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


Jean Bethke Elshtain advocates "just war" in times of crisis and mounts a reasoned attack against the anti-war contingent in American intellectual life. Advocating an ethic of responsibility, Elshtain forces us to ask tough questions not only about the nature of terrorism, but about ourselves. This paperback edition features a new introduction by the author, addressing the Iraq war and other events in the Middle East.

Read More Show Less
See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
BN.com price
(Save 13%)$16.95 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (29) from $1.99   
  • New (11) from $4.74   
  • Used (18) from $1.99   
Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price
(Save 38%)$16.95 List Price


Jean Bethke Elshtain advocates "just war" in times of crisis and mounts a reasoned attack against the anti-war contingent in American intellectual life. Advocating an ethic of responsibility, Elshtain forces us to ask tough questions not only about the nature of terrorism, but about ourselves. This paperback edition features a new introduction by the author, addressing the Iraq war and other events in the Middle East.

Read More Show Less

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
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465019113
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 8/2/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Bethke Elshtain is the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago. She is the author of Just War Against Terror and Democracy on Trial, among other books. She lives in Nashville, Tennessee and Chicago, Illinois.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction : "politics is not the nursery" 1
1 What happened on September 11? 9
2 What is at stake? 26
3 What is a just war? 46
4 Is the war against terrorism just? 59
5 The academy responds to terror 71
6 Taking terrorists at their word 85
7 Where is the legacy of Niebunr and Tillich? 98
8 The pulpit responds to terror 112
9 The problem with peace 125
10 Encountering Islamist fundmentalism 139
11 States and self-defense in a dangerous time 150
12 American power and responsibility 161
Epilogue : four brave women 174
Epilogue to the 2004 edition 182
App What we're fighting for 193
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2007

    understanding terrorism local and abroad

    I actually didn't read it yet, though consider it a winner as I chose it by title among too may to choose from.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)