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Moral Responsibilities and the Conflicting Demands of Jus Post Bellum

  • Mark Evans

Recently, strong arguments have been offered for the inclusion of jus post bellum in just war theory. If this addition is indeed justified, it is plain that, due to the variety in types of post-conflict situation, the content of jus post bellum will necessarily vary. One instance when it looks as if it should become “extended” in its scope, ranging well beyond (for example) issues of “just peace terms,” is when occupation of a defeated enemy is necessary. In this situation, this article argues that an engagement by jus post bellum with the morality of post-conflict reconstruction is unavoidable. However, the resulting extension of jus post bellum's stipulations threatens to generate conflict with another tenet that it would surely wish to endorse with respect to “just occupation,” namely, that sovereignty or self-determination should be restored to the occupied people as soon as is reasonably possible. Hence, the action-guiding objective of the theory could become significantly problematized. The article concludes by considering whether this problem supports the claim that the addition of jus post bellum to just war theory is actually more problematic than its supporters have realized.

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1 I discuss this possibility in Evans, Mark, “Balancing Peace, Justice and Sovereignty in Jus Post Bellum: The Case of ‘Just Occupation, ’” Millennium 36, no. 3 (2008), pp. 536–37.

2 For an account of nonpractice-oriented moral theory, see Cohen, G. A., Rescuing Justice and Equality (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2008), pp. 306–07.

3 Bellamy, Alex J., “The Responsibilities of Victory: Jus Post Bellum and the Just War,” Review of International Studies 34, no. 4 (2008), pp. 601–25.

4 Ibid., pp. 620–21; A fully adequate theory of jus post bellum would also address the following scenarios as well:

(i) a just war which ends with the defeat, but not the occupation, of the just side;

(ii) a just war which ends with the defeat and the occupation of the just side; and

(iii) a just war which ends in stalemate (which may or may not mean continued hostilities).

Although my focus in this paper is on the moral situation of the just (post- )combatants, I do not believe that jus post bellum should be silent on that of the unjust opponents. And, although it would not strictly speaking be part of just war theory, considerations of what should be done in the various possible aftermaths of unjust wars can and should be theorized as well.

5 Evans, , “Balancing Peace, Justice and Sovereignty,” p. 537–40,

6 Orend, Brian, The Morality of War (Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview Press, 2006), pp. 180–81.

7 Ibid., p. 181.

8 For more on the distinction between “just peace” and “just society,” see Evans, , “Balancing Peace,” pp. 543–47.

9 International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2001), p. 39.

10 Bellamy, , “Responsibilities of Victory,” p. 619.

11 Arendt, Hannah, Responsibility and Judgment, ed. Kohn, Jerome (New York: Schocken Books, 2003), pp. 35–36.

12 Kant, Immanuel, “Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch,” in Kant: Political Writings, ed. Reiss, H. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 105.

13 Swinburne, Richard, Responsibility and Atonement (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989), p. 81.

14 This statement is a significant revision of the theory first offered in my “Moral Theory and the Idea of a Just War,” inEvans, Mark, ed., Just War Theory: A Reappraisal (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2005), p. 13.

15 Schaap, Andrew, “Political Grounds for Forgiveness,” Contemporary Political Theory 2, no. 1 (2003), pp. 77–87, at p. 82.

16 Orend, , Morality of War, p. 207.

17 Bellamy, , “Responsibilities of Victory,” p. 619.

18 See, for example, Chandler, David, Empire in Denial: The Politics of State-Building (London: Pluto Press, 2006), ch. 6; and Knaus, GeraldandMartin, Felix, “Travails of the European Raj,” Journal of Democracy 14, no. 3 (2003), pp. 60–74.

19 Gheciu, AlexandraandWelsh, Jennifer, “The Imperative to Rebuild,” this issue.

20 Again, postinvasion Iraq provides important evidence on this score: see, for an acclaimed insider's view, Chandrasekaran, Rajiv, Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside the Green Zone (New York, Vintage: 2007).

21 Moellendorf, Darrel, “Jus ex Bello,” Journal of Political Philosophy 16, no. 2, (2008), pp. 123–36.

22 I limit myself here to a theory of justified termination for just occupiers, but there is clearly need for one for unjust occupations (for present-day Iraq, for example), not least because the “quit as soon as possible” demand is not always appropriate in such instances. Pacifists coherently argue on many occasions that, although aggressors should never have started the war that they did, morality does not free them from obligations consequent on that initial immorality which, in an occupation scenario, may prohibit overly hasty withdrawal.

23 Schweid, Barry, “Poll: U.S., Allies, Kabul Government Losing Ground,” Associated Press, February 9, 2009; available at http:\\ February 9, 2009).

* For a stimulating discussion of the arguments in this article, I thank the participants in the workshop on The Ethics of Postconflict Reconstruction and Statebuilding, Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford, June 26, 2008. I must in particular thank my discussant, Henry Shue, and Alexandra Gheciu and Jennifer Welsh for their subsequent comments and help. I am also indebted to three anonymous referees for their criticisms and suggestions.

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Ethics & International Affairs
  • ISSN: 0892-6794
  • EISSN: 1747-7093
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