Prefaces and Postscripts: Walzer's Just and Unjust Wars at Age 40
(2017). Georgetown Law Faculty Lectures and Appearances. 16
15 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2018 Last revised: 1 Apr 2018
Date Written: 2017
This paper was written as a keynote address for a conference on Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust War on the 40th anniversary of its publication. It discusses the significance of the book, and examines the updating prefaces Walzer wrote to the five editions of the book and his methodological postscript to the fifth edition. The paper contrasts Walzer’s philosophical method with that of analytic just war theory, arguing that Walzer’s use of historical cases and the analytic use of imaginary “toy” cases serve different philosophical ends. Noting that Just and Unjust Wars appeared the same year as the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, I examine the parallels between Walzer’s views and those in AP I, especially between Walzer’s reformulation of the doctrine of double effect and AP I’s requirement that militaries take all feasible steps to insure that attacks do not inflict excessive unintended harm on civilians. Next I examine the role that human rights plays in the course of Walzer’s argument, including the awkward fit between individual human rights and his theory of jus ad bellum. The final sections compare the legalism of analytic philosophy’s analysis of rights-forfeiture with Walzer’s humanism, and warn that contemporary populism places that humanism in peril.
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