RSIS Seminar by Professor Christopher Coker, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics
Ethics of War
Why do we have ethics? We are a pro-social species that cooperates as much, if not more, than we compete with each other. In war we also have codes of conduct and protocols of behaviour for the same reason. As Clausewitz tells us, the enemy is only defeated when he accepts defeat. And if peace is the only purpose of war (as Aristotle insists) we must do nothing in war that puts peace out of reach. The ethics of war is based, in a word, on common sense, not on moral precepts or philosophical propositions such as Kant’s second Categorical Imperative: to treat our enemies as an end, not a means. The failure to observe these ‘rules’ explains many of the setbacks in the global war on terror. But the ethics of war is also changing. We are trying to design a robot with a conscience; we are embarking on digital pre-emption; we have introduced a new generation of Non-Lethal Weapons into the battlespace. Against this development we confront a new challenge: dissociation, the inability of soldiers/pilots to understand that what they are engaged in is not a game, but deadly real. The debate over drones has brought this challenge into the public arena. But how real is it?
About the Speaker:
Christopher Coker is a Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and former Head of Department. He has been Visiting Guest Scholar at the National Institute for Defence Studies (Tokyo); Visiting Fellow at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore; Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Security and International Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok; Visiting Fellow at the Norwegian Staff College; and is at present Visiting Fellow at the Swedish National Defence College. His most recent books are The Improbable War: China, the US and the continuing logic of Great Power conflict (forthcoming); Men at Arms: What fiction tells us about war: from the Iliad to Catch-22 (Hurst 2014); Can War be eliminated? (Polity 2014) and Warrior Geeks: how C21st technology is changing the way we fight and think about war (Columbia University Press, 2013). He is also the author of Barbarous Philosophers: reflections on the nature of war from Heraclitus to Heisenberg (Columbia University Press; 2010); War in an Age of Risk (Polity: 2009), War and Ethics in the C21st (Routledge 2008), Warrior Ethos (Routledge, 2007) The Future of War: the re-enchantment of war in the Twenty-First Century (Blackwell 2004), Waging War without Warriors (Lynne Rienner: 2002), Humane Warfare (Routledge: 2001); War and the Illiberal Conscience (Westview: 1998); Twilight of the West (Westview 1998) and many others. He is under contract with Polity to write Future War: 2040)
Globalisation and Insecurity in the Twenty-first Century was published in 2002 as an Adelphi Paper for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Rebooting the West (2009) and Empires in Conflict: the growing rift between Europe and the United States (2004) were published as Whitehall Papers for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).
He was a NATO Fellow in 1981. He served two terms on the Council of the Royal United Services Institute. He was a serving member of the Washington Strategy Seminar; the Black Sea University Foundation; the Moscow School of Politics and the Academic Board of the Czech Diplomatic Academy. He is at present on the Advisory Board of the Brenthurst Foundation (Johannesburg). He was a Visiting Fellow of Goodenough College in 2003-4. He is a former editor of The Atlantic Quarterly and The European Security Analyst.
He has written for The Wall Street Journal; The Wall St Journal (Europe); The Times; The Independent; The European, The Spectator, The Times Literary Supplement and The Literary Review.
He is a regular lecturer at the Royal College of Defence Studies (London); the NATO Defence College (Rome), the Centre for International Security (Geneva) and the National Institute for Defence Studies (Tokyo) He has spoken at other military institutes in Western Europe, North America, Australia and South-East Asia.
Organised by Military Studies Programme, IDSS.