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THE VIOLENCE OF PEACE by Stephen L. Carter


America's Wars in the Age of Obama

by Stephen L. Carter

Pub Date: Jan. 11th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-9842951-7-3
Publisher: Beast Books

Barack Obama, Bushian warmonger.

That’s an oversimplification of the author’s argument, but the point remains: As noted legal scholar and novelist Carter (Law/Yale Univ.; Jericho’s Fall, 2009, etc.) examines the morality of war, and in particular President Obama’s theory of just war, he concludes that the continuum from Bush to current times is more continuous than disrupted. President Obama, writes the author, has failed to discontinue many of his predecessor’s practices, even ones against which he campaigned. For one thing, though at least in theory America does not torture its captives, there is no evidence to suggest that “rendition” to countries less scrupulous about waterboarding and fingernail-pulling has diminished since 2008. The Obama administration seems to have accepted without much qualification the theory, thoroughly applied during the Bush years but antedating them, that American citizens who aid the enemy are candidates not for trial but for assassination. Obama may even go a step further than Bush, Carter writes, should he become actively committed to the principle that citizens oppressed by their governments are candidates for deliverance by American warriors. The author provides lucid commentary on the complexities of jus in bello theories, and he seems to be a realist: America has real enemies in the world, against whom real opposition is wanted. The so-called War on Terror has as its goal not victory but prevention, and, given that “you cannot keep your enemy from striking unless you know his plans,” the ability to acquire that knowledge in a timely way becomes paramount—though whether the means justify the ends remains a matter for argument.

Smart, nuanced and worrying, given a nation mired in two wars—and with more, perhaps, on the horizon.