OR: On the below, see Julian Sanchez on Robert Nozick (via Jacob Levy). Sanchez swings too far in the opposite direction: how do you know if 'it works' when you 'push in this direction' absent some theory that lets you know which goods are desirable and why? Nevertheless, his point is good.

Patrick Jackson at the Duck covers some of this in his discussion of Doctrine in foreign policy:

But -- and this is the really important thing that Chollet and Goldgeier miss -- I'm not sure that this is the real problem. Indeed, I cannot quite imagine a doctrine-less foreign policy, because even "taking cases on their individual merits" is a doctrine. Doctrine in the sense I have been using it here is not a straightjacket; it's a cultural resource. Not all resources are created equal, and not all resources lend themselves equally well to all possible courses of action. Militant exceptionalism may be a problem, but not simply because it's a doctrine -- it's a problem because it encourages counterproductive courses of action, and because it's immoral (and come on, be honest: when push comes to shove, if you're not a fan of militant exceptionalism, at root it's a moral objection, a sense that we just shouldn't be doing these things or that we just shouldn't be that kind of a country -- just admit it and stop trying to pretend that your objections are purely derived from means-ends calculations, and we'll all feel better). And the solution is to replace that doctrine with a more acceptable one -- and that means a new or re-engineered commonplace or set of commonplaces.

What we need is not some fanciful doctrine-less world, where everyone treats every case purely "on its merits" (whatever that actually means in practice, because one always needs a theoretical perspective or sensibility, whether explicit or tacit, from which to ascertain the "merits" of a case . . . and that perspective undoubtedly contains just the sort of commonplace notions standing in need of specification that are characteristic of an officially-proclaimed foreign-policy doctrine). What we need is better doctrine.

No comments: