Academic journal article Military Review

MORAL DILEMMAS OF MODERN WAR: Torture, Assassination, and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetric Conflict

Academic journal article Military Review

MORAL DILEMMAS OF MODERN WAR: Torture, Assassination, and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetric Conflict

Article excerpt

MORAL DILEMMAS OF MODERN WAR: Torture, Assassination, and Blackmail in an Age of Asymmetric Conflict, Michael L. Gross, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2010, 321 pages, $27.99.

This important, thought-provoking book examines how modern warfare, especially asymmetric confl ict, continues to challenge the way we practice and think about war. Michael L. Gross goes well beyond what the book's subtitle suggests by addressing several different types of asymmetric confl ict with an emphasis on legal and ethical issues and the slow evolution of "support" for previously banned practices in warfare.

Gross is an accomplished author who specializes in military ethics and military medical ethics. He combines his skills as a historian and political scientist to communicate the relevance of this subject for today's political and military leaders as they balance military necessity against standards of humanity during armed confl ict.

Gross reviews and defines the established standards, norms, and prohibitions of warfare outlined in numerous legal documents, international treaties, and conventions. With this historical context, he transitions from the strategic level to the tactical level without losing clarity when he compares aspects of conventional and asymmetric warfare and how the role and status of both combatants and noncombatants has changed over time. Gross discusses moral dilemmas and paradoxes that asymmetric confl ict presents to leaders, but particularly relevant are his discussions of targeting, the combatant/noncombatant blur, and torture. …

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