When Is War Justified? – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

When Is War Justified?

HWS philosophy professor to study humanitarian intervention as a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics

(July 22, 2003) GENEVA, N.Y.—In recent years, the United States has used its military force in Bosnia and Kosovo, yet failed to respond to reported atrocities in Rwanda. In the case of Iraq, some have argued after the fact that the war was necessary to rid the country of an evil dictator. All of which begs the question: When and how is humanitarian intervention justified?

Beginning in August, Steven Lee, professor of philosophy at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, will tackle this matter head-on. He is one of five fellows invited to study issues in military ethics at the United States Naval Academy’s Center for the Study of Professional Military Ethics in Annapolis, Md. Lee will spend the year examining when a nation is morally obligated to intervene in the affairs of another, and under what conditions humanitarian intervention is warranted.

“The notion of humanitarian intervention requires that we rethink our ideas of just war and national sovereignty,” says Lee. He explains that the “just-war theory” tends to permit only defensive wars, and hence provides a strong defense of national sovereignty. As a result, it has difficulty recognizing humanitarian intervention as a justified reason to go to war.

An expert in the field of ethics and war, Lee is the author or co-author of several books and publications, including “Morality, Prudence, and Nuclear Weapons” (Cambridge University Press, 1993), “The Nuclear Predicament: Nuclear Weapons in the Twenty-First Century” (Prentice Hall, 2000), and “What Is the Argument? Critical Thinking in the Real World” (McGraw-Hill, 2002).

Lee joined the Hobart and William Smith Colleges faculty in 1981. He holds a Ph.D. from York University in Toronto, and master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Delaware.