Isaac Chotiner steps in with a timely intervention in my debate on Somalia with James Kirchick, correctly pointing out that a lot of military might be "justified" in the sense that if you could pull them off in a reasonably non-fiascoish manner they seem like reasonable things to do, "but this is leaps and bounds away from saying that armed reprisal is the right or proper course of action." Indeed. What's more, it's traditionally been recognized that this sort of pragmatic calculus isn't merely a pragmatic issue, but is actually constitutive of engaging in a just use of force -- you can't inflict the suffering and death and destruction that war always causes on a whim, or even out of justified pique, you need to have some decent prospects of success.

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