Guest Post: Morality, Jus Post Bellum, and International Law: Post-war Issues

Guest Authors: Larry May and Andrew T. Forcehimes

There are well recognized moral and legal problems concerning the initiation as well as the conduct of war or armed conflict. But the moral and legal problems that arise at the end of armed conflict or war has not until recently been given serious attention. Having joined the significant debate in law and philosophy about jus ad bellum and the jus in bello, the complicated issues of jus post bellum are now beginning to be explored. The collection of essays in Morality, Jus Post Bellum, and International Law brings together some of the leading legal, political and moral theorists to discuss the normative issues that arise when war concludes and when a society strives to transition to peace.

            Given the focus on this transitional period, there is considerable overlap between transitional justice and jus post bellum. Transitional justice concerns the normative considerations that apply to a society that is moving from a repressive, non-democratic society to one that is non-repressive and democratic. Most of the repressive societies that are in this state of transition are also societies emerging from a period of mass atrocity or from a civil war. Since societies are trying to regain peace after a period of war or armed conflict, one of the most important questions for both emerging fields of inquiry is when it is justified to prosecute political and military leaders who have clearly caused harm. And if there are to be such trials, which often make tensions worse in the society in question, how and where should they be conducted? And how should we treat reparation pleas, which likewise threaten to disrupt fragile peace-building processes?  The collection begins with essays that provide specific answers to these questions.

            We then turn to essays that discuss specific, often practical, issues involved in the transition from war, mass atrocity, or repressive regimes, to a just and lasting peace. Should all non-democratic regimes be toppled, or is it sufficient for a regime simply to be less repressive than before, having transitioned to a now thoroughly peaceful state that is protective of human rights? Are there moral reasons for thinking that soldiers should be relieved of responsibility so as to advance the goal of peace-building? And, how should we view cases of economic actors as well as child soldiers?

            We round out our collection by turning to a question concerning the field of jus post bellum itself. Should it be regarded as a distinct and helpful field of inquiry? Or, is it theoretically useless and pragmatically worrisome? The anthology thus concludes with three pieces, the first two, one by a philosopher and one by a lawyer, offer significant skeptical challenges to the very idea of jus post bellum. And in the final essay we (the editors) attempt to address this skepticism.

Authors’ Bio:

Larry May is W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University, as well as Professorial Fellow at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt and Australian National Universities. He is the author of Crimes Against Humanity: A Normative Account (Cambridge University Press, 2005), War Crimes and Just War (Cambridge University Press, 2007), Aggression and Crimes against Peace (Cambridge University Press, 2008), Genocide: A Normative Account (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Global Justice and Due Process (Cambridge University Press, 2010). He is also the editor of International Criminal Law and Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2009).

Andrew T. Forcehimes is currently working on his PhD in philosophy at Vanderbilt University. He has published articles on deliberative democracy, multiculturalism and decision theory.


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