War in the 21st Century: What Can It Accomplish?

Today - Tomorrow
Department of Philosophy, Temple University

Philadelphia
United States

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Sponsor(s):

  • Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium
  • Temple University, Global Studies Program

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Temple University

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With the war in Ukraine closing in on the two-year mark, it remains frustratingly unclear how it might end. Outright victory looks more and more unlikely, and surrender seems to be off the table. What might count as success, if not victory? What can Ukraine and its allies aim to achieve by continuing to fight? Are there alternative ways of securing these ends? Answering questions such as these will help to determine the shape of the war, and crucially, when we can think of the war as over.

The U.S. itself was forced to consider similar questions in its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Looking back, we can examine how the U.S.’s war aims evolved, in Afghanistan from 2001-2021, and in Iraq from 2003-2011. What was the U.S. able to achieve? Can we make retrospective judgments about whether it was worth fighting those wars? Are there lessons to be learned from Afghanistan and Iraq, that should guide our involvement in Ukraine?

The U.S. experience in Ukraine, Iraq, and Afghanistan raise pressing questions for theorists of war and peace. How should the nature of modern warfare, and the global erosion of democratic norms, affect the way we theorize about the permissible aims of a just war?

Questions of interest may include:

-       Is it permissible and/or possible for wars to aim at defending or promoting democracy?

-       Do wars fought within the framework of just war theory promote peace? How?

-       In what ways does war undermine the ends that it seeks?

-       What should be done if it looks like a war cannot be won? What are the virtues of, and problems with, surrender? Are there alternatives to surrender?

-       How does fighting for democracy abroad affect democratic norms at home?

-       Does the permissibility or necessity of war justify violent protest in the domestic context? Are there certain domestic ends that can only be achieved by violence?

-       Is it permissible for states, in defense of their sovereignty, to violently repel and exclude climate migrants?

This conference is part of the series Challenging War, which 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.

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