Just War

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Just War

As widely used, a term referring to any war between states that meets generally accepted international criteria of justification. The concept of just war invokes both political and theological ideology, as it promotes a peaceful resolution and coexistence between states, and the use of force or the invocation of armed conflict only under certain circumstances. It is not the same as, but is often confused with, the term jihad or "holy war," a Muslim religious justification for war.

The principle of a just war emerged early in the development of scholarly writings on International Law. Under this view, a just war was a means of national Self-Help whereby a state attempted to enforce rights actually or allegedly based on international law. State practice from the eighteenth to the early part of the twentieth century generally rejected this distinction, however, as war became a legally permissible national policy to alter the existing rights of states, irrespective of the actual merits of the controversy.

Following World War I, diplomatic negotiations resulted in the General Treaty for the Renunciation of War, more commonly known as the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed in 1928. The signatory nations renounced war as a means to resolve international disputes promising instead to use peaceful methods.

The aims of the Kellogg-Briand Pact were adopted in the Charter of the United Nations in 1945. Under the charter, the use or threat of force as an instrument of national policy was condemned, but nations were permitted to use force in individual or collective Self-Defense against an aggressor. The General Assembly of the United Nations has further defined aggression as armed force by a state against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, or political independence of another state, regardless of the reasons for the use of force. The Security Council is empowered to review the use of force, and therefore, to determine whether the relevant circumstances justify branding one nation as the aggressor and in violation of charter obligations. Under the modern view, a just war is one waged consistent with the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the Charter of the United Nations.

What has complicated the concept of just war in contemporary international relations is the emergence of "asymmetrical warfare." The term refers to conflict with parties or entities (such as international terrorist groups) who are neither officially connected with, nor owe allegiance to, any particular public authority or state. While these individuals or groups may be dependent upon clandestine assistance from states willing to help them secretly, they are not publicly responsible to them. Since contemplation of just war requires public authorities to act in their official capacities for the common good, that objective is frustrated by the lack of a discernible, clearly identifiable enemy state against which to act. As a result, the international community has attempted to unite in a common effort to declare war against Terrorism in general as "just."

Further readings

Johnson, James Turner. 2002. "Jihad and Just War." First Things 124.

Novak, Michael. 2003. "Asymmetrical Warfare & Just War." National Review online. Text of public lecture given on February 10 in Rome. Available online at <www.nationalreview.com/novak/novak021003.asp> (accessed August 13, 2003).

References in periodicals archive ?
David Fisher's recent book, Morality and War, offers an account of the philosophical foundations of the just war tradition that integrates various contemporary forms of ethics into a new approach he calls "virtuous consequentialism.
Chapter 1 introduces the fundamental concepts of applied ethics, which enhance the philosophical groundwork for framing the practical issues; chapter 2 examines the literature on the Western just war tradition from its inception to the present; chapter 3 explores the importance of military life, military members, and the "use of military force in the name of a political community" (p.
The just war tradition, which is rooted in Catholic thought and has become largely enshrined in most international law, only recognizes the morality of a defensive war.
It results from the widespread and almost inevitable violation of their essential values, their character or nature, when they commit violent acts against others--even when the military, the broader society and the just war tradition celebrate those acts.
The central claim is that political and technological changes since the end of the Cold War have cast war in a new light and that various features of the Just War tradition may need to be reconsidered for the changed international and military environment.
While the first Christians were pacifists, Christians starting with Augustine have developed and articulated a just war tradition to delineate the proper use of force.
presents a proper Christian rendering of the just war tradition.
In Offering Hospitality, Caron Gentry challenges three contemporary Christian viewpoints on issues of war and peace: Christian realism (Reinhold Niebuhr), pacifism (Stanley Hauerwas), and the just war tradition (Jean Bethke Elshtain).
He sets Holy War, however, over against the New Testament and the Christian just war tradition, and adds, strangely in my judgment: "Needless to say, the Jewish Holocaust of the twentieth century has been condemned by virtually everyone" (67; cf.
This article explores Quinlan's role as a significant thinker on nuclear strategy and international security by examining his arguments for the possession and potential use of nuclear weapons within the just war tradition.
In June 2011, I wrote to the authors in question, inviting them to participate in a panel discussion on the theme of what I then called "The Just War Tradition and its Critics.