Academic journal article Parameters

Confronting Evils: Terrorism, Torture, Genocide

Academic journal article Parameters

Confronting Evils: Terrorism, Torture, Genocide

Article excerpt

Confronting Evils: Terrorism, Torture, Genocide

by Claudia Card

New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010

329 pages



Most readers view challenges of terrorism, torture, and genocide from a prevention oriented policy, operational, or legal perspective. This book offers an opportunity to look at these acts from a philosophical viewpoint. This reviewer began reading the book with doubts about its utility for his own work in genocide and mass atrocity prevention, not to mention doubts about his preparation to assess a book of philosophy. Confronting Evils is a useful text for readers possessing intellectual grit who welcome opportunities to examine and reassess the assumptions guiding their ideas and work.

The book is presented in two parts. Part I explores the concept of evil and its various forms. Part II examines terrorism, counterterrorism, torture, and genocide. The book is presented as a sequential exploration and series of arguments, but each chapter holds up well as an individual essay that can be read with limited cross-reference to the rest of the text. Readers lacking education in philosophy will find this a well written and carefully presented study that helps them overcome this obstacle (except Chapter 2, where the ideas of Immanuel Kant come heavily into play.)

Part I usefully explores the concept of evil. As Professor Card defines them, "evils are reasonably foreseeable intolerable harms produced by inexcusable wrongs." It will be of interest to some readers that she draws on the law of war (referred to in the book as international humanitarian law or IHL) as one source of insight on the nature of evil. Part I considers not only harms to individual human beings and individuals as perpetrators, but also institutions as a source of the evils explored in the book. In what may sometimes be a stretch for readers, she also examines "ecocide" as an evil based on wrongs done to the environment.

The greatest value of Part I is that it offers readers the chance to evaluate their own frame of reference for evil as a moral issue in international relations and national security. It might be wrong to say that Part I is intellectually clarifying--the whole book requires careful, patient reading--but it will lead a willing reader to attempt an objective examination of his or her operating assumptions. The most tangible benefit for the national security oriented reader comes in Part II.

Professor Card usefully explores philosophical dimensions of terrorism, torture, and genocide in Part II. …

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