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The Just War Myth

The Moral Illusions of War

Andrew Fiala

As the war in Iraq continues and Americans debate the consequences of the war in Afghanistan, the war on terror, and the possibility of war with North Korea and Iran, war is one of the biggest issues in public debate. Andrew Fiala in The Just War Myth challenges the apparently predominant American sentiment that war can be easily justified. Even most Democrats seem to hold that opinion, despite the horrific costs of war both on the people being attacked or caught up in the chaos and on the Americans involved in carrying out the war. The Just War Myth argues that while the just war theory is a good theory, actual wars do not live up to its standards. The book provides a genealogy of the just war idea and also turns a critical eye on current events, including the idea of preemptive war, the use of torture, and the unreality of the Bush Doctrine. Fiala warns that pacifism, too, can become mythological, advocating skepticism about attempts to justify war. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 188Size: 5 3/4 x 9
978-0-7425-6200-4 • Hardback • December 2007 • $76.00 • (£49.95)
978-0-7425-6201-1 • Paperback • December 2007 • $25.00 • (£15.95)
978-1-4616-4454-5 • eBook • December 2007 • $23.00 • (£15.95)
Andrew Fiala is associate professor of philosophy at California State University, Fresno. He is the author of What Would Jesus Really Do? and lives in Fresno, California.
Part 1 Part 1: The Just War Myth
Chapter 2 Introduction: The Just War Myth and the Politics of War
Chapter 3 The Myths and Memes of Political Life
Chapter 4 Genealogy of The Just War Tradition
Chapter 5 Duels and Modern Wars
Chapter 6 The Myth of American Exceptionalism
Part 7 Part 2: The Myths of the War on Terrorism
Chapter 8 The Preemptive War Doctrine
Chapter 9 Torture and Terrorism
Chapter 10 Humanitarian Intervention and the Crusade for Democracy
Chapter 11 Jus in Bello and the War in Iraq
Part 12 Part 3: Skeptical Democratic Pacifism
Chapter 13 The Myth of Pacifism
Chapter 14 Citizenship, Responsibility, and Peace
Andrew Fiala effectively strips away what he sees as the myths of the just war theory and, without saying that all wars are wrong, argues for a practical pacifism that he believes one is led to by a proper use of just war criteria. His discussion is challenging, eminently readable and laced with insights. It deserves an important place in the growing literature on morality and war.
Robert L. Holmes, University of Rochester

Andrew Fiala's timely and open-minded study of the political misuses of just war ideals is must-reading for everyone concerned about war and the responsibilities of leaders and citizens in a democracy. It is indispensable for decision makers in government and the military, and because it is so clearly written and carefully argued, Fiala's book should be used in a wide range of university courses.
Robert Paul Churchill, Elton Professor of Philosophy, George Washington University

Andrew Fiala has written a timely and courageous book. It is timely for citizens living in a country that prides itself as going to war with justice on its side, only to stumble time and again into moral conundrums and quagmires. It is courageous in challenging purveyors of the just war doctrine, calling their bluff with an honest discussion of what really happens in war, especially the war in Iraq.
David K. Chan, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point

This book calls to account the just war theory as a whole and points out the ways in which it fosters, maybe even encourages, our human propensity to moral self-deception. Numerous other writers call into question individual criterion of the just war tradition but Fiala's book is a comprehensive overview. It critiques the assumption that any war can be 'just' by the terms of the criteria and points out the way in which our belief in the possibility of a 'just war' is mythological, like so many others of our beliefs. The just war myth is consoling for many but does not lead us to a moral way of living our lives, individually or communally.
Lani Roberts, Oregon State University

Andrew Fiala pulls back the curtain on the just war myth and challenges the reader to wrestle with the realities of war. This is a sober and intelligent analysis of the moral justifications of war. Fiala has written a thoughtful and practical book, one that will hopefully raise the level of public discourse as we confront the current realities of war.
Dane Scott, University of Montana

Andrew Fiala's book engages in a masterful re-examination of an age old tradition-just war theory-in order to shatter the mythic idealism that surrounds it and that shelters us from being able to ask crucial ethical questions about the continual reappearance of war in our lives. Fiala seeks to strip away our fanciful notions of heroic and just violence to show us that the reality of war usually outpaces the capacity of philosophical theories to make sense of its horrors. His conclusion is radical, but it shows how high the stakes are: given the realities of democratic politics, and the kind of destructive capacity available to nations and individuals today, war can hardly ever be justified. This is an important work for anyone concerned with peace and justice today.
Jose-Antonio Orosco, Oregon State University

This book will be useful to those interested in thinking more deeply about current events. Recommended.
8/1/08; CHOICE