Understanding the Syria Babel: moral perspectives on the Syrian conflict from just war to jihad

Tom Smith, Peter Lee, Vladimir Rauta, Sameera Khalfey

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The war in Syria, and its ongoing analysis, is burdened by a variety of seemingly irreconcilable political motivations, actions, ideologies, religious affiliations and power dynamics of multiple state and non-state actors. In this context, various moral perspectives appear to come into direct conflict, underpinning the actions of the actors involved and to varying degrees influencing their competing political interests. Is there a coherent dialogue of moralities between the rivals involved or is Babel reborn with moral claims being launched but with no real exchange of meaning involved? On Syria, the answer is a complicated mixture of both but within which are important and as yet underappreciated patterns of convergence and divergence. This paper looks at the leading states involved as well as the role of individuals to elucidate this pattern of overlap and difference in the morality discourses surrounding Syria. Ultimately, it is argued that a moral Babel is not reborn in Syria: there is sufficiently common moral language being used by all sides for a degree of shared meaning to emerge. The challenge is for the protagonists to listen and really hear what is being said and work with those commonalties as tools towards peace.
Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Conflict & Terrorism
Early online date3 Dec 2018
Publication statusEarly online - 3 Dec 2018


  • Syria
  • Jihad
  • ISIS
  • Morality
  • Social Media
  • Terrorism
  • Conflict
  • Civil War


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