“Michael Howard’s ‘War and the Liberal Conscience’ is as persuasive a book could be about the necessity of studying war.” How far would you agree with this statement?
In his book, Michael Howard describes what liberal thinkers have expressed about the entity of war in different periods in history. Chronologically, he has tried to persuade us with the teachings of Erasmus and Thomas Paine to Mazzini’s idea of nationalism and its effect on war, to Jeremy Bentham’s arguments all the way up to the twentieth century capturing the liberal thinker’s philosophy of Fascism and Communism.
Throughout the book, he has challenged preconceived notions that have made his book persuasive about the necessity of studying war, so as to go into greater detail about the debates that he has introduced the reader to. One such example is that ‘war is bad’. One might think, especially in context to liberals that wars should not be fought and nations should resolve all their disputes peacefully through arbitration. Howard has presented examples of when it is essential to fight in a war, for example when war is necessary for freedom. Another example is of liberal visionaries like the Italian, Mazzini, whose ideas of peace could manifest through what he thought to be a just war. In this case it had to be war to get rid of their oppressive Austrian rulers.
Howard has also written about ‘just wars’ and has asked the question, ‘what makes a war just?’ To answer this he has presented views of different groups who have thought that a particular war was just. For example, the right of small nations to struggle for independence and whether that is just or not. Another example could be of the Second World War, which Howard points out that the Traditionalists, people of Britain and the Soviet Union and the Liberals all thought to be just and necessary. The interesting fact being that all these factions thought that the war was just for very different reasons. Does that make the war...
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