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MORALITY AND FOREIGN POLICY by ayb11560

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									                “MORALITY AND FOREIGN POLICY“

              Last month Worltluiew published an essay by Jolm Courtney Xlurray, S.J. thut
              strongly criticized the current “ambiguist” approach to problems of ethics and
              foreign policy and argued for a return to “the tradition of reason in moral d-
              fairs.” In this issue JVorMvieru presents eh?ended comments on Father h,lur-
              ray’s article by Kenneth W. Thompson and Hans J. Morgenthau. Dr. Thomp-
              son is the author of Christian Ethics a r d the Dilemmas of Foreign Policy and
              PoZitical Realism and the Crisis of M70rld Politics; Dr. Morgenthau is the au-
              thor of Dilernrrias of Politics and the forthcoming Thc Prrrposc of Anicrica.




                                                          The Trunian Dochine and the North Atlantic Treaty
                                                          Organization have been designed to meet power
                                                          ~lth   countervailing power through military assist-
                           Kenneth W . Thompson           ance and alliances. Yet in the struggle for the re-
                                                          spect of the uncommitted nations, more subtle and
                                                          imaginative programs are needed. It is not enough
In “hiordity and Foreign Policy” a distinguished          in confronting these issues to say with many influ-
Catholic theologian has raised a series of important      ential Catholic and other leaders that Communism
issues that trouble him in the writings of political      alone is the real threat. These problems would per-
realists. Father John Courtney hlurray should real-       ples and baffle our leaders if Communism were sud-
ize, lio\vever, that those he attacks are deeply trou-    denly to disappear.
bled by many of the same issues. Unhappily, he               Our approach to such issues has been impaired
falls prey early in his analysis to the very polemics     by the moral absolutism associated with hlcCarthy-
he attributes to authors of “the new morality.”           ism. For this Catholics no less than Protestants must
   Thus Father hlurray concentrates his attack on         be held accountable, and it is hardly just of Father
what he calls          intramural argument going on       hlurray to place the full burden on another faith
within the Protestant community.” This ignores a          by implying that abstract moralism is a peculiarly
rich body of contemporary Catholic writing which          Protestant issue. Indeed, while many Catholics un-
is central to the tradition he is criticizing. The edi-   doubtedly transcend the problem, moral absolutism
tors of The Reoiew of PoZitics, for example, stand        for them is a yawning abyss of treacherous pitfalls
in the forefront of fulltime Catholic writers on in-      from which only the wisest and most sophisticated
ternational morality and they have their European         are secure. Protestants, and especially those who are
counterparts. That Father Murray excludes their           tireless in self-examination and self-criticism, must
thought from his critique by implying that concern        be tactless enough to point this out if Catholics are
with the “ambiguity” of politics is a peculiarly Prot-    unwilling to recognize it.
estant obsession suggests that he is the doctrinaire,        The polemical character of Father hlurray’s ar-
not those he describes in this way. Nor does he rec-      gument is further illustrated by his patronizing dis-
ognize the emphasis of Jewish writers like IVill Her-     cussion of “ambiguity.” Now, the ambiguity of pow-
berg, hlartin Buber or Hans J. Morgenthau, who            er is no invention of intellectuals but a basic prob-
 are no less involved in the discussion.                  lem inherent in political responsibility. No one who
   h.lore unsettling and disturbing in Father hlurray’s   had faced the nearly intolerable choices with which
 essay is an apparent blindness to the common prob-       statesmen are familiar could say with Father hlur-
 lem of moral absolutes. Catholics no less than Prot-     ray’s Olympian calm: “The dilemmas and ironies
 estants must confess that American society has           and paradoxes are . . . in the eye of the ambiguist
 viewed the present crisis in simple, unambiguous         beholder.” One is tempted to reply that this is ul-
 terms. There is much about the Cold War that is           timate casuistry; it suggests that the harsh choices
 straightfonvard and unequivocal. Our policies have       faced by responsible leaders are no more than a -  %
 succeeded to the extent that we were called on to        ficial constructions which could be reduced to clear
 respond to aspects of the Communist threat which          solutions through the use of pure reason, preferably
 are similar if not identical with Nazism and Fascism.     the reason of Catholic natural law.
                                                                                                            3
   Yet what are we to say about the moral anguish         cism is further compounded by the manner in which
 of Lincoln confronted by the awful choice between        he caricatures his objects of scorn. For example,
 freeing the slaves, presening the Union and touch-       Father hlurray satirizes: ‘To be human is bad
 ing off the irrepressible conflict? How are we to        enough; but to be powerful is to be corrupt, with
 think about that tragic and fatal alliance with the      a corruption that increases with each increment of
 Soviet Union whicli made possible the defeat of          power.” \f7hat a gross distortion and corruption of
 Nazi Germany? ]{‘hat would the rationalist have          sober thought and serious analysis1 If Father hlur-
 offered the United States as an unambiguous policy       ray had the patience to follow the bend of the ar-
 for the Hungarian revolution? Or in the most re-         gument against which lie declares a holy war, he
cent crisis, what clear-cut policy guidance would a       would have framed. his criticism in more moderate
spokesmiin for ”the tradition of reason” have offered     and balanced terms. He might have recognized that
Presidcnt Eisenho\ver on accepting or not accept-         those whom he indicts point to the inestricable link
 ing responsibility for the U-2 incident?                 behveen good and evil in human nature. Thus Rein-
    In that fateful incident, Mr. Eisenhower, as the      hold Niebuhr begins his GifFord Lectures: “Alan has
C1i:iirniiin of the Senate Foreign Relations Commit-      always been his own most vexing problem. How
 tee suggests, could have denied howledge and re-         shall he think of himself?”
sponsibility for the flight. If he had chosen this           This issue presents few if any difEiculties for Fa-
course, however, lie could scarcely have withstood        ther hlurray, but for Niebuhr “every affirmation
pressure from Khruslichev and our allies at the Sum-      which [man] may make about his stature, virtue, or
mit to accept the four conditions, including condem-      place in the cosmos becomes involved in contradlc-
nation and punisllment of the culprits who had prac-      tions.” Niebuhr continues: “if he believes himself to
ticed die black art of espionage. Yet the other choice,   be essentially good and attributes the admitted evils
for \vlucli many of us were initially critical of the     of human history to specific social and historical
President, involved him in the defense of uncertain       causes he involves himself in begging the question;
tacticill measures thilt no head of state normally de-    for all these spec& historical causes are revealed
fends. -4s one of our wisest diplomatists points out,     on close analysis to be no more than particular con-
‘no one i n IVashington is happy over the handling        sequences and historical configurations of evil ten-
of the spy plane incident, yet few if any are pre-        dencies in man himself. If, on the other band, man
p.ircd to urgue that he could have chosen another         c o m b to pessimistic conclusions about himself, his
coursc less embarrassing or fraught nlth fewer dif-       capacity for such judgments would seem to negate
ficulties.                                                the content of the judgments.”
   Perhaps Fiitlier hlurray, from the heights of l i s       Surely this is a far cry from the conception of
natural Ialv position, could point the \vay to “rea-      man Father Xlurray attributes to his “victims.” Sim-
sonuhle” policies that \vould free our leaders from       ilarly, he caricatures the position serious writers have
the “ambiguous“ decisions they make. Short of of-         taken about the corruption of power. No one claims
fcring a rational doctrine that could justify the use     that corruption “increases with each increment of
of force, Iiowever, Father Murray lias been signifi-      power.” For some, power is a source of self-realiza-
cantly silent about concrete problems and programs        tion and fulfillment. Responsibility may produce
of action. Indeed, the most striking quality of his       qualities of mind and character which would other-
analysis is its studied avoidance of esamples. The        wise be hidden. However the historians may ulti-
reader searches in vain for illustrations or “for in-     mately judge President Harry Truman, few would
stances” drawn from the real world. Like the social       deny that history and the demands of office called
science theorist \vho erects an elaborate structure       forth qualities of leadership that we had not an-
or system for decision-making or political choice and     ticipated. For some the &e is the means by which
then declines to test llis system against the real        the metal is hardened and r e h e d .
\vorld, Father hlurray eshorts and condemns from          0
the safe haven of abstractions that make u p a closed
svsteni with wliicli no uninitiated outsider can come       Yet the pages of history are also littered with
to terms.                                                 repeated esamples of strong men who yielded to
   Granted his premises, Ius conclusions follow. Giv-     the temptations of power and became increasingly
en lus assertions tliat a moral order englobes each       more arbitrary and persuaded of their oivn omni-
political act, lie is immune to criticism by those who    science.
ti-ould study the many-sided elements and ingre-             From Caesar to the present, the range of advisors
dients in cvery political act. The world is seen a        contracts, counsel is sought only from agreeable col-
But or round alternatively because natural law doc-       leagues, and criticism is cut off at its source as im-
trine so decrees, not because one has made a genu-        patience and supreme self-confidence dominate, The
ine inquiry into the nature of politics.                  argument of political realists simply stated is that
   Ho\vever, the problem of Father hlurray’s criti-       power terds to be, not inescapably is, corrupting-

4
a lesson \vhich the Founding Fathers grasped more         ized, the institutional and practical measures that
fully, apparently, than Father hlurray. After read-       give it content and meaning, which are conspicuous-
ing his easy dismissal of the problem of power, one       ly missing from Father Murray’s essay. In their stead
wonders what he would say about our system of             he would substitute rational categories and pre-es-
checks and balances, about federalism as a political      tablished structures which define national purpose.
invention and about the immense fear of arbitrary         Hence he is impatient with any discussion that re-
power that early American leaders share with more         minds him of a situational ethic, that involves the
perceptive present-day observers.                         balancing of moral ends in the face of practical cir-
    But the Achilles heel of Father hlurray’s analysis    cumstances or that questions the sufficiency of ob-
is its lack of humility. At least his present essay is    ligatory political en& enshrined in natural law doc-
not humble about the problems of Catholic thought,        trine. Yet in his own analysis of the problems of
about man himself, about the contradictions and           war he returns himself to concepts that have been
irrelevancies in.much of natural law doctrine in ap-      filtered through circumstances.
plication to the contemporary international scene,        0
nor about the writings to n~hichby and large he
does great violence. Those he criticizes in the De-          Political concepts like freedom and equality, at
partment o€ Defense who tremble nt the prospect           least in the real world, are essentially formal con-
of firing the first shot are neither confused nor ani-    cepts. They receive their meaning from tlie sub-
biguous (terms he reserves for Protestants and real-      stantive concepts to ~ v l i c l ithey relate. The ques-
ists) ”but simply wrong.” The plain fact is that nei-     tion is endlessly raised, “freedom for what?” and
ther natural law nor practical reason pro\ides a con-     at this point the political philosopher must search
vincing justification for the emplolment of absolute      ; higher order of political and moral ends like jus-
                                                           I

force short of the contingent circumstances that          tice for udlich freedom and equality are rcgulatoy
might call it into play. Those who are finally called     principles. The Highcr Law pro\ided American pol-
upon to press the button will be faced not with           itics \vi& R faith and a set of beliefs about the dig-
 the need for a doctrine but with an ovenvhelming-        nity and u*ortli of the individual and the purposes
ly difiicult choice that must be made-as was the          of nian and society. Leaders had therefore to look
 decision to intervene in Korea-in the face of all        beyond exFediency and majority rule to a hierarchy
 the relevant circumstances.                              of ends Americans sought to embody.
    At this point one is tempted to ask nFhat “all the       .4t the same time the Founding Fathers, having
 shooting is about.” Father h,furray in his stimulating   elevated their gnze, were obliged to return to earth
 essay on ~ v a r (Morality and hfodcrii \Var, The        to seck some crude approximation of goals in the
 Church Peace Union, 1959) observes tliat moral           murky realm of politics. Under changing circum-
 principles must be filtered through circumstances if     stances, they realized justice in a shifting galx?.y of
 they are to have relevance for military policy. The      public policies, each involving a balancing of ends
 same must be h e of justice, freedom, security, gen-     and means. In the realm of politics, ambiguity and
 eral n.elfare and peace. This is precisly what those     uncertainty, ambition and pride, selfishness and nob-
 he criticizes have been attempting to do. To give        iliw intermingle and merge. Far from being an ob-
 meaning to the broad principles or categories, po-       stacle to action, awareness of this would seem to
 litical leaders must reach down into the depths of       proiide a challenge. Those who withdraw are rarely
 American life and pluck out the concrete doctrines       those who recognize the true character of &e po-
 bv which men can live. Justice is a general, intan-      litical realm. hlore likely those wlio espect a realm
 $ble and often shapeless purpose, but Lincoln could      of reason and lofty purpose grow disillusioned and
 @,e it meaning in the Emancipation Proclamation          discouraged and voiv to have no more of “this dirty
 or the Supreme Court in the segregation cases.           business.”
 Writing about national purpose, Hans J. hiorgen-            In my Lien., most of the great political and inter-
 thaii observes:                                          national leaders have been men who neither asked
    “The distincti\reness of the American purpose does    nor espected too much of their fellows. They ac-
 not consist . . . in a particular substantive idea, a    cepted tlie \vorld in all its richness, its blending of
 specific concrete arrangement, some single aclueve-      high purpose and tragic shortcomings. Some sensed
 ment, the consummation of which could be pin-            instinctively the moral order within which men live
 pointed in time. Rather it consists in the achieve-       and die wrhile accepting the fact of evil and the
  ment of a particular mode of procedure, , . . way        need to adjust to it. They cooperated with evil n.hen,
  of thinking and acting in the social sphere, of a        as was often true, it promised to serve some good
  particular conception of the relations between the       end. They discovered political justice not writ large
  individual and socie?.”                                  on tablets of stone but in successive choices among
    It is this procedural aspect of political morality,   partially good or barely tolerable alternatives. Some
  the routes b y which justice and freedom are real-       of them niay have reflected on the greater security

                                                                                                                5
of die philosopher’s art. They may have envied the              No politician can accept the truth of that incom-
natural lawyer h s discussion of justice and freedom
                 i                                           patibility; for it is exactly in the appearance of be-
at the same time they searched for some measure              ing moral while seeking power that he finds both
of both in the life of a complex society. If they            peace of mind and an element of power itself. Few
achieved however modestly the goals about which              moralists have found that incompatibility palatable;
philosophers write, they might be escused for feel-          for the reconciliation of the irreconcilable is intel-
ing both gratitude and pride. They could be grate-           lectually more attractive and socially more reward-
ful to philosophers and lawyers who set the frame-           ing than the radical postulation of alternatives. To
work for a better life in terms of a more just society.      face the conflict behveen ethics and politics square-
They could feel pride in their own achievement               ly places an intolerable burden upon our actions or
\~~liicli not that of the philosopher and hardly de-
       is                                                    our consciences. Thus Westem man has endeavored
serves liis scorn or denial.                                 to obliterate the gap behveen the demands of Chris-
                                                             tian ethics and the aspirations of human nature by
                                                             closing his eyes to it. He has reinterpreted the de-
                                                             mands of Christian ethics by ’liberalizing” them. He
                                                             has made it appear as though the Christian gospel
         THE DEMANDS OF PRUDENCE                             did not mean what it obviously says, and he has
                                                             invented ingenious theological devices which make
                                 Hans J . nlorgenthaic       it easier to sin because they make forgiveness easy.
                                                             He has watered down the demands of Christian .
                                                             ethics, thus making it appear as though human ac-
An unbridgeable gulf separates the demands of                tion were complying ~ i t h     these demands. This is
Christian ethics from the way man is compelled by            the escape of the Pharisees.
liis natural aspirations to act. That c o d i c t is fore-      The other escape is that of the Sophists. They
ordained by die nature of Christian etllics and the          approach the problem from the side of human ac-
nature of man. Cluistian ethics demands love, hu-            tion, They try to build a bridge between ethics and
r n i l i ~the abnegation of self; man as a natural crea-
            ,                                                politics dn the foundatio’n of distorted human ac-
ture seeks tlie aggrandizement of self through pride         tion rather than misinterpreted Christian ethics.
and ponw. It is the tragedy of man that he is in-            hlan is here presented as naturally good and hu-
capable, by dint of 5 s nature, to do what Christian                                               hs
                                                             man action as naturally moral; ti is assumed to
etlucs demands of him.                                       be true particularly of oneself and one’s o\vn ac-
    It is the guilt of man that he is unwilling, by dint     tion and of the collectivity to which one happens
of liis corruption, to do what he could do to meet           to belong and of its action. Here’is the root of po-
tlic demands of Christian ethics. The best man is            litical ideology, the most persuasive attempt West-
c:ip;ible of is to be guided by the vision of a life         em man has undertaken to make its peace with
lived in compliance with the Christian code and to           the demands of Christian ethics without liaving to
narrow tlic gap behveen his conduct and that code.           forego his natural aspirations.
The closing of that gap tluough complete hamiony                If there be any truth in this necessarily sketchy
behveen the demands of Christian ethics and man’s            analysis, then the moral problem of politics resolves
conduct is not a problem for etlucs but for theol-           itself into the question: Given the e.xistential in-
o n . Only di\<ne grace can establish that harmony           compatibility behs.een politics and Christian ethics,
in another world.                                            how must moral man act in the political sphere?
    \Vhat is true of man in general applies with par-        \tule he is precluded from acting morally, the best
ticular force to political man. For the natural as-          he can do is to minimize the intrinsic immorality of
pirations proper to the political sphere-and there           the political act, He must choose from among the
is no Merence in kind behveen domestic and in-               political actions at his disposal the one which is
ternational politics-contravene by definition the de-        likely to do the least Liolence to the commands of
mands of Cluistian ethics. No compromise is pos-             Christian ethics. The moral strategy of politics is,
sible between the great commandment of Christian             then, to tnr to choose the lesser evil.
ethics, “Love Thy Neighbor As Thyself,” and the                 This strategy, it should be added, is no more pe-
great commandment of politics, “Use Thv Neighbor             culiar to politics than is the incompatibility behveen
As n hieans To The Ends Of Thy Pom:e.er.” It is a            the demands of Christian ethics and the political
 priori impossible for political man to be at the same       aspirations of man. Both are special instances of
 time a good politician-complying with the rules of          the human condition; but they are particularly poig-
political conduct-and to be a good Christian-com-            nant instances by dint of the poignancy of the moral
 plving \vith the demands of Christian ethics. In the        problem of politics. Yet as to choose the lesser evil
measure that he tries to be the one he must cease            is the best the moral politician can do, so it is also
 to be the other.                                            the best moral man at large can do.

6
   It is at the point of choosing the lesser evil that    eral principles of right action. It cannot tell us with
moral evaluation and political calculation merge.         any degree of certainty uyhich of alternative actions
For what is more or less morally evil must be deter-      is &e right one in i1 concrete situation. That choice
nuned through anticipation of -the probable conse-        natural law leaves to prudential considerations-
quences of different courses of action. Obviously         strangely enough, there is no reference to prudence
Father John Courtney hlurray finds nuclear weap-          in Father hfurray’s argument-that is, to our intel-
ons “from the moral point of view . . . unshootable”      lectually fallible minds and morally weak wills. And
because of the consequences of shooting them. A           those minds and wills put us again in the presence
foreign policy tliat presenes peace is morally su-        of the ambiguities and dilemmas.
perior to one that leads to limited war, and the lat-         I join Father hiwmy in deploring the decline of
ter, in turn, is superior to one which increases the      the tradition of natural Inw in America, the weak-
danger of all-out nuclear war.The right moral choice      ening of those objective rational standards which
is here obviousl>r identical ~ i t h riglit political
                                   the                                 ~
                                                          once g u \ guidance to private and public judgments
choice. A foreign policy which seeks an avoidable         and actions. Howeiver, it is not secular liberalism
limited war is morally inferior to one which actual-      alone n4iicli ought to be blamed for that decline.
ly avoids such a war. On tlie other hand, :I foreign      Defenders of natural l a ~ vmust sliare in that re-
policy Lvhich shies away from the risk of limited         sponsibility. For natural law has been intellectually
war and thereby brings on all-out nuclear \var is         and politic:illy discredited in good measure because
morally iderior to a foreign policy \vhich faces that     i t has been made to bear ;I burden wllich it could
risk.                                                     not car?. The attempts to apply natural Iaw’di-
    No one can be certain before the event which          rectly, uithout the intermediary of prudence, to po-
choice is morally right and politicall!. sound. Il’e      litical action \vere bound to fail. Either they pro-
all act on hunches which the future ma)‘ or may           \,ided no guide to political action because of the
not prove to have been correct. It is tlus uncertainty     generalib of nnturid law to wllich we have referred,
of both moral judgment and political calculation               else &ejr provide a piutic11lx political position
\vlUch creates those “ambiguities” and “dilemmas”         with an ideological rationalization and justification.
which Father hlurray so dislikes. These ambiguities       Thus the appeal to natural law became either mean-
and dilemmas Lvere not invented by theologians,           ingless or suspect.
Protestant or othermise, but they gronp inevitably            I should say in passing that Father hlurray has
from the nature of the relationship behveen Chris-         failed to do justice to the recent debate \vhich has
 tian ethics and political action. The ambiguities         centered on the problem of morality and foreign
 which Lve find baf3ing in the character of Hamlet,       polic!.. This has been by and large a serious and
 and the dilemmas with which he was unable to cope,        fruitful debate. It has deepened and refined the
 were not peculiar to the prince of Denmark. They          understanding of both politics and morality. I know
 are but the ambiguities and the dilemmas \ ~ ~ h i c h    of no evidence, uith the esception of some off-hand
 no morallv sensitive actor on the politici1l scene can   remarks by one author, to suggest that “to the po-
 escape.                                                   litical realists or cynics i . . all public issues are
    This being so, recourse to natural law will not        simply issues of pomver in which moral judgments
 free us from these intellectual and moral disabili-       halre no place at all.” And I must have eqxessed
 ties. To the contrary, such recourse will only serve      myself consistently \vitli estreme imprecision if to
 to emphasize their inekitability. For the gap be-         Father hfurray (Morality arid itfodcrn W a r , p. 21)
 hveen the rational postulates of natural law and the      my “basic \iew . . . seems to be that a11 moralities
 contingencies of the concrete situation within which      are purely ‘national’; they cannot be subjected to
 man muct act and judge is just as wide as the gulf        judgment in terms of universal principles.” I have
 which separates the demands of Christian ethics           tried to elpress the esactly opposite view for more
 from the rules of political action. In truth, as a        than fifteen years. I have particularly pointed to
 more detailed discussion of natural law and its re-       “national mo;alities” as political ideologies which
 lation to ethics would show, both gaps are identi-        endea\.or to invest the interests of a particular na-
 cal. Natural law can onlv provide us with the gen-        tion with the sanction of universal moral principles.


             4     outstanding pamphlets in The Church Peace Union’s publications seriea
                          Twenty-five cents each. Quantify rates avollable upon request.

       0 MORALITY AND MODERN WAR                          0   RELIGION P ND INTERNATIONAL
         b y John Courtney Murray, S.J.                       RESPONSIBILITY b y Robert Cordis
       0 ETHICS AND NATIONAL PURPOSE                      0   THE RECOVERY OF ETHICS
                      .
         b y Kenneth P Thompson                               b y Paul H . Nitze

								
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