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Between War and PoliticsInternational Relations and the Thought of Hannah Arendt$
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Patricia Owens

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199299362

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299362.001.0001

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‘How Dangerous It Can Be To Be Innocent’: War and the Law

‘How Dangerous It Can Be To Be Innocent’: War and the Law

Chapter:
(p.72) 5 ‘How Dangerous It Can Be To Be Innocent’: War and the Law
Source:
Between War and Politics
Author(s):

Patricia Owens (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199299362.003.0005

This chapter explores the implications of Arendt's historical and conceptual account of the relationship between Greek and Roman war, law, and territorial expansion for the laws of war in the contemporary period. Arendt understood the importance of law and territorial boundaries as the principle limitations on the otherwise unpredictability and boundlessness of political action. Unfortunately, the centrality of power and the constitutive relationship between law, war, and expansion has been neglected in much international thought. This tradition has been less good at asking questions about the productive or constitutive character of the law. This is illustrated through a discussion of the dominant liberal assumptions that have shaped most international legal thought and their role in making ‘accidental’ civilian casualties normal. Rather than frame questions about law and war in the language of compliance we can ask how civilian deaths are legitimated and under what guises does this occur.

Keywords:   Arendt, Greeks, Romans, international law, constructivism, accidents, civilian causalities, bureaucracy

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