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  • Author: James Turner Johnson
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Ethics International Affairs Journal
  • Institution: Carnegie Council
  • Abstract: "Stab, smite, slay!" These are not the words of Bashar al- Assad telling his forces how they should deal with the Syrian rebel movement, or indeed those of any other contemporary political leader, but rather the words of Martin Luther exhorting the German nobility to a harsh response to the peasants' rebellion of 1524–1525. His writings show that he sympathized with many of the peasants' grievances so long as these did not issue in rebellion, but when they turned to force of arms, he responded sternly. This was not a peculiarity of Luther. Consider the following from an English courtier, Thomas Churchyard, writing admiringly of the treatment of Irish rebels in 1579 by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, commander of the English army sent to put down the rebellion: "He further tooke this order infringeable, that when soever he made any ostyng [military campaign], or inrode, into the enemies Countrey, he killed manne, woman, and child, and spoiled, wasted, and burned, by the grounde all that he might, leavyng nothing of the enemies in saffetie, whiche he could possiblie waste, or consume."
  • Political Geography: Germany, Syria
  • Author: Nigel Biggar
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Ethics International Affairs Journal
  • Institution: Carnegie Council
  • Abstract: The contemporary West is biased in favor of rebellion. This is attributable in the first place to the dominance of liberal political philosophy, according to which it is the power of the state that always poses the greatest threat to human well-being. But it is also because of consequent anti-imperialism, according to which any nationalist rebellion against imperial power is assumed to be its own justification. Autonomy, whether of the individual or of the nation, is reckoned to be the value that trumps all others. I surmise that it is because in liberal consciousness the word “rebel” connotes a morally heroic stance—because it means the opposite of “tyrant”—that Western media in recent years have preferred to refer to Iraqi opponents of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq and Taliban opponents of the ISAF in Afghanistan not as “rebels,” but as “insurgents.”
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Taliban, Syria, Ireland
  • Author: Valerie Morkevicius
  • Publication Date: 02-2014
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Ethics International Affairs Journal
  • Institution: Carnegie Council
  • Abstract: The Arab Spring has generated a variety of responses from the West. While broad political support was voiced for uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen, the responses to protests in Bahrain and Morocco were muted. The swift decision to intervene in Libya stands in marked contrast to the ongoing hand-wringing on Syria. While political realists might see these contradictions as evidence that geopolitical concerns determine foreign policy, from an ethical point of view these responses also reveal a fundamental tension in Western thinking about rebellion. On one hand, rebellion is viewed with a distrustful eye—as a disruptive, chaotic force that threatens to destroy the day-to-day order on which civilization is built. On the other, rebellion is perceived more optimistically—as a regenerative, creative force that can leave a better civilization in its wake. These two radically disparate ways of thinking about rebellion have deep philosophical and theological roots. The pessimistic view has historically dominated just war thought, as James Turner Johnson's contribution to this roundtable illustrates; whereas the perspective of Enlightenment liberalism offers a more optimistic judgment, as found, for example, in the works of Locke and Rousseau.
  • Political Geography: Libya, Yemen, Arabia, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, Tunisia