Since political science has shown that the best way to promote human rights is not to have wars, one might have thought that antiwar activism would be the primary form of human rights activism. It isn’t. Instead, the mainstream position—shared by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and most other such groups—is neutrality on the initiation and continuation of war, coupled with factual reporting on violations of international humanitarian law, or the laws of armed conflict, concerning the conduct of hostilities.
This posture was a choice rather than a necessity, and one with important ethical and political stakes—and it was and is still debatable. There are two questions worth posing for the future: Should there even be a default in favor of this mainstream position? And if there should be such a default, when, if ever, should it be lifted?
The past 50 years of this more or less absolute default are exceptional in history, since most advocacy groups in modern times have prioritized controlling war itself rather than stigmatizing crimes within war. And the current reversed position among advocates has some increasingly obvious downsides.
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