Waseda University & PRIO
After Michael Walzer’s Just and Unjust Wars, we have been waiting for an update to the normative theory of war and peace. Humane is the book to provide that. With powerful and illustrative stories, the author guides us back to the abolitionist tradition led by Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, and later inherited by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. After the two world wars, the international society accepted the tradition of humanizing wars and instituted international humanitarian laws to make our world more peaceful. Jus in bello has prevented wars from becoming more inhumane and miserable. However, Samuel Moyn argues that the humanitarian war tradition is a hypocrisy. As a war becomes a humane one, the fight will continue for a long time and may never end. As long as the fighting is not too brutal and international humanitarian laws are respected, acts of war will be tacitly accepted. Indeed, the very idea of humanizing a fight may lead to the development of new types of humane weapons, in turn enabling us to continue to fight wars humanely. The book invites us to rethink how we can abolish wars — obviously, it will not be done by the promotion of international humanitarian law. A limitation of the book is its focus on the USA. No one would deny that the USA has led the humanitarian tradition of war and the country is one of the most powerful sources of influence on how the world evolves. Nevertheless, we should not forget that it is just one of many nations in the international community.