Walzer's book is a superb introduction to Just War. It addresses both justice of war and justice in war. Most importantly, it is philosophical and deep while at the same time always clear and well illustrated with concrete examples and historical cases. It really could not be better written. Every chapter is concise, fascinating and provides an excellent overview/introduction to its respected subject.
The main framework for Justice of War is the legalist paradigm/domestic analogy. In society, one is allowed to defend oneself if attacked. Analagously, a country can fight a war in self defense. Similarly, if evidence is uncovered that someone is plotting a murder or robbery, domestic authorities don't have to wait until he actually commits the crime to intervene. When the evidence accumulates to a certain level, beyond reasonable doubt say, they can intervene and pre-empt him. Same thing applies on the international scale: pre-emption is legitimate. Walzer illustrates this with the Six Day War of 1967, a preemptive war initiated by Israel. Of course, the current War on Iraq is supposed to be preemptive as well. But, as Walzer shows, it is in fact preventive. Prevention is when you intervene against a known bad person or country without specific evidence of an imminent attack because one believes that this person or country would harm one if it could and it can't be allowed to gain more power, because then it will attack, even though it won't now. Or roughly that ;) Walzer claims that preventive wars sometimes lead to unnecesary wars, to wars against countries that never would have attacked. Therefore, they are unjustified; we should wait until we have sufficient evidence for plans of a definite attack at some point in the near future. I find if persausive.
The stuff on justice in war is just as good. Non-combatants should be immune since they pose no threat. But, of course, who counts as a non-combatant? What about workers in a munitions factory? What about factories pumping out clothes and supplies that the military depends on? Other rules of conduct in war such as unnecessary suffering, double effect, proportionality and torture are discussed. So is the issue of who is responsible for war: just the political leaders? Citizens, too? Very interesting stuff.
I don't completely agree with Walzer, on things like Humanitarian Intervention and some other things, but this is nevertheless a great book. Read this and "Anarchy, State and Utopia" and you'll have a great foundation for a well reasoned political philosophy.
Greg Feirman (firstname.lastname@example.org)