The Crime of Aggression

The Quest for Justice in an Age of Drones, Cyberattacks, Insurgents, and Autocrats

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    Princeton University Press
About The Crime of Aggression:

A gripping behind-the-scenes account of the dramatic legal fight to hold leaders personally responsible for aggressive war

On July 17, 2018, starting an unjust war became a prosecutable international crime alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Instead of collective state responsibility, our leaders are now personally subject to indictment for crimes of aggression, from invasions and preemptions to drone strikes and cyberattacks. The Crime of Aggression is Noah Weisbord’s riveting insider’s account of the high-stakes legal fight to enact this historic legislation and hold politicians accountable for the wars they start.

Weisbord, a key drafter of the law for the International Criminal Court, takes readers behind the scenes of one of the most consequential legal dramas in modern international diplomacy. Drawing on in-depth interviews and his own invaluable insights, he sheds critical light on the motivations of the prosecutors, diplomats, and military strategists who championed the fledgling prohibition on unjust war―and those who tried to sink it. He untangles the complex history behind the measure, tracing how the crime of aggression was born at the Nuremberg trials only to fall dormant during the Cold War, and he draws lessons from such pivotal events as the collapse of the League of Nations, the rise of the United Nations, September 11, and the war on terror.

The power to try leaders for unjust war holds untold promise for the international order, but also great risk. In this incisive and vitally important book, Weisbord explains how judges in such cases can balance the imperatives of justice and peace, and how the fair prosecution of aggression can humanize modern statecraft.

Critical Praise:

"How much suffering must we endure before learning that law is better than war? Giving an insider’s account of the long struggle to make aggression a crime, Noah Weisbord traces politicized negotiations across decades even as nations acquired nuclear bombs and pushed aggression into cyberspace, biological weapons, and drones. Today, groups smaller than states can wreak devastating violence around the world, but Weisbord holds out hope that law can reframe politics and aggression."

Martha Minow, Harvard Law School

"A book of singular importance, intelligence, and insight, on a subject of enduring significance."

Philippe Sands, author of East West Street: On the Origins of “Genocide” and "Crimes Against Humanity"

"Noah Weisbord brings us an essential eyewitness account of the drama surrounding the crafting of the law against crimes of aggression. Drawing on his own experiences as a participant in those historic proceedings, he describes how advocates of the rule of law struggled to universalize the Nuremberg principle of holding political leaders―not nations and citizens―accountable for unjust wars."

Harold Crooks, award-winning screenwriter of Pax Americana and The Weaponization of Space

"A delight to read. This remarkable book provides a breathtaking account of the fight for the rule of law in international affairs. Noah Weisbord is an idealistic realist, a sharp legal mind with an acute sense of history."

Peter Leuprecht, author of Reason, Justice, and Dignity: A Journey to Some Unexplored Sources of Human Rights

"This engrossing book puts a human face on the crime of aggression."

David Scheffer, author of All the Missing Souls: A Personal History of the War Crimes Tribunals

"Weisbord provides a remarkably accessible account of the effort to impose individual criminal liability for the waging of wars of aggression. This rich, multilayered book is a welcome addition to the scholarship on the crime of aggression and the history of international law more broadly."

Payam Akhavan, author of In Search of a Better World: A Human Rights Odyssey

About the Author(s):

Noah Weisbord is associate professor of law at Queen’s University in Canada and served on the International Criminal Court’s working group that drafted the crime of aggression.