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To address the concerns of those whose futures are at stake, moral inquiry into America's Afghan war, must consider specific and detailed alternatives, not just "Stay or go." I will argue that the United States has had a moral duty, at least since the end of 2010, actively to pursue negotiations with the Taliban and Pakistan to achieve a political settlement, conceding control of the Pashtun countryside to the Taliban. This project ought to include ending the U.S. offensive in that part of the country and rapidly reducing U.S. forces in the country as a whole to, at most, a residual force for training, logistic and air support, emergency defense of cities, and closely targeted attacks on international terrorist operations. Every day spent on more violent paths has added to the toll of deaths and wrecked lives wrongfully caused by the United States in Afghanistan. In addition to shedding light on the morality of American conduct in Afghanistan, this inquiry will, I hope, shed light on the ethics of war. It needs to, since current just war theory does not provide sufficient guidance in crucial tasks. The agenda of alternatives that must be assessed to reach a moral judgment of America's Afghan war has to be set in a morally revealing way, much more specific than simply making or not making war. Open questions about the moral significance of speculations regarding outcomes and of death and injury inflicted on combatants fighting in an unjust cause have to be resolved in order to tell which options in Afghanistan pose morally excessive dangers. The most plausible moral justification (or so I will argue) for extensive U.S. combat in Afghanistan seeks to sustain America's preeminent role in the current global balance of power, yet this goal does not readily fit standard lists of just causes for war. Finally, individuals making morally responsible choices concerning U.S. conduct in Afghanistan must take account of enduring moral defects in U.S. foreign conduct; the standard task of just war theory, the description of what a just government would do in its warmaking, does not provide adequate guidance in this struggle with imperfection. To overcome these obstacles to moral judgment, I will consider relevant alternatives, relevant costs, possible justifying aims, and American imperfections, in that order.

Politics & Current Events
June 22
Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs
The Gale Group, Inc., a Delaware corporation and an affiliate of Cengage Learning, Inc.

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