The Enigma of the Middle Way: Grotius and the Grotian Tradition on War

Karma Nabulsi

in Traditions of War

Published in print October 1999 | ISBN: 9780198294078
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191599972 | DOI:
 The Enigma of the Middle Way: Grotius and the Grotian Tradition on War

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This is the second of three chapters on the three traditions of war, and introduces the Groatian tradition, which is viewed as the most dominant and powerful of the traditions presented, and had as its primary source the Dutch diplomat, lawyer, poet, mathematician, theologian, and historian, Hugo Grotius (1583-1645). The objective of the chapter is to analyse this ideology, and show how its principles came to underpin the later Grotian rationale for the legal distinction between lawful and unlawful combatants. The chapter begins by evoking the inherently enigmatic qualities of Grotius and the numerous (and often conflicting) traditions that he inspired; next the distinct properties of the Grotian tradition of war are set out and seen to consist of a singular legal discourse, a pluralist method, and a strong attachment to order and power. The core components of this ideology are then examined with reference to Grotian conceptions of human nature, government, and liberty; these elements are shown to provide the necessary foundations of Grotius’ conception of war, and in particular to inform the priority accorded to the rights of states and armies over those of civilian populations. The final section of the chapter examines how this ideology informed the practices and beliefs of the founders of the modern laws of war; these ideological changes highlight the adaptability of this tradition as it developed at the end of the nineteenth century, and defined the dominant paradigm of the laws of war.

Keywords: armies; civilian populations; government; Groatian tradition; Hugo Grotius; human nature; ideologies of war; lawful combatants; laws of war; liberty; rights; states; traditions of war; unlawful combatants

Chapter.  22380 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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