Theories of war in political science

De Baripedia

Intellectual legacy of Émile Durkheim and Pierre Bourdieu in social theoryThe origins of the fall of the Weimar RepublicIntellectual legacy of Max Weber and Vilfredo Pareto in social theoryThe notion of "concept" in social sciencesHistory of the discipline of political science: theories and conceptsMarxism and StructuralismFunctionalism and SystemismInteractionism and ConstructivismThe theories of political anthropologyThe three I's debate: interests, institutions and ideasRational choice theory and the analysis of interests in political scienceAn analytical approach to institutions in political scienceThe study of ideas and ideologies in political scienceTheories of war in political scienceThe War: Concepts and EvolutionsThe reason of StateState, sovereignty, globalization and multi-level governanceTheories of violence in political science‎‎Welfare State and BiopowerAnalysis of democratic regimes and democratisation processesElectoral Systems: Mechanisms, Issues and ConsequencesThe system of government in democraciesMorphology of contestationsAction in Political TheoryIntroduction to Swiss politicsIntroduction to political behaviourPublic Policy Analysis: Definition and cycle of public policyPublic Policy Analysis: agenda setting and formulationPublic Policy Analysis: Implementation and EvaluationIntroduction to the sub-discipline of international relationsIntroduction to Political Theory

Political science has long been interested in war, one of the most extreme and devastating aspects of international relations. War has profound implications for politics, economics, society and culture, and can radically change the course of history.

Political science's approach to war is often multidimensional. It includes theoretical, historical, sociological, economic and psychological analyses. However, the ability of political science to understand and explain war is sometimes called into question. There are several reasons for this.

  • Limitations of theory: Many political theories (e.g. realism, liberalism, constructivism) have their own assumptions and limitations. They can explain some aspects of war, but not all. For example, realism emphasises power and anarchy in international relations, but may have difficulty explaining why some powerful states choose not to go to war.
  • Prediction and prevention: Although political science has made progress in understanding the causes of war, it often has difficulty predicting when and where wars will break out. Similarly, despite our knowledge of the factors that contribute to war, it is often difficult to prevent them.
  • Methodological problems: Political science often relies on historical data to construct and test theories. However, wars are relatively rare events and each war has its own unique characteristics. This makes it difficult to generalise from specific cases.
  • The influence of politics: Political science, like any discipline, is not immune to political pressures. Political scientists can be influenced by their own prejudices, by the interests of their sponsors or by mainstream politics.

That said, political science has much to offer the study of war. It provides theoretical frameworks for understanding the causes of war, war strategies and the consequences of war. It also makes it possible to analyse efforts to prevent war and build peace. Finally, it offers a critical perspective that can challenge dominant discourses on war.

The nature of war has evolved over the centuries. Traditionally, war was seen as a conflict between nation states, often over territory, resources or power. In this context, the rules of war were relatively clear and formal, governed by international conventions such as the Geneva Conventions. However, with the advent of partisan warfare in the 19th century, the nature of warfare began to change. Partisan warfare, as conceptualised by thinkers such as Clausewitz, often involves non-state individuals or groups fighting against a state. These wars are often asymmetric, with an imbalance of power between the parties, and can be characterised by guerrilla tactics, terrorism and other forms of irregular resistance.

What's more, we are witnessing another evolution in warfare today. With globalisation, technological change, and the rise of international terrorism, we are seeing more and more conflicts that are not limited to national borders and that involve a variety of non-state actors, including terrorist groups, private militias, and even cybersecurity companies. These "hybrid" or "non-linear" wars can be difficult to manage and resolve, as they do not follow the traditional rules of warfare. Indeed, one concern with these new forms of warfare is that they can seem never-ending. Without a clearly defined state to defeat or a specific territory to conquer, it can be difficult to define victory or the end of the war. This can lead to protracted conflicts, with all the human suffering and political instability that implies.

These developments represent major challenges for political science and for society in general. It is essential to continue to reflect on these issues, to develop new theories and strategies, and to work towards conflict prevention and peace-building.

Why has political science taken an interest in war?[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

War has been a ubiquitous feature of human history, profoundly shaping societies, cultures, economies and politics. This is why political science, as well as other disciplines such as history, sociology and psychology, take such a keen interest in war. Europe has been largely spared direct armed conflict from the end of the Second World War in 1945 until 2022, thanks largely to the construction of the European Union, nuclear deterrence and the presence of NATO. There have been notable exceptions, such as the wars in the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022 is a sombre reminder that peace is never guaranteed and that war can break out even in regions that have enjoyed a long period of peace. The crisis has underlined existing tensions around the eastward expansion of NATO and the European Union, as well as Ukraine's aspirations to integrate further with Europe. This situation has profound implications for Europe and the world, in terms of security, political stability, international relations and human rights. Unfortunately, the prolonged peace that Europe has enjoyed is rare in human history. Many parts of the world have experienced regular armed conflict, and even today wars rage in places like the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

Political science as a distinct academic discipline began to take shape in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, a period marked by major political tensions and international conflicts. The experience of the First World War certainly fuelled interest in the systematic study of power, institutions, conflict and cooperation between states. The 20th century was marked by numerous conflicts, including the two world wars, the Cold War, and a multitude of regional wars, civil conflicts and proxy wars. These conflicts shaped the global political order and had a major impact on the development of political science. They have led to the emergence of new theories and approaches, such as realism and liberalism in international relations, which seek to explain the behaviour of states and the dynamics of international conflict. Political science has also been influenced by the technological, economic and social developments of the 20th century, such as the emergence of nuclear weapons, the globalisation of the economy, and the civil and human rights movements. All these factors helped to shape the discipline as we know it today. In short, war and conflict have played a crucial role in the birth and development of political science. They have stimulated reflection on fundamental issues such as power, authority, justice, security and international cooperation, which lie at the heart of the discipline.

First of all, the wars of decolonisation. After the Second World War, a wave of independence swept through many European colonies, leading to a series of wars of decolonisation. These wars were often characterised by power struggles between colonial forces and local nationalist movements. They had a profound impact on the shape of the post-colonial world order. Secondly, the Cold War era was marked by the constant threat of nuclear war between the superpowers. This threat was particularly evident in crises such as the Korean War and the Cuban missile crisis. These events underlined the existential risk posed by nuclear weapons and had a significant influence on international politics and political science theories. Finally, after the end of the Cold War, the United Nations played an increasingly important role in managing international conflicts, notably through peacekeeping missions. However, major conflicts such as the Gulf Wars and the war in Afghanistan have revealed the challenges and limits of international intervention. Each of these phases provides a different context for the study of conflict and war in political science. Changes in the nature of conflict, the actors involved, the technologies used, and international norms and institutions have all influenced the way political scientists approach the study of war and conflict.

The attack of 11 September 2001 marked a turning point in contemporary history and profoundly transformed world politics, particularly with regard to war and terrorism. This tragic event not only led to a war in Afghanistan, but also shaped the way the world perceives and fights terrorism. The war in Afghanistan, which began in 2001 in response to the September 11 attacks, was an attempt to dismantle al-Qa'ida, the terrorist group responsible for the attacks, and to overthrow the Taliban regime that harboured it. However, the war has had complex and lasting consequences, both for Afghanistan and for world politics. The war in Afghanistan demonstrated the difficulties associated with fighting terrorism on a global scale. It revealed the challenges of rebuilding a state after conflict, the complexity of counter-insurgency, and the problems associated with the long-term commitment of foreign forces to a country. The war has also had an impact on the way countries perceive and deal with the terrorist threat. It has led to changes in national security strategies, surveillance and civil rights legislation, and has influenced public discourse on terrorism and security.

A crucial aspect of the evolution of warfare is the change in the ratio of civilian to military casualties. Modern warfare often has a devastating impact on civilian populations, not only in terms of deaths and injuries, but also in terms of displacement, destruction of infrastructure and psychological trauma. In the Solferino War in the 19th century, the victims were mainly soldiers. However, with the First World War, the casualty figures began to change, with an almost equal proportion of military and civilian victims. This trend continued and even worsened throughout the twentieth century, particularly during the Second World War and in more recent conflicts. This trend is due to several factors. Firstly, the escalation of military technology, including weapons of mass destruction, has made conflicts more devastating and less discriminating. Secondly, military strategies have changed to increasingly target civilian infrastructure in order to undermine the enemy's morale and war effort. Finally, many modern conflicts take place within rather than between states, meaning that civilians are often caught in the line of fire. This change has important implications for political science and for the way we think about war. It raises questions about the legitimacy of the use of force, human rights, international humanitarian law and the responsibility to protect civilians in war.

What is war?[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The changing nature of warfare has led to significant changes in its economics and in the proportion of civilian casualties. In addition, modern wars tend to last longer, with profound implications for society and the economy. In the past, the war economy focused primarily on the production of armaments and other goods needed for war. However, as military strategies evolved, the aim became to destroy the enemy's production tools in order to weaken its economy and therefore its ability to wage war. This led to an increase in the number of civilian casualties, as civilian infrastructures became military targets. In addition, the protracted nature of many modern conflicts has also had an impact on the economics of war. Instead of short-term intensive production to support the war effort, economies now have to manage the long-term effects of war, such as rebuilding after destruction and supporting the victims of war. These changes have major implications for political science, particularly with regard to questions of human rights, international humanitarian law and military strategy. They also highlight the importance of effective post-conflict peace management to minimise the long-term damage caused by war.

An interesting perspective on war is that of an extension of political dialogue, albeit in a violent and destructive form. This idea is in fact an interpretation of the famous quote by Carl von Clausewitz, the 19th century Prussian military strategist, who said that "war is the continuation of politics by other means". From this perspective, war is not simply a failure of politics, but another form of political dialogue, albeit a violent and destructive one. It is a time when conflicts and disputes are resolved by force rather than through dialogue or negotiation. In this sense, war can be seen as an "inversion of normality", where violence replaces peace as the primary means of conflict resolution. However, war also has profound and often devastating consequences. It results in the death and suffering of many people, the destruction of property and infrastructure, and can have lasting economic, political and social consequences. Therefore, although it can be seen as an extension of political dialogue, it is crucial to recognise the high human and social costs of war. It is precisely for these reasons that war is an important subject of study in political science. Understanding war, its causes and consequences, can help prevent future conflicts, effectively manage those that do occur and minimise the human and social costs of war.

French philosopher and writer George Bataille's definition of war as "a supreme game" underlines the seriousness and importance of the stakes involved. Compared to a game, war, in this context, is not light entertainment, but rather a strategic and potentially deadly activity that involves everything the participants have, including their lives. Seeing war as a strategic game, however, can have important implications for how we understand and manage it. In a game, there are usually rules to follow, strategies to develop and clearly defined winners and losers. If we apply this framework to war, it can help us to think more strategically about the conduct of war, how to minimise its costs and how to manage its consequences.

However, it is also important to note that war differs from ordinary games in several important ways. Firstly, the stakes are infinitely higher - it's not just points or trophies that are at stake, but human lives, societies and entire nations. Secondly, unlike most games, war is not always clearly delineated with fair and universally accepted rules. Finally, while in most games the aim is to win, in war the ultimate goal should always be to achieve a lasting and just peace. This is why political science, in studying war, seeks not only to understand how wars are won, but also how they can be prevented and how their consequences can be managed so as to promote peace and justice.

War can be seen as an 'inversion of a system' in the sense that it replaces the usual mechanisms of dialogue, negotiation and conflict resolution by force. In this context, "dialogue" is achieved not through words, but through acts of violence. This is precisely why war is so devastating and costly, both in terms of human lives and resources. It is also unpredictable, because once the use of force has been initiated, it is difficult to control or predict the outcome. It is also for this reason that political science, as well as other disciplines such as international relations, strive to understand the causes of war and to develop strategies to prevent conflict, manage wars when they occur and restore peace and stability after conflict. Ultimately, war is a "dialogue through force" with profound and lasting consequences. Understanding this "dialogue" is essential to promoting peace and security in the world.

War: an object of struggle between state powers[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

An ancient phenomenon vs. modern inter-state warfare[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

An ancient phenomenon: historical perspectives[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The study of the mythical dimension of war is a fascinating aspect of political science. States and governments often use myths and narratives to justify war, galvanise public support and give meaning to the violence and sacrifice involved. These myths can take many forms and can be influenced by historical, cultural, religious and political factors. The concept of sacrifice is often central to these war myths. It may be invoked to emphasise the importance of the cause being fought for, to valorise the actions of soldiers, and to help rationalise the human costs of war. Sacrifice can be presented as a patriotic duty, an act of bravery, or a tragic necessity. However, war myths and the discourse of sacrifice can also serve to obscure the true costs and consequences of war, to marginalise dissenting voices, and to avoid a critical examination of the motivations and strategies of war. It is therefore important to interrogate and critique these myths, and to understand how they are constructed and used. Political science can contribute to this task by examining how war myths are created and maintained, how they influence policy and public perceptions of war, and how they can be challenged or deconstructed. This analysis can help to promote a better understanding of war and encourage more thoughtful and critical approaches to the politics of war.

When a country goes to war, there is often a kind of "flag rally" where internal political differences are temporarily put aside and a sense of national unity is cultivated. Ideological mobilisation" serves to strengthen social cohesion and facilitate the war effort. This cohesion was often underpinned by rhetoric that stigmatised dissent. Those who oppose the war, or even criticise it, may be accused of treason, lack of patriotism or not supporting the troops. This social pressure can be extremely powerful and can stifle the necessary public and critical debate. The example of the reaction to the September 11 attacks and President George W. Bush's decision to declare a "war on terror" illustrates this point well. Those who questioned this policy were often marginalised or denigrated. Yet, with hindsight, many of these criticisms have been validated. The conflict in Afghanistan, for example, proved to be a long and costly engagement that failed to achieve many of its key objectives. This underlines the importance of open and critical public debate in times of war. Political science can play an important role in providing rigorous and independent analyses of war decisions, questioning the underlying assumptions and highlighting the potential costs and consequences of these decisions.

War often has a sublimated character that can obscure rational and analytical judgements. The rhetoric of war can create a sense of urgency and grandeur that encourages binary thinking (us versus them), the glorification of sacrifice and a heightened tolerance for violence. This can lead to decisions based more on emotion than on a rational assessment of costs and benefits. The sublimation of war can also affect the way societies perceive and remember conflict. Wars can be romanticised or mythologised in order to minimise their darker and more unpleasant aspects. The human and material costs of war can be overlooked, while acts of bravery and sacrifice are emphasised. This is why it is crucial to maintain a critical and rational analysis in times of war. Political scientists and other researchers can help deconstruct the sublimation of war by critically examining war narratives, assessing the real costs of conflict and highlighting alternatives to violence. This approach can help prevent precipitous war decisions and encourage more peaceful and humanitarian policies.

Modern warfare: characteristics and current issues[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Banquet of the Amsterdam Civic Guard on the occasion of the Peace of Münster by Bartholomeus van der Helst, painted in 1648

The Thirty Years' War, which took place mainly in Central Europe, is often regarded as a turning point in the history of warfare and diplomacy. Although it began as a religious conflict within the Holy Roman Empire, it soon involved several major European powers, including France, Sweden, Spain and Denmark, and became a struggle for political and territorial power.

The Thirty Years' War is particularly important in political science for several reasons:

  • The Treaty of Westphalia: This treaty, signed in 1648, marked the end of the Thirty Years' War and laid the foundations for the modern international order based on the system of sovereign states. This system, often referred to as the Westphalian system, defined the principles of national sovereignty and non-interference, which are still at the heart of international law today.
  • The transformation of warfare: The Thirty Years' War was one of the most destructive conflicts in European history, marked by widespread violence against civilians and an unprecedented level of destruction. This led to changes in the way war was fought, including the increasing use of standing armies and siege tactics.
  • The politicisation of religion: Although the war began as a religious conflict, it eventually evolved into a struggle for political power. This marked an important stage in the process of secularisation of European politics, where religion became a tool of political legitimisation rather than a driver of conflict.

Ultimately, the Thirty Years' War and the Treaty of Westphalia had a profound impact on the formation of the modern state and the international system, making them of great importance to political science.

The Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 is often regarded as the moment when the concept of state sovereignty was formally recognised in international law. This treaty ended the Thirty Years' War in Europe and established a system of sovereign states, where each state had exclusive control over its territory and population.

State sovereignty has several implications for warfare and international politics:

  • Interstate warfare: In the Westphalian system, war is primarily a matter between states. This means that wars are generally declared by governments, fought by regular armies and governed by international laws and customs.
  • The role of the nation state: The idea of the nation state implies that each state has the right to govern its own population without outside interference. This gives states the right to defend their territory and population, which can lead to conflict with other states.
  • The right to war: State sovereignty also implies the right to declare war and to make peace. This means that states have the right to use force to defend their interests, whether or not they are in a position to do so.

Public international law, in particular the law of war, focuses primarily on relations between sovereign states. It establishes a number of rules and principles that govern the behaviour of states in times of war. These rules include :

  • Modern diplomacy: International law has played a key role in establishing diplomatic norms and procedures, including diplomatic immunity, diplomatic and consular relations, and treaty negotiations.
  • State sovereignty: The principle of state sovereignty is fundamental to international law. This means that each state has the right to govern its own territory and conduct its international relations as it sees fit, provided it respects the rights of other states.
  • The declaration of war: Traditionally, international law required a state to formally declare war before commencing hostilities. Although this practice has largely been abandoned, international law still requires states to respect the principles of just war, including proportionality and discrimination between combatants and non-combatants.
  • The conclusion of war: International law also provides that wars must be ended by a peace treaty, which defines the terms of the end of hostilities and establishes a framework for the resolution of remaining disputes. This is important to ensure a peaceful transition to lasting peace after a conflict.

These rules are essential for maintaining order and stability in the international system. However, their application and observance can vary according to circumstances, and their violation can have serious consequences, including international sanctions and prosecution for war crimes.

Theorising war: approaches and key thinkers[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

War, in the context of political science, has long been regarded as a natural extension of politics itself. This concept has been theorised by a number of influential thinkers over the centuries, including the famous Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu, who wrote The Art of War, a treatise on military strategy. In the Western context, philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle also considered politics to be an "art". For them, politics is the art of governing and taking decisions for the good of the city. In this sense, war can be seen as an extreme extension of this "art", when dialogue and negotiation fail and force becomes the principal means of resolving conflicts. From this point of view, war is not only an activity involving military strategies and tactics, but also a field that requires deep reflection and an understanding of the political and social issues at stake. This is why war is an important subject of study in political science, as it offers valuable insights into how societies manage conflict, authority and power.

The art of war, as conceptualised by historical figures such as Sun Tzu and Napoleon, is a complex game of strategy that combines respect for certain established norms with innovation and surprise. Napoleon, for example, often circumvented the conventions of war to surprise his enemies and gain a strategic advantage. In doing so, he not only demonstrated military genius, but also underlined the dynamic and unpredictable nature of war. Despite the existence of certain norms and rules, war is often defined by its unpredictability and its ability to exceed established expectations. This complex reality defies attempts to categorise war as a strictly regulated or completely chaotic phenomenon. Instead, war can be better understood as a phenomenon that oscillates between these two extremes, where strategy and surprise constantly coexist and interact.

War is framed by a number of norms and rules - be they international laws governing conduct in war, bilateral treaties between countries, or the unwritten rules of military engagement. These norms provide a structure and predictability to war, allowing the parties in conflict to predict (to some extent) the actions of the other. However, war also involves going beyond these norms. Whether out of necessity, strategy or desperation, parties to a conflict can and often will go beyond the established rules. This can take the form of guerrilla tactics, surprise attacks, the use of prohibited weapons, or even the direct violation of the laws of war. This tension between the norm and going beyond the norm is what makes war so unpredictable and, therefore, so difficult to study and understand. For political science and similar disciplines, this means that we must constantly adapt and reassess our understandings and theories of war to take account of this complex and changing reality.

It is important for the social sciences, and political science in particular, to recognise and explore this complexity. By treating war not only as a series of strategies and tactics, but also as a broader social, political and cultural phenomenon, researchers can gain a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the nature of war and its impact on human societies.

War poses major problems for philosophy and raises essential questions about the nature of human culture and consciousness. From a philosophical point of view, war can be analysed on several levels. For example, moral philosophy examines questions of justice and ethics in the context of war. What justifies the outbreak of war (jus ad bellum)? How should it be fought (jus in bello)? What are the moral obligations towards non-combatants or prisoners of war? These questions are often debated in the context of just war theory. War also raises profound questions about the nature of human culture and consciousness. Why do human societies resort to war? How does war influence culture, art, literature and other forms of human expression? How does war affect our understanding of ourselves and our place in the world? Political philosophy looks at the role of the state and power in war. What is the role of the state in declaring war and conducting hostilities? What is the role of the citizen in wartime? What is the relationship between war and sovereignty, or war and democracy? These questions are just some of the many ways in which war can be approached from a philosophical perspective. War, as a social and political phenomenon, is a complex reality that can be analysed and understood in a variety of ways through the prism of philosophy.

War is a phenomenon that goes far beyond military action. It can be analysed from a number of angles, including political philosophy, sociology, economics and psychology, among others. Political philosophy can address issues such as the moral justification of war (the just war theory, for example), the role of the state and sovereignty in conflict, or the impact of war on notions of freedom and human rights. From a sociological perspective, war can be analysed in terms of social interaction, the formation of groups and identities, or the impact on social structure and culture. We can also look at how war affects norms and values, and how it is perceived and understood by those who experience it. Economics can look at the impact of war on the economy ('total war' and the war economy, for example), or at the role of economic resources in the conduct and cause of war. Psychology can look at the impact of war on the human mind, whether in terms of combat stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the wider impact of war on attitudes and behaviour. War is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that can be studied from many different angles, each bringing its own perspective and its own analytical tools.

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645): Natural law and the foundations of just war[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Hugo GrotiusPortrait par Michiel Jansz. van Mierevelt (1631).

Hugo Grotius, a 17th-century Dutch jurist, is widely recognised as one of the founders of modern international law. His work De Jure Belli ac Pacis (On the Law of War and Peace), first published in 1625, remains a major reference in the field. In this text, Grotius laid the foundations of the theory of "just war", which deals with the morality and legality of engaging in war and the conduct of war. He also laid the foundations for many principles of modern international law, such as national sovereignty and the equality of states. Grotius argued that certain moral principles apply even in times of war. For example, he insisted that non-combatant civilians should be spared as far as possible, and that cruel or inhuman treatment of prisoners of war was unacceptable. These ideas were revolutionary at the time and continue to influence the way we think about war today. The concepts of "just war" and "unjust war" are still widely debated in academic, political and military circles. They also play a key role in the development and application of international humanitarian law, which seeks to limit the effects of war and protect those who are most vulnerable in times of conflict.

Hugo Grotius laid the foundations of the law of war, seeking to determine when a war could be considered 'just'. He highlighted two types of war that could be justified under international law:

  • Defensive war: Grotius maintained that war waged in defence against external aggression was justified. This idea remains central to contemporary international law, where the right to self-defence is recognised as a fundamental principle.
  • Coercive war: Grotius also thought that a war could be justified if it was waged to punish those who had violated the law. This idea is more controversial and more difficult to implement in practice. It raises complex questions about who has the right to judge whether the law has been broken, and what are the appropriate methods of punishment.

Although Grotius believed that these types of warfare could be justified, he also emphasised the importance of observing certain rules and ethical standards during the conduct of war, such as the prohibition on deliberately attacking non-combatants.

Grotius established that certain forms of war were illegitimate and unjust. In particular, he opposed wars of conquest. In his view, a nation state had no right to wage war with the aim of annexing or conquering other states. This principle is fundamental to contemporary international law, which prohibits the acquisition of territory by force. Although these principles were formulated centuries ago, they are still widely accepted today. The United Nations Charter, for example, explicitly prohibits the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of another state. Such principles continue to guide the way in which international conflicts are managed and resolved.

For Hugo Grotius, the law of war and the law of peace are intimately linked. Indeed, the conception of war as a phenomenon that must be governed by certain legal rules and principles also suggests that there are certain conditions that must be met in order to establish a just and lasting peace. According to Grotius, an aggressor who violates the principles of the law of war must be held accountable. This could include sanctions or other forms of repercussions from other states. In this way, the law of war also serves to define and promote justice in peacetime. These ideas continue to be influential in contemporary international law. For example, the concept of the 'responsibility to protect' suggests that the international community has a duty to intervene when a state grossly violates the rights of its own citizens. Finally, it is interesting to note that Grotius' work laid the foundations for the later development of international humanitarian law, which seeks to limit the effects of war on people and property.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679): The state of nature and war as a state of permanent conflict[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Leviathan, or Treatise on the Matter, Form and Power of an Ecclesiastical and Civil Republic, 1651.

In his work "Leviathan", Thomas Hobbes reflects on human nature and the state of nature, which he sees as a state of perpetual war between all against all ("bellum omnium contra omnes"). According to Hobbes, without a strong central authority to maintain order, human life would be "lonely, poor, unpleasant, brutish and short". In Hobbes' state of nature, individuals are motivated by their own interests and fears. Competition for limited resources, distrust and the desire to gain reputation can lead to a state of constant conflict. To escape this state of war, Hobbes argues that individuals enter into a social contract in which they give up part of their freedom in favour of a sovereign, whom Hobbes calls Leviathan. The role of this sovereign is to maintain peace and order by exercising unchallengeable authority. Hobbes' ideas have had a major influence on modern political theory and the conception of the state. They emphasise the importance of a strong central power to prevent conflict and guarantee the security of citizens.

For Thomas Hobbes, the state of nature is characterised by chaos and uncertainty. According to Hobbes, in this state, individuals are free, but they are also constantly in danger because there is no law or central authority to regulate their behaviour. In the state of nature, individuals are guided by their own interests and by the fear of death. Their absolute freedom is therefore accompanied by constant competition for resources and security. This creates an unstable situation where danger and conflict are omnipresent - a situation Hobbes describes as a "war of all against all". To avoid this chaos, Hobbes proposes the idea of a social contract in which individuals voluntarily cede part of their freedom to an absolute sovereign. In exchange, this sovereign provides them with security and order, which is preferable to the uncertainty and violence of the state of nature.

For Hobbes, the state is the guarantor of social peace, an institution necessary to avoid the "war of all against all" that reigns in the state of nature. In his view, the state is founded on a social contract, a form of agreement to which individuals consent in order to escape the chaos of the state of nature. In this contract, individuals agree to give up some of their freedoms and submit their will to that of the sovereign. In return, the sovereign is responsible for maintaining order, ensuring the safety of individuals and preserving the peace. For Hobbes, the sovereign's authority is absolute and indivisible, because it is the only way to ensure peace and prevent a return to the state of nature. This concept has had a major influence on political theory and continues to be debated today. For example, it raises questions about the right balance between security and liberty, or the role and limits of state power.

For Hobbes, one of the main responsibilities of the sovereign is to maintain the peace and security of society. To this end, the sovereign has the right to raise an army and to use force if necessary. Hobbes saw the army as a necessary institution to protect society against external and internal threats. Without a military force to ensure security, Hobbes believes that society would be in danger of falling back into the state of nature, where there is a "war of all against all". However, Hobbes also warned against the dangers of abuse of military power by the sovereign. He stresses the importance of the social contract, in which the sovereign is obliged to respect the rights and freedoms of individuals in exchange for their obedience.

It is also important to note that Hobbes was writing in a specific historical context, that of seventeenth-century England, which was marked by civil war. His political theory therefore reflects the concerns of his time, but continues to provoke important discussions in contemporary political philosophy.

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804): Towards perpetual peace and the legitimacy of defensive wars[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Immanuel Kant, in his essay "Project of Perpetual Peace" (1795), asks how lasting peace can be achieved between nations. His work on this subject has greatly influenced political philosophy and theories of international law. Kant proposes several ideas for achieving "perpetual peace". The first is that the "republican constitution" is the most peaceful form of government, because it gives the people the power to decide whether to go to war or not, and the people, being the ones who suffer the consequences of war, are less likely to choose it. The second idea is the "federation of free nations", a kind of league of nations, where states retain their sovereignty but agree to adhere to a common set of international laws to prevent conflict. Finally, Kant argued that perpetual peace could only be achieved when universal human rights were respected, which implied equal rights for all individuals, regardless of their nationality.

Immanuel Kant argued that peace cannot be based on emotion or affect. On the contrary, it must be based on rationality. For him, it is reason, not emotion, that can motivate people to seek and accept peace. This approach is fundamentally moral, because it asks individuals to put the common good before their own personal interests. According to this vision, true peace can only be achieved when individuals and nations adopt a rational approach, pooling their differences and working together for the common good. This vision implies a certain mutualisation of differences and conflicts: instead of seeking to impose their own will by force, each side must seek to understand and respect the perspectives of the others. This is what Kant meant by a "federation of free nations". Ultimately, Kant's idea is that perpetual peace is not just a dream or a romantic idea, but a goal that can be achieved by rational and moral means. This idea has had a major influence on modern theories of international justice and on the design of international institutions.

Portrait of Immanuel Kant.

Immanuel Kant argued for the invention of an international law of peace, recognising the need to manage power relations between nations. He argued that this regulation was essential because wars were inevitable. Kant's major contribution lies in his assertion that the public international law to be constructed should not be based on the principle of the "right of the strongest". On the contrary, it must be fundamentally distinct and aim at peace rather than war. In other words, international law should not simply serve to justify conflicts or to regulate their course, but rather to prevent them and to promote the peaceful resolution of disputes. This law of peace is based on the recognition of the sovereign equality of States and respect for human rights, two principles that are essential to preventing war and promoting peace. It is in this respect that Kant's approach was revolutionary and laid the foundations for contemporary international law, which emphasises conflict prevention and the promotion of lasting peace.

Immanuel Kant, in his essay entitled "Project of Perpetual Peace", presented a plan for establishing peace and avoiding wars. It is a reflection structured on three levels:

  1. Internal political law: According to Kant, to achieve lasting peace, every state must adopt a republican constitution. In other words, it must ensure a democratic government that respects human rights and the law. This would help to resolve internal conflicts peacefully and democratically.
  2. International inter-federal/inter-state law: Once peace has been established within states, it can be extended to international relations as a whole. To this end, Kant proposes the creation of a "federation of free nations", which would be a group of states united by mutual peace treaties and committed to resolving their differences non-violently.
  3. International law of hospitality: This level represents Kant's cosmopolitan vision. It is a principle that implies respect for foreigners and the possibility of peaceful relations with them. According to Kant, every individual has the right to visit another country, as long as they behave peacefully, and every country has a duty to welcome foreign visitors. This principle establishes the basis for cosmopolitan international law.

Thus, the Kantian vision of perpetual peace is based on a multiscalar approach that requires both internal (national) and external (international) changes. It is a conception that continues to influence contemporary debates on international law and world peace.

Kant's philosophy is fundamentally based on freedom and respect for human rights. He saw war as the ultimate result of political systems that denied freedom, violated human rights and were dominated by autocratic or dictatorial authorities. For Kant, lasting peace can only be achieved by building political systems that respect human rights and are democratic and republican. The concept of "limited sovereignty" is a key element of this vision, as it implies that even if a state is sovereign, it must not have the right to oppress its population or violate human rights. Furthermore, to avoid conflict between states, Kant proposed the idea of a "federation of free nations". According to this idea, sovereign states must freely agree to limit their actions and respect international law in order to maintain world peace. Thus, Kant's philosophy puts forward the idea that peace can only be guaranteed by adherence to democratic principles, respect for human rights, and international cooperation within the framework of international law respected by all.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831): The dialectics of war and historical progress[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Portrait of Hegel by Schlesinger (1831).

For Hegel, war is a phenomenon that is deeply rooted in human nature and the dynamics of history. It is the result of historical dialectics and the interplay of thesis and antithesis, in which war acts as an agent of change and progression in history. Hegel sees war as a moment in the manifestation of the national will. In his view, it is a moment when national consciousness is strengthened and crystallised. War can be seen as an expression of the nation's free and subjective will, i.e. as an extension of the nation's will to assert and preserve its existence. For Hegel, however, war is not an end in itself. Rather, it is a necessary and tragic stage in human history, which ultimately leads to greater self-awareness and freedom. Thus, despite the chaos and destruction it engenders, war is also a means of advancing history towards a fuller realisation of human freedom.

According to Hegelian philosophy, war has an essential role to play in the affirmation of individual subjectivity and in the evolution of human history. Hegel argues that war, destructive though it may be, plays a crucial role in the consolidation of a community, as it forces individuals to unite their efforts in order to survive. Paradoxically, war can also help to forge a stronger national or collective identity, as it creates a common 'other' against which a community must fight. From this perspective, war can be seen as a factor of social and political cohesion. War, as a confrontation of the human will, also enables individuals to confront their mortality and define themselves in opposition to death. It is in this sense that Hegel claims that war is an affirmation of subjectivity. However, although Hegel sees a role for war in the development of human history, this does not mean that he glorifies or promotes it. On the contrary, for Hegel, war is a tragic manifestation of the contradictions of human history, a contradiction that can ultimately lead to a greater realisation of human freedom.

René Girard, a French philosopher and anthropologist, developed a theory known as the 'scapegoat theory' to explain human violence. According to Girard, social conflicts arise because of mimetic rivalry - a desire to possess the same things as others, which becomes contagious within a society. As tensions rise, society seeks to restore order by turning against a 'scapegoat' - usually a marginalised person or group. By coming together to punish the scapegoat, the community is able to channel its violence and re-establish a sense of social cohesion.

Girard also applied his theory to war, arguing that war can play the same role as scapegoating in reconciling social tensions. Like Hegel, Girard sees war as a means by which a community can sublimate its internal differences to face a common external threat. Nevertheless, Girard's perspective, like Hegel's, does not justify war. On the contrary, it offers an analysis of how violence can become a means of establishing social order, while highlighting the tragic human cost of this dynamic.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527): Political realism and the strategies of war[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Posthumous portrait of Machiavelli by Santi di Tito, in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.

Niccolò Machiavelli, an Italian Renaissance politician and writer, is best known for his work The Prince, which is often regarded as a pragmatic guide to political leadership. In it, he depicts the exercise of power, not as it should be according to ideal or ethical principles, but as it actually is in practice. In The Prince, Machiavelli argues that rulers must be prepared to act immorally if necessary to maintain their power and ensure the stability of their state. For example, he suggests that although it is better for a prince to be loved and feared, if he has to choose between the two, it is safer to be feared. Machiavelli's approach to war is very realistic. He insisted that rulers must always be prepared for war and ready to wage it if necessary. For him, war was a political tool, necessary to maintain and extend power. Machiavelli was also a fervent advocate of citizens' militias. He believed that citizens who had a direct interest in defending their homeland would make better soldiers than mercenaries or troops raised abroad. This idea is reflected in his other major work, Discourse on the First Decade of Titus Livius.

Machiavelli is famous for his statement that "the end justifies the means". This means that he believed that a leader's actions can be justified by the results they produce, even if those actions are in themselves morally reprehensible. Machiavelli believed that politics and morality were distinct domains. In politics, he held that the success and survival of the state were the most important objectives. Consequently, a leader might have to take difficult, even immoral, decisions to achieve these goals. War, for example, is considered immoral by many, but for Machiavelli it could be justified if necessary to protect the state. Furthermore, Machiavelli considered the art of war to be an essential skill for a leader. He argued that a prince who neglects the art of war jeopardises his kingdom and his own security. According to him, even in times of peace, a leader.

The adjective 'Machiavellian' is often used to describe a person who is prepared to use deceitful or immoral means to achieve their goals. It is a reference to Machiavelli's idea that "the end justifies the means". This means that, for a Machiavellian person, the objective is more important than the actions taken to achieve it. So it doesn't matter if the actions are deceitful, dishonest or even cruel, as long as they achieve the objective. This is a rather negative and simplified interpretation of Machiavelli's philosophy. His writings were much more complex and nuanced, and he did not necessarily advocate immoral behaviour in all circumstances. However, this is how his name is often used in everyday language.

Niccolò Machiavelli, in his work The Prince, emphasises the importance of war for a ruler. For him, the ideal leader must always be ready for war, both in terms of physical and mental preparation. Machiavelli did not glorify war per se, but considered the art of war to be a necessary skill for any good ruler. He argues that one of the main roles of a ruler is to protect the state and its citizens, which may require the use of war. Machiavelli was writing in a historical context in which Italy was divided into numerous city-states that were often in conflict with each other. Consequently, war was a daily and inevitable reality. However, this does not mean that he values war as such, but rather that he recognises and analyses the role that war plays in politics. Nevertheless, these perspectives have often been misinterpreted or simplified over the centuries, leading to a perception of Machiavelli as an unscrupulous strategist advocating the use of war for personal or political gain.

Antoine-Henri de Jomini (1779-1869): Military strategy and the principles of warfare[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Antoine-Henri Jomini was a Swiss general and military theorist who lived from 1779 to 1869. Jomini served in Napoleon's armies and later joined the Russian army. He is best known for his writings on military strategy and tactics. His best-known work, "Précis de l'art de la guerre" (1838), is considered one of the founding texts of modern military strategy. In it, Jomini set out his ideas on the fundamental principles of warfare, including the importance of concentrating forces, speed of action and freedom of manoeuvre. Jomini also identified what he considered to be the key elements of a good military strategy: attacking the enemy where he is weakest, concentrating forces on a decisive point, freedom of manoeuvre and a clear and effective chain of command. Jomini's theories influenced many military strategists throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and his work continues to be studied at military academies around the world.

Antoine-Henri Jomini is widely recognised as one of the most influential theorists of military strategy. In his "Précis de l'art de la guerre", he defined strategy as the art of properly directing the mass of armed forces, concentrating them on a decisive point. For Jomini, strategy consisted of determining when, where and with what force to attack the enemy. It was a matter of planning and preparation that required an in-depth knowledge of geography, logistics and available resources. Jomini identified several basic principles for the effective conduct of warfare, including the concentration of forces on a decisive point, speed of action and economy of forces. He also introduced the notion of the "line of operations", which is the most direct and secure route between an army and its supply base, and emphasised the importance of logistics in the success of military operations.

The elements below are all part of the art of war in the broadest sense. They reflect several crucial aspects of military strategy and tactics.

  1. Troop positioning: where and how forces are deployed on the ground can have a significant impact on the success of a military campaign. Commanders must take into account the terrain, communication and supply routes, and the enemy's position.
  2. In situ analysis of the forces present: understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your own troops and those of the enemy is crucial to planning an effective strategy.
  3. How to attack weak points: identifying and exploiting the enemy's weaknesses is a fundamental part of military strategy.
  4. The tactical conditions for pursuing the enemy: after a victory, it can be advantageous to pursue the enemy to maximise disorder and minimise their ability to regroup and counter-attack.
  5. Controlling movement: controlling the movement of one's own troops and, as far as possible, those of the enemy, is another key aspect of military strategy.
  6. Incorporating the concept of mobility and surprise: the ability to move quickly and surprise the enemy can often be a decisive factor in warfare.
  7. Ruse, such as false attacks, the appearance of stalling and counter-attacks: using deception to disorientate and destabilise the enemy can also be an effective tactic.

All these aspects are essential to understanding and conducting an effective military campaign.

Jomini's ideas on military strategy were formulated in the context of Napoleon's wars, and were influenced by observation of Napoleon's campaigns. They continue to be studied and applied in contemporary military theory.

Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831): The political nature of war and the trinity of violence[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Carl von Clausewitz, in his famous book "On War", argues that "war is the continuation of politics by other means". For him, war is never an end in itself, but a tool that states use to achieve political objectives. It is a means of forcing the enemy to accept the will of the state.

The issue of "endless wars", such as the one waged by the United States in Afghanistan for two decades, is often seen as a sign of failure to define and achieve clear political objectives. This can be due to a number of factors, such as shifting political objectives, overly ambitious or ill-defined goals, or unforeseen obstacles to achieving those goals. It is also important to remember that Clausewitz's perspective on war is essentially that of conventional interstate conflict. Many modern conflicts involve non-state actors, such as terrorist groups or militias, and may be influenced by factors such as ethnic or religious divisions, which do not easily fit into the framework of war as politics by other means. These wars can seem "endless" because they are not fought to achieve clear political objectives, but rather are the result of deep social divisions, inequality, poverty and other structural factors.

The Westphalian system, established by the Treaties of Westphalia in 1648, is based on the principle of the sovereignty of nation states. In this system, war is traditionally seen as a means of resolving conflicts between states with a view to restoring peace. When we speak of "endless war", we are generally referring to conflicts that do not appear to be heading towards a peaceful resolution. This may be due to a multitude of reasons, such as ill-defined political objectives, the absence of a clearly defined enemy (as in the case of the "war on terror"), unforeseen obstacles to peace, or conflicts beyond the control of states. The idea that "the time of war is a time of reversal to return to peace" reflects the belief that war is a temporary and exceptional state, and that the final objective must always be the restoration of peace. This underlines the importance of diplomatic engagement, negotiation and compromise in resolving conflicts.

Carl von Clausewitz.

In the spirit of Westphalian warfare, war is subordinate to politics. Clausewitz's famous quote "war is the continuation of politics by other means" emphasises that war is a tool used by states to achieve their political objectives. He saw war as a rational action, directed and controlled by the state, aimed at achieving specific political objectives. However, in today's context, the idea that war is waged under the control and at the instigation of the state is sometimes called into question. With the emergence of non-state groups, asymmetric conflicts, transnational terrorism and cyber attacks, war is no longer confined to states. In these cases, an end to hostilities may be more difficult to achieve, as the actors involved may not have clear or shared political objectives that could be resolved through negotiation or diplomacy. In addition, the absence of stable state or institutional structures in some regions may hinder the conclusion of war. In such contexts, war can become a perpetual state, with fluctuating levels of violence, rather than a temporary 'parenthesis'.

Conflicts in regions such as Darfur have often led to a form of privatisation of war, where the traditional role of the state in the conduct of war is replaced or supplemented by a multitude of non-state actors. This can include local militias, rebel groups, private military companies and even international actors. One of the consequences of this development is the fragmentation of authority and sovereignty. Instead of a central state controlling the whole territory and exercising a monopoly on legitimate violence, there is a multitude of actors controlling different parts of the territory and carrying out violent actions independently of each other. This greatly complicates efforts to end the war and establish a lasting peace. It is difficult to reach a peace agreement when many actors have conflicting claims and there is no central authority to impose or guarantee the agreement. Furthermore, the privatisation of war can lead to high levels of violence, particularly against civilians, as non-state actors may not respect the laws of war in the same way as states. In this context, traditional approaches to conflict resolution may not be sufficient. It may be necessary to adopt more complex and nuanced approaches, which take into account the multitude of actors involved and their divergent interests and motivations. This may include efforts to strengthen local governance, promote community reconciliation and ensure accountability for human rights violations.

Clausewitz's idea that "war is the continuation of politics by other means" means that war is fundamentally a political tool. It is used to achieve political objectives that diplomatic methods have failed to achieve. Consequently, the end of war implies a return to political means of resolving conflicts. This perspective underlines the importance of political governance in conflict management and in the transition from war to peace. If politics cannot regain the upper hand, conflict can drag on and war can become a permanent state. This can happen in so-called "failed states", where political institutions are too weak to impose order and resolve conflicts peacefully. It can also occur in situations where the parties to the conflict have lost confidence in the political mechanisms and no longer believe in the possibility of a peaceful resolution. The war thus continues until a political solution is found - whether through peace negotiations, international mediation or the establishment of new political structures. In this sense, Clausewitz emphasises the crucial importance of politics in resolving conflicts and restoring peace.

Clausewitz emphasised the vital importance of maintaining political control over military action. For him, war was a tool that politics could and should use to achieve its objectives. It is politics that gives war its purpose and raison d'être, and therefore determines when it begins, when it ends and how it is fought. When war gets out of hand, the consequences can be catastrophic. We risk descending into a state of perpetual conflict, where violence and chaos reign, and the logic of war replaces the logic of politics. This kind of situation is often seen in areas of protracted conflict, where political institutions are weak or absent, and where war becomes a way of life rather than a means of achieving specific political objectives. This is why it is so crucial for politics to maintain control over war. Without effective political control, war can become autonomous and uncontrollable, with devastating consequences for society and humanity.

It's an interesting and sometimes paradoxical perspective. In certain situations, war can be used as a negotiating tool. When political dialogue fails or is blocked, war can create a new dynamic and force the parties to reconsider their positions. For example, one party may use the threat or use of force to increase its negotiating position and push its opponents to make concessions. In addition, war can sometimes expose difficult truths and reveal deep-rooted problems that need to be resolved if lasting peace is to be achieved. Conflicts can highlight inequalities, abuses of power and injustices that have been ignored or hidden, paving the way for their resolution as part of a peace process.

Maurice Davie (1893-1964): Contemporary transformations in warfare and new challenges[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Maurice R. Davie is a sociologist renowned for his work on war and conflict in human societies. In his 1930 article "The Evolution of War", Davie examined the origins of war in primitive societies.

He identifies several reasons why these societies might go to war:

  1. Vital competition for group survival: In an environment where resources are limited, groups may come into conflict over food, water, territory and other vital resources. These wars were often a matter of survival, with the winning group guaranteeing its access to these resources.
  2. Religious disputes: Religious beliefs were often deeply rooted in primitive societies, and any clash of interpretations or beliefs could lead to war. Furthermore, in some cultures, there was a belief that victory in war was proof of divine favouritism, which could further encourage conflict.
  3. Blood vengeance: In many primitive cultures, an offence against a member of the group was often avenged by murder or war. This cycle of revenge could lead to a series of conflicts perpetuated over time.
  4. Glory: In some societies, glory and honour gained through battle were highly prized. Warriors might seek war in order to gain higher social status and prestige.

While these factors may have played a role in primitive societies, they are also present in many contemporary conflicts.

Marvin Harris (1927-2001): Anthropological approaches to war and its socio-cultural motivations[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Marvin Harris.

Marvin Harris (1927-2001) was an American anthropologist and a leading figure in the development of cultural materialism, a theoretical framework that explains cultural practices in terms of the practical problems of human existence, such as the production of food and other material goods, rather than in terms of abstract ideas or values.

Harris is well known for his work in explaining social phenomena using a materialist approach. He argued that societal characteristics such as social structure, culture and even religious beliefs are largely shaped by practical considerations, particularly those related to subsistence and economics. Harris's best-known works include "The Rise of Anthropological Theory" (1968), "Cannibals and Kings" (1977) and "Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture" (1974). In these and other works, he explored a wide range of subjects - from the sacred status of cows in India to the practice of cannibalism in prehistoric societies - always with the aim of showing how cultural practices that may seem strange or irrational are in fact sensible adaptations to material conditions. Harris's work has been hugely influential and continues to be widely read and debated in the field of anthropology.

In his 1974 book, "Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches: The Riddles of Culture", Marvin Harris proposed several theories concerning the origin of war in primitive societies.

  1. War as solidarity: Harris suggests that war can serve as a means of strengthening group solidarity and identity. In a situation of conflict, individuals in a group can feel more united, which reinforces the group's legitimacy.
  2. War as play: This theory proposes that war can have a playful dimension in certain primitive societies. In fact, in many cultures, war games or games that imitate combat are common. Modern sporting activities can be seen as a continuation of this 'playful' dimension of war.
  3. War is part of human nature: This theory proposes that war is an inevitable aspect of human nature. It suggests that conflict and confrontation are part of human nature and that war is simply an extension of that nature.
  4. War as a continuation of politics: This theory is similar to that proposed by Clausewitz, according to which war is a continuation of politics by other means. In this case, war is seen as a political tool used to achieve political objectives.

It is important to note that these theories are not mutually exclusive and that they may all play a role in the origin of war in primitive societies.

War and peace: a legal issue and one of international governance[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Law of War or the Law of The Hague[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648, marked the end of the Thirty Years' War in Europe. It also laid the foundations for the modern international system of sovereign states. The treaty recognised that each state had the right to govern its territory without outside interference, an idea that is now fundamental to international law.

The "Law of the Hague" refers to a series of international conventions that were negotiated at The Hague in the Netherlands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These conventions established rules for the conduct of warfare, including the treatment of prisoners of war and the protection of civilians. They form an important part of international humanitarian law.

Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 was considered a flagrant breach of the rules of war, as it was launched without a prior declaration of war. The attack led to the United States' entry into the Second World War. Subsequently, at the Tokyo Trials (the Pacific equivalent of the Nuremberg Trials), several Japanese leaders and military personnel were convicted of war crimes committed during the war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor.

International humanitarian law (IHL), often referred to as the law of war, lays down specific rules to be observed in wartime. It defines what is permitted and what is prohibited during armed conflict, regardless of the motive for the conflict. Here are some of the main obligations:

  • Distinction: parties to a conflict must always distinguish between combatants and civilians. Attacks may only be directed against combatants and military objectives, never against civilians or civilian objects.
  • Proportionality: even in the case of a legitimate attack against a military target, it is prohibited to launch an attack which could cause excessive civilian casualties in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
  • Precaution: all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid or minimise civilian casualties in an attack against a military target.

IHL also offers special protection to persons who are not, or are no longer, taking part in hostilities, such as prisoners of war and the wounded. They have the right to be treated humanely, without discrimination. It is important to note that IHL applies to all parties to a conflict, regardless of the motive for the conflict or whether it is considered "just" or "unjust".

International humanitarian law (IHL) sets limits on the conduct of war and provides for sanctions against those who break these rules. For example, IHL explicitly prohibits the use of chemical or biological weapons, the use of bullets that expand or deform easily in the human body, and any attack that would cause excessive damage to civilians or the natural environment. In addition, countries that violate these rules can be held accountable for their actions. This may involve economic sanctions, diplomatic restrictions or even legal action. Individuals can also be held responsible for their actions during armed conflict and can be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. The United Nations Security Council plays an important role in the application of IHL. It has the power to impose sanctions, recommend military action and refer cases to the International Criminal Court for investigation and prosecution.

International humanitarian law or Geneva law[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

International humanitarian law (IHL), often referred to as Geneva law, aims primarily to protect people who are not, or are no longer, taking part in hostilities, including civilians, the wounded, the sick and prisoners of war. It also aims to restrict the use of certain methods and means of warfare. It derives mainly from the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols, which laid down rules for the protection of non-combatants in wartime. For example, the Geneva Conventions lay down rules for the treatment of prisoners of war, prohibit the use of torture, and protect civilians in the event of military occupation. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) plays an essential role in the promotion and application of IHL. It is partly thanks to the initiative of this organisation that IHL exists today.

Distinctions between civilians and combatants, and between combatants and prisoners of war, are key elements of international humanitarian law. These distinctions are essential to protect people who are not (or are no longer) taking a direct part in hostilities.

  • Combatants are members of the armed forces of a party to a conflict who take a direct part in hostilities. Combatants have the right to take a direct part in hostilities, which means that they cannot be prosecuted for taking part in the fighting. However, they are also legitimate targets for the other side.
  • Civilians are people who are not taking a direct part in hostilities. They are protected from attack unless and until they take a direct part in hostilities.
  • Prisoners of war are combatants who have been captured by the enemy. They are entitled to a number of protections under the Third Geneva Convention, including the right not to be tortured, the right to correspond with their families, and the right not to be prosecuted for taking a legitimate part in hostilities.

Respect for these distinctions is essential to reduce unnecessary suffering in wartime.

In theory, the end of a war is often determined by a peace treaty or ceasefire agreement, but there is no precise international legal framework governing how a conflict should end. The notion of "jus post bellum", or law after war, is an emerging concept in international law that seeks to establish ethical and legal principles for the transition from war to peace. It includes issues such as the responsibility to rebuild after conflict, the prosecution and punishment of war crimes, and the restoration of human rights and the rule of law. The idea is to ensure a just and sustainable transition to peace, while taking into account the rights of victims and the needs of post-conflict societies. However, in 2023, there is still no international consensus on what "jus post bellum" should be, and it remains an active area of research and debate.

There are two fundamental concepts that underpin the whole governance of international security and international law.

Universality suggests that certain norms and principles are applicable to all, regardless of culture, religion, ethnicity, nationality, etc. This is particularly relevant to human rights and international humanitarian law. This is particularly relevant to human rights, which are considered universal and inalienable.

The idea of humanity means that all human beings belong to a global community and share a certain dignity and fundamental rights. It also means that certain acts are so grave and inhuman that they constitute an attack on the human community as a whole. These acts may include genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and torture.

These concepts provide a basis for international humanitarian law, which protects individuals in times of war, and international criminal law, which allows for the prosecution and conviction of individuals responsible for serious violations of these norms.

After the First World War, the League of Nations was created with the aim of maintaining international peace and security by promoting dialogue and cooperation between nations. However, the inability of the League of Nations to prevent the Second World War led to its dissolution and the creation of the United Nations (UN) in 1945. The UN, with its Security Council, has become the principal institution for resolving conflicts and promoting peace on an international scale. The Security Council is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, and has the power to take legally binding decisions. The concepts of peacekeeping and peacemaking have also been introduced. UN peacekeeping operations involve the deployment of troops, military observers or civilian police to help maintain peace and security in conflict zones. Peacemaking, on the other hand, aims to resolve conflicts through mediation, negotiation and other peaceful means. These initiatives and institutions, although sometimes criticised for their ineffectiveness or lack of coercive power, represent important efforts to promote universality and humanity in the international system.

The partisan wars: a new reality[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This type of warfare is often a response to a superior military force, where conventional forces could not effectively oppose the enemy. Partisans often have the advantage of terrain and local knowledge, which enables them to move and hide effectively. However, their actions can also lead to severe reprisals against civilian populations by the forces they are fighting. Partisan warfare is characterised by guerrilla tactics based on in-depth knowledge of the terrain, mobility, surprise and initiative. Compared with conventional forces, partisans do not fight to hold positions or control territory, but rather to disorganise, harass and weaken the enemy.

Tactics used in partisan warfare may include:

  1. Burst attacks: Partisans launch rapid and sudden attacks against the enemy, often from hidden positions, then withdraw quickly before the enemy can react effectively.
  2. Ambushes: Partisans can set traps for the enemy, using terrain and surprise to inflict maximum casualties.
  3. Sabotage: Partisans can target the enemy's infrastructure, such as lines of communication, ammunition depots, transport routes, etc., to disrupt its operations.
  4. Intelligence gathering: Partisans can gather information on enemy movements and intentions and pass it on to allies.

These tactics, combined with the advantage that partisans often have in terms of local support and knowledge of the terrain, can enable them to wage an effective war against a larger, better-equipped enemy force.

Notable examples of partisan warfare include the French resistance against German occupation during the Second World War, Vietnamese guerrilla warfare during the Vietnam War, and resistance movements in Afghanistan against Soviet and then American occupation. Partisan warfare is generally characterised by its asymmetry, i.e. the fact that the forces involved are not equivalent in terms of military capabilities. This forces the partisans to resort to unconventional tactics to compensate for their numerical or technological inferiority.

Partisan warfare has transformed the nature of armed conflict, shifting the focus from the state to the individual or non-state groups. This represents a major change in the way war is conceptualised and fought. In traditional conflicts, war was often understood as a confrontation between states, with regular armies led by commanders-in-chief, fighting on well-defined battlefields. This has changed with the emergence of partisan warfare, where small groups or individuals, often without a centralised command, carry out irregular and dispersed attacks. This has led to significant changes in military strategies, requiring more focused thinking on how to deal with non-state and often mobile targets, as well as how to manage local populations and territory. It has also raised questions about the rules and norms that govern conduct in wartime, as partisan conflicts often do not fit easily into the framework of the traditional laws of war. Moreover, the emergence of partisan warfare has also changed the nature of power and politics in war. Partisans can often mobilise local support in ways that regular armed forces cannot, allowing them to exert significant political influence, even if they do not formally control a territory or state.

A novelty: partisan warfare[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The term "partisan" is often used to describe a person who chooses to take up arms and fight for a specific cause, outside the structure of a regular or official army.

In the context of war or conflict, partisans are usually associated with resistance groups or guerrilla movements. They are often motivated by ideological, political, religious or nationalist convictions, and may choose to fight for a variety of reasons, whether in defence of their community, resistance to foreign occupation, revolt against an oppressive regime, or promotion of a specific cause.

Partisans generally use asymmetrical warfare tactics, including guerrilla warfare, sabotage, espionage and other forms of unconventional warfare. Because they are not part of a regular army, they are not generally protected by the same conventions and laws that govern the behaviour of soldiers in wartime, which can sometimes lead to controversy over their rights and protections under international humanitarian law.

Aymon de Gingins-La-Sarraz (1823 - 1893): pioneer of partisan warfare[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Charles-Jules Guiguer de Prangins, better known by his pseudonym Gingins-La Sarraz, was a Swiss officer who made a major contribution to the development of Switzerland's defensive strategy in the 19th century.

In his book "La guerre défensive en Suisse", Gingins-La Sarraz put forward the idea that Switzerland, because of its geographical location, mountainous terrain and policy of neutrality, should concentrate on developing a solid defence strategy rather than projecting military force outside its borders. This approach, he argued, would ensure that Swiss neutrality was maintained in the face of the expansionist ambitions of the great European powers of the day.

A central part of this defence strategy was the idea of training and mobilising supporters in the event of foreign aggression. These partisans, who would be ordinary citizens trained in combat and survival, would constitute a resistance force capable of harassing and disrupting the invading forces, thus making the occupation of Switzerland too costly and difficult to achieve. This strategy is based on the idea that the defence of Switzerland rests not only with its regular army, but also with its population as a whole, reflecting the principles of direct democracy and the militia that lie at the heart of Swiss politics.

Gingins-La Sarraz suggested the following principle for the defence of Switzerland. In addition to the regular army, the use of partisans - citizens trained in guerrilla tactics and capable of rapid mobilisation - would strengthen the country's defensive capabilities. These partisans could fill the gaps in the numbers and flexibility of the regular forces. In a war situation, they could harass the enemy, disrupt their lines of communication and supply, and carry out guerrilla attacks that would make any foreign occupation difficult and costly. Moreover, by being integrated into the population, these partisans would make it difficult for the enemy to distinguish between civilians and combatants, adding another layer of complexity to any invasion attempt. It's a strategy that reflects Swiss pragmatism and the importance it places on neutrality and national security.

Partisan warfare is often a strategy of resistance in the face of foreign occupation or invasion. Irregular groups, or partisans, are typically civilians who have taken up arms to resist an outside force. They often use guerrilla tactics, including sabotage, ambushes, raids and surprise attacks, which can be extremely effective against a conventional invading force. These supporters are often able to mobilise quickly and blend in with the civilian population after carrying out an attack, making it difficult for the enemy to target them. In addition, their local knowledge of the terrain and the population can be a major advantage in the fight against an invading force.

Carl Schmitt (1888 - 1985): the theorisation of partisan warfare[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Schmitt advised the von Papen government (left) and Schleicher (right) on the constitutional issue.

Carl Schmitt (1888-1985) was a German jurist and political philosopher, widely known for his contribution to political and legal theory. However, he is a controversial figure because of his affiliation with the Nazi party during the 1930s. Schmitt joined the Nazi party in 1933 and served in several high-level positions under the Nazi regime, including as legal adviser to the Foreign Office. Schmitt is best known for his work on the concept of the 'political enemy', which he defines as any entity or group that poses an existential threat to a state or nation. He also developed the theory of the state of exception, according to which the sovereign has the power to suspend the law in times of crisis. Despite his collaboration with the Nazi regime, Schmitt's work continued to exert a significant influence on political and legal studies after the Second World War.

In his essay "The Theory of the Partisan" (1962), Carl Schmitt examines the changes in the nature of war over time. He argues that modern warfare is largely fought by irregular groups, or 'partisans', rather than by regular armies. According to Schmitt, this change was strikingly illustrated in the Spanish War of Independence (also known as the Peninsular War) against Napoleon's French occupation in the early nineteenth century. The Spanish used guerrilla tactics to resist the French invasion, demonstrating the effectiveness of this type of combat. He considers that partisan warfare is not simply a tactic of military resistance, but that it also represents a form of political combat. Partisans, he argued, were deeply rooted in their territory and local population, and were therefore capable of prolonged resistance against an invader. Schmitt predicted that this form of warfare would become the norm in the modern world. He argues that partisan warfare challenges the idea of state sovereignty and reshapes the very nature of war.

Carl Schmitt's theory of the partisan is revolutionary in that it shifts the focus from interstate warfare to irregular warfare waged by non-state groups. These groups, or partisans, are motivated by strong ideologies and are capable of operating independently of the state apparatus. This transformation of the actors in conflict has important implications for the way wars are fought and, ultimately, for the nature of the international political order. Schmitt predicted that modern conflict would be marked primarily by irregular fighting by partisan groups, a prediction that seems to have been validated by the evolution of conflict in the twenty-first century, with the rise of non-state groups such as terrorist movements and militias. The partisan, according to Schmitt, is defined by three main characteristics: its mobility (it can move quickly and operate outside traditional structures), its combat intensity (it is motivated by an ideology or a cause) and its dependence on the local population (for support and information). These traits make the partisan a formidable player on the modern battlefield.

The concept of revolutionary wars[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Revolutionary wars, or wars of insurrection, refer to conflicts in which a population rises up against a dominant power, often with the aim of achieving independence or regime change. These wars are distinguished by the fact that they generally involve the broad participation of the civilian population, and are often waged by unconventional armed groups or partisans.

The Second World War saw the emergence of various resistance movements that fought the Nazi occupation in several European countries. These resistance movements were generally made up of armed civilians who used guerrilla tactics to disrupt and weaken the German war effort. After the Second World War, several national liberation movements adopted similar tactics in their fight against colonialism. For example, the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) in Algeria waged a war of insurrection against the French colonial government that eventually led to Algerian independence in 1962. Similarly, in Egypt, Egyptian nationalists fought for independence from British rule. These revolutionary wars highlighted the important role that partisans and unconventional groups can play in the conduct of modern warfare, a subject explored extensively in Carl Schmitt's theory of the partisan.

Partisan warfare, also known as guerrilla warfare or asymmetric warfare, has a number of distinctive features.

  • No uniform: Partisans are often civilians and have no official uniform. This allows them to blend in with the civilian population, making it difficult for the enemy to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.
  • Strong ideology: Partisans are generally motivated by a strong ideology or cause, such as national liberation, opposition to oppression or the overthrow of a government.
  • Asymmetric warfare: Unlike traditional conflicts, partisans often do not have access to the same military resources as their opponents. They are generally less numerous, less well equipped and less well trained than regular forces. However, they use this asymmetry to their advantage by resorting to unconventional tactics.
  • Guile and surprise: Partisans rely heavily on the element of surprise. They conduct raids, ambushes and guerrilla attacks, then withdraw quickly before enemy forces can strike back effectively.
  • Extreme mobility: Partisans are often highly mobile, able to move quickly and strike unpredictably. This contrasts with traditional forces, which may be slower to move due to their size and equipment.

These characteristics make partisan warfare distinct from more traditional forms of conflict, and present unique challenges to the conventional forces attempting to combat them.

The notion of "revolutionary warfare" is closely linked to the thinking of Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong. For Mao, revolution had to be led by a combination of political and military action. He declared that "political revolution is the primary act; military revolution is a secondary act". This means that victory cannot be achieved by military means alone; political change must also take place. Mao also advocated a guerrilla strategy as a means of fighting a stronger and better equipped enemy. Guerrilla warfare, according to Mao, had to melt into the population like a "fish in water", using the local population as a source of support and recruitment. He advocated the use of guerrilla warfare not only in rural areas, but also in urban areas.

In the 1960s and 1970s, some revolutionary groups tried to apply these ideas to their own struggles. This often involved a transition to urban guerrilla warfare, with fighting taking place on city streets rather than in rural areas. A notable example of this is the struggle waged by the Tupamaros in Uruguay. One notable example of the failure of partisan warfare was Ernesto "Che" Guevara's attempt to bring about a revolution in Bolivia. Despite his experience of guerrilla warfare in Cuba, Guevara found it difficult to win the support of the local population in Bolivia and to maintain the cohesion of his own forces. He was captured and executed by the Bolivian army in 1967.

Contemporary wars: new issues and realities[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

New impacts[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The current impact of modern warfare on the Westphalian system[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The nature of warfare has evolved considerably since the establishment of the Westphalian system in the 17th century. This system, named after the Treaties of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years' War in Europe, was based on the concept of the sovereignty of nation-states and provided that conflicts would primarily be wars between states. However, the nature of conflict in the contemporary world has changed radically. We are seeing more and more civil wars, ethnic and religious conflicts, terrorism and partisan wars. These conflicts are not necessarily limited to a single state and can involve a multitude of non-state actors. Moreover, with increasing globalisation, these conflicts often have repercussions far beyond their immediate geographical borders.

Some academics and theorists have described this as a return to a Hobbesian 'state of nature', where the international order is characterised by anarchy and perpetual war. However, it is important to note that this view is contested.

Hobbesian anarchy is a concept derived from the political theory of Thomas Hobbes, a 17th-century English philosopher. In his major work, "Leviathan", Hobbes describes the state of nature as a state of war between all against all, where each individual is in a constant struggle for survival. He used this concept to justify the need for a strong central power (Leviathan) to maintain peace and order. In the context of international relations, Hobbesian anarchy refers to a state of global disorder in which each state acts according to its own interests, without regard for the interests of others. It is a world without effective international institutions to regulate the behaviour of states, where war is a common means of resolving conflicts. The rise of non-state wars, international terrorism and partisan warfare, coupled with the apparent weakening of some international institutions, has led some to suggest that we could be heading towards such anarchy.

This is a major concern in the current context of international relations. While traditional inter-state conflicts, governed by the laws of war, are declining, we are witnessing an increase in non-state and asymmetric conflicts. These conflicts often involve non-state actors, such as terrorist groups or militias, and often take place within the borders of a single country. These wars tend to be far more destructive for civilian populations, as they are often fought without respect for international laws and standards that are designed to protect civilians in times of war. In addition, these conflicts can often be more difficult to resolve, as they often involve complex local issues and are less likely to be influenced by international pressure. These trends have led to renewed debate about the need to reform the international system to better manage these types of conflicts. This could involve rethinking existing norms and institutions, strengthening international humanitarian law, and developing new approaches to resolving conflicts and promoting peace.

The state of perpetual war: a critical analysis[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The impact of armed conflict on the environment is a growing concern. Indeed, wars can result in massive destruction of the natural environment, whether through deliberate military tactics or simply through the collateral effects of combat. Examples of this include deforestation, water and soil pollution, destruction of wildlife habitats, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the environmental consequences of conflict can also have impacts on human health, the economy and social stability, creating a vicious circle where environmental degradation fuels further conflict. The United Nations and other international organisations have recognised this as a serious problem. There is a growing call to include environmental protection in international humanitarian law and to hold parties to conflict accountable for environmental damage caused during war. However, implementing such measures remains a major challenge.

The use of the natural environment as a 'weapon' in conflict is a matter of grave concern. Ecocide, or the deliberate destruction of the environment for strategic or tactical gain, is a reality in some contemporary conflicts. For example, the deliberate burning of oil wells, the destruction of dams to cause flooding, or the use of toxic chemicals can have disastrous consequences for the environment. These acts of ecocide not only aim to weaken the enemy by destroying its resources, but can also have a long-term impact on local communities by destroying their livelihoods and rendering their habitats uninhabitable.

The destruction of natural or economic resources is a strategy that has been used in various conflicts throughout history. By eliminating an opponent's resources, you can weaken their ability to fight or survive. This may involve destroying key infrastructure, such as bridges or factories, burning crop fields to deprive the enemy of food, or poisoning water to make an area inhospitable. However, this approach has major negative consequences. It can cause great suffering to the civilian population, who are often the hardest hit by the destruction of essential resources. It can also cause long-term environmental damage that will last long after the conflict has ended. This is why international humanitarian law establishes rules to protect civilian resources in times of war. For example, the Geneva Convention prohibits attacks on objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. This includes food, crops, livestock and drinking water. Violations of these rules can be considered war crimes.

The destruction of the enemy's culture is also a sad reality of some conflicts, an act often known as "cultural cleansing" or "cultural genocide". This involves erasing the enemy's cultural identity by targeting elements such as art, literature, monuments, places of worship, religious practices and even languages. By destroying the enemy's cultural symbols and heritage, the aggressor seeks not only to disorientate and dehumanise his adversaries, but also to erase their history and presence from the collective memory. This practice is widely condemned by the international community, and the deliberate destruction of cultural heritage is considered a war crime by the International Criminal Court. For example, in 2016, the International Criminal Court convicted Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi for the destruction of historical and religious monuments in Timbuktu, Mali, in 2012. That said, although these laws exist, their implementation and enforcement remain a major challenge, particularly in areas of active conflict.

Endless wars: protracted conflicts and their consequences[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

War was exceptional and peace normal, which leads us to wonder whether war is becoming normal and peace extraordinary. In certain contexts, particularly in regions that have experienced prolonged conflict, war can seem to be the norm and peace the exception. This can be due to a multitude of factors, including entrenched ethnic or religious conflicts, competition for resources, political corruption, socio-economic divisions and foreign interference. Moreover, in some cases, existing power structures may be reinforced by the continuation of the conflict, making it all the more difficult to resolve the war.

Endless wars" can lead to the creation of so-called "war economies". These economies are often dominated by illegal or unregulated activities, including drug trafficking, arms trafficking, human trafficking and other forms of organised crime. These activities can provide income to those involved in the conflict, enabling them to continue fighting despite the enormous human and social costs. In addition, the situation of "endless war" can lead to a breakdown in the rule of law and governance, which in turn can facilitate the continuation of these illegal activities. This makes the resolution of these conflicts particularly difficult, as the actors involved may have financial interests in maintaining the status quo. Furthermore, these conflicts can make peace almost impossible to achieve, as it can be difficult to find legitimate interlocutors with whom to negotiate an end to the conflict.

The example of Iraq is representative of these "endless wars". Since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990, which led to the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq has experienced a series of conflicts and periods of instability. After the Gulf War, Iraq was subjected to severe international sanctions and internal instability. Then, in 2003, a US-led coalition invaded Iraq, overthrowing Saddam Hussein's regime. However, instead of bringing stability, the invasion created a power vacuum that led to a new wave of violence and instability, including a violent insurgency and the emergence of extremist groups such as the Islamic State. Even after the defeat of the Islamic State, Iraq continues to face major challenges, including political instability, corruption, economic underdevelopment and community tensions. These problems, in turn, can fuel new conflicts. In this context, peace may seem a distant and elusive goal. However, it is important to note that peace is not simply the absence of war, but also requires the building of strong institutions, the establishment of justice, the promotion of economic development and reconciliation between different communities. These are difficult tasks that require time, resources and the sustained commitment of all concerned.

Towards a new political theory of war - Michael Walzer (1935 - )[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Michael Walzer.

Michael Walzer is an American political scientist and philosopher well known for his work in political philosophy and ethics. In his book "Just and Unjust Wars", he explored the ethical question of when and how it is justifiable to go to war, and how a war should be fought to be considered "just". Michael Walzer is one of the main theorists of the legalistic paradigm. Unlike Hobbes, who saw the state of nature as a state of war and peace as the result of a social contract, Walzer relies on a set of international norms and moral principles to assess the justness of a war. He takes up some of Hobbes' concepts, such as the idea that states have a responsibility to protect their citizens, but he goes further by asserting that states also have an obligation to respect the rights of the citizens of other states, even in times of war. Walzer stresses the importance of principles such as the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, the proportionality of the use of force, and military necessity. In his view, these principles must be respected if a war is to be considered just, whatever the reasons for starting it. This is a legalistic framework, as it is based on a set of rules and norms that must be respected.

Walzer adopted what he called a 'legalistic' or 'jus in bello' (law in war) approach, based on principles such as respect for the rights of non-combatants, the proportionality of the force used, military necessity and the fact that armed forces must distinguish between combatants and civilians. According to Walzer, a war is only justified if it is waged in accordance with these principles. He also defends the concept of "jus ad bellum" (the right to war), which examines the rightness of going to war. According to this concept, a war is only justified if it is waged to resist aggression, protect the innocent, defend human rights, etc. Walzer also discussed the notion of the 'just war', an idea that goes back to Saint Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. According to this notion, a war is just if it is waged for just reasons and in a just manner.

Michael Walzer, in his book Just and Unjust Wars, argues that even in the extreme situation of war, moral and ethical rules apply. War, he argues, is not a state of moral anarchy. On the contrary, he argues that behaviour in war can and should be judged by moral standards. Indeed, he argues that even if war is an exceptional situation, this does not mean that it is devoid of all moral or ethical standards. A just war is a controlled war, a war fought by legal combatants. So he distinguishes between a just war, which respects certain rules, and an unjust war, which does not. For him, a just war is one where the cause is just (for example, defence against aggression), where the combatants are legitimate actors (soldiers of a state), where the force used is proportional and necessary, and where a distinction is made between combatants and non-combatants, the latter being protected from attack. He emphasises that although war is a violent and destructive reality, there are limits to what is permitted in war. This does not mean that there is anything fundamentally moral in the concept of war, but rather that even in war, certain actions can be deemed immoral.

Michael Walzer seeks to understand how moral standards can be applied in situations of war, which are inherently violent and destructive. His central concern is to determine whether and how certain actions can be deemed moral or immoral in wartime. In his view, even in the context of war, there are moral limits to what is permissible. For example, it is generally considered immoral to intentionally target non-combatants. Similarly, the disproportionate use of force is also considered immoral. For Walzer, the morality of war does not lie in waging war per se, but rather in the way in which war is waged. In other words, it is not the wars themselves that can be moral or immoral, but the specific actions taken in the course of these wars.

Michael Walzer argues that there can be morality in war if it is waged defensively against aggression, respects the principles of discrimination (i.e. does not deliberately target non-combatants) and proportionality (i.e. uses a level of force commensurate with the threat), and is waged by combatants who respect the laws of war. He argues that although war is intrinsically destructive and violent, it can be conducted in a way that respects certain moral principles. For example, not using weapons of mass destruction, not deliberately targeting civilians and not resorting to torture are behaviours that Walzer considers morally justified, even in wartime. However, Walzer does not see these behaviours as transforming war into a moral enterprise in itself. On the contrary, it is more a question of limiting the harm that war can cause.

Terrorism represents a major challenge to the idea of just war and to the principles of morality in war. By its very nature, terrorism generally involves indiscriminate attacks on innocent civilians, with the aim of instilling fear and disrupting society. Such tactics directly contravene the principles of discrimination and proportionality that underpin just war theory. The deliberate use of violence against civilians for political purposes is widely regarded as immoral and unacceptable by international standards. Moreover, terrorism is often perpetrated by non-state actors who are not clearly identifiable as combatants, blurring traditional distinctions between combatants and non-combatants and making it difficult to apply the laws of war. The response to terrorism also poses ethical and moral challenges. For example, how can governments effectively protect their citizens from terrorism while respecting human rights and the principles of the rule of law? How acceptable is it to restrict civil liberties in order to prevent terrorism? These questions have no easy answers and represent an area of continuing debate and discord in international relations and political theory.

Michael Walzer's theory attempts to answer the question of when it is morally acceptable to wage war and how it should be conducted in a morally acceptable manner. He argues that even in a context as violent and complex as war, moral and ethical rules must be applied. According to Walzer, there are cases where war can be justified, usually in response to unprovoked aggression. Furthermore, he argues that combatants must abide by certain rules of conduct in war. For example, it argues that attacks should only be directed against legitimate military targets, and not against civilians. In this context, Walzer's "legalist paradigm" is a call for a return to politics in the conduct of war. He argues that decisions about war and peace must be taken on the basis of political and moral principles, and not simply in response to strategic or security imperatives. Thus, although war may be amoral in nature, Walzer insists that we can and must strive to impose a certain morality on it. According to Walzer, even if war is a terrifying and devastating reality, it is necessary to apply ethical and political standards to guide its conduct. This is what he means by the "return of the political" - a call for moral and ethical considerations to be taken into account in war decisions.

Philippe Delmas is a French strategist and author who has written on various aspects of war and international politics. In his book "Le Bel Avenir de la Guerre", he suggests that war is an inevitable and even necessary aspect of world order, and that the idea of a world without war is not only unrealistic, but may even be damaging. Delmas challenges some of the basic assumptions underlying just war theory and the legalistic paradigm in general. He suggests that the effort to frame war with strict rules and regulations is a futile and potentially counterproductive attempt to domesticate a brutal and chaotic reality. According to Delmas, war has intrinsic political value and can act as a catalyst for significant political, social and economic change. In this sense, he offers a much more cynical and realistic view of war than that often associated with thinkers such as Michael Walzer.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]