VIDEO: Online Debate: Can War Ever Be Justified

By World BEYOND War, September 21, 2022

Debate set up by World BEYOND War on September 21, 2022, International Day of Peace.

Arguing that war can never be justified was David Swanson, an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of World BEYOND War and campaign coordinator for Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He hosts Talk World Radio. He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and U.S. Peace Prize recipient.

Arguing that war can sometimes be justified was Arnold August, a Montreal-based author of three books on US/Cuba/Latin America. As a journalist he appears on TelesurTV and Press TV commenting on international geopolitical issues, is a Contributing Editor for The Canada Files and his articles are published world-wide in English, French and Spanish. He is a member of the International Manifesto Group.

Moderating was Youri Smouter, host of 1+1, a topical history and current affairs program on his YouTube channel 1+1 hosted by Yuri Muckraker aka Youri Smouter. He is based in Southern Belgium and is a left-wing media critic, NGO critic, anti-imperialist, an advocate for Indigenous solidarity and a Native Lives Matter movement and socially liberal thinker.

Doing tech support and timekeeping and polling was WBW Organizing Director Greta Zarro.

Participants on Zoom were polled at the beginning and end of the event on the question “Can war ever be justified?” At the beginning 36% said yes and 64% no. At the end, 29% said yes and 71% no.


  1. October 2016 Vermont: Video. No poll.
  2. September 2017 Philadelphia: No video. No poll.
  3. February 2018 Radford, Va: Video and poll. Before: 68% said war could be justified, 20% no, 12% not sure. After: 40% said war could be justfied, 45% no, 15% not sure.
  4. February 2018 Harrisonburg, Va: Video. No poll.
  5. February 2022 Online: Video and poll. Before: 22% said war could be justified, 47% no, 31% not sure. After: 20% said war could be justified, 62% no, 18% not sure.
  6. September 2022 Online: Video and poll. Before: 36% said war could be justified, 64% no. After: 29% said war could be justified, 71% no. Participants were not asked to indicate a choice of “not sure.”

10 Responses

  1. Greetings from Australia where it is 22/9/22, and raining as we collectively “mourn” our dear departed Queen. The Queen is dead; long live the King. The transfer of authority is as simple as that!!! An example of what can happen in a “World without War”.

    And a thank you to Greta, you ensured the smooth progress of this debate. Yuri, David and Arnold who provided a very “civil” debate.

    The one unfortunate negative aspect of this debate was the “chat” feature. Rather than listening to the actual debate, a handful of Zoom participants were more involved in presenting their own ideologies. Rather than having positive questions for the team, they spent most of their time arguing their own sometimes “uncivil” agenda.

    I enjoyed viewing the debate again without these distractions. Arnold presented a very informed history of the reasons for the Ukraine/Russian conflict going back to 1917. The role of the “Empire” and their lap dog, NATO, highlights why a “World without War” is a long way off.

    I felt that Arnold was in a difficult position; most of his debate could be construed as supporting the positive argument that war can never be justified.

    These forums tend to be “preaching to the converted”; the challenge is how to reach out to the “uninformed”, those who childishly believe the lies propagated by those who justify and profit from war. What is sad are the institutionalised religious groups, who have to make statements about what they determine to be ‘just wars” so as not to offend and lose the support of their opulent donors.

    Keep the conversation going David, your opening address had many interesting points.

    Peter Otto

  2. There was a good justification of Korean War. This was a civil war between North Korea and South Korea to unify the Korean people, same race and one country for thousands years. The foreign powers said this has been a war between communism and capitalism. It does not reflect the real reason of war between two countries. Why the US and other Western countries were involved in this civil war?

  3. I agree about the chat. I saved a copy to look at later and paid attention to the debate. I did put in one “Strike!” comment in chat in reaction what was being said during Q & A.

    I read through the chat lateer. Most of it was pointless (except questions for Swanson and August). There was one question/comment that had occured to me as well, that this was that the debate was 2 gray-haired white men talking to each other. I say this as a grey-haired white woman.

    I wish Glen Ford were still alive so he and Swanson could have this debate. (Of course there are many reasons why it would be good if Ford were still alive.) When Swanson reviewed Ford’s book encouraging us all to read it, he mentioned that Ford didn’t agree with him about what Swanson said about the USA Civil War, but that Ford didn’t argue, he went on to the next thing.

    I would like to listen to a “Can War Ever Be Justified?” debate between Swanson and a black or indigenous speaker. Maybe Nick Estes (Oceti Sakowin Sioux). I’m sure it would result in lots to think about! Or if someone from an oppressed community isn’t interested in this kind of debate, have them on Talk World Radio about the mushy place in the middle of resisting USA imperialism from the belly of the beast and what one does when local racist police or occupying military kicks down your door looking for an excuse to kill you. Which is a different situation from Grandma & a Dark Alley. (War is political, muggings are criminal.)

    In the case of the neighbors of the person or family that’s behind the door being kicked in — they have different options of action than the people behind the kicked door. Community solidarity and all that.

    I hope something in the middle of this makes sense. I’m glad you had this debate, I’m probably going to listen to it again to take notes.

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