National Review / Digital
Peace and Principle
In Defence of War, by Nigel Biggar (Oxford, 384 pp., $55)


Besides being a professional Christian ethicist — he is the Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology at Oxford — Biggar studies accounts of actual wars. This book includes reflections by soldiers on their conduct. Some of them are brutal. But others show love: in the treatment of captives; in the care for comrades; in the disciplining of anger and training that works against bloodthirst. Biggar does not argue that all war is an expression of love, only that it is not impossible for it to be so, and that one can find instances when it was.

Now to love someone is incompatible with intending to kill him; therefore, Biggar must argue that soldiers should never intend to kill the enemy. This too, he finds, is not impossible. We could imagine in the midst of a battle that suddenly the enemy was rendered impotent. If soldiers then did not kill the enemy, it would show that killing was not their intention. Their intention, instead, was to stop the enemy from doing harm.

January 27, 2014    |     Volume LXVI, No. 1

Books, Arts & Manners
  • Florence King reviews The Baby Boom: How It Got That Way and It Wasn’t My Fault and I’ll Never Do It Again, by P. J. O’Rourke.
  • Victor Davis Hanson reviews Strategy: A History, by Lawrence Freedman.
  • Kevin D. Williamson reviews The Cure in the Code: How 20th-Century Law Is Undermining 21st-Century Medicine, by Peter W. Huber.
  • Victor Lee Austin reviews In Defence of War, by Nigel Biggar.
  • Ross Douthat reviews Her.
  • Richard Brookhiser discusses astronomy.
The Long View  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Athwart  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Poetry  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  
Happy Warrior  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .