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Just War Theory

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Just War Theory Empty Just War Theory

Post  This account is not Jeff. on Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:22 pm



It is a guide for states on how to act in potential conflict situations.

*Note it does not promote war. Rather, it is to prevent war, by saying that there are only a few cases in which war should be waged.
In cases where war is not OK, it encourages states to find alternate solutions.

It originated from classical Greek philisophers, but was added to by Christian theologists (though it can be used by all faiths and none).

"Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matt. 5:9)
"If any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also" (Matt. 5:39)
but also:
"Let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one" (Luke 22:36)

-Jus ad bellum: When military force is OK
-Jus in bello: How to do war in an ethical manner

*Note that the theory doesn’t say that a “Just War” is good. It says that it is the lesser evil (but still evil), in some permissible cases.


The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
there must be serious prospects of success;
the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

*Prospect = possibility.

*Note that for the war to be a “Just War,” all 4 conditions must be met.
*The one who will decide if the 4 conditions are met and wether or not to go to war is the government.

*Note that alternatives to war include (but are not limited to):

-Sanction (ban some trade, remove embassy, etc.)


The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties (CCC 2312).

*Licit = lawful, legitimate; in this context, it means that “not everything the warring parties do can be considered legitimate / OK.”

Non-combatants, wounded soldiers, and prisoners must be respected and treated humanely. Actions deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes, as are the orders that command such actions. Blind obedience does not suffice to excuse those who carry them out. Thus the extermination of a people, nation, or ethnic minority must be condemned as a mortal sin. One is morally bound to resist orders that command genocide (CCC 2313).

*Don’t torture or abuse anyone in war (universal).
*The one who commands violations of universal principles, and the ones who obey are guilty of doing these crimes.

They’re not excused if they say “It’s because my boss told me to do it.”

Every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and man, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation. A danger of modern warfare is that it provides the opportunity to those who possess modern scientific weapons -- especially atomic, biological, or chemical weapons -- to commit such crimes (CCC 2314).
*Harming innocents is illegal.

Although harming innocents is bad, it’s impossible for no innocent to be harmed during war.
Actions that might harm innocents may only be carried out if all 3 conditions are met:

1) The action itself must not be inherently evil (e.g. massacring civilians); although it may still do a little evil (as not harming any civilians is impossible).

2) The evil must be a foreseen but UNDESIRED side-effect of an action; it must not be an ends to reach a desired outcome (e.g. you can’t just intentionally nuke a city just scare their government so they’d give up on the war).

[Like when the US bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan in WWII]

3) The evil must not outweigh the beneficial effect to your side of the war (e.g. you can’t bomb a soldier on duty if it would kill 800 other people)

This account is not Jeff.

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Join date : 2012-11-20

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