TNSR_Vol_3_Issue_1_April_2020

Does Might Make Right? Individuals, Ethics, and Exceptionalism 7 with making grand strategic choices. Great articles like this are precisely why TNSR exists — to pro- vide a platform for the kind of innovative scholarly approach that boldly transcends narrow discipli- nary concerns to look at important questions in a fresh, interesting way. How much should ethics and morals shape these decisions? And if we think they should matter, what metrics should we use? Joseph Nye reminds us in his compelling essay that defining interests in simply material or military terms is misleading. “Access to oil, sales of military equipment, and regional stability are all national interests, but so too are values and principles that are attractive to others.” By the same token, complex considera- tions come into play when debating what means are used to achieve goals in the world. “Using hard power when soft power will do or using soft power alone when hard power is necessary to pro- tect values raises serious ethical questions about means.” Nye offers a framework for how to think about and evaluate the role of ethics in both the ends and means of statecraft. C. Anthony Pfaff lays out how and why profound technological changes make these moral and ethical considerations more important than ever. Automation, machine learn- ing, performance-enhancing technologies — they all move choices further away from individual deci- sion-making, with unsettling consequences. “Mor- al autonomy is required for moral responsibility.” Pfaff lays out a series of conditions that should be considered, involving consent, risk-reward, in- dividual well-being, proliferation, sustainable al- ternatives, and the larger effects on society, when evaluating the normative consequences of embrac- ing a disruptive technology. Do different kinds of regimes make different kinds of decisions? More to the point: Is there something about the United States — its history and culture, its national identity, its governance — that makes how it engages with the world differ- ent, or more exceptional , than a model based on structure and power would predict? The debate on whether the United States is or is not exceptional, and whether or not that is a good thing, either for itself or the world, is a debate as old as the nation itself. As both Ambassador Azita Raji and Hilde Eliassen Restad remind us in their articles, these arguments have a particular resonance since the election of Donald J. Trump. Trump has explicit- ly rejected the exceptionalist narrative, both in his words and deeds. Power, interest, nationalism, and sovereignty are what matters, not universalistic 5   “Remarks by President Trump to the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY,” The White House, Sept. 25, 2018, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-73rd-session-united-nations-general-assembly-new-york-ny/. ideals or ethics. As Trump told the United Nations General Assembly in 2018: “We will never surren- der America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unac- countable, global bureaucracy. America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.” 5 Restad highlights the Jacksonian roots of Trump’s nationalism. She argues that the strength of this type of worldview should not be underestimated, and that future American leaders will need “an up- dated story of ‘America’ in the world, a story that acknowledges the problems with the ‘liberal world order’ to address the concerns of the next genera- tion of Americans, allies, and adversaries.” As Raji reminds us, America is a place “ where hope com- pels us to believe that great things can still be done. That’s who Americans are. And if Americans are true to their values, then the United States will once again be a guiding light in the night for the world.” ***** If grand strategic choices matter, then outcomes are not inevitable or shaped only by structural factors. We must then study the individuals who make decisions and understand what motivat- ed their decisions. What do they value and why? What role does their culture, history, and nation play? And how do we evaluate those choices as right, wrong, or somewhere in between? As Nye writes, “The important question is how leaders choose to define and pursue that national interest under different circumstances.” None of this is to say that the structure of the international system doesn’t matter enormous- ly. Structure and agency always mix, but rarely in ways that remove the responsibility of choice. My own life is shaped by a number of factors I did not choose, from my gender to my height to the time and place in which I was born. That does not remove me from judgment concerning the choic- es I do make or free me from the consequences of picking among alternatives. Saying ethics or values are important is also not to claim that interest or power are not critical variables for understanding the world. Both terms, however — interest and power — suffer from what social scientists call un- der-specification. As Nye reminds us, “It is tauto- logical, or at best trivial, to say that all states try to act in their national interest.” Neither term ex- plains very much, in the same way that offense-de- fense theory, with its emphasis on ease of conquest and the military balance, tells us very little about

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