The Strategy of Graceful Decline [Full Text]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 25.2 (Summer 2011)

In his detailed and thoughtful essay in this issue of Ethics & International Affairs, Professor Richard Miller complains that "just war theory does not provide sufficient guidance" for a thorough and reliable moral assessment of the arguments for and against continuing the American and NATO military presence in Afghanistan (p. 103). His appropriate concern for the enormous "moral costs" of the war (in terms of the continuing toll of death, injury, and widespread suffering it inflicts on the population at large) constitutes a serious objection to prolonging it in terms of the disproportionate harm it does, relative to any conceivable justifications that might be proposed for its continuation. Such considerations of proportionality, however, which infuse the greater portion of his analysis, fall squarely within the purview of conventional just war doctrine, and do not themselves suggest any fundamental inadequacy or inability on its part in providing a powerful moral critique of proposals to prolong the American and NATO presence in Afghanistan.

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