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).

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Accompanying this recognition is the suspicion that these developments have finally rendered the just war tradition obsolete, irrelevant, impossible.
Put more starkly, are we not now in a perpetual (color-coded) "supreme emergency," to use Michael Walzer's well-known concept, (6) one that does not permit us the luxury of the moral purity or "clean hands" that the just war tradition, in more amenable times, afforded?
The challenges presented to the just war tradition by the current situation are real.
By educating Catholics about the Church's position on war--popularly known as the just war doctrine--and publicizing contemporary peacemaking documents, Merton hoped American Catholics might develop political attitudes better informed by the teachings of the Church and the example of Christ."
In keeping with their apostolic mission, the CPF used the just war doctrine to educate and persuade American Catholics that the war was immoral.
(See Mister Thorne's article "Athiests in Foxholes, Christians in Uniform," page nineteen, for the just war principles.)
But Gaudium et Spes called for a reevaluation of the just war theory, offered Catholicism's first recognition of pacifism as a legitimate Christian response in more than 1,600 years, and gave a nod to the notion of Catholic C.O.s.
Although the Just War concept is most strongly identified with the Catholic faith, its principles have been widely accepted throughout Christendom.
Significantly, the Bush administration has insisted that its conduct of the opening phase of the "war on terrorism" -- the bombing campaign against Afghanistan -- comports with the Just War doctrine's "war conduct law." Writing in the December 24th issue of The Weekly Standard, Joe Loconte, a religious scholar with the Heritage Foundation, described a meeting at the Pentagon between Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and a group of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Islamic clerics.
The previous article illustrated that the war on Afghanistan has not been carried out in harmony with the Just War concept of "war decision law," requiring that the proper public authority (in our case, the U.S.
Among the remarkable side effects of the conflict between the United States and Iraq has been the revival of the just war theory, the set of ethical reflections specifying the conditions under which a "just war" may be declared (jus ad bellum) and how it must be waged (jus in bello).
From Roman political theory and Christian eschatology (the divine plan for bringing history to fulfillment) he fashioned the classic statement of the just war tradition.