Just War Theory and U.S. Foreign Policy: Instructions for Assignments

General Instructions

• All work should meet the following standards:

• It must be within the length restriction.

• Please don’t use cover pages.

• Assignments of more than one page must be stapled.

• All work must be double-spaced, 12 point font.

• Work is due at the beginning of class on the day that it is due. A penalty will be assessed against late work: one third of a letter grade/day.

• If you are paraphrasing an author, it is important to cite the passages that you are paraphrasing. This is not just a requirement to avoid plagiarism (though it is that too)–think of it as a form of intellectual self-defense. Sometimes citing the passage that you have in mind helps to refresh my memory about the text, and helps to convince me that you’ve found something important in it that I’ve missed.

• The assignments are intended to help prepare you for your term paper. You are welcome to incorporate anything you’ve written for your short assignments into your term paper.


The Assignments

Assignment #1: ‘Outlining an Argument’ (Not graded):

Like many types of writing, philosophical writing aims to persuade. The principal instrument of persuasion in philosophical writing (at least in theory) is the argument. A good argument begins at a point which even a hostile opponent is expected to grant and then moves to show that, once this point is granted, other points follow which the opponent likely rejects. The onus then falls on the opponent to show either that the starting point is more controversial than it might first have appeared, or that the conclusion does not in fact follow from the starting point.

G.E.M. Anscombe’s paper, ‘Mr Truman’s Degree,’ aims to do exactly that. Although allied bombing practices during WWII had occasioned some criticism during and after the war, the direction and severity of Anscombe’s criticism puts her squarely in the minority. Anscombe’s paper contains a number of rhetorical flourishes, including put-downs and satire. But the centerpiece of her paper is its argument, which begins with some fairly straightforward and uncontroversial premises and moves seemingly relentlessly towards her unpopular conclusion.

In this first assignment, I want you to try to extract the central argument of Anscombe’s paper. I will help you get started. Here is the general argument of the paper:

1. Truman was ultimately responsible the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which resulted in the deaths of many civilians.

2. Murder is the deliberate killing of the innocent.

3. Innocence is defined as . . . . [I leave this for you to work out]

4. The civilians at Hiroshima and Nagasaki count as innocent in the sense outlined in premise 3.

5. Therefore, Truman was ultimately responsible for murder.

6. We should not honor someone who is ultimately responsible for murder.

7. Therefore, we should not honor Truman.

Notice that if premises 1 through 6 are granted, we must grant the conclusion. Premise 1 is uncontroversial: no one disputes that the decision was ultimately Truman’s. Some might dispute premise 6, but it seems the least troublesome of the more controversial premises. It is really premises 2 and 3 that a supporter of Truman’s decision is likely to resist. So it is no surprise that much of the action of the paper involves the elaboration and defense of these premises. Try to reconstruct the arguments that Anscombe offers for premises 2 and 3 in the way that I have reconstructed the general argument of the paper. You don’t need to do a lot of writing here. Keep your statements of the sub-premises short and precise. Although you should put everything into complete, grammatical sentences, you don’t need to write this assignment in full paragraphs. It is enough to number the premises as I have above.

Length restriction: Must be one page or less (very probably less).

Drafts: You only need to do one draft.

Assignment #2: ‘Explicating an argument’ (10 % of final grade):

In Assignment #1 you practiced extracting the basic argument from a piece of philosophical writing. In this assignment, I want you to practice explicating an argument in continuous prose.

In his paper, ‘War and Massacre,’ Thomas Nagel contrasts utilitarian and absolutist considerations about war. Although he defends the latter, he admits that "it is a paradoxical position, for it can require that one refrain from choosing the lesser of two evils when that is the only choice one has. And it is additionally paradoxical because, unlike pacifism, it permits one to do horrible things to people in some circumstances but not in others" (p. 59).

In a single page, answer the following question: What exactly does Nagel mean by absolutism, and how does he argue for it?

Length restriction: Must be one page or less.

Drafts: Two. You should re-write this paper after you get comments back from me. Only the final grade on the assignment counts.

Assignment #3: ‘Position paper’ (10% of final grade):

Would U.S. action to topple the current government of Iraq be morally allowable? If not, why not? If so, why?

The point of this assignment is to get down your first thoughts on the subject and to help you begin thinking about your term paper. Please don’t feel that you’re committing yourself to a position with this assignment. You are, of course, free to change your mind. If you’re still unsure what you think, pick a side and argue for it. (If you’re uncomfortable presenting a view as your own when in fact it is not, you can let me know this in a footnote.)

Length restriction: Two pages or less.

Drafts: You only need to do one draft.

Assignment #4: 'Relevance paper' (10% of final grade)

Drawing on the readings due on the same day as the assignment, outline the criterion of ‘right intention’ as it is used in Just War Theory. Is this criterion a sensible one? How might it apply to a U.S. invasion of Iraq?

In your term paper, you should consider saying something about right intention. This assignment gives you a chance to work out your thoughts on the criterion.

Length restriction: Two pages or less.

Drafts: Two. You should re-write this paper after you get comments back from me. Only the final grade on the assignment counts.

Assignment #5: ‘Brainstorming for a paper’ (Part of term paper grade)

Your term paper will deal with the moral legitimacy of some aspect of U.S. policy with respect to Iraq. This assignment is intended to help you think through your term paper in a preliminary way. Work on the following:

a) Describe the aspect of U.S. policy on which you plan to focus. Possibilities include: the first Gulf War, the position of the Kurds, problems with the post-war rebuilding of Iraq, the problem of hypocrisy, problems with the way the war would need to be fought, problems with the justice of the cause, etc. This part of the assignment should be about a page in length. Obviously this doesn’t allow you a lot of detail. Just provide a very short sketch of the area that interests you.

b) Write a page describing the position that you favor on your topic.

c) Write a page critiquing the position that you favor on your topic. What problems do you foresee for your position?

Length restriction: Four pages or less.

Assignment #6: ‘Relevance paper’ (10% of final grade)

The ‘Doctrine of Double Effect’ is sometimes used to support the Principle of Noncombatant Immunity. What is the Doctrine of Double Effect? How does it support the Principle of Noncombatant Immunity? Do you find the Doctrine convincing? If so, why? If not, why not?

Length restriction: Two pages or less.

Drafts: Two. You should re-write this paper after you get comments back from me. Only the final grade on the assignment counts.


Assignment #7: ‘Outline and structure’ (Part of term paper grade)

The purpose of this assignment is to help you develop a clear idea of how exactly you plan to write your term paper.

First, draw up a one page outline of your term paper in point form. Think about the main topics you want to discuss and whether you have them arranged in a sensible order that will help your reader follow your argument. Indicate which topics are main topics and which points fall under these topics.

After you have an outline for your term paper, try to draw up two different outlines for the same paper. Each of your alternative outlines should be the same length: one page. Try to make them as different from one another as possible.

You may find this assignment extremely difficult, especially after you’ve finished one outline. I want you to see that there are usually several ways to write a good paper, and that it can be very useful to spend some time thinking about them before you begin to write.

Length restriction: Three pages or less.

• Assignment #8: ‘Peer Evaluations’ (10% of final grade)

I will hand out a Peer Evaluation sheet later in the semester.

• Assignment #9: Term Paper (30% of final grade)