Can Modern War be Just?

James Turner Johnson

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Now that mankind has created the capability of destroying itself through nuclear technology, is it still possible to think in terms of a "just war"? Johnson argues that it is, and in the context of specific case studies he offers moral guidelines for addressing such major contemporary problems as terrorist activity in a foreign country, an individual’s conscientious objection to military service, and an American defense policy that requires development of weapons that may be morally employed in case of need.

"Remarkable. . . . A thoughtful and even profound book, which can be warmly recommended."—Adam Roberts, New Society

"[A] wise, prudential, and moral thesis. . . . A most important book, one that all Americans who can should read."—George Armstrong Kelly, Political Science Quarterly

"At its heart, Can Modern War be Just? Is a challenge to the common assumption that any modern war must be total—an unrestrained, spasmodic release of one’s entire destructive capacity against the whole of the enemy’s population."—Richard Allen, Journal of Religious Ethics

"Johnson . . . seriously attempt[s] to balance principles and respect facts. For this he is to be praised."—Gary Jason, Chronicles of Culture

"Johnson’s application of just war doctrine to the hardest problems of contemporary warfare is both morally sensitive and intellectually bold. Readers will sometimes disagree with his arguments, but they will be forced to think hard, and they will learn what it is to work within a moral tradition."—Michael Walzer

"Johnson's application of just war doctrine to the hardest problems of contemporary warfare is both morally sensitive and intellectually bold.  Readers will sometimes disagree with his arguments, but they will be forced to think hard, and they will learn what it is to work within a moral tradition."—Michael Walzer, Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study

"Johnson is the leading contemporary interpreter of the sources and historic development of just war doctrine.  The potential of the just war tradition is admirably realized in Johnson's analyses of the great modern issues of deterrence and war."—William V. O'Brien, Professor of Government, Georgetown University

"[A] very sober overview of the stakes of current violence, it risks bypassing audiences unwilling to think 'about the unthinkable' and ones willing to think about it in all forgetfulness of moral restraint.  It cleaves to an uncertain center between total pacifism and unprincipled bellicosity.  These traits should recommend it to every person living in the real world.  He has written a most important book, one that all Americans who can should read."—George Armstrong Kelly, The Annals of the American Academy of Political Science

"All who read it carefully will get a real mental workout."—Roger L. Shinn, Parameters

"Johnson has devoted more than a decade to study of just war tradition, and this book—his third on the topic—is succinct, clear, provocative, and powerful."—Gilbert Meilaender, Religious Studies Review

"Johnson's analysis is thought-provoking and provides a moral framework both for students of crisis management policy and experts on strategic planning."—Mark R. DeBiasse, Arms Control Today

"Johnson's book is welcome.  It moves the focus of discussion away from nuclear weapons to more fundamental questions of strategy and, ultimately, the morality of war itself."—Stanley Hauerwas & L. Gregory Jones, Theology Today
ISBN: 9780300036268
Publication Date: March 11, 1986
221 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4