Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations

By Michael Walzer | Go to book overview

PREFACE

I did not begin by thinking about war in general, but about particular wars, above all about the American intervention in Vietnam. Nor did I begin as a philosopher, but as a political activist and a partisan. Certainly, political and moral philosophy ought to help us at those difficult times when we choose sides and make commitments. But it does so only indirectly. We are not usually philosophical in moments of crisis; most often, there is no time. War especially imposes an urgency that is probably incompatible with philosophy as a serious enterprise. The philosopher is like Wordsworth's poet who reflects in tranquility upon past experience (or other people's experience), thinking about political and moral choices already made. And yet these choices are made in philosophical terms, available because of previous reflection. It was, for example, a matter of great importance to all of us in the American anti-war movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s that we found a moral doctrine ready at hand, a connected set of names and concepts that we all knew -- and that everyone else knew. Our anger and indignation were shaped by the words available to express them, and the words were at the tips of our tongues even though we had never before explored their meanings and connections. When we talked about aggression and neutrality, the rights of prisoners of war and civilians, atrocities and war crimes, we were drawing upon the work of many generations of men and women, most of whom we had never heard of. We would be better off if we did not need a vocabulary like that, but given that we need it, we must be grateful that we have it. Without this vocabulary, we could not have thought about the Vietnam war as we did, let alone have communicated our thoughts to other people.

No doubt we used the available words freely and often carelessly. Sometimes this was due to the excitement of the moment and the pressures of partisanship, but it also had a more serious cause. We suffered from an education which taught us that these words had no proper descriptive use and no objective meaning. Moral dis-

-xvii-

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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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