A Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics

29 – 30 January 2004





Worthy and Unworthy Wars:

A Critique of Just War Reasoning



Timothy L. Challans, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Combat Studies Institute

Command and General Staff College

Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas  66027

(913) 684-2045









“War is bad in that it makes more evil people than it takes away.”

                                                                                                Kant, Toward Perpetual Peace


The debate concerning the morality of the first two military operations in the new millennium’s indefinite War on Terror has been instructive.  Voices from the professoriate and the Pope have judged the operations as being morally wrong based on just war theory.[1]  At the same time, other voices from the government and their supporting think-tanks have judged them to be morally justifiable based on that same just war theory.[2]  It appears that just war theory is so flexible that people can get anything out of it that they put into it.  If the theory is so flexible as to generate not only inconsistent but also contradictory judgments, perhaps it may be worthwhile to ask the question whether or not there may be something wrong with just war theory.  This question has gnawed at me for some time, though, long before our current war.  Dragging over seven hundred cadets at West Point through their philosophy course, which looks specifically at morality and warfare through the patchwork of just war theory, progressively generated more questions than answers.  The quality of a theory depends on its power to help us to understand, explain, and make judgments; just war theory seemed less and less capable of meeting this criteria.  The most common response for this ennui that many of us teaching the subject felt was to look deeper and harder into the theory to find the answers.  A second response was to look for ways to augment the theory.  Perhaps it is time to reassess a third option, to seek another alternative altogether.  Luckily for me, Kant has already offered another alternative.  All we have to do is reconstruct his work.

Kantian political and moral theory offers a considerable critique of just war reasoning, a critique that we should come to understand.  Kant turns the project of reasoning about war on three issues:  the end in the form of a goal, the means in the form of lawgiving, and the critical method employed to arrive at the moral evaluation itself.  The end shifts from that of a pursuit of justice (in the language of the jurists connoting justification) to a pursuit of peace.  The means shifts from that of an international law among states to that of a cosmopolitan law among peoples.  These first two issues connect deeply with his moral and political theory.  Kant’s practical philosophy, his moral and political theory in other words, contains qualities that just war theory lacks.  Kant, being both a child and father of the Enlightenment, developed a practical philosophy that mirrored the qualities of other Enlightenment contributions.  The natural philosopher Isaac Newton, whom Kant admired greatly, generated a system of ideas, later called classical mechanics, a system that was coherent and simple, yet possessed great explanatory power and offered a bewilderingly wide range of applications.  Likewise, Kant’s practical philosophy presents us with a system possessing the same qualities—coherence and parsimony—along with a bewilderingly wide range of applications, including the subject of war and morality.  A Kantian exploration of worthy and unworthy wars should challenge the received judgments and conclusions of just and unjust wars.

A Shift of Ends:  From Justice to Peace

Kant opposed the standard view of traditional just war theory.  When considering the corpus of Kant’s work on moral and political theory, he changed the language away from that of justice.  A close examination of Kant’s whole moral project and its application to the international arena will show that he rejects the discourse surrounding the idea of a just war, justice of war, justice in war, or the justification of war.  Kant never did engage in the same language of the just war theorists and rejected their project famously, “for Hugo Grotius, Pufendorf, Vattel, and the like (only sorry comforters)…are always duly cited in justification of an offensive war…”[3]  Jus ad bellum has always offered more enabling than limiting criteria, for Kant adds “there is no instance of a state ever having been moved to desist from its plan by arguments armed with the testimony of such important men.”[4]

Kant differed from the sorry comforters in that they generally worked within the natural law tradition, and Kant’s moral philosophy departs from that tradition.  Suarez, Grotius, and Pufendorf worked within the tradition of natural law.  Natural law had both religious and secular versions.  Suarez following Aquinas held a religious origin of natural law, and he thought that there could be no obligation without an obligator.[5]  Grotius opened the door to a secular natural law by introducing the idea that we could have obligations without an obligator.[6]  For Pufendorf, state interest, raison d’ état, became part of natural law.[7]  “The natural lawyers saw that the ideas of the skeptics and raison d’ état theorists could be put into a juridical or ethical form simply by construing self-preservation as a universal right.”[8]  Self-preservation is a right that Kant subscribes to, but the natural lawyers provided a moral justification for a political theory based on state interest by wrapping natural law around raison d’ état.  This leap of logic is illegitimate for Kant.  Kant’s political theory is not based on state interest or the rights of states.  A world in which people embraced cosmopolitan law, a law of peoples, requires the people to be the moral agents on a cosmopolitan world scale.  The law of peoples is a construction, then, by and for people.  It is a law to be created by people instead of a law to be discovered, as is the case with natural law—made by people rather than found in nature.  Cosmopolitan law, not international law, then, is the centerpiece of the possibility of peace.  Cosmopolitan law, based on the rights of persons qua persons would pass the criteria of moral worth where international law does not.  International law is the instrument of governments, not of peoples.  Governments work to further state interests.  Even international bodies that embrace international law are trapped by individual state interests.  The state is the locus of international law, not the people.  “The complaint often made against both the League of Nations and the United Nations is that these were leagues of states and not of peoples; and that if only peoples could get together behind the backs of the their governments, they could at least establish peace.”[9]

The pursuit of peace instead of state interest in the name of justice changes not only the end but also the means of international relations.  The pursuit of traditional just war theory, along with international justice and international law, has generated some inconsistencies and contradictions that the traditional view cannot solve from within.  Even by Kant’s time, the world had known guerilla warfare, partisan warfare, civil war, intrastate conflict, and, yes, even terrorism.  Since the traditional theory and the practice center upon the rights of states engaged in interstate conflict, the theory has long been inadequate to deal with the growing phenomenon of intrastate and other types of conflict.  The pursuit of justice is a very different pursuit from that of peace, in that the pursuit of justice motivates war.  We know that Kant thought peace was the highest good, and the corpus of his moral writings lead one to think that he disapproves of war.  “It can be said that establishing universal and lasting peace constitutes not merely a part of the doctrine of right but rather the entire final end of the doctrine of right within the limits of mere reason; for the condition of peace is alone that condition in which what is mine and what is yours for a multitude of human beings is secured under laws living in proximity to one another, hence those who are united under a constitution.”[10]  Kant is not interested in whether or not wars are just, and his theory does not leave us simply with the evaluation of the justice of a war.

A Shift of Means:  From International Law to a Law of Peoples

Kant clearly stands apart from traditional just war theory, for just war theory in general and international law in particular are vehicles for states to pursue their own interests, states’ reason, or raison d’ etat.  Statists defend and exploit a theory that is based on the rights of states to pursue their own interests.  Kant’s philosophy is universal, not particular; cosmopolitan, not communitarian; international, not statist.  International law does not have its sights set above the interest of particular states.  Kant’s political theory is not grounded in the particular interests of states, embodied in international law, developed through the actual choices of state actors.  In the statist view, state actors and individual people within states identify only with their particular state.  Kant’s cosmopolitan ideal requires people to identify with the world community, to be citizens of the world.  As such, then, normative operating principles for moral agents in a global community would be based on possible choice, rather than actual choice.  Kant’s theory features cosmopolitan law rather than international law; jus cosmopoliticum, the rights of peoples rather than the rights of states.[11]  For Kant, there are two requirements or preconditions for possible choice:  one is the law of peoples itself, and the other is that each state must have a well-ordered constitution, which means that states would be republics in the Eighteenth Century sense, that is, they would be representative democracies.

Kant’s idea of possible choice instead of actual choice is a critical part of a pursuit of peace, which can be the only end for right constitutions.  Kantian political morality would also differ from any positive law account.  Kantian theory does not generate a legalist framework that relies on precepts based on actual agreement.  Instead, Kant’s constructivist account of morality is based on possible choice rather than actual choice.  Proper laws bind mankind, whether they obligate us domestically or among states, because “they could have arisen from the united will of a whole people.”  For Kant, a law’s conformity with right did not depend upon the actual consent of a law making body, which is the basis for a positive law account.  Instead of actual consent, possible consent is the basis for its rightness.  “If it is only possible that a people could agree to it, it is a duty to consider the law just, even if the people is at present in such a situation or frame of mind that, if consulted about it, it would probably refuse its consent.”[12]  The difference between actual and possible choice, a Kantian idea, has its best exegetical popularization through the work of John Rawls.  Moral agents in an original position, behind a veil of ignorance, which removes their identities and therefore any self-interest, would be obligated to choose principles based on possible choices rather than their actual choices.  These cosmopolitan principles based on possible choice would no longer be bound by the actual desires and inclinations of statists working only in the interests of their particular states.

A Shift of Moral Evaluation:  From Moral Justification to Moral Worthiness

Kantian theory as a whole changes the emphasis from that of moral justification to the notion of moral worthiness.  Moral worth is a second order evaluation.  It requires reasons that are not just normative but also motivational.  Even if a war were entered under maxims consistent with the normative criteria of the Categorical Imperative, this is no guarantee that the war would be morally worthy.  Naked self-interest, raison d’ état, does not warrant moral worthiness.  In order to be morally worthy, the war would also have to meet Kant’s motivational criteria, which means that the motive of the war could not be self-interest.  The only morally worthy motive for war would be out of respect for the moral law, which would, by the way, include self-defense and protecting the oppressed.  Kant endorses military undertakings “voluntarily and periodically by the citizens of a state in order to secure themselves and their own country against attacks from without.”[13]  If the motive is out of inclination, self-interest, then the war would not be morally worthy.  Kant never engaged in the language of the just war theorists, and he never engaged this subject in the language of justification.  Actions can be morally justified without being worthy, but cannot be worthy without also being justified.  Moral justification is a first order normative consideration and moral worthiness is a second order motivational consideration, generally understood as a commitment to morality.

On the Vagaries of Just War Thinking

Like Wittgenstein’s fly that is trapped in the fly bottle, we are trapped by the conceptual and linguistic confusions and inconsistencies of just war thinking.  Peace, as Kant reminds us, is not a natural state of humankind.  In order to work toward the proper goal of peace, Kant turns to a theory of right (from the German Recht) instead of a theory of justice.  Most just war theorists translate jus ad bellum as justice of war, comprising criteria to measure reasons for going to war.  They translate jus in bello as justice in war, consisting of criteria to evaluate actions during war.  And they translate jus post bellum as justice after war, encompassing criteria to assess conditions reached after war.  Despite the standard usage of jus due to its resemblance to the word justice, jus derives from the Medieval Latin ius and is more accurately translated as right.  So, jus ad bellum is more accurately translated as right to war, jus in bello as right in war, and jus post bellum as right after war.[14]  The upshot of this difference in translation—from justice to right—is that the whole of just war criteria, heretofore thought of as being couched in the language of justification, should have been couched in the language of right—a word with many referents, including the notions contained within a full-blown Kantian theory of right, in the sense of right action as well as moral worth.  The continued historical use of the language of justice and justification on the part of the just war jurists forced the language toward the legalistic casuistry of particular cases and away from a principled and more proper theory of right.

Kant never thought that traditional just war thinking was adequate; his critique stands today—too much is justified.  Michael Walzer conjoins the language of justice and rights in Just and Unjust Wars, arguably the most influential book on the subject in the last century by the most prominent contemporary comforter.  He bases his just war theory on the concept and language of rights, using an allegory based on what he calls the legalist paradigm.  “If states actually do possess rights more or less as individuals do, then it is possible to imagine a society among them more or less like the society of individuals.”[15]  He uses the family of analogies associated with conflict regarding individual persons in order to illuminate our understanding associated with conflict regarding states on an international level.  Specifically, the rights regarding the self-defense of individual persons work analogously—as a domestic analogy—for states.  After setting up the basic analogy, or family of analogies, he constructs several refinements of his analogy in order to accommodate some of the differences between individuals and states.  Unfortunately for his theory, however, the actual historical development of the concept and language of rights for persons very likely derived from the concept and language of rights for states.  “The natural rights theorists then simply took the jurisprudence of war which had developed among humanist lawyers, and derived a theory of individual rights from it.”[16]  If this developed as Richard Tuck argues, then Walzer’s legalist paradigm is backwards:  Walzer theoretically derives an understanding of a state’s rights from a person’s rights, but jurists historically derived an understanding of a person’s rights from a state’s rights.  If Walzer does not have it backwards, then he is at least employing circular reasoning.  And Walzer is presently the leading figure representing the Just War Tradition.  Kant is the only major philosophical thinker Walzer does not mention in his book, and not accidentally, for Kant remains completely separate from traditional just war thinking.

International law and states’ rights are part of Kant’s political theory, but his focus is on a law of peoples, and the rights of all.  Kant’s political theory required jus civile, jus gentium, and jus cosmopoliticum.  At least one contemporary philosopher reads Kant’s theory as being consistent with just war theory.  Brian Orend gives a Kantian interpretation of international law that has Kant’s moral theory accommodate the basic tenets of the tradition.  Orend makes a case that each of the points making up the standard Just War Tradition can be consistent within Kant’s moral theory.  For example, Orend argues that the Categorical Imperative does not discount following jus ad bellum criteria as moral principles:  just cause, right intention, legitimate authority, last resort, probability of success, proportionality, and comparative justice.[17]  Kantian moral theory can accommodate jus ad bellum criteria, but the accommodation by the larger theory does not mean that the individual parts provide the necessary and sufficient conditions, not collectively, and certainly not when used selectively, as they most certainly always are.  If Orend is right, then Kant must fall within the camp of other just war theorists—Orend makes Kant a sorry comforter—and Orend would have to explain away Kant’s disapprobation of the sorry comforters.  Orend thinks Kant’s remarks about the comforters are anomalous to his larger work, which places Kant squarely within the Just War Tradition, also fixated on whether or not wars are justified.  Even if Orend is right about the consistency of the normative reasons for just war precepts, he has only considered one aspect of Kant’s moral theory:  whether or not actions performed under such maxims would accord with the Categorical Imperative.  Even if actions under such maxims would be right, there is another aspect of Kant’s theory that is just as important, whether or not they are morally worthy.  There is plenty of room for argument that these principles do not accord with universalized maxims and would not pass the test of the Categorical Imperative.  One such counterexample would be that of a just cause existing due to injury.  If this were a just cause, then states could redress injuries suffered by other states ad infinitum, which would hardly lead to peace.  Pursuing peace is different from pursuing justice.

A Kantian Reconstruction and Evaluation

So, how does Kantian political theory change our judgments and conclusions from the just war thinkers?  Significantly, just war thinkers justify preventive war.[18]  Kant does not, his disapproval of the sorry comforters being evident in that they “are always duly cited in justification of an offensive war.”[19]  Current just war theory, along with its practice, contains inconsistencies.  One such tension is that between some statutes that protect state sovereignty (in the UN Charter) and others that provide for humanitarian intervention (in the Declaration of Human Rights, also part of the UN Charter), which would entail the violation of state sovereignty.  The tension exists between two statutes, one that protects and one that violates state sovereignty.  Two principles are in tension:  sovereignty and humanitarian assistance.[20]  Since current just war theory has been cobbled together over the centuries, we cannot expect a general consistency, in theory or in practice.  However, Kantian theory, which has great general consistency, could work out this tension.  The details of such a resolution would take more space, but the following is a sketch of such a solution.  In Kantian theory, duties cannot conflict, but only do so in appearance.  The grounds of the apparently conflicting duties would be in conflict.  “When two such grounds conflict with each other, practical philosophy says, not that the stronger obligations takes precedence but that the stronger ground of obligation prevails.”[21]  The ground of human rights and their protection may override the ground of sovereignty and its protection.  If this is the right interpretation, then it would overturn our recent judgments and intuitions.  Specifically, the United Nations, under international law, has disallowed humanitarian intervention, even in cases of grave breaches of human rights law, as in the case of genocide.  Specifically, the United Nations did not pass resolutions sanctioning intervention in the Balkans precisely because such intervention would contravene the protection of state sovereignty, despite the fact that multitudes of people were victims of genocide on a huge scale.  Although it may have existed on a smaller scale, genocide was not unknown as one of the horrors in Kant’s world.  Much greater brutality on a more massive scale emerged due to revolutionary advances in nationalisms and hatreds, but these differ in degree and not in kind.  However complex conflicts happen to be, Kant’s theory is capable of working out the details of any inconsistencies.

Not only would Kantian theory resolve this contradiction, but it would reverse the conclusions drawn from traditional just war thinking that most Americans, government officials, schools of government, policy wonks, and their supporting think-tanks would hold today.  By virtue of fact that the power brokers hold, defend, and propagate their viewpoint, let’s refer to their view as the received view.  The received view in America is that the United States should get out of the Balkans, a mistake in their view, and stay in Iraq, a step in the right direction in their view.  After all, they argue, Iraq is vital to American national interest, yet the Balkans are not.  Furthermore, based on the language of our National Security Strategy and National Military Strategy, since Iraq is more vital to our national interests than the Balkans, then our military operations in Iraq have been more justified based on that interest.  Satisfying state interest is the goal of just war thinking.  Self-interest, whether for individuals or for states, is not the morally relevant feature for Kantian ethics, however.  In fact, lack of interest or inclination is one of the defining features of Kant’s moral system.  So, according to a Kantian moral evaluation, the received view would be reversed—military operations in the Balkans would be more worthy morally than our operations in Iraq.  Kantian moral theory would yield different conclusions from the conclusions of the received view due to just war thinking.

Current just war thinking is inadequate to solve the tension between the requirements of sovereignty and human rights.  Furthermore, just war thinking can legitimize war that is morally unworthy and can condemn war that is morally worthy.  Kantian theory can resolve the tension between these two requirements, thereby facilitating worthy wars.  Kant establishes a framework that includes “all three relations of public right: the right of a state, the right of nations, and cosmopolitan right.”[22]  We can think of the right of nations, jus gentium, as protecting sovereignty, and cosmopolitan right, jus cosmopoliticum, as protecting human rights.  A more detailed account to demonstrate a consistency between principles of sovereignty and human rights within Kant’s own framework is appropriate.  Part of this account, though, would include an examination of Kantian obligations and the distinction between universal principles versus absolute rules.  Kant’s system is not made up of absolute duties that apply in all places at all times to all people, as most laypeople interpret it.  Instead, Kant’s system is one of universalized maxims, or principles that can accommodate differences due to time, place, or circumstance:  different sets of morally relevant descriptions.  Several Kantians view humanitarian intervention to be consistent with Kantian theory.  The contemporary notions and language of human rights were not widely acknowledged in Kant’s time, “but if Habermas is right, then human rights must be the domain of cosmopolitan law, which institutionalizes basic rights of individuals and the rule of law at the supranational level.”[23]  The problem with protecting human rights (covered in jus cosmopoliticum) in many cases has to do with resistance presented by the requirement to override state sovereignty (covered in jus gentium), which is also supposed to be protected.  Habermas observes that “the weak link in the global protection of human rights remains the lack of any executive power that could secure, when necessary, the General Declarations of Human Rights through interventions into nation states, despite their ‘supreme power’ over their territory,” and he suggests a revision to allow intervention in warranted cases.[24]  John Rawls says that “an outlaw state that violates these [human] rights is to be condemned and in grave cases may be subjected to forceful sanctions and even to intervention.”[25]  Rawls continues:  “Is there ever a time when forceful intervention might be called for?  If the offenses against human rights are egregious and the society does not respond to the imposition of sanctions, such intervention in the defense of human rights would be acceptable and would be called for.”[26]  Since universal principles are not absolute, one principle can give way to another under certain circumstances, as the protection of sovereignty can give way to the protection of human rights.  General consistency within Kantian theory is thus maintained.

Placing Kant’s Theory in Context

            Kant lived during the peak of war conventionality, embodied in large measure by the Great King whom Kant admired.  Conventions on the battlefield as well as the moral and legal conventions defining limited cabinet warfare were maturing a century after the Treaty of Westphalia.  Before that time, the world experienced war for the most part without conventions.  The conventional period would scarcely last two centuries, with war becoming more and more unconventional, exemplified by the nationalistic imperial Napoleonic warfare of annihilation, and unconventionality would be further advanced by industrialized warfare in the American Civil War.  This industrialized version of annihilation in the Civil War is what the historian Russell Weigley has termed to be “the American way of war.”  The old conventional logic of battle, decision, victory, defeat & capitulation broke down even further during the Twentieth Century.  The most basic distinction to be made within a war convention is that between combatant and non-combatant.  But this distinction continuously lost its significance during the last two centuries.  The distinction faded considerably during Napoleonic warfare and during the American Civil War during the 19th Century.  For the 20th Century, at the beginning one out of ten casualties was a non-combatant, but at the end nine out of ten casualties were non-combatants.  This combatant / non-combatant distinction is practically extinct here at the beginning of this next century.  Consider also the emergence of two watershed events that further define the American way of war in this new epoch: preventive war and the warrior ethos (both of which are huge mistakes).[27]  Jean Bethke Elshtain, a noted just war theorist, has joined the ranks of Kant’s comforters by justifying the current Global War on Terror in her new book, Just War Against Terror.[28]  So, at the beginning of the new millennium, the legal and moral conventions of war are “more honored in the breach than in the observance.”  Since conventions are now broken more than they are followed, it no longer makes sense to talk of war as unconventional, because the breaches of the convention are being justified by just war theory.  We have progressed through four moral epochs in the history of warfare: pre-conventionality, conventionality, unconventionality, and now we have entered an epoch of post-conventionality.  But the answer does not lie in traditional just war theory; it has died and we should not try to resurrect it.

The standard constellations forming the zodiac of traditional just war theory include luminaries such as jus ad bellum, jus in bello, and jus post bellum.  Just war thinkers canvassed these zodiacal houses in history as the dark journey of warfare forced their gazes to search for moral elucidation.  Theological thinkers fixed their gaze solely upon the cluster of stars making up jus ad bellum, searching for glimmers of hope to ease the conscience of the religious soldier, who was ostensibly conflicted by the requirement to kill while religious proscriptions at the same time forbade killing.[29]  Justifying political decisions for going to war did far more to ease the conscience of the king and the advisor-priests than the soldiers, who faced the brutal realities of actual fighting.[30]  The jus in bello constellation was in the ascendant for the soldiers themselves, and jus in bello emerged from jus militare, from the battlefield itself.[31]  Jus post bellum comes into clearer view late in the twentieth century, the idea dawning after millennia of historical reflection, the idea that the way we end wars should receive as much attention as the way we begin them.  Other constellations rise and fall through the ages, to include bellum romanum, bellum internecinum, bellum punitivum, jus civitatis, and jus gentium.  The zodiac is not complete, though, until Kant allows us to see the vague outline of a new constellation—jus cosmopoliticum—a constellation still only dimly visible to only the most observant even two hundred years after he pointed it out to us.  Bringing Kantian theory into sharper focus helps us to see the value of the contribution he made to our moral and political thinking.  Kant deserves credit for leaving a legacy, for giving the world the ideas for the League of Nations (a name he coined), the United Nations, human rights law, and international court systems; “Kant has been vindicated.”[32]  Much of the civilized world views these developments as advances.  “So if anyone could be said to have invented peace as more than a mere pious aspiration, it was Kant.”[33]  Too many wars can and have been justified, but how many will be worthy?  The most important work necessary to answer this question is theoretical work, and further work exploring Kantian theory is warranted as we move into a century of unprecedented danger.  Just as Enlightenment thinkers helped us separate astrology from astronomy, alchemy from science, Kant helped us move toward a more suitable moral and political theory.  “Two things fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and reverence, the more often and more steadily one reflects on them:  the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”[34]


            Will the Just War Tradition go the way of the Great Chain of Being, the Domino Theory, and other failed theories in the history of ideas?  Not any time soon.  I have no illusions that the world, and especially America, is close to being ready to abandon the Just War Tradition and embrace a more demanding ethical understanding of conflict.  But there is a growing number of people worldwide who are dissatisfied with the dissonance between their well-formed moral intuitions and the conclusions entailed by traditional just war reasoning.  If wars were not just, then it would be hard to engage in the socialization process that the military profession requires—a pragmatic concern—by means of historic, heroic narratives that romanticize the most sublime activity of human experience:  war.  If wars were not just, it would be difficult to perennially re-professionalize the military, and it would stymie the institution’s desire to recapture some imaginary psyche from the past:  the warrior ethos or the warrior spirit (psyche is Greek for soul, or spirit).  The justification of war is a psychological prerequisite that eases the conscience, just enough, so that new generations of soldiers can march off to war with enthusiasm, their war, a war that draws them as they search for their fair share of battlefield virtue, doing their duty to earn their honor.  Warriors need war.  So, if replacing the just war project in favor of a moral project, replacing justification with moral worth, is too difficult, perhaps there is a more modest, reachable goal—a compromise—one that requires a thought-experiment.  Perhaps it is possible to hold in one’s mind at the same time two evaluations, one pragmatic and one moral.  Now, even philosophers who are pragmatists would not like this suggestion, for their moral project depends on the convergence of pragmatic and moral concerns.  In the meantime, though, one could imagine that pragmatic concerns and moral concerns could be conceptually separated.  One could arrive at a pragmatic evaluation that a particular conflict is justified, necessary, using the concepts and language of justification.  At the same time, one could arrive at a moral evaluation that the same conflict is immoral.  Do we have a soldiery that is enlightened enough today to accept that their war would be justified but immoral?  What would this require psychologically?  It would mean that they go to their war as soldiers not warriors, reluctantly not enthusiastically—they would not find the treasure of glory and honor and virtue but instead gain the pyrrhic wisdom that war is not ennobling.  Some could think this way; most could not.  But if we had a soldiery with such an understanding, and a people who shared this understanding, then humanity would be moved halfway toward having a moral framework within which they can move closer to the goal of peace.  The oft-quoted Hemingway line demonstrates that this idea is not impossible:  “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime.”[35]



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[1] For example, the American Philosophical Association’s three divisions, Eastern, Central, and Western, have overwhelmingly voted to condemn Operation Iraqi Freedom as being both illegal and immoral based on just war thinking.

[2] Jean Bethke Elshtain, Just War Against Terror:  The Burden of American Power in a Violent World, (New York:  Basic Books, 2003).

[3] Immanuel Kant, Toward Perpetual Peace, in Practical Philosophy, translated and edited by Mary J. Gregor, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), §8:355, p. 326.

[4] Kant, Toward Perpetual Peace, §8:355, p. 326.

[5] Suarez insisted “that moral obligation arises solely from God’s command and that without command there is no law.”  J.B. Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Volume I, (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 68.

[6] “What we have been saying would have a degree of validity even if we should concede that which cannot be conceded without the utmost wickedness, that there is no God, or that the affairs of men are of no concern to Him.”  Hugo Grotius, “On the Law of War and Peace,” in J.B. Schneewind, Moral Philosophy from Montaigne to Kant, Volume I, (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1990), p. 92.

[7] “Meinecke observed that ‘The remarkable fact is that only one of them, the German Pufendorf, directly accepted the doctrines of raison d’ état and State interest.’”  Richard Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace:  Political Thought and the International Order from Grotius to Kant, (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 3.

[8] Richard Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace, p. 6.

[9] Michael Howard, The Invention of Peace, (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2000), p. 103.

[10] Immanuel Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, in Practical Philosophy, translated and edited by Mary J. Gregor, (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1996), § 6:355, p. 491.

[11] See John Rawls, The Law of Peoples, (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, 1999).

[12] Immanuel Kant, “On the Common Saying: That may be Correct in Theory,” in Practical Philosophy, translated and edited by Mary J. Gregor, (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1996), pp. 296-297.

[13] Kant, Toward Perpetual Peace, § 8:345, p. 318.

[14] “The rights of states consist, therefore, partly of their right to go to war, partly of their right in war, and partly of their right to constrain each other to leave this condition of war and so form a constitution that will establish lasting peace, that is, its right after war.”  Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, § 6:343, p. 482.

[15] Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, (New York:  Basic Books, 1992), p. 58.

[16] Richard Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace:  Political Thought and the International Order from Grotius to Kant, (Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 11.

[17] Brian Orend, War and International Justice:  A Kantian Perspective, (Waterloo, Ontario:  Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2000), p. 49.

[18] “The Israeli first strike [1967] is, I think, a clear case of legitimate anticipation.  To say that, however, is to suggest a major revision of the legalist paradigm.  For it means that aggression can be made out not only in the absence of a military attack or invasion but in the (probable) absence of any immediate intention to launch such an attack or invasion.  The general formula must go something like this:  states may use military force in the face of threats of war, whenever the failure to do so would seriously risk their territorial integrity or political independence.”  Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, p. 85.  Walzer’s book is popular on campuses throughout the world, and his work is a contribution to the scholarship in the field and to an appreciation of the dimension of ethics in military practice.  Unfortunately, Israeli exclusionism in Just and Unjust Wars has triggered many students and intellectuals to refer to his book in an underground fashion as Jewish and Un-Jewish Wars.

[19] Kant, Toward Perpetual Peace, § 8:355, p. 326, emphasis mine.

[20] Paul Kennedy and George Andreopoulos, “The Laws of War: Some Concluding Reflections,” in The Laws of War, (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1994), p. 224.

[21] Kant, The Metaphysics of Morals, § 6:224, p. 379.

[22] Kant, Toward Perpetual Peace, § 8: 365, p. 334.

[23] “As Hannah Arendt argued in light of the rightless condition of ‘stateless peoples,’ human rights cannot any longer be enforceable only by nation states.  If there is any room for coercion in cosmopolitan law, it is in the enforcement of human rights precisely against states that use their sovereignty to abuse human rights for particular political, religious, or nationalist goals.  If the regulation of global processes such as market effects is the legislative side of global governance, then enforcing claims of citizens against states is its judicial side.”  James Bohman and Matthias Lutz-Bachmann, “Introduction,” in Perpetual Peace:  Essays on Kant’s Cosmopolitan Ideal, (Cambridge:  The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1997), p. 18.

[24] “Since human rights must in many cases be implemented against the will of the governments of nation states, the prohibition against intervention in international law must be revised.”  Jürgen Habermas, “Human Rights, International Law, and the Global Order:  Cosmopolitanism Two Hundred Years Later, in Perpetual Peace:  Essays on Kant’s Cosmopolitan Ideal, p. 130.

[25] John Rawls, The Law of Peoples, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), p. 81.

[26] John Rawls, The Law of Peoples, p. 94n.

[27] The soldier whose purpose was to support and defend has been supplanted by the warrior whose purpose is now to “deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.”  The new tenets of the Soldier’s Creed make the very appropriate acronym, DEAD.

[28] See Jean Bethke Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, (New York:  Basic Books, 2003).

[29] “The Christian doctors, from Augustine to Aquinas in the Middle Ages, followed by Francisco Suarez, Alberico Gentili, and Francisco de Vitoria in the sixteenth century, were above all concerned with defining the just war, jus ad bellum:  wars in which Christians might fight with a clear conscience.”  Michael Howard, The Laws of Land Warfare:  Constraints on Warfare in the Western World, edited by Michael Howard, George J. Andreopoulos, and Mark R. Shulman, (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 1994), p. 2.

[30] For example, at the beginning of Shakespeare’s Henry V there is a long discussion justifying war to the king and his priestly advisors.  King Henry, before invading France, asks the Bishop of Canterbury, “My learned lord, we pray you to proceed, / And justly and religiously unfold / Why the Salic that they have in France / Or should or should not bar us in our claim.”  Canterbury gives him justification: “Then hear me, gracious sovereign, and you peers / That owe your selves, your lives and services / To this imperial throne.  There is no bar / To make against your highness’ claim to France.”  William Shakespeare, King Henry V, edited by Andrew Gurr, (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1992), I.2, pp. 77, 78.

[31] “Whereas the theologians concentrated on jus ad bellum, the right to go to war, the laws for the conduct of war, jus in bello, were an entirely secular creation developed to suit the needs of a rigidly stratified social order in which the right to bear arms was a jealously guarded privilege.”  Michael Howard, The Laws of Land Warfare, p. 3.

[32] Richard Tuck, The Rights of War and Peace, p. 234.

[33] Michael Howard, The Invention of Peace, (New Haven:  Yale University Press, 2000), p. 31.

[34] Kant, Critique of Practical Reason, § 5:161, p. 269.

[35] Quoted in Paul Fussell, The Bloody Game:  An Anthology of Modern War, (London:  Scribners, 1991).