Ethics as Response: A Critical Analysis of Michael Walzer's Just War Theory in the Context of Iraq

UoM administered thesis: Phd

  • Authors:
  • Ronan O' Callaghan

Abstract

In recent years, human rights discourse has become increasingly intertwined in the justifications presented for Western wars and interventions. The aim of this thesis is to illustrate the problems implicated in human rights based justifications of war and violence. To achieve this aim, this work makes three primary contributions to International Relations scholarship. First, the thesis provides a robust critique of Michael Walzer's conception of ethical responsibility and his rights based justification of war. Second, I describe an alternative understanding of ethical responsibility that follows from the work of Jacques Derrida, ethics as response. And third, I demonstrate, thorough a reading of the 2003 Iraq War, how ethics as response can provide us with a better understanding of what it means to act ethically in times of war. The central argument presented in this thesis is that rights based justifications of war are predicated upon the belief that moral rules of conduct help us to resolve questions of ethical responsibility in war: moral rules tell us what the right thing to do is and show us how we can act in a morally justified way. This thesis argues that moral rules narrow our understanding of ethical responsibility by promoting adherence to the law rather than responsibility to other people. In contrast, ethics as response provides a model of ethical action that denies the possibility of satisfaction and, thereby, advocates sustained engagements with the consequences of violent action. Ultimately, the idea of ethics as response calls our attention to the uncertainty and uncontrollability implicated in violent actions justified in the name of human rights.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2014