War and Pacifism

Summary of the topic of war and pacifism

Just War Theory

Just war theory asks 'When is it right to fight?' and 'How should war be fought?'

Ancient philoshopers such as Aristotle and Cicero wrote that a war of self defence was just

The Christian thinkers St Ambrose and St Augustine in the fourth and fifth centuries justified the use of war to defent the church against those who threatened the faith

St Paul in Romans says that rulers are servants of god when they execute God's wrath on domestic wrongdoers

Aquinas wrote the first three conditions of the theory in the thirteenth cenutry.

Francisco Suarez and Franciso de Vitoria wrote the next three conditions of the theory in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

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When it's right to fight - conditions for jus ad b

Just Authority: Only be declared by the legitmate authority of the country or state concerned

Just Cause: Those who are attacked should be attacked because they deserve it on account of some fault

Just Intention: Have to have a good motivation. All motivators must be moral and good

Proportionalitly: There has to be a balance between the actions that lead to the start of the war and the damage that is done by the war

Last Resort: All peaceful and political solutions must have been tried first

Reasonable Chance of Success: You should never enter a war with no hope of success, there must be a fair chance that the war could be won

Comparative Justice: There must be a clear and justifiable reason for both sides in the war to have joined the conflict

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How war should be fought - conditions for jus in b

Certain acts in war are always wrong

Proportionality demands that only necessary destructive force and weapons are used to achieve the peace desire - the indiscriminate destruction of entire cities is a crime against humanity

No indiscriminate targeting - civilians should not be targeted

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Evaluating Just war theory

It maintains core moral principles in a framework permitting violence in controlled circumstances and against certain targets

It recognises the need the act against a tyrannical agressor that is intent on angression

It prohibits wanton acts of violence in the national interest

Realists argue that the just war conditions are ambiguous, open to question or too simplistic and impractical

Outcomes of war are difficult to calculate

There is uncertainty about which people are just targets

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Pacifists argue that just war theory ignores the essential pacifsm stance taken by Jesus

Types of Pacifism:

Absolute pacifism: It is never right to fight because nothing justifies killing humans

Contingent or relative pacifism: War is wrong but there may be circumstances when war is the lesser of two evils

Nuclear pacifism: War involved use of WMD is opposed

Active pacifism: Engagement in campaigns against war

In wartime pacifists become conscientious objectors. Although they don't fight they may still help as emergency workers,ambulance drivers etc.

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Christian Pacifism

The teachings of Jesus lead most Christians to take a pacifist approach:

'Blessed are the peacemakers...'

'Love thy neighbour as thyself'

'I tell you do not resist an evil person,... turn the other cheek

Quakers are absolute pacifists, so they believe violence is wrong in all circumstances

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Contingent Pacifism - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

War is wrong but there may be circumstances when war is the lesser of two evils

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Was a pacifism at first, and was inspired by Ghandi

Then he was involved in a failed assassination attempt on Hitler

He believed that something's were so evil, that violence had to be used

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The Old Testament view on warfare

It can be right or wrong


Joshua 10:40 'Joshua spare no one, everyone was put to death' This was commanded by the Lord God of Israel

God engages in conflict with those who opposes him


10 commandments

Love you enemy

World of peace and justice

Kingdom of god - kingdom of peace

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The New Testament view on welfare

It is always wrong - violence is always wrong

There is a battle between good and evil that will culminate in a final battle at the end of time

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