The Future of Just War: New Critical Essays by Caron E. Gentry & Amy E. Eckert.

Author:Michelsen, Niall
Position:Book review

Gentry, Caron E. and Amy E. Eckert, eds. The Future of Just War: New Critical Essays. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2014. 179 pages. Paperback, $24.95.

The premise of this collection of essays edited by political scientists Caron E. Gentry and Amy E. Eckert is that the world and the world of war are being transformed in myriad ways that call conventional wisdom into question. In this case the conventional wisdom is the concept and tradition referred to as Just War. This tradition dates back to early Christianity and was brought into the modern era with the publication of political theorist Michael Walzer's classic work, Just and Unjust Wars, in 1977. Readers do not need an understanding of the evolution of this tradition, nor do they receive much information except in episodic references within chapters. However, readers should probably be familiar with the basic framework and the basic concepts of "jus ad bellum" ("right to war") and "jus in bello" ("right conduct in war"). The introduction might have provided readers unfamiliar with this tradition a useful service by summarizing the essential and relevant parts of Walzer's work. Still the individual chapters do excellent jobs of setting the stage for the reader.

The central claim is that political and technological changes since the end of the Cold War have cast war in a new light and that various features of the Just War tradition may need to be reconsidered for the changed international and military environment. In some cases the authors conclude that fundamental changes are necessary, while other contributors maintain that Just War demands that political and military leaders reconsider their practices. In truth, some of the chapters are not predicated on any changing reality, but rather address gaps or weaknesses of the Just War tradition. Chapters range from purely theoretical in nature to some that are nearly purely pragmatic.

This book serves as a valuable guide for students and scholars in making sense of a shifting world in which (among other changes) wars are increasingly within states rather than between states, and in which machines are replacing humans in making and implementing decisions, and in which the search for non-nuclear weapons to fill the role of the nuclear weapons proceeds. The authors agree that none of these changes are simple and that they all tend to hide dilemmas that have not yet been adequately analyzed. For instance, the shift in the primary locus of...

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