Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World

Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World

by Jean Elshtain

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Inspired by the surge in global terrorism and violence, one of America's foremost political philosophers mounts an impassioned defense of "just war" against terrorSee more details below


Inspired by the surge in global terrorism and violence, one of America's foremost political philosophers mounts an impassioned defense of "just war" against terror

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
Elshtain sends her arguments rolling across the lawn, everywhere encountering weedy clumps of prejudice and ill-conceived assumptions, and everywhere leaving behind a well-trimmed swath of intellectual clarity, which is pleasing to see. — Paul Berman
The Washington Post
Had Jean Bethke Elshtain's compelling and nuanced exposition on the relevance of the just-war doctrine been read and understood by participants in the raging debate that preceded Bush's decision to attack Saddam Hussein's Iraq, that debate might have been far more responsible. As its title suggests, Just War Against Terror addresses the challenge precipitated by Sept. 11, but its moral reasoning and political analyses are equally relevant to the dangers that the murderous regimes in Baghdad and North Korea represent. — Ernest W. Lefever
Publishers Weekly
Since the attacks of September 11, academics and policy experts have scrambled to reassess the international role of the U.S. in the face of rising Islamic fundamentalism. Most agree that there can be no reconciliation with extremists who want to destroy the U.S. and that it is our responsibility to use force to fight terrorism wherever it may be. Elshtain (Women and War, etc.) adds to this conventional wisdom by providing the moral framework for America's war against terrorism, convincingly arguing that U.S. military action is not only necessary for self-preservation, but it is ethical. Chiding pacifists who equate justice with a total rejection of violence, Elshtain introduces a more subtle theory of a just war in relation to the current conflict and argues that there are times when we must use force to stop evil and punish wrongdoers. As in the struggle against the Nazis and imperialist Japan, she says, the case against al- Qaida and bin Laden is clear, and a legitimate war deployed in the name of decency and righteousness should actually lead to a more peaceful world by restoring order and security. In fact, Elshtain, a highly regarded professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago, argues that the U.S. has an obligation to prevent violence and help establish civic peace and promote nation building. While this volume is not a radical departure from the abundance of post-September 11 books, it presents well the moral case for U.S. military engagement in the world and gives credence to those who advocate the use of force as a response to terrorism. (Apr. 15) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Last year, dismayed at the attitudes toward the war on terror exhibited by many of his fellow liberals, the philosopher Michael Walzer published a controversial essay titled "Can There Be a Decent Left?" These tough-minded entries, both by veteran contributors to the New Republic, should cheer him. Elshtain (social and political ethics, Univ. of Chicago) examines the anti-terrorist campaign through the lens of the "just war" theory, administering a rebuke to both amoral realpolitiker and starry-eyed pacifists. She concludes that the Bush administration has, by and large, waged the war on terror justly. Taking his cue from Albert Camus (Resistance, Rebellion, and Death), Berman (contributing editor, TNR) finds that America is engaged not in a "clash of civilizations" but in the latest phase of its struggle against totalitarianism. Fascism, communism, and terrorism, he maintains, are all rooted in the 19th-century cult of death. Against these he juxtaposes the principles enshrined in the Gettysburg Address-especially Lincoln's view that mass death represented not the fulfillment of a political program but the tragic price of preserving the American experiment. The two works acknowledge that a liberal republic sometimes has to defend itself by force of arms and urge Washington to prosecute the war with scrupulous fidelity to moral considerations. The books can be viewed as the latest salvo in the post-September 11 exchange between followers of Noam Chomsky (9-11) and supporters of the war on terror. And an on-target salvo it is. Brilliant and erudite, these books belong in all library collections.-James R. Holmes, Ctr. for International Trade and Security, Univ. of Georgia, Athens Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bruce Springsteen gets it, but your average liberal-arts prof doesn't: that is, the need to crush terrorists and protect the civilized world from those who "are not interested in our ongoing debate about the good and ill uses of freedom." Osama bin Laden and friends aren't likely to participate in that debate, writes political ethicist Elshtain (Social and Political Ethics/Univ. of Chicago; Jane Addams and the Dream of American Democracy, 2002, etc.), for they despise the very idea of freedom. "Terrorists have taken leave of politics," she writes, in taking up arms against the innocent. As a result, she adds, no political solution to terrorism is possible: what remains is for America and its allies to determine how to arm themselves with a moral vision that distinguishes justice from vengeance-and then strike hard. Not that political work is impossible or misplaced, Elshtain hastens to add; state-building in Afghanistan may be among the best things we can be doing in that part of the world today, of greater utility than, oh, attacking Saddam Hussein. In other words, Elshtain suggests, there is such a thing as a just war, and it's up to the US to wage it. Such a message may not be popular in the academy, though the academy is rather a more conservative place than she makes it out to be; in denouncing the wooly liberals among her colleagues, Elshtain takes particular delight in sparring with a Princeton theologian who authored the moronic observation that Jesus once attacked " 'the World Trade Center' of Jerusalem" in his day, as if to excuse bin Laden of his crimes. But all sorts of people, academics and civilians, have been condemning America's rush to war on less idiotic grounds.Elshtain seems not to distinguish sound from rhetorical arguments among the intellectual set, who are likely to be her chief readers-and many of whom are unlikely to appreciate being waved aside. All the same, a generally reasonable declaration of democratic virtues against extremism, whether found at home or in the field. Author tour

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Basic Books
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