Cover image for Arguing about war
Arguing about war
Walzer, Michael.
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Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xv, 208 pages ; 22 cm
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U21.2 .W34497 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Michael Walzer is one of the world's most eminent philosophers on the subject of war and ethics. Now, for the first time since his classic Just and Unjust Wars was published almost three decades ago, this volume brings together his most provocative arguments about contemporary military conflicts and the ethical issues they raise. The essays in the book are divided into three sections. The first deals with issues such as humanitarian intervention, emergency ethics, and terrorism. The second consists of Walzer's responses to particular wars, including the first Gulf War, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. And the third presents an essay in which Walzer imagines a future in which war might play a less significant part in our lives. In his introduction, Walzer reveals how his thinking has changed over time. Written during a period of intense debate over the proper use of armed force, this book gets to the heart of difficult problems and argues persuasively for a moral perspective on war.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Walzer (Just and Unjust Wars) collects previously published pieces from the last 15 years that dramatize and discuss the ethical dilemmas of military intervention in emergency situations, after terrorism and during foreign civil wars. Walzer's consideration of pros and cons can be so theoretically oriented that it is difficult to tell where he stands precisely, but it is clear that he believes officers must require risk-taking in battle and soldiers should undertake it. He does not have anything good to say about pacifists and works to refute arguments on the left claiming that the terrorism originating in the developing world should be thought of differently than that originating elsewhere. Rwanda's ethnic cleansing, the Gulf War and Kosovo's bloody move toward independence all serve as case studies, often as facts on the ground were developing or before they developed; writing before the Iraq War, Walzer weighs military occupation in Iraq against the possibility of a better political regime and follows that with a provocative, counterintuitive argument that France, in particular, but also Germany and Russia, bear a heavy responsibility for the United States' decision to preemptively attack. Events are outpacing some of Walzer's deliberations, but his case studies put the issues at stake in relief, regardless of whether one accepts his conclusions. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Walzer (Inst. for Advanced Study, Princeton) has attained the status of an eminent moral philosopher on collective violence through his classic Just and Unjust Wars (1977). In these previously published essays, he draws particular strength from an insightful combination of theory and case studies. For example, his discussion of the concept of proportionality in the first Gulf War challenges us to consider not only the costs of a response to aggression but the moral significance of specific wartime decisions. Walzer provides an excellent defense of the decision to embark upon a "just war" and what is implied by justification. His objection that the second Gulf War was "preventive, not preemptive" clarifies the moral difference between the two and shows that, contrary to President Bush's view, the current war was not preemptive. Walzer's discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict offers a good account of why the moral argument is confusing; elements of each side have engaged the other in two distinct wars, both just and unjust. A concluding chapter explains different versions of global governance, but perhaps the book's title reflects Walzer's most durable accomplishment. Highly recommended for both academic and public libraries. Zachary T. Irwin, Sch. of Humanities and Social Science, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Nearly three decades ago political theorist Michael Walzer wrote Just and Unjust Wars, a pathbreaking study that contributed to the revival of the just war tradition and helped spawn a rich and diverse scholarship on the ethics of war. Now, for the first time since publishing his classic study, Walzer explores in this short, compelling book some of the major moral challenges posed by contemporary political violence. In particular, he addresses the ethics of force in confronting terrorism, wars of self-determination, the collapse of states, and systemic human rights atrocities. The first part of the book is devoted to conceptual and theoretical issues of the just war theory; in the second section, Walzer applies just war reasoning to five cases--the Gulf War, the NATO war over Kosovo, the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the US response to the 9/11 terror attack, and the US war against Iraq. Although the book is based on previously published articles, it nevertheless provides fresh and cogent moral analysis of the role of force in the postmodern era. This accessible and elegantly written study is essential reading for scholars and practitioners concerned with international ethics and, especially, the role of morality in global conflicts. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All levels. M. Amstutz Wheaton College