Just War Theory

Covers all of just war theory, pacifism, case studies and ethical therories to war. :)

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  • Created by: lydia
  • Created on: 15-04-14 09:14


  • Origins of Just war can be found in thw works of Cicero and Aristolte.
  • The first Christian development was by Ambrose of Milian and Augustine of Hippo.
  • Thomas Aquinas drew together the thinking on Just war, listing Right auhtority, just cause and just intention as the most important aspects.
  • In the 16th and 17th century Francisco Suarez and Francisco de Vitoria added proportionality, last resort and chance of success.

The thoery divides into 3 parts:

  • Jus ad Bellum- justice of resoting to war in the first place.
  • Jus in Bello- justice of conduct within war.
  • Jus post Bellum- justice of peace agreements and the end of the war.
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Just Ad Bellum- lawful authority & Just cause

Just Ad Bellum- lawful authority

  • War can only be declared by a lawful authority
  • Argued today lawful authority is a much more difficult to interpret
  • The concept of lawful authority also protects citizens from uprising

Just Cause- 1st developed by Aquinas

  • War should only be waged for a just reason
  • A nation has the right to protect its citizens if they are attacked by another state
  • In order to correct a violation of rights
  • Grotius says a nation has the right to interfere in the affairs of a neighbour in order to prevent injustice from happening

Criticsm- Virtually everything could be made a just cause. These wide ranging reasons would lead to warfare emergence

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Ad Bellum- Right Intention

Right Intention

  • Must strive for good and avoid evil
  • Matches Aquinas' philosophy creating a teleological basis.
  • Aquinas uses the concept of peace when talking about right intentions
  • Whatever is done in what must ensure peace and harmony afterwards

Criticsm- War can actually create disharmony for the country that has been invaded

Voltaire- regarded war as totally irrational

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Ad Bellum- Last Resort & Likelyhood of success

Last Resort

  • Grotius said war must be a last resort
  • Lists methods countries should take in order to prevent war
  • Today UN is the intl. broker of disputes.

Criticsm- can not effectively apply as most wars today are between rogue states. And element of suprise is oftern cruical in wars today.

Likeyhood of sucess

  • Grotius asserts the likelyhood of sucess must be taken into account before war
  • But, how do you know what the results will be like?
  • The odds of sucess are hard to calculate- especially in an age of insurgency e.g. rebels in revlot
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Jus in Bello- Proportionality


  • The wars should be proportional to the reasons/damage caused
  • Wars should not be fought becuase of national honour
  • If we remove the idea of national honour, patriotic principle recognises the worth of the common link of humanity


  • The nature of modern warfare is contray to proportionality
  • Soldiers rely on logistics, communication, transport and provision
  • The fact war can attack infarastrucutre means war is dissproportionate but can be won quicky- e.g. the atomic bomb
  • It has the moral advantage of ending war quickly
  • It can be argued that saving lives at the cost of proportionality is better
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In Bello- Civillians in war & Weaponery

Civillians in war- Aquinas is clear that the innocent should not be targeted in war

  • Abused ( was later added by others)
  • Grotius says civillians should not be held accountable for what their rulers do
  • Violence should be shown to agressors ,not those caught up in conflict
  • Collateral damage- The unintentional destruction of innocent people and their party
  • Civillians are not to be directly targeted. Torture must not be used and those captured in battle are to be returned to their families


  • Developed by Aristotle and Aquinas, asssumed that wars take place on the battle field
  • Code of ethics was needed to instruct Christians on how to limit destruction
  • The development of new technology often forces a reciprocal on how to limit destruction
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Just Post Bellum

Considered as important before and after conflict.

Many ethicts argue that war is only moral if:

  • it's result has been carefully considered
  • It's result is proportional to the reasons of war in the first place
  • The result can be ultimately succesful

The importance of sucess plays an important part in modern just war theory

Aquinas hardly mentions the Just Post Bellum situation but 'winning the peace' is a modern central issue


  • Just was theoy has been rejected on the grounds of the issues that come with post bellum. E.g. intl.relations and history

Brian Orend applies Grotius' principle and says that the Just Wat theory is the human rights of war

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Strengths and Weaknesses


  • Tries to protect innocet victims of warfare
  • Encourages combatants to think about hte moral implications of actions
  • Tries to prevent excess of warfare by the notion or retribution
  • Cultural traditions and laws of defeated nation are respected


  • Question of discrimination between a soldier and a combatant is central to just in Bello
  • Seen it as increasingly difficult to diffrentiate between quilty and innocent.
  • In certain countries, men and women are meant to do yearly military service as an obligation. Does this mean they are military figthers when they are home watching TV with  their children?
  • We can never achieve justice and equality
  • Just war theory is open to major abuses-  a way people can justify wars
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Case studies for war- second Iraq war

The second Iraq War:

  • UN sent into Iraq to find weapons of mass destruction. But, none were found.
  • In 2004 the US and UK entered Iraq, the UN said the war was illegal.
  • Some believed the war was movitvated by oil in the area.
  • Blair , PM of the UK, later said that the war was neccisary to remove Saddam Hussein.
  • Just: didn't fit Just cause, as UN said thier were not any mass destruction weapons and removal of dictaor may by fought agianst by argument of cultural relativism. It wasnt a last resort. Although the US and UK government are just authorites, the UN disagreed with the war... just authority?
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Case studies for war- Atomic bomb

Hiroshima bombing:

  • at the end of WW2  the Allies were still fighting the Japanise, which would result in many more deaths.
  • The US choose to drop 2 bombs on large Japanises cites to end the war.
  • They killed millions of innocent people, but the Japanise did choose to surrender.
  • This was justified on the grounds that more would have died in fighting.
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Pacifism- Abserloute and Conditional

Abersloute Pacifism:

  • Absolute pacifists belive that its never right to go to war, even in self-defence.
  • Value of human life is so high nothing can justify killing someone- imago dei.
  • Belive its unethical to use violence.
  • Usally held as a spirtitual or basic moral principle. But, could be seen that violence always leads to worse results than non-violence.

Conditional Pacifism:

  • Conditional pacifists are against principle of war and violence. But , may be ciricumstances were war or violence is the lesser evil.
  • Usally based on Utilitarian principles.
  • E.g. Bon Hoffer- tried to kill Hilter as it was the lesser of the two evils- consequentlist.
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Pacifism- Selective and Active

Selective pacifism:

  • Only oppose wars involving weapons of mass desturction.because of devastating consequences of weapons or war uses these weapons cannot be "winnable".

 Active pacifism:

  • Often involved in political activity to promote peace, arguing against some wars.
  • Many will refuse to fight during wars- consensus objector.
  •  May choose to help by driving ambulances etc.
  • Some have even chosen punishment rather than going to war.
  • E.g. in WW1 and WW2 if you choose not to fight in the war you had to stand before a committee to justify a reason if not accepted they were sent to prison.
  •  Many countries now give conscious objectors a form of public service.
  • Christian peace maker teamsgo into war zones, protest, and help communities in war. 
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Pacifism- In the Bible

The Old Testament- shows a God of wrath and revenge bringing the destruction to the enemy of his people

  • Later Old Testament- shows a God of peace
  • New Test- written some decades after Jesus died

Sermon on the Mt

  • 'Blessed are the peacemakers'
  • Matthew- turn the other cheek

Johns Gospel

  • Christian duty to act in the same way God did- pacifist nature

Martyrdom Complex- Not resist violence but accept fate. Different biblical traditions show different christian approaches. Jesus says accept war as a last resort.  

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War- Natural law

Primary precept- the preservation of life:

  • Could be justifed by the war becuase a method of self-defence or protecting innocent lives.
  • BUT could also be used aginast going to war, loss of life is inevitale.

Primary precept- Living in a society:

  • Socities are always damaged by war.
  • BUT, societies may be violted as a reason for going to war.
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War- Ultitariansim

  • Teleological, thus war allowed if the end is happier than before the war.- the happiness depends upon the loss of life.
  • Should only be fought if the purpose may be achieved.
  • Preference Utilitarian’s only if preference is for war.
  • Oppose war if there will be a great loss.
  • However, ethics could be re-adjusted if the events change.
  • But, war may cause more harm because death of people will affect their families and society.
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War- Kant

  • Deontological- focuses on the action.
  • CI- action must be universal to be moral.
  • CI- for individual use not wider use- so could support the war.
  • Hard to formulate a maxim which would support war as it goes against nature.
  • Possible to universalise self-defence.
  • 2nd maxim- ends not means- would be hard to justify war.
  • But, could be justified if freeing people from an oppressive ruler.
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War- Christian ethics

  • Is acceptable if reducing evil. If conditions of war are followed.
  • Jesus war violent in temple- told his followers to “arm yourselves with a sword”
  • Sometimes violence is needed to bring about peace.
  • People may have a moral duty to protect their country.
  • Contrasting views in the Bible: OT Yahweh, a God of rath and revenge and then NT God commands them to lay down their arms.
  • Reinhold Niebuhr- a modern Christian approach to war- Christian realism.
  • Pacifism won’t grantee victory so violence must be used to achieve love and peace.
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  • Inspired by Buddist princples
  • Jesuses teachings "love your enemies"
  • Ghandi:"I object to violence because when it appers to do good, the good is onyl temporary: the evil it does is permienant".
  • George Orwell: belived that if you supported pacifism in the face of the Holocuast it was like you were colaberating with the Germans.
  • Edmund Burke: "Evil previals when good men do nothing".
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