Roger Scruton on Kant and the Iraq War

Roger Scruton argues that Kant’s perpetual Peace would have supported intervention against Iraq: “the violence must be proportional to the threat, and its aim must be to bring about a lasting peace. But war conducted for the sake of peace was, for Kant as for his predecessors in the ‘just war’ tradition, a paradigm of legitimate belligerence.”
Immanuel Kant wrote Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch in 1787. In this essay he argues for a League of Nations committed to the upholding of international law, to establish peace between nations.Three key elements appear:

  1. The state is to be viewed as a moral person;
  2. The earth is deemed to be originally owned by all; and
  3. Perpetual peace ought to be the goal for humanity.

The demand for universal peace is the final end of Kant’s doctrine of the Right – it is what reason dictates should be the proper condition of humanity, a universalisable categorical imperative, and hence all other acts should defer to it. This is an application of Kant’s third formula or principle of autonomy – act as though you were a law-maker in a kingdom of ends. However, in this article Roger Scruton argues that a condition of perpetual peace is that member nations are republics. In the case of tyrannies like Saddam Hussein’s, there is still a requirement to go to war to protect the innocent, and Kantian ethics gives us a solid rational basis for a just war theory.
Read Roger Scruton’s arguments here

See also Dr Alexander Moseley’s excellent summary of Kant’s argument.

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