Ethics of War and Peace Conference

Ethics of War and Peace Conference

19-20 October 2023: “What is it Good For? Rethinking the Uses of War After Afghanistan and the Invasion of Ukraine.”

A century ago, following the destruction of World War One, skepticism about the resort to war swelled and a movement to outlaw war rose that included many prominent thinkers and activists. Today, something similar seems to be occurring. The past few decades saw a broad embrace of militarism in foreign affairs. Many came to see war as an effective solution to humanitarian crises, terrorism, and tyrannical governments, among other things. With the twenty-year war in Afghanistan fresh in our memories, there are a growing number of scholars raising doubts about the usefulness of war in international affairs.

At the same time, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has rekindled in many a sense of the honor, righteousness, and potential effectiveness of fighting a war in defense of others. Support for the Ukrainian resistance has come from across the political spectrum and led to the unification of Europe behind a militarized response to the threat posed by Russia.

This year, West Point’s Conference on the Ethics of War and Peace will focus on the theme “What is it Good For? Rethinking the Uses of War After Afghanistan and the Invasion of Ukraine.” We will gather to revisit the ethics of resorting to war with the benefit of the experiences of the last few of decades of interventionism. What ends can war be reasonably thought to achieve? What explains the strategic failures (and successes) of recent military adventures? What causes us to misjudge the value of resorting to war? Are there social structural features that encourage the resort to war or hinder it? And what can answers to these questions contribute to a more useful theory of jus ad bellum and the creation of a political system that supports it?

Conference Speakers (’23): 

  1. Keynote: Steven Pinker (Harvard University)
  2. Neta C. Crawford (University of Oxford)
  3. Mary L. Dudziak (Emory University)
  4. Samuel Moyn (Yale University)
  5. Cheyney Ryan (University of Oxford)
  6. Jennifer Welsh (McGill University)
  7. Ned Dobos (University of New South Wales)
  8. COL Francis Park (US Army War College)
  9. Elizabeth Samet (United States Military Academy)

Registration for this event is open as of August 1st, 2023, and closes on October 9th, 2023. To register, please visit the following website:

For those that require lodging, we have a block of rooms set aside at the Hampton Inn Woodbury, which can be viewed at the following link:

Last Conference - October 2021: “The War on Terror Then and Now: Twenty Years After 9/11”

The United States announced a Global War on Terror in the wake of the attacks on 11 September 2001, which took various shapes over the preceding twenty years. This conference reflected on the ethical dimensions of the history of this war, its current state, and its possible futures. Ethically (and pragmatically) there seem to be limits to what military power can do regarding terrorism. What is its appropriate role? And what is not? What is the proper end state and what is military power’s relation to it? Does terrorism generate special moral permissions for those combating it? Who might share responsibility for terrorist acts beyond terrorists themselves? Does international law effectively address terrorism? These were among the questions taken up at our 2021 conference.

Keynote Speakers:

Secretary Robert M. Gates, 22nd U.S. Secretary of Defense

General (Retired) Martin Dempsey, 18th U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


Plenary Speakers:

Saba Bazargan-Forward, University of California, San Diego

Yitzhak Benbaji, Tel Aviv University

Susanne Burri, London School of Economics and Political Science

Claire Finkelstein, University of Pennsylvania Law School

Helen Frowe, Stockholm University

David Luban, Georgetown Law Center; Stockdale Center, U.S. Naval Academy

Mary Ellen O’Connell, University of Notre Dame Law School

David Rodin, Principia Advisory; Oxford Institute of Ethics, Law, and Armed Conflict

Victor Tadros, University of Warwick School of Law

Suzanne Uniacke, Charles Sturt University

Jeremy Waldron, New York University School of Law

Stephen Woodside, U.S. Military Academy

The Conference on the Ethics of War and Peace brings together undergraduate students, cadets, officers, scholars, and interested civilians to discuss urgent ethical issues pertaining to the use of military force. The conference aims to create a constructive and open discussion of matters of great public interest that bridges the boundaries between civilians, officers, academics, and practitioners. The conference was initiated by the collaborative efforts of Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Michael Saxon of the U.S. Military Academy and Dr. Mark Wilson of Villanova University.