Can one “rise above principle”?
Aren’t most (all?) who think they “rise above principle” actually sinking below it?
Economist David Henderson called our attention to this notion in reference to legal theorist Richard Epstein’s call for a war against ISIS. On AntiWar.com, he challenged Epstein’s support for the president’s war on ISIS on constitutional grounds, and wondered why constitutional scholar Epstein hadn’t addressed this concern.
Then Epstein addressed it — using that curious phrase “rise above principle.”
Henderson’s response? Characteristically astute:
In which times of crisis do you need to “rise above principle?” What are the criteria for doing so? If you don’t specify criteria, then I think you’re saying that anything goes. If you do specify criteria, don’t those criteria amount to a principle? In that latter case, are you really rising above principle?
It’s not just a matter of constitutionality, though. Just war requires coherent goals. And a debate and vote in Congress over going to war against ISIS could help establish those goals.
Clearly, the continuing interventions in the Islamic East have suffered from massive confusion. A year ago, President Obama called for regime change in Syria and wanted to bomb government forces; today, we are bombing ISIS, the main opposition to that same government.
Sinking below principle on matters of warfare is the least excusable abandonment of law. It’s the suppression of hasty warfare — individual, group, or national — upon which the rule of law rests. Upon which civilization rests.
There’s no “rising above.” There’s no acceptable abandonment. There is only sticking to principle upon the issues that matter most.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.