Contemporary Just War: Theory and Practice, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Contemporary Just War

Theory and Practice, 1st Edition

By Tamar Meisels


170 pages

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Paperback: 9781138043695
pub: 2017-08-31
Hardback: 9781138043664
pub: 2017-08-18
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pub: 2017-08-18
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This book offers a renewed defense of traditional just war theory and considers its application to certain contemporary cases, particularly in the Middle East.

The first part of the book addresses and responds to the central theoretical criticisms levelled at traditional just war theory. It offers a detailed defense of civilian immunity, the moral equality of soldiers and the related dichotomy between jus ad bellum and jus in bello, and argues that these principles taken together amount to a morally coherent ethics of war. In this sense this project is traditional (or "orthodox"). In another sense, however, it is highly relevant to the modern world. While the first part of the book defends the just war tradition against its revisionist critics, the second part applies it to an array of timely issues: civil war, economic warfare, excessive harm to civilians, pre-emptive military strikes, and state-sponsored assassination, which require applying just war theory in practice. This book sets out to reaffirm the basic tenets of the traditional ethics of war and to lend them further moral support, subsequently applying them to a variety of practical issues.

This book will be of great interest to students of just war theory, ethics, security studies, war and conflict studies, and IR in general.


'Tamar Meisels restores social realities to the discussion of just war. This outstanding book presents a provocative, powerful, and eloquent alternative to the reigning apolitical revisionism applicable only to a far better world than this. Socially adrift abstraction here meets a formidably grounded challenger specifying principles that can be action-guiding in the world of violent groups that confronts us now.' -- Henry Shue, University of Oxford, UK

‘Tamar Meisels’ Contemporary Just War: Theory and Practice is a superb discussion of the major debates in contemporary just war theory and their bearing on the conflicts of today. Hers is a lucid and humane voice that speaks with precision to today’s major disagreements on the morality of war and also speaks with compassion to the difficult decisions people face in war, seeking to maintain their moral bearings. Those of us who have admired Tamar Meisels’ writings on these topics can now be grateful they have been developed into a single, sustained discussion that everyone concerned with these issues will want to read.’ -- Cheyney Ryan, University of Oxford, UK

'With this accessible account of just war theory, Tamar Meisels has done us all a great service in showing us why we should still hold onto the main tenets of Michael Walzer’s traditional view, and why revisionist critiques of that account fail to the degree that they cannot bridge "deep" moral theory with practical moral and legal guidance in war. Here, Meisels walks us through concrete cases to do with civil war, targeted assassinations of nuclear scientists, and pre-emptive strikes. With her feet firmly on the ground and with young soldiers often in mind, she makes it clear that just war theory – traditionalist, revisionist, or a convergence of both – can’t stay in the clouds, but needs to speak directly to the realities of war.' -- Nancy Sherman, Georgetown University, USA

Table of Contents



Part I: Just War Theory

1. Comrades in Arms: The Equal Innocence of Soldiers

2. In Defense of the Defenseless: The Morality of the Laws of War

3. Fighting for Independence: What Can Just War Theory

Part II: Just War Theory in Practice

4. Proportionality and Risk

5. Economic Warfare: the Case of Gaza

6. Preemptive Strikes: Israel and Iran

7. Assassination: Targeting Nuclear Scientists

8. Conclusions

About the Author

Tamar Meisels is Professor of Political Theory in the Department of Political Science at Tel Aviv University, Israel. She is author of Territorial Rights (2005), The Trouble with Terror (2008) and co-editor of Soft War: The Ethics of Unarmed Conflict (2017, with Michael L. Gross).

About the Series

War, Conflict and Ethics

Ethical judgments are relevant to all phases of protracted violent conflict and inter-state war. Before, during, and after the tumult, martial forces are guided, in part, by their sense of morality for assessing whether an action is (morally) right or wrong, an event has good and/or bad consequences, and an individual (or group) is inherently virtuous or evil. This new book series focuses on the morality of decisions by military and political leaders to engage in violence and the normative underpinnings of military strategy and tactics in the prosecution of the war.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Military / General
PHILOSOPHY / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / International Security
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / General