Groundbreaking exploration of the philosophy underpinning Western humanitarian intervention.
The principle of the “lesser evil,” which asserts that it is acceptable to pursue an undesirable course of action in order to prevent a greater injustice, exercises a powerful influence on Western ethical philosophy and modern politics. In The Least of All Possible Evils, Eyal Weizman examines the dark side of this pragmatism, arguing that too often the end becomes a mechanism for perpetuating the means. Weizman traces a genealogy of the “lesser evil,” from classical ethics and Christian theology, through the political theory of Hannah Arendt to contemporary debates on humanitarianism.
He examines the application of this principle through his signature forensic–architectural investigation of sites of contemporary conflict: the relief centres set up by Médecins Sans Frontières during its intervention in Ethiopia in the 1980s; the legal debates around the building of the separation wall in Israel–Palestine; and developments in the application of international human rights law in Bosnia, Palestine and Iraq.
But it is in relation to Israel’s domination of the Gaza Strip that the theoretical and political reflections of the book converge. Gaza, where the principle of the lesser evil is invoked to justify a new type of humanitarian violence, is the proper noun for the horrors of our humanitarian present.