Diagnosis without treatment: responding to the War on Terror

  • Damian Cox
  • Michael Levine


The War on Terror has exposed deep problems within contemporary political practice. It has demonstrated the moral fragility of liberal democracy. Much critical literature on the topic is devoted to uncovering the sources of this fragility. In this paper, we accept the general thrust of much of this literature, but turn our attention to the practical upshot of the criticism. A common feature of the literature is that, when it comes to offering remedies of the problems it identifies, what is offered is ‘diagnosis without treatment’. The negation of a problem is regarded as a solution. For example, if the problem is that the USA is not acting as a good international citizen, the solution is that it begins to act as such. This is like a doctor diagnosing gout and recommending to the patient that they reduce the level of uric acid in their big toe. We argue that diagnosis without treatment is endemic in literature on the War on Terror and the ills of liberal democracy. We divide this literature into five categories and examine representative works in each. At the end of the paper, we describe what is required to avoid offering yet more diagnosis without treatment.

South African Journal of Philosophy 2014, 33(1): 19–33

Author Biographies

Damian Cox
Faculty of Society and Design, Bond University, Gold Coast, QLD 4229, Australia
Michael Levine
Philosophy, University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0258-0136