Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Philosophy and War: Hanno Calls for Air Support

From Hanno:

Not to change the subject completely, but I am designing a new course, and I want some input. I want to make a multi-media course about philosophy and war. Themes include war and memory (War and Peace, Fussell's Great War and Modern Memory), war and ethics (from pacifism to militarism) Ethics in War (justifications of various limits on warfare, no only the Geneva conventions, but chivalry, and the code of the warrior), the inherent use of means to an end thinking (Omar Bradley, Gettysburg), to the glorification of war (50's war movies to Saving Private Ryan) and their effect on society, to the de-glorification of war (Platoon, All's Quiet on the Western Front, Gallipoli), attitudes towards killing in memoirs (Addie Murphy, Paul Fussell).

Suggests for further themes, or works at which I should look?

My two cents:

cent one:

There are a couple of pieces that were part of the required ethics course at the United States Naval Academy when I taught there that struck me as powerful. One is James Webb's article "The War on the Military Culture" which is perhaps the only piece to appear in The Weekly Standard by a sitting Democratic Senator (1/20/97). Webb confronts the question of women in combat in a careful, knowledgeable way. I don't agree with his conclusions necessarily, but it is a well-written, thoughtful argument that would begin a good classroom discussion.

The other is a case study developed by Jillian Dickert and Kenneth Winston at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government entitled, "A Policewoman's (Non-)Use of Deadly Force." It looks at the attitudes towards the use of force, especially deadly force, by police officers in situations that are not terribly different from warfare. The cavalier celebration of brutality on the part of many of the male officers is contrasted with a police woman's choice to not use deadly force in a situation of grave bodily danger. It is a very powerful piece that keeps the cheap and easy 24-type, "they had no choice but to be brutal" move from being quite so cheap or easy.

cent two:

A drum I keep banging...I would love to see someone smart (like Hanno) start to critically assess the failure of neo-conservatism. If you want to talk about war and morality, enlarge the scope and look at the use of war as just another, or worse a preferred, tool for enacting foreign policy. Look at Fukuyama's The End of History as an intellectual blueprint for the debacle in Iraq. Compare the Project for the New American Century doctrine to the Weinberger doctrine. Look not only at the ethics in war, but the ethics of going to war.