Enabling Monsters: A Reply to Richard W. Miller [Full Text]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 25.2 (Summer 2011)

June 30, 2011

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In his essay "The Ethics of America's Afghan War," Professor Richard W. Miller vigorously condemns the United States' continued counterinsurgency efforts in Afghanistan. To him, the moral costs do not justify the prosecution of the Afghan war. I concede at once that an assessment of costs and benefits may well lead to that conclusion; indeed, this is true of any war. However, in my judgment Professor Miller has failed to make his case. Simply put, his two central theses rest on dubious predictions and, more important, are morally objectionable. He proposes, first, that the United States withdraw from the country after brokering a settlement under which the Taliban would be allowed to rule over part of the country. Second, he calls on the United States to abandon its delusions of grandeur and humbly accept that it can no longer achieve its objectives by wielding hegemonic power. According to Miller, the United Stated should pursue instead a policy of "graceful decline" (p. 125). I address those claims in turn.

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