Thinking about war is challenging. Our hope is always to avoid war, but war seems to be an inevitable feature of our lives. Given this reality, it also seems like there are better and worse ways to fight wars. And so philosophers have long thought about the hard questions of war – when is it permissible to go to war, and once at war, who and how may we kill? This tradition has now crystallized into just war theory, which tells us that it is permissible to go to war only when attacked (or for the sake of humanitarian intervention), and that when we are at war, we must never intentionally target civilians, only combatants. Adherence to these restrictions is necessary so that wars may end in peace.
But because war is a moral catastrophe, we must do more than just take on the hard questions of war. We must also challenge war. Alongside just war theory, there has also developed an alternative tradition of anti-war pacifism. The pacifist tradition, rather than seeing war as inevitable, takes war to be the result of complex historical, social, economic, and political processes, which are themselves influenced by innumerable choices that we have made, individually and collectively. If wars are the result of choice, then it is possible to choose peace over war.
This platform, Challenging War, seeks to bring together people working on questions of war and peace – including both just war theorists and pacifists – across various disciplines including philosophy and political science. The hope is that by promoting dialogue across disciplinary and doctrinal boundaries, we may come to better understand the challenges of war and peace.