Modern Warfare and the Just War Tradition

It is undeniable that the nature and conduct of war has changed in recent decades. It used to be about regular armies facing off each other on the battlefield. Now, an increasing share of the fighting is being done by remote weapons (such as drones) in areas which cannot be traditionally characterised as zones of conflict (i.e. an official declaration of war or similar declarations, e.g. a U.N mandate has not been given).
The rise of non-state actors further muddies the water as there seems to be no general
consensus regarding how they ought to be classified. Some argue they should be treated as criminals and, if that is the case, just war theory does not govern the use of force against them. The correct paradigm, they argue, is the policing paradigm. Those opposing this view, instead, support the current practice of using just war principles to assess and, when necessary, justify the use of military force against non-state actors and insurgencies.
Next, technological breakthroughs have led to the introduction, and production, of weapons which significantly alter the way wars are fought. Autonomous weapons and unmanned remotely operated weapons such as drones make it possible for one side to fight without exposing its soldiers to any risks. Furthermore, the internet creates a brand new branch of warfare, namely cyber warfare, where an attack might not be detected until after it is well over, with the damage done similar to a conventional attack (by conventional weapons) if not more. Alleged Russian interference in the last US election raises several questions about the nature of cyber warfare, for example: is hacking an act of war? Is it permissible to respond to a cyber-attack using conventional weapons?
Last but not least, the apparent fall in the number of state-on-state conflicts and the rise of
asymmetrical conflicts have crucial implications for the just war tradition. For instance, we
may have to revise the ad bellum principle of ‘right authority’, consider the ethics of fighting
an insurgency or guerrilla war, and reflect more on questions relating to the justifications for terrorism or targeted killings (by either state or sub-state groups).
The ‘Modern Warfare and the Just War tradition’ workshop invites participants working on
the ethics of war (both moral and legal) to explore these themes (broadly construed). In
particular, we would welcome papers looking at:


• The moral/legal position of sub- and non-state actors
• Remote and autonomous weapons
• Cyber-warfare
• Insurgencies and counter-insurgencies
• Political and legal ways of “fighting” wars (e.g. actions short of war, sanctions,
• The use of targeted killings/assassinations
• Revolutions, rebellions, terrorism, and guerrilla warfare
However, any papers which address modern warfare’s implications for just war theory (i.e.
not confined by the above mentioned themes) are welcomed.

In order to apply to present a paper, please send an abstract (up to 500 words) prepared for blind review to Please include in your email your name, institutional affiliation, email address, and paper title. The deadline for applications is 25 May 2018. Notices for acceptance will be sent by 15 June, enabling those who are eligible to apply for bursaries. Speakers will be allocated 20 minutes to present their paper, and a further 40 minutes for Q&A.

If your abstract is accepted, we will ask you to pre-circulate your paper to fellow speakers before the workshop. We will be in touch regarding this after the deadline for applications.