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Talking Points: Avishai Margalit and Michael Walzer on Just War

Published 2009

The point of just war theory is to regulate warfare, to limit its occasions, and to regulate its conduct and legitimate scope. Wars between states should never be total wars between nations or peoples. Whatever happens to the two armies involved, whichever one wins or loses, whatever the nature of the battles or the extent of the casualties, the two nations, the two peoples, must be functioning communities at the war’s end. The war cannot be a war of extermination or ethnic cleansing. And what is true for states is also true for state-like political bodies such as Hamas and Hezbollah, whether they practice terrorism or not. The people they represent or claim to represent are a people like any other. ––Avishai Margalit, George F. Kennan Professor in the School of Historical Studies (2006–11), and Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus in the School of Social Science, in “Israel: Civilians and Combatants,” New York Review of Books, May 14, 2009

Published in The Institute Letter Fall 2009