Religious Studies | War/Peace in Western Religion
R376 | 22970 | Miller


Is the United Statesí intervention and current occupation of Iraq
justified?† If so, why?† If not, why not?† When President Bush
announced a war against terrorism in response to the attacks of
September 11, did he do the right thing?† Were those who planned and
carried out the attacks outlaws who should be captured and tried in
a court of law, or warriors who should be fought?† When President
Clinton sent ground troops to Bosnia (1995) and authorized air
strikes in Kosovo (1999), did he do the right thing?† The Gulf War
in 1991 turned back the aggression of a powerful tyrant.† But didn't
the United States and European allies help him develop his enormous
arsenal?† Vietnam was a war that was hotly disputed.† Is it true
that those who died there wasted their lives for an unworthy cause?†
Some past wars, e.g., World War II, seem clearly justified to many
people.† Even so, does that mean that the atomic bombing of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the firebombing of German and Japanese
cities, was morally acceptable?† War is often compared to hell, with
no limits on what soldiers may do.† Does that mean that soldiers are
free to rape the women of an enemy nation?† On what grounds (if any)
may a government ask its citizen-soldiers to kill, or to risk making
the supreme sacrifice?† More generally, is it possible to
distinguish between war and murder?†This course will help us think
about these questions in a critical and comparative way.† Drawing on
Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and secular sources, we will examine a
wide range of perspectives, e.g., the Bible, Augustine, Thomas
Aquinas, Martin Luther King, Jr., Reinhold Niebuhr, the U.S.
Catholic bishops, Islamic law, and Michael Walzer.† We will examine
moral ideas in theory and as they apply to specific conflicts, e.g.,
World War II, the intervention in Kosovo, September 11, etc.† The
main goal is to reflect critically about the morality of war in
light of beliefs, symbols, and principles in Western religion and
ethics.† We will focus on justice and human rights, care for the
innocent, nonviolence, the presumption against harm, the rule of
double effect, military necessity, civic virtue, and the value of
political community.†Text: Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to
Love; Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with
Historical Illustrations (2d or 3rd ed.); Richard B. Miller, ed.,
War in the Twentieth Century: Sources in Theological Ethics; Richard
B. Miller, Interpretations of Conflict: Ethics, Pacifism, and the
Just-War Tradition; John Kelsay, Islam and War: The Gulf War and
Beyond; Terry Nardin, The Ethics of War and Peace: Religious and
Secular Perspectives; R372 Reader (digital reserve)