From 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.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
*Starred Review* On the bedrock of Christian just-war doctrine, social and political ethicist Elshtain builds the most morally profound case to date for war on terrorism and against criminal regimes. During the construction, she makes crucial distinctions that many blur, such as those between martyrs and suicidal attackers, polities that separate church and state and those that merge them, and noncombatants and combatants. She examines many contested or suppressed facts, such as the numbers of civilian casualties in the Gulf War, and the scale of and responsibility for death and suffering attributed to the embargo of Iraq (which she saliently reminds us is a UN, not a U.S., policy). She scores the U.S. for not responding to genocide in Rwanda, and for slow and inadequate responses, respectively, in Bosnia and Kosovo. With no pretense of resolving them, she elucidates orthodox Islamic positions on warfare, hopefully noting voices of Islamic moderation. Her bottom line is that Christianity enjoins those who can end others' suffering to do so; on the international scale, that injunction warrants militarily ending the indiscriminate outward aggression that is terrorism and the organized torture and murder of their citizens by criminal regimes. The U.S. is the nation most capable of militarily quashing evil, she says, and must do so, aided or alone. Although it addresses the moment, this weighty book will be of permanent interest. Ray Olson
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