Academic journal article Parameters

Fighting Hurt: Rule and Exception in Torture and War

Academic journal article Parameters

Fighting Hurt: Rule and Exception in Torture and War

Article excerpt

Fighting Hurt: Rule and Exception in Torture and War

By Henry Shue

New York, NY: Oxford

University Press, 2016

504 pages


Philosophers are often accused of living in "ivory towers," preferring to ruminate about arid abstractions rather than the stuff of everyday human existence. Thankfully, Henry Shue is not that kind of philosopher. Even though he has studied and taught at several top-notch universities, including Princeton, Cornell, and Oxford, his whole scholarly career has been devoted to examining practical ethical and political issues. Fighting Hurt gathers 22 essays published over a 40-year period on topics such as preemptive and preventive war, humanitarian military intervention, jus ad helium and jus in hello proportionality, torture, and whether a country facing a "supreme emergency" may justifiably target enemy civilians.

Shue is steeped in the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law. Many of the arguments in the book reflect his efforts to interpret treaty law in connection with US strategy and military doctrine, as well as to urge reforms of international legal norms where he finds them wanting. Most chapters will be of interest to Department of Defense lawyers and doctrine writers. A few chapters will be accessible primarily to Just War theorists who have followed recent lines of dense philosophical debate, for example, on whether soldiers fighting for an unjust cause forfeit some rights that opposing combatants retain. While most readers will not study the complete anthology, all strategic leaders will benefit from reading Shue's careful analyses.

Given that a current presidential candidate has endorsed waterboarding and "worse" interrogation tactics, and threatened to order US government personnel to employ them even if they are illegal, it would be prudent for military and intelligence leaders to reflect on one or more of Shue's chapters on torture. For decades, Shue has argued against government-sanctioned torture, criticizing the standard "ticking bomb" hypothetical scenario as artificial and unrealistic and condemning attempts by judges and government lawyers to dilute the clear meaning of US-ratified treaties that ban torture under all circumstances. …

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