The Moral Status of a War

 

As the last of the United States’ armed forces withdraw from their prolonged engagement in Iraq, an observer can pause to reflect and consider the moral status of this conflict. Two recent experiences – incredibly trivial though they may be – inform my analysis. Firstly, I happened to chance upon In the Valley of Elah (a 2007 film whose story aims to highlight some of the terrible psychological effects that can result from throwing young individuals into such a conflict) the other day, and I found it quite compelling. Secondly, in a recent philosophy seminar that I was overseeing, a student attempted to raise the war in Iraq as an example that might offer support for a more general point about the validity of a consequentialist justification in moral reasoning; at the time I didn’t have any knowledge of the numbers involved, so I couldn’t say much about the nature of the example as regards a strictly consequentialist calculation. Due to my role, I felt compelled to stay silent at the time, and it left me frustrated.

 

I shall elaborate upon this second instance first. The war in Iraq was mentioned because – so the student asserted – America’s action was a reaction to 9/11, Continue reading “The Moral Status of a War”

The Price of Life and Peter Singer

What is a life worth? It is difficult to understand what this question even asks. Does it ask; What kind of thing, or what amount of a certain kind of thing, could satisfactorily replace a human life? This does not clarify the original question so much as point out what it is that makes it initially so hard to grasp. That is, it is implicit in the question that it is possible that a life can be ‘worth’ something at all which, taken in the sense of a given life being replaceable by something of commensurate value, appears to be a mistaken assumption. Or is the second question just misleadingly worded? If we were to ask instead what kind of thing a life is worth giving up for, then the possible contexts in which one might be inclined to agree that the loss of a life can be justified by the certain good that it may bring about begin to come to mind. Continue reading “The Price of Life and Peter Singer”

The “Al Qaeda” Seven

A political firestorm erupted this past week over a commercial created by an incipient political group, led by Liz Cheney, called “Keeping America Safe.” In the video, we learn that there are lawyers working for the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) who formerly represented detainees (and alleged terrorists) being held captive in Guantanamo. The dark voice in the commercial then implores us to urge the DoJ to release the names of these lawyers because it is unclear just “whose values they share.” “Americans have a right to know,” we are told, “the identify of the Al Qaeda Seven.” Continue reading “The “Al Qaeda” Seven”

A “torture” debate

Gitmo_AerialAs a matter of editorial policy, several major media outlets, including The New York Times and NPR, do not use the word “torture” to describe treatment of prisoners in US custody.  This policy has drawn criticism from opponents of US interrogation methods. Continue reading “A “torture” debate”