The Ethical War Blog

Expert discussion of the ethics of war, for all. Edited by Romy Eskens.

Flouting Quarantine

By Tom Douglas[1]

Boris Johnson Covid-19 Press Conference 20/03Boris Johnson Covid-19 Press Conference” by Number 10. Used under:

As I write this, COVID-19, an illness caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, is sweeping the globe. Over 15,000 people have died, and it is likely that at least one hundred times this many have been infected with the virus.[2]

The outbreak has brought the ethics of quarantine, isolation and enforced social distancing to public attention. Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea and China have been praised in the press for their rigorous deployment of quarantine and other liberty-restricting measures. By contrast, the US and UK have been widely criticised for their relatively lax approach.

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Democracy and War

By Victor Tadros

IMG_9078IMG_9078 by Ale. Used under:

The Iraq war that the UK fought in 2003, alongside the US and other countries, was met with a great deal of scepticism by many members of the public and by politicians. Many people were not convinced that an adequate basis for the war had been established by the government; there was concern that the case for war had been deceitfully cooked up, and that Tony Blair, the then UK Prime Minister, was playing poodle to a hawkish and ill-informed US president in George W Bush. Yet, when ordered to go, the troops went.

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Published 27th February 2020

Victor Tadros

Professor of Criminal Law and Legal Theory at the University of Warwick. Affiliated researcher at the Stockholm Centre for the Ethics of War and Peace.

Climate Change, Refugees, and Other Displaced Persons

By Matthew Lister

General Photos: Mongolia “General Photos: Mongolia” by Asian Development Bank. Used under: 

  1. The Situation: Increased Urgency and Despair about Addressing Climate Change

Although the urgent need to take significant action to slow, and ideally stop, climate change is clear to all serious observers, there is currently little reason for optimism about achieving these goals. The U.S. has pulled out of the Paris Agreement, and seems determined to make climate policy worse, reducing emission standards for cars, supporting coal, and so on. China, perhaps motivated by a need to keep domestic growth high for local political reasons, is increasing, rather than decreasing, its coal consumption. The Liberal government in Australia, in turn, seems determined to mine and sell every bit of coal in Australia before taking any significant steps towards addressing climate change. If these developments are not reversed quickly, millions of people will face danger resulting directly or indirectly from climate change. Some significant percentage of these people will be forced to leave their homes – sometimes in abrupt flows, and sometimes in a slow but steady flow. Understanding how this displacement is similar to or different from other forms of non-voluntary migration can help us, both in terms of crafting politically feasible strategies for reducing resultant harm and in terms of deciding what responses are most likely to be effective.

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Remembrance and Poppy Enforcement

By Alfred Archer and Benjamin Matheson

Remembrance Sunday 2012 - image 30Remembrance Sunday 2012 – Image 30” by Hammersmith & Fulham Council. Used under:

In the United Kingdom, the red poppy is worn to remember those who have died fighting for the British Army. In 2018, over 50 million pounds was raised from sales of the red poppy. According to the Royal British Legion, the makers of the red poppies, wearing the poppy is not compulsory. Despite this, many people in the public eye have been criticized for not wearing one. So much so that in 2006, the news presenter Jon Snow wrote that: “There is rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there – ‘he damned well must wear a poppy!’”. Snow is referring to the phenomenon of pressuring others to wear the red poppy – that is, pressuring others to engage in a commemorative practice.

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“Ukrainegate”: Leaker, Whistleblower, Spy?

By Candice Delmas

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“I love WikiLeaks!” declared Donald Trump in October 2016, applauding the organization’s release of a trove of emails hacked from Hillary Clinton’s campaign Chairman John Podesta’s account. However, since he occupies the Oval Office, President Trump no longer likes whistleblowers. In short order, he instructed the Justice Department to seek the arrest of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing secret military files leaked by Chelsea Manning. In March 2017, railing against the proliferation of leaks from his White House, including those alleging collusion between his team and Russia, Trump tweeted: “The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” But the leakers kept leaking, anonymously and profusely, revealing Trump’s conflicts of interest, disregard for democratic norms, and general unfitness for the office.

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Uncivil Disobedience in Hong Kong

By Avia Pasternak

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The protests that have stalled normal life in Hong Kong for the past eleven weeks started as a peaceful affair. Millions of Hong-Kongers marched in the streets, to protest against their government’s plan to allow extraditions from Hong Kong to Mainland China. Many Hong-Kongers view this change as a further encroachment upon the territory’s relative legal autonomy, and as a further curtailment of the civil liberties of pro-democracy activists. In response to the wave of protests, the Hong Kong Government temporarily suspended the extradition bill, but it also used a heavy hand against the marchers. The government’s refusal to withdraw the bill entirely, or to open an inquiry into police brutality, angered many protestors and sparked their turn to less civil, and more violent, tactics. In recent weeks protestors have blocked roads and train stations. They have occupied the Legislative Council chambers and defaced Chinese emblems. They have blocked air traffic in the busy Hong Kong Airport, clashing with frustrated passengers, and a police officer and a Mainland Chinese reporter were attacked. In the streets, they confronted riot police, throwing bricks and lighting fires.

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Propaganda Interventions

By Jeffrey Howard

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According to the recently released report by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller III, Russian nationals set up hundreds of social media accounts on Facebook and other sites during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. These were often created with fake identities and used to push divisive content, aimed at fomenting hatred and galvanizing support for Donald Trump. Here are just a few examples, documented by The New York Times:

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Commemorating Nelson Mandela as a Person and as a Symbol

By Anja Berninger

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Few statesmen in recent history have been revered to the same extent as Nelson Mandela. When he died in 2013, international heads of state flocked to Johannesburg to attend the memorial service and US flags were flown on half-mast. Four years before his death the UN had already declared July 18th to be “International Nelson Mandela Day”. Since then, bookshelves have been filled with glowing accounts of his life and numerous streets and schools across the globe have been named after him.

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Building Better States? State Authority, Moral Responsibility, and Reparations

By Jennifer Page

Los Angeles Downtown” by Aydin Palabiyikoglu. Used under:

In 1981, “Mary M.” was pulled over for drunk driving by on-duty Los Angeles Police Department officer Leigh Schroyer. Schroyer drove Mary M. home, forced his way into her house, and raped her. Mary M. suffered greatly during the attack and in its aftermath, and underwent psychological counseling for trauma.

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The Case for Regular Political Apology

By Allison Don and Per-Erik Milam

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Starting in the 1870s, more than 150,000 indigenous children in Canada were forcibly removed from their families and communities and placed in Indian Residential Schools with the goal of isolating them from their home cultures and assimilating them into the dominant culture. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has labelled the program a “cultural genocide.” Students were subjected to physical and sexual abuse, and at least 3,200 died while attending the schools. In 2008 and 2017 respectively, Prime Ministers Stephen Harper and Justin Trudeau apologised to the former students of the Indian Residential Schools on behalf of the Canadian government. The apologies were coupled with other measures aimed at reconciliation, including the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA), which established a recovery fund of over $3 billion for former students.

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