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Reading Humane with Professor Samuel Moyn (Yale): A Book Roundtable

Book cover and title

Location:

In Person Event

 

Date/time

Thu 17 February 2022
13:00-17:30

The Edinburgh Centre for International and Global Law presents

Reading Humane with Professor Samuel Moyn (Yale): A Book Roundtable

Professor Samuel Moyn, Luce Professor of Jurisprudence, Yale, and Carlyle Lecturer, Hilary Term, Oxford

 

With comments by -

  • Professor Nehal Bhuta, Chair of Public International Law, Edinburgh
  • Mr Khalil Dewan, Independent Researcher on Drone Strikes and the Laws of War
  • Dr Rebecca Mignot Mahdavi, Lecturer in International Law, University of Manchester
  • Professor Steven Neff, Chair of War and Peace, Edinburgh
  • Dr Charlie Peevers, Senior Lecturer in International Law, Glasgow
  • Dr Ian Park, Captain and Legal Advisor, Royal Navy
  • Ms Verity Robson, Senior Legal Advisor, Foreign and Commonwealth Office Legal Directorate

 

Book Cover 

In the years since 9/11, we have entered an age of endless war. With little debate or discussion, the United States carries out military operations around the globe. It hardly matters who’s president or whether liberals or conservatives operate the levers of power. The United States exercises dominion everywhere.

In Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War, Samuel Moyn asks a troubling but urgent question: What if efforts to make war more ethical—to ban torture and limit civilian casualties—have only shored up the military enterprise and made it sturdier? To advance this case, Moyn looks back at a century and a half of passionate arguments about the ethics of using force. In the nineteenth century, the founders of the Red Cross struggled mightily to make war less lethal even as they acknowledged its inevitability. Leo Tolstoy prominently opposed their efforts, reasoning that war needed to be abolished, not reformed—and over the subsequent century, a popular movement to abolish war flourished on both sides of the Atlantic. Eventually, however, reformers shifted their attention from opposing the crime of war to opposing war crimes, with fateful consequences.

The ramifications of this shift became apparent in the post-9/11 era. By that time, the US military had embraced the agenda of humane war, driven both by the availability of precision weaponry and the need to protect its image. The battle shifted from the streets to the courtroom, where the tactics of the war on terror were litigated but its foundational assumptions went without serious challenge. These trends only accelerated during the Obama and Trump presidencies. Even as the two administrations spoke of American power and morality in radically different tones, they ushered in the second decade of the “forever” war.

Humane is the story of how America went off to fight and never came back, and how armed combat was transformed from an imperfect tool for resolving disputes into an integral component of the modern condition. As American wars have become more humane, they have also become endless. This provocative book argues that this development might not represent progress at all.

Samuel Moyn, Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence and Professor of History, Yale University

 

About the speaker (source: Yale University)

Samuel Moyn is Henry R. Luce Professor of Jurisprudence at Yale Law School and a Professor of History at Yale University. He received a doctorate in modern European history from the University of California-Berkeley in 2000 and a law degree from Harvard University in 2001. He came to Yale from Harvard University, where he was Jeremiah Smith, Jr. Professor of Law and Professor of History. Before this, he spent 13 years in the Columbia University history department, where he was most recently James Bryce Professor of European Legal History.

His areas of interest in legal scholarship include international law, human rights, the law of war, and legal thought, in both historical and current perspective. In intellectual history, he has worked on a diverse range of subjects, especially twentieth-century European moral and political theory.

He has written several books in his fields of European intellectual history and human rights history, including The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (2010), and edited or coedited a number of others. His most recent books are Christian Human Rights (2015, based on Mellon Distinguished Lectures at the University of Pennsylvania in fall 2014) and Not Enough: Human Rights in an Unequal World (2018). His newest book is Humane: How the United States Abandoned Peace and Reinvented War (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2021). Over the years he has written in venues such as Boston Review, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Dissent, The Nation, The New Republic, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

He helps with several book series: the Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought, the Cambridge University Press “Human Rights in History” series, and the University of Pennsylvania Press “Intellectual History of the Modern Age” series. He cofounded and for a decade served as coeditor of the journal Humanity; he served as coeditor for seven years of Modern Intellectual History. He solicits book reviews on human rights for Lawfare and is on the editorial boards of Constellations, Global Intellectual History, the Historical Journal, Humanity, the Journal of the History of International Law, Modern Intellectual History, and Modern Judaism.

He has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, the Berggruen Institute, and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and been a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study and the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. His books have won the Morris Forkosch Prize of the Journal of the History of Ideas and the Sybil Halpern Milton Memorial Book Prize of the German Studies Association. At Columbia, he was given the Mark van Doren Teaching Award (46th Annual) by undergraduates.

 

Registration

Expressions of interest to attend are welomed. Please contact Professor Nehal Bhuta for more information.

 

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