Friday, April 18, 2008

Thanks to John Witt and all the folks at Columbia for the law of war conference

I just got out of a wonderful conference co-put on by Columbia Law School and Columbia History Department on the law of war, and the history of the law of war. It was great. I was in the splendid position of having been invited to attend - but without any obligations to present something. (My thanks to Matt Waxman and Philip Bobbitt for getting me invited!) I just sat and annoyed everyone around me by furiously typing notes. Which is what happens when you have Michael Howard, Philip Bobbitt, Ryan Goodman, and more on the panels. Really thoughtful presentations, comments, and all.

I was struck in this by the turning of historians’ attention to the law of war itself, and the discussion of the current debates within the moral philosophy community of just war theory and its history. John Witt, for example, one of the conference organizers, is working on Francis Lieber and the development of his Civil War era Lieber Code. It does seem to me a very rich area for work. Moreover, since one of my concerns about post-Walzer just war theory (which inevitably has a large cascading effect on law of war, at least in the US) is its general ahistoricism, the entry of legal historians and, I hope, intellectual historians into this area brings a welcome perspective to the discussion.

But it was a great, great pleasure to listen to the presentations, make more comments than I was really entitled to, and get a chance to meet some wonderful people. John, and everyone else who organized this thing, my thanks. And it was loads of fun to have a drink with Philip, John, Matt, and Ruti Teitel afterwards.

One of the pleasures of this short trip to NYC has been the chance to stay on the upper west side - meetings at Columbia, hotel at 77th and Broadway. Matt Waxman, Philip Bobbitt, and I walked down from Columbia after the meetings, straight through my old neighborhood at 93rd and Broadway. I walked back there this morning and took some camera photos of our old street, the great Hippo Park where Renee spent so many, many hours playing. All on a glorious spring day, everything in bloom.

It’s Saturday noon, and I’m sitting in a Cosi with free wifi before going to the train, at 78 and Broadway, looking out at everyone passing by. I sure do miss it. When I come to New York these days, it’s usually quick trips to Chelsea, and I rarely get up here to the neighborhood where Renee was born and Jean-Marie and Renee and I spent many happy years. The Cosi is filled with families with kids, going to the park, coming back, and they all look like us from ten years ago. Passover weekend, Fairway and Zabar’s jammed.

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