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Reappraising Just War theory

  • 18 February 2015

With the arrest last week of two young Muslim men in Sydney's south-western suburb of Fairfield, Australians were reminded yet again that terror threats and the global war on terror have very local manifestations.

The two friends, Mohammad Kiad and Omar Al-Kutobi, were apprehended apparently just hours before they planned to carry out a random brutal attack on a member of the public.

Both were born overseas, were relatively recent arrivals in Australia, and met here. Al-Kutobi was a refugee from Iraq, and Kiad came here from Kuwait on a spousal visa.

Their arrest came very soon after the shocking Charlie Hebdo and Jewish deli murders in France, and the Lindt Café siege in Sydney. The perpetrator of that horrendous crime was also a Muslim who had come to Australia as a refugee.

These incidents, and the broader war on terror, raise profound concerns and questions. In the previous interview on Eureka Street TV we heard from a local Muslim leader and teacher who's at the forefront of trying to address them.

In this week's interview we hear from a Catholic university ethicist and philosopher whose specialty is the ethics of war and the military. (continues below)

Academic Matthew Beard talks about the local dimensions of the war on terror: the tension between ensuring security and maintaining freedom, the dangers of demonising the Muslim community, how to minimise radicalisation of young Muslims, whether it is permissible for youth to engage in battles overseas, and whether we're doing enough to win the hearts and minds of young people.

Beard has a Bachelor of Philosophy with Honours and recently completed his PhD at the University of Notre Dame Australia. His thesis was entitled 'War Rights and Military Virtues: A Philosophical Reappraisal of Just War Theory'.

He has served as Managing Editor of Solidarity: The Journal for Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics, and is currently Research Associate with the Centre for Faith, Ethics and Society at Notre Dame.

His areas of research interest include military ethics, post-war experiences of trauma and stress for military personnel, cyberwar, torture, medical ethics and applied ethics. 

As well as covering these in an academic setting through teaching, scholarly articles and book chapters, and speaking at conferences and seminars, Beard is a passionate public communicator, often contributing opinion pieces in print, appearing on radio, and increasingly on television.

Peter Kirkwood is a freelance writer and video consultant with a master's degree from the Sydney College of Divinity.