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The Relationship between Peace Ethics, Military Ethics and Security Policy

By Bernhard Koch

Starting with the analysis model of the “arbor porphyriana”, Bernhard Koch investigates the three concepts mentioned in the title of his essay. Security policy comprises all measures that serve to protect or defend a state against external threats – though the term security covers more than territorial defense today. At the same time, he says, the existence and possible defense of security interests – especially by means of (the threat of) physical force – require ethical legitimation. This also applies to members of the armed forces who, as potentially violent actors, are not exempt from accountability. For a long time, the question of the legitimation of military force was strongly focused on legal aspects and the distinction between ius ad bellum and ius in bello. More recently, however, soldiers have been required to “ensure they are aware of the ethical reasons for their deployment”.

This legitimation model is based on a human rights ethos that rests on a Christian understanding of peace. With reference to Thomas Aquinas, the author outlines this understanding as “an integral unity between man and his creator God – both within the individual human being and thus also between human beings”. Even if that seems obsolete in pluralistic societies, he continues, Aquinas’ assertion can still be understood. Starting with a state of affairs that transcends a mere legal definition of peace, peace ethics deals with questions of the legitimate use of force and statehood, and so in turn influences military ethical and security policy considerations. Finally, Koch argues that the importance of inner attitudes should be recognized in the didactics of ethics, and that to a significant extent (peace) ethics should be understood as a virtue ethics.

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