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Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq

Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq

Alex J. Bellamy

ISBN: 978-0-745-63283-4

Nov 2006, Polity

296 pages

In Stock



In what circumstances is it legitimate to use force? How should force be used? These are two of the most crucial questions confronting world politics today.

The Just War tradition provides a set of criteria which political leaders and soldiers use to defend and rationalize war. This book explores the evolution of thinking about just wars and examines its role in shaping contemporary judgements about the use of force, from grand strategic issues of whether states have a right to pre-emptive
self-defence, to the minutiae of targeting.

Bellamy maps the evolution of the Just War tradition, demonstrating how it arose from a myriad of sub-traditions, including scholasticism, the holy war tradition, chivalry, natural law, positive law, Erasmus and Kant's reformism, and realism from Machiavelli to Morgenthau. He then applies this tradition to a range of contemporary normative dilemmas related to terrorism, pre-emption, aerial bombardment and humanitarian intervention.

Preface and Acknowledgements.

Introduction -.


Chapter 1: Antiquity -.

Chapter 2: The Middle Ages –.

Chapter 3: Renaissance and Reformation –.

Chapter 4: From Holy War to Enlightenment –.

Chapter 5: Modernity and Beyond –.


Chapter 6: The Just War Tradition Today –.

Chapter 7: Terrorism –.

Chapter 8: Pre-emption –.

Chapter 9: Aerial Bombing –.

Chapter 10: Humanitarian Intervention –.


Bibliography –.


"One could not wish for a more tightly developed set of empirical cases ... Bellamy produces a very thoughtful narrative, emphasizing the disparate elements that comprise the modern just war tradition."

"A model of careful and balanced discussion ... Bellamy strikes just the right balance between rigorous examination of general concepts and consideration of the concrete aspects of particular cases."
Henry Shue, Survival

“A convincing analysis of the emergence of international law and the dominance of realism after the Second World War [and] an excellent application of this theoretical and historical narrative to contemporary issues.”
Political Studies Review

"This is an engaging book that captures the breadth and depth of arguments over why and how we should kill one another."
International Affairs

"A book to admire and to argue with – in other words, the best sort of book."
Jean Bethke Elshtain, University of Chicago

  • Comprehensive introduction to a key topic in security and conflict studies
  • Provides a detailed historical analysis of the just war tradition, from antiquity through the middle ages and the renaissance to the ‘war on terror'
  • Shows how Just War theory relates to contemporary problems of humanitarian intervention, terrorism and self-defence
  • Detailed discussion of the work of thinkers from Machiavelli to Morgenthau, and from Kant to Walzer
  • Clearly and engagingly written, ideal for a student audience