Liberal democracy and nuclear despotism: two ethical foreign policy dilemmas

Ethics and Global Politics 6 (3):155-174 (2013)
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Abstract
This article advances a critical analysis of John Rawls’s justification of liberal democratic nuclear deterrence in the post-Cold War era as found in The Law of Peoples. Rawls’s justification overlooked how nuclear-armed liberal democracies are ensnared in two intransigent ethical dilemmas: one in which the mandate to secure liberal constitutionalism requires both the preservation and violation of important constitutional provisions in domestic affairs, and the other in which this same mandate requires both the preservation and violation of the liberal commitment to international legal arrangements and to the rule of law generally. On this view, the choice to violate constitutional provisions and international legal arrangements is evidence of nuclear despotism. Moreover, this choice does not imply that the ethical foreign policy dilemmas were resolved. Instead, it implies that the dilemmas force liberal democratic governments into implementing ethically paradoxical policy outcomes
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