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Just And Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations Paperback – Jul 26 2006
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"A magnificent book, an honor to its writer... a book that makes for a return of civilised discussion of the question of the morality of war." New York Review of Books "A passionate defense of the old principle of non-combatant immunity... (He) is both thorough and persuasive in his exploration of a very intricate subject." Washington Post"
About the Author
Michael Walzer is Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey, and the author of many widely heralded books, including 'Spheres of Justice, Exodus and Revolution', and 'The Company of Critics', all available from Basic Books. He lives in Princeton, New Jersey.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
In fact, the reviewer's comment that "THe question of 'just wars' was obviously aimed at the recent Iraq war" just makes Walzer's case for him. The fact that his text is still clearly relevant today makes his historical points that much more powerful. In our philosophy department there has been a major resurgence in teaching Walzer in the last 3 years for just this reason.
Even though Walzer's opinions on the current US-Iraqi war can be fairly clearly determined from "Just and Unjust Wars", if you want a more explicit version of what he would say, you should pick up "Arguing About War" which is Walzer's 2004 book of recent essays. He discusses the Iraq war explicitly, although books published in May are already a bit dated. Walzer's philosophical arguments are timeless though and need to be thought about and discussed.
I would highly recommend the book and recommend that the reader keep current conflicts in mind while reading the historical episodes of other conflicts to help put Walzer's arguments in perspective.
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)
In his afterword, Mr Walzer gives a chilling idea of how a population (even an unarmed one) can tear down and defeat an occupying force. "Nonviolence has been practiced (in the face of an invasion) only after violence, or the threat of violence has failed. Then its protagonists aim to deny the victorious army the fruits of its victory through a systematic policy of civilian resistance and noncooperation: they call upon the conquered people to make themselves ungovernable... They treat the aggressor in effect as a domestic tyrant or usurper, and they turn his soldiers into policemen". If you add to this recipe some dozens of IEDs daily, you have the nightmare of Iraq!
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