Learning the Language of Just War Theory: The Value of Engagement

Journal of Military Ethics

Author/s (editor/s):

Cian O'Driscoll

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Cian O’Driscoll, ‘Learning the Language of Just War Theory: The Value of Engagement’, Journal of Military Ethics, 6(2) 2007: 107-16.

This paper argues that the significance of Michael Walzer’s seminal Just and Unjust Wars (JUW) lies in its excellence as a spur to political activism and debate. If JUW teaches us anything, it is the value of political engagement. It reminds us that we all have a responsibility as citizens to participate in the body politic, by holding our leaders accountable for their foreign policy and international endeavours, among other things. The signal achievement of JUW is that it teaches us how to do this, by providing instruction in the language of engagement and the art of political argument. In doing so, it does us an invaluable service and provides a useful resource for coming to grips with the world we live in. By teaching us how to argue about war, this book has armed us for the struggles, both military and ideological, that the ‘war on terror’ will surely present us with in the coming years. This essay will focus upon the manner by which Walzer achieves this lofty end, revolving mostly around his innovative re-interpretation of just war theory as a moral language.

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