ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

ESIL Interest Group History of International Law

dinsdag 19 april 2022

BOOK: Beatrice HEUSER, War: A Genealogy of Western Ideas and Practices (Oxford University Press, 2022)

Image source: OUP


War has been conceptualised from a military perspective, but also from ethical, legal, and philosophical viewpoints. These different analytical perspectives are all necessary to understand the many dimensions war, the continua on which war is situated - from small-scale to large-scale, from limited in time or long, from less to extremely destructive, with varying aims, and degrees of involvement of populations.

Western civilisations have conceptualised war in binary ways denying the variety of manifestations of war along these continua. While binary definitions are necessary to capture different conditions legally, they hamper analysis. The binaries include inter-State and intestine war, just war and unjust war (the latter including insurgencies), citizen-soldiers and professionals, civilians and combatants. Yet realities have mostly straddled such demarcations. Even citizen-armies have usually included professionals, civilians have been treated as enemies and sometimes even formally defined as enemies, and rules have not conformed with binary distinctions, if they were respected at all. While customary rules governing the conduct of war have been turned into International Law, this is the only aspect of war that has developed in a fairly linear way, while the rise, disappearance, and renaissance of the just war tradition has been anything but linear. This non-linearity also applies to the brutality with which war has been fought, especially towards civilians, who for long stretches of European history must have been the main victims of war, notwithstanding increasing protection they were afforded in theory by customary law. To understand war, we must shed some of these binaries.

Table of Contents

2:War in Europe: A Short Typological Survey
3:Ethical, Political And Legal Concepts Of War
4:Root Causes and Drivers of War
5:Just War Traditions
6:Professed Reasons for Going to War and War Aims
7:Who Fights?
8:Who is the Enemy?
9:Traditional and Legal Constraints on Warfare
10:The Rules and Practice of Warfare

More details with Oxford University Press.