History teaches that neglecting justice and respect for all sides after war, including the defeated, can backfire years or generations later. Germany’s treatment after WWI created a vacuum for Hitler’s extremism in WWII. Terms of defeat for China after the 19th century Opium Wars have fostered mistrust of the West ever since.
Recent history in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Colombia, Rwanda, Serbia, Sudan, and Iraq – as this book focuses on – suggests lessons for this new branch of Just War Theory labelled ‘Jus Post Bellum’ or Post-war Justice (PWJ). The core of PWJ is that unjust violence and abuse in war and cruel and vengeful terms after war will foster resentment afterwards, but restraint and ethical practice will help catalyse stabilisation and peace.
Edited by former British Army Officer and military ethicist Patrick Mileham, the volume has 27 writers from 13 countries contributing 17 chapters and introductory matter from the best presentations of the 7th International Society for Military Ethics (ISME) conference at Brussels, Belgium in 2017 around the theme ‘Restraint in War: Essential for a Lasting Peace.’
Edwin R. Micewski begins historically with Jus Post Bellum Frigidum: An Idealistic Critique of Three Decades of Post-Cold War Global Security. He notes Western interventionism in international relations and regime change can produce what it is intended to prevent, for example as seen in Russia turning away from the West to China. He asserts you cannot deny the strategic and economic interests of the other.
Three chapters had interesting implications for military ethics training. Evaggelia Kiosi in Τhe Ancient Greek Ἄγος (Agos) and the Warrior Ethos upholds virtue ethics training as particularly helpful because it informs professionals who are not necessarily experts in ethics. Patrick Mileham in Counter-intuition in a Violent and Retro-futuristic World responds to the ICRC ‘Roots of Restraint in War’ research and suggests the need for training to develop a ‘strong moral compass’ by those experienced in conflict (reminding me of how helpful it is for me as a chaplain to co-teach with soldiers), testing under duress, and systematically evaluating ethics training.
Juha Mäkinen in The Dichotomy of Training and War: Making Sense of Soldiers’ Activities explores how military training disconnects soldiers from their past, but underlines the importance of helping them maintain their identity as citizens as well as soldiers, peacekeepers as well as warriors, security actors and not just managers of violence.
My favourite chapter was Fostering Reconcilation as a Goal of Military Endeavour by Oxford Professor Nigel Biggar. He draws on the ethics of Jesus as peacemaker, love that fosters care for innocent victims and for wrongdoers, and Just War’s ideal of war righting a grave wrong then creating a just peace. He bemoans the failure to plan for post-war peace in Iraq. Yet he affirms the integration of military and political lines of effort in the Malayan Emergency (1948-60) when the British combined military suppression of Communist insurgents with giving the Chinese population a stake in British victory with offers of resettlement and voting rights. I appreciated seeing the military and political utility of Christian virtues of peacemaking, love, forgiveness, and justice.
My second favourite chapter was Restraint: Dutch Soldiers’ Point of View, ISAF Afghanistan 2006–2010 by Dutch Navy Chaplain Jan Peter van Bruggen. He examines the lived experience of Dutch soldiers in Uruzgan 2006-10 who faced enemy combatants dressed as civilians, hiding weapons, utilising IEDs and child soldiers, and would often seek to provoke illegal behaviour. At the same time, the Dutch soldiers were called to show extra restraint for the sake of winning ‘hearts and minds’.
Although not mentioned, this was where they served alongside Australian forces which makes their experiences interesting to read alongside accounts of Australia’s Special Forces such as Tom Frame’s Veiled Valour recently reviewed in The Cove.
Several chapters address the relationship between Just War and causes of peace. Florian Demont-Biaggi in Causation, Luck, and Restraint in War argues restraint in war and avoiding illegal actions can best lead to lasting peace, and that all actions of military necessity must be constrained by peace-considerations.
Carl Ceulemans in Fighting Well for a Just Peace? Exploring the In Bello/Post Bellum Dependence Thesis asserts justice in the aftermath of war relates to how war starts and how it is engaged. Lonneke Peperkamp in The Relationship between Jus Ad Bellum and Jus Post Bellum continues this debate with attention to how UK planning and preparations for post-war Iraq were inadequate, noting it was easier to defeat Saddam than rebuild.
Marie-des-Neiges Ruffo de Calabre’s chapter In Our Obedience to Jus Post Bellum, Could Respect for Jus in Bello Require Us to Be Machiavellian? discusses the necessity of soldiers’ virtue or at least prudence in war, and making amends for faults after. Boris Kashnikov in What of Jus Post Bellum if Just War Theory Rests on a Category Mistake? soberly warns against a creeping militarism since war may be justifiable as a “case of grave existential necessity” but is mostly unjust because of the inevitable immeasurable disaster, suffering, and death.
Other chapters examine the Dayton Peace Agreement for Bosnia and Herzegovina from a Jus Post Bellum perspective; the question of how to punish war criminals and when to offer amnesties in the case of Colombia’s Fuerza Pública (Security Forces) in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace; Safeguarding and Preserving Cultural Identity in War and Peace as a resource for reconciliation and a moral necessity in its own right; ‘Ethical Warfare’ for Stabilisation in Iraq and Afghanistan underlining the necessity of ethics for POWs, cultural respect, and proportionality in air attacks; restraining Paramilitary Organizations and Private Military Companies in War, and a Jus Post Bellum seminar conversation at the UK Armed Forces Chaplaincy Centre on The Ethics of Stabilisation and Security.
ISME’s volume 6 Jus Post Bellum: Restraint, Stabilisation and Peace is an invaluable volume for ADF Commanders and Instructors, and anyone interested in military ethics, international relations, stabilisation operations, and peacemaking.
For further reading, David Whetham has recently reflected on ‘Jus Post Bellum – Ending Wars and Ending Wars Well’ in an ISME blog on the war in Ukraine, and recommends an online Just Post Bellum 3.5 hour course at the Centre for Military Ethics.
“But let us not forget that after winning war, we must build peace.”
– Dominique de Villepin, as French Minister for Foreign Affairs, speaking of France’s opposition to the war in Iraq in 2002, p.141