Why Just War Needs Feminism Now More Than Ever

Abstract

This article notes the just war tradition's difficulty adapting to 21st century warfare, its susceptibility to political appropriation, its lack of conceptual clarity, and its blindness to the gender subordination inherent in its theoretical assumptions. Still, just war theory cannot be discarded — it is a ‘necessary evil,’ due to both its popularity in political discourse and the necessity of having a framework for ethical analysis of war. This article proposes a feminist reinterpretation of just war theory as the revitalization that just war theory needs. It explains this feminist just war theory based on relational autonomy, political marginality, empathy, and care. It introduces some feminist ‘standards’ for considering the morality of war. After brief applicatory explorations into the current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, it concludes by arguing that the added normative strength and explanatory power coming from a feminist perspective is something just war theory sorely needs, now more than ever.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For example, George W. Bush has made it clear that he believes that the defensive element of the just cause standard is satisfied by the chance of a future attack by the other party. Woodrow Wilson, using a similar just cause standard, was concerned that the United States' allies in Europe were insufficiently defensive to meet the standard. Many theorists of just war, like practitioners, come up with divergent, if not contradictory, answers to these fundamental questions of war-making and war-fighting (see e.g., McKenna, 1960; Wells, 1969; Yoder, 1996).

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Sjoberg, L. Why Just War Needs Feminism Now More Than Ever. Int Polit 45, 1–18 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1057/palgrave.ip.8800216

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Keywords

  • just war
  • feminism
  • war on terror
  • Iraq
  • Afghanistan