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Review of Noah Feldman, What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building

4 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2005 Last revised: 13 Aug 2013

Adil Ahmad Haque

Rutgers Law School; Rutgers Law School


Noah Feldman's engaging and surprisingly personal second book disappoints in at least three respects. Feldman, a law professor at New York University and former constitutional adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, declines to evaluate the legality and morality of the titular war. He similarly neglects to discuss the titular project of nation-building - the formation of an autonomous collective moral agent - writing instead only of state-building - the formation of stable political institutions. Finally, although Feldman makes a great number of ethical claims, they do not amount to a complete or convincing theory of what we owe Iraq, of the affirmative obligations of the United States to aid in reconstruction. When pressed to defend his strongest ethical claims Feldman makes no reference to his theory, drawing instead on more familiar and compelling moral grounds.

Keywords: Noah Feldman, Iraq, war, ethics, reconstruction, nation building, state building, occupation, repair

Suggested Citation

Haque, Adil Ahmad, Review of Noah Feldman, What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building. Yale Journal of International Law, Vol. 30, 2005. Available at SSRN:

Rutgers Law School ( email )

United States


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