Targeting Civilians in War

In This Review

Targeting Civilians in War

By Alexander B. Downes
Cornell University Press, 2008
328 pp. $29.95
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Those who would rely on norms as a source of restraint in war even in the face of the developing frustration of wartime leaders desperate for a way out would do well to read Downes' Targeting Civilians in War. There is nothing new about abhorrence of the idea of victimizing civilians, yet as the strategic incentives pile up, restraints have generally turned out to be depressingly fragile. Like most contemporary American political scientists, Downes is obliged to explore whether certain categories of states, notably democracies, do better at maintaining restraint, but in the end, explanations based on strategic logic hold up better than those focused on regime type. If anything, when things get tough, democracies are less restrained than other states.