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Legitimacy of War

Depleted uranium shells

A legitimate act is one that is both legal and accepted as such.

Should there be legal restrictions on the use of certain weapons in a war zone?

International agreements restricting the use of certain weapons already exist. The use of chemical and biological weapons is prohibited by law and, despite the recent development of so-called “Battlefield Nuclear Weapons”, awareness of the dreadful consequences of using nuclear weapons in war have so far been enough to discourage their use in recent regional wars. However there is ample evidence that chemical weapons were used by the Iraqi military against Kurdish civilians in the 1980s and that Depleted Uranium was used by the western powers in the first gulf war and during the present conflict in Iraq. Bomblets from cluster bombs scattered by Israeli forces in Lebanon continue to blow the legs off civilians and kill children months after the conflict ended.

It seems that international agreements restricting the use of certain weapons are often ignored during times of war.

Raising questions

So what ethical principles should we be insisting that our military planners and decision makers follow? Choose a question and write out a response including both the evidence backing your claim and an explanation of how it does (a warrant).

Nuclear Weapons:

  • Should Scientists be involved in the development of Nuclear weapons?
  • Should conventional weapons which use depleted uranium be banned?
  • Is direct action by peace campaigners justified


  • Is there such a thing as a “Just War”?
  • Should there be legal restrictions on the use of certain weapons in a war zone?
  • Are civilian casualties an acceptable price to pay to meet military objectives?

Useful website: BBC Guide to the Ethics of War

Hiroshima and Nagasaki: Legal but was it legitimate?


Text equivalent:

Do no harm

How do you think scientists are able to do military related work, when the end product of their work are tools designed to harm?

Text equivalent:

The ends versus the means

War was once described as 'the continuation of politics by other means'. Do ever more powerful weapons always result in victory? Would  less powerful weapons and/or better diplomacy be more effective? Or are their circumstances when overwhelming force is justified? Even if enormous damage is inflicted on civilians?

 Text equivalent:

Managing conflicting values and interests

Effective weapons are those that render the opponent harmless as quickly and effectively as possible. Is it possible to do this while not causing damage to the person, or innocent bystanders?

What's your opinion?

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NOT RATED Raphael 01-07-13 10:11
I think nuclear weapons should not be allowed, due to da fact dat dey hurt people, such as Dongi.