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. Yet 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, 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? What are the consequences of war on militaries, civilians, and states? How can we morally grapple with those consequences?
This class introduces students to what is 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. Readings for this course integrate many disciplines including film, fiction, political science, journalism, and philosophy.