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Ending War [Full Text]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 25.3 (Fall 2011)

September 20, 2011

This response is part of a special symposium on "The Ethics of America's Afghan War" from the journal's summer 2011 issue. To read the lead article by Richard W. Miller, and responses by George R. Lucas, Jr., Jeff McMahan, Darrel Moellendorf, and Fernando R. Teson, click here.

In "The Ethics of America’s Afghan War," Richard W. Miller argues that reflecting on whether and how to end the war in Afghanistan exposes serious deficiencies in just war theory. I agree, though for different reasons than those canvassed by Professor Miller. Miller argues that by focusing on the traditional categories of just cause, proportionality, and necessity (or last resort), just war theory obscures the importance of broader geostrategic considerations that he believes are the most plausible—though ultimately for Miller insufficient—rationale for continuing with the strategy of large-scale counterinsurgency in Afghanistan. I doubt that geostrategic considerations can play the role in moral assessment that Miller believes they do. But the phenomena he is pointing to do illuminate important defects in traditional just war theory.

To read the full article for a limited time on the website of our publisher, Cambridge University Press, click here.