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Just War Against Terror: Ethics And The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Hardcover – April 15, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0465019106 ISBN-10: 0465019102 Edition: 1St Edition

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Editorial Reviews

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.

From Booklist

*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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1St Edition edition (April 14, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465019102
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465019106
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,373,111 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I may well be one of the last people who should be giving this book 5 stars. First, I'm a libertarian whose generally skeptical of military action. Second, as this book is largely about just war theory in the christian tradition, it should be noted that I am a non-beleiver. This book, though, is a rarity. It is well argued, is assertive yet cautious, and unlike so many others on both sides of the issue, does not degenerate into an empty rhetorical minefield.
What the book is about is using just war theory, a system in christian ethical philosophy that aims at deciphering moral from immoral war, and applying this theory to the war on terror. The question: Why do we fight? The answer: Because if we didn't, either we or many innocents in the middle-east would experience far worse brutality than we would by intervening now. Again, while I'm skeptical of military intervention unless for the most extraordinary reasons, this book has gone far in forcing me to reconsider why we are doing what we are doing. Contrary to much propoganda, we are in fact conducting ourselves fairly, judiciously, and cautiously.
In fact, one of the most noticable things she does is to contrast the way radical islam (and she carefully contrasts this with Islam) conducts itself with the way we conduct ourselves. It is night and day. Terrorism kills indiscriminately: if you are western, you die. We are judicious and discriminate if we must kill: We kill terrorists and do everything possible to ensure that civilians live. Radical islam does not 'talk it over' before killing. We do - even if the left feels stifled when voicing opinion, they may still do so and sometimes to great effect. We use force via an organized army and recognize international statutes of war ethics. Radical islam does not.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By DAVID-LEONARD WILLIS on January 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
In 1998 Osama bin Laden declared war against America, denouncing US occupation of the lands of Islam in the Arabian Peninsular and the Muslim obligation to kill and plunder pagans. In the west we find it difficult to accept such language at face value but bin Laden and his followers mean it when they call westerners 'infidels'. Bin Laden and his followers also mean it when they talk of an obligation to kill as a recruitment video shown in a Finsbury, North London mosque shows disarmed enemies being decapitated with the commentary "You have to kill in the name of Allah until you are killed. Then you will win your place in paradise. The whole Islamic world should rise up to fight all the sick unbelievers. The flag of Jihad will be forever held high. Our enemies are fighting in the name of Satan. You are fighting in the name of God." Radical Islamists want to impose their official religion, through terror if necessary. The message that Jean Bethke Elshtain wants us to understand is that in bin Laden and his followers we face a new kind of enemy; that those who live in freedom must sometimes fight for the right to live in freedom; that with America's great power comes even greater responsibility; that we must fight - not to conquer - but to defend who and what we are.
The Pope's response to September 11 may be summed up in these words: "When terrorist organizations use their own followers as weapons to be launched against defenseless and unsuspecting people, they show clearly the death wish that feeds them. Terrorism springs from hatred, and it generates isolation, mistrust and closure ... Terrorism is built on contempt for human life.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Bill Muehlenberg VINE VOICE on June 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This volume very nicely brings together four broad themes into one focused discussion. The nature of radical Islam, the threat of terrorism, the doctrine of just war, and the place of American power in a turbulent world are the major issues treated. University of Chicago professor of social and political ethics Jean Bethke Elsthain is well suited to this task.
She deftly merges the various streams of philosophy, theology, ethics, politics and international relations into a coherent account of how the US in particular and the West in general should proceed after September 11. She reminds us that appeasing terrorism is not the answer, yet we need to deal with the threat of militant Islam in a way that does not violate our own ethical codes and political ideals.
As such, this book has a bearing on recent events which were unknown at the time of writing, notably the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandals. How can democratic nations defend both their values and their borders against an enemy that does not play by the rules, and is happy to use the freedoms associated with democracy in its attempts to destroy it? How can we uphold ethical standards and at the same time weed out those committed to undermining our way of life?
How can democratic nations respond to terror without resorting to terror? Indeed, can moral distinctions be made in this regard? Is all killing and the use of force evil, or is it sometimes justified? Should we accept the argument of moral equivalence which states that American use of force is just as bad as Muslim terrorism? And, as some assert, did America bring September 11 upon itself?
These and other questions are expertly addressed in this incisive work.
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