New research to address how to successfully end wars

Academics and military personnel are launching a unique new research project today that will examine the ethics of victory in war.

The project, entitled ‘Moral Victories: Ethics, Exit Strategies and the Ending of Wars’, investigates what military victory means in an era in which wars are no longer confined to the battlefield, and asks is it still possible to distinguish just from unjust victories.

The project, which is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), will involve collaboration between researchers from the University of Glasgow, Kings College London, the Joint Services Command and Staff College, and the US Naval War College.

It aims to produce a body of high quality research that will contribute towards an understanding of the ethics of military victory whilst enhancing the prospects for evidence-based policy making in an area of acute importance for the national defence and security sector.

Dr Cian O’Driscoll, Senior Lecturer in Politics and lead researcher of the project said: “There is currently a great need to think about the ethics, not only of fighting wars, but of winning them. The urgency of this is signalled by the botched conclusions of recent conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, where we won the war but lost the peace, as well as in the ongoing ‘war on terror’. 

“Traditional conceptions of military victory, which often rely on the capture of battlefields or capital cities, do not translate effectively to these theatres. The aim of our project is to develop expertise to guide our military and political leaders as they negotiate the ethical challenges that arise in the ‘endgame’ phase of modern warfare.”

The project will be launched at the University of Glasgow on 27 November with a talk by Dr David Whetham (Defence Studies Department of Kings College London, based at the Joint Services Command and Staff College), entitled ‘Expeditionary Military Ethics Education – a Philosopher Abroad’.

The research project ‘Moral Victories: Ethics, Exit Strategies and the Ending of Wars’, is being led at the University of Glasgow by the Glasgow Global Security Network, the Glasgow Human Rights Network, with support from Policy Scotland.

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First published: 27 November 2014