Homo homine lupus


Eternal Peace

What follows is a condensed version of Kant's 1795 essay, paraphrased in order to make it more readable and quickly understandable. Interpretation and political spin is provided as a time-saving convenience. If the reader prefers, the work is available in its purity, without the distortions of the categories of my private understanding. Upon reading it finally, I have to admit that it tends to hammer one into unconsciousness. If philosophical thoughts in and of themselves don't get you off, don't go here.

The page numbers are from the 1949 Modern Library edition: The Philosophy of Kant, edited by Carl J. Friedrich of Harvard University, which I purchased new for $1.65 many, many years ago, and are intended to provide the illusion of continuity.

Page 430

The title is satirical. Kant is not an optimist or a naive utopian dreamer. Aware that men are idiots and that heads of state are "never sated with war," he presents this essay as a purely theoretical exercise in the hope that he will not suffer the "malicious interpretation" of those whom he might offend. Not unlike today, 1795 was a good year to avoid offending people in high places.

The essay begins with six "Preliminary Articles," which are the rules that would obtain between states (if Kant were Übergruppenfeurer), without which a condition of peace would not be possible. They set limits to the savagery of war, proscriptions which will be respected by civilized men even when in the thrall of uncivilized behavior. With deference to Scruton, the rules are specific and practical but don't include directions on how to get everybody to agree to them.

Page 431

Article One:

"No treaty of peace shall be held to be such, which is made with the secret reservation of the material for a future war." If you don't really mean it, forget it. The "Jesuitical casuistry" to which he refers is today nearly universal and attaches to a broad spectrum of card sharks. A peace treaty is not a cease fire for the purpose of resting and regrouping.

Article Two:

"No state having an independent existence, whether it is small of great, may be acquired by another state through inheritance, exchange, purchase or gift." You don't get to own other peoples' countries. One can not improve on Kant's own words here: "A state is not a possession."

Page 432

Article Three:

"Standing armies shall gradually disappear." Maintaining huge battalions of killer goons and vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons leads people to question your intentions. It sends a message which is destabilizing and not terribly peaceful.

Page 433

Article Four:

"No debts shall be contracted in connection with the foreign affairs of state." Lacking any knowledge of 18th century economics, I think this refers to the practice of financing wars by foreign loans and suggests that lending money to states for non-peaceful purposes should be forbidden. Wars today are designed to fit any budget. A new RPG launcher in Baghdad costs about $15.

Page 434

Article Five:

"No state shall interfere in the constitution and government of another state." Minding ones own business is generally the best.

Article Six:

"No state at war with another shall permit such acts of warfare as must make mutual confidence impossible in time of future peace: such as the employment of assassins, poisoners, etc....." If it is concluded that your enemy is such a devil that no real peace is possible with him, then no agreement of peace will be anything more than a new venue for extermination.

Page 436

Three "Definitive Articles" are here described at length for establishing the possibility of peaceful coexistence between nations. This is prefaced by a very important sketch of the fundamental condition of man as he is constituted in nature, according to Kant. He is at war. War is his status naturalis. There is no "peacable kingdom" to which we may default. Peace is war-deferred, and neighbors are enemies unattacked. Loving hippies who return to the forest to recapture their innocence will not find it. They will become lords of the flies. A condition of peace is an artifice, which must be founded and imposed upon men by legislation and restraint. Thus the "Articles" are about the imposition of constitutions.

A footnote to this sets out the conditions in which preemptive war (collapse into a state of natural hostility) is permissible, but only by way of postulating that at all levels of inclusiveness, men and their societies must be subject to a common law. Without this, unprovoked attack is simply ok. Roger Scruton's contention that Kant would have voted to invade Iraq was likely based on this passage, together with the supposition that Kant's international codes are so utopian as to be irrelevant to the real world and intended only as a theoretical model. Here are Kant's words:

"It is often assumed that one is not permitted to proceed with hostility against anyone unless he has already actively hurt him, and this is indeed very true if both live in a civic state under law, for by entering into this state one man proffers the necessary security to another through the superior authority which has power over both. But man (or a nation) in a mere state of nature deprives me of this security and hurts me by this very state, simply by being near me... He hurts me by the lawlessness of his state by which I am constantly threatened, and therefore I can compel him either to enter into a communal state under law with me or to leave my vicinity. Hence the postulate which underlies all the following articles is this: all men who can mutually affect each other should belong under a joint civic constitution."

Scruton would maintain that since Iraq is an outlaw (non-republican) nation on a planet which has not yet realized an effective world federation, the absence of an inclusive jurisdiction justifies removal of the threat by invasion (and violation of all the foregoing articles) by Iraq's neighbors (which would include the U.S., since we are within range of her terrible intercontinental missiles.) Invasion of the vast majority of existing nations by any others would be, by this same reasoning, likewise justified. By dint of the fact that Kant's ideal world does not exist, Scruton suggests that all bets are off and that we promptly revert to dog pack justice, whereas Kant, mindful of the savagery of such an abdication of principle, appears to favor the effort to bring his remedy into being by respecting the spirit and authority of whatever imperfect federation may be in place, rather than defaulting to the bullying warlord model. Perhaps Roger perceives Kant as naive or mired in theory, but for the sake of the question he poses, one must assume that Kant at least would have taken himself seriously.

It is also important to note that Kant is not the United States. Kant wants rogue nations to come together in a commonwealth for the good of their societies and for the sake of world peace. The Bush junta (for Roger's information) wants military bases and an assured oil supply for the production shortfalls that loom on everyone's horizon. They don't give a shit about the welfare or the self determination of the Iraqi people any more than they care about the Sudanese or the Afghans or education or motherhood or the fraternity of man.

The footnote goes on to describe three nested constitutions in order of inclusiveness: (1) ius civitas, national citizenship, (2) ius gentium, international law, and (3) ius cosmopoliticum, a universal state of all mankind.

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First Definitive Article of Eternal Peace:

"The civil constitution in each state should be republican." This is an earlier definition of republican, not, that is, an American political party identified with the us-versus-them coalition of Trent Lott and his petrocronies, but an actual political philosophy advocating the principles by which men ought to live, regardless of whether this or that special interest stands to gain something from it. A republican, according to Kant, holds the following principles:

(1) The freedom of all members of society as men. Freedom is the right to do what does not deprive another of his right.

(2) The dependence of all upon a single common legislation.

(3) The principle of the equality of all as citizens. Equality means that no one can legally obligate another without at the same time subjecting himself to being obligated by the other in the same manner. The social contract at every level is maintained by this universal principle of fairness, the categorical imperative, without which there would be no consent to subjugation, since the law itself would be inequitable. No nation would agree to be bound by prohibitions from which other nations are exempt. This is like agreeing to slavery. (Henry Kissinger, Kant's countryman, weighed in on this topic in 2002, as we shall see.

Page 438

200+ intervening years spookily dissolve here, as Kant prophetically describes the 21st century relationship between George and you and I. The republican constitution, he says, requires the consent of the citizenry (who will do the fighting and dying, and who will pay the bills) for the deprivations of war. When the President does not consider himself a citizen, but the owner of the state, "he will resolve upon war as a kind of amusement on very insignificant grounds and will leave the justification to his diplomats, who are always ready to lend it an air of propriety."

Page 439

"Republicanism means the constitutional principle according to which the executive power is separated from the legislative power. Despotism occurs when the state arbitrarily executes the laws which it has itself made; in other words, where the public will is treated by the prince as if it were his private will."

If these Kantian definitions are still current among political philosophers, then it is hard to imagine that the Bush Administration is republican and not despotic. By depriving men, even that privileged subset of men designated "American citizens," of their inalienable rights simply by declaring them "enemy combatants," does not our ugly prince both make and enforce the rules? These rights might possibly include the right to sleep, the right to wear clothing and the right to possess ones own genitalia free of electrical interference.

By the above definition, democracy is a despotism for Kant, since it is not strictly representative, but rather a tyranny of the majority. The imposition of a constitution to safeguard the rule of law is the only alternative to despotism and violence. Only in a representative system is a republican form of government possible.

It is worth noting that as enamored as we liberals are of democratic values, the philosophers have not cared for it much. Kant didn't like it, and neither did Plato, especially as interpreted by Leo Strauss and his latter day saints: Wolfowitz, Perle, Kass, Fukuyama, Keyes, Feith and the Kristols. Plato believed that the wise should rule, and should rule absolutely, since for the unwise to rule the wise would amount to the subjugation of the higher to the lower.

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Second Definitive Article of Eternal Peace:

"The law of nations should be based upon a federalism of free states."

States in an unregulated condition are like individual men when not subjugated to laws, i.e. in a primary state of nature where the rights of each member are disregarded in favor of brutal competition. There is an inherent contradiction in a state freely submitting to the constraints of a broader unity, giving up, as Kant says it, "a wild freedom for a reasonable one." The primitive attachment to lawless liberty, the principle that one will not be subject to any external coercion, is a recipe for eternal war. Real Texans (about as primitive a life form as you will find in this hemisphere) don't take orders from the United Nations or the World Court.

Page 443

The evil nature of man is reaffirmed, with the hopeful note that the concept of law is universally invoked as justification for our various piracies and plunderings. We claim that we are "bringing the evildoers to justice." Lip service springs eternal, but may at least be construed as the sign of a dormant moral aspiration.

Page 444

Kant's conception of a federation of nations, a united nations as it were, is an extension from the inadequacies of the "peace treaty" that concludes particular wars but does not conclude the ongoing state of war, which will find ever new pretexts. Rather than a peace treaty (pactum pacis) he proposes a pacific union (foedus pacificum) which intends to end all war forever. Men in the state of nature (savages) might get smart and decide "there shall be no war amongst us, for we want to form a state... a juridical power which peacefully settles our conflicts." But can this revelatory moment be transposed to the next level where a state sees its advantage in the invention and recognition of a broader federation of states and submission to its consensus? How does such a thing actually come into existence? By good fortune, Kant suggests. By a powerful and enlightened people who develop a republican form of government and provide the central core for a gradual and expanding union with other states.

Page 445

Those who claim the unilateral right to make war according to their own maxims will inevitably also come to a state of eternal peace "in the wide grave which covers all the atrocities of violence together with its perpetrators." Like Mark Twain, Kant despises the Old Testament celebrations of victory, which not only disregard the various ways in which foreign people seek their own idea of justice and right, but "rejoice over having destroyed many people and their happiness" as Richard Cheney did just two hours ago on my television screen.

States are constituted by the premise of sovereignty, and are naturally unwilling to give up their lawless freedom to the acceptance of public and enforceable international laws (civitas gentium). Kant is not a hippie. He does not propose that we hold hands and march toward the positive goal of a world republic. He suggests instead a proper fear of our bellicose tendencies, and a union of survival to prevent their eruption.

Page 446

Third Definitive Article of Eternal Peace:

"The Cosmopolitan or World Law shall be limited to conditions of universal hospitality."

Here, in what an inscription in front of the old Tucson Public Library has described as our "sun-kissed borderland," we are today challenged by issues of neighborliness, and the degree to which the little lives of our brown-skinned neighbors to the south weigh against the threat of smuggled suitcase nukes taking out the Phoenix metropolitan area. Yet here we find the perfect materialization of the conflict between the territorial claims of states and the universal rights of men as championed even today by Fadda Joe and the Catholic Church, that the foreigner has a right, as a planetary being, not to be treated with hostility when he arrives upon the soil of another. Kant says it best: "No man has a greater fundamental right to occupy a particular spot than any other." Kant is probably not widely quoted in the Knesset.

Page 447

When they visit us (the "civilized, trading nations") it is illegal immigration. When we visit them it is conquest. Kant describes the savaging of Africa and India by mercenaries, under the pretext of establishing trading ports, as examples of "inhospitable conduct," as though the consequent evils of this did not merit a less charitable description. The comparison to the sanctimonious rationale for today's plundering of the middle east is chilling.

Trading had, in Kant's day, so advanced the noospheric state of global communication, that even in the absence of the telephone or the internet he could say: "the... community of all nations on earth has in fact progressed so far that a violation of law and right in one place is felt in all others." He thus explicitly declares, contrary to Scruton's reading, that the idea of cosmopolitan or world law is not utopian, and that we might therefore "flatter ourselves that we are continually approaching eternal peace."

Page 448

Our hope for eternal peace rests on the guarantee of nature, that her mechanical course "reveals a teleology: to produce harmony from the very disharmony of men, even against their will." As nice as it would be to believe that this is actually happening, such a "providential" evolution toward a higher goal can neither be observed in nor deduced from the artifices of nature. By analogy to human artifice (where the unrevealed end shapes the means and the tools), Kant speaks of "providence" as a way of retaining the idea of form necessary to a description of events in their totality. Remaining faithful to an invisible progress, I suppose Kant would say that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Checking the blueprints from time to time is a good way for dumb carpenters to get an idea of what is going on at the level of architecture. The senses report the appearances of the material world. The forms locate these specific events in a wider context, demonstrating purposeful connections that are apprehended by deductive reason.

Nature marvelously provides (1) food and raw materials for our survival, even in remote regions of the world; (2) the blessing of war to drive us into these regions, and; (3) the prodding necessity - again from war - to enter into rudimentary legal relationships (alliances) and thus to evolve as communities.

Page 450

It is suggested that the Mosaic law forbidding the eating of blood was actually an attempt to pose the "hunting life" as at variance with a civilized constitution. Hunting groups tend to disperse (unlike farming groups) and ultimately become alien and hostile to each other.

Extending this idea, Kant credits war (which is so grafted upon human nature that the martial values of honor, self-sacrifice, stamina and courage are given universal dignity) with the dispersal of mankind to the remotest reaches of the planet. Nature thus provides man with the ability to live everywhere (adaptability) and the impetus to do so even against his will (the need to be distant from bellicose neighbors).

Page 453

"The problem of establishing a state is solvable even for a people of devils, if only they have intelligence."

Establishment of and submission to public laws is not a duty imposed by practical reason at any level of human social organization, but is simply compelled by the threat of annihilation by internal or external conflicts. Thus people who are not good men are nevertheless good citizens, since in a dangerous world there are only the smart and the dead.

In Platonisms, intelligence (logos) is the father of reason. Intelligence is the presence of the divine, without which no moral option, no organizational possibility, takes place at all. Devils are very nearly defined as creatures who have turned away from intelligence. So it is surely not this intelligence that Kant is talking about. Such "intelligence" is not a human faculty but rather an ambient condition of nature, the expediency by which appetites are satisfied, the adaptive mechanism compelling planets to circle the sun and wolves to work cooperatively to provide themselves with a greater abundance of carcasses.

Page 454

The existence of independent states constitutes in and by itself a state of war. Permanent peace can be imposed upon this natural condition by the artifice of a federative union of states which seeks to prevent an outbreak of hostilities. Lacking this, the solution to the problem of world peace as seen by every state (and ruler) is to simply dominate the world and annihilate rivals (empire).

The killing effect of universal monarchy and soulless despotism is opposed by Mother Nature, by means of the differences of language and religion, which keep alive the inclination to hatred and war as well as its corollary, peace and understanding.

Page 455

Commerce and war cannot mix. War may seize assets, but tends to annihilate property and the systems which are the source of wealth, i.e. commerce and trade. Thus in nature, greed and bellicosity are mutually exclusive. We are rescued from violence not by moral rectitude but by avarice.

Eisenhower's military-industrial complex might appear to be just this impossible Kantian hybrid. In Kant's time, proper wars tended to be mutually destructive events. The preparation for war, the buying and selling of armaments as distinct from getting blown to smithereens by them, is simply business without war, for once both sides are engulfed by the totality of war there is a net loss of goods and commerce. The foreign adventures we have called "wars" since the 1940's have been merely military excursions or piracies, lacking the full scenario of having our own cities carpet bombed or being occupied by foreign soldiers. America has not experienced a war on its soil since Lincoln's time, and business has been good.

Page 456

Kant's recognition of the corruptive force of power leads him to part company with Plato on the subject of the philosopher king. Plato believed that there would never be a perfect society until philosophers were made kings, or until kings became philosophers, though he did acknowledge the likelihood of this as nearly nil. Kant felt that philosophers should be within earshot of the scions of power, but did not think it a good idea for the wise to have power themselves.

The king, as jurist (who wields the sword of governmental power) should be required (in Kant's utopia) to give the philosopher a hearing before taking executive decisions. As a mere handmaiden of the ruling entity (be it theology or Theodoric) the philosopher retains the judgement of reason free of the taint of self-interest, while the king is given the benefit of disinterested wisdom in a decision otherwise informed only by political concerns.

I personally agree with Kant (while we are spinning this fairy tale about kings abiding by any kind of constitutional laws at all), but I would add an additional proviso to his requirement that the king must sit down and listen to the philosopher. The king should also pass a quiz on what the philosopher has attempted to teach him. Before exercising his prerogative to override the advice of the philosopher, the king should be required to demonstrate that he has achieved an intellectual grasp of what the philosopher has said. The power of the king should not be disallowed, but the ignorance and stupidity of the king should be strictly forbidden.

(We require that the man who does our plumbing be a licensed contractor, that our physicians have credentials from a bona-fide medical school, that our schoolteachers are certified and that our bus drivers pass a rigorous chauffeur's exam. But the prospective Leader of the Free World is not required to name even six foreign heads of state or to demonstrate the slightest familiarity with history or civics or governance, logic or economics or the religion, language and customs of his allies and his enemies. If we do not require this of our leaders, we have no basis for complaint when they take the nation into lunacy.)

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The imperative of reason impels us to action given the dual conditions that (1) a thing ought to be done and (2) it is within out power to do it (ultra posse nemo obligatur). The pragmatist is immune to such an appeal, saying that we can simply choose not to want to do it. We should suppress our vengeful natures when dealing with felons, and it is within our power to refrain from forming lynch mobs, but hell, stringing them up is so damned satisfying! (Actually, people who equate justice with retribution are constrained by a stronger predisposition, i.e. cruelty, and lack the power to choose freely according to reason.)

Page 457

"Be ye therefore wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Pragmatism (politics) divorced from moral laws sees an internal conflict in this commandment which the moral philosopher does not. Theory, to the amoral politician, is a doctrine of expediency. If you know what circumstances will serve his material self interest, you can predict his "moral" positions and state his philosophy with no further study. My fascist boss, Byron, a multi-millionaire who has railed against government handouts to the undeserving poor for the last twenty years, just applied for Social Security benefits. The guiding principle being: Money to Byron, good. Money from Byron, bad. All supporting argument, like the epicycles of Precopernican bodies, must fall into place around this necessary outcome.

Page 460

As a bulwark against external enemies, a bad constitution is better than no constitution. Despotisms with no backup system save anarchy must not be terminated by force, but must be allowed to evolve by peaceful reforms over time. Only natural revolutions avoid suppression and produce lasting changes.

Disarmament demands, which are quite popular (if futile) procedures of today's global cowboys, are likewise forbidden by Kant. "It cannot be demanded of a state that it divest itself of its despotic constitution (which is after all the stronger in dealing with external enemies) as long as it runs the risk of being devoured by other states." A case in point (a point not lost on Iran, North Korea and the Jangaweed) would be Iraq itself, which foolishly complied with our insistence that it destroy its WMDs and was promptly devoured.

Page 461

When lawyers and tricksters become politicians and legislators:

Here the good professor turns his attention to the distinction between what he calls a moral politician and a political moralist, and thus brings us up against the discouraging problem of intractable corruption. There do exist relatively selfless and moral human beings whose motivations in public life would, if society had the sense or the ability to utilize them, be the salvation of us all. However, personal ambition and the appetite for wealth and power are more normally found in ruthless and amoral persons, who tend to pursue an overwhelming variety of means to achieve high positions, and who tend, like warlords in the natural landscape of Afghanistan, to become the heads of state in all societies but those few which willingly embrace lawful procedures. Since all politicians profess morality, we can say that there are moral men who go into politics to improve society, and self-serving pirates who use morality, a moralizing demeanor, as another means to acquire status and to gain acceptance for their programs.

The two are often indistinguishable in appearance. A moral despot, a well-meaning idiot, might make a mess of things out of the highest of motivations, though over time, if he learns from experience, social progress might be possible. But this is not so when the real hyenas are in charge. Unable to approach constitutional law as prescribed by reason, these "empirical" practitioners can function only in a spirit of trickery, although, being clever and resourceful, they frequently appear to be acting in the public good. Sadly, there is no remedy for hyenas, who will continue to prey upon us until they are exterminated. And as Kant knows, the remedy of extermination creates more evil than it cures.

Page 462

Three despotic techniques for the modern Machiavellian, straight from the textbook of Karl Rove:

1. Fac et excusa. Grab first, justify later. Seize whatever rights and powers opportunity allows, both over your own people and those of foreign nations. "Such boldness itself produces a certain appearance of inner conviction of the righteousness of the deed, and the God bonus eventus is afterwards the best legal representative."

2. Si fecisti, nega. Never accept blame. Whatever evil you have committed, it is somebody else's fault.

3. Divide et impera. Divide and conquer. Disunite and confuse your opponents. Set them at variance with the people. Toss the people a bone - protection, tax breaks, whatever.

Because these perennial cheap tricks are so well known, one wonders how our charlatans are able to pull them off as they do, without embarrassment, in broad daylight. Kant's answer: "Great powers never worry about the judgement of the common crowd, but only about each other, and hence what embarrasses them is not that these principles become public, but merely that they failed to work."

A footnote here suggests that internal laws which ensure that citizens behave in a civil way toward one another provide a sort of "moral lacquer" leading us to see ourselves as good people. A better mirror in which to see our proper wickedness would therefore be in our behavior toward the people of other states, where no such restrictions are placed on our brutality.

Page 464

With significant departures, Kant stands with the Platonists in a tradition of idealist thinking, which divides mankind into those who use the light of reason within them to apprehend the eternal forms and those who dwell in a shadow world of opinion and gross matter. It is this ancient idealist view which informs Kant's discussion of the cosmological orientations of the political moralist vs the moral politician.

The political moralist (the bad guy) is incapable of caring very much about the welfare of the collective and has no real interest in moral philosophy except as a source of high sounding one liners to insert into speeches to Texas evangelicals. He lives in a material world, and the principles which guide him are substantive as opposed to formal. Being an acquisitive animal, he is a pragmatist. He considers himself a realist, by which he means that only empirical things are real and everything else is nonsense. Likewise politically, only empire makes sense to him. Once you accept that somebody is going to be the boss, everything else falls into place. All tasks, including tasks of constitutional law, default to technical tasks, i.e. putting in place whatever means are required to achieve the desired goal. As a goal, eternal peace does not guarantee a monopoly of material goods to any particular party, and therefore the concept of it can not really occur to a political moralist. Kant wonders whether any sustained prosperity, let alone an enduring system of international law, can ever proceed from a sloganeer whose speech does not correspond to any reality either in the world or within himself. Such a weasel would never bring himself to enter into any treaty or agreement without a secret reservation to release him from obligation when it is later not to his advantage. Thus only on the lips of liars does the world progress from the status quo of eternal war.

The moral politician (the good guy), on the other hand, is more inclined to view the material world as the product of formal structures, such as mathematics and geometry and the various seminal causes from which things derive their essence prior to popping out into space and time. His tradition recognizes the human mind (and the faculty of reason) as the proximal instrument for apprehending the formal principles by which we are shaped. He does not deny the reality of the material, he just doesn't see it as a stand-alone thing. The idea of acquiring wealth sounds a little silly to the idealist ear, so he sets himself other pastimes for his earthly tenure, searching the mysteries of our existence, identifying the principles of harmony, evil, happiness and misery and promoting the ideals of citizenship and good governance. He lives in the moral sphere. For him, tasks tend to be ethical tasks. His behavioral directives rest on such formal principles as the categorical imperative - that one act in such a way that one could wish his maxim to become a general law. He works to supplant the motive of prudence with that of duty, and to realize true republican structures based on freedom and equality. There is no technical procedure for this. By way of explaining the procedural dynamic, Kant paraphrases Jesus: "Seek ye first the kingdom of pure practical reason and of its righteousness, and your end (eternal peace) will be added unto you. "

Page 468

There is no objective conflict between morals and politics. It is the subjective, inner disposition which makes political action contiguous with moral principle, or merely a simulacrum of this. The courage of virtuous action is less about standing up to external evil and bearing sacrifices than facing up to the evil in ourselves. Are you listening, George?

Page 469

"...while politics itself is a difficult art, its combination with morals is no art at all; for morals cuts the Gordian knot which politics cannot solve as soon as the two are in conflict." You look at the pictures of Iraqis whose lives we have destroyed in the tens of thousands without provocation, and you listen to the labyrinthine justifications for this as somehow germane to a worldwide campaign to eradicate terror and evil, and the one simply cuts through the other like a knife. It must be held "that the pure principles of right and law have objective reality," and that they can be realized. Politics must always yield to morality in this respect, that the natural right of men is sacred.

Page 470

No secrets.

Much of Kant's ethics, and the remainder of Eternal Peace, is about glasnost. Without publicity there can be no justice, for every law and rightful claim must be capable of being made public in order to have meaning at all. Kant proposes that the falsity (unlawfulness) of a claim can be tested as consistent (logically non-contradictory) with this requirement by the faculty of pure reason. To use an obvious example, if I claim the right to tunnel under your bank and remove everybody's money, I will encounter overwhelming resistance to my purpose the minute I make my intention public. The unlawfulness (inconsistency) of my plan is not revealed until I emerge from secrecy into the plain view of all other claimants. A less obvious example would be the question whether an oppressed people has the right to overthrow a tyrant. For the constitutional law even of tyrannies makes it a treasonous act to attempt to usurp the prevailing power, and does so publicly. It would be a contradiction to include in the law of the land a statute that it is okay from time to time to indulge in a violent and unlawful coupe d'etat. So no. It is not ok to dump Saddam Hussein or Papa Doc Duvalier or Jean Bertrand Aristide or Idi Amin or any other Grand Poobah. This is not to say you can't do it, but only that you must do it secretly - that for the duration of your sedition you are in every sense a criminal. It is to say that you can't complain of injustice if you fail and are sent to the guillotine. Whereas if you succeed you magically come under the protection of the same constitution and may again become a public figure.

Page 474

What is right requires publicity, but the reverse is not necessarily true, that for something to be public automatically makes it right. Logical consistency, we must underscore, is Kant's test of moral truth. Lacking the context of a lawful federation, there can be no international law, and therefore no contradiction in the mere braggartry by which a superior power makes its maxims public, simply because it has no need to conceal its ambitions (Bush's July 2002 speech to the United Nations.) For Kant, a federative union is the all important condition for providing a logical touchstone, an inclusive law within which such impertinence can be exposed.

A federative union of free states is a different animal from a consenting citizenry (jus civitas), since a real sovereignty is not consistent with the binding agreement which creates a comprehensive lawful state. Therefore this union is entered into for the purpose of eliminating war, and for that reason alone.

Politics and morals can come together only in a federative union freely established for the purpose of eliminating war. Prior to WWI the world was a virtual booby trap of alliances of another sort - pledges of solidarity with other nations for the purpose of victory, a demonic Rube Goldberg contraption set to go off the minute the Archduke's car rounded the corner and was spotted by a Serbian nutcase connected to a gun. Not unlike today's alliances, the purpose of eliminating war was replaced by the purpose of winning war. The consequence was six years of mindless butchery, and a cost of 5000 dead people per day.

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Politics recognizes the conditional duty of charity, as a kind of feel-good thing, for those who wish to "enjoy the sweet sense of being a benefactor." The unconditional respect for the right of others, however, is absolute and binding, and tends to be avoided by politicians. Read today's paper. No one has given more money to AIDS research than Uncle Beneficent Sam. Look at all the food we airdropped onto the Afghans (between bombing raids.) Look at all the money we have poured into the ungrateful third world. But don't look at our championing of human rights in Gaza, in Ramallah, in Fallujah, in Jenin, in East Timor, in El Salvador, in Cambodia, in Najaf, at Abu Ghraib ...(can you imagine how long this list could grow?) Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger would have us believe that these latter events are also charitable deeds, part of America's cornucopia of generosity. Optional. A bounteous overflow of liberty. But Kant (in concluding his essay) sees through this deception (as do we, who view the corpses) and notes that beneath all of these evils lies a secret agenda. And therefore he proposes a "transcendental and affirmative principle" - that maxims which agree with right and law and the public good require publicity, and can be achieved only by publicity. Moral maxims - the respect for human rights - are always compatible with the light of day. The invocation of phony moral maxims to mask a private enterprise is accompanied by secrecy, and generally means that the Beagle Boys are underneath, in a tunnel, and up to something sinister.

Amy Goodman comes unexpectedly to mind, with her advocacy of independent journalism, the vision of true publicity, unconstrained and non-proprietary, where every crackpot idea about where we ought to go together is subjected to the fiery test of the open air. But we digress. The essay is ended, and we must recall that we began with the opinion of Roger Scruton, that Immanuel Kant would have approved the invasion of Iraq and the imposition of a government compliant with the community of nations by force of arms.