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just War: The Just War Tradition: Ethics in Modern Warfare [Paperback]

Charles Guthrie , Michael Quinlan
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
Price: 12.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

26 Sep 2007
Every society and every period of history has had to face the reality of war. War inevitably yields situations in which the normal ethical rules of society have to be overridden. The Just War tradition has evolved over the centuries as a careful endeavour to impose moral discipline and humanity on resort to war and in its waging, and the tradition deserves our attention now as much as ever. Just War traces the origin and nature of the tradition from its roots in Christian thinking and provides a clear summary of its principles, which are accessible to all beliefs. As the circumstances and necessities of war have changed over time, so too have the practical interpretations of the tradition. Drawing examples from Kosovo, Afghanistan and the wars in Iraq, Charles Guthrie and Michael Quinlan look at the key concepts in relation to modern armed conflict. The tradition sets rational limits and respects the adversary's humanity amid the chaos of war, and provides systematic questions which governments and armed forces must ask themselves before they engage in war. This short but powerful book is a timely re-examination of its tenets and their relevance in the twenty-first century, setting out the case for a workable and credible moral framework for modern war before, while and after it is waged.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 51 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; 1st edition (26 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747595577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747595571
  • Product Dimensions: 1.3 x 14.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 274,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'I very much welcome this addition to the Just War debate by two of the leading thinkers of our generation' -- General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff

'Of great value to anyone thinking about the difficult questions of war in the modern world' -- Lord Harries of Pentregarth, ex-Bishop of Oxford

'This book has an importance out of proportion to its size' -- Field Marshal Lord Inge, ex-Chief of Defence Staff

About the Author

General Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, GCB LVO OBE, was commissioned in 1959 and served with the Welsh Guards and the Special Air Service. He was Commander of NATO's Northern Army Group 1992-3, Chief of the General Staff 1994-7 and Chief of the Defence Staff 1997-2001. He became a member of the House of Lords in 2001. Sir Michael Quinlan, GCB, was a civil servant for thirty-eight years (1954-92), thirty of them in posts concerned with defence. He was Policy Director in the Ministry of Defence 1977-81 and Permanent Under-Secretary of State 1988-92. Since 2004 he has been a Consulting Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inconvenient truths about war 6 Dec 2007
By A Customer
This book starts from the inconvenient truth that wars are unavoidable. But, if a nation decides on war it should be for just reasons and conducted in a just way. Any war is justified in self defence or assisting a country to defend itself that has been attacked by another country. It becomes complicated when starting a pre-emptive war or an intervention because the government in a country is acting very badly towards its own citizens, or different citizen groups are attacking each other. Examples of just wars are support to South Korea in its war with North Korea and China, support to Kuwait after invasion by Iraq, intervention in the Kosovo conflict, attack of Afghanistan after 6/11. The authors are less certain, that is, not completely certain if it was right or wrong, with the Falklands War, and the second Iraq war. About conduct they are certain that dropping the atom bombs on Japan was just and almost certain that it was wrong to bomb civil targets in Germany after it was clear that Germany was losing the war.
The authors present six principles specifying conditions that all have to be fulfilled before a war is just and two principles for right conduct. These principles are excellent and everybody should know them. The fact that the authors do not express definitive opinions about several wars, even with the benefit of hindsight shows how hard it is to arrive at conclusions, even with the principles. The authors in their conclusion write "This book is no more than a broad general survey of how the Just War tradition bears upon the morality of undertaking and conducting military operations in the twenty first century". I look forward to the book that should follow after this introduction that makes more definitive judgement about past wars and may even include something about what could have been done and can be done in the future to prevent just wars from happening.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommendable 19 Nov 2007
By Longman
Very well written and highly recommendable. This book gives an analytical thought on the just war tradition, largely based on a western and Christian tradition. It covers the ethical issues that the international community - the UN Security Council, in particular - faces in tackling peace and security challenges. Such difficult issues as humanitarian intervention, the responsibility to protect and UN Security Council's authorization of military actions are eloquently discussed, in the context of major international crises in recent decades such as Iraq (both 1991 and 2003 wars), Kosovo and Rwanda. It is also a relatively short book so that you may finish reading it well before getting bored.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A soldier's introduction to just war. 23 Dec 2009
Guthrie & Quinlan (2007), The Just War: Ethics in modern warfare.

This book is characterised by a dangerous parsimony, and it is, at best, the briefest introduction to a very complex issue. Yet the topic is so important because it affects nations, combatants, and millions of civilians.

The authors list six criteria for a just war:
1. Just cause;
2. Proportionate cause;
3. Right intention;
4. Right authority;
5. Reasonable prospect of success; and
6. Last resort.
Imagine the delegates at the UN Security Council listening to the arguments and voting according to these criteria.

Appendix A; The ethics of war in Islam and Judaism provides a very brief statement (3 pages) about the underlying beliefs about just warfare in both of these strategic religions.

I would be inclined to use this book as an introduction to something more substantial.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great take on the Just War tradition. 10 Mar 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I gave this 5 stars as this is a short, pithy summary of the Just War tradition written by a practitioner. I really rate it.
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