Articles CPP Newsletter Online V24

When My Congressman Came to Visit by Danielle Poe

Poe, Danielle (Univ. of Dayton). “When My Congressman Came to Visit: Reflections on a Collapse.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

My credentials as a thoughtful, articulate, and intelligent person are impeccable. From the time I was a part of the speech and debate team in high school to becoming a professional philosopher and presenting papers at conferences, I have answered and asked probing questions that challenge institutional racism, classism, and sexism. Nevertheless, I collapsed when confronted with institutional power. Of course, I didn’t literally collapse, but I was completely unable to speak when I met Rep. Michael Turner and Rep. Michael G. Oxley, Chairman of the House Committee on Financial Services. My inarticulateness would not surprise me as much if I had been caught off guard and didn’t know that I would meet them that day, but I had been prepared. I was not, however, prepared to engage in a discourse that thrives on appearances and evades depth.

On December 15, 2003, Rep. Turner was named chair of a new working group on Saving America’s Cities. As part of this group, Turner took Oxley on a tour of Dayton, and one of their scheduled stops was my parents’ home. My parents live in a home that was built as a part of “Rehabarama.” The city of Dayton, during Turner’s first term as Dayton’s Mayor, began “Rehabarama” to revive neighborhoods by restoring historic homes and building new homes in Dayton’s historic neighborhoods. From one perspective, this program has been wildly successful because it keeps people, like my parents, in the city. My parents are comfortably middle-class and in most cities they would probably choose to live in the suburbs, but because they want to live close to me and found a new house in Dayton with fantastic financing and tax incentives, they live in the city.1 My parents are good representatives of the people who have bought Rehabarama homes, and thus they were a perfect stopping point for Turner and Oxley.

The neighborhood in which my parents and I live is economically and racially diverse. Unfortunately, the economic lines tend to follow racial lines as well. Our neighborhood is home to lawyers, a surgeon, a television producer, and university faculty; we own our homes, and we are overwhelmingly white. We also have a neighborhood within our neighborhood: Cliburn Manor, a low-income housing complex. This housing complex was built in the 1970’s with over 200 housing units that replaced less than 50 single-family homes. The residents of Cliburn Manor are poor, and they are overwhelmingly African-American. At the best of times, the Cliburn Manor residents feel excluded from the neighborhood association. During the election of a new neighborhood president, however, the residents were portrayed as a problem that needed to be eliminated.

Citing police statistics, a woman running for president (who is now president) said that our neighborhood police officers were spending most of their time responding to crime in Cliburn Manor. She said that the public-housing experiments are a failure, and that she would call her friend Mike Turner to have the public housing removed, and then we could focus on trying to integrate the former residents into the community. When I heard her plans, I was outraged. How dare she propose to tear down people’s homes; how dare she propose to integrate them into the community as an afterthought! Furthermore, I was appalled at her presumptuousness; no one was present from Cliburn Manor to discuss their struggles and hopes. I was also scared that she could carry out her threat since the Republicans’ “compassionate conservatism” has much in common with the neighborhood president’s plans. First, get rid of the problem. Second, make plans to make plans for those who have been displaced and sunk into deeper poverty. The actual carrying out of any post-displacement plans seems unimportant.

Since I had the chance to argue another perspective, a perspective that demanded discussions between everyone in the neighborhood and opposed hasty action that only benefits middle-class homeowners, I was going to ambush Turner. “Poor Turner,” I thought, “Little does he know that I will be waiting at my parents’ house to ask him uncomfortable questions about gentrification and displacing the poor.” My spouse wanted to take Turner completely by surprise and organize a protest, but I insisted that Turner would be in my family’s home, and we could talk to him. We could accomplish more by starting with our agreements and leading him to agree with our positions, especially since our positions are logical and correct.

I am trained in a tradition that values what Judith Green calls “deep democracy,” democracy that fosters conversation and reflection.2 Deep democracy insists on democracy that promotes participation beyond a representative, political system in which the average person is only active when she votes. In deep democracy, individuals take responsibility for democracy by participating in various communities. Thus, interactions between elected representatives and their constituencies would involve conversations in which one could ask their representatives questions, articulate their ideals, and express concerns about implementation. Deep democracy could never accept an encounter in which a politician comes to the door with an entourage and his plans already in place such that questions and conversation cannot happen. I assumed that when I met Turner we could have a democratic encounter in which our subjectivities remained intact. I am not so naïve as to have thought that I could get a Republican representative to buck the system and champion my pacifist ideals, but I was not prepared to be rendered silent. I thought that I would at least have the opportunity to have a conversation with my representative.

Part of my misguided belief about sitting down and talking with Turner came from my previous encounters with him. I have met Turner on two other occasions at a neighbors’ Christmas parties. On these occasions, I have really liked him, not least of all because his daughter was kind to my daughter, Tess. In fact, my entryway into the conversation with Turner was going to be to reintroduce Tess, as the little girl with whom his daughter shared her walkman. I had Tess, who is three, primed for her part. I told her that she would be seeing her friend’s daddy. Before he got there, she was running through the downstairs, checking the door at every sound, and talking a mile-a-minute about “Mike Turner.”

For my part, I was also primed. I walked home from school that day and thought about a promise from our neighborhood president: she will call her friend, Mike Turner, and ask him to tear down Cliburn Manor, the low-income housing in our neighborhood. My statement for Turner was simple: “You won’t tear down Cliburn Manor until you have integrated those families into the rest of the neighborhood.” Further, I planned how I would get him to agree that his commitments to community revitalization, both when he was mayor and now that he is a congressman, required him to economically integrate communities before he dismantled the system already in place.

Our big moment arrived when I looked out the window and saw Turner, Oxley, two staff, and two journalists coming toward the door. Tess immediately froze when six people walked in the door instead of one. She stood back in the room to watch what was happening. Turner’s friend, who had been waiting for him with us and who had arranged the visit, brought Tess over to Turner and told him that she remembers his daughter. Turner knelt down to Tess’ level, told her that his daughter was on a train between New York and Washington, and that she would see her again at Christmas. Tess nodded in terror; this was not like talking to the daddy of a friend. In her other encounters with daddies, children were the center of attention, but here Turner was the center of attention. He wasn’t chasing his daughter; instead, another congressman, an aide, and three reporters were chasing Turner.

I was as speechless as my daughter. Turner was no longer a man like any other man. He seemed taller, his eyes seemed bluer (I’m not even sure that he has blue eyes), and his teeth seemed whiter. Everything about his presence was highlighted because he was the center of a great deal of frenetic activity. He had a team of people waiting for him in advance: a realtor to present neighborhood information, and a politician to survey the group. He led a team into and through the house: a fellow Republican, who seemed awed by Turner’s accomplishments; three reporters, recording each word; and an aide, who created distance between my family and Turner by loudly proclaiming that the visit was over and they were moving to the next location.

Turner commanded attention as he orchestrated his visit. He had the perfect, short phrases for the journalists to jot down, and he stayed just long enough to show Oxley what he had accomplished and could continue to accomplish. I had no idea how to break into the presentation. If Turner and Oxley had been having a conversation at a Christmas party, I absolutely would have interrupted, but I have no experience with an orchestrated media tour, and I became a mere audience member. Turner’s entourage made him the spectacle that the rest of us watched, and he knew how to play up every moment.

In that moment, I realized why women and minorities have not cracked the glass ceiling of politics. The presence that commands attention and renders intellectual discussion useless comes from an attractive, tall, white man. When these features come in other packages, the effect is quite different. Tall, non-white men scare us, tall women make us snicker, and short people are infantilized. Clearly, these are stereotypes, but impressions are instantaneous, and the entire encounter happens in a matter of minutes; stereotypes convey information that takes too long to convey otherwise.3

As a white, woman, I played into Turner’s glorification. Republican politicians count on the support of the white, middle-class, and in the visit from my congressman that is all that I was. In one sense, my whiteness served as a privilege because Turner wanted to showcase prosperous, middleclass citizens living in the city. The residents of Cliburn Manor were completely invisible in the visit. The congressmen spent no time visiting low-income housing; after all, Turner wanted to show Oxley something unexpected, and low-income housing in the city certainly isn’t surprising.

In another sense, I was still invisible because I did not fit into the script as a speaking member of the tour. It served Turner’s purpose to talk to Tess; a powerful politician reaching out to a small child makes the congressman look friendly, and a small child cannot offer any resistance to his plans. Someone who can resist that script was systematically excluded because Turner’s attention was focused on his entourage, and they on him; my family, my daughter, and I were lovely backdrops.

In those moments, I experienced what Luce Irigaray refers to as the appropriation of all subjectivity by the “masculine.” that is, my subjectivity (and my daughter’s) was appropriated by masculine power, embodied in Turner.4 For Irigaray, subjectivity has always been appropriated by the masculine in the discourse of Western philosophy, but this analysis also applies politically. Tess and I became props for Turner’s display of masculine power. His masculine power was exercised over the men and the women present; my father and my spouse were no more able to speak to Turner than Tess and I were. Not only was my parents’ house on display, but we were on display. Turner presented a picture of his vision of “saving America’s cities,” we were the happy, white, middleclass family living in the city, and his audience was Congressman Oxley. In the presentation, Tess lost her status as an excited child, an articulate three year old, and a person eager to talk to a friend’s father. I lost my status as an intellectual, a scholar, and a powerful woman.

Philosophy trained me well to discover racism and classism, to ask questions about the links between gentrification and displacement of the poor, and to have a logical discussion in which good intentions lead to ethical actions. Yet, I have to look elsewhere to discover how to insert these concerns into a political framework that thrives on soundbites for journalists and appearances for fellow congressmen.

As philosophy becomes more and more specialized and we concern ourselves with fine distinctions in philosophical categories, we have forgotten how to be public intellectuals. We certainly cannot afford to become lazy in our academic rigor since that helps us to be suspicious and insightful critics of contemporary culture’s exploitation. On the other hand, academic rigor does not excuse our reluctance and inability to challenge discourse that tends to be shallow, flashy, and oppressive. When we meet politicians, journalists, and opinion-makers, we have one, at most two, windows of opportunity to voice concerns about racism, classism, and sexism. Even if they resist listening to what we have to say, we have to learn how to make our positions heard. Ultimately, philosophy is not a pure discipline that needs to be guarded against the shallowness of democracy. If we have to taint our purity by speaking as if we were shallow, we may be able, finally, to deepen democracy. Maybe, we can, and should, revel in this “impurity” if it will allow us to be public, philosophers of peace.


1 People who buy Rehabarama homes are eligible for loans at a point below prime and a ten-year tax abatement.

2 Green, Judith. 1999. Deep Democracy. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

3 The use of stereotypes to convey information about people is in full force with the rise of reality television. In order to get people to identify with characters for a brief period (one hour to one season) these shows rely on stereotypes. For a full discussion of the use of stereotypes see Sander L. Gilman, 1985 Difference and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race and Madness. Ithaca NY: Cornell UP.

4 Irigaray, Luce. 1985. “Any Theory of the ‘Subject’ Has Always Been Appropriated by the ‘Masculine,’” Speculum of the Other Woman. Gillian C. Gill, trans. Ithaca NY: Cornell UP.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V24

Hedges and Gilligan Reviewed by Duane Cady

Cady, Duane (Hamline Univ., MN). “America at War: A Review of Chris Hedges; War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning; New York: Public Affairs, 2002; and James Gilligan; Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic; New York: Vintage Books, 1996.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

Chris Hedges, long time war correspondent for the New York Times, has written a best seller about war. War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning is engaging, insightful, and informative on US military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and elsewhere. The book is also deeply flawed.

Hedges is trying to understand our cultural – and his own – fascination with war. He writes very well and has had amazing and harrowing experiences as he has traveled, war by war, in Central America, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and Africa. He manages to weave his classical education beautifully with his lived experience, giving a historical and literary context to his sense of our predicament.

The book is at its best when Hedges is exposing the myth of war, i.e., the heroic ideal that war is right, good, likely to solve problems, and that it’s worth the sacrifices it entails. He exposes the myth by showing war for what it is: organized murder, usually racist, manipulative, cruel, and dishonest. He ridicules the “plague of nationalism,” shows the inevitable destruction of wider culture, and rejects the causes offered as disingenuous.

Hedges’ thesis is that war remains a central part of human life because it fills a spiritual void that we don’t know how else to fill. He says, with Freud, that we are caught between love and death, between an instinct for life and an instinct for destruction, and that, failing to love, we find a sense of purpose, of calling, in sacrifice for others through war. The problem with this is that while rejecting the cultural glorifications of war, Hedges contributes to them in his opening pages when he tells us he’s not a pacifist, that war is sometimes necessary. With this he undercuts his own brilliant critique of war and opens the door to the “necessary” violence his own arguments ridicule.

The problem is that once one takes in the critique of war offered by Hedges one can no longer find credible his notion that the absurdity of war can fill our spiritual void and give us meaning. War doesn’t provide meaning for those who understand it. Hedges undercuts his own position.

A much more difficult – and more rewarding – read is in store for those who take up James Gilligan’s Violence: Reflections on a National Epidemic. Gilligan is a prison psychiatrist who spent years working with violent criminals in an effort to understand and change their behaviors. His interest is not in moralizing about violence but in preventing it.

Gilligan sees America as obsessed with revenge, what is euphemistically called retributive justice. It’s easier to condemn and punish violence than understand and prevent it, so we take the easy way. We may as well condemn cancer or a tornado.

Gilligan prefers a medical model: prevention is better than cure. He wants to know why the US murder rate is five to twenty times the rate in any other industrial society. Based on his work with violent criminals, he develops a germ theory of violence, namely, that violence is contagious, and he comes to the realization that violence is caused by shame, humiliation, disrespect and ridicule, and it is manifest when there are no nonviolent means to rid oneself of the shame and no emotional inhibitors (love, guilt, or fear).

Since prisons continue the humiliation and shame that led to the violence that landed criminals in prison, our current prison policies increase violence, as does legislation to “get tough on crime.” The only way to stop violence is to stop shaming. Guilt ethics, shame ethics, contribute to violence rather than address it or intervene in the cycle. The violence of violent criminals forces others to care for them. Folks who are cared for have no need to act out violently to gain care.

For Gilligan, crime is illegal individual violence while punishment (beyond what is necessary for restraint) is legal collective violence. Punishment is the mirror of crime, crime the mirror of punishment.

Not content with cursing the darkness, James Gilligan sheds light on our national epidemic of violence. His insights are grounded deeply in longstanding experience and success in helping violent criminals find their way to less violent lives despite the policies, practices, and politics of revenge common to our country. His is an important book that deserves a wide readership.

Book Reviews CPP Newsletter Online V24

Santoni’s Sartre on Violence by Ruth Lucier

Lucier, Ruth (Bennett College, NC) “Violence of Ambiguity: A Review of Ronald E. Santoni; Sartre on Violence: Curiously Ambivalent”; The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2003. CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

Today, those who are concerned to promote peace are bombarded with paradoxical views of violence. One and the same act may be regarded (1) as an immoral attack on a nation state or its citizens, (2) as the legitimate expression of rage and desperation, and (3) as a tool for bringing about positive social change.

In this context, the deep probing of John Paul Sartre’s thinking about violence, undertaken by Ronald Santoni in his most recent book, is highly relevant and instructive. As Santoni points out, Sartre’s own struggle with questions about violence encourages us “to rethink carefully and systematically the question of violence and its alleged justifications…”(xv). Moreover, by reflecting on the evolution of Sartre’s thought we are drawn into considering the related issue of whether the use of Terror “could be justified in behalf of a better society or world”(155).

Santoni emphasizes that Sartre’s position is ambivalent, pointing out that, in Sartre’s view, “In circumstances of oppression, or what Sartre calls ‘pure violence,’ revolutionary violence and terror, because they are ‘necessary’ and inevitable are permissible and just, but they are bound by limits…”(155). This is because “in dialectical synthesis with the goal of ‘integral humanity,’ violence and terror must not violate the goal of pure revolutionary praxis (i.e. autonomous humanity) or denigrate the human“(155). To make sense of this ambivalence, Santoni suggests that we understand Sartre as construing Terror, “as a ‘stage of dialectic’ or ‘understandable product of totalizing Praxis’” and that we see Sartre as formulating “conditions beyond which Terror cannot be morally legitimized”(156).

Intriguing distinctions are discussed throughout the book. Memorable among them is Sartre’s distinction between “force” and “violence,” where force is construed as legitimate pressure in accordance with natural ends, and violence is identified as “the destruction of an entity’s nature in a way that obliterates its appropriate role and use”(22). Provocative footnotes are included in the work, among them a response to Sartre’s suggestion that “no gentleness can eradicate the ‘marks of violence’; only violence can do that.” Santoni points out (note 29, p. 27) that Martin Luther King, Jr. “turned this around,” claiming instead that nothing but non-violence could “put an end to violence.”

Santoni presents, and to some extent argues for, the idea that, in Sartre’s view, the unacceptable conditions for violence do not make violence immoral. Presumably the converse would also be true – which would allow the possibility of there being acceptable conditions for violence even when the violence is immoral. Perhaps this could occur in cases where supervening moral conditions or situations came into play.

Acknowledging that Sartre’s Perspective accommodates such an apparently “amoral” dichotomy (one in which something is deemed “acceptable” yet still morally suspect), Santoni suggests (rightly, I believe) that a critic could read this accommodation as transforming “a philosophy of human liberation into that of violence”(45). I would certainly have liked to see Santoni deal in a more detailed way with this issue. It seems to me that a plausible case could be made for saying that even understandable violence of the “eye for an eye” sort might eventually leave everyone blind.

As we struggle with the question of the acceptability of retaliatory violence as Terror, my suggestion is that we approach the question from “inside,” by analyzing what is happening in the acting subject’s consciousness. Perhaps as some Middle Easterners have been arguing of late, authentic (moral) persons can be pushed by their victimization to a kind of breaking point, a point that may make even self-destructive Terror the only truly free choice—the only choice that has a chance of changing the status quo in ways that eliminate oppression. One may in such cases strongly object to the act of Terror, and yet still view the act as understandably human.

An interesting observation Santoni makes about Sartre’s position on Terror (in the Rome lecture at least) is that Sartre regards it “in certain circumstances justified [in order] to overcome oppression,” but still not justified in cases where it itself establishes “a system of terror”(151). If Santoni is correct, Sartre embraces a kind of consequentialism where even the violence we despise may be said (by Sartre) to be sometimes necessary and sometimes odious, depending on its ultimate effect.

If the reader asks herself, “What is the final position on violence that Santoni wants us to accept as the one that Sartre ultimately takes?,” and looks for the answer, she will be disappointed. For one distinctive (and, I believe, intriguing) aspect of Santoni’s book is that it continually draws us unto the process of questioning, never allowing us to rest with fixed answers. Rather than discovering final answers, we are drawn into a circle of discourse among Sartre-like and Sartre-disputing voices—drawn, in effect, into the phenomena of open-ended deliberation.

But the open-endedness offered is certainly not purposeless; it is of the kind that reminds us that we must focus clearly on the actual life situations of the perpetrators of Terror and violence. And this approach may well be crucial to acting and arguing persuasively for some self-imposed, disciplined, sacrificial limits on even authentic and absurd expressions-–limits compatible with, and crucial to, the kind of open conversation through which humankind may eventually win the peace.

For the purpose of moving us into creative dialogue about the moral limits of violence and why its use must always (or nearly always) be protested, Sartre on Violence has an important and provocative role to play. As a book full of moral challenges, it can serve as a extraordinarily valuable “instructor” in these troubled times.

CPP News CPP Newsletter Online V24

CPP News by Gail Presbey (2004)

Presbey, Gail (Univ. of Detroit-Mercy). “CPP News” CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

Since the 2003 annual conference, CPP has been active, presenting panels at the Eastern, Pacific, and Central Divisions of the APA. I could not attend them all, but will report briefly on those I did attend.

Our CPP panel at the Pacific Division started with Kelly Candaele talking about Ireland’s “ripening” of the time for peace. Certain conditions were finally present which helped the transition to peace. Jerry Adams and others realized that they were at a military stalemate: neither side could win militarily. Sinn Fein then placed a greater emphasis on politics, and internationalized their support. Spirituality also played a role in helping break through a culture of pessimism. Wendy Hamblet followed with an analysis of perversions of democracy, reflecting on contemporary times in the light of Aristotle. She explained that in her analysis, “capitalist democracy” is an oxymoron. My paper followed, with an account of recently developed “technologies of surveillance” and how the Bush administration tries to fit them into narratives of meaning so that they will be acceptable. An attempt to pair “the good life” with surveillance was recently made in the Dean Koontz film “Black River” which was analyzed in the paper. This panel was organized and chaired by Ron Hirschbein, who added his witty commentary after each presentation.

Let me comment briefly on the larger context of the APA at Pasadena. There were several good panels looking at the War on Terror and questions of Just War. Lionel McPherson, Kai Draper, and Virginia Held were on one such panel. Eduardo Mendienta, Ronald Sundstrom and Tommy Lott addressed issues of racism and genocide. The main APA conference was immediately followed by a conference on Social Justice sponsored by the Journal of Ethics. Soran Reader, Larry May, Lisa Portness, and Tim Challens had an interesting panel on War, Criminal Justice, and military tribunals. J. Angelo Corlett was on a panel which scrutinized his recent book on terrorism. James Sterba, Dale Jamison, Robert Goodin and Thomas Pogge discussed global poverty. It is heartening to see so many philosophers turning their attention to these issues.

During the social justice conference, three CPP members were on a panel exploring non-violence as a means of social change. Greg Moses explored the writings of an early immigrant to “New Amsterdam” in 1658 named Plockhoy, who, while critical of Cromwell back in England, became concerned about the group’s need to defend itself against Native Americans. Ironically, the whole town was destroyed, not by Native Americans, but by the British army. Moses concludes that an America which is too concerned about its dark skinned enemies, doesn’t realize that their own built-up standing armies are actually their greatest threat. Jose-Antonio Orosco shared his paper on Cesar Chavez’s commitment to nonviolence, and his reasons for eschewing violence against property. I followed with a paper about the role of nonviolence in the South African struggle against apartheid, and the debate within South Africa on whether violence or nonviolence is to be given the credit for the struggle’s successes. Several of the philosophers present at the Social Justice conference showed interest in joining CPP, and we hope that they can join us at our upcoming conference.

At the Central APA in Chicago, Harry van der Linden organized a well-attended panel which discussed aspects of the Iraq War. Ann Cudden spoke of ways in which women in Iraq are suffering during the U.S. Occupation. In the 1980s, Iraq was one of the more progressive Middle Eastern governments. For example, women could run for elected office. Women’s rights began to be eroded throughout the nineties. Now, men, whose honor was wounded in war, want to regain their honor by lording over their women. There is a fight within the Iraqi Governing Council regarding the defense of women in the future Iraq constitution. James Sterba argued that the U.S. should pull out of Iraq immediately. Not only was the invasion not justified to begin with, but in addition, things are worse the longer the U.S. remains inside Iraq. Dick Peterson explored whether there could be a defensible neo-colonialism, in which occupied and occupier have some kind of reciprocity between them. Harry van der Linden argued that a justified humanitarian intervention may be followed by an unjust aftermath, or vice versa. He argued that the U.S. lacks occupational authority in Iraq. The audience participated in a lively question and answer session, despite the late hour.

Other Central APA sessions touched upon issues of peace in our world. One session organized by the APA Committee on the Status of Women was called “Making Peace in a Time of War.” One participant was CPP member Laura Duhan Kaplan, who analyzed the role that Jessica Lynch played in the media, and how Lynch herself did not want to be the media’s pawn. A panel on Sandra Bartky’s recent book Sympathy and Solidarity raised issues of conscience, guilt, complicity, and resistance to war, as Bartky referred to the slogan, “Not in my name,” to express a person’s ability to distance themselves from the complicity in their government’s wars. The Committee for International Cooperation hosted a two-part international dialog about challenges to peace in the Middle East. I would like to thank Laura Duhan Kaplan and Eddy Souffrant for organizing other CPP panels (at Eastern and Central) that I was not able to attend. I think the project of maintaining a presence at the APA meetings is important for CPP as an organization. It helps us to recruit new members, and engage a broader audience in the issues we raise. Please make a point, when you are attending an APA conference, to attend our CPP panels. Often they are in the evenings (the Group sessions are not at the most convenient times), but please make that extra effort to cut dinner short (or postpone sleep) and meet with other philosophers to analyze these important issues affecting peace in our world.

Having said that, I want also to emphasize that it’s important to come to the annual CPP conference as well. We can get lost in the bigger APA sessions, but the annual conference is where we can get together and find out what each other is thinking, give our feedback, and help to clarify our ideas. Please submit your paper ideas to the organizers at University of North Carolina-Charlotte for what promises to be a great gathering. And please remember to pay your dues and vote for a new President (see pages 22-23). We will be hearing a Presidential address from our winning candidate at the fall conference.

Booking Massai Dancers

Some of you may remember that two years ago at the CPP conference at Walsh University, there was a group from Kenya called the Simba Maasai Cultural Performers who shared some of their culture’s traditions with us. The group is particularly of interest to philosophers of peace, because the group addresses the peace-making aspects of their tradition. In fact, Francis and John ole Sakuda have created a “Peace Tree Museum” near their rural homes, where they document the role of plants and trees in peace-making rituals as well as medicinal uses. Francis has come annually to the U.N. Indigenous People’s forum, and is well-versed in the topic of the fight of indigenous peoples around the world for their rights. The group has been doing an annual tour of the U.S. each September and October. Please consider hosting them at your university. They perform traditional dances, songs and rituals, as well as lectures. They need travel expenses and housing covered, and an honorarium. Hopefully your university may have resources for such performances and lectures through a Student Activity fund. You’ll find that compared to local performers, their costs are quite reasonable. And, all of the proceeds they receive from their honoraria go straight to their nonprofit organization to further development in their area of Maasailand. If you are interested in hosting them this fall, please write me.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V24

Peace and the Myth of Pax Americana by Carl Mirra

Mirra, Carl (SUNY-Old Westbury). "Peace and the Myth of Pax Americana." CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

Peace is an idealistic term; it envisions humanity striving for cooperation and harmony, thereby inviting skepticism in a competitive world. Yet, if we juxtapose images of peace against US military aims, it becomes increasingly clear that militaristic sensibilities are as ambitious and idealistic as peaceful visions. The problem is that militarism cloaks itself in so-called realistic solutions, while peace is often jettisoned as a sentimental treat, something reserved for long-haired peaceniks chanting ‘give peace a chance.’ I am suggesting that a pragmatic and practical philosophy of peace offers a greater chance of security than military options. That is to say, the militaristic attitudes embraced by the Bush II administration resemble an idealistic theodicy that is likely to spark a nearly endless cycle of war. In this context, peace should be understood as a viable alternative, not a philosophical dream.

That the notion of peace itself is contested complicates my proposition. Johan Galtung, widely regarded as the father of peace studies, clarifies matters with his distinction between negative and positive peace. Negative peace signifies the absence of war, a desirable condition although it is frequently accompanied with a stalemate, where warring parties are at “peace” but hostilities and threats remain. Positive peace indicates the presence of justice and peace values, such as non-violent conflict resolution skills and a genuine respect for human dignity. Under positive peace, a social order characterized by economic, gender and racial equality exists alongside non-violent dispute resolution strategies. In his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. embraces this two-tiered definition peace, arguing that negative peace is merely “the absence of tension,” while positive peace constitutes justice.

The distinction between negative and positive peace does not suggest a conflict between them; rather, they comprise a larger whole that combines absence of war with realization of justice. An effective philosophy of peace connects the two understandings by raising awareness about the causes of war and the barriers to non-violence, while building the skills needed to create a world defined by economic, gender and racial equality. American foreign policy largely masks these non-violent alternatives, while pursuing violent strategies that frequently spark conflict and war.

Rather than building an American peace or Pax Americana, U.S. interventionism since 1945 has done much to erode basic rights and the prerequisite conditions for peace. Although Ronald Reagan once argued that, “We always seek to live in peace. We resort to force infrequently,” the U.S. has violently intervened in the world at least 55 times since the end of the Second World War, according to data compiled in William Blum’s Killing Hope.1 Contrary to the myth of Pax Americana, these interventions did little to foster global peace. Consider that a Department of Defense study admits that, “Historical data show a strong correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the U.S.” Amnesty International adds that, “on any given day,” someone is likely to be “displaced, tortured or killed…more often than not, the United States shares the blame.” The U.S. routinely assists governments that commit “gross violations and unspeakable offenses,” concludes the respected human rights agency.2

It is important to note that these interventions are animated by what are really idealistic values ensconced in a so-called realist paradigm. Realpolitik, or power politics, seemingly animates American diplomacy. A 1954 Executive Branch panel, for example, felt that, “acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply” in the fight against Communism, which forces us to adopt a “fundamentally repugnant” foreign policy.3 This “repugnant” realism, canonized in Western philosophy by Hobbes and Machiavelli, is infused in the policymaking of almost every postwar American president, who believed that a hostile world forced the US to extend its power over other power-hungry nation-states. For instance, the US as the world’s noble center of power was obliged to “defend” (attack?) such nefarious, power hungry communist states as Guatemala and Grenada. The notion that American liberal democracy (the good) must contain, at all costs, the spread of communism (evil) is little more than a celebratory theodicy of good defeating evil.

The second Bush administration quickly and conveniently applied this mental framework to the war on terrorism. Recall Bush’s declaration that “a monumental struggle of good versus evil” commenced on September 11 and that “good will prevail.” The crisis in Iraq, for example, took on biblical proportions. Bush piously warned Americans of imminent doom. There is “no doubt” that Iraq conceals the “most lethal weapons ever developed,” and when “evil men” plot nuclear terror it foreshadows “a destruction never before seen on this earth.” This apocalyptic nightmare not only required a preventative strike, but Bush also promised to regenerate the misguided country. Just as God in the Book of Revelation split apart Babylon to renew it, Bush sought to “tear down the apparatus of terror” and “build a new Iraq.” Putting aside that ancient Babylon resides in current day Iraq, Bush equated U.S. military prowess to a religious redemption after he sensed a victory on the horizon.

In sermonic fashion, Bush declared an end to major combat operations from the USS Abraham Lincoln in May 2003. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, Bush thundered, “To the captives come out—and to those in darkness be free.”4 More U.S. soldiers have died since Bush supposedly set the captives free, yet Bush continues to peddle a missionary vision of building peace in Iraq. This violent redeemer attitude is nothing more than an antiquated, fairytale theodicy of good against evil. Indeed, peaceful visions should be taken as practical alternatives to this crusader spirit. For one thing, Bush’s proclamations about spreading peace are clearly contradicted by a September 2003 Amnesty International report that finds the war on terrorism is, “undermining international law” and, “has given governments an excuse to abuse human rights.”5

There are peaceful and practical alternatives to this paralyzing, mythological paradigm that the Bush administration champions. United Nations consultant and peace researcher, Johan Galtung, reminds us that there are several alternatives. These options are supported by most of the world and American citizens, according to Gallup polls. Roughly eighty percent of those polled throughout the world following the September 11 massacre prefer a police action to a military campaign. A UN police force could arrest, detain, and convict those responsible for crimes against humanity. Only about fifty percent of Americans polled immediately after the watershed of September 11 responded that they preferred military action to this option.6 This action requires bringing the suspects before the International Criminal Court; a similar tribunal has condemned the U.S. for its role in the massacre of Latin Americans in the 1980’s. Washington, D.C. policy makers would prefer to conceal this from the American public, so they eliminate an action that most of the world supports. U.S. leaders ignore this viable option, while simultaneously manipulating the public’s understandable anger and fear by suggesting that bombing is the only realistic solution. Instead, U.S. leaders follow violent policies that place everyone in danger.

Simply put, peaceful solutions are far less idealistic than messianic crusades in distant lands under the banner of Pax Americana.


1 See William Blum Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions since World War II (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995).

2 Information on the Defense Science Board Report of 1997 in Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), p. 9. Amnesty International quoted in Human Rights and Security Assistance: An Amnesty International USA Report on Human Rights Violations in Countries Receiving US Security Assistance, 4th edition (New York: Amnesty International Publishers, 1996), p.1.

3 William M. Leary, ed. The Central Intelligence Agency: History and Documents (Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 1984), p. 144.

4 Bush quotations from “President Bush Meets with National Security Team,” (Washington, DC: Office of the Press Secretary) 12 September 2001, available at; “President Says Saddam Hussein must leave Iraq within 48 hours: Remarks by the President in Address to the Nation, The Cross Hall,” (17 March 2003), (accessed on April 15, 2003); “President Bush announces Major Combat Operations in Iraq have ended, Remarks by the President from the USS Abraham Lincoln at Sea off Coast of San Diego, California,” (1 May 2003)

5 Gideon Long, “Amnesty: War on terror has made the world worse,” Reuters, 28 May 2003.

6 Johan Galtung, “September 11: Diagnosis, Prognosis and Therapy,” in Johan Galtung, Carl Jacobsen and Kai Frithjof Brand-Jacobsen Searching for Peace: The Road to Transcend (London: Pluto Press, 2002), p. 95-6.

Carl Mirra teaches American Studies at the State University New York College at Old Westbury and his book Enduring Freedom or Enduring War will be published in early 2004.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V24

Thank God for the UN! by Julian Korab-Karpowicz

Korab-Karpowicz, Julian (Bilkent University, Turkey), "Thank God for the UN!" CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

The plurality of sovereign states is a disturbing puzzle for the political philosopher. As individual human beings, we live in political communities, subject to their laws and enjoying the security they can provide. Yet, as members of diverse political communities over which we do not have any common authority, we live in a sort of Hobbesian ‘state of nature’ – a condition which puts all nations in a constant disposition to war. We are, in essence, placed in the middle of a potential or actual battlefield created by an international anarchic environment.

Political philosophy offers two different classical solutions to the problem of insecurity caused by the situation of the absence of a ruler, literally an-archy, on the international scene. These correspond to the idea of raison d’état (reason of the state), developed in the tradition of political realism, and to the idea of the universal empire.

In the tradition of political realism, as associated with Machiavelli and Hobbes, the impulse of states to power and self-preservation is a timeless feature of international relations. No state can be permanently secure in an international environment marked by ongoing conflict. Therefore, the attribute most essential for a state to possess is power, that is to say, the ability to maintain itself among other states. Perhaps the greatest problem with realism is that it has a tendency to slip into an extreme version. In the extreme realism of power politics, the state’s egoism and power become glorified, instead of their being merely recognized and kept within reasonable limits. In the writings of Hegel, and in nineteenth century historical thought, power politics is idealized, war is praised, and power acquires a moral dimension. In its extreme version, realism develops a violent tendency that, in the case of Germany, led to the affirmation of Machtpolitik and subsequently to two world wars.

Reflection on the conflicting character of international relations can lead to the conclusion that peace among nations can only be secured by bringing international anarchy to an end. Another solution to the problem of world insecurity is to establish a world state comprising all nations on earth. Advocates of this idea believe that what is needed to save the world from destruction is a radical transformation of the existing international system. They base their argument on an analogy with domestic societies. They assume that the conditions of an orderly social life are the same among states as they are among individuals in a Hobbesian state of nature, and conclude that what is needed for perpetual peace is to employ the social contract and to transfer the sovereignties of individual states to a global authority – one which would be as sovereign over individual nations as the individual states are over their respective territories.

Opponents of a world state have argued that the condition of states in the anarchic international system is not as desperate as that of individuals in the state of nature. States can cooperate in anarchy and are not as vulnerable to violent attacks as individuals are. They conclude that there is thus no parallel between nation states and individuals concerning their security, and hence also no need to bring international anarchy to an end. Furthermore, what is missing from the history of the formation of a world state is an account of identity change. It assumes that actors are merely rational, self-interested, utility maximizers. It does not take into consideration cultural, religious, and national identities that, when suppressed under the umbrella of a world government, could suddenly erupt in the form of revolutions and civil wars. It is therefore doubtful whether life under such a government would be good, or even tolerable. However, perhaps the greatest problem with the idea of a global authority, as it has recently been promoted in writings of Thomas Magnell, is that it tends to diminish today’s world problems and their real solutions, as they can be provided by the existing international organizations.

For the self-styled realist Hans Morgenthau, who was, at the same time, a supporter of the idea of a world government, and whose book Politics Among Nations has had a lasting influence on the theoretical framework of American foreign policy, the value of UNESCO and other agencies of the United Nations lay not in themselves but in what he believed to be their final cause, namely, the evolution of a global authority. He saw in them a means to creating a world community, “a community of moral standards and political action,” and, in his realism, he believed it was necessary to sustain a world state. He denied that any state that was expected to endure could be created by way of a social contract or a mere constitutional convention, and believed that, just as the community of the American people antedated the American state, so, also, a world community had to antedate a world state. He feared that without the support of a world community, a world state would be “a totalitarian monster resting on feet of clay” and torn apart by civil wars and revolutions.

However, if it is the case, as Morgenthau believed, that, through the work of international organizations, the interests and lives of all nations can be gradually integrated and the world order can be maintained by collective political action, then the domestic analogy that lies at the foundation of an argument for a world state no longer holds true. Anarchy, which is the central fact of international relations, cannot be identified with the Hobbesian state of nature. It was the aim of Hedley Bull and other members of the English school of international relations, whose lessons remain largely unlearned today, to show that international anarchy was unique, and could not be compared with the Hobbesian anarchy. In the anarchic international system, states could be linked to one another by mutual obligations. They could thus form an international society, a great society of nations, the fullest, practical expression of which is the United Nations.

The United Nations organization has been devised to ensure common security, and is therefore a system in which all member states undertake a common action against any country that threatens the security of another state. The logic of collective security is flawless, provided that all nations subordinate whatever conflicting interests they may have to the common good defined in terms of collective defense of all member states. In practice, however, the system of collective security of the UN can only function where there is a consensus among those major powers that are permanent members of the Security Council.

For most of the first forty years of the history of the United Nations, the principal member states did not share such a consensus in large part because of the immense ideological differences and disagreements between the United States and the Soviet Union. A green light for more efficient functioning of the UN was the beginning of the end of the Cold War and the “de-ideologizing” of international relations. In March 1987, the five permanent members of the Security Council agreed to make joint efforts to end the war between Iran and Iraq. This was followed by an agreement in the Security Council on the UN plan for Namibia’s transition to independence and on the plan to bring stability and peace to Cambodia and, in 1990, by the decision to repel by force Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait.

The charge frequently raised against the UN is that, despite its well-considered principles and concepts, it was not, for most of its history, very effective in realizing its objectives. Any criticism of the UN is, however, unfounded if it does not consider: 1) The limitations inherent to the structure of the organization, whose work is based on a process of collective decision making, and, 2) Possible alternatives to it.

To begin with the latter, in the dangerous world in which we live today, an alternative to the UN cannot be a state driven by selfish interests, however strong it may be, which violates the norms of international community. To put our trust in such a state is to go back to the Machtpolitik of the nineteenth century with all of its possible negative consequences. A world state is also an unacceptable alternative, since it can only amount to “soulless despotism,” (Kant) or, as noted earlier, “a totalitarian monster resting on feet of clay” (Morgenthau).

Perhaps the greatest value of the United Nations is not its practical successes in peace-making or peace-building in various parts of the world, or in providing humanitarian relief from disasters, but its contribution to the growth of the universal consciousness of humankind. The force of universality that it promotes is a challenge to national particularism. It provides us with a sense of universal moral obligation to other humans, an obligation that transcends the limits of national communities. Without the UN, the world in which we live today would be even more dangerous.

Therefore, attempts to undermine this organization by affirming individual state sovereignty and idealizing power politics are harmful to the world community as a whole. What is needed to keep the world maximally secure is not the transformation of the present society of sovereign nations into a world state, nor corruption of individual states through egotistical actions on the part of dominant ones, but, rather, the strengthening of global society by the voluntary limitation of the exercise of national sovereignty on the part of the dominant states. And, this should be done in conjunction with international institutions, and in keeping with commonly accepted obligations, and good customs.

The uniqueness of the UN lies in the fact that it can make the world safer by enacting multilateral measures. With the increased interdependence of peoples and states, international security has come to mean both protecting people from natural disasters, civil conflict, and massive violations of human rights that may occur within a given state, and, also protecting one state from attack by another. This idea of protecting states and peoples from harm can be put into practice only through sustained cooperation and an increased community of interests on the part of all major powers. It is only within a society of states that the individual state, however strong, can prosper in the long run. An international society in the form of the United Nations is the best antidote to the dangers that may pose a grave risk to humankind.

Dr. W Julian Korab-Karpowicz teaches political philosophy at the Department of International Relations at Bilkent University in Ankara. The text is a revised version of his paper presented at the Eastern Division Meeting of the APA, Washington, D.C., December 27-30, 2003.

Articles CPP Newsletter Online V24

For Global Federation by Thomas Magnell

Magnell, Thomas (Drew Univ.) “For Global Federation.” CPP Newsletter Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring-Summer 2004).

We live in an increasingly dangerous world. Without putting too fine a point on it, something of the sort could have been said at many times in the past. On a large scale, people have always been subject to three types of hazards: natural disasters, diseases, and war. Floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes can have frightening majesty in their power. But awesome as natural disasters may be, they have not been sources of increasing dangers. For the most part, natural disasters have struck at similar rates, and until very recently with much the same destructiveness. Today, all but the most serious natural disasters are less devastating than before, largely due to technological advances. Increases in danger have mainly come from diseases and war. Until the nineteenth century, the degree of devastation brought on by diseases grew fairly steadily throughout recorded history. Ever greater population densities, especially with the growth of cities, gave advantage to viral and bacterial scourges. With the advent of concern for sanitation in the nineteenth century, and medical advances, particularly through developments of vaccines in the twentieth century, dangers of unintended epidemics receded. Yet, microbes must remain a serious source of concern, as the recent spread of AIDS has made evident to even the most sanguine observers. This is not a subject on which we can afford to be complacent, but if medical understanding through empirically based research continues to improve, and medical practice continues to develop throughout the world as it has for the last two centuries, then unintended epidemic risks are likely to continue to recede. That leaves war as a source of large-scale risk.

In fact, war presents the greatest risk of disaster today. With the other two types of hazard no greater than in the past, and in the case of diseases more and more under control, war is what makes the world increasingly dangerous. Weapons have grown in destructive power with advances in technology. In the twentieth century, they moved into a category of mass destruction, making short shrift of the lives, property, and cultural products of hundreds of thousands and potentially millions of people at a time.

The ever-increasing destructiveness of weapons throughout much of history, but especially in the twentieth century, has been well noted. What has been less often appreciated is the ever-decreasing cost in manpower and money of increasingly destructive weapons, with weapons of mass destruction becoming cheaper in the recent past and giving every indication of becoming even cheaper in the near future. In the middle of the twentieth century, only the most industrialized or militaristic nation states could afford nuclear bombs. Today, a country with as low a gross domestic product per capita as India, and a country with as low an absolute gross domestic product as Pakistan are nuclear adversaries. There is serious reason to believe that Iraq and North Korea will shortly have nuclear capacities, if they do not have them already. Neither nation will have required anything like the Manhattan Project to achieve nuclear parity with the arsenal developed by the United States within the memories of many people alive today. The costs of biological and chemical weapons have declined as well and are likely to continue to decline in the future. Killing has gone from retail to wholesale. What once took huge armies of individual soldiers prepared for combat became a matter for far fewer people from large economic bases. In the years ahead, as the wholesale price drops, weapons of mass destruction will be within reach of middling nation states, mundane criminal organizations, or non-governmental religious and ideological groups. This is not some wildly speculative thought for the distant future, but a real prospect that we must have the courage and intelligence to face.

The underlying problem that must be addressed is a predicament of vulnerability. People have always been vulnerable to aggression by other individuals and foreign attack. Nation states were a response to the vulnerability of individuals. Prior to the development of weapons of mass destruction, the protection provided by a nation state was roughly directly proportional to its military power. National security became a straightforward matter of prudence, with bigger and more powerful weapons providing protection against external aggression. Even with the development of weapons of mass destruction, the basis for national security remained much the same, as long as rational fears could be directed at a few readily identifiable nation states. The decline in costs of weapons of mass destruction is bringing about a change in the effectiveness of the protection that was afforded by national military might, if it has not done so already. Nation states are entering into conditions not unlike the conditions Hobbes described for individuals in a state of nature.

Despite differences in physical strength and intelligence, individuals, Hobbes argued, are equal enough in one respect to rationally fear each other. By the sword, stealth, or strategic agreements with others, just about anyone can maim or kill anyone else. We are equal enough in this respect to be equally threatening. For many reasons, people sometimes perceive it in their interests to maim or kill others. This makes us all vulnerable to individual aggression, equally so or nearly enough. We do not have to accept this unhappy predicament, however. By recourse to reason, we can remove ourselves from the anarchical situation by effectively establishing a central authority to mitigate, if not eliminate, the aggression we are otherwise right to fear. Some central authorities may be better than others, but considering the unhappy predicament without a central authority, Hobbes maintains that just about any central authority is preferable to none.

This last point gives voice to the view that survival is paramount, inasmuch as it is a precondition of any goods we might pursue. It is questionable that it is such a sweeping precondition, but even if it is, it does not follow that we should value it so highly. There might well be occasions where we should not rank our own survival above a number of morally relevant goods. But it does not follow from this that survival should not generally be valued highly; and clearly, as a precondition of pursuing many goods, it should be.

Whether or not any central authority is better than none, we may still make value judgments among alternatives for a central authority. If we can determine some to be better than others, it would be silly to argue for one of the worse alternatives. Our serious choice, then, would be to decide between one of the better alternatives or none at all. None of this need be dispiriting. It would be, if we could not remove ourselves from the unhappy predicament, or if even the best of the alternatives for a central authority could only be otherwise described as a bad alternative. There is no reason to think our situation as individuals so dismal.

With this much behind us, the prudential argument for global federation is easy to outline. The more affordable weapons of mass destruction become, the more nation states and groups not limited to nation states will afford them. With weapons of mass destruction in many hands, the likelihood of large-scale war increases significantly. Beyond a threshold of risk, soon to be passed if not already surpassed, all nation states are vulnerable. They share a near equality of vulnerability, in one respect at least. All nation states are vulnerable enough to large-scale warfare to make a fear of such a disaster rational. The unhappy condition of anarchy among nation states is a predicament of vulnerability that can only be addressed by instituting a global authority. Among the alternatives for a global authority, a global federation of nation states to which military power and authority is transferred is best. If global federation need not be describable otherwise as a bad alternative, then our situation is tractable, and in any case, something less than dismal. It should go without saying that a great deal must be done to fill in this outline in order to have a full, working proposal for global federation—more than enough for many people on many occasions.

Four Questions Regarding Global Federation

If we have indeed crossed the technological threshold of risk placing us in the predicament of vulnerability, or are shortly about to do so, we have grounds for global federation. Four pertinent questions naturally present themselves: Can global federation remove us from the predicament of vulnerability? Is global federation a more promising way to address the predicament of vulnerability than the alternatives? Is there scope for freedom in global federation? Can global federation be achieved? Here are the briefest of answers to each question, some of which have already been adverted to in passing.

By transferring military power and authority to a global federation, we take weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of the growing number of nation states bent on having them, some with unsavory regimes. With sufficient power and authority, a global federation can intervene to keep what would otherwise be predictably rapid proliferation among current nation states and even non-governmental religious and ideological groups. Of course there is no guarantee that it would be completely successful. It must be acknowledged that even one or two rogue states would present dreadful dangers. But this must be acknowledged by advocates and critics of global federation alike. The dangers of one or two rogue nation states or groups with weapons of mass destruction are no less dreadful without global federation. Moreover, if this must be acknowledged, it would seem plain that the current situation, with weapons of mass destruction in many hands, is more dangerous still, which is the predicament of vulnerability. But with sufficient military power and authority, the risk can be greatly reduced, if never completely eliminated. The American experience is again instructive. The fifty states within the federation, large and small, original and recent, could instead be independent nation states. There would then be nothing to stop them from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, and many of them would surely do so. It is hard to see how anyone could think well of this. As Tom Lehrer quipped at the end of his prescient piece of satire, “Who’s Next?”: “We’ll try to stay serene and calm when Alabama gets the bomb.” Why does Alabama not have the bomb, and is not likely to even try? The practical reason is that in the end, any attempt to acquire military power on that order would be thwarted by the Federal government of the United States. It is not that the fifty states are without all military power and authority. They each control state militias that carry considerable fire-power. But it is limited. With the knowledge that the Federal government would prevent any state from acquiring weapons of mass destruction, every state can co-exist without seeking such power. Though without the security of apodictic guarantee, which human affairs do not permit, the fifty states and everyone in them are beneficiaries of federation.

There are three alternatives to global federation: maintaining the status quo, promoting systems of alliances, and accepting the hegemony of a powerful nation state, presumably the most powerful at any given time. The status quo gives us the predicament of vulnerability which is so dangerous that it grounds the prudential argument for global federation at issue. In terms of the argument, it cannot but be worse than global federation. Only if the technological threshold of risk has not been crossed and is not about to be crossed any time soon might the status quo be acceptable. But then the prudential argument would lack evidentiary support. The actual state of nation states is a premise of the argument.

Systems of alliance, including loose leagues and weak confederations, might ease the predicament of vulnerability for a short while, but they presuppose cooperation over time among nation states for which no warrant can be found in history. This is an historical judgment, but one, in the nature of the case, that is not difficult to make. Alliances can fan the flames of war, when regional conflicts spread through allies committed to mutual defense, as happened in World War I. Alliances can provide combustibles for war when false assurances of defense become transparent, as happened in World War II. While weapons of mass destruction are in only a few hands, alliances may prevent their use through deterrence. But alliances have not done much to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction among nation states within the alliances. It is hard to see how they would end proliferation outside the alliances, whether among nation states or religious or ideological groups. Again, with the declining cost of weapons of mass destruction, the serious risk to be addressed lies there. Systems of alliances are not likely to be up to the task and no better than the status quo for the long term.

The hegemony of a powerful nation state, like systems of alliances, can provide stability for a period, though competition for hegemony generally provokes increases in demands on and for military power. In an era of declining costs for weapons of mass destruction, the prospect of hegemony by one nation state is likely to spur other nation states to procure similar weaponry that they might not otherwise have sought. Few of us need reminders of rationales for arms races, and declining costs for weapons of mass destruction only exacerbate the problem. This applies to limited attempts at regional hegemony, no less than attempts at world-wide hegemony. Once more, if the predicament of vulnerability is as serious as I have maintained, and if addressing proliferation of such weapons is a matter of some urgency, then the alternative of world-wide hegemony by one nation state falters in the attempt at realization, though under certain conditions it might provide welcome relief on an interim basis. The history of regional hegemony is mixed, with China offering instructive considerations along with Rome, Great Britain, and the United States.

Whether or not benign in intent, world-wide hegemony, even if achieved, holds little promise for resolving the central problem. The control of weapons of mass destruction throughout the world by one nation state calls for enormous resources and resolve. The resources must come from the dominant nation-state alone or from the subject nation states together with the dominant nation state. If the resources are to come solely from the dominant nation state, the costs it must shoulder are unlikely to be sustained by it indefinitely, or if continually borne are likely to weaken it to the point where its hegemonic status is challenged. In either case, the predicament of vulnerability is renewed. If, instead, the resources are to come from the subject nation states as well, this really is tyranny, with the power lodged in one dominion paid for to a large extent by those subject to it without any controlling authority. The predictable irritation can be expected to undermine the effectiveness of the hegemony, bringing back once more the predicament of vulnerability. The dominant nation state must retain implacable resolve for a global responsibility which the subject nation states do not share. The competing interests of the nation states without that responsibility are sure to create pressures against warranted interventions and pressures for unwarranted interventions by the dominant power. Divided responsibility and authority is never wise and here renders the alternative of the hegemony of a powerful nation state no better than systems of alliance, apart from relief it may provide on an interim basis.

Freedom is among the most important human values. Like continued existence, it is a precondition of realizing many goods. It is also a necessary condition of autonomy, itself a high value. Any means of dealing with the predicament of vulnerability requires power. With power comes potential for loss of liberty. The potential is always there. Historically, most people have been ready to give up liberties for all manner of promised goods. Socialism, for instance, has traded on this readiness, and even in societies with hard-won freedoms, intellectuals have shown unabashed willingness to jettison even basic freedoms, often in the name of compassion. Global federation need not be particularly constraining. The scope for liberty in global federation is as broad as we set it. Federation is systematically tiered, with some powers and responsibilities delegated to the federal authority, and others left to the federated states. Just what is to be assigned to each level depends on how the federation is constituted.

Here too, the American experience is instructive. For a continental nation with a population today fully one-third the size of the world population at the time of its founding, freedom still rings true, if sometimes a little muffled. The growth of Federal power in the twentieth century may be disquieting, but it took place within a framework that continued to give considerable scope to freedom. One of the strictures of the framework which I have suggested would be desirable to reproduce in a global federation is the Tenth Amendment, restricting federal control to powers set down in a written constitution. Only slightly less striking and also desirable to reproduce in a global federation would be the Ninth Amendment: “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Of course, more than that would be needed and much more work would have to be done to specify the powers of a global authority in a global federation. But significant limits on power at the federal level are possible, and if freedom has the value I have suggested, significant limits on federal power are desirable.

If there are indeed prudential grounds for global federation, then global federation can be achieved. Self-interest may not govern all actions, but it certainly governs many. Here, where there are no less solid moral grounds, if the prudential argument is correct, there is no want of motivation. But as a matter of self-interest, nation states are more likely to enter into federation, the less they have to give up; and less likely to enter into federation, the more they have to give up. The ability to achieve global federation, then, is inversely related to the extent of the powers of the global authority, consistent with the powers needed to adequately address the predicament of vulnerability. It does not follow from this that global federation can only be achieved for the most minimal global authority, but it does lend practical support for limits to federal power. The prudential argument for global federation is not utopian. It does not address all ills. It does address the predicament of vulnerability, and, in doing so, is a source of hope.

Note: This discussion is drawn from Thomas Magnell, “A Reply to Three Critics of Global Federation,” in Immortal Longings, eds. Samuel M. Natale and Anthony Libertella, University Press of America, 2003. For additional discussion of the central issues see Thomas Magnell, “Vulnerability, Global Authority, and Moving Away from a Local Maximum of Value,” Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 36, No. 1, 2002. and “Life and Liberty on a Global Scale," Journal of Value Inquiry, Volume 37, No. 1, March, 2003.