Dr Cian O’Driscoll

ISRF Mid-Career Fellow 2018-19

Dr Cian O’Driscoll

ISRF Mid-Career Fellow 2018-19

ISRF Cian O'Driscoll

Cian O’Driscoll is an Associate Professor in International Relations at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs at The Australian National University. Cian joined the ANU in 2020. Prior to this, he completed his PhD at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, and worked at the University of Glasgow.

His principal area of research is the intersection between normative international relations theory and the history of political thought, with a particular focus on the ethics of war.

His published work examines the development of the just war tradition over time and the role it plays in circumscribing contemporary debates about the rights and wrongs of warfare. These themes are reflected in his two monographs: Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Just War (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019) and The Renegotiation of the Just War Tradition (New York: Palgrave, 2008).

Cian has also co-edited three volumes and his work has been published in leading journals in the field, including International Studies Quarterly, the European Journal of International Relations, the Journal of Strategic Studies, the Journal of Global Security StudiesReview of International StudiesEthics & International Affairs, and Millennium. He was the PI on an ESRC project entitled Moral Victories and was a 2019 ISRF fellow. Cian served as the Chair of the International Ethics section of the International Studies Association, 2018-2020. He is currently commencing a project on vernacular approaches to the ethics of war.

Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Just War

When, if ever, is a political community justified in going to war? Is there such a thing as a just war? If there is, how should it be waged? Does anything go, or must communities respect strict limitations when conducting hostilities? These are hard questions to answer. The principal conceptual framework for addressing them is the just war tradition. While its key tenets-e.g., the principles of ‘just cause’, ‘last resort’, and ‘discrimination’-are frequently invoked by today’s political and military leaders, the just war tradition boasts a long and venerable history, encompassing contributions from classical political thought, early Christian political theology, medieval chivalric thinking, early modern jurisprudence, and contemporary political philosophy. Thus defined, the tradition comprises an evolving body of thought that aims to distil the wisdom of the ages into a useful guide for thinking through the ethical questions war raises. This project makes a novel contribution to this tradition by focusing upon the concept of victory, and asking what it means in relation to the idea of just war. Although the idiom of ‘winning’ is central to how war is framed, just war scholars have been reticent to engage it. Why is this, and is it a mistake? Is victory a helpful concept for thinking through the ethical issues that war raises, or have just war scholars been wise to excise it from their discourse? Straddling International Political Theory, War Studies, and the History of Political Thought, this project thereby presents a new approach to the old and overlooked, yet also urgent, question of what victory means in relation to just war. In so doing, it employs the just war tradition to shed new light on what victory might mean, while using victory as a prism through which to develop a critical ‘historical ontology’ of just war.

Research Outcomes

  • O’Driscoll, C. (2019)Victory: The Triumph and Tragedy of Just War. Oxford University Press.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at lars.cornelissen@isrf.org.