Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations

Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations

Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations

Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations

Synopsis

Jorge Luis Borges irrevocably changed the direction of modern literature, and stands as one of the seminal figures in 20th century letters, influencing postwar fiction and philosophy from Garcia Marquez to Fuentes, Updike to Eco, Barth to Foucault. Borges' countless works of poetry, essays, and stories continue to invite readers, into his private world of magical realism and metaphysical speculation.

James Woodall has traveled to the writer's native Buenos Aires and spoken with those who knew him best, including his wife, his sister, and close friends. Woodall's critical analysis of Borges' life and work maps the creative and intellectual development of a writer whose influential imprint is everywhere in modern literature. Lively, colorful, and highly readable, Borges: A Life gives readers an unprecedented look at Borges as both artist and human being.

Excerpt

It has been almost a quarter of a century since I wrote this book, but rereading it today, it doesn't seem as dated as I hoped, in the mid- 1970s, it would be by now. The world is no less violent. The forms of warfare have changed far less than many political leaders, generals, media commentators, and public intellectuals expected. New wars echo old ones, much as they always have. Consider the bloody struggle between Iran and Iraq that lasted from 1980 to 1988 and was like a reenactment of World War I: large armies brutally engaged over a relatively small battle area; masses of young men charging into machine gun and artillery fire; generals careless about casualties. Similarly, the 1991 war in the Persian Gulf, though fought with a far more advanced technology, had the political, legal, and moral structure of the Korean war, while the columns of tanks in the Kuwaiti desert reminded people my age of Rommel and Montgomery in North Africa in World War II. When U.S. soldiers went into Grenada and Panama in the 1980s, the brief engagements were remarkably similar to nineteenth- and early twentieth-century colonial skirmishes. The moral arguments that preceded, accompanied, and followed these wars are very close to the moral arguments dealt with in Just and Unjust Wars. The voices differ; the words are the same.

But there has been one large and momentous shift in both wars and words. The issues that I discussed under the name "interventions" (chapter 6), which were peripheral to the main concerns of the book, have moved dramatically into the center. It isn't too much of an exaggeration to say that the greatest danger most people face in the world today comes from their own states, and the chief dilemma of international politics is whether people in danger should be rescued by military forces from outside. The idea of "humanitarian intervention" has been in the textbooks of international law for a long time, but it appeared in the real world, so to speak, mostly as a rationale for imperial expansion. Ever since the Spaniards conquered Mexico in order to stop the Aztec practice of human sacrifice (among other reasons), the term has evoked mostly sarcastic comments. No doubt, it is still necessary to cast a critical . . .

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