War & Peace
A speech given as part of Yale Law School’s Global Consitutionalism Seminar 2012, convening on the occasion of the Centennial of Carnegie Corporation, New York, and of the Peace Palace, The Hague, and celebrating Andrew Carnegie’s vision of international justice. The four-day event was held at the Peace Palace in The Hague from 29 August–1 September 2012.
“There are few names more deserving of close association with the word “peace” than Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie alone had the vision and resources to invest in the first global institution devoted to the pursuit of peace. And those of you who know his life story know how hard he worked to lobby, cajole, nag, and flatter Kaisers, kings, prime ministers, and presidents to make his dream a reality.”
When I was in 9th grade, confronting the Iliad for the first time, I had two questions. First, why is it so important that we read the so-called classics? And second what is a classic anyway? It is only now, all these years later, that I can finally answer these questions.
We read the classics because they tell us something essential about human nature. A classic text endures because it touches on an unchanging truth of human experience. A classic is a time machine. It enables us to travel through time and across cultures; and it speaks to us in a language we recognize as essential, enduring and true. The history of the world is the history of violence and war, and the Iliad remains the original benchmark for our understanding of war’s human dimensions.
The same Dunfermline-born Andrew Carnegie who spent his wealth on funding libraries and other grand institutions across Britain and America died a disappointed man, having failed to achieve the one greatest vision of his later life—a way of preventing war.
Carnegie had always made a clear distinction between philanthropy and charity. Where charity was about the relief of immediate suffering, philanthropy was about changing lives for the better. His investment in libraries was about helping people to help themselves towards a better life.
A Scot who had made his millions in America, he foresaw globalisation long before anyone had thought of giving it a name.
Transcript of a speech at a August 18, 2010 Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics event, “Is Peace Worth Fighting For?“
“My remarks today are inspired not only by this convening and my respect for my two distinguished co-panelists, but also by two additional Scottish gifts to the world of ideas. Those two gifts are the legacy of Mr. Andrew Carnegie and the ongoing Gifford Lectures in philosophy, which as many of you surely know, attract some of the world’s greatest living philosophers to Scotland on an annual basis. Both Mr. Carnegie and the Lectures have been sources of creative thinking when it comes to the issue of ethics in war.”
If I were giving President Bush advice for his second term, I would argue that the new administration ought to establish an accountability mechanism–a task force or special commission–to review senior-level policy misjudgments that resulted in systematic abuses in at least three separate locations: Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq (Abu Ghraib).
The prosecution and conviction of prison guards has been a necessary first step. But accountability for policies that were deemed “tantamount to torture” should not end there.
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.