1 It is, of course, true that conflict over resources may exacerbate political tension and invite unrest. That said, without a structure of law and a mailing address and phone number for what could reasonably be called a “state,” tensions over economic maldistribution are likely to erupt into the anomic violence from which so many human beings now suffer. Unless responsible structures of government are in place, it is not possible to foster greater economic equality. The political question precedes the economic one, despite the fact that there is a form of economic determinism embedded in many perspectives that put markets prior to law and politics.
2 The instability I refer to is not the disturbance to civic peace attendant upon social and political contestation. In such cases, including those involving widespread civil disobedience, a structure of laws and accountability is in place—and it is precisely this structure that becomes a target for protesters to the extent that they believe the law encodes specific injustices. I am referring to lawless situations of cruelty, arbitrariness, violence, and caprice, and these abound at present.
3 Thucydides, it must be noted, did not lift up the Melian dialogue as a depiction of exemplary behavior on the part of the Athenian generals; indeed, it presaged disaster for Athens. Oddly enough, however, this extreme case of the use of force is often located by contemporary realists as a case in point for their perspective.
4 Nye, Joseph S Jr. “U.S. Power and Strategy after Iraq,” Foreign Affairs 82 no. 4 (July/August 2003) p.68. As Nye points out, “the UN is torn between the strict West-phalian interpretation of state sovereignty and the rise of international humanitarian and human rights law that sets limits on what leaders can do to their citizens. To complicate matters further, politics has made the UN Charter virtually impossible to amend” (p. 68).
5 I would not use U.S. military personnel to respond to authentic natural disasters, like floods. International humanitarian relief agencies, including nonmilitary U.S. personnel and NGOs, should be deployed in such instances. In light of the current war on terrorism, deploying our military to respond to the aftermath of hurricanes and the like will stretch us too thin. Humanitarian relief and coercive force must be kept distinct, in part in order to limit coercive force rather than to bury it under the humanitarian rubric. At the same time, U.S. military personnel deployed in the aftermath of a coercive military operation to help restore civic order, repair or build up an infrastructure, police chaotic situations, and the like makes enormous good sense. Given our likely continuing obligations in this regard, the U.S. military will require additional person power both for the near and the long term.
6 Here precision-guided weaponry has rolled back many arguments that modern war and the just war tradition are by definition incompatible. This is surely true of a total war absent restraint. It is not true of a limited war with restraint and fought in order to punish egregious aggression, to interdict terrible violence, to prevent further harm.
7 Power, Samantha “Genocide and America,” New York Review of Books(March 14, 2002) p.17.
8 It is fascinating that the decision of the Clinton administration to bypass the United Nations entirely passed by largely without notice—certainly without the denunciations that were routine fare in op-eds and anti-war arguments in the run-up to the war in Iraq. It is as if the Bush administration and its allies were punished for attempting to act through the UN and finding their way blocked, this despite the fact that Iraq was in material breach of the terms of the 1991 truce concluding the Persian Gulf War.
10 Let me be clear that this was not in any way an explicit policy aim; rather, it is one attendant upon what is now the tradition of so-called humanitarian intervention.
11 This is a complex cultural development. But something has happened over the past four decades that drains the Judeo-Christian tradition, for Christians or “post-Christians,” at least, of the powerful images of God as sovereign, as the instigator and enforcer of justice, central to the Old Testament and absorbed, therefore, into New Testament teaching. I grapple with this issue in my book, recentJust War against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World (New York: Basic Books 2003); see especially chs. 7 and 8.
12 Power, “Genocide and America” p.18.
13 One of my grandsons is a Marvel and DC Comics addict so I am very well acquainted with superheroes at the moment.