Michael Howard takes the title of his recent essay, The Invention of Peace, from the nineteenth-century jurist and historian of comparative law Henry Maine, who wrote that "war appears to be as old as mankind, but peace is a modem invention."' We moderns tend to assume that the great wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were aberrant eruptions marring the peaceful status quo, but the opposite better describes the long view. Outside the Garden of Eden, human communities have always been involved in political conflict and that conflict has regularly escalated to the use of lethal force, both within the community and between communities. The ways in which peoples have both justified and constrained the use of such force are windows into how they see themselves and the other peoples with whom they share, often reluctantly, the world around them. To watch the changes that develop in even a single society's understanding of war is to watch that society being born and reborn. To juxtapose different societies and their distinct ways of understanding war, as Clifford Geertz once said of anthropology, is "not to answer our deepest questions, but to make available to us answers that others, guarding other sheep in other valleys, have given, and thus to include them in the consultable record of what man has said." In this introduction I want to do three things. First, I plan to sketch the ways in which the ancient Greeks and their legatees discussed the restraint of war. Second, I will provide a sketch of contemporary just war thinking. Finally, I want to make some suggestions about comparative ethics and the restraint of war.
Copyright © 2006 Routledge. This chapter first appeared in The Ethics of War in Asian Civilizations: A Comparative Perspective.
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Davis, G. Scott. "Introduction: Comparative Ethics and the Crucible of War." In The Ethics of War in Asian Civilizations: A Comparative Perspective, edited by Torkel Brekke, 1-36. New York: Routledge, 2006.