Has Making Wars More ‘Humane’ Helped Make Them Endless?

Have efforts to make war more ethical — to ban torture and limit civilian casualties — only shored up the military enterprise and made it sturdier? That is the controversial argument Professor Samuel Moyn makes in his new book Humane. Moyn, a professor at Yale University and Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute, looks back at a century and a half of passionate arguments about the ethics of using force. Humane is the story of how America went off to fight and never came back, and how armed combat was transformed from an imperfect tool for resolving disputes into an integral component of the modern condition. As American wars have become more humane, they have also become endless, he argues. To discuss his thesis, Moyn will be joined by Princeton Professor Gary Bass, author of The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide and Freedom’s Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention. Their conversation will be moderated by the Quincy Institute’s Kelley Beaucar Vlahos. The discussion will take place on Monday, October 4, at 10 am ET.


Samuel Moyn

Samuel Moyn is a fellow at the Quincy Institute and Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of History at Yale University. His areas of interest in legal scholarship include international law, human rights, the law of war, and legal thought, in both historical and current perspective. He recently published Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War. He is also the author of Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018), Christian Human Rights (2015), and The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2012). Before Yale, he held faculty positions at Columbia and Harvard Universities, and hails from St. Louis, Missouri.

Gary Bass

Gary Bass is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide; Freedom's Battle: The Origins of Humanitarian Intervention; and Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals. The Blood Telegram was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in general nonfiction and was a New York Times and Washington Post notable book of the year and best book of the year in The Economist and Financial Times. A former reporter for The Economist, Bass writes often for The New York Times, and has also written for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, and other publications.

Kelley Beaucar Vlahos (Moderator)

Kelley Vlahos is senior advisor for the Quincy Institute and contributing editor at Responsible Statecraft. Previously, she served as executive editor at The American Conservative magazine, for which she has also been writing and reporting on the wars, foreign policy, veterans, and the military since 2007. She also organized the magazine’s major annual foreign policy conference for the last three years. She is currently a co-host of the Crashing the War Party podcast.