Arguing About War

Arguing About War

Michael Walzer
Copyright Date: 2004
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Arguing About War
    Book Description:

    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 classicJust and Unjust Warswas 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-12771-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    Clausewitz’s famous line, that war is the continuation of politics by other means, was probably meant to be provocative, but it seems to me obviously true. And the claim is equally obvious the other way around: politics is the continuation of war by other means. It is very important, however, that the means are different. Politics is a form of peaceful contention, and war is organized violence. All the participants, all the activists and militants, survive a political defeat (unless the victor is a tyrant, at war with his own people), whereas many participants, soldiers and civilians alike, do not...

      (pp. 3-22)

      Some political theories die and go to heaven; some, I hope, die and go to hell. But some have a long life in this world, a history most often of service to the powers-that-be, but also, sometimes, an oppositionist history. The theory of just war began in the service of the powers. At least that is how I interpret Augustine’s achievement: he replaced the radical refusal of Christian pacifists with the active ministry of the Christian soldier. Now pious Christians could fight on behalf of the worldly city, for the sake of imperial peace (in this case, literally,pax Romana);...

      (pp. 23-32)

      In writing about military responsibility, I shall try to avoid all reference to questions of free will, intentionality, and the theory of action. I will address instead what I take to be a very difficult, practical problem in our understanding of military responsibility and in our enforcement of it.

      It is one of the purposes of any institutional hierarchy, and most especially of the bureaucratic or military chain of command, to resolve questions of responsibility. Who is responsible to whom, and for what? That is what the organizational chart is supposed to show. Once an official or a soldier locates...

    • three EMERGENCY ETHICS (1988)
      (pp. 33-50)

      My subject in this essay is ‘‘supreme emergency.’’ The phrase is Winston Churchill’s, and it refers to the crisis of British survival during the darkest days of World War II.¹ Supreme emergency is a time for heroic decision, when nations and leaders are measured by the measures they take; but it is also a desperate time, when the measures taken are ones we would avoid if we possibly could. I wish no such time on my own country and my fellow citizens. Let this be a theoretical discussion and an educational exercise. We can test our everyday moral perceptions against...

      (pp. 51-66)

      No one these days advocates terrorism, not even those who regularly practice it. The practice is indefensible now that it has been recognized, like rape and murder, as an attack upon the innocent. In a sense, indeed, terrorism is worse than rape and murder commonly are, for in the latter cases the victim has been chosen for a purpose; he or she is the direct object of attack, and the attack has some reason, however twisted or ugly it may be. The victims of a terrorist attack are third parties, innocent bystanders; there is no special reason for attacking them;...

    • five THE POLITICS OF RESCUE (1994)
      (pp. 67-82)

      To intervene or not?—this should always be a hard question. Even in the case of a brutal civil war or a politically induced famine or the massacre of a local minority, the use of force in other people’s countries should always generate hesitation and anxiety. So it does today among small groups of concerned people, some of whom end up supporting, some resisting, interventionist policies. But many governments and many more politicians seem increasingly inclined to find the question easy: the answer isnot!Relatively small contingents of soldiers will be sent to help out in cases where it isn’t...

      (pp. 85-98)

      Political theories are tested by events in the political world. We ask whether the theory illuminates the events. Does it bring the right issues into relief? Is it helpful in shaping, justifying, and explaining our moral responses and judgments?

      Consider the war in the Persian Gulf as a test case. Conscripted into service, how well did the theory of just war serve? Curiously, some critics of the war, particularly religious critics (some Catholic bishops, the leaders of the World Council of Churches), tried simultaneously to use and discard the theory. They talked about justice because they wanted to say that...

    • seven KOSOVO (1999)
      (pp. 99-103)

      At this writing, the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia continues, and the Serbian destruction of Kosovar society also continues. Yes, the Serbian campaign must have been planned before the bombing began; the logistics of moving forty thousand soldiers are immensely complex. In some parts of Kosovo the harsh realities of ethnic cleansing were already visible before the decision to hit the Serbs with missiles and smart bombs was made. And given the Serbian record in Bosnia, and the mobilization of soldiers on the borders of Kosovo, and the refugees already on the move, military intervention seems to me entirely justified, even...

      (pp. 104-112)

      In Jerusalem in June a merchant on Ben Yehudah Street, in the western part of the city, complained to me about the collapse of tourism, the empty shops and hotels. She blamed the media for showing so many pictures of stone-throwing Palestinians and Israeli soldiers with clubs and tear gas. The pictures give a false impression: ‘‘Just look,’’ she said, pointing to the street, ‘‘how peaceful it is.’’ Indeed, Ben Yehudah Street was peaceful, lovely, noisy only with café conversations. The whole western part of the city was peaceful and lovely; the whole country, if one conceived the country in...

      (pp. 113-129)

      The great simplifiers are hard at work, but Israel/Palestine has never been a friendly environment for them, and it is especially unfriendly today. They are bound to get it wrong, morally and politically, and that is a very bad thing to do, for the stakes are high. There isn’t one war going on in the Middle East, and there isn’t a single opposition of right and wrong, just and unjust. Four Israeli-Palestinian wars are now in progress.

      The first is a Palestinian war to destroy the state of Israel.

      The second is a Palestinian war to create an independent state...

      (pp. 130-142)

      This is not going to be a straightforward and entirely coherent argument. I am still reeling from the attacks of September 11, and I don’t have all my responses in order. I will try to answer five questions about terrorism. Whether the answers add up to a ‘‘position’’— theoretical or practical—I will leave to the reader.

      1. What is terrorism?

      2. How should we go about explaining it?

      3. How is it defended or excused?

      4. How should we respond?

      5. What will be the signs of a successful response?

      1.What is it?It’s not hard to recognize;...

    • eleven FIVE ON IRAQ
      (pp. 143-168)

      The Bush administration is threatening to attack Iraq and has been doing so for many months now. But it is hard, even after the president’s U.N. speech, to see the point of the threat. It might be intended to deter the Iraqis from developing weapons of mass destruction, but it seems more likely to speed up the work they are already doing—especially since George W. Bush has repeatedly insisted that his goal is not just to stop weapons development but also to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein. It might be intended to rally support for the war to...

    • twelve GOVERNING THE GLOBE (2000)
      (pp. 171-192)

      Imagine the possible political arrangements of international society as if they were laid out along a continuum marked off according to the degree of centralization. Obviously, there are alternative markings; the recognition and enforcement of human rights could also be measured along a continuum, as could democratization, welfare provision, pluralism, and so on. But focusing on centralization is the quickest way to reach the key political and moral questions, above all the classical question: what is the best or the best possible regime? What constitutional goals should we set ourselves in an age of globalization?

      My plan is to present...

    (pp. 193-196)
  8. NOTES
    (pp. 197-200)
    (pp. 201-202)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 203-208)