Was Kant wrong, or are we messed up?

A magnificent, sober discussion of the morality of war, particularly of what war means in a democracy, and most particularly of the war we are about to launch. No hysterics, no cant.

One common philosophical argument for democracy is that democratic regimes are particularly unlikely to start wars. When the power to declare war is closely tethered to the preferences of those who would bear the costs of fighting, it stands to reason that this power will be used sparingly. Thus, many political philosophers have followed Kant in supposing that the universal embrace of democracy offers the best hope of world peace.

Our nation now finds itself on the verge of initiating war against another sovereign nation. We have not been attacked by Iraq, and we have thus far failed to produce convincing evidence that Iraq has aided, or plans to aid, those who have attacked us. If we go to war, we will be the initiators of aggression.

It would be a mistake, however, to take this as fresh cause for doubt about the link between democracy and peace. We ought instead to view this imminent possibility as an occasion for raising hard questions about whether, in the critical matter of waging war, we still function as a genuine democracy.

About this Entry

Published on August 27, 2002 12:58 PM.

previous entry: dare none call it treason?

next entry: giving away the store