Kant and the End of War: A Critique of Just War Theory (International Political Theory)
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Kant stands almost unchallenged as one of the major thinkers of the European Enlightenment. This book brings the ideas of his critical philosophy to bear on one of the leading political and legal questions of our age: under what circumstances, if any, is recourse to war legally and morally justifiable? This issue was strikingly brought to the fore by the 2003 war in Iraq. The book critiques the tradition of just war thinking and suggests how international law and international relations can be viewed from an alternative perspective that aims at a more pacific system of states. Instead of seeing the theory of just war as providing a stabilizing context within which international politics can be carried out, Williams argues that the theory contributes to the current unstable international condition. The just war tradition is not the silver lining in a generally dark horizon but rather an integral feature of the dark horizon of current world politics. Kant was one of the first and most profound thinkers to moot this understanding of just war reasoning and his work remains a crucial starting point for a critical theory of war today.
that can be brought about by the prosecution of a war would for Kant take us beyond the realm of true politics. The arbitrary nature of the outcome of a war amongst states can never be entirely shaken off. War is only accorded indirect approval in Kant’s critical writings as a means of moving human society away from the tyranny and imperative of war and towards the only lasting condition fit for a society of rational beings: continuous peace. All in all Kant’s view of war in his critical
surrounding it offer us an opportunity to clarify and illuminate the ethical, political and legal issues that lie behind a declaration of war. The book should neither be regarded simply as a contribution to the burgeoning literature on just war theory nor, least of all, as a fresh supplement to the tradition of just war thinking. Primarily this work is intended as a critique of that tradition and a suggestion for how international law and international relations can be viewed from an alternative
Foreign Intervention 129 Westphalian system – delineated by Hobbes and targeted for reform by Kant – however, Habermas is drawn to the arguments which would lead to its immediate supersession by a transnational political order with perhaps the United Nations as its head.37 He accepts therefore that pressing in this way for ‘a cosmopolitan political legal order places the independence of the nation-state in question’. Here there is ‘a realist thorn in the flesh of the politics of human rights’
to seek its happiness (6: 393/524). Ignoring the sufferings of others in neighbouring or distant lands would be contrary to this duty. But as seeking the happiness of others is an imperfect duty we can seek to discharge it in ways we individually (or collectively as a people) determine. At an individual level we can make representations to our government that it should seek to offer aid to victims. We can also try to persuade our fellow citizens and government that in certain extreme
implementation of rights is contingent upon the founding of a civil society51 and as there is as yet no worldwide civil society, we have to look to individual civil societies to maintain legal order and they have first to look to themselves. The priority for an existing civil society is, in a Hobbesian manner, to maintain law and order within its own boundaries. This it cannot do on its own even if it is very large. So there has to be an assumption that there are further civil societies that