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Title: Fair and unfair wars
Author: Ryan, Klem
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The thesis examines a normative account of war which seeks to regulate warfare through the mechanism of conventions based-on equality and reciprocity between combatants - what is termed the 'regular war paradigm'. It is a view that contrasts sharply with classical just war theory, which rejects the idea of combatant equality. The history of normative thinking about war has often seen the two views become intertwined resulting in deep tensions in a number of the central arguments within contemporary normative theories of war. There are two main. themes to the thesis: first, the continued relevance of the ideas and critiques of the regular war paradigm of limited war; and second, the normative significance of the changing character of contemporary warfare, which represents both a challenge to, but also reiterates the importance of, the regular war approach. The essence of the argument of the thesis is that developing mechanisms for regulating the conduct of war is an important task of normative theories of war and that we therefore have to understand how and when institutions and practices which regulate war operate effectively. The regular war paradigm provides tools to do this in ways that classical just war theory, and its modern heirs, does not. iii To further this argument, the thesis explores the work of several regular war theorists, some of whom are seldom discussed in contemporary normative theory. It is my view that this has led to a failure to adequately recognise the antecedent theories that underlie much of the contemporary discourse, which in turn has contributed to the lack of engagement with the important normative content of the regular war paradigm. Throughout the .. thesis I discuss the work of Michael Walzer, both as a point of reference to situate my arguments, and to highlight the neglect among prominent contemporary war theorists of regular war ideas. The aim is to illustrate the continuing significance of regular war arguments, to explore weaknesses in the contemporary discourse on just war, and to recast the discussion of the normative problems we face in 21 st century wars. I am not attempting to simply restore the regular war paradigm for the 21st century, but to illustrate the continuing relevance of regular war ideas and institutions and to provide additional ways of arguing against those who think the equality of combatants in war is morally misguided. Structure of the thesis In traduction: The Introduction sets out the theoretical debates that provide the contemporary setting for the thesis. Primarily, I highlight the fundamental division within normative theory between the just war and the regular war paradigms. I explain these paradigms' divergent perspectives on the relationship between politics and war, and outline the regular war tradition's emphasis on developing effective rules for restraint in war. The Introduction also sets out the background assumptions which guide my approach to the thesis; specifically I outline a value-pluralist account of political conduct, and discuss the implications of this view for perspectives on conflict and political institutions. Chapter 1: The purpose of this chapter is to explain the central goal of the regular war paradigm of limiting war. It does so by setting out and explaining the concept of conventional war. This discussion, which draws on the work of Emerich de Vattel, illustrates how the idea of political legitimacy, the equality of belligerents, and rules based on reciprocity underpin the formation of conventions in war. The chapter also demonstrates how the concrete content of contemporary conventions developed out of the military practices of 19th and 20th century European armies. A key point of this chapter is that the important role that conventions play in restraining war is based on the assumptions of the regular war perspective. This understanding helps us see more clearly how conventions operate, but also how they are vulnerable to changes in military practice. v Chapter 2: Chapter 2 aims to further explain how the regular war perspective operates, by examining Clausewitz's account of the link between the political aims of war and how war is fought. Clausewitz's theories are often depicted by contemporary normative theorists as being empty of normative content. I, however, argue that contrary to common interpretations, (~au.sewitz offers significant insights into the operation of limited war through his emphasis on the importance of political control in war. Further, I also argue that the current trend towards irregular war reaffirms the importance of Clausewitz's focus on war's political character. This conclusion also points to the relevance of the regular paradigm for understanding and limiting contemporary wars. Chapter 3: The objective of Chapter 3 is to explore one of the regular war perspective's most powerful critiques of just war theory, by showing how classical just war theory is not able to provide an adequate answer to the question of how to achieve restraint in war. The chapter discusses Carl Schmitt's account of regular war to argue that the just war approach promotes a disposition in combatants and belligerent political communities which is actively detrimental to restraint. Schmitt's account stresses that, under conditions of political conflict, institutions based in equality and reciprocity of belligerents are crucial to the 'bracketing' of war. Contrary to the just war view, moral symmetry between combatants is a crucial feature of such institutions. Chapter 4: Drawing on the ideas set out in previous chapters, Chapter 4 argues that fairness is a crucial component of normativity in war, from both a consequentialist and a deontic perspective. The argument rejects the position Walzer sets out in Just and Unjust Wars that fairness - understood as rough equality of capabilities between belligerents - is not normatively important in war. Contrary to Walzer, I show how fairness is an essential component for creating institutions to regulate warfare, and as such is a necessary - though not sufficient - condition for restraint in war. The chapter highlights the role of fairness in fostering a sense of reciprocity between combatants, and in creating a relationship between combatants where restraint becomes a possibility. I argue, therefore, that the critical importance of fairness is a central insight flowing from the regular war paradigm, one which should be seen as significant for how we judge the conduct of contemporary conflicts. Chapter 5: Chapter 5 seeks to apply the insights of the regular war paradigm to war in the 21st century, by examining the depth and scope of the changes in military practice since the mid-20th century and their implications for restraint in war. Following this discussion I argue that the moral challenge posed by new weapon systems such as drones is that they break down the relationship between belligerents which is fundamental to establishing restraint in war. As such, drones contribute to the prevalence of irregular wars, and essentially vii eliminate the boundary between the battlefield and civil society. This critique opens up a new way of conceptualisin.g the wrong that is specific to the inherent features of robotic weapons systems, and provides a focus point for those who would argue against their use. -
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available