It is widely held that war should be eschewed and that nonviolent alternatives should be pursued. For instance, various pacifist approaches assert that war is impermissible and we should adopt nonviolent alternatives. Just War Theory asserts that war should meet the comparative principles of last resort or necessity in jus ad bellum, which highlight to some extent the moral importance of considering the alternatives to war. However, although both pacifists and Just War Theorists typically assert the need to pursue alternatives to war, there has generally been a lack of systematic ethical analysis of these alternatives. There are numerous potential measures, ranging from comprehensive economic sanctions, diplomacy, and positive incentives, to criminal prosecutions, nonviolent resistance, and arming rebels. Although the options are several, each raises tricky ethical issues. Accordingly, I will consider the ethics of the alternatives to war. The central aim will be to sketch out a moral map of the main alternatives to war. I will draw on five central moral considerations in political philosophy to highlight the issues that the alternatives raise, and to consider if, and how, we can navigate these issues. In doing so, I will argue that the case for war is weaker and the case for many of the alternatives is stronger than commonly thought.
James Pattison is Professor of Politics at the University of Manchester. His work focuses on the ethical issues surrounding conflict, at the intersection between political philosophy and International Relations. Pattison has written two books (both with Oxford University Press) and published over 20 journal articles since 2007, including in the British Journal of Political Science, Ethics & International Affairs, European Journal of International Relations, International Theory, Journal of Political Philosophy, and Review of International Studies. He currently co-edits a book series on War, Conflict, and Ethics (with Michael Gross) for Routledge. He is currently completing a book on the ethics of the alternatives to war.