Stephen L. Carter: The Moral Language of War

In a new book on “The Violence of Peace: America’s Wars in the Age of Obama,” Yale Law School professor Stephen Carter ponders the vocabulary of just and unjust wars and the significance of using American military power for humanitarian interventions. Watch excerpts from correspondent Kim Lawton’s interview with him on April 6 at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC.


  • Dena Rosko

    A caveat: Is it ethical to intervene based on potential harm? Is there legal precedent for doing so here in the States? The argument for potential harm is always a gray area and reminds me of the film, Minority Report. I appreciate the comments on the complex problems involved in going to war and the need to make a moral case for oneself in either position (for/against war). I dislike risk analysis arguments though understand their necessity in decision making. I like to believe that dialogue and interpersonal relationships can do wonders for situating people in peace. At least the Just War theory requires people to consider the consequences in a value sense for war.

  • John Oliva

    During the interview I did not hear Professor Carter mention the United Nations at all. The action taken in Libya was the result of a United Nations Security Council decision. The action was proposed based on the relatively recent United Nations “obligation to protect”.

    The host did nto mention the United Nations either. If I didn’t know better, I would have believed that the action in Libya was an exclusive United States operation.

    I expected better from a program titled “Religion and Ethics”.

  • Scott Browning

    Interesting parallel to Professor Carter’s discussion of drones, pilotless aircraft, cruise missiles, etc.:
    Old movie called “The Enemy Below” in which Kurt Jurgens plays a U-Boat commander dueling with an American destroyer escort (commanded by Robert Mitchum). Jurgens is having a conversation with his executive officer about the war– how war had become evil, how they were on the wrong side, and why the war would be lost. Reflects on his experience in WWI: the captain of the U-Boat he was on would sight a target through the periscope, do all of the math in his head and fire a torpedo. Sometimes it would work, sometimes not. In his present situation his periscope tells him the range, course and speed of the target which is fed into the boat’s computer and then into the mechanism of the torpedo. As he says, “They have taken the human error out of war… they have taken the human out of war.” Same now, only more so.