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Strategic restraint : modelling the role of moral weight in modern conflicts

Flint, Jonathan Allen


Jonathan Allen Flint


David J. Lonsdale

James Connelly


Strategic Restraint: Modelling the Role of Moral Weight in Modern Conflicts is a PhD thesis that seeks to make the argument that restraint has a strategic purpose. It begins with a discussion of an understanding of ethics as the negotiation of hierarchies of ‘goods’ and develops an idea of Primary and Contingent goods, how those goods are decided and the role of morality, ethics and the law in human affairs. Following that is a consideration of strategy, and the nature of war. These discussions begin to form the basis of the following chapters. It develops a model for understanding the nature of war, and using this model makes suggestions about the controlled application of force and the effects of overapplication of force. The construction of the model is supported by examination of military history, concentrating on conflicts in the latter part of the of the 20th century to more recent conflicts.

In considering the difficulties the model indicates in this overapplication, the work argues that there is need for the ‘artificial’ application of perceived mass, and suggests that it is here that the utility of ethical behaviour in warfare can be found for strategy. In using restraint, guided by higher ethical choices which necessarily reduce efficacy, it is argued that there is strategic advantage to be found. This is supported by analyses from modern Counter Insurgency campaigns, where such activity has been undertaken by commanders independently, while attempting to provide a theoretical explanation for the seeming success of these decisions. The work also considers outcomes from applying such strategic choices, from operational and policy concerns to the consequences in interstate relations before, during and after armed conflict.


Flint, J. A. (2017). Strategic restraint : modelling the role of moral weight in modern conflicts. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Jan 15, 2019
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Politics
Public URL
Additional Information School of Law and Politics, The University of Hull
Award Date Jul 1, 2017


Thesis (2.9 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2017 Flint, Jonathan Allen. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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