Ethics matter. This is not only the tag line for the Carnegie Council. It is also the proposition of my work. Many writers take up ethical issues. But few have the vantage point of the Carnegie Council — a place where leaders from around the world come to share ideas, reflect on their experiences, and engage in public conversation.
Posted here are lectures, articles, and reviews reflecting my engagement with the Council’s activities. If there is a pattern, one might say it is opportunistic, seeking to add the ethical dimension to debates ongoing. One might also see a thread of realism. In my view, power and ethics are inseparable and are best considered together. …
“James is somebody whom I admire for his many virtues. It is appropriate that we appear here tonight under the banner of “ethics.” James is a virtuous character. I would like to use this occasion to share a few of those virtues with you, although the list could be much longer.”
In launching a campaign to disarm and liberate Iraq, the United States has crossed, some say hurdled across, two thresholds—one strategic, the other diplomatic. Strategically, the United States delivered on its promise to act in self-defense, absent an actual or even imminent armed attack, against threats from weapons of mass destruction. Diplomatically, the United States demonstrated its willingness to act decisively and unilaterally, if necessary, in the face of strong opposition from its allies. Some saw these crossings as courageous leadership, but others saw them as reckless. My purpose is not to rehearse the familiar pros and cons of preemption and unilateralism but rather to suggest that a fuller, moral accounting is needed of these concepts and some of the side issues they raise—thus the question mark in the title of this article.
Election seasons are a time of bromides—easy claims of moral clarity and virtue. Yet elections can also heighten our awareness of important issues, encouraging sharp debate on contested principles. To take the debate beyond the usual platitudes, the Carnegie Council offers a shortlist of questions focusing on current policy choices and the tradeoffs they entail, as well as future standards for America’s role in the world.