against a deeply entrenched realist outlook.
During the run-up to the recent war in Iraq, several varieties of moralism were on display. Liberal internationalism or a certain variety thereof is one; but just war rigorism is the one I will engage here. Both issued stern warnings against a US-led invasion. The just war tradition, we know, draws from the wisdom of a long line of religious thinkers including Augustine and Aquinas. Today, some would describe something of a schism in how just war thought is both conceptualized and applied—between those who contend that just war begins with a presumption against intervention and those who believe it begins with a presumption against injustice. The former cluster of thinkers, whom I am here calling just war rigorists (others dub them “functional pacifists”), impose more stringent conditions for war than the perhaps more permissive latter group of thinkers who glean that so-called “peace” can be a wonderful companion to injustice. The rigorist perspective is encapsulated well in the 1983 pastoral letter The Challenge of Peace—a document that has impressed and influenced many ethicists (myself included). Authored by the distinguished US Conference of Catholic Bishops, the document also has been appropriated widely by many other denominations and their leaders. The letter calls for “extraordinarily strong reasons for overriding the presumption in favor of peace and against war,” a line repeated in the Bishops fall 2002 statement against intervention in Iraq. The Iraq statement begins by recognizing the quite real threats that Saddam Hussein’s government posed. However, they conclude, “lacking clear and adequate evidence of an imminent attack of a grave nature,” intervention was unjustifiable. So far, so good.
The bishops go on to rehearse the criteria for a just war. They also rightly express deep concern for Iraqi civilians laboring under thirteen years of sanctions. Yet, despite Iraqi tyranny and repression, they resist calls for force, instead proposing “effective enforcement of the military embargo and maintenance of political sanctions” albeit more targeted sanctions. Here the rigorist argument begins to unravel. To understand why, we need to back up a bit, at least to 1999 when the Bishops invoked just war thought to denounce sanctions:
The comprehensive sanctions against Iraq have long since ceased to be a morally acceptable tool of diplomacy, because they have inflicted indiscriminate and unacceptable suffering on the Iraqi people. They violate a fundamental principle of engagement in conflict—states may not seek to destroy a government or a military by targeting the innocent. It is incumbent on the United Nations Security Council and the United States, as the chief proponent of sanctions, to terminate promptly the economic embargo against Iraq.
I agree entirely with this statement. The bishops also rightly urged “fresh thinking and new approaches to the ongoing crisis in Iraq,” while again reiterating Iraq’s duty to work toward peace. That same year, in a letter to President Clinton, twenty-four denominational leaders (including head of the Catholic Bishops) pleaded—and this is crucial—“The international community cannot pursue its legitimate goals of eliminating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction by threatening the lives and livelihood of innocent people.” The authors of this ecumenical letter were issuing a normative statement. Yet, the force of their claim is all the more hard-hitting when we recognize that this was empirically true as well: Short of force, there simply were no other options that would not have directly targeted the Iraqi population. The Bishops’ repeated calls for “fresh thinking” suggest as much. Yet given Saddam’s willingness to interdict and deploy dual-use materials for WMD production, the threat was too grave to lift economic sanctions. 
We can and should blame Saddam Hussein for exploiting the sanctions for his benefit. He withheld needed medical supplies, resold them to other nations, or redistributed them to Baathist loyalists, which contributed to the deaths of several hundred thousand Iraqi children in the 1990s. By tightly controlling food rations, Saddam portrayed himself as benevolent bread-giver, yet by forcing all citizens to register for ration cards, the UN oil-for-food program became the apparatus of a repressive police state. Yes, Saddam remains explicitly culpable for the sins of commission involving “internal sanctions” he imposed; but, after thirteen years of UN-sponsored “external sanctions” with no end in sight, the international community assumed, as the Bishops suggest, implicit culpability for sins of omission—for finding no better solution. Political experts who carefully studied the problem concluded that no effort to reform or realign sanctions would have deterred Saddam’s relentless intentions to develop WMD.
Lacking any clear resolution to the crisis in Iraq, the Clinton administration adopted “regime change” as official policy in 1998. The argument for intervention in Iraq would have been morally perspicuous had President Clinton begun making the case for war then, or had President Bush tired before September 11th, 2001. This rationale might have garnered the support of some just war moralists motivated by genuine humanitarian concerns for the Iraqi people. But I am not sure that either president could have roused the will of the international community or the American people. We will never know; certainly they should have tried. As it turned out, the early unwillingness to consider publicly the need for a military alternative to sanctions prepared the ground for a terrible irony: when the case for war finally was put forth, just war rigorism became an obstacle to ending the very suffering that it had so roundly condemned for years.
My earlier discussion of moral memory suggests that we ought not be surprised when the moral stakes of war turn out to be more deeply rooted and complexly entwined than the political dialogue intimates. An ethically grounded realist alternative to just war moralism might have reluctantly accepted the necessity of war in Iraq—for moral reasons—despite the honest recognition that the case for invasion was made on political grounds of national security, and may not have fully conformed to the rigors of just war guidance. With reservations, we might recognize that war was the only realistic and feasible way to break the deadlock of an endless containment policy—even though the war was not couched in these terms. The moralist’s expectation that politics will conform to ethical principles may ask more of states than they have shown themselves willing to oblige given states’ general inclination to use force only to preserve their interests. In the case of Iraq, it seemed regretfully necessary for moralism to engage such political realities if it hoped to curtail human suffering, which is central to its belief. But clinging to rigorism may entail abandoning possibilities for effecting concrete moral change.
Let me now turn to the failures of the US administration, which I explore critically along the same realist lines. Many will be inclined to think that the US was too realist in its foreign policy outlook. I believe just the opposite, that it was not realistic enough. The shortcomings of the US-led war in Iraq flow from the administration’s unwillingness to take seriously some vital lessons of political realism. Here is one: there is nothing necessary about hinging national sovereignty to national interests. Hans Morgenthau appreciated this:
While the realist indeed believes that interest is the perennial standard by which political action must be judged and directed, the contemporary connection between interest and the nation state is a product of history, and is therefore bound to disappear in the course of history. Nothing in the realist position militates against the assumption that the present division of the political world into nation states will be replaced by larger units of a quite different character, more in keeping with the technical potentialities and the moral requirements of the contemporary world.
While the US administration played by the rules of twentieth century realism and its resolute commitment to unimpeded sovereignty, it neglected the changing realities of international politics in the twenty-first. Nation-states increasingly rely upon international governmental organizations and institutions to do the things that classical realists have always said polities will do: advance their interests and maintain a balance of powers. In many cases, states will use international organizations to do their bidding for them. Consider how certain nations parlayed the mantle of UN legitimacy to protect tens of billions of dollars of financial contracts in Iraq. The political reality today is that many nations will voluntarily share or pool their sovereignty and make political concessions that they were often unwilling to do before. They will form international treaties and praise internationalism; they will espouse global norms and transnational ideals—not simply for moral reasons but because it serves the interests. To no one’s surprise, not all nations will see their interests directly preserved in such trends. But these nations should not openly flout these new trends, publicly denounce them, actively undermine them, or rub others’ noses in the dirt of one’s defiance of them. This just invites the charge of “unilateralism,” however unwarranted it may be. This also erodes US “soft power”— the ability to persuade others through the appeal to, and appearance of, US legitimacy, which is needed to achieve vital national interests.
The counsel of another influential realist, that famed Medici-courting bad-boy and Italian child of darkness, Machiavelli reminds us of another enduring lesson of realism: the pivotal importance of perception. Machiavelli keyed in on the enormity of perception, for how one appears in the eyes of others becomes a crucial reality that a prince must seize to his advantage: “Everyone sees how you appear, few touch what you are …” To this end, a little guile, flattery, gamesmanship, and finesse are essential tools of the realist kit. As Niebuhr recognized, in the sticky web of political affairs, children of light may shrewdly have to put such instruments to ethical use. I judge that had the US administration followed some of this sage counsel in its diplomacy—publicly praising if privately sidestepping the Kyoto or Rome (ICC) treaties; engaging behind the scenes diplomacy and exhausting appeals to the UN before publicly calling for regime change; abandoning extraneous talk of preemption—it would have encountered far fewer obstacles waging war in Iraq.
What can explain the inattention to perduring lessons of realism realism? One explanation is that the current administration is every bit as suffused by a moralism of its own, what we might recognize as a foreign policy pietism. Note the robust and quite genuine efforts to safeguard peoples’ God-given freedom; the calling out of evil where one sees it; initiatives to thwart sex trafficking, stem the tide of HIV/AIDS, and stop modern-day slavery; bold and novel efforts to end the civil war in Sudan and to preserve religious liberty abroad. These endeavors commit the President to a politics of evangelical humanism, which is clearly a moral agenda. But what makes this a brand of moralism is that he may be so convinced of his cause—indeed as he ought to be—that he, unfortunately, does not see with a clear-eyed view some of the realities of the global political order I’ve desrcibed. The irony is that this moral strength is also a liability. That is, I am not sure the President fully appreciates the indispensable role of worldwide perception, that few can touch him and see the moralist he really is, or at least how he sees himself. Like other moralists, he believes that followers will readily come to his side because his framework is morally compelling, independent of political interests. His moralism may be mistaken as the window dressing for a crude realism. To the contrary, foreign policy pietism will suffer the same fate as other variants of moralism unless it engages political realities head-on and embraces the full scope of realist resources needed to bring about its moral agenda.
This paper has sought to demonstrate that many enduring moral victories of wars in America’s recent and distant past have involved noncombatant populations who were not implicated in the ostensible political causes for war. This would seem to suggest that we ought to take the noncombatant factor more fully into account, integrating it into the deliberative criteria for using force, as we mull the political causes of current and future wars.
The subtitle of my conclusion, taken from the section heading of William Lee Miller’s ethical biography of Lincoln, returns us to the moral possibilities of a figure like Lincoln. For all of his realism, Lincoln was as equally convinced of the evil of slavery as he was of the moral possibilities of politics to end it. He foresaw that over time there could be no lasting political order—there could be no union—so long as this “monstrous injustice” endured. Yet he knew full well that the suffusion of moralism in politics and war would not end slavery, establish justice, or preserve the union. A great admirer of Lincoln, the great twentieth century theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, argued similarly and carved out a comparable middle ground position between moralism and a cynical raison d’etat; he enjoined combining the ideals of the former with the wisdom and means of the latter. It’s a position that helps us appreciate the contributions and limitations of figures like Lincoln and Roosevelt (and perhaps, some day, President Bush as well). The result, what I am here calling moral realism—the engagement of political reasoning as a central feature in the moral outlook on war—recognizes that justice comes about in imperfect, limited forms and in ironic ways.
Irony, recall, is the apparent disparity between two incongruous elements that are in fact quite deeply related. Given the irony of how America deliberates about war and remembers it, where we do we go from here? For Reinhold Niebuhr, recognition of such irony would presumably dissolve it, eliciting first embarrassment followed by contrition. But it seems to me there are at least three other possible responses to this irony. First, we can ignore it, though this risks Niebuhr’s prognostic that we will harden our vanities “to the point where irony turns into pure evil.” Second, we can consider the irony of war yet thoughtfully reject it (e.g., World War I and Vietnam do not exactly fit the mold I’ve described). Or, third, we can reluctantly embrace the irony. We can appreciate the moral ambiguities of politics and war, yet, as Niebuhr also counseled, resist becoming frustrated by them. In short, we can adopt the irony of moral realism that discloses the interrelationship of contrasting elements. Unlike moralists and cynical realists—each of whom see ethics and politics distinctly—the moral realist perceives their inextricability, thus embracing power and self-interest for the sake of justice; stratagem for the sake of ethical commitment; and grim political realities for the sake of a braver moral order.
 For Reinhold Niebuhr’s poignant discussion of irony, see The Irony of American History (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1952), vii, 151-5.
 Quoted in Harry Stout, “‘Baptism in Blood’: The Civil War and the creation of an American civil religion,” Books and Culture July/August 2003, pp. 33-4.
 Ibid., p. 34.
Blight, “Race and Rebirth: The Relationship between Abraham Lincoln and
Frederick Douglass in Language, War, and Memory,” lecture delivered at
conference on “
 Stout, p. 16.
 Stephen B. Oates, With Malice Toward None: A Life of Abraham Lincoln (New York: HarperPerennial, 1977), 260-1.
Michael Beschloss, The Conquerors:
 Beschloss, The Conquerors, 38-40.
 Ibid., 53.
 Ibid., 65.
 Ibid., 54.
 Feingold points out the incongruity of the Royal Bomber Command’s refusal to use air assets to bomb some civilian targets but not others. Unlike the terror bombings conducted against Berlin and Dresden—which sought to sap the morale of the enemy by killing German noncombatants—bombing concentration camps, crematories, and rail lines which supplied them with their daily hordes of human victims had no military value. See Feingold, 195.
also briefly entertained the idea of negotiating secretly with famed Nazi
henchman Adolf Eichmann who offered to save the lives of a million Jews in
exchange for trucks and other military assets.
Suspecting that Eichmann was trying to divide the alliance, FDR
understood the necessity of vetting this proposal with Stalin and Churchill. To no one’s surprise,
are other examples, past and present, which further ground the disparity
between the causes of war and our memory of them. We often recall the Nuremberg Trials of key
Nazi leaders as the inaugural triumph of international legalism: perpetrators
of the Holocaust were individually tried in an international venue (rather than
giving over to “victors’ justice”) and afforded the full rights of due process,
in spite of which they were still convicted and punished. The
Children may one day read in their history books of the Taliban’s oppression of
women and the regime of fear over which it presided. Some will no doubt wonder why no action was
taken against the internal reign of terror before
Hoagland, “Wolfowitz on Wolfowitz and saving
 I am thinking here of the
encroachment of southern slave-hunters into
 We remember Henry
Morgenthau, Jr. who used his political leverage with President Roosevelt and
pleaded passionately to provide succor and refuge to European Jews. Contra the criticism of administration
rivals, Morgenthau fervently maintained that a general concern for humanity,
rather than a specific empathy flowing from his own Jewish roots, motivated his
moral sincerity. He spoke as an
American, not as a Jew. He likely also
recalled a similar dilemma from an earlier world war when his father Henry Morgenthau
 To some extent, nearly all of us are “liberal internationalists” of one stripe or another in that we strive to support international institutional fora and arrangements in which nations can convene to negotiate and collectively work out their problems, preferably through diplomatic means. The moralist strand of liberal internationalism, however, perceives international organizations as neutral, disinterested, and, “supra-political” bodies that transcend politics and speak on behalf of the human community. Viewing an international governmental organization such as the UN in this way fails to notice that the UN is a highly realist institution through which states pursue their interests and achieve a balance of powers. The more influential and prominent international governmental organizations become, the more they will develop political interests of their own. The moralist strand of liberal internationalism also embraces a perhaps sentimental view of international law and treaties, which are seen to transcend and uphold “universal” moral norms rather than reinforcing the interests of states. Finally, the belief that such law possesses a global authority comparable to domestic law, even though no comparable enforcement mechanism exists, overlooks the limitations of policies that are based upon self-enforcement.
 James Turner Johnson, Morality and Contemporary Warfare (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999), 1-70.
Steinfels, “Meeting a Moral Standard for War,” The New York Times,
arguments in support of the Iraq War from a just war perspective, see Jean
Bethke Elshtain, “A just war?”
 US Conference of Catholic Bishops, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response, #83 in Jim Castelli, The Bishops and the Bomb: Waging Peace in a Nuclear Age (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 217.
Iraqi leadership must cease its internal repression, end its threats to its
neighbors, stop any support for terrorism, abandon its efforts to develop
weapons of mass destruction, and destroy all such existing weapons.” US Conference of Catholic Bishops,
 Though I judge
just cause, they cite the legitimacy of changing the unacceptable behavior of
Ibid. See also
 Such basic supplies as medical syringes, chlorine disinfectant, fertilizers, insecticides, plastic bags for blood transfusions are considered “dual use” items that could be used in the production of chemical and biological weapons. See Mueller and Mueller, 49-50.
David Rieff’s blistering critique “Were Sanctions Right?” The New York Times
 Ibid. See also Walter Russell Mead, “Deadlier Than War,” Washington Post, March 12, 2003; Rachel Bronson, “No Containing Iraq,” Newsday, March 13, 2003; John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” Foreign Affairs 78 no. 3 (May/June 1999), 43-53; David Cortright, “A Hard Look at Iraq Sanctions,” The Nation, December 3, 2001; US Department of State report, “Saddam Hussein’s Iraq,” September 1999, www.usia.gov/regional/nea/nea.htm, accessed October 15, 2003.
 This ensued Saddam Hussein’s eviction of effective UN inspectors.
 Apply just war principles,
I judge the criterion of “right intention” would have been compromised if one
understands that to mean that the stated purpose—disarmament, regime change,
elimination of WMD or any of the other ostensible causes the US put forth—must
be the authentic reason one is undertaking force. (The shifting causes for war also compromises
crucial principles of democratic transparency.)
There is, though, another reading of rightful intention, one advanced by
Augustine and Aquinas, which dictates that belligerents “should intend the
advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil.”
On this reading, US intentions in
 At an
elementary level, the
of these strategies reveal a professed adherence to realist strategies, at
least at a basic level. Indeed, if the
Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace,
fifth ed., revised, (
generally, John Carlson & Erik Owens, The Sacred and the Sovereign:
Religion and International Politics (
writes “[Former Clinton National Security Council member] Nancy Soderberg states
flatly that the French and the Russians allowed their eagerness to develop
business deals with
power lies in the ability to attract and persuade rather than coerce…Soft power
arises from the attractiveness of a country’s culture, political ideals, and
 “Men in general judge more by their eyes than by their hands…Everyone sees how you appear, few touch what you are; and these few dare not oppose the opinion of many…” Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, trans. Harvey C. Mansfield (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998), 71.
 By its
own admission, the
 See, for
example, Elisabeth Bumiller, “Evangelicals Sway White House on Human Rights
Issues Abroad,” The New Your Times,
Lee Miller’s Lincoln’s Virtues: An Ethical Biography (
 See generally, Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944).
 Reinhold Niebuhr, The Irony of American History, viii.