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Abstracts Workshop The Morality of War


Christian Braun, ‘The 'War of Ethics' and Drones - A Classical Just War Perspective’

One of the most contentious developments in contemporary military conduct has been the increase in uses of “force-short-of-war.” On the one hand, insofar as it signals greater constraint, the shift away from the mechanised slaughter of modern warfare toward more calibrated applications of force such as drone strikes may be hailed as a step in the right direction. On the other, because the use of force-short-of-war appears more compartmentalised and therefore containable, it may encourage greater profligacy on the part of states in respect of recourse to arms. Just war theory, the predominant moral framework for addressing the ethical questions that warfare provokes, has struggled to make sense of force-short-of-war. One suggestion, the framework of jus ad vim (the just use of force-short-of-war), has not only been discussed controversially, but has also become a battlefield in the so-called “war of ethics within the ethics of war” between Walzerian and revisionist just war thinkers. In this paper, I argue that moral debate about jus ad vim would benefit from a third-way approach to just war that sides with neither Walzerians nor revisionists all of the time. Based on the classical just war thinking of Thomas Aquinas I support revisionists in their critique that jus ad vim, as a distinct moral framework, is redundant. At the same time, however, I side with Walzerians that force-short-of-war puts the inherited jus ad bellum principles under pressure. What is needed, I argue, is not a distinct new moral framework that competes with the inherited just war principles, but a renegotiation of the jus ad bellum in the light of novel circumstances. Providing such a renegotiation, I make an argument for how the criteria of sovereign authority, just cause, and right intention should be applied to address the moral questions raised by armed drones.

Amanda Cawston, ‘Moral knowledge and the ethics of war: experts and experience’

Johan Olsthoorn ‘The Place of Directed and Nondirected Duties and Permissions within Ethical Theories of War’

Abstract: This paper argues that unjustly attacked parties can have moral duties to abstain from exercising their right to wage defensive war against liable aggressors. This thesis sounds paradoxical but is in fact perfectly coherent. The notion of a liberty-right, or moral freedom, is equivocal. Hohfeldian liberty-rights express the absenceof directed duties upon the right-holder: duties owed to another party, who is wronged upon their violation. Deontological liberty-rights, by contrast, are all-things-considered moral permissions. Introducing the language of directed and nondirected duties and permissions helps clarify the links between proportionality and liability. Narrow proportionality, I argue, is constitutive of Hohfeldian liberty-rights to violently defend oneself, while the wide proportionality requirement poses an external constraint on the exercise of such rights. Using the 1939 Finnish-Soviet war as a case-study, I aver that both directed and nondirected duties can make it all-things-considered impermissible to use narrowly proportionate defensive force against liable attackers.

Graham Parsons ‘Facing Up to the Subjugation of Military Service Members’

Abstract: The philosophical literature on military service has tended to construe enlisted military service as a mere employment contract. Many commentators have seen enlistment as a relatively unproblematic voluntary action and held conscription out as a special threat to individual liberty rights. Contrary to this trend, military service, whether enlisted or conscripted, is a form of forced labor which poses immediate threats to individual civil rights and political equality. Current military law reduces service members to the status of instruments of the state whose bodies and labor can be used for the sake of national security. From a liberal individualist perspective this is unacceptable: military service members must be equally protected from rights violations. At a minimum, correcting this requires granting service members legal rights equivalent to civilian workers, especially the right to resign. However, I argue that a liberal individualist perspective demands too much at the ethical level. Liberal individualism cannot ground an ethical duty to engage in self-sacrificial action to protect one's community. As an alternative, I propose examining military service from a care ethics perspective. This method can ground an ethical responsibility to engage in self-sacrificial labor for the sake of others while maintaining strong commitments to individual autonomy and political equality.

James Pattison ‘Opportunity Costs Pacifism’

Abstract: If the resources used to wage wars could be spent elsewhere and save more lives, does this mean that wars are unjustified? This paper considers this question, which has been largely overlooked by Just War Theorists and pacifists. It focuses on whether the opportunity costs of war lead to a form of pacifism, which it calls ‘Opportunity Costs Pacifism’. The paper argues that Opportunity Costs Pacifism is, at the more ideal level, compelling. It suggests that the only plausible response to Opportunity Costs Pacifism applies in highly nonideal circumstances. This has major implications for Just War Theory and pacifism since it is only at the highly nonideal level that war can be justified.

Uwe Steinhoff ‘War, Law, and Reciprocity’

Abstract: Are the moral rules that apply to the use of force in peacetime – in particular on the basis of the self-defense, choice of evils, and perhaps the public authority justifications – the same as those that apply to the use of force in war? What is the relation between the morality of war and the customs and laws of war? The negative answer given to the first question does not amount to claiming that there is a “war justification” sui generis; rather, the claim is that the moral scopes and limits of the mentioned justifications are different in different societies and different contexts. The explanation for this lies in the answer to the second question. To wit, it will be argued that, and explained why, widely accepted laws and conventions of war are partly constitutive of the moral rules that apply in a conflict, on the basis of a principle of reciprocity. This means that we are not enslaved to a “deep morality” of war but have the moral power – precisely through the customs and laws of war – to at least partially devise the morality of war.