In the 1990s, many political writers and commentators hailed the end of the Cold War as the inauguration of a new era of international peace and stability. Today, it seems obvious that war - in new and troubling ways - is as much a central part of our political experience as ever. If the public is going to have an informed and reflective voice in making political decisions about war - now and in the future - we must find ways of evaluating, judging and intelligently arguing about it. Does the decision to go to war conform to our deepest principles and commitments? What are those principles, anyway? When, if ever, is it morally "right" for a country to go to war? And what about how the war is being fought? Do moral obligations apply to the means of warfare, as well as the ends? War is hell, as everybody knows. Does it even make sense to make moral judgments of right and wrong about hell? Isn't there a danger of persuading ourselves that our cause is just, leading to even more warfare? This class introduces students to what's known as "just war theory," or the philosophical tradition of reflecting on the morality of warfare, as well as Pacifist and Realist critics of this tradition. We will look at some selections of primary philosophical sources, and apply these theories to a wide variety of concrete examples, both historical and contemporary.
Those interested in how technology can be used to forward the mission of International Relations are invited to explore the Design as Discovery course (in Computer Science).