In This Review

Just War and International Order: The Uncivil Condition in World Politics
Just War and International Order: The Uncivil Condition in World Politics
By Nicholas Rengger
Cambridge University Press, 2013, 220 pp.

In this work of political theory, Rengger notes what he considers a disturbing shift in Western discourse on the use of force. Liberal internationalists and “just war” theorists see themselves as trying to prevent and circumscribe acts of violence and war. But Rengger argues that, ironically, these liberal political traditions are instead creating new legal and moral justifications for the use of force around the world. Liberal ideas of law and justice have led the Western powers to pursue new and more expansive collective ends. Although many liberals have opposed specific interventions, such as the Iraq war, Rengger sees their embrace of such ideas as “the responsibility to protect” as a sign that long-standing restraints on the use of force will soon begin to disappear. Rengger wants the world to think of international law and justice not as tools for a progressive agenda but as frameworks that allow people to pursue their own ends. But the question remains: Without ambitious efforts to solve collective global problems, how viable is individual freedom?