Sad and Laughable and Strange: At War with Just War

Liane Hartnett, Cian O'Driscoll

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Scholars interested in just war theory have paid insufficient attention to how the soldiers tasked to carry out its demands think about it. Reflecting on this gap between theory and experience, this essay asks: What do soldiers think about the idea of just war and the demands it places upon them? Focusing on war memoirs, we argue that while most soldiers ostensibly endorse the principles of just war theory, they are not averse to highlighting, its absurdity. To understand this and what it means, one needs only to think about what makes soldiers laugh. Building on the work of Albert Camus, we suggest soldiers’ laughter renders audible their lucid recognition of war's absurdity – an articulation of the gap between the idea of “just war” and their experience of waging it – and a candid appraisal of their role in it as sad and laughable and strange.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-44
    JournalGlobal Society
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2020


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