This project ran from 2015 to 2018.

“What constitutes victory?  I think that is a fundamental question, and it is good for each of us in this country to ask ourselves that from time to time.  When we try to decide whether or not we’ve been victorious, we have to think, for just a second, what the term ‘victory’ means.”

General Tommy Franks (2006)

We are an inter-disciplinary team of researchers headquartered at the University of Glasgow, and based across the US Naval War College, and the UK Joint Services Command and Staffing College.  We are affiliated to the School for Social and Political Sciences and the School of Humanities, and draw upon the support and expertise of the Glasgow Global Security Network, the Glasgow Human Rights Network, the Scottish Centre for War Studies, and Policy Scotland. Our aim is to bring together scholars and military professionals to consider the ethical issues that arise in relation to how violent armed conflicts are concluded.

We are particularly interested in the concept of military victory, and what it may mean in the contemporary security environment. Often conceived in narrowly strategic terms, can the concept of victory also provide a moral compass for policy pertaining to the termination of wars?  Or is it a retrograde notion that fosters an unhelpful, archaic, image of military conflict as ‘trial by strength’?  This project addresses these important questions against the backdrop of protracted and messy ‘endgame’ struggles in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and the so-called War on Terror.  Viewed in these terms, this research programme will connect the strategic literature on victory and post-conflict rights and governance to the jus post bellum pole of just war theory, which is concerned with the ethical issues bearing on the conclusion of war.  To this end, it will use the platform provided by three interdisciplinary research groups at the University of Glasgow—the Glasgow Global Security Network (GGSN), the Glasgow Human Rights Network (GHRN), and the Scottish Centre for War Studies (SCWS)—to develop collaborative engagements under the remit of the ESRC.

The urgency of this undertaking is signalled by the botched conclusion of recent struggles in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya.  These cases direct our attention to three underlying questions that penetrate to the heart of how we understand the use of force in the post-Cold War order.  First, what constitutes military victory in an era when battles are no longer confined to battlefields, but are instead fought remotely and using technologies that negate the need for direct confrontation?  Second, how may we recognize victory when it is achieved?  That is to say, what are the markers of victory in modern war?  Finally, assuming we can indeed discern victory, what rights can the winner in battle leverage by virtue of its victory?  Viewed in concert, these timely questions provoke us to re-consider the overlap (and/or tension) between the ethical and strategic dimensions of conflict in the current security environment and the relation that prevails between winning wars and winning the peace.

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Our Team



Project outputs

See all the Policy Scotland resources and articles from the Moral Victories Project