• April 26th, 2016

Ethics of global conflict

Paper, Order, or Assignment Requirements

This task requires you to complete a 2000 word essay addressing one of the topics below.

The aim of this task is for students to improve their ability to think critically and express their own ideas clearly. In

particular, to develop their ability to: (i) argue for a controversial thesis, (ii) read complex written work, (iii) succinctly

communicate their understanding of it and how it relates to other relevant material covered in the course, (iv) as well

as evaluate and express salient moral arguments. You should write as if your reader is someone who has not taken this

unit, and to whom you’re trying to explain the issues as clearly and accurately as possible. You should aim to convince

them of your conclusion.


  1. Does it follow from the moral permissibility of defending the lives of one’s loved ones with

lethal force that participation in war is sometimes justified? If so, how? If not, why not?

  1. Is it ever morally permissible to deliberately kill civilians in wartime?
  2. How should a realistic account of the nature of war and of international relations shape our

approach to the ethics of war?

  1. Are civilians necessarily “innocent” in wartime? Are soldiers necessarily “guilty”? What are the

implications of your answer for the ethics of the use of lethal force in war?

  1. Is moral courage a virtue in the realm of international relations? Discuss with reference to the

debates between Pacifists, Realists, and Just War theorists.

  1. Make the best case you can, within the Just War tradition, for an Australian military intervention,

in a country of your choice, today. Reply to one pertinent objection in the course of your essay

(Note that most of your essay should be about the Just War tradition and its application rather

than about current political events in the country you have chosen)

  1. Do states have a right to go to war to defend the citizens of (other) states against their own

government? What are the implications of your answer for the future of the international world

order of states? Illustrate your argument with reference to at least two contemporary examples of

actual or proposed “humanitarian interventions”.

  1. In his essay ‘Patriotism and Government’ [collected in I Cannot Be Silent: Writings on Politics,

Art and Religion by Leo Tolstoy (Bristol: The Bristol Press, 1989): 158-168] Tolstoy suggests

that “Patriotism as a feeling is bad and harmful, and as a doctrine is stupid” (p. 159). Is he right?

What are the implications of your answer for the ethics of war in general and for the Just War

tradition in particular?

  1. Discuss the role that the doctrine of double effect plays in making it possible to wage war in a

manner that is consistent with the jus in bello principle of distinction. Is the doctrine sufficiently

plausible to make a justly waged modern war possible? Or should just war theorists say that in

our day and age almost no war can be fought justly?

  1. Define terrorism. Identify one obvious objection to your definition and address it. Is terrorism as

you have defined it ever justified?

  1. If a cause is important enough to justify going to war, isn’t it also necessarily important enough

to justify any means used in pursuit of it? Give reasons for your answer.

  1. What are the most plausible grounds for the claim that some weapons are “evil in themselves”?

Critically evaluate these grounds. What are the implications of your argument for the ethics of

the use of cluster bombs, landmines, and tactical nuclear weapons?

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