just war theory


  • Although it has inherited some elements (the criteria of legitimate authority, just cause, right intention) from the older war theory that first evolved around AD 400, it
    has rejected two premises that underpinned all medieval just wars, including crusades: first, that violence could be employed on behalf of Christ’s intentions for mankind and could even be directly authorized by him; and second, that it was
    a morally neutral force that drew whatever ethical coloring it had from the intentions of the perpetrators.

  • Aristotle argues that the cultivation of a military is necessary and good for the purpose of self-defense, not for conquering: “The proper object of practising military training
    is not in order that men may enslave those who do not deserve slavery, but in order that first they may themselves avoid becoming enslaved to others” (Politics, Book 7).

  • The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church elaborates on the just war doctrine in paragraphs 500 to 501:[58] If this responsibility justifies the possession of sufficient
    means to exercise this right to defense, States still have the obligation to do everything possible “to ensure that the conditions of peace exist, not only within their own territory but throughout the world”.

  • The just war theory (Latin: bellum iustum)[1][2] is a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics that aims to ensure that a war is morally justifiable through
    a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just.

  • In terms of the traditional notion of jus in bello (justice in war, or the moral considerations which ought to constrain the use of violence in war), war is a coping mechanism
    for righteous combatants who, by divine edict, have no choice but to subject themselves to their political masters and seek to ensure that they execute their war-fighting duty as justly as possible.

  • Mark Mattox writes, In terms of the traditional notion of jus ad bellum (justice of war, that is, the circumstances in which wars can be justly fought), war is a coping mechanism
    for righteous sovereigns who would ensure that their violent international encounters are minimal, a reflection of the Divine Will to the greatest extent possible, and always justified.

  • “[48] While not breaking down the conditions necessary for war to be just, Augustine nonetheless originated the very phrase itself in his work The City of God: But, say they,
    the wise man will wage Just Wars.

  • A contemporary view of just cause was expressed in 1993 when the US Catholic Conference said: “Force may be used only to correct a grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or
    massive violation of the basic human rights of whole populations.”

  • [19][20] Christian views[edit] Christian theory of the Just War begins around the time of Augustine of Hippo[45] The Just War theory, with some amendments, is still used by
    Christians today as a guide to whether or not a war can be justified.

  • The first group of criteria concerns the morality of going to war, and the second group of criteria concerns the moral conduct within war.

  • Defense of one’s self or others could be a necessity, especially when it is authorized by a legitimate authority: They who have waged war in obedience to the divine command,
    or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.

  • [19][20][21][22] In an Islamic context, it can refer to almost any effort to make personal and social life conform with God’s guidance, such as struggle against one’s evil
    inclinations, proselytizing, or efforts toward the moral betterment of the Muslim community (Ummah),[19][20][23][24] though it is most frequently associated with war.

  • The just war theory postulates the belief that war, while it is terrible but less so with the right conduct, is not always the worst option.

  • That theory is used to justify the actions taken by anyone fighting in a war to treat prisoners outside of war.

  • Just-war theories aim “to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable uses of organized armed forces”; they attempt “to conceive of how the use of arms might be restrained,
    made more humane, and ultimately directed towards the aim of establishing lasting peace and justice”.

  • Clearly, the application of the term “defensive” war, or war “for the defense of the fatherland” in such a case would be historically false, and in practice would be sheer
    deception of the common people, of philistines, of ignorant people, by the astute slaveowners.

  • The universal principle of Maat, signifying order and justice, was central to the Egyptian notion of just war and its ability to guarantee Egypt virtually no limits on what
    it could take, do, or use to guarantee the ambitions of the state.

  • [67] The just war tradition addresses the morality of the use of force in two parts: when it is right to resort to armed force (the concern of jus ad bellum) and what is acceptable
    in using such force (the concern of jus in bello).

  • It is important to remember that “it is one thing to wage a war of self-defense; it is quite another to seek to impose domination on another nation.

  • Aquinas argued that it was only in the pursuit of justice, that the good intention of a moral act could justify negative consequences, including the killing of the innocent
    during a war.

  • If by Pacifism is meant the teaching that the use of force is never justifiable, then, however well meant, it is mistaken, and it is hurtful to the life of our country.

  • [3] Opponents of the just war theory may either be inclined to a stricter pacifist standard (proposing that there has never been nor can there ever be a justifiable basis
    for war) or they may be inclined toward a more permissive nationalist standard (proposing that a war need only to serve a nation’s interests to be justifiable).

  • Further, in regard to the amount of harm—proportionally—the principle of last resort would support using small intervention forces first and then escalating rather than starting
    a war with massive force such as carpet bombing or nuclear warfare.

  • [55] Contemporary Catholic doctrine[edit] The just war doctrine of the Catholic Church found in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2309, lists four strict
    conditions for “legitimate defense by military force:”[56][57] • The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain.

  • International legitimacy for the use of armed force, on the basis of rigorous assessment and with well-founded motivations, can only be given by the decision of a competent
    body that identifies specific situations as threats to peace and authorizes an intrusion into the sphere of autonomy usually reserved to a State.

  • [66] Just-war theorists combine a moral abhorrence towards war with a readiness to accept that war may sometimes be necessary.

  • [8] In Sikhism, the term dharamyudh describes a war that is fought for just, righteous or religious reasons, especially in defence of one’s own beliefs.

  • Jus post bellum has been added to deal with the fact that some hostile actions may take place outside a traditional battlefield.

  • [79] Just cause The reason for going to war needs to be just and cannot, therefore, be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent
    life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life.

  • [11][12][13] It was Aristotle who first introduced the concept and terminology to the Hellenic world that called war a last resort requiring conduct that would allow the restoration
    of peace.

  • A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice”.

  • “A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice.

  • A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another people or try to retain an already-existing coercive rule over them.

  • [73] Criteria The just war theory has two sets of criteria, the first establishing jus ad bellum (the right to go to war),and the second establishing jus in bello (right conduct
    within war).

  • In Contra Faustum Manichaeum book 22 sections 69–76, Augustine argues that Christians, as part of a government, need not be ashamed of protecting peace and punishing wickedness
    when they are forced to do so by a government.

  • The idea has largely been added to help decide what to do if there are prisoners that have been taken during battle.

  • The just war theory prevailing for most of the last two centuries—that violence is an evil that can, in certain situations, be condoned as the lesser of evils—is relatively

  • An attack or action must be intended to help in the defeat of the enemy; it must be an attack on a legitimate military objective, and the harm caused to civilians or civilian
    property must be proportional and not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

  • The document offers criteria of distinguishing between an aggressive war, which is unacceptable, and a justified war, attributing the highest moral and sacred value of military
    acts of bravery to a true believer who participates in a justified war.

  • War may be necessary and right, even though it may not be good.

  • The possession of war potential does not justify the use of force for political or military objectives.

  • Though some core tenets in the Sikh religion are understood to emphasise peace and nonviolence, especially before the 1606 execution of Guru Arjan by Mughal emperor Jahangir,[9]
    military force may be justified if all peaceful means to settle a conflict have been exhausted, thus resulting in a dharamyudh.

  • As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore
    be delivered from all wars.

  • Both German and British theologians based themselves on the just war theory, each group seeking to prove that it applied to the war waged by its own side.

  • War was justified only as a last resort and only by the rightful sovereign; however, questioning the decision of the emperor concerning the necessity of a military action
    was not permissible.

  • [71] The anarcho-capitalist scholar Murray Rothbard (1926-1995) stated that “a just war exists when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by another
    people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination.

  • It is, through government labelling and public opinion, that people use jus post bellum to justify the pursuit of labelled terrorist for the safety of the government’s state
    in a modern context.

  • It is also stated that the Russian Orthodox Church has had profound respect for soldiers who gave their lives to protect the life and security of their neighbours.

  • [52][53] Aquinas came to the conclusion that a just war could be offensive and that injustice should not be tolerated so as to avoid war.

  • However, wars are fought with imperfect knowledge, so one must simply be able to make a logical case that one can win; there is no way to know this in advance.

  • Precisely in this way are the present-day imperialist bourgeoisie deceiving the peoples by means of “national ideology” and the term “defense of the fatherland” in the present
    war between slave-owners for fortifying and strengthening slavery.

  • The just war tradition also considers the writings of various philosophers and lawyers through history, and examines both their philosophical visions of war’s ethical limits
    and whether their thoughts have contributed to the body of conventions that have evolved to guide war and warfare.

  • [6] Egyptian ethics of war usually centered on three main ideas, these including the cosmological role of Egypt, the pharaoh as a divine office and executor of the will of
    the gods, and the superiority of the Egyptian state and population over all other states and peoples.

  • [60] In the same document, it is stated that wars have accompanied human history since the fall of man, and according to the gospel, they will continue to accompany it.

  • Secondly, the war needs to be waged for just cause, on account of some wrong the attacked have committed.

  • In the case of a country that has been invaded by an occupying force, war may be the only way to restore justice.

  • [54] First World War[edit] At the beginning of the First World War, a group of theologians in Germany published a manifesto that sought to justify the actions of the German

  • [76] This principle emphasizes that mass violence must not be undertaken if it is unlikely to secure the just cause.

  • Like most philosophy, it permits legitimate defense and measures to maintain peace.

  • Combatants must make sure that the harm caused to civilians or civilian property is not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated by
    an attack on a legitimate military objective.

  • Additionally, the document considers the just war criteria as developed in Western Christianity to be eligible for Russian Orthodoxy; therefore, the justified war theory in
    Western theology is also applicable to the Russian Orthodox Church.

  • “[63] Armed conflicts such as the Spanish Civil War, World War II and the Cold War were, as a matter of course, judged according to the norms (as established in Aquinas’ just
    war theory) by philosophers such as Jacques Maritain, Elizabeth Anscombe and John Finnis.

  • The term jihad is often rendered in English as “Holy War”,[40][41][42] although this translation is controversial.

  • [75] Probability of success According to this principle, there must be good grounds for concluding that aims of the just war are achievable.

  • Egyptian political theology held that the pharaoh had the exclusive legitimacy in justly initiating a war, usually claimed to carry out the will of the gods.


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Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/anne_arnould/8694909523/’]