The Ethics of War and Peace Summary

Chapter 1 – War and Peace

Peace Dividend: After the Cold War was over general tough of Peace Full Era which aims to increase aid to reduce world poverty.

Critics: Short lived thoughts- Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Border conflicts with India and Pakistan, increasing amount nuclear capable countries.

Page 1

Just war tradition:

  •   Morally right to go war
  •   Just cause (Not for gain or power but restore wrong)
  •   Legitimate authority ( State)
  •   Last resort
  •   Rules of fighting ( Take care prisoners/ non killing civilians/

Destroy the army not the nation) Above mentioned equals to and make Rules of War.

Question: With modern weapons (missiles, nukes) is there distinction between combat/non-combat troops?

Author states that moral reasoning and principles are applicable in different times & places. Page 2-4.

War is only: Carried out by political unites which is organized violence towards other political units.

Falklands/Malvinas war. Britain sent a force to ejec the Argentinians who had taken over the islands. Neither side declared war yet it was clearly war in sense of highly organized violence with political goal.

Page 4-5

Peace: Peace is a relationship between different parties- usually nation-states or equivalent units.

Negative Peace: Absence of war. Two groups are willing to use violence against each other but currently can’t.

Positive Peace: Groups are unwilling to carry out violence against each other. Liberal Peace: Influenced by western believes.

  • –  Liberal Peace: Institutional (int’l governance & guarantees)
  • –  Constitutional (democracy & free trade)
  • –  Civil (freedoms and rights)
  • –  But also, Victor’s peaceEthics of warRealism: There are ethnical relations between states, partys or between human beings as such therefore they declare war as and when it suited their interests regardless having just cause.Pacifism:Liberalism: Non-governmental & Governmental bodies will start from low politics( sports) to get to high politics ( Against terrorism). Work on low to get high and that’s how you build trust.Structuralism: Absence of structural violenceConstructivism: Change ideas of people & states. Changes behavior. Lead cooperation and change.

    Post-structuralism: Replacement of dominant structure international disputes can and should be peacefully resolved and rejection of the use of physical violence to obtain political, economic or social goals, the obliteration of force, and opposition to violence under any circumstance, even defense of self and others.

Cosmopolitanism: ideology that all human beings belong to a single community, based on a shared morality, economical relationship and political structure. Idea of form of relationship of mutual respect.

Chapter 2 – Realism and Militarism

REALISM on war

  • –  You should pursue your own interests in your foreign policy – AKA if going to war will benefityou, it is the right thing to do. “… that suits one’s interests, or whatever.” (p.29) – This is one of the more extreme ends in realism, since most realists are guided by moral rules (to different extents) this leads us to Just War
  • –  Just War – you need a moral basis for your foreign policy and war (ius ad bellum, ius in bello, ius post bello). To promote your national interest or “moralism/idealism”, that is spreading your culture and values (Christianity, democracy or stopping communism).
  • –  War is a necessity – a means to an end, not glorious in itself
  • –  Peace is highly desirable, but it is a condition that must be upset if national interest requires it
  • –  Realists do not accept crimes against humanity, such as rape, because they don’t consider them tobe included in waging war. The bombing of civilians is also frowned upon, but if it is deemed necessary it’s accepted.
  • –  Peace is the absence of violence, but not the threat (neg. peace)SOURCES of the realist approach
  • –  Hobbes pointed out how citizens of a state come together to secure them from the outside world,and how the international arena is a filled with anarchism and every state fights for themselves against other selfish states that are jealous of your sovereignty. (maybe the UN could be considered as a world authority that makes the world less anarchistic?)
  • –  This type of international skepticism also stems from the fact that there is no universal morality, cultures etc. One is responsible for his actions towards members of his own society, but not those outside it, there is no functioning global community.
  • –  Even though anarchy and general lack for international agreements are a part of realistic foreign policy, one must remember that states do often find it beneficial to be thought well of by other states.
  • –  States exist in a fragile international environment, where their duty lies with their nationals.A realist would during peace time work together with other states to promote common goals and values, but if it is not in the states best interest they could break treaties and moral codes to pursue a better end.MilitarismMilitarism is often combined with Realism when talking about just war, because both think that there are no constraints in war. But it is “a serious mistake to think of realism as either being or entailing militarism”
  • –  Militarism is often associated with the rise of fascism like Mussolini in Italy.
  • –  Militarists are prone to go to war, because war is perceived as a positive thing in it self. It makesmen out of men and creates unity, to name few positive things.Critique on Realism

States are nowadays more intertwined than what they were when Hobbesianism started. With the UN, International Criminal Court, International Law etc. So is realism actual anymore in a Global world? Anarchism between states has lessened, so maybe realism is not as prevalent today.

Globalisation is often used as a counter argument against Realism, because nowadays our identity and community is much more than our village or church, our identities are shifting more towards a global identity, in which we include people of other nationalities and care about them as much as our own.


Chapter 3 – Internationalism and Cosmopolitanism 

  1. Internationalism

– Origin: Peace of Westphalia 1648: formalized what is called the international system or nation-state system.

– It was grounded in the “natural law” thinking of the Christian Church. A universal conception of human well-being. Rules of morality derive from it.

– Legitimate use of force to maintain social order is not violence. Illegitimate use of force IS violence.

  • The main elements of morality of the state (goals)
  • Preservation of the system or society of states themselves
  • Maintenance of the independence and external sovereignty of individual states
  • Maintenance and pursuit of peace
  • The common goals of social life

Other key ethical elements of the “morality of the states” approach

  • States alone have the right to engage in organized violence.
  • States have a right to wage war if they have a just cause
  • States have the duty to observe restrictions in the conduct of war
  • States have a duty to keep agreements (international law)
  • States have the duty not to harm other states, but have no duty in general to promote a global common good of individuals living in other states
  • Individual human beings are objects, not subjects, of international law and do not have rights against any state except perhaps their own.

First critic: Missing the status of the individual in the system (cosmopolitanism)

RATIONALITY (Internationalism): Preservation of the international ORDER of STATES.

United Nations Security Council has technically taken over the right to wage war on another state. Individual states retained only the right to self-defense.

  1. Cosmopolitanism

2.1 – The Setting

– “Citizens of the world”. Common humanity.

Old Greece: Stoics are citizens of the cosmos, not the polis.

2.2 Four dimensions of cosmopolitanism (generally pacifist)

  • Identifying, defining and applying a kind of global ethic.

1.1) moral rules in any part of the world

1.2) transnational obligations towards people in other parts of the world

2) Global ethics applied to nation States (IR) but also corporate bodies (transnational corporations), Global citizenship – NGO, international grass root movements, global civil society. Global oriented engagement in politics. Global Governance (UN)

2.3 What kind of a global ethic is a cosmopolitan ethic?

Ethical (Individual) Global citizenship as a commitment to global ethic or possessions of a universal moral status

Ethical (States) Ethics of international relations from a global ethics point of view, hence generally a critic of international relations

Institutional Global citizenship as embedded in global civil society, cosmopolitan democracy, global oriented citizenship, international human rights law, etc… Proposals for (new forms of) global governance, a new global political order, a new post-Westphalia order, stronger international institutions, cosmopolitan law, world government.

Other aspects:

Community is important for 2 reasons:

  • common values which apply to everyone in the community
  • members have an obligation towards one another

Modern Cosmopolitanism: a non-dogmatic cosmopolitanism focused primary in building institutions of peace, the conditions of development and the principle of respect for diversity of cultures. Support only a limited number of military activities.

  1. Difference between Cosmopolitanism and Internationalism


Cosmopolitanism: Have values and norms universally adopted. Promote conditions of the good life, social order through global governance. Conditions for Peace.

Internationalism: Peace through an orderly international system of states.

  • Would Cosmopolitanism limit war?

Just war only when:

  • political community threatened by other political community
  • human rights violations within territorial boundaries (need UNSC resolution)

Mostly in favor of a cosmopolitan military (UN blue helmets might be something similar)

Justifications of Cosmopolitanism

  • Kantianism – Global ethical order – “Perpetual peace” is needed for communities to flourish
  • Utilitarianism – Maximization of happiness – no respect for borders
  • Human Rights – natural law / natural rights theories

During Cold War – West (Liberty rights) VS East (Social Economic rights)

Acceptance of Universal Human rights.

Chapter 4 – War and Peace


The just war approach is a body of well established criteria of norms summarized as jus ad bellum and jus in bello (just war theory).

1. Jus ad bellum = The rightness/justice of going to war

Elements of Jus ad bellum:
-The war must be declared by a legitimate authority = an established government of a nation-state
-The war must be waged for a ‘just cause’ (such as self defence or rectifying an injustice).
-The war must be pursued with a right of intention – that aims should be morally acceptable (this may or may not be the same as just cause), to reestablish peace
-Waging war must be the last resort
-There must be a reasonable prospect of success in achieving the goal (otherwise it results in unnecessary suffering)
-The amount of good must overweigh the harm that is done in waging the war
-The war has to be possible to be fought according to Jus in bello principles.

2. Jus in bello = The rightness of the manner in which you conduct war (whom you attack, weapons used, etc)

Elements of Jus in bello:
-Discrimination: in warfare soldiers should only aim at enemy soldiers or combatants and not civilians. Nor should prisoners be attacked or mistreated.
-Proportionality: in any operation what is done should be judged as likely to do more good than harm.
– Weapons uses must be proportional (do not use nuclear weapons or do not use firearms against bow and arrow)

What is a just cause/What is the right intention/When is the limit for last resort reached?
– Many different types of ‘justification’ have been given for going to war. The question is ‘a just cause according to whom and what is considered as self defense?’

War only between legitimate authorities (states): what about actual grievance? (Anti-colonialism, anti-apartheid etc.)

These are moral restraints in warfare in regards to both going to war and how to fight a war.

From an internationalist point of view the society of states* is grounded in the right to sovereignty and the legitimacy of states using military force both to defend themselves and to defend the society of states itself when challenged by acts which threaten international security.

*A society of states comes into existence “when a group of states, conscious of certain common interests and common values, form a society in the sense that they conceive themselves to be bound by a common set of rules in their relations with one another, and share in the working of common institutions.” (Example: The UN)

The rules of war are seen as validated (true/verified) because they have come to be agreed and accepted, formally and informally by members of the society states (States who are members of the UN).

Cosmopolitans, depending on their values and reading of what is realistic in the world, will give different emphases and interpretations on what a just cause would be, what rules really are for the good and so on.
The point is that the rules and norms accepted by the states are, in principle, subject to criticism. This means that most cosmopolitans are more concerned with the relationship between human beings involved in war, rather than what in theory is agreed among states.

What is characteristic of many cosmopolitans is a conception of the world where peace is dominant and while organized violence (war) may sometimes be justified, in practice such occasions are rare.

Chapter 5 –  Pacifism, Nonviolence and the Way of Peace

Both pacifism & nonviolence have served to indicate ethical positions in which violence is rejected as a way of responding to violence.

Way of peace is used to indicate the general commitment to nonviolence as a way of living and acting generally, combined with a way of promoting whatever ethical causes one has, including the pacifist commitment to promoting peace.


  •   Renunciation of acts of violence (Physical violence, psychological, intended, unintended, threat of violence, controlling others, etc.).
  •   A commitment to nonviolence response to violence, oppression or injustice. To oneself or others.
  •   Two distinct features of approach: passive resistance (respond nonviolently in one’s immediate interaction with others when they attack but do nothing else) & direct nonviolent action (actively engaging with the world in order to help others who are subject to various forms of violence, including the injustices of systems)
  •   Nonviolentists are committed to play part on reducing the evils in the world.
  •   Commitment to the use of nonviolent ways of interacting with people, especiallythose with whom one disagrees.
  •   Dialogue, conflict resolution and real listening.
  •   Nonviolence is one of the most effective ways of combating injustice.
  •   In taking on an opponent in a nonviolent way one is showing respect for thatopponent: the opponent is seen as someone who is potentially willing to engage in dialogue and rational negotiation, not as someone to be killed, destroyed or crushed.Pacifism
  •   All waging of war is morally wrong, a.k.a. anti-warism.
  •   Accepts limited violence, such as in self-defense, defense of loved ones, or the threatof violence.
  •   General opposition against all use of killing force against others (humans and otherliving things too).
  •   Distinction between absolute pacifism and consequentialist pacifism;

o Consequentialist pacifism: strong form it rejects all war, since all wars are believed to have these negatives consequences; weak form rejects almost all wars, but accepts that there could be wars occasionally.

o Absolute pacifism: it is absolutely wrong, in the sense of being no exceptions, to fight or kill.

 Pacifism has a long history and has featured in all the major religions. Morality is about respecting human beings (including not trying to kill them)

Various reasons for anti-war pacifism (What’s wrong with fighting in wars)

  1. a)  Dehumanization and impersonality
    It involves the dehumanization of the soldiers who do the killing and the dehumanization of enemy soldiers. They’re trained to follow orders without question depriving soldiers from their autonomy.
  1. b)  Indiscriminateness
    Warfare undermines the right of not being arbitrarily attacked. Example: when a militaryperson releases bombs from an airplane, he has absolutely no idea just who he will kill or injure among the enemy soldiers.
    Take into account the collateral damage: civilians. The intention is to discriminate between civilians and military, but in practice we know that civilians are often collateral damage.
  2. c)  Anti-war pacifism and just war theory
    Discussion about accepting the just war thinking: even in theory, if some wars might be justified, if all the criteria are applied fully, no war turns out to be justified.

Critics to Pacifism:

Incoherence: some kind of contradiction based on the absolute right not to be attacked, but sometimes in order to protect that right is defending yourself by all necessary means, including the use of killing force.

Unacceptably high standards: Setting such a high ideal standard leads to more atrocities in war because in fighting soldiers have stepped over the moral line anyway.

Accusation of cowardice or unfair reliance on others: Pacifists are sometimes accused of being cowards in that they wish to escape from the dangers of fighting in wars, and in that, by trying to avoid fighting in wars, they are relying on others to protect them and not pulling their weight in regard to the common good.

The Way of Peace

It combines the nonviolence approach with pacifism. Someone who adopts the way of peace puts an emphasis on his or her own personal lifestyle and indeed on advocating this to others (mainly by example*).

*Living in a peaceful way, expressing the virtues of peace, preferring dialogue, listening to others, tolerating difference of view, seeing beyond a person’s acts and beliefs to the human being, etc.

Someone who lives the way of peace sees his or hers own lifestyle and that of others following it as contributing to peace.


Chapter 6 –  Peace and Pacificism

The negative conception of peace:

  • Absence of war/violence
  • “There is nothing in between war and peace” (Grotius): countries are either at war or they are in the state of peace

The positive conception of peace:

  • More than the absence of violence: Peace consist of harmonious relationships between individuals and groups

Middle ways:

  • The idea of peace as something that lies somewhere in between the extremes
  • Problem with thinking of it as the absence of war is that it seems simply to be a state we are in, something that happens rather than something which it itself the object of activity. Peace, however, is something we actively maintain if we have it and pursue if we don’t have it.
  • What makes peace valuable and something we should maintain, improve or achieve is: 1) it has qualities which are not necessarily present if we are simply not fighting 2) it is not merely short-term but durable (sustainable)
  • Hobbes: “war is not battle but a period of time in which there is a known disposition to battle; all other time is peace” -> real peace depends on the lack of threats or on a known disposition to hurl massive armaments at others, on mutual confidence, etc.
  • Peace – if it is to be really valuable and sustained – is not merely an absence but requires the active engagement of people (actively promoting the conditions of peace)

Jenkins’s account:

  • Jenkins argues that we tend to focus a lot of attention on the wrong topic (war) and ignore peace, which he characterizes as a “force, quality, a mode of existence that is a real feature of the human world rather than a mere absence”
  • In studying war we seek the avoidance of war. Jenkins argues this is not enough and it’s the wrong focus. Our goal should be to understand peace and its own dynamics.


  • A belief in the possibility of making peace a more durable and robust feature in human relationships, both locally and globally, and in its ethical desirability as something that ought – morally – to be the object of human endeavour.
  • Important to note: Pacificism is not the same as pacifism (we can talk of someone acting peacefully or non-violently in terms of his or her own behaviour and someone promoting peace and nonviolence) – > example: many war justifiers can also be pacificists, they believe that some wars are justified, but nevertheless they strive to make it less likely that wars will actually occur, and commend such striving as duty.
  • Religious Pacificism = “If everyone came to accept our religion, peace would ensue”
  • Pacificsm rejects militarism (war is inevitable and part of human nature). According to pacificists war is not inevitable and war is undesirable compared to peace.

Criticism of Pacificism:

The inevitably of war issue: Different interpretations of human nature and of how much or little change can be realistically expected. Some might argue that it is not possible to devise institutions and develop practises which could lead to complete elimination of war.

The ethical desirability issue: How serious is the duty to promote peace. It may be idealistic to expect individuals to accept obligations to promote peace in the world or to expect governments to make this a major commitment: The extent to which countries are at peace is largely a result of what they do themselves -> peace cannot be imposed from outside.


Chapter 7 – Modern Issues

Topics:     Nuclear Weapons, Modern Wars, Terrorism, Humanitarian Intervention

Nuclear Weapons

  • Used as mutual deterrents of war
    • If A used them against B, B would retaliate
      • A cannot defend against B’s nukes

→ A will not initiate a nuclear war as it would lead to mass destruction of A. The costs of war would be too high

MAD (mutually assured destruction) → used as defense against nuclear attack


  • Killing of innocent civilians → Genocide? (State terrorism?)
  • Threatening to kill the other is immoral → MAD is morally wrong
    • (even only using nukes for defensive reasons is immoral)


Innocent people die:

  • People of non-conflict states
  • Future generations (birth defects, etc.)
  • Biosphere (radiation → negative effect on plants, animals, future generations)

Contemporary Wars

  1. Intra-state (government vs non-gov, or non-gov vs non-gov)
    1. About state formation
    2. About state control
    3. Failed states – violence in absence of power (warlords in Somalia)
  2. Privatization War (with many non-state actors)
  3. Civilization of Casualties (civilians are targeted, atrocities against civilians are used as instruments to achieve the goal)
  4. Wars with no defined end point


  • Strong militaries fight weak ones (drones, nukes, vs ill equipped forces)

Pre-Modern Wars

  • Occurred only between states
    • Used diplomacy, international laws (distinction of combatants, agreed upon weapons, etc. )
  • Modern wars
    • Fought even by non-state forces → disregard for laws, regulations
  • Wars are fought “Outside of the agreed upon framework”


Realist – there is a need for state building

Internationalist – there is a need for better Global Governance

Cosmopolitans – there is a need to strengthen traditional civil society

  • Should want all of the above as all limit/eliminate war


  • Used to gain political, economic, social , religious goals
    • By threatening / using violence against civilians
      • Are they innocent? As a group they uphold certain values/ideas/views. As such, they can be seen as combatants
    • Is not bad because of its objectives or status
      • BUT because of its methods of goal achieval
        • Carpet bombing, nuclear attacks → State terrorism?

Humanitarian Intervention

  • “A forceful infringement of a state’s sovereignty in order to protect the fundamental human rights of those within its jurisdiction”
  • Violates sovereignty
  • Disrupts international order (by violation of sovereignty)
  • Provides a justification for militarism
  • Fails proportionality test


  • It’s okay if Just War Theory is applied (just cause, last resort, proportionality, probability of success)


  • Reject force
    • So far, no peaceful alternative to armed intervention has been implemented


  • Do anything to protect human rights.


  • Use any means, except force.


  • We arm our armies to defend ourselves / deter attacks
    • But an army causes threat to other states
      • Causes arms-race

Human Security

Security of:

  • Economy
  • Food
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Personal
  • Community
  • Political

We should change the importance of territorial security to people’s security.

Peace in International Relations – Oliver Richmond

Peace and the idealist tradition.

Towards a liberal peace.

Idealism and liberalism opposed realism to offer an ambitious, ethically oriented account of peace through liberal-internationalism and governance.


Idealist contribtions to the debate on peace: more ambitious than realism, more nuanced and pragmatic than often argued to be. Its legacy drew the discipline, and indeed policy, away from narrow and extreme forms of tragic realism, and instead offered rational approaches to the construction of a liberal peace.

Idealists called for:

  • disarmament,
  • outwaing of war,
  • adopted a positive view of human nature and
  • international capacity to cooperate, were
  • often accused of being unable to
    • focus on facts,
    • understand power, or
    • see the hegemonic dangers of uiversal claims (despite the fact that realism itself makes a universal claim of being able to expose objective truth).

Idealist thinking about IR rested upon various notions of internationalism and interdependence,

  • peace without war,
  • the hope that war could be eradicated eventually,
  • the right of self-determination of all citizens,
  • the possibility of world government or a world federation.

This means that peace could exist as not only an ideal form (which used to mean that it was therefore unlikely ever to exist at all) but instead that peace could be constructed, albeit in a reasonably limited, but cosmopolitan form.

  • Peace could be constructed by those who had the material resources and normative legitimacy. Indeed, the resources necessary for waging war could also now be transmuted into the creation of the new peace.


Early liberal thinking:

  • Locke focused on individualism and
  • Bentham on utilitarianism;
  • Adam Smith provided the foundations for the arguments for free trade and pacifism; and
  • Kant developed a republican internationalism.

The core liberal assumptions are of

  • universal rationality,
  • belief in progress,
  • individual liberty,
  • connected with the idealist possibility of
    • harmony and cooperation in domestic and international relations
    • need for enlightened, rational, legitimate domestic government and international governance.
  • checks and balances on otherwise unchecked power
  • self-determination and its problems would be the major architects of the new international system.

The liberal dilemma:

In order to attain an approximation of an idealist view of peace that would provide peoples and states with rights, security, prosperity, and lead to disarmament, there first has to be a suitable foundation (a clean slate –terra nullis– , a victory, and agreement, cease fire or treaty -> violence before peace).

By contrast to realism, liberal thinking represented a much more complex peace system requiring social, political and economic organization, across several levels of analysis.

In essence this version of peace (congress of Vienna) rested upon the capacity to intervene, or refrain from intervening, in the affairs of other states as well as cooperation in order to continue the pre-war notion of peace which the victors of the Napoleonic Wars had aspired to.

Self-determination aimed at constructing a just peace but instead, it underlined the impossibility of a type of justice built upon the redistribution of territory and sovereignty according to (ethno) national identity. Yet, it became the antidote to imperialism and colonialism.

Liberal peace:

  • set of common pragmatic elements and institutions. It required a
  • hegemon who would construct the peace in its image:
    • rights for all of its actors would be delineated, provided, enforced and patrolled,
    • according to a set of core values, based on
      • just war thinking,
      • self-determination and democracy,
      • international law and an embryonic form of human rights,
      • norms of cooperation and consent.

Realists scoffed that even this liberal version was a utopian peace, but in practice this is what the ‘long twentieth century’ gave rise to.

These liberal debates were effectively about domestic and international governance, and about which forms of governance might be the most peaceable and sustainable, untainted by war and self-interest.

By the founding of the UN, the liberal paradigm of top-down governance defining the limits of good behavior in a legitimate contract with citizens was now being widely adopted in IR theory as providing the underlying theory, ontology and epistemology of peace.

The tension between utopian hopes for an ideal form of peace in the future, liberal notions of limited and regulated freedoms, and realist concerns with the need for a strong security architecture are all part of the UN framework, as is immediately obvious from the UN Charter, and the roles of its institutions and agencies. Effectively, the liberal peace required governance at a global and local level, and this is what the UN was tasked to do, because of its universal membership and claims to represent universal norms, but of course without overriding the sovereignty of its member states.

This projection and consolidation of liberal values is exactly what the UN system was intended to do: both negotiate and represent a universal consensus for peace, as well as patrol it and fulfil the non-military tasks for its construction.

Common roots

Idealism, pluralism and liberalism

  • alternative and pragmatic approach to creating peace (in opposition to realism).
  • positive epistemology of peace as well as institutional support and normative concurrence, together with scientific proof (from pluralism)
  • creation of institutions and safeguards to protect key norms and to provide for individuals, so cementing a social contract which preserves the polity.

The international organization of sovereign states was central to the idealist agenda, though it was also recognized that the spirit of international organization (internationalism, democracy and trade) might be more important than an actual organization itself. Underpinning this is the optimistic argument that human nature is not intrinsically violent and, even if it is, social norms, regimes and organization can prevent violence.

Then came the nationalists: 2 aims:

  • conservatives -> preserve their wealth and power;
  • liberals -> become a civilizing mission.

These two aims combined in a tumultuous period during the 19th and 20th centuries, during which nationalism, imperialism and industrialization appeared to combine to offer a future, utopian peace in the minds of many – a new peace.

As a result both realist and liberal versions of peace coexisted somewhat uncomfortably in a space somewhere between nationalism, liberal imperialism and liberal-internationalism.

Much of the liberal and idealist thinking of the era (19-20th) revolved around the ‘restoration’ rather than creation of peace, framed in the context of preserving, perfecting and sharing a Western value system.

Norms, regimes, law and institutions were to be the reality of the new liberal version of peace, though in practice this was led by the dominant actors of the international system, and was based upon the Western and supposedly secular norms of the then imperial powers.

Idealist and liberals

  • war is of no interest to peoples who operated under the assumption of harmony and cooperation,
  • political pluralism, democracy and a broad distribution of rights an responsibility, are crucial to peace in IR.
  • contributions to thinking about peace: 3 conceptualisations:
  1. Most important: constitutional peace based on democracy, cosmopolitanism and free trade
  2. From human rights: civil peace which gave rights and agency to individuals (advocacy, campaigning, social movements, self-determination and democratization)
  3. Most ambitious: institutional peace through international frameworks, legal, normative and organizational (& international law)

Contribution of thinkers:

Adam Smith: the notion of ‘hidden hand’ that would build up irrevocable and peaceful connections between states also became part of the liberal agenda and peaceful connections between states also became part of the liberal agenda for peace through interdependence.

Locke, one of the fathers of modern liberalism, saw human reason as the key to controlling the state of nature.

Spinoza argued that ‘peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, and justice.’

Erasmus, for him war was to be avoided at all costs as it provided pretexts for crime, murder, brutality and self-interest.

Kant argued that war was brought about by the absence of an international rule and democracy, and that trade enabled peaceful relations. His stands of liberalism also gave rise to the contemporary ‘democratic peace’ thesis, as well as the concept of human rights. He also pointed to a significant problem inherent in these more idealist readings of peace: ‘peace’ might be used to disguise domination or hegemony. Kantian thinking represented an emerging cosmopolitan ethic forming the basis of a number of European peace projects.

Abbe de St-Pierre sought to establish a pragmatic process by which political relations in Europe were pacified. His idea (and of many other’s) is of a federal organization that would not intervene in the affairs of member states but would have intelligence and self-defense capacities, and would be able to militarily intervene in other states if it was necessary to preserve the peace. This is a consensual order between states mature enough to be able to see that cooperation was a viable expectation and that conflict le o more conflict. (liberalism & pacifism)

Penn made an important connection between peace and liberal governance (this has become the core assumption of the contemporary liberal-international order).

Thompson’s much later argument that idealism rested upon institutionalism as a way of changing people’s behavior, provided justice and the ability to distinguish between good and evil.

Tolstoy argued that pacifism and anarchism were intimately connected because the state was often the source of violence.

Wilson believed peace would be organized and enforced by a community of states. It would be a liberal peace in the image of the states that had imagined it, though he argued that this did not mean it was a victor’s peace or indeed that it was idealistic.

Wright argued that war was not an inevitable dimension of history and that peace represented an equilibrium of many different forces.

Mead saw war as a social invention.

Mitrany and his work on a ‘Working Peace System’ was indicative of liberal thought in that he saw what he called functional institutions as vital in contributing to a broader and sustainable peace in the international system. He argued that the development of international administration, constituted the system required for a sustained peace

Galtung provided liberal thinkers with an explicit statement on negative and positive peace. Indeed, his argument that a positive peace existed when structural violence was removed has been deployed to legitimate liberal approaches to peace


Pacifism is a strong underlying influence of idealist thinking, and also plays a moderate role in liberal thinking. In its most basic form pacifism is defined by opposition to war and other forms of violence. And this very definition has done much to discredit pacifism in IR because of its tendency towards and acceptance that violence is endemic.

Pacifism is closely

  • associated with idealist notions such as
    • internationalism,
    • anti-war and
    • disarmament sentiments,
  • advocating for international governance and, world government.
  • This displaced by liberal approaches which focus on
    • pluralism,
    • transnationalism,
    • human rights,
    • the rule of law,
    • the possibility of a form of global democracy, and
    • global governance.
  • associated with organize peace movements and civil society and actions
  • associated with conscientious objectors who refused to fight in particular wars (exception of WWII)
  • associated with the idealist development of a system of collective security

The key aims of pacifism have generally been to stop or prevent war through the creation of a climate favorable to peace, and dealing with the potential causes of conflict inherent in such factors as socioeconomic competition, ethnic identity, religion, culture, the quest for power and far of foreign domination.

Pacifists strongly critiqued the idea that states did not have to conform to the personal ethic of non-violence on the grounds of national interest, its sole control of the means of violence, and survival, even through just war approaches, as Wright meant that a ‘double morality’. Many emerging civil society actors and advocacy groups now saw war as another expression of class oppression and elitism, especially after the experience in the trenches of WWI.

For the record

The impact of pluralism upon the so-called idealist, and later the liberal debates, have been far greater than often thought.

The different strands of thought represented here also raised doubt about the ‘governability’ of the international system in that interdependence, transnationalism and the fragmentation of states, and the counter-reaction of states attempting to reassert themselves, produced an unstable system that liberals and pluralists might have to accept required a benevolent hegemon to govern, according to broadly shared interests, but to the benefit of the hegemon.


Idealism provided the foundation for this move, which came to be enshrined in the liberal–international system that was emerging after the Congress of Vienna at an institutional level and influenced the emergence of international law and human rights. Idealism offered the intellectual ideal of a form of peace, which liberalism enshrined in a Lockean social contract and a Kantian international system of peace.

These agendas have contributed to the liberal peace agenda – a grand narrative which offers a self-governing form of peace within and between states. Idealism leads to liberal readings of international politics, and liberalism’s vision of peace claims to approximate the utopianism inherent in idealist understandings of peace, while recognizing the dangers of war and aggression.

From this emerging synthesis, as later chapters attest, critical approaches drawing on social theory emerged in IR theory.

The ontology offered by these debates indicated that there was a human and social potential for a more sophisticated peace

An epistemology of this peace was required which could be engineered in a pragmatic manner, resting on the normative foundations offered by liberalism. This can be found in the literatures that emerged on international organization, internationalism and functionalism, as well as on norms, regimes and global governance.

Its normative underpinnings dictate inclusivity, equality and pluralism, while at the same time recognizing difference, within the confines of an imagined ideal state of IR, a standard which automatically delineates the limits of its pluralism.

Yet, it is clear that the hybrid of idealism, pacifism and liberalism has offered a formidable, progressive framework for peace. This unashamedly aspires to offer a positive epistemology of peace

It is able to see beyond the tragedy of a state of nature, and has been able to engage with context and the need for planning and practical solutions to the problems of IR. This account of peace offers a practical and ontologically positive version.

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