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Why We Need a Just Rebellion Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 December 2013

Extract

The Arab Spring has generated a variety of responses from the West. While broad political support was voiced for uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, the responses to protests in Bahrain and Morocco were muted. The swift decision to intervene in Libya stands in marked contrast to the ongoing hand-wringing on Syria. While political realists might see these contradictions as evidence that geopolitical concerns determine foreign policy, from an ethical point of view these responses also reveal a fundamental tension in Western thinking about rebellion. On one hand, rebellion is viewed with a distrustful eye—as a disruptive, chaotic force that threatens to destroy the day-to-day order on which civilization is built. On the other, rebellion is perceived more optimistically—as a regenerative, creative force that can leave a better civilization in its wake. These two radically disparate ways of thinking about rebellion have deep philosophical and theological roots. The pessimistic view has historically dominated just war thought, as James Turner Johnson's contribution to this roundtable illustrates; whereas the perspective of Enlightenment liberalism offers a more optimistic judgment, as found, for example, in the works of Locke and Rousseau.

Type
Roundtable: The Ethics of Rebellion
Copyright
Copyright © Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs 2013 

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References

1 Feste, Karen A., Intervention: Shaping the Global Order (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2003), p. 150Google Scholar. See also Lounsbery, Marie Olson and Pearson, Frederic, Civil Wars: Internal Struggles, Global Consequences (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009), p. 16Google Scholar. Generally, civil wars are fought between the state and a rebel group, while intercommunal violence is fought between nonstate actors. A rebellion, simply put, is a form of violent struggle aimed at overthrowing a political regime. Civil wars, in the comparative literature, must reach a certain threshold of battlefield deaths. While not all rebellions reach the intensity of civil wars, the latter by definition require rebellion. See Sambanis, Nicholas, “What is Civil War? Conceptual and Empirical Complexities of an Operational Definition,” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, 48, no. 6 (2004), p. 816Google Scholar. See also Russel, Diana E. H., Rebellion, Revolution, and Armed Force: A Comparative Study of Fifteen Countries with Special Emphasis on Cuba and South Africa (New York: Academic Press, 1974), p. 146.Google Scholar

2 Brian Orend addresses the centrality of the state and the state system in Walzer's thought in Michael Walzer on War and Justice (Montreal: McGill Queens University Press, 2001)Google Scholar, pp. 5, 7, 38, 56, 89, and elsewhere.

3 Walzer, Michael, Just and Unjust Wars (New York: Basic Books, 2000)Google Scholar, p. 53.

4 Walzer, Michael, “The Moral Standing of States: A Response to Four Critics,” Philosophy & Public Affairs 9, no. 3 (1980)Google Scholar, p. 211.

5 Ibid., p. 214.

6 Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, pp. 54, 57.

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9 Augustine, City of God, pp. 124–30 (Book III: chapters 23–29); Aquinas, Thomas, “Summa theologiae, IIaIIae 42: On sedition,” in Dyson, R. W., ed., Aquinas: Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, p. 250.

10 Cicero, Compare, “On Duties,” Book III, nos. 30–32 in Griffin, M. T. and Atkins, E. M., eds., Cicero, On Duties (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), pp. 110–11Google Scholar; and Aquinas, Thomas, “ Scripta super libros sententiarum ,” art. 2, in Reichberg, Gregory, Syse, Henrik, and Begby, Endre, eds., The Ethics of War (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006)Google Scholar, p. 195.

11 Aquinas, “Summa theologiae,” IIaIIae 42, article 2, adversus 3, in Political Writings, p. 250. See souldevice.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/citing-thomas-aquinas's-summa-theologiae/.

12 Aquinas, “De regimine principum,” Book I, chapter 7, in Political Writings, p. 20.

13 Francisco Suarez, “De triplici virtute theologica,” Disputation XIII (De Bello), Section VIII, para. 2, in The Ethics of War, p. 369.

14 Ibid.

15 Johannes Althusius, “Politica,” Book XXXVIII, in The Ethics of War, p. 383.

16 Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Beveridge, Henry, trans. (Edinburgh: Calvin Translation Society, 1846)Google Scholar, Book 4, chapter 20, section, 29, p. 673.

17 Hugo Grotius, “De iure belli ac pacis,” Book I, chapter IV.ii, in The Ethics of War, p. 399. See also de Vitoria, Francisco, “On Civil Power,” question 3, article 6, in Pagden, Anthony and Lawrence, Jeremy, eds., Vitoria: Political Writings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

18 Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book IV, chapter 20, para. 29. p. 674. See also Luther, Martin, “Whether Soldiers, Too, Can be Saved,” in Tappert, Theodore G., ed., Selected Writings of Martin Luther, 1529–1546 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967)Google Scholar, vol. IV, p. 450.

19 Althusius, “Politica,” XXXVIII, in Ethics of War, p. 383.

20 Thomas Aquinas, “De regimine principum,” Book I, chapter 7, in Political Writings, p. 18.

21 Ibid., p. 19.

22 Luther, “Whether Soldiers, Too, Can be Saved,” in Selected Writings, p. 446.

23 Ibid.

24 Calvin, John, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volume 2, McNeill, John T., ed. (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960)Google Scholar, vol. 21, book 4, chapter 20, section 29, p. 1518.

25 Locke, John, Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, p. 411 (Book II, chapter 29, para. 221, pp. 2–5).

26 Rousseau, Jean Jacques, The Social Contract and Discourses (London: J. M. Dent and Sons, 1920)Google Scholar, p. 29.

27 Locke, p. 416 (Book II, chapter 29, para. 227, pp. 15–25).

28 Locke, John, “The Second Treatise,” in Laslett, Peter, ed., Two Treatises of Government (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, p. 415, para. 223.

29 Even Kant, who denied that the people had coercive rights against rulers who breached their contracts, admitted that they nonetheless had “inalienable rights” against that ruler, including freedom of the pen. See Kant, Immanuel, “Theory and Practice,” in Perpetual Peace and Other Essays, Hemphrey, Ted, trans., pp. 8182.Google Scholar

30 Marx, Karl, Capital: Volume 1 (New York: Courier Dover Publications, 2012)Google Scholar, p. 824.

31 From a 1787 letter to Madison, James, quoted in Whitman: The Political Poet, Erkkila, Betsy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)Google Scholar. Whitman likewise argued that “all that is good and grand in any political organization in the world is the result of this turbulence and destructiveness,” p. 103.

32 Qur'an 4:59.

33 “And they shall say: O our Lord! surely we obeyed our leaders and our great men, so they led us astray from the path; O our Lord! give them a double punishment and curse them with a great curse”; 33:67–68.

34 Abou El Fadl, Khaled, Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, p. 325.

35 Ibid., p. 326.

36 Qur'an 49:9.

37 Mohd Sharif, Mohd Farid bin, “ Baghy in Islamic Law and the Thinking of Ibn Taymiyya,” Arab Law Quarterly 20, no. 3 (2006), p. 305.Google Scholar

38 Beyond Kelsay's article in this collection, for a more in-depth discussion of akham al-bughat see Kelsay, John, Arguing the Just War in Islam (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009), pp. 125–54Google Scholar, and Abou El Fadl, Rebellion and Violence in Islamic Law.

39 al-Shaybani, Muhammad ibn al-Hasan, The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybani's Siyar, Khadduri, Majid, trans. (Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1966)Google Scholar, p. 232, para. 1376. See also the return of weapons, par.1388.

40 Ibid., pp. 245–46, para. 1535–1536.

41 Detter, Ingrid, The Law of War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)Google Scholar, p. 200.

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