Pre-Empting Proliferation: International Law, Morality, and Nuclear Weapons
European Journal of International Law, Forthcoming
Posted: 24 Nov 2011 Last revised: 21 Apr 2014
Date Written: November 23, 2011
Michael Walzer is right that dwelling the United Nations Charter’s use-of-force rules constitutes “utopian quibbling.” But he is wrong in arguing that “practical morality” of the sort defended in Just and Unjust Wars (2006) presents a useful analytic framework in addressing issues such as the advisability of using force to counter threats of nuclear proliferation. The problem is that Walzer’s moral evaluations do not meet the standard of consistency that he himself demands, and the foundational inconsistency of his moral appraisals produces precisely the context-oriented relativism that he rejects. Policy analysis offers a preferable approach because it makes fewer assumptions. Its vocabulary interposes no problematic metaphysical infrastructure between ends and means, and it generates no debate that is not directly pertinent to the decision at hand. Neither international law nor practical morality ― nor a consequentialist calculus of national interest ― can eliminate the need for judicious choice and subjective judgment.
Keywords: use of force, United Nations, Walzer, morality, policy analysis, realism, aggression, international law
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