Justice Among Nations

Thomas L. Pangle and Peter J. Ahrensdorf (1999) refer to the international relations theory as a branch of political philosophy. According to the authors, human beings who formulate foreign policy must have a thorough understanding about their own nature, that is, of fellow human beings who will be affected by the foreign policies formulated by their own kind. Thus, Justice Among Nations: On the Moral Basis of Power and Peace provides a much-needed introduction to the essential concepts of international justice with 2,500 years of intellectual history to support it.

This history includes Thucydides as well as Plato, Morgenthau as well as Waltz. As a matter of fact, by not leaving out God from their history either, the authors have shown how older traditions of political philosophy continue to be relevant with reference to current debates in international relations. Moreover, the book reveals how political thinkers of previous centuries continue to be of help to us by deepening our understanding of the present-day standstill between the conceptions of realism and idealism.

Pangel and Ahrensdorf prudently guide the reader through a series of theoretical structures to reveal the moral bases of foreign relations. Among the frameworks included are the popular view of the classical philosophers, the “just war” of Christian theologians of the Middle Ages, and the Islamic concept of jihad, in addition to the revolutionary realism of Machiavelli, Kant’s Enlightenment idealism, and the twentieth century theorists’ neo-realism.

Each of these theoretical frameworks is clearly explained in the book with reference to international relations. The authors have also examined the appeal of each of the frameworks. Besides, they have brought these different theories into commonly illuminating juxtaposition and shown that by appreciating the basic premise of each of these frameworks, readers may avoid dogmatism, oversimplification as well as abstraction seeing that each of these frameworks has a unique moral character with something to learn from.

As a matter of fact, Justice Among Nations is meant to open the mind of the contemporary political philosopher by reminding him of the necessity to be aware of morality – with respect to international relations – as it has been viewed over the centuries. All the same, the authors of Justice Among Nations are not objective like scientists. After all, their book is not based on political science either. Hence, the political moderation of the authors is visible in the book seeing that they have written a remarkably radical criticism of the perennial human phenomenon known as the “religious right.

”In point of fact, the book does not merely describe older traditions with respect to international relations, but it also expresses the strong views of the authors themselves. As another example, Pangle and Ahrensdorf explain that idealism, which came to the United States from Kant through Woodrow Wilson, may either be plain hypocrisy or foolishness. This is because disinterested universalism is considered the appropriate way to defend actions taken on behalf of a nation’s interests.

Moreover, a president may develop the belief that good wars are waged over “values,” as opposed to “interests” which are the reason for bad wars. Even so, a more profound modern realism propounded by Hegel and Nietzsche does dramatically oppose the bourgeois or unchallenging world of interests. This form of idealism defends war as a stimulus to bravery as well as human brilliance in hard times. What is more, this form of idealism is a treatment for a Hob-besian devotion to peace at all costs. Hans Morgenthau’s “realism” and Kenneth Waltz’s “neorealism” are not realistic enough according to Pangle and Ahrensdorf.

This is because these theories connected with realism do not provide an honest account of human devotion to moral freedom. Morgenthau and Waltz had maintained that humans and nations could be trained to dismiss idealistic crusading as irrational behavior and to behave more predictably and realistically by acting only on behalf of their own interests. Therefore, humans and nations could be aided in imagining war and wishing for peace in their imaginings. It was hoped that humans and nations would wish for peace in any case when they imagine the consequences of war.

Hence, modern realism will do away with war altogether, however unrealistic this scenario may be. Pangle and Ahrensdorf ensure that the reader believes in the necessity of war at times. This is because moral and religious passions may be unreasonable, and since most human beings cannot do away with emotions and passions to become plain intellectuals, war must be a part of human life. The “human concern with mortality” or survival does not dictate a permanent state of calm. Neither may fear rule at all times.