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Phil Klay on Morality and War
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Phil Klay on Morality and War

Can a war ever be just?
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Morality and war. Two words that seem to have nothing to do with each other. Yet as recent events have shown, our conscience pricks us every time we hear news of an atrocity, smarts at every war and rumor of war. Can a war ever be just? Does talk about morality in the conduct of war make any sense?

Joining Shadi and Damir to discuss this heady topic is Phil Klay, a novelist and essayist whose first book, the short story collection Redeployment, won the National Book Award in 2014. An Iraq War veteran, his work has focused on themes concerning war, citizenship, and the postwar life of veterans. His latest book is titled Uncertain Ground: Citizens in an Age of Endless, Invisible War

This episode does not have the usual verbal sparring and back-and-forth. The tone is meditative and the questions are profound. Shadi opens the conversation with a direct question: What does morality have to do with war? Phil responds with a description of the Medieval practice of imposing penances on soldiers, even those who fought in just wars. Damir presses Phil with the nagging question of where the “shoulds” and “oughts” come from in Phil’s recent article about the war in Gaza. Phil develops a clear standard for sending citizens of a democracy to war. It is a fruitful idea, which Shadi and Damir chew on for the remainder of the episode. You won’t want to miss this one!

Required Reading:

This post is part of our collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Governance and Markets.

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Wisdom of Crowds
Wisdom of Crowds
Agreement is nice. Disagreement is better.