Just War

(redirected from The Just War tradition)

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.
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.
presents a proper Christian rendering of the just war tradition.
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.
Our aim was to broker a meaningful conversation between (to borrow Professor James Turner Johnson's phrase) "the friends and enemies of the just war tradition.
The author argues that, historically, United States and Christian foreign policy does not follow the Just War tradition and that innocent women and children have been killed because of the lack of traditional boundaries and rules.
In war, that agreement is embodied in the Just War Tradition (JWT).
Many of the rules developed by the just war tradition have since been codified into contemporary international laws governing armed conflict, such as The United Nations Charter and The Hague and Geneva Conventions.
My teacher, the late Mennonite theological ethicist John Howard Yoder, who was the pacifist who most influenced Hauerwas, used to show his respect for the dignity of his fellow Christians who subscribe to the just war tradition by engaging them in conversations on their terms and encouraging them to think more seriously about what it would really mean to honour and adhere to this mode of moral reasoning about when war is, or is not, justified.
Nevertheless, the book is a highly significant contribution to understanding Yoder's thought, and it can serve anyone who wishes to better understand the historical developments related to Christian pacifism and the just war tradition.