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Australian Institute of International Affairs - NSW

Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Over-Use of Military Force: Are We Bound to Wage “Unjust Wars”?

Tue, 10 Aug 2021
18:30 - 19:30



The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were a mistake. Because it inevitably involves killing and maiming on a massive scale, recourse to war is morally justified only under certain very strict conditions, and these conditions were not satisfied in Iraq or Afghanistan.


In this presentation, Dr Dobos will explain why states are liable to over-use the militaries at their disposal, rather than to limit the use of these institutions to the prosecution of just wars and interventions. Some unjust wars are bound to be perceived as just by our political decision-makers not because of the pressures they face, or because they are morally deranged, or because they are ignorant of the facts—but simply because they carry the same unconscious biases as the rest of us.


Dr Dobos will identify several well-documented cognitive biases and show how they can lead a morally motivated decision-maker to a faulty conclusion on whether resource to war is necessary and justified. The risk of a military being overused is not confined to societies whose political elites are hawkish warmongers or self-serving careerists. Even “decent” governments, genuinely committed never to wage unjust wars, will wage them sometimes. The risk of military misuse cannot be managed simply by ensuring that war-making potential does not fall into the “wrong hands”.


So what is the solution? Does this put us under a moral imperative to “defund the military”, or even abolish our military entirely, as the Republic of Costa Rica did in 1948?


Ned Dobos earned his PhD in political philosophy from the University of Melbourne. He is Senior Lecturer in International and Political Studies at the University of New South Wales (at the Australian Defence Force Academy). He has held fellowships at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics at Oxford, the MacMillan Center for International Studies at Yale, the McCoy Centre for Ethics at Stanford, and the philosophy department at Georgetown University.


Dr Dobos is the author of two books—Insurrection and Intervention (Cambridge University Press 2012) and Ethics, Security, and the War-Machine (Oxford University Press, 2020)—and his research has appeared in journals such as Philosophical Studies, Ethics and International Affairs, Journal of Moral Philosophy, and The Journal of Applied Philosophy.  


Dr Dobos is currently Associate Director of the International Society for Military Ethics, Asia-Pacific Chapter, section editor at the Australian Journal of Human Rights, and associate editor at the Journal of Pacifism and Non-Violence which will be published by Brill early in 2023.





This event is online only. Register by clicking the "get tickets" button below. Once you have registered, you will receive a follow-up confirmation email on the day of the event (Tuesday, August 10) containing details of the Zoom link and how to join the event.

The event will start at 6.30pm AEST (Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne time). Tuesday August 10.

 For further information please email  nswexec@internationalaffairs.org.au

Ticket Type Price
All entries $0.00 Sale Ended
All entries (voluntary $5.00 contribution) This ticket is for those who wish to make a voluntary $5 contribution to the Australian Institute of International Affairs NSW to assist the organisation with running expenses during COVID-19. $5.00 Sale Ended
The Glover Cottages, 124-134 Kent St, Millers Point NSW 2000
The Glover Cottages, 124-134 Kent St, Millers Point NSW 2000

Sydney, New South Wales, 2000, Australia