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Scarred souls, weary warriors, and military intervention: the emergence of the subject in the just war writings of Jean Bethke Elshtain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2012

Abstract

Over the past three decades Jean Bethke Elshtain has used her critique and application of just war as a means of engaging with multiple overlapping aspects of identity. Though Elshtain ostensibly writes about war and the justice, or lack of justice, therein, she also uses just war a site of analysis within which different strands of subjectivity are investigated and articulated as part of her broader political theory. This article explores the proposition that Elshtain's most important contribution to the just war tradition is not be found in her provision of codes or her analysis of ad bellum or in bello criteria, conformity to which adjudges war or military intervention to be just or otherwise. Rather, that she enriches just war debate because of the unique and sometimes provocative perspective she brings as political theorist and International Relations scholar who adopts, adapts, and deploys familiar but, for some, uncomfortable discursive artefacts from the history of the Christian West: suffused with her own Christian faith and theology. In so doing she continually reminds us that human lives, with all their attendant political, social, and religious complexities, should be the focus when military force is used, or even proposed, for political ends.

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Articles
Copyright
Copyright © British International Studies Association 2012 

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References

1 Elshtain, Jean Bethke, ‘Women and War: Ten Years On’, Review of International Studies, 24 (1998), p. 455Google Scholar.

2 Elshtain, Jean Bethke, ‘A Response’, International Relations, 21:4 (2007), p. 503Google Scholar.

3 Foucault, Michel, ‘The Subject and Power’, in Foucault, Michel and Faubion, James D. (eds), The essential works of Michel Foucault 1954–1984 Volume 3: Power (London: Allen Lane, 2001), p. 326Google Scholar.

4 Ibid.

5 Challenges to Foucault's conception of the subject can be found in Connolly, W. E., ‘Taylor, Foucault, and Otherness’, Political Theory, 13:3 (August 1985), pp. 365–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Shapiro, M. J., ‘Charles Taylor's Moral Subject’, Political Theory, 14:2 (May 1986), pp. 311–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Taylor, C., ‘Foucault on Freedom and Truth’, Political Theory, 12:2 (May 1984), pp. 152–83CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Taylor, C., Sources of the Self (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989)Google Scholar.

6 Foucault, ‘The Subject and Power’, p. 331.

7 Foucault, Michel, ‘The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom’, in Foucault, M. and Rabinow, Paul (ed.), The essential works of Michel Foucault 1954–1984 Volume 1: Ethics – Subjectivity and Truth (New York: The New Press, 1997), p. 290Google Scholar.

8 Foucault, Michel, The History of Sexuality Volume 2: The Use of Pleasure, trans. Hurley, R. (London: Penguin Books, 1984), p. 25Google Scholar.

9 Ibid., p. 5.

10 Clifford, Michael, Political Genealogy After Foucault (New York and London: Routledge, 2001), p. 151Google Scholar.

11 Elshtain, ‘Women and War: Ten Years On’, p. 449.

12 Elshtain, Jean Bethke (ed.), Just War Theory (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd, 1992), p. 323Google Scholar.

13 Elshtain, ‘A Response’, p. 506.

14 Elshtain, Jean Bethke, ‘Reflections on War and Political Discourse: Realism, Just War, and Feminism in a Nuclear Age’, Political Theory, 13:1 (February 1985), p. 44CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

15 Elshtain, Just War Theory, p. 3.

16 Elshtain, J. B., ‘What's Morality Got To Do With It? Making The Right Distinctions’, Social Philosophy and Policy, 21:1 (January 2004), p. 1CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 Ibid.

18 Elshtain, Just War Theory, p. 6.

19 Elshtain, ‘Women and War: Ten Years On’, p. 448.

20 Elshtain, ‘Reflections on War’, p. 42.

21 Elshtain, Just War Theory, p. 265.

22 Elshtain, ‘Women and War: Ten Years On’, p. 453. See also Elshtain, Jean Bethke, Augustine and the Limits of Politics (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame, 1995), pp. 3442Google Scholar.

23 Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans, ed. and trans. Dyson, R. W. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), Bk XIX, chap. 13, p. 938Google Scholar.

24 Ibid., XI.10, p. 462.

25 Ibid., XX.17, p. 1145.

26 Ibid.

27 In this regard I am referring to the Christian doctrine of ‘the Fall’, when disobedient humans and their conduct created a permanent schism between God and creation.

28 Elshtain, Jean Bethke, Women and War (London & Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 4Google Scholar.

29 Elshtain, Jean Bethke, ‘On Beautiful Souls, Just Warriors and Feminist Consciousness’, Women's Studies International Forum, 5:3/4 (1982), p. 341CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

30 Elshtain, Just War Theory, p. 267.

31 Ibid., p. 268.

32 Augustine, City of God, XIX.7, p. 929.

33 Elshtain, Augustine and the Limits of Politics, p. 114. Elshtain's language is wrought through with Christian terminology such as ‘brothers and sisters’ here, an expression used dozens of times in the New Testament to denote a group of Christians (for example, Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Galatians 1:2).

34 Ibid.

35 Ibid., p. 11.

36 Ibid., p. 10.

37 Ibid., p. 6.

38 Ibid., p. 7, emphasis in original.

39 Elshtain's Gifford Lectures were subsequently published in book form as Elshtain, Jean Bethke, Sovereignty: God, State, and Self (The Gifford Lectures) (New York: Basic Books, 2008)Google Scholar.

40 Ibid., p. xvi.

41 Ibid., p. 3.

42 Ibid., p. 159.

43 Ibid., p. 85. Luther's ‘priesthood of all believers’ rejects the need for priestly (for example, Roman Catholic) intermediaries between God and humanity, granting additional freedoms and responsibilities to individual Christians. This precept alone, regardless of other obstacles, would make it difficult for Elshtain or anyone else from a Protestant background to make that final step to Roman Catholicism.

44 Augustine, City of God, II.19, p. 74.

45 Ibid., VIII.5, p. 318.

46 Elshtain, Sovereignty, p. 22.

47 Ibid., p. 159.

48 Ibid., p. 210.

49 Ibid., p. 227–8.

50 Ibid., p. 232.

51 Ibid., p. 241.

52 Private communication with the author.

53 Elshtain, Sovereignty, p. 241.

54 Elshtain, Jean Bethke, Just War Against Terror (New York: Basic Books, 2004), p. 185Google Scholar.

55 O'Driscoll, Cian, ‘Jean Bethke Elshtain's Just War Against Terror: A Tale of Two Cities’, International Relations, 21:4 (2007), p. 490CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

56 Elshtain, ‘A Response’, p. 506.

57 Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, pp. 39–40.

58 Elshtain, Augustine and Politics, p. 12.

59 Elshtain, Sovereignty, p. 162.

60 Augustine, Against Faustus the Manichean, chap. XXII.74, in Fortin, E. L. and Kries, D. (eds), Augustine: Political Writings, trans. Tkacz, M. W. and Kries, D. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1994), pp. 221–2Google Scholar.

61 Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, pp. 108, 186.

62 Augustine, City of God, Book XIX, chap. 16, p. 876 quoted in Elshtain, Augustine and the Limits of Politics, p. 34.

63 Elshtain, Jean Bethke, ‘The Third Annual Grotius Lecture: Just War and Humanitarian Intervention’, American University International Law Review, 17:1 (2001), p. 2Google Scholar.

64 Ibid.

65 Ibid.

66 Ibid.

67 Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, p. 168.

68 Ibid.

69 Ibid., p. 170.

70 Ibid.

71 Elshtain, Augustine & Politics, p. 43.

72 Ibid., p. 45.

73 Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, pp. 39/40.

74 Ibid., p. 40.

75 Human Rights Watch (2010), The ‘Ten-Dollar Talib’ and Women's Rights: Afghan Women and the Risks of Reintegration and Reconciliation, p. 45. Report located at: {http://www.hrw.org/reports/2010/07/13/ten-dollar-talib-and-women-s-rights} accessed 9 March 2012.

76 Time Magazine (9 August 2010). Image and further details of Aisha's story located at: {http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2007407,00.html} accessed 2 March 2012.

77 Declaration from Afghanistan's Ulema Council (2 March 2012), Section 5, Para. F.1.D. The original can be located at the website of President Karzai, {http://president.gov.af/fa/news/7489}. Translation located at: {http://afghanistananalysis.wordpress.com}.

78 Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, p. 7.

79 Augustine, City of God, I.19, p. 28, quoted in Elshtain, Augustine & Politics, p. 46.

80 Ibid.

81 Elshtain, Augustine & Politics, p. 46.

82 ‘What future for Afghan woman jailed for being raped?’, {http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-16543036} accessed 14 March 2012.

85 Zehfuss, Maja, ‘The Tragedy of Violent Justice: The Danger of Elshtain's Just War Against Terror’, International Relations, 21:4 (2007), pp. 493501CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

86 Elshtain, Augustine and Politics, p. 76.

87 Elshtain, Just War Theory, p. 276.

88 Elshtain, ‘Women and War: Ten Years On’, pp. 458–9.

89 Elshtain, Just War Theory, p. 332.

90 Augustine, cited at Elshtain, Augustine and Politics, p. 9.

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