USFSP Professor to Publish Book on Human Rights in Warfare

A photo of Dr. Thomas Smith, assistant professor of History and director of the University Honor Program at USF St. Petersburg. Photo by Casey Crane.

Dr. Thomas Smith

After seven years of preparation, Dr. Thomas Smith, associate professor of Political Science and director of the University Honors Program, will publish his second single-authored, full-length research monograph in early November. “Human Rights and War Through Civilian Eyes” will focus on the impact of the Iraq and Gaza wars on noncombatants.

“Many scholars have examined the conduct of war from the perspective of the belligerents,” said Smith, whose first book was about international relations theory. “My book re-imagines the ethics of war from the standpoint of its collateral victims. I set out to capture the way that most people today experience war–not just in terms of the killed and wounded, but also shattered lives, rent social fabrics, and collapsed economies.”

Evidence for the book draws from a number of sources, including eyewitness accounts and soldier testimonies, non-governmental organizations (NGO) interviews and data, media sources, military grand jury proceedings, United Nations agency findings, household surveys, epidemiological studies, and interviews with military, human rights, and public health professionals.

Smith said that by invoking human rights, he hopes to raise expectations for civilian protections and to push back against the complacent view that civilians always die in war and there is not much that can be done about it.

A graphic of the cover art for Dr. Thomas Smith's upcoming book release

The cover art for Dr. Thomas Smith’s upcoming book release, which will be published by the University of Pennsylvania Press.

“Despite the lip service given to their protection, civilians continue to bear the brunt of war,” said Smith. “Terrorists and insurgents routinely kill and maim innocent people. But state militaries that profess to follow the laws of war can also engage in appalling violence against civilians. The book could not be more timely.”

Dr. Frank Biafora, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the book helps to solidify Smith as one of the university’s most prolific scholars.

“Dr. Smith already is recognized as one of the most engaging and thought-provoking faculty at USFSP,” said Biafora. “By looking at the effects of war through the lens of social justice, Dr. Smith provides his readers, and by extension his students, powerful insights that could one day help wake the masses to the unintended—and often intended—tragedies of war.”

Smith will be featured as an author during the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Saturday, Nov. 12. In February, he also will speak as part of a panel about humanitarian affairs at the fifth annual St. Petersburg Conference on World Affairs for which he serves on the Board of Directors.