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Are We Morally A Dumb Nation?

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coalition-warplanesby Aleksandar Jokic

The US is bombing yet another country: Libya. Now the US is doing it legally, with Security Council authorization. The main justification is couched in moral terms: "to protect civilians." However, neither can the UN issue indulgences for aggression of one country against another nor is the idea of bombing people in order to save them morally defensible. Hence, both the legal and moral presumptions of the operation "Odyssey Dawn" are indefensible. Let me explain.

Anyone who has ever formulated a moral judgment recognizes as its main feature that what is said to be right or wrong, just or unjust, fair or unfair in a particular situation must be so in any sufficiently similar situation. One who does not recognize this, in technical terminology of moral philosophy, is being "morally dumb" or a "moral idiot". Sir Peter Strawson, a celebrated 20thcentury British philosopher, had developed the notion of a "moral idiot" in his influential essay "Freedom and Resentment" to refer to agents who fail to be responsive to moral reasons or persons lacking morally appropriate affect. I use the phrase "morally dumb" to indicate persons who fail to realize that universalization is the main characteristic of moral judgments. Hence, if it is wrong for person A to kill civilians, then it is wrong for any other party to do so. Operation "Odyssey Dawn" involves slamming ordinance at targets throughout Libya, and has already killed hundreds of civilians.

This should not be a surprise. The 1999 US-lead NATO aggression against Yugoslavia (without UN approval) killed over three thousand civilians. At the same time the operation "Allied Force" killed five hundred Yugoslav Army soldiers. Clearly, these sorts of operations are much more deadly for civilians than the alleged "military" targets. Furthermore, proof that the Qaddafi regime was slaughtering civilians was slender at best. Why would they? Be that as it may, this straw-man claim certainly cannot justify that instead of Qaddafi our military should be killing Libyan civilians. If we do not understand this, we are a morally dumb nation.
 
Essentially, the main objectives of the UN Charter were to outlaw aggression and foster the principle of noninterference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. In the case of Resolution 1973, the Security Council acted without factual information as a mere instrument of Western powers rushing to authorize a "no-fly zone" which the US already interprets as a license to wage all-out war against Libya. The latter now results in a novel ideological construal called "responsibility to protect," which provides a way to obliterate the principle of noninterference and decriminalizes aggression--held by the Nuremberg judgment to be the "supreme international crime." As such, it is contrary to the foundations of the UN system, and in this instance, exceeded the formal jurisdiction of the Security Council, which has always been limited to threats to international peace and security.
 
Once the UN becomes the organization for issuing indulgences for imperial aggression by the US and its vassals against nations rich in resources—oil, gas, ores, arable lands and clean water—it should no longer remain in operation. The continued existence of the UN would only serve to fakelegitimacy of certain decisions to go to war; in effect, it would decriminalize aggression. Consequently, once the UN becomes its contrary, the distributor of "permissions" for US aggressions, it should simply shut down.
 
Aleksandar Jokic is a professor at Portland State University where he teaches courses in moral philosophy and international justice.


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