A World of 'Good and Evil'? The Return to Morality in Public and International Affairs
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Princeton University, April 25-26, 2003
In his address at the West Point Commencement in June 2002, President George W. Bush declared America to be “in a conflict between good and evil,” insisting that “America will call evil by its name.” In his National Security Strategy, he argues that “the concept of ‘free trade’ arose as a moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics.” He describes his approach to foreign aid policy in the same vein, recognizing a “moral imperative” to include “all of the world's poor in an expanding circle of development.”
What does it mean to frame American foreign and domestic policy in moral terms, around the dichotomy of “good and evil,” “right and wrong”? This rhetoric of morality recurs periodically in American history, society, and culture. But the post-Cold War era has given way to an era defined by globalization, with all its permutations, and the war on terrorism, in what many are calling the information age. Approaching the challenges of this era from a moral perspective reframes key issues in national security strategy, economics, development policies, post-conflict reconstruction, and public health.
The first annual Princeton Colloquium on Public and International Affairs seeks to explore the implications of a return to morality, or at least the rhetoric of morality, in public life by bringing together prominent scholars, policymakers, and practitioners from across the globe. The inaugural Colloquium, entitled: “A World of Good and Evil? The Return to Morality in Public and International Affairs,” will address the ethical and policy considerations underlying key foreign and domestic policies, ranging from homeland security and the confrontation with Iraq to the Monterrey Declaration and global public health. In all these areas, the Princeton Colloquium will ask the fundamental question: is the dichotomy of good and evil the appropriate way to view the challenges facing the global community? If so, what are the policy implications? If not, what alternative logics are available to guide US policy and the shape of our global society?
The Colloquium will convene April 25-26, 2003 in Princeton, NJ. Hosted by the Woodrow Wilson School, it will feature lectures, panels, and round-table discussions sponsored by centers, programs, and departments across Princeton University. Historians will consider the antecedents of American unilateralism; philosophers will debate the moral and ethical dimensions of the good and evil dichotomy; economists and practitioners will analyze its effects on global welfare; political scientists and diplomats will discuss its effects on the structure of the international system and America’s place therein.
A high-level speaker series over the course of this academic year has led up to the Colloquium and set the stage for the April discussions. Lecturers include former UN Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson, General Romeo Dallaire, the National Journal's James Fallows, David Scheffer, and Professor Michael Walzer. The Colloquium events themselves will be simultaneously webcast to reach as broad an audience as possible, including Princeton alumni. A final Colloquium report will be available through the Colloquium website and will be widely disseminated both in the United States and abroad to stimulate debate in both academic and policy circles.