The Irony of Just War

| June 2018
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Abstract: By claiming that “just war is just war,” critics suggest that just war theory both distracts from and sanitizes the horror of modern warfare by dressing it up in the language of moral principles. However, the phrase can also be taken as a reminder of why we need just war theory in the first place. It is precisely because just war is just war, with all that this implies, that we must think so carefully and so judiciously about it. Of course, one could argue that the rump of just war scholarship over the past decade has been characterized by disinterest regarding the material realities of warfare. But is this still the case? This essay examines a series of benchmark books on the ethics of war published over the past year. All three exemplify an effort to grapple with the hard facts of modern violent conflict, and they all skillfully bring diverse traditions of just war thinking into conversation with one another.

Keywords: just war, realism, Michael Walzer, Thomas Aquinas

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Category: Issue 32.2, Review Essays, The Ethics of War and Peace

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