The War Trap: Ethical Problems in the Ending of War

November 4, 2014

What are the ethical dilemmas associated with war termination? In addition to jus ad bellum (the ethics of entering into war), jus in bello (the ethics of conducting war), and jus post bellum (the ethics of conduct in a postwar state), David Rodin identifies a fourth type of ethics associated with war: jus terminatio (the ethics of war termination). Is it just to end a war once the conditions of entering into it have been fulfilled? This is correct but incomplete. Rodin identifies the possibility of “rational entrapment” in war: that strategic escalation may compel actors to continue a war disproportionate to their interest, out of a desire to avoid the costs associated with the risk of defeat, the dilemma of sunk costs, or the moral hazard of peace negotiations.

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