The perception of initial success in the `war against terrorism' appears to strengthen a general relegitimation of war in Western society that has been gathering pace over the last two decades. This article considers the war in Afghanistan as the latest example of the new Western way of war, and analyses its casualties compared with previous campaigns in the Gulf and Kosovo. It identifies the new type as `risk-transfer war', a central feature of which is a `militarism of small massacres'. This new type thus offers only a partial answer to the problems, for the legitimacy of warfare, caused by the systematic targeting of civilians in earlier `degenerate war'. Despite a closer approximation to `just war' criteria, inequalities of risk between Western military personnel and civilians in the zone of war revive the question of legitimacy in a new form. The article suggests that in our concern for relatively small numbers of civilian casualties, we may be applying to war those standards from which it has historically been exempt. In this context the contradictions of the new Western way of war reinforce a `historical pacifist' position towards the legitimacy of warfare.