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Review Essays of`Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Listening to the Silences: Women And War edited by Helen Durham, Tracey Gurd (International Humanitarian Law: Brill Academic) Challenging the perception that women are exclusively the victims, the caregivers or the passive supporters of men in times of armed conflict, Listening to the Silences: Women and War exposes the reader to a diversity of women’s voices. These voices, both personal and academic, demonstrate that women are increasingly taking on less ‘traditional’ roles during war, and that these roles are multifaceted, complicated and sometimes contradictory. More

The New Challenges of Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflicts edited by Pablo Antonio Fernandez-Sanchez (International Humanitarian Law: Martinus Nijhoff) represents an analysis of and a reflection on the new challenges of humanitarian law in armed conflicts. It covers the jurisprudential dimension not only of the International Court of Justice, but also all the different legal bodies, including the ad hoc tribunals created by the United Nations. It analyses the purely doctrinal dimension of general aspects such as the solutions to world disorder in this field, the relationship between jus in bello and jus ad bellum, the principles of universal and international jurisdiction, and the notion of justice and peace. More concrete aspects include the situation of foreigners and journalists in armed conflicts, terrorist acts in terms of international humanitarian law and sexual violence as a war crime. More

The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America, 1500-2000 by Fred Anderson, Andrew Cayton (Viking Books) Americans often think of their nation’s history as a movement toward ever-greater democracy, equality, and freedom. Wars in this story are understood both as necessary to defend those values and as exceptions to the rule of peaceful progress. In The Dominion of War, historians Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton boldly reinterpret the development of the United States, arguing instead that war has played a leading role in shaping North America from the sixteenth century to the present.

Anderson and Cayton bring their sweeping narrative to life by structuring it around the lives of eight men—Samuel de Champlain, William Penn, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, Ulysses S. Grant, Douglas MacArthur, and Colin Powell. This approach enables them to describe great events in concrete terms and to illuminate critical connections between often-forgotten imperial conflicts, such as the Seven Years’ War and the Mexican- American War, and better-known events such as the War of Independence and the Civil War. The result is a provocative, highly readable account of the ways in which republic and empire have coexisted in American history as two faces of the same coin. The Dominion of War recasts familiar triumphs as tragedies, proposes an unconventional set of turning points, and depicts imperialism and republicanism as inseparable influences in a pattern of development in which war and freedom have long been intertwined. It offers a new perspective on America’s attempts to define its role in the world at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

From Publishers Weekly
It can't be any mystery that "war and imperialism have powerfully influenced American development," as this book's authors say. But how powerfully did war and imperial ambition affect the U.S. when set against other factors? One wishes historians Anderson (author of the prize-winning Crucible of War) and Cayton (Frontier Indiana) had told us in this otherwise enterprising, readable work. Covering 500 years, they relate the nation's past through a narrative of colonists' and, later, citizens' determination to expand and secure by force their possessions. It's solid corrective history. Particularly appealing is the authors' organizing principle: they tell their tale through the lives and careers of such great military figures as George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses Grant, Douglas MacArthur and Colin Powell. The trouble is that by doing so, they often sacrifice analysis. They succeed in convincing us that wars and imperial expansion are fundamental impulses of the nation's history—arguably its central engine. But they overlook how those impulses may have grown out of the nation's immigrant origins, its democratic politics or its capitalist economy. That's too bad, because, in their telling, the U.S. looks a lot like other powerful nations, which may not be correct if these other, causative factors are taken into account. B&w photos, maps.  Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 

Empires at War: the French & Indian War and the Struggle for North America 1754-1763 by William Fowler (Walker & Company) On May 28, 1754, a group of militia and Indians led by a twenty-two-year-old major named George Washington surprised a camp of sleeping French soldiers near present-day Pittsburgh. Washington could not have known it, but the brief and deadly exchange of fire that ensued lit the match that, in Horace Walpole's memorable phrase, would "set the world on fire." The resulting French and Indian War in North America became part of the global conflict known as the Seven Years War, fought across Europe, India, and the East and West Indies. Before it ended, nearly one million men had died.

Empires at War captures the sweeping panorama of this first world war, especially in its descriptions of the strategy and intensity of the engagements in North America, many of them epic struggles between armies in the wilderness. William M. Fowler Jr. views the con­flict both from British prime minister William Pitt's perspective—as a vast chessboard, on which William Shirley's campaign in North America and the fortunes of Frederick the Great of Prussia were connected and from that of field commanders on the ground in America and Canada, who contended with disease, brutal weather, and scant supplies, fre­quently having to build the very roads they marched on. As in any conflict, individuals and events stand out: Sir William Johnson, a baronet and a major general of the British forces, who sometimes painted his face and dressed like a warrior when he fought beside his Indian allies; Edward Braddock's doomed march across Penn­sylvania; the valiant French defense of Fort Ticon­deroga; and the legendary battle for Quebec between armies led by the aristocratic French tactical genius, the marquis de Montcalm, and the gallant, if erratic, young Englishman James Wolfe—both of whom died on the Plains of Abraham on September 13, 1759.

For many, the French and Indian War has been merely the backdrop for James Fennimore Cooper's famous novel, The Last of the Mohicans. William M. Fowler Jr.'s engrossing narrative re­veals it to have been a turning point of modern history, without which the American Revolution as we know it might well not have occurred.

Readers daunted by the length of the definitive account of the French and Indian War, Crucible of War, by Fred Anderson (2000), which clocks in at 832 pages, will find Fowler's account a slimmer, more strictly narrative alternative. Like Anderson, Fowler quickly gets to the strange-but-true incident that touched off the war: George Washington's 1754 ambush of French soldiers in western Pennsylvania. That such a minor fracas on the frontier could ignite a world war is made plausible as Fowler sets within context the European diplomatic situation between France and Britain; in North America, the author sets the geographic constraints for the rivals' final showdown for control of the continent. Fowler efficiently relates the opening campaigns, such as the victory of the marquis de Montcalm at Ticonderoga in 1757, which brought William Pitt to power in England on a win-the-war platform. He succeeded in bringing Britain's numerical superiority to bear, although the contingencies of the crucial battle of the war at Quebec in 1759 are appropriately emphasized here. A well-modulated presentation for history buffs. Gilbert Taylor Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

A Terrible Love of War by James Hillman (The Penguin Press) examination of the roots of man's primal love/hate relationship with war.
War is a timeless force in the human imagination-and, indeed, in daily life. If recent events have taught us anything, it is that peacetime is not nearly so constant and attainable as wartime. During the 5,600 years of recorded history, 14,600 wars have been fought-2 to 3 for every year of human history. War is a constant thing. And yet no one really understands why that is.
In A Terrible Love of War, James Hillman, one of the central figures in psychology in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, fills this great void and undertakes a groundbreaking examination of the origins, needs, and rewards of war. Moreover, in this brilliant inquiry, Hillman explores many other essential questions, such as:  

  • Is war a necessary part of our human soul and, therefore, a necessary part of our lives?

  • Why do we need enemies?

  • What scars does warfare carve on the psyche of its soldiers? And why does it have such a permanent effect?

  • If war is such a "normal" part of our existence, why do we fear it so much? And alternately, how could we ever embrace a force so destructive, so wanton, and so inhuman?

  • Can the impulse to engage in war be tamed?

Hillman asserts that "if we want war's horror to be abated so that life may go on, it is necessary to understand and imagine." A Terrible Love of War is a crucial tool to understanding war-a crucial book for us all. 

War and International Justice: A Kantian Perspective by Brian Orend (Wilfrid Laurier University Press) Excerpt: In terms of a contemporary Kantian understanding of just war theory, the work breaks new ground by offering a rigorous conception of what it means to be a Kantian with regard to international justice, and thus does not rely on the hand‑waving so often present in such cases. The contemporary Kantian account is explicitly grounded in a substantive understanding of human rights and the need to protect them. This distinguishes it from rival contemporary just war doctrines, where only passing reference is made to human rights. Even Michael Walzer, arguably the greatest living just war theorist, admits that his account, though heavily reliant on human rights, does not offer a deep or substantive conception, much less a justification, of this crucially important notions

The work also seeks to add weight to the debate between just war theory and the rival doctrines of realism and pacifism by: 1) offering a much more complex and variegated conception of realism than is usual in the current just war literature; and 2) paying sustained attention to the claims of pacifism, and not simply relying on one or two well­worn arguments against it, such as that it constitutes an indefensible "clean hands" policy.

In terms of the development of norms of jus ad bellum and jus post bellum, a number of innovations in the principles are recommended and they are applied, in a fresh fashion, to such recent real‑world cases as the Persian Gulf War and Rwanda. Thoughtexperiment cases are also employed. The aim here is thus not merely to formulate an abstract set of imperatives but also to see how such imperatives might have concrete relevance in our world.

In terms of recommendations for the reform of the positive international laws of armed conflict, the account of short­term jus post bellum principles constitutes an important source for reflection on the current law of the cessation of hostilities. This law is almost entirely formal and procedural, centring on processes of surrender and on proclaiming and enforcing peace treaties. Almost no substantive legal constraints are currently placed upon the victor(s), and the contemporary Kantian account suggests that such a state of affairs ought to be revised.

Perhaps three broad aspects of this work require mention before proceeding into its body. The first point, a qualification, is that this book relies mostly on the relevant English literature, though it does draw nourishment from some important German and French sources. This emphasis arises from the fact that most of the recent relevant works on this issue of Kant and warfare have been offered by English‑speaking scholars, or by German scholars writing in English. This work thus seeks to contribute to the continuing renaissance of interest, in English‑speaking circles, in Kant's political philosophy.

The second point, a clarification, concerns the identity conditions of this work's main subject matter: war. One often hears, in debates about the ethics of war and peace, the forceful pronouncement that: "War is war!" People who say such things clearly believe they are making an important and powerful argument whereas other people wonder what such a redundant statement is supposed to be conveying. In order to avoid such awkwardness, war here requires something of a working definition.

Unless otherwise stated, war is to be understood in this work as actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political communities. Thus, fisticuffs between individual persons do not count as a war, nor does a gang fight, nor does a feud on the order of the Hatfields versus the McCoys. War is a phenomenon that occurs only between political communities, defined as those entities which either are states or intend to become states (in order to allow for civil war). Similarly, the mere threat of war and the presence of mutual disdain between these communities do not suffice as indicators of war. The conflict of arms must be actual and not merely latent. Further, the actual armed conflict must be both intentional and widespread: isolated clashes between rogue officers, or border patrols, do not count as actions of war. The onset of war requires a conscious commitment, and a significant mobilization, on the part of the belligerents in question.

Perhaps it would be apposite at this point to cite, by way of support, the views of the one and only (so‑called) "philosopher of war," Carl von Clausewitz. Clausewitz famously suggested that war is the continuation of policy by other means. And surely, as a description, this conception is both powerful and plausible. It fits in nicely with his own general definition of war as "an act of violence intended to compel our opponent to fulfil our will." War, he says, is like a duel, but on "an extensive scale."

As Michael Gelven has written recently, in an elegant monograph on how we ought to conceive of the essence of war, war is intrinsically vast, communal (or political) and violent. It is a widespread and deliberate armed conflict between political communities. It is the entity or phenomenon falling under such a description that is the primary focus of this contribution to just war theory.

The third and final point, a disclaimer, concerns a number of clichés about just war theory. Many theorists are inclined to refer to such a theory either while holding their noses or while looking down them with regal disdain. For example, I recently heard a respected moral philosopher refer to just war theory as "the last refuge of scoundrels." There is, so to speak, a certain smell about just war theory that any defender of it must deal with,`even prior to enunciating anything substantive. Three of the most commonly held beliefs of these skeptics, in this regard, are: 1) that just war theory is irredeemably tainted by its origins in Catholic doctrine; 2) that just war theory is dated and irrelevant; and 3) that just war theory is so liable to abuse as to be nothing more than a cloak with which to hide, or even justify, the commission of great evils, and by no less dubious an institution than the modern nationstate.

This work will show that none of these common criticisms of just war theory hold in the Kantian case. With regard to the first cliché, for instance, Kantian just war theory is explicitly secular in its normative moorings and thus does not`fall prey to objections with regard to its source being excessively exclusionary and implausible.

With regard to the second cliché, it is thought that just war theory is irrelevant in two senses: 1) because of the onset of the nuclear era; and 2) because it is said to be applicable only to interstate wars, which are increasingly infrequent. For example, it is sometimes claimed that most future wars will be either civil wars within states or guerilla wars between established states and nomadic terrorist organizations.

Just war theory, however, remains highly relevant and applicable to anyone concerned about the momentous moral issues raised by the problem of war. The onset of the nuclear era, for one, did not alter this: indeed, the use of nuclear weapons can itself be critically evaluated according to just war norms. Besides, the radical bipolarity and nuclear brinkmanship of the Cold War increasingly seem to have been very artificial exceptions, and not the norm, when it comes to the history of hostility between nations. Since the Cold War's end in 1989‑90, the most recent wars­many of them listed previously‑have been fought with conventional weapons and tactics. And these are precisely the kinds of conflict that just war theory was first constructed to deal with.

With regard to the terrorist objection, it should be noted that interstate armed conflict has hardly gone the way of the dinosaur. Consider the Persian Gulf War of 1991 and the multistate war raging in the heart of Africa‑Zaire/Congo‑in 1998/99. Second, terrorists are not literally nomads: they enjoy the protection (either tacit or explicit) of many of the states they inhabit. Libya, Afghanistan and Iran, for example, are thought to sponsor many radical terrorist groups. As well, intrastate civil wars are still fought in what we might call a state‑laden context: they are fought either over which group gets to control the existing state or over which group gets to have a new state. Thus, there are always state‑to­state issues involved in contemporary armed conflict, even civil wars and terrorism. Finally, the norms of just war theory‑as we will see‑are sufficiently flexible to apply in a meaningful way whenever political violence is employed. Just war theory's relevance is by no means confined to a dated, Eurocentric model of states struggling, in "the concert of nations," to maintain the balance of power.

In terms of responding to the third just war cliché, Kantian just war theory is emphatically public and universal with regard to its permissions and prohibitions. States are not simply entitled to assert that they have just war theory on their side and expect to have such claims accepted at face value; rather, all such assertions are open to critical scrutiny in light of accessible evidence and a common order of moral reasoning and discourse. Just war theory, as such, cloaks nothing; to the contrary, its main purpose is to facilitate a more insightful and targeted reflection upon the justice of the resort to war, conduct within it and its process of termina­tion.

That being said, it needs to be admitted that just war theory remains, if not smelly, then at least slippery, business. The mani­fold theoretical complications will quickly become evident: so many concepts and variables, so many events and entities, so many facts and values, come together under its auspices. Just war theory is a crucible in which a great number of diverse objects boil and bubble, combine and conflict. It is difficult to keep track of all things relevant, much less offer a comprehensive and coherent normative theory about them. And yet the issues dealt with in this heated and puzzling mixture are clearly of enormous practical import in our world, at least for the foreseeable future.

The brutal truth is that there is no imminent solution to the problem of war: wars are being fought and will continue to be fought for some time, leaving death and destruction in their wake. So we need just war theory to evaluate war, but the theory itself is pulled in two directions: on the one hand, towards greater theoretical substance, depth, sophistication, consistency and completion; and, on the other, towards messy, manifold, real­world cases where its pronouncements, if adhered to, will make all the difference to vulnerable human beings caught amidst the gruesome dangers of war.

My own view is that, in light of such tension between the desires for theoretical satisfaction and practical application, we have not even begun to glimpse what a complete just war theory might entail. Even Walzer's efforts, and those of the Tradition itself, fall short. We cannot rest content with the state of the art; it is, at the very least, incomplete. Complacency, which has reared its ugly head too often in the course of the theory's history, is indefensible. Perfunctory explanations of the same old just war categories simply will not suffice. Struggle must be made to improve and move the discussion forward. But perhaps the best that can be hoped for during such struggle, at least in the near future, is a "minimally adequate theory" that can be of some practical service and application .6

Such a minimally adequate theory will need to make some simplifying assumptions, will not be able to defend all its claims

down to their deepest levels and can only be applied to a select set of cases, conveniently tailored. The account offered in this work can promise no more than to make a serious and sustained attempt at devising one version, Kantian in nature, of such a more modestly conceived approach to international justice and the ethics of war and peace.

The ultimate goal, then, is to come up with a reasonable reconstruction of a Kantian understanding of just war theory. Its culmination will occur with the development of a comprehensive set of general rules of conduct to guide states and peoples when they face the momentous problem of war. Its function will be to help control and limit warfare so that the brutal images of total war, such as those which began our account, will happen less and less frequently. Its point will be to defend those principles of justice required for a more peaceful world.

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