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The Just War Theory
Aristotle and Cicero wrote that a war in self defence was just.
The first development of the theory came from Ambrose of Milan and his student
Augustine of Hippo. Both stipulated that war must only be waged by a legitimate authority,
should be intended to restore peace and justice and it should be a last resort. Reprisal killings
and massacres were forbidden.
Aquinas drew together the thinking on a just war and listed the right authority, right cause
and just intention as the most important actions.
Catholics Bishops of America (1983) divided the Just War Theory into 3 parts; Just ad
bellum (concerns the justice of resorting to war in the first place), Jus in bello (concerns the
justice of conduct within the war) and jus post bellum (concerns the justice of peace
agreements and the ending of the war).
JUS AD BELLUM
1. Just Cause
Seen as the most important rule
There must be a good reason to go to war
Augustine (quoted by Aquinas) said that `a just war is wont to be described as one
that avenges wrongs, when a nation or state has to be punished for refusing to make
amends for wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what has been seized
Francisco de Vitoria said a nation has a just cause when it tries to correct a violation
of its rights.
Hugo Grotius and Emerich de Vattel said that the prevention of injustice is also a
2. Legitimate Authority
Can only go to war if the decision is made by the appropriate authorities.
Augustine used this point for the Roman Empire.
Just war principles have adapted to varying cultural and political needs.
3. Right Intention
Closely related to just cause-seen as its subjective element.
The actual motivation for war must be moral.
For example to kill and rob, to seek glory and to seize the land are more immoral
than revolution, self defence etc.
Intentions are usually mixed and culturally influenced.
Augustine believed just wars should be waged with the intention of achieving
Hugo Grotius thought that this section of the criteria is too subjective.
4. Likelihood of Success
Death and injuries incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.
Success is subjective, could be victory, stopping enemies etc.
Links with proportionality.
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An example of disproportionate measures would be if a nation to start a war
because a few drunken soldiers went over the border, or over fishing rights.
It is proportional when a strong nation fights another strong nation.
Likelihood of success and proportionality both attempt to measure the benefits and
harms based on the just cause principle.
6. Last Resort:
Cicero agrees that the use of force can only be justified as a last resort.…read more
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However, without looking at other issues; the principle of
discrimination will conclude that terrorism is unjustified.
3. Obey all international laws on weapons:
There have been various attempts in the past to rule out certain weapons, such as
crossbows and gas. In 1139 the Lateran Council banned crossbows, bows and arrows
and siege machines as unethical. However, they were only applied to Christian
Chemical and biological weapons are forbidden by many treaties.…read more
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Leaders who engaged in massive human rights violations should face international
war crimes tribunals.
Soldier should also be held accountable for their actions and face investigation.
Financial restitution may be necessary so that the defeated country can repair itself
after the war.
This could include infrastructure; roads, hospitals, houses, schools, transport links etc.
Post war environment provides an ideal chance to reform an aggressive regime e.g.
disarmament, rehabilitation of army, retraining police etc.…read more