(Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2013)
Hardcover: 384 pages
Pacifism is popular. Many hold that war is unnecessary, since peaceful means of resolving conflict are always available, if only we had the will to look for them. Or they believe that war is wicked, essentially involving hatred of the enemy and carelessness of human life. Or they posit the absolute right of innocent individuals not to be deliberately killed, making it impossible to justify war in practice.
Against the virus of wishful thinking, anti-military caricature, and the domination of moral deliberation by rights-talk In Defence of War asserts that belligerency can be morally justified, even while it is tragic and morally flawed.
Recovering the early Christian tradition of just war thinking, it argues in favour of aggressive war in punishment of grave injustice; that morality can justify military intervention even in transgression of positive international law (e.g., Kosovo); that love and the doctrine of double effect can survive combat; that the constraints of proportionality are sufficiently permissive to sanction Britain’s belligerency in 1914-18; and that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 was justified.
• Provides a succinct account of the logic, strengths, and weaknesses of religious and non-religious pacifism.
• Reasserts the complex moral reasoning of the early Christian just war tradition from Augustine to Grotius against the exclusive rights-talk of liberal just war thinking.
• Explains how to order the use of the various criteria of just war, so as to produce a coherent final judgement.
• Includes painstaking analysis of the 2003 Iraq invasion, concluding that it was justified — on its 10th anniversary in 2013.
• Contains a moral analysis of Britain’s involvement in the First World War, concluding that it too was justified — on the eve of the centenary of its outbreak in 1914.
Introduction: Against the Virus of Wishful Thinking
1: Against Christian Pacifism
2: Love in War
3: The Principle of Double Effect: Can it Survive Combat?
4: Proportionality: Lessons from the Somme and the First World War
5: Against Legal Positivism and Liberal Individualism
6: On Not Always Giving the Devil Benefit of Law: Legality, Morality, and Kosovo
7: Constructing Judgement: The Case of Iraq
Nigel Biggar is Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology, and director of the McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life, at the University of Oxford, where he is also a Canon of Christ Church Cathedral. Before taking up his current post in 2007, he held chairs in theology at the University of Leeds and at Trinity College, Dublin. Among his published works are: Behaving in Public: How to Do Christian Ethics (2011), (co-ed.) Religious Voices in Public Places (2009), Aiming to Kill: The Ethics of Suicide and Euthanasia (2004); and (ed.) Burying the Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice after Civil Conflict (2001, 2003). He sits on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Military Ethics and has lectured at the Defence Academy of the United Kingdom.