This work takes aim at the assertion that wars are caused by conflicts over power and interest alone, in which arguments about justice and right are only excuses for the pursuit of national self-interest. Tracing the impact of arguments about justice in the origins of five major international conflicts, the author concludes that in all but one moral claims played a key role in moving the parties to war. He is critical of the narrow view of man, implicit in realism, as selfish and fearful. Rich in historical detail, this book argues that the tendency of social scientists to avoid or downplay moral or normative arguments detracts from their ability to understand the world accurately, since political actors are themselves suffused with views about right and wrong.
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