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 ?
37) He successfully uses the Rwandan civil conflict and both international conflicts in Iraq (1991 and 2003-2011) as case studies in how just war theory either acts or omits to pursue post-conflict Justice.
By training soldiers in the virtues and instructing them in the principles of just war theory, Fisher aims to educate warriors who successfully confront the challenges of modern war and do their best to mitigate its horrors.
This conclusion, that necessity drives a reassessment of just war theory, is not novel, but the notion that humanitarian principles take a back seat to necessity is an important position, given its influence.
I do not deny that the work of such figures may have historical interest, but I am amazed by the amount of ink spilled and the number of trees felled in efforts to ascertain what sixteenth-century scholars thought about sixteenth-century war, which bears no resemblance to the practices carried out under the banner of just war theory today.
His attempt to trace dialogues between proponents of just war theory and pacifism, specifically on the subject of nuclear war, is one of the most compelling features of the book.
53) His effort to defend, "with regret, the possibility that war may be just if it is waged in defense of the common good and to protect the innocent from certain destruction," (54) gave birth to just war theory and what would become the classic just war tradition.
It is most likely that John Paul II's own acute awareness of the devastating consequences of war made him even more cautious to endorse the traditional just war theory.
An honest, "strict constructionist" use of the just war theory challenges the conscience of war-makers.
Just war theory requires that the use of force be morally justified, whereas the UN Charter and customary international law require that it be legally justified.
The article highlights a chaplain who discusses just war theory with soldiers but not the morality of a particular war.
Lars Vinx writes about just war theory, and Lars Binderup's paper centres on questions of global media and freedom of speech.
I am particularly interested in how the Haditt--oral traditions relating to the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Mohammad--and Muslim just war theory treat the implications of conflicts at sacred sites.