Asking the Fox to Guard the Chicken Coop: In Defense of Minimalism in the Ethics of War and Peace

Journal of International Political Theory 18 (1):191-109 (2022)
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Dominant normative theories of armed conflict orientate themselves around the ultimate goal of peace. Yet the deployment of these theories in the international sphere appears to have failed in advancing toward this goal. In this paper, we argue that one major reason for this failure is these theories’ use of essentially contested concepts—that is, concepts whose internally complex character results in no principled way of adjudicating between rival interpretations of them. This renders the theories susceptible to manipulation by international actors who are able to pursue bellicose policies under the cover of nominally pacific frameworks, and we show how this happened historically in a case study of the Korean War of 1950–1953. In order to better serve the goals of peace, we suggest, the rules of war should be reframed to simpler, but more restrictive, normative principles.



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Isaac Taylor
Stockholm University

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