The Ethics of Armed Conflict

The Ethics of Armed Conflict: A Cosmopolitan Just War Theory

John W. Lango
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    The Ethics of Armed Conflict
    Book Description:

    Just war theory exists to stop armies and countries from using armed force without good cause. But how can we judge whether a war is just? John Lango adopts a cosmopolitan approach to argue that the more traditional state-centric just war theory should be both globalised and democratised. From this foundation, he formulates a set of morally absolute principles. He shows how these can be applied to all forms of armed conflict, however large or small: from interstate wars to UN peacekeeping missions, and from civil wars to counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-4576-3
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    John W. Lango
    (pp. 1-17)

    This thoughtful passage from the Preamble of the UN Charter evokes ideas essential to a cosmopolitan ethics of armed conflict. What are the moral principles that should be accepted, in order to ensure that armed force is used only in the common interest? So as to protect civilians, what moral methods governing the use of armed force should be instituted? Should the term ‘armed force’ encompass all forms of armed conflict? What is the common interest worldwide? Should such questions be answered by means of a just war theory? These questions are somewhat vague, but they serve to indicate the...

    (pp. 18-47)

    This chapter scrutinises just war theory generally, and later chapters concentrate specifically on the core just war principles of just cause, last resort, proportionality and noncombatant immunity.

    The chapter is divided into five parts. The first part addresses the question of how received just war principles should be elucidated, revised or supplemented, so as to be applicable from the standpoint of the Security Council. The second part considers the pertinence of just war theory to the intertwined topics of armed humanitarian intervention and the responsibility to protect. With the aim of ensuring that uses of armed force are sufficiently morally...

    (pp. 48-76)

    This news note from the UNICEF Press Centre about armed conflict in Libya illustrates, lamentably, the extreme destructiveness of armed conflicts. It might seem odd to start a chapter entitled ‘Moral Theory’ with a particular case of armed conflict. But a main thesis is that just war theory is interrelated intrinsically both with general moral principles and particular cases.

    To counterbalance overemphasis of the just cause principle, I am emphasising the last resort, proportionality and noncombatant immunity principles. In the preceding chapter, the idea of last resort is featured. For the sake of concreteness, this chapter features the idea of...

    (pp. 77-106)

    What is an intentional action? Do moral concepts pertain primarily to intentional actions and secondarily to their consequences? How are just war principles applicable to courses of action and plans of action? In this chapter, these and other questions that interrelate moral theory and the theory of action are investigated.

    However, this book is not exclusively a theoretical study, and topics in the theory of action are discussed quite incompletely.¹ The purpose is to enlarge the framework of presuppositions introduced in the preceding chapter. Again, to exhibit the relevance of the current chapter for later chapters, theoretical presuppositions are interrelated...

    (pp. 107-133)

    From the temporal standpoint of 1 December 2009, do the counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan by the US and NATO have a just cause? Do the insurgents in Afghanistan have a just cause?

    A main thesis is that a generalised just cause principle should be applicable by all sorts of responsible agents to all forms of armed conflict. Moral deliberation should be dialectical. In addition to questioning whether our own military operations have a just cause, we should raise the just cause question from the agential standpoint of our adversaries. This dialectical approach to the subject of just cause is illustrated...

    (pp. 134-155)

    The cosmopolitan just cause principle introduced in the preceding chapter might appear to be overly permissive, and the cosmopolitan last resort principle introduced in this chapter might appear to be overly prohibitive. Hence, a chief purpose here is to explore how the two principles are interrelated. To counterbalance overemphasis of the idea of just cause, I am emphasising the idea of last resort.

    As the block quotations display, there can be principled moral disagreement about the idea of last resort.¹ Disputably, in Walzer’s words, ‘we can never reach lastness, or we can never know that we have reached it’ (2004:88)....

    (pp. 156-177)

    To counterbalance overemphasis of the just cause principle, I am devoting two chapters to the last resort principle. In the first part of this chapter, the idea of last resort is interrelated with the idea of ‘coercive military threat’. In the second part, a ‘penultimate’ (or ‘next-to-last’) resort principle concerning coercive military threats is proposed and supported. Additionally, in the second and third parts, four other resort principles are proposed and supported. In the third part, the idea of last resort is interrelated with the idea of noncombatant immunity. Finally, in the fourth part, the core noncombatant immunity principle is...

    (pp. 178-199)

    The set of core just war principles contains a proportionality principle, but not a legitimate authority principle. In this chapter, the ideas of proportionality and authority are elucidated by means of comprehensive moral principles of distributive justice and autonomy.

    Refrain from deciding to launch any attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

    Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions (ICRC 1977a: Article 57(2))

    Presumably, in this quotation, the term ‘incidental’ adumbrates...

    (pp. 200-224)

    Truly, our military actions can be highly destructive. To establish prospectively that a proposed military action would be just, we have the burden of proving, by clear and convincing evidence, that all of the core just war principles would be satisfied.

    In the first part of this chapter, our shared responsibility for global human security is elucidated. For the sake of concreteness, a contemporary case is detailed: the case of Sudan versus South Sudan. In the second and third parts, the question of how the core just war principles are applied conjointly to particular cases is investigated. In applying them...

    (pp. 225-238)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 239-246)