Aggression and Crimes Against Peace / Edition 1

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In this volume, the third in his trilogy on the philosophical and legal aspects of war and conflict, Larry May locates a normative grounding for the crime of aggression—the only one of the three crimes charged at Nuremberg that is not currently being prosecuted—that is similar to that for crimes against humanity and war crimes. He considers cases from the Nuremberg trials, philosophical debates in the Just War tradition, and more recent debates about the International Criminal Court, as well as the hard cases of humanitarian intervention and terrorist aggression. May argues that crimes of aggression, sometimes called crimes against peace, deserve international prosecution when one State undermines the ability of another State to protect human rights. His thesis refutes the traditional understanding of aggression, which often has been interpreted as a crossing of borders by one sovereign state into another sovereign state. At Nuremberg, crimes against humanity charges were only pursued if the defendant also engaged in the crime of aggression. May argues for a reversal of this position, contending that aggression charges should be pursued only if the defendant’s acts involve serious human rights violations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Philosopher Larry May delivers a ground-breaking reassessment of what the Nuremberg Tribunal had identified as the 'supreme international crime.' Building upon his paradigm-shifting work on crimes against humanity and war crimes, May now reorients the debate regarding the scope and merits of criminalizing aggressive war. Especially noteworthy is his contention that aggression should be defined as a first wrong that violates human rights. May combines reason with creativity - and sophistication with accessibility - to offer a tour-de-force with interdisciplinary appeal to a wide audience."
-Mark Drumbl, Washington & Lee University School of Law

"This is a strong study of an important topic. Given the timing of its appearance and the quality of its argument, this work may have an important impact on international law itself."
-Steven Lee, Hobart & William Smith College

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Larry May is professor of philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis and Research Professor of Social Justice, Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, Charles Sturt and Australian National Universityies. He is the author of numerous books, including The Morality of War; Crimes Against Humanity, which won an honorable mention from the American Society of International Law and best book award from the North American Society for Social Philosophy; and War Crimes and Just War, which won the Frank Chapman Sharp prize for the best book on the philosophy of war from the American Philosophical Association.

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Table of Contents

Part I. Pacifism and Just Wars: 1. Introduction: between the horrors and the necessity of war; 2. Grotius and contingent pacifism; 3. International solidarity and the duty to aid; Part II. Rethinking the Normative Ad Bellum Principles: 4. The principle of priority of first strike; 5. The principle of just cause; 6. The principle of proportionality; Part III. The Precedent of Nuremberg: 7. Custom and the Nuremberg precedent; 8. Prosecuting military and political leaders; 9. Prosecuting civilians for complicity; Part IV. Conceptualizing the Crime of Aggression: 10. Defining state aggression; 11. Act and circumstances in the crime of aggression; 12. Individual mens rea and collective liability; Part V. Hard Cases and Concluding Thoughts: 13. Humanitarian interventions; 14. Terrorist aggression; 15. Defending international criminal trials for aggression.

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