Friday, March 16, 2012

Ethics Beyond War's End

Georgetown University Press has just published Ethics Beyond War's End, a book based on papers presented at a conference hosted by Georgetown in April 2010.

The book, edited by Eric Patterson, includes contributions from a number of leading just war theorists including Michael Walzer, James Turner Johnson, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Brian Orend.  My own chapter--"A More Perfect Peace:  Jus Post Bellum and the Quest for Stable Peace"--begins with Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman's observation that "the legitimate object of war is a more perfect peace."  Sherman's statement, which echoes the emphasis that both Aristotle and Augustine placed on ending wars in a way that would secure peace, should prompt us to rethink the idea of a war to end all wars.   It is not a utopian objective.  World War II, after all, was the war to end all wars in Western Europe, thanks in part to the careful steps taken to create "a more perfect peace" than that which had been created after World War I.  Notwithstanding talk of intervention in Syria or a strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, the great goal of laying interstate war to rest actually seems to be within reach.  Getting the peace process right when wars do occur is, I believe, an important part of ending not just particular wars but war in general.

Over the course of the past decade, the concept of jus post bellum has gone from being a possibility broached by a few isolated thinkers to a widely accepted element of just war theory that has attracted the attention of a broad spectrum of scholars and practitioners.  Ethics Beyond War's End makes it clear that thinking about justice after war is essential, but that no consensus yet exists on the ethical principles that should guide that process.