Just War Theory

just war theory notes, approaches 

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  • Created on: 12-02-12 12:24
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Is War Ever Justified?
Reasons for Going War:
Land Grab, empire
Politics, against leader/dictator e.g Saddam Hussein
Self Defence
Human Rights Defence
Nuclear Threat
Why do people today hold such strong views about war?
Today, war is such a big issue because the world feels a lot smaller because of the
increased use of communications like television. The majority of casualties today are
civilians, who lose their homes, their livelihood, even their lives. War spills over into
terrorism, which presents an even greater threat to everyday life. In comparison, the
wars that were fought thousands of years ago were fought by professional soldiers
in lands far away from our own, therefore we did not feel as connected as we do
How was war in the Old Testament?
Wars in the Old Testament were brutal; Jews believed God commanded them to fight
their enemies. Stories also indicate their belief that It was acceptable to massacre
non combatants; Deuteronomy 3;24 records the total annihilation of the King Sihons
subjects; women and children included. `We left no survivors' the scribe records.
What did Jesus preach about war?
Jesus preached non violence, he said `do not take revenge on someone who wrongs
you' (Matthew 5;29) The early church adapted this pacifist approach until
Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Jus ad bellum- whether it is right to go to war
Jus in bello ­ who the war is to be conducted against

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Origins of Just War
Aristotle and Cicero first suggested it
Augustine of Hippo and Ambrose of Milan believed war should only be waged as a
last resort, by a government authority to restore peace.…read more

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How did the catholic bishops try to address this in 1983?
the claims of both sides must be evaluated before war can be started. It is called
comparative justice
There must be a reasonable chance of success to prevent the irrational resort to
force or hopeless resistance when the outcome of either will clearly be
disproportionate or futile.…read more

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Right Intention
Just having a reason for war is not enough it must be moral- but what intention is the
right one?
These can be relative e.g. Vikings believe it was justified to seek wealth by raping and
pillaging wherever they went and the crusaders believed it was right to invade the
Holy Land to reclaim it for Christianity
Augustine argued it should be only to achieve peace with God on your side to aim for
the general good.…read more

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Justice during war- usually the commanders and soldiers responsibility- can be put on trial
for war crimes
Proportionality- do not forget the suffering of those on the other side, has to be tactically
necessary e.g. Dresden, Hiroshima
Discrimination- avoid collateral damage to civilians- problem of guerrilla warfare- landmines-
nuclear bombs
Obey international laws and weapons
Fair treatment of prisoners of war
No means mala in se- methods evil in themselves e.g. mass rape, biological weapons
No reprisals
Protect the rights of their own citizens e.…read more

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Elements of Just War Theory
Deontological Consequentialist
Legitimate authority Likelihood for success
Last resort
Just Cause
Right Intention
Strengths Weaknesses
Allows defence of weaker parties Too vague to apply
New developments such as Terrorists just ignore the rules
Weapons of Mass Destruction anyway
still need a moral frame work Unrealistic as the bigger and most
Does not allow thing just because powerful party will always win
one party says its right Allows violence which should
Developed by some of the best always be avoided
minds…read more

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Realists fully appreciate the horrors of war and so, like others, try to assess the costs, but
they also respond to war in terms of its benefits. War sometimes gives a state extra land or
resources. Realists argue that war is a non moral activity- actions such as killing, maiming or
steal may be wrong for individuals but have no application to nations in times of war.…read more

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Peace= good
Respect human life = good
All war = bad
Killing people= bad
Reject just war theory and realism, things should be sorted out with discussion for example
through the UN
Absolute Pacifism- Quakers
Never right/justified to use violence no matter what the consequences e.…read more

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Merton: was a Catholic monk in the 20th century who wanted to win peoples minds instead
of reacting violently. This is the Vatican's view on war
Wink: protestant writer who says Augustine's just war theory has made Christianity war
Contingent Pacificism
a plan designed to take a possible future event or circumstance into account
Looks at the outcomes- believes war is usually wrong as there is no way to implement it
morally i.e innocent people always get hurt.…read more


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