Curnow, Trevor

Curnow, Trevor

Trevor Curnow

1 July 2009Review

Zed Books, 2008, ISBN 978 1 842779 50 7; 320pp, £12.99

This book is not an easy read in any sense of the term and hardly anyone emerges from its pages with much credit. It lays bare, in great detail, the origins of the present conflict in Darfur and how it has unfolded in recent years. Needless to say, the true picture is considerably more complex than that presented by the mass media which, in any event, were somewhat late upon the scene.

“Until March 2004, Darfur’s crisis unfolded in the typical manner of African civil wars, unremarked…

1 December 2006Review

Blackwell, 2006; ISBN 1405123788; 750 pp

The main aim of this book, as its editors make clear at the outset, is to provide a collection of readings on the ethics of war that will “prove useful to many students, teachers and researchers”. What they have produced is likely to prove an invaluable resource for many readers for years to come.

The book has a variety of strengths. First, there is its sheer size, with nearly 700 pages of readings. The editors have not stinted on the index, which itself runs to nearly 40 pages, and…

1 May 2006Review

Edinburgh University Press, 2005; ISBN 0 7486 2075 3; 250 pp; £16.99

For a number of reasons, and this book explores some of them, “just war” theory has come under various kinds of strain in recent years.

As a result, some would seek to jettison it altogether, arguing that it is no longer relevant because the world has changed in too many ways since the theory was developed and formulated. Some try to patch it up on the basis that having something is better than having nothing, but without any real commitment to it. Some, however, continue to insist…

1 April 2006Review

Edinburgh University Press, 2005; ISBN 0 7486 1525 3; 173pp; £15.99

This book is a useful introduction to some of the philosophical issues and theories relating to war and peace. It begins with an account of three basic approaches to the morality of war; political realism, internationalism and cosmopolitanism.

Political realism argues that moral values have no leverage in international politics, while internationalism looks to give those values some international status, primarily through the medium of international law. Cosmopolitanism, on the other…

1 December 2004Review

Hurst, 2004; ISBN 1 8506 5737 8; Pb 288pp; £16.50

This book, published in association with Médecins sans Frontiéres, lacks a precise focus, but is principally concerned with international responses to intranational conflict and the problems they pose to humanitarian organisations.

It begins with an excellent and incisive introduction by Jean-Hervé Bradol who outlines three basic types of international response: intervention, involvement and abstention. A large part of the book is dedicated to case…

1 September 2004Review

Pluto Press, 2004. ISBN 0 7453 2167 9; 192pp; price £14.99

Contrary to its challenging title, Rethinking War and Peace has little that is new or radical to offer. It is a reasonable and readable statement of the case for war's abolition through active participation in peaceful alternatives, and anyone wholly new to the subject might find it a useful introduction. Readers of Peace News, on the other hand, will generally find themselves being told things they already know.

While there are many grounds for pessimism in the peace movement, this…

1 December 2003Review

Cambridge University Press, 2003. ISBN 0 52181074 4 (hb) £42.50/$58 316, 0 52100904 9 (pb) £15.95/$21, 316pp

It is a sign of the times that books about the international use of military muscle are increasingly about “intervention” rather than “war”, and that the interventions most often discussed are “humanitarian” ones.

While not all of the thirteen papers in this collection are primarily concerned with humanitarian intervention, that is the single most dominant theme. The countries most often mentioned are Rwanda and Kosovo. They provide obvious focal points for the discussion. As the…

1 September 2003Review

Ashgate 2002, ISBN 0 7546 0867 0, 296 pp, £45

The essays in this volume address the tension between two widely held principles. The first is that a nation's borders should be respected, the second is that human rights should be protected.

The tension obviously arises when it is thought that in order to uphold the latter, it is necessary to override the former. The individual contributions to this debate (all originally conference papers) approach this central issue in a number of ways, with different emphases and varying degrees…

1 December 2002Review

Continuum 2001. ISBN 0 8264 5656 1, 209pp., £16.99

In this book, Danilo Zolo offers “an interpretation of the `humanitarian war' waged by nineteen NATO countries against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in the spring of 1999”. In so doing, he paints a depressing (but perhaps unsurprising) picture of political manoeuvrings, hypocrisy and double-dealings that are enough to get the word “humanitarian” a bad name. The fact that it takes place against the background of the genuine suffering of the people of Kosova serves only to make it all…

1 December 2002Review

International Development Research Centre, 2001. ISBN 0 8893 6960 7, 104pp + CD-ROM. Also readable online at

The ICISS was set up by the Canadian government in 2000 to investigate and report on the “right of humanitarian intervention”, with its members being selected from a variety of backgrounds and nations.

Before preparing their report they organised a series of international discussions and commissioned a set of briefing papers from recognised experts in the field. The CD-ROM contains the papers and summaries of the discussions along with an extensive bibliography. (This supplementary…

1 June 2002Review

Nottingham: Spokesman, 2001. ISBN 0 85124 638 9. 154pp, 8.99

This book was first published in 1961, when the Cold War was in full swing. Not surprisingly, it is a product of its time. It was written with the clear conviction that a nuclear war of catastrophic proportions was highly likely within ten years unless something radical was done to prevent it. A lack of faith in most of the politicians of the day is evident throughout. Consequently, one of the principal themes of the book is that an international government of some kind is required in order…

1 September 2001Review

Routledge, 2001, ISBN 0 415 24998 8, 660 pp, £25

In September 1961, at the age o f89, Bertrand Russell was sent to prison. He had been prosecuted for his involvement in the demonstrations against nuclear weapons organised by the Committee of 100. If a sentence of one week (reduced from two months on health grounds) was scarcely sufficient to make him a martyr, it was enough to cement his international reputation as a crusader for peace.

That crusade had begun for him as early as the First World War, when he had been a conscientious…