There are two doctrines about war which often look like two sides of the same doctrine: absolute pacifism; and the doctrine represented in the American Civil War by General Sherman, that war is absolutely hellish and cannot be refined, and that therefore in the fighting of wars that are justly engaged in there are theoretically no limits beyond which the righteous side may not go. Absolute pacifists similarly argue that war is hellish and that to fight it in any way is the moral equivalent of fighting it in every way; killing a soldier is not in the end morally distinguishable from killing a civilian, bombing an arms factory (or trying hard to be accurate in doing so) is not really different from bombing a residential neighborhood. In for a penny, in for a pound, if stealing a lamb will get one hanged one may as well steal a flock of sheep: proverbial wisdom is used to suggest that if one abandons the position of absolute pacifism, distinguishing among different kinds of killing is a piece of moral imbecility.
This running together of the two doctrines may even have political force in some situations. The British Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament of the 1950s, and the consequent pressure within the Labour Party to “ban the bomb” had a complicated background, and many considerations, moral and political, influenced its supporters and opponents. Supporters of the Campaign included absolute pacifists who were against bombs and weapons of every kind, as well as a few who didn’t really object to the bomb but objected to its being under the control of a non-communist government. They also included a number of people who supported the theory of the just war and argued that in no conceivable circumstances, or at least in no circumstances at all likely to arise, could any war, even a war of defense, be fought justly with nuclear weapons. The late Hugh Gaitskell, who fought against the Campaign and in the end defeated it, drew most of his support, as one would expect, from “realists” who were not interested in legal and moral analysis; but a lot of support came from old pacifists who thought that the opponents of the bomb who were not pacifists were simply confused, so evident was it to them that war is hell and that therefore you either go in for it or you don’t.
As Michael Walzer is able to show, in his powerful book Just and Unjust Wars, these are two strange doctrines. There really is and has been for some centuries now an agreement of mankind that war is, like any other human enterprise, subject to the judgments and restraints of morality and to the restraints of law. There is a mass of international conventions and agreements, and a body of precedents set out in the books of the international lawyers, all of which set limits to what may be done by the armed forces of powers at war. Not that such limits are always respected, any more than domestic laws against criminal conduct are always obeyed. But they are often respected, they have often made a difference to the ways in which war has been fought, they are often to be found in the manuals of military law in the hands of soldiers and have sometimes been effectively cited by conscientious soldiers pressed into illegalities by less scrupulous political leaders.
What is to count as murder is harder to establish in the flurry of war than in times of peace. But the proceedings against Lieutenant Calley showed that it can reasonably be maintained, against the Sherman doctrine, that soldiers who in combat cannot be censured for killing their enemies may properly be censured for the killing of innocent civilians, that is, for committing murder. We think Rommel acted rightly in burning Hitler’s order that enemy troops found behind the German lines should be killed and not taken prisoner; he refused to be an accomplice in murder.
Sherman’s confidence that in evacuating and burning Atlanta, an undoubted atrocity, though not a large one by the standards of our own time, he was acting legitimately came from his view that the cause of the North was just and that the war had been forced upon the Republic. This is not quite the same as the Clausewitz doctrine that “war is an act of force which theoretically can have no limits,” for Clausewitz’s view is connected with his belief that war is a natural activity of states and that acts of war may be imprudent but cannot be considered criminal. Sherman adheres firmly to one part of the theory of the just war, namely, that some wars are just on the part of some of the states who fight them, some unjust; and that in general a war of defense against aggression is just. Now, given that power A acts justly in fighting against B, the aggressor, it follows that the war is unjust on the part of B. On this theory there are only two possibilities in the case of a given war: that it is just on the part of one belligerent, unjust on the part of the other; or that it is unjust on the part of both. But a war that is for one belligerent just in its inception may become unjust in many ways. It may be fought by methods so unjust that the original justice is, so to speak, outweighed; or the original objective, to repel aggression and to seek recompense for damage, may be forgotten, swallowed up in newly conceived ambitions.
We have to distinguish, the theorist of the just war has always argued, between jus ad bellum and jus in bello. This means that there are criteria by which we can establish the justice of a particular belligerent’s cause, those factors that entitle a state to go to war; and that there are also criteria for determining how far justice is observed in the conduct of a morally approvable war and how far the state concerned really sticks to its original good intentions. What begins well may be conducted badly and end in evil. Perhaps history leads us to expect this in any long war, and this is why the call for “unconditional surrender” is often so wicked, as it tends to prolong the war. We are too familiar with “the desire to injure, the cruelty of private vengeance…the arrogance of conquest, the appetite for power, and all such things, that are rightly condemned in war” (Augustine in Contra Faustum, cited by Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae IIaIIaeQ.xl art.1, Utrum bellare sit semper peccatum), and with all the good intentions along the road to hell, to have strong hopes for any war, no matter how just in its inception. The war that began in 1939 with the Nazi-Soviet partition of Poland was on the part of the Western powers as near a textbook example of the just war as we are likely to get; by 1945 we were still glad that the war had been won and that the powers of darkness in Central Europe had been destroyed. But a sad procession of names—Dresden, for instance, and Hiroshima—passed through our minds with a kind of rebuke, so that we felt relief but not joy, satisfaction of a sort but not the peacefulness of a good conscience. If we felt less than perfect satisfaction in victory, this could be traced in part to a consciousness of crimes committed in the course of a just struggle; we—or at least those who shared the feelings I have sketched—were not satisfied that in a just cause all things are permissible.
What I have said so far is substantially a part of Michael Walzer’s argument, though he may not agree with the ways I have put certain things. He shows that most of us use the language of the just war theory, at least when it suits us, that we think certain wars right, others not, and that we praise or censure the ways in which wars are fought. Even those who hold theories of history or human nature that don’t strictly allow for this kind of moral discourse (except as ideology) find it hard to be consistent. Writing to Engels, Marx expresses his hope for a Prussian victory in 1870, arguing that “if the Prussians are victorious, then the centralization of state power will be favorable to the centralization of the working class.” But when he came to draft a resolution for the General Council of the International he wrote: “On the German side, the war is a war of defense.” Later, he censured the decision of the Prussians to continue the war after Sedan, and spoke of “the crime of reviving, in the second half of the nineteenth century, the policy of conquest.” Walzer rightly comments “that Marx has enlisted history not in the service of the proletarian revolution but in the service of conventional morality.”
It is just a matter of fact that international laws and conventions exist and provide us with the principles of judgment that enable us to discriminate between just and unjust wars and between the just and unjust conduct of wars. Questions about how we know that such principles really bind us are, very properly, set aside by Walzer. Uniformed soldiers shooting at each other or bombing the supply routes of armies are engaged in an activity that is justifiable if the war itself is justifiable; the same soldiers lining up villagers not in the army, many of them women and children, and shooting them are engaged in a massacre, that is, they are killing the innocent, committing murder, just as are terrorists who set off bombs in public places or those (if there have been any such) who poison the public water supply.
But what about soldiers who are serving on the wrong side in an unjust war? It seems, at first glance, a part of the theory that they, unlike the soldiers serving on the right side, are committing murder when they kill their military enemies. For a number of reasons Walzer thinks this won’t do. First, the laws of war, everything that makes up “the war convention,” as he puts it, have been devised to guide the conduct of all the belligerents. It is a part of the convention that soldiers may be attacked and that most others may not, at least not intentionally. Then, it is not easy for ordinary men to sort out the rights and wrongs of armed conflicts; they have really no choice about accepting the judgment of the public authorities, and of course they may be and often are compelled by law to serve in the armed forces. This is not the same thing as being compelled to commit murder, and only those who kill the innocent, and more especially military commanders who order this or are accomplices in it, ought to be held responsible for their actions. It is in the interest of all that war, quite apart from the attribution of guilt to one or other party, should be a limited activity.
All this seems a matter of common sense. All the same, I wish Walzer had gone into this question in more detail. One reason why the theory of the just war has often made people smile is that it seems (as distinct from the war convention) an idle theory, since it has to do only with the conduct of governments, and governments, as history shows us, are not morally scrupulous. The Spanish king asked the University of Salamanca if it was just to conquer the Indians of South America. Salamanca immortalized itself by saying it was unjust; but the Spaniards conquered the Indians all the same. Vitoria, one of the most important of the just war theorists, argues that the individual subjects of the ruler cannot be expected to sort out for themselves the moral issues of a particular war: “if the subjects cannot serve in the war except they are first satisfied of its justice, the state would fall into grave peril.”
That this issue was more than academic comes out in the discussion between the disguised Henry V and the common soldiers on the eve of Agincourt, in Shakespeare’s Henry V.
King Henry:…Methinks I could not die anywhere so contented as in the king’s company, his cause being just and his quarrel honorable.
Williams: That’s more than we know.
Bates: Ay, or more than we should seek after, for we know enough if we know we are the king’s subjects. If his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.
Williams: But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in a battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all, “We died at such a place.” …I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of anything, when blood is their argument?
Now it would seem unlikely that in a modern society, at least where there is a fair measure of freedom of speech and information, and where formally and in some degree actually governments are responsible to the electorate, we can be satisfied with what Bates says. We are in some degree morally implicated in the policies and decisions of government; and since the making of policy is a continuous thing, and new decisions are always being made, we may have a duty to bear witness for truth and justice where we think the government is mistaken or criminal. Walzer tells us he began to think strenuously about the problems discussed in his book when he found himself entangled in the political and moral questions raised by the American intervention in Vietnam. This is the period when there began to appear what is sometimes called “selective” conscientious objection, that is, conscientious objections to the war in Vietnam by men who were not pacifists but thought it morally unsafe to serve in what they took to be an unjust war.
This is not the first time conscientious objection by those who are not pacifists had appeared. There were a few cases in England in the Second World War, mostly Roman Catholics whose citing of the scholastic authorities greatly perplexed the tribunals set up to judge the validity of the conscientious objectors’ arguments; the judges knew where they were with Quakers or Jehovah’s Witnesses, but these others they found queer cattle. There were even a few cases in Hitler’s Reich, perhaps more than we know about; that we know about one case, that of the Austrian martyr Franz Jägerstätter, in some detail is accidental, a piece of good fortune, as Gordon Zahn explains in the book he devoted to his life and death.1
We seem, then, to be moving away from the position that the justice of a particular war is a matter on which the good citizen is bound to take the advice of the public authorities. Indeed, if we take the just war theory seriously, we are bound, surely, to presume that any given war is more likely to be unjust than just. As we have seen, if one belligerent is in the right it follows that the other is in the wrong; and since there must be many cases where both parties are in the wrong the presumption against the justice of a particular war is always very strong. Aquinas’s question, Utrum bellare sit semper peccatum, plainly assumes this. Under a despotism or an aristocracy it seems plain that the individual citizen is more a subject than a citizen; and under such a regime it probably makes no sense to impose on ordinary men duties they cannot comprehend. But this isn’t the situation in North America or Western Europe. Here it is assumed that it is the right and may be the duty of the citizen to deliberate over matters of public policy. It may be said that it is also a part of the theory of democracy that majorities decide. In many matters this is true. But there seems to be an absurdity in applying the judgment of the majority to matters of deep principle—war and peace, slavery, racial oppression. And it isn’t perhaps an accident that it is precisely in the democracies that those who have wanted to commend particular wars, knowing that the moral foundations were flimsy, have sometimes put out that most undiscussible of doctrines, “my country, right or wrong.” This is a paralogism, for it implies that one may have a duty to act wrongly.
That we are better off if the war convention applies to all soldiers, quite apart from the justice of the cause they fight for, Walzer clearly establishes. It is a fact of modern society that most citizens if called upon by their governments will “wear weapons, and serve in the wars,” and will not make moral discriminations likely to imperil their own governments; but it may be presumed that even in uniform and under arms they know that certain kinds of killing are murder, that it is a crime to kill prisoners, and so on. There is now an impressive body of case law to support the doctrine that superior orders do not excuse those who commit common crimes. Such a doctrine is in the common interest and ought to be cherished, even if it tends to blur the distinction between those who are fighting for the just cause and those who are fighting against it.
All the same, it is conceivable, if conventional wars continue to be fought, that the selective conscientious objection that became common in the United States in the course of the Vietnam war may represent the beginning of something, or rather perhaps the extension of something that began in the civil rights movement of the Sixties. A conscientious refusal to observe Jim Crow laws is not unlike the conscientious refusal to fight in an unjust war. In both cases, it may be argued, the state is engaged in destroying the moral foundations of society. Disobedience is obedience to a law that stands above positive law. Many legal theorists won’t like this at all, for it seems to suggest that legal positivists from Hobbes and Austin down to our own day have blundered. I suspect the thought that Blackstone was in this fundamental matter in the right will be unwelcome in many law schools and will be thought a confused inference from the “morally tinted words,” as Justice Holmes put it, that still haunt legal discourse.
It has often been argued, by those who hold that the individual citizen has no choice but to accept the competence of public authority to call on him to serve in a given war, that since the justification of war is a complicated business, relying upon information known only to the authority, it is ridiculous to suppose that the solitary man can competently judge in such a matter. This is humbug. Even if the original occasion of the war’s being fought is hard to analyze, it is scarcely possible in a modern society to conceal how the war is being fought. Franz Jägerstätter was able to say in response to the socially superior and better educated men who counseled him to obey the call-up that everyone knew what National Socialism was and what its armies were doing in the occupied territories. That is, even within a totalitarian society where the means of information were controlled by the state a poor and not very well educated Austrian farmer was perfectly informed about the character of the war he was ordered to serve in.
It is hard, then, to suppose that in a democratic society the actual conduct of a war (as distinct from the cause of its being started) does not come under the judgment of ordinary people. This is not to suggest that we ought to consider those who engage, voluntarily or under legal compulsion, in a war that is unjust in its origins or becomes unjust in its development to be murderers. Presumably those who serve and are convinced that the war is unjust, or take part in the killing of the innocent, are murderers. But if we consider the manifold pressures to which men are subject in modern society we shall be inclined to doubt the culpability of most soldiers in respect, simply, of their serving in the armies. All the same, we may look upon the period of selective conscientious objection to the Vietnam war as the beginning of a quite new way of understanding the responsibility of the citizen under democracy.
It may be urged, and is sometimes urged by Walzer, that we must distinguish between a man’s doing his duty and his being a hero. A man who acts unjustly under the threat of death is not a hero—there are some who refuse and are killed, and these are heroes—but he can scarcely be accused of having failed to do his duty, and later prosecuted for the failure. This strikes me as a doubtful position. A man who does what he ought to do has done his duty, and when this duty is hard and dangerous one who does his duty is certainly heroic. What we can quite properly urge in the case of men who act wickedly under the severest compulsion (the immediate prospect of death or torture) is that the degree of culpability is small or perhaps not there at all. This is why commanders are held peculiarly responsible in all proceedings concerned with war crimes: it is they who exercise the compulsion. But it seems to me important not to waver on the question of what is properly required of a man, even in extreme circumstances. Many things excuse in whole or in part; but what is excused must need excuse.
For Walzer, as for perhaps all reflective men who examine the history of the world since the 1930s, National Socialism is, even more than Stalinism, the Great Beast, uncanny, evil in a unique way; it has all the marks of what medieval men would have called the Antichrist. (Recent arguments that Hitler was a ruler much like the others, not unlike a Napoleon or a Cromwell, that the full scope of the Final Solution was something that may never have come under his notice, et patati et patata, such arguments strike most men of my generation—those who were young adults in 1933—as merely laughable, or would do so if laughter were possible in such a connection.) It was and is for us, given the character of National Socialism, a strong temptation to suppose that in fighting horror without precedent some suspension of moral rules that would have been binding in a fight with an enemy less thoroughly malevolent was allowable.
Walzer’s position on this issue is nuanced and intricately argued, and one can’t do justice to it in a short account. But since it is in my view the crucial experiment, as it were, for his general theory, something must be said about it. He rejects altogether the crude position that rules don’t bind those fighting in a just cause, and the scarcely less crude position that they have the right, especially if things are going badly, to bend the rules in their own favor (though he recognizes that this is probably what would happen).
He begins by noting that Fiat justitia, ruat coelum, let justice be done even though the heavens fall, “is not for most people a plausible moral doctrine.” He then goes on to advance what he believes is a plausible doctrine.
There is an alternative doctrine that stops just short of absolutism…. It might be summed up in the maxim: do justice unless the heavens are (really) about to fall. This is the utilitarianism of extremity [my italics], for it concedes that in certain very special cases, though never as a matter of course even in just wars, the only restraints upon military action are those of usefulness and proportionality. Throughout my discussion of the rules of war, I have been resisting this view and denying its force. I have argued, for example, against the notion that civilians can be locked into a besieged city or reprisals taken against innocent people “in extreme cases.” For the idea of extremity has no place in the making of the war convention…. The rules are adjusted to the everyday extremities of war; no further adjustment is possible if we are to have any rules at all, and if we are to attend to the rights of the innocent. But now the question is not one of rule-making, but of rule-breaking. We know the form and substance of the moral code; we must decide, at a moment of desperation and looming disaster, whether to live (and perhaps to die) by its rules.
This is certainly a doctrine that most people are likely to accept—after all, many are utilitarians on most issues and Protestants no longer argue that it is always wicked to use bad means to a good end—but it is not clear in what respect it is plausible, given the other positions Walzer wants to hang onto. After all, the test that establishes whether or not a man has a virtue, that of veracity or courage, for example, is always what he does in an extreme situation when it is very hard to do the right thing or where there seem to be extremely plausible arguments for abandoning the precepts of the virtue in question, arguments to show that some great good may be had or some great evil avoided. But we might want to say, without being censorious, that a man who abandons the precepts has failed the test; the whole point of the precepts is not that they should be guides for conduct when things are going reasonably well, but lights for our feet when the path is dark. In the Biblical tradition there are odd cases where “bowing down in the house of Rimmon” (that is, idolatry) is sanctioned for a good end; but on the whole it seems to be believed that we ought not to worship false gods or to spill innocent blood even for the safety of Jerusalem.
Of course, Walzer is writing in and for a secularized world and he can’t therefore raise the question: Doesn’t abandoning the rules in an extremity show that we don’t think God will sustain his servants if they obey him rather than the promptings of human wisdom? But something rather like this question has to be raised even in a secularized world. Why should we keep the rules in a situation that is less than extreme when keeping the rules is to our disadvantage? Walzer thinks we ought to keep the rules in any situation that is not extreme; this is why he is on the whole so hard on utilitarianism. But if utilitarianism is what gets us out of our moral difficulty in the hardest case we can conceive, then it may perhaps bè a serviceable doctrine in cases that are not so extreme. I think Walzer will find himself forced into this position; and what he writes on the “case” most relevant to this discussion strengthens my conviction about this.
The “case” is that of British bombing policy in the Second World War. As late as June 1940 bomber pilots were instructed to aim only at military or industrial targets. Late in that year the decision was taken to remove this restriction and to bomb cities without discrimination. At first the decision was secret and the Cabinet put up Archibald Sinclair in the House of Commons to deny that any change of policy had been made. By 1942 residential areas of Germany had become primary targets; the Government was committed to the view that mass bombing would have decisive importance for victory in that it would destroy civilian morale and cripple Germany economically. When this change of policy took place Britain was alone and the world expected a German victory. But even toward the end of the war, when the German armies had been broken on the Russian front, when the enormous power of the United States had come into the war against the Third Reich, the policy was maintained, and came to its remarkable climax with the bombing of Dresden in the spring of 1945. “The destruction of Dresden remains a serious query against the conduct of Allied bombing.” Thus Churchill himself. And it seems hard to doubt that the bombing of Germany was the precedent for the fire-bombing of Tokyo and the use of the atomic bomb in the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Briefly, Walzer’s position is that 1940 was an extremity of the kind he has in mind. Britain was faced with the ultimate evil and the moral limits to be observed in all situations not extreme fell away. But the extreme situation passed and what had in 1940 been justifiable ceased to be so. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is more plainly indefensible. Walzer writes:
[people] have a right not to be forced to continue fighting beyond the point when the war might justly be concluded. Beyond that point, there can be no supreme emergencies, no arguments about military necessity, no cost-accounting in human lives. To press the war further than that is to re-commit the crime of aggression. In the summer of 1945, the victorious Americans owed the Japanese people an experiment in negotiation. To use the atomic bomb, to kill and terrorize civilians, without even attempting such an experiment, was a double crime.
Outside the limits of the rare and exceptional extreme situation (e.g., Britain in 1940) we are to respect those human rights that war is designed to protect, and “we are not to calculate consequences, or figure relative risks, or compute probable casualties, but simply to stop short and turn aside.”
We may look back upon those situations in which “the utilitarianism of extremity” was invoked and wonder how we should now judge the situation. Walzer does this in connection with what he calls “the dishonoring of Arthur Harris.” Harris directed the strategic bombing of Germany from February 1942 to the end of the war. He believed profoundly in the necessity of terror bombing and fought hard against all attempts to divert bombers from this to other and more defensible tasks. Of course, such responsibility must rest upon the government and above all on Churchill, though that Harris acted in obedience to the orders of his superiors does not, as the precedents show, free him of blame. But alone among the more important British commanders Harris was not given a peerage and the names of bomber crews who were killed, a vast company, are not recorded alongside the names of the men of Fighter Command in Westminster Abbey. Walzer says of such men that it may be that “they had acted well and done what their office required [but that they] must nonetheless bear a burden of responsibility and guilt. They have killed unjustly…for the sake of justice itself, but justice itself requires that unjust killing be condemned.”
It will be noticed that Walzer both condemns and justifies Harris and his fellows and seems thus to be involved in a paralogism like that we saw to be involved in the maxim: My country, right or wrong!
He is later uneasy about this and reaches out for a support that is in fact a confession that in the situation of extremity (e.g., Britain alone, faced with the menace of the German armies, her very existence as a free people in doubt) moral principles that are available in all other situations just won’t do the job we ask of them. He takes from Professor Thomas Nagel the idea that there are situations within which there is a tragic conflict of absolutist with utilitarian moral principles, situations within which “we know that there are some outcomes that must be avoided at all costs, and we know that there are some costs that can never rightly be paid.” In Nagel’s words, “the world can present us with situations in which there is no honorable or moral course for a man to take, no course free of guilt and responsibility for evil.” Walzer then says that he has “tried to avoid the stark indeterminacy of that description by suggesting that political leaders can hardly help but choose the utilitarian side of the dilemma. That is what they are there for. They must opt for collective survival and override those rights that have suddenly loomed as obstacles to survival.” But, he continues,
I don’t want to say…that they are free of guilt when they do that. Were there no guilt involved, the decisions they make would be less agonizing than they are. And they can only prove their honor by accepting responsibility for those decisions and by living out the agony. A moral theory that made their life easier, or that concealed their dilemma from the rest of us, might achieve greater coherence, but it would miss or it would repress the reality of war.
Surely this won’t do. It is a rhetorical solution to a logical problem; the talk about agonizing decisions has been too cheapened of late to be serviceable in such a context. The thought that rulers may properly opt for the utilitarian side of the dilemma because “that is what they are there for” is obscure to me; in just that sense what they are there for is to drop nuclear bombs or defoliate the forests of Vietnam.
Earlier in his book Walzer argues against the style of argument he here uses, showing with great force the weakness of all those commentators on American policy who attack “moralizing” and commend “realism” and modest aspirations. Such commentators were influenced by the late Reinhold Niebuhr, who was a great practitioner of the kind of rhetoric Walzer here falls into. But I discern behind such arguments a greater ghost than that of Niebuhr: that of Max Weber. For Weber the essence of political leadership in dark times is a willingness on the part of the leader to imperil his salvation for the sake of the collectivity: “it is with reference to such situations that Machiavelli in a beautiful passage…of the History of Florence has one of his heroes praise those citizens who deemed the greatness of their native city higher than the salvation of their souls.”2 Antinomians in a good cause, Promethean figures bearing the wrath of the outraged gods for the sake of humanity, Byronic heroes, almost, savoring their tragic destinies: such, I fear, are our patterns of imitation if we invoke, in the hard cases, the utilitarianism of extremity. But this would be (keeping to the case of the war with the Nazis) to present Hitler with a posthumous victory. The hubristic picture of leaders who at nodal points in world history transcend the moral constraints of ordinary men and sin greatly for the sake of the collective—this is the romanticism, full of bad pathos, theatrical, self-pitying, out of which National Socialism came.
My interest in those matters on which Walzer writes in such a way as to provoke further discussion may have concealed the fact that I find Just and Unjust Wars a magnificent book, an honor to its writer and to the milieu out of which it comes, a book that makes for a return of civilized discussion of the question of the morality of warfare. It is a plea that we should look at history, rehearse and examine the moral principles on which there seems to be a consensus as reflected in traditional practice and in the corpus of international law, and not be afraid of inferences. He says of those who argue for terrorism as the only weapon that can liberate the oppressed that they “have lost their grip on the historical past; they suffer from a malign forgetfulness, erasing all moral distinctions along with the men and women who painfully worked them out.” His book is a powerful remedy for the malign forgetfulness from which we suffer. What he writes on the moral problems of guerrilla warfare and on the balance of nuclear terror, to mention two questions I have not had the space to discuss, requires the thoughtful attention of all those (and this means all of us) who have special responsibilities in this field. Of course, if soldiers, politicians, and public officials were to read and note what he has to say, this would be the best response Walzer could hope for.
December 8, 1977