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Boasting origins in the Roman Empire, the just war tradition furnishes us with a set of principles for addressing the moral-legal questions that war raises. Recently, the just war was the subject of controversy following President Obama's very public ruminations on the subject in the course of his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize address. Many popular commentators seemed to assume that Obama's ‘turn’ towards the just war marked something new. This article inquires, first, whether this turn is really as novel as these commentators suppose and, second, whether the prominence of just war ideas in Obama's discourse is evidence of a civilising trend at work or just another case of empty moral talk in international affairs.