With the arrival of armed drones and unmanned vehicles, the world has entered a new era of warfare, one which purports to be more humane. But what if our efforts to make war more ethical – without torture, war crimes or vast numbers of casualties – have only led us into an age of endless war?
Looking back on a century and a half of arguments about the ethics of using force, Yale law professor Samuel Moyn talks to Aaron Bastani about “humane war” and its integral role in maintaining the United States’ liberal empire. From the devastation wrought by the industrial warfare of the 19th and early 20th century, through to imperialist counterinsurgencies and the modern doctrine of liberal interventionism, Moyn restates the case for pacifism, showing how the demand for an end to all war has been replaced by a plea to make wars lawful.
He explains how the genocide of Indigenous Americans has shaped US military strategy around the world, why Trump and Obama both campaigned on an anti-war ticket yet continued with unpopular wars, and why the “robot wars” of the near-future will be a form of global policing. Moyn’s book, Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, is available now.