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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: February 2013

8 - Global conflict: war, terrorism and humanitarian intervention



In Chapter 7 we explored perhaps the most pressing issue of global ethics: the huge injustice of global poverty and global disparities in wealth. This chapter will address an equally challenging issue for global ethics: that of war, conflict, terrorism and all forms of military intervention. A key difference between war and conflict and issues of global poverty is that the suffering and violations of human rights that arise in war and conflict are always caused by human agency. War and conflict is always someone's responsibility, so if the “harm principle” (a negative duty not to harm) we discussed in Chapter 3 holds, it should be at least possible to map duties of compensation and redress, even if it is difficult to enforce these in practice. In Chapter 6 we considered arguments about who had duties to meet the needs of the poor and, in this chapter, similar arguments will be considered about duties to those who are suffering from conflict, particularly in the final section on humanitarian intervention. In addition, issues that we have discussed in all the previous chapters about the scope of global duties and whether or not there are duties to distant others come to the fore when we consider the ethics of war and conflict.

Questions about whether political violence is ever justified are at the heart of global ethics. Violence and killing are unethical acts.

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