A Just War Theory for Domestic Politics




Slowey, Collin

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In this paper, I address the ethical repercussions of treating domestic politics like war and attempt to formulate a philosophical framework by which to morally evaluate political words and deeds. First, I consider the rise of the metaphor of war in American political discourse and the increasing tendency to think of politics as competitive and conflict-oriented, rather than cooperative and peaceful. I then examine the unique ethical challenges this trend presents. In the main body of the paper, I reason analogically from the just war tradition to create something like a just war theory for domestic politics, applying the distinct requirements of justice before (jus ad bellum), during (jus in bello), and after (jus post bellum) war to concrete ethical problems in today’s public square. Most notably, my findings highlight the need to eschew moral realism in partisan battles and stop declaring war on inanimate objects or concepts (e.g., “drugs” or “terror”). They also highlight the importance of prudence and restraint in domestic politics. Hopefully this paper will spur Americans to take the moral dangers of metaphorical war-making seriously and produce some standards to help navigate those dangers.