16th Graduate Conference in Political Philosophy – Abstract/Le

Anh Le, University of Manchester.

Force Short of War: From Definition to Specification


The just war tradition is comprised of jus ad bellum, which governs the decision to go to war, and jus in bello, which regulates the conduct of war. This has been the standard used by moral philosophers and, to a certain extent, legal scholars to examine the use of force in an international context. There exist significant disagreements within the just war tradition regarding the correct interpretations of just war theory, for example, the revisionist/traditionalist debate and so on. For the purpose of this talk, I’ll assume that a defence of the collective/traditionalist approach in war has already been given. From this, I can make two claims which are relevant to my thesis in general and this paper/chapter in specific. First, the ethics of war is, indeed, sui generis and cannot be governed by any accounts of individual defensive ethics. Second, if war and personal self-defence are governed by different set of rules then it’s possible, and I shall argue necessary, that we further elaborate on the ethics of war. To this end, I explore a conceptually different form of force, or more specifically the way in which military force is used, in modern warfare and assess whether this has any implications for the Just War paradigm. This paper focuses on what scholars refer to as ‘force short of war’/vim actions; what this phrase means and whether, and how, it should be considered a distinct category from acts of war.