Just War Theory essays - OCR AS

Essays on just war 

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  • Created on: 14-05-12 12:49
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A) Explain how war can be considered `just'.
War can be defined as a state of armed conflict between different countries or different groups within a
country. Ethical approaches on war vary between a militaristic, just war, realism, nuclear pacifism,
contingent pacifism and absolute pacifism. Just war theory is the most influential approach to war and has
been used to comment of the morality of warfare; for example it was discussed in `The Times' at the time
of the first Gulf war in 1990-1991. This essay will focus on the ethical approach that war can sometimes be
considered just if it follows a specific criteria.
During the 4th century a just war approach was established, therefore stating that war could be
considered `just' and lay Christians were actively encouraged to defend their country with force. Former
Christian pacifism was no longer seen as correct for the majority of followers of Christianity, and
consequently only followed by clergy, monks and nuns. In the Old Testament it states that wars against
enemies of Israel and God could be fought as they were commanded by God. From this, Augustine derives
fighting to protect a Christian empire (the Roman Empire) would be obligated. Ambrose of Milan and
Augustine of Hippo built on Christian values: the preservation of innocent life, states duty to defend their
citizens and justice and that defending moral values could require the use or force. They used these
values to establish a criteria of a just war, which states that it should be declared by a legitimate
governmental authority, pursued with the aim of restoring peace and as a last resort. Furthermore, it was
viewed that throughout the war it was unacceptable and immoral to perform reprisal killings and
Throughout the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas built on Augustine's previous criteria for a just war and
developed the Christian doctrine of Just War. He viewed that war had to be declared by a legitimate
authority (the sovereign of the state), have a just cause of self-defence and have the right intentions. The
right intention for a war would be in order to pursue morally correct and therefore good actions, while
avoiding evil. The origins of both Natural Law and the Just War theory are rooted to Aquinas, the just war
theory aims to fulfil the deontological primary precept, which is the preservation of innocent life.
Aquinas's form of the Just War approach took account for only three aspects of war. Although this was
adequate until the 16th century, it was adapted in the 16th to 17th century by Francisco Suarez and
Francisco de Vitoria to add several conditions. It was then developed to address three distinct
categories: Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Jus post Bellum. Jus ad Bellum dictates the six principals which
need to be met before resorting to war. Firstly, the war must have a just cause, including for means of
self-defence or humanitarian intervention. If the war was successful it would prevent the loss of innocent
life. An example of a ware with a justified cause would be WWII, as the main attack on Germany was in
order to prevent further genocide to their own people and surrounding countries, for example Poland.
Secondly, the war must only be entered if it has a just cause, as well as having the right intention. For
example, in 1950 China invaded Tibet for the sole purpose of political expansion and land acquisition, with
no means of self-defence or humanitarian intervention, which would make the intention unjustified.
Thirdly, the war has to be publicly declared by a lawful, legitimate authority that represents the entire
people. There has to be a likelihood of success, to avoid killing, structure and destruction for no
justifiable purpose. Finally, war has to be as a last resort; other options which may achieve the same
objectives should be reviewed before. For example, peace talks and negotiations, freezing financial
assets and economic sanctions should be considered as an option.
Jus in Bello concerns the justice of conduct within the war; therefore it can be described as the `just
method'. Plato considered the idea that it was morally incorrect to harm those who were non-combatants
in the war, bringing about rules that were followed by Greek warfare and still followed in Western
culture today. For example, military commanders, officers and soldiers can be put on trial for committing
war crimes, such as the mistreatment of prisoners of war. This can be traced back to being followed in
Greek warfare and the trials of people breaching the laws of conduct within war is an attempt to make

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There are three main aspects of Jus in Bello, including proportionality,
discrimination and no means that are evil in themselves. Firstly, the possible benefits of achieving peace
have to be proportionate to the loss of life, suffering and destruction that will result from the violence
seen in wars. Derived from this we see how it is just if we use minimal force in order to achieve the
desired aims. Secondly, discrimination means that we should distinguish between appropriate (soldiers)
and non-appropriate targets (civilians).…read more

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B) `How useful is the idea of justice when considering issues of war'
Justice is defined as the quality of being fair and reasonable, therefore a `Just War' seeks to minimise the
loss of innocent lives lost on both sides of the conflict, while achieving aims of ensuring world peace and
humanitarian intervention. However, the Just War approach does not allow for the morality of
non-conventional warfare to be assessed.…read more


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