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The Violence of Peace: America's Wars in the Age of Obama Hardcover – January 11, 2011


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Distinguished Yale Law professor and bestselling author Carter (The Emperor of Ocean Park) examines Obama's words (particularly his invocation of the "just war tradition" during his Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech, the full text of which is included here) and actions in order to determine his position on "what he believes to be worth fighting for." Rather than vilifying Obama, who has continued the dubious war-mongering of his predecessor, Carter believes that neither Bush nor Obama had much choice, arguing that modern warfare, involving drone attacks and long-distance fighting, is an autopoietic process. Carter delves into Obama's orientation toward the tenets of Just War, the theory that has dominated Western thought since the Roman era: jus ad bellum (just cause for going to war); jus in bello (just conduct within war); jus ad pacem (success in war); and pacem in terris (peace). The author cites Dissent editor Michael Walzer and other prominent political scientists almost as frequently as he does the president, and includes examples of warfare from the American Civil War to Afghanistan, resulting in a thoughtful examination of America's engagement in a "great war" undertaken by a dedicated thinker on the subject. (Jan.)
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Review

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University
“In this very important book, Stephen Carter demands, and provides, a clear-eyed ethical examination of Obama's ideas about just and unjust war — nothing less than what is worth dying for.”

Former Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen
“In this brilliant examination of the moral dimensions involved in our nation’s decision to wage—or refuse to wage—war, Stephen L. Carter writes with the intellectual profundity of a scholar and the grace of a gifted novelist. The Violence of Peace is a must-read."

 

 

Publishers Weekly
Distinguished Yale Law professor and bestselling author Carter (The Emperor of Ocean Park) examines Obama's words (particularly his invocation of the "just war tradition" during his Nobel Peace prize acceptance speech) and actions in order to determine his position on "what he believes to be worth fighting for." Rather than vilifying Obama, who has continued the dubious war-mongering of his predecessor, Carter believes that neither Bush nor Obama had much choice, arguing that modern warfare, involving drone attacks and long-distance fighting, is an autopoietic process. Carter delves into Obama's orientation toward the tenets of Just War, the theory that has dominated Western thought since the Roman era: jus ad bellum (just cause for going to war); jus in bello (just conduct within war); jus ad pacem (success in war); and pacem in terris (peace). The author cites Dissent editor Michael Walzer and other prominent political scientists almost as frequently as he does the president, and includes examples of warfare from the American Civil War to Afghanistan, resulting in a thoughtful examination of America's engagement in a "great war" undertaken by a dedicated thinker on the subject.

 

Kirkus Reviews
Barack Obama, Bushian warmonger. That’s an oversimplification of the author’s argument, but the point remains: As noted legal scholar and novelist Carter examines the morality of war, and in particular President Obama’s theory of just war, he concludes that the continuum from Bush to current times is more continuous than disrupted. President Obama, writes the author, has failed to discontinue many of his predecessor’s practices, even ones against which he campaigned. For one thing, though at least in theory America does not torture its captives, there is no evidence to suggest that “rendition” to countries less scrupulous about waterboarding and fingernail-pulling has diminished since 2008. The Obama administration seems to have accepted without much qualification the theory, thoroughly applied during the Bush years but antedating them, that American citizens who aid the enemy are candidates not for trial but for assassination. Obama may even go a step further than Bush, Carter writes, should he become actively committed to the principle that citizens oppressed by their governments are candidates for deliverance by American warriors. The author provides lucid commentary on the complexities of jus in bello theories, and he seems to be a realist: America has real enemies in the world, against whom real opposition is wanted. The so-called War on Terror has as its goal not victory but prevention, and, given that “you cannot keep your enemy from striking unless you know his plans,” the ability to acquire that knowledge in a timely way becomes paramount – though whether the means justify the ends remains a matter for argument. Smart, nuanced and worrying, given a nation mired in two wars – and with more, perhaps, on the horizon.

 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Beast Books (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0984295178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984295173
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #952,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

49 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Eric F. Facer on February 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Initially, I was not inclined to purchase this book. Its subtitle suggested a range of focus far too narrow ("America's Wars in the Age of Obama"). And since the author is a liberal Ivy League law school professor (yes, I know that description is redundant in the extreme), I figured this would be another paean to "hope and change" or a polemical indictment of Bush's war policies. But I was wrong.

First, the scope of the book is far greater than Obama's conduct of the three ongoing American conflicts: the Iraq War, the Afghanistan War, and the War on Terror. Yes, Professor Carter does dissect the President's military policies but he does so in the broader context of U.S. foreign policy, drawing upon useful historical parallels and analyzing the views of many of the right's best thinkers (e.g., Judge Posner) as well as those from the left (Jean Bethke Elshtain).

Second, considering the author's own liberal predilections, the book is quite balanced and unfailingly analytical. Carter defends his thesis--that the similarities between Bush and Obama war policies are far greater than the differences (though the subtle differences are important)--convincingly. Further, he bends over backwards to give the Bush Administration a fair hearing. Indeed, I thought he was too kind in his willingness to give Bush the benefit of the doubt on his administration's faith in the intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But, as he adroitly notes, even if Saddam had possessed WMDs, that, standing alone, was not justification for the invasion since there was no indication that Iraq intended to use whatever weapons it did possess against us or our allies.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. E. Moore on June 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I actually didn't purchase this book but, seeing it in my local library, I scooped it up because the dust cover hinted at a professor (who happened to be unknown to me) approaching the war policies of Obama in a fresh and different way. Given his subject, and the inordinate time he spends discussing just war theory and the obligations laid on America by her superpower status, I regret that this book was written before our involvement in Libya; I think that, much more than Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya would have provided great grist for Carter's mill.

I regret that, in all of his arguments (and they were very intellectually honest and thoughtful), Carter doesn't actually answer the fundamental question of WHY just war theory is a superior way to analyze the decision to go to war or why being a superpower obligates America to be the designated war-maker when there is a moral cause.
The question of why just war theory is appropriate is very important because it is both novel (war has almost never been altruistic) and inappropriate on the surface. Nations that go to war to be morally good have historically never looked back on the action with pride and satisfaction; whether it was the numerous Crusades (only the first of which was successful) to free a Christian holy place from Islam, England intervening in both world wars because Germany's leadership was (in their view) morally bankrupt, or America stepping into many conflicts (Cuba, World War I, Korea, Vietnam), nations invariably look back on the triumph of moral goodness over national self-interest with sorrow. Because this is the case, Carter needed to justify treating moral goodness as the best cause for the resort to war; he did not do so.
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By Jen Edwards on September 6, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an exceptionally articulate and thoughtful meditation on exactly what the title implies. As others have stated, if you want a book that will make you think, read this. I only wish the author released an updated edition, considering how much has changed (and how little has changed) since this was released.
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Format: Hardcover
Carter does a thorough review of Obama's views on war using Obama's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech as a starting point. The book is organized into 4 sections: the concept of a just war, the just conduct of war, the defense of strangers meaning non-national defense wars and recognition of the US political discussion about war and its conduct.

While Carter's approach is logically analytic, he is an apologist for Obama's approach after taking office. He contrasts Obama's actions as President and his words as the Peace Candidate. He acknowledges that Obama's approach has been to ramp up the violence over the George W. Bush approach but provides justification and reasoning for doing so. In the first chapter Carter repeatedly references to the writings of St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas plus Catholic Theological thinking. He summarizes a Just War as containing elements of a just cause, last resort, legitimate authority, reasonable hope of success, proportionaltiy and discrimination. Carter then elaborates on the meaning of each and provides examples.

In Chapter 2 Carter acknowledges Obama's about face on the violent conduct of war and compares ideas on just conduct in war with Obama's choices. He seeks to answer the question of why have Obama's choices differed from his pre-election words. Examples include pre- and post election Obama on rendition, remote missle strikes and secret military operations. Carter gives us the summary justifications "..the President and his senior staff were 'stunned' by the threats spread before them at their first postelection briefings on national security." And "No Peace Candidate has ever become a Peace President.
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