Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations

By Michael Walzer | Go to book overview

PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION

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

-xi-

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Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the Third Edition xi
  • Preface xvii
  • Acknowledgments xxv
  • Part One - The Moral Reality of War 1
  • 1 - Against "Realism" 3
  • 2 - The Crime of War 21
  • 3 - The Rules of War 34
  • Part Two - The Theory of Aggression 49
  • 4 - Law and Order in International Society 51
  • 5 - Anticipations 74
  • 6 - Interventions 86
  • 7 - War's Ends, and the Importance of Winning 109
  • Part Three - The War Convention 125
  • 8 - War's Means, and the Importance of Fighting Well 127
  • 9 - Noncombatant Immunity and Military Necessity 138
  • 10 - War against Civilians: Sieges and Blockades 160
  • 11 - Guerrilla War 176
  • 12 - Terrorism 197
  • 13 - Reprisals 207
  • Part Four - Dilemmas of War 223
  • 14 - Winning and Fighting Well 225
  • 15 - Aggression and Neutrality 233
  • 16 - Supreme Emergency 251
  • 17 - Nuclear Deterrence 269
  • Part Five - The Question of Responsibility 285
  • 18 - The Crime of Aggression: Political Leaders and Citizens 287
  • 19 - War Crimes: Soldiers and Their Officers 304
  • Afterword - Nonviolence and the Theory of War 329
  • Notes 337
  • Index 355
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