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Of War and Law
David Kennedy

Hardcover | 2006 | $35.00 | £27.95 | ISBN: 9780691128641
208 pp. | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2
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eBook | ISBN: 9781400827367 |
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Modern war is law pursued by other means. Once a bit player in military conflict, law now shapes the institutional, logistical, and physical landscape of war. At the same time, law has become a political and ethical vocabulary for marking legitimate power and justifiable death. As a result, the battlespace is as legally regulated as the rest of modern life. In Of War and Law, David Kennedy examines this important development, retelling the history of modern war and statecraft as a tale of the changing role of law and the dramatic growth of law's power. Not only a restraint and an ethical yardstick, law can also be a weapon--a strategic partner, a force multiplier, and an excuse for terrifying violence.

Kennedy focuses on what can go wrong when humanitarian and military planners speak the same legal language--wrong for humanitarianism, and wrong for warfare. He argues that law has beaten ploughshares into swords while encouraging the bureaucratization of strategy and leadership. A culture of rules has eroded the experience of personal decision-making and responsibility among soldiers and statesmen alike. Kennedy urges those inside and outside the military who wish to reduce the ferocity of battle to understand the new roles--and the limits--of law. Only then will we be able to revitalize our responsibility for war.


"The provocative new book, Of War and Law . . . [is] a cautionary tale of what can go wrong when military leaders and outside observers use legal language as a substitute for independent ethical thinking. According to Kennedy, the military's increasing reliance on the law creates the illusion that there is an objective way to balance civilian lives and military goals. It relieves the decider of responsibility for judgment. . . . Kennedy traces the evolving relationship of law and warfare as the boundaries between war and peace have steadily grown less distinct."--Bill Ibelle, Harvard Law Bulletin

"This powerful work by a Harvard legal scholar probes the modern transformation of warfare and the growing 'merger' of the 'professional vernaculars' of military force and law. . . . This is an original contribution to the debate about the perils of liberal democracy in an age of limited but unending war."--G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs

"In this provocative and timely book, Professor David Kennedy probes the relationship between war and law, incisively unraveling two concepts that have become increasingly intertwined since the Second World War ... offering lessons for politicians and citizens alike."--Harvard Law Review

"Kennedy's [book] is an innovative and provocative assessment of the contemporary uses of the laws of war. [It] makes an utterly invaluable contribution to our understanding of the role of legal ideas in regulating, constituting and debating the use of force."--Alex J. Bellamy, International Affairs

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