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Ideas of Just War

St. Augustine’s argument that war was sometimes a “necessary evil” was seconded by St. Thomas Aquinas, but Aquinas sanctioned war against unbelievers only when Christians are threatened with harm, and even then, only when toleration is unsustainable (Evans 3). Thus, at least for him, the Crusades were not sufficiently just. Evans explained that “the failure of the Crusades did much… to discredit explicitly religious-based justifications for war” (p. 3). A new basis for the just war theory emerged from an understanding of the nature of human personhood.

“No war could be just simply because one’s opponents did not share one’s religion, for justice was rooted in a natural law which was shared by all peoples,” Evans added (p. 4). By the 17th century, the concept of justice was consolidated through the ideas of international law as the regulating basis of inter-state relations. The protection of sovereignty and national interests became prominent in the just war theory. Thus, the emphasis on defense against threatened or actual attacks as the just cause for war acquired refocused meaning. However, Evans held that “it would be misleading to think that…

defense of the sovereignty was offered as the sole possible just cause for any length of time” (p. 4). In September 11, 2001, the United States of America was inflicted with a series of coordinated attacks which prompted the Bush administration to react by proclaiming a right to preemptive self-defense. The Bush administration points that the change in the nature of military threats justifies preemptive war. However, preemptive war poses a dilemma to the just war theory’s principle of self-defense since terrorist attacks are really not considered waging war.

The question is: “how long, in an era of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, can states afford to wait to use their military force in self-defense? ” (Evans 25). Evans explained that “preemptive military action is undertaken to eliminate an immediate and credible threat of grievous harm. Those acting preemptively believe that an adversary is about to attack, that the assault is inevitable, and that preemptive strike can eliminate the threat or at least reduce the harm that the anticipated assault would cause” (Evans 25).

It may be justified when the attacker has a clear intent to cause harm and when waiting for the threat to finally be fulfilled greatly increases the risk of injury. Today, preemptive war is an official US military doctrine. Preemptive war is differentiated with preventive war in the sense that where the former is “undertaken to thwart or mitigate an imminent attack,” the latter is “undertaken to make sure that an adversary never becomes a significant threat” (Evans 26). Preventive war is often associated with aggression and is not generally accepted in the just war tradition.

Some of the more famous, or infamous, examples of preventive wars include the attack on Pearl Harbor and the events in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Effects of War and the Opposition One issue that must be resolved in wars is the effect that it presents to those involved. There is little doubt that wars can bring economic and ecological damages, but more importantly, we must recognize that wars can bring serious psychological effects not only for the combatants but also to the civilians, especially women and children.

Post-traumatic stress disorders and deep depressions are common to those who have been affected by the violence of war. “They rip apart the mind and soul in the same way that bullets and bombs mutilate the body,” according to Bob Herbert in an article relating to the story of a soldier who served in Iraq when the US declared war five years ago. In World War II, a Catholic soldier wrote: “during the war, I went to the Catholic army chaplain and asked if it was right for me to fight in this war. He said a clear yes—the British had a just cause against Hitler…

But to this day I want to know whether German Catholic soldiers were told by German priests that they were fighting in an unjust war? ” (PPU). If soldiers who have been trained in combat situations could be afflicted by war like this, how much more could civilians’ experience? The Peace Pledge Union, an opposition to the just war theory, argues that “Just War rules are either completely ignored or only held by a few. ” There is no neutral referee to reprimand the side who broke Just War rules. They argue that there has been no war in which either side has fully obeyed the rules of a just war.

They claim that people could not acquire accurate information to judge whether a country’s war is just or not and that “the real truth about a war is usually hidden by governments. ” Furthermore, they argue that “nobody can tell in advance if a particular war will bring more good than evil, or that its method will be ‘proportionate’ to its results. ” Opponents of just war theory, or pacifist if you may, find war to be immoral. They argue that intentionally killing someone is universally accepted as immoral. In Christianity, killing is directly prohibited by God as part of His commandments.

In war, killing is a matter of fact. Hence, pacifists claim that nothing can justify war. But if killing is a basis to which wars are renounced, then we should abolish all policies that involve killing. Death penalty is another issue which involves “unnecessary” killing of individuals, of which the morality is also being debated. If wars are prohibited in the ground of killing, death penalty should be as well. So should euthanasia and assisted suicide be made unlawful. Eventually, the issue on animal rights, as it also encompasses killing of animals, should also be resolved. Resolutions for Just War

Andrew Fiala, in his book The Just War Myth: The Moral Illusions of War, argues that “the just war theory expresses our best moral thinking about war. But it is false to assume that since we know what a just war would be, just wars actually exist. In fact, there are no just wars” (p. 3). He compared the concept of just war with the concept of true love and argued that while we have ideas of true love, to believe in its existence is to court heartache. This means that while Fiala does not admonish warfare, just as it is too often too difficult to find true love, he realized how hard it would be to wage a just war.

Calls to violence and vengeance, once unleashed, are extremely difficult to channel and control. Hence, the phrase “all is fair in love and war. ” Fiala held that “it is too much to say that war in general is wrong or just. Our judgments must be about particular wars or types of war” (p. 4). Fiala explains that “the just war ideal works best when there is a clear battlefield and when it is easy to distinguish combatants from non-combatants” (p. 5). Just war tradition, however, does not apply well to modern warfare against insurgencies and terrorism.

As an example, Fiala argues that the easiest solution to counter insurgencies is “to kill or imprison as many of the male population as possible and to severely punish villages and neighborhoods that support insurgent operations” (p. 5). This, however, obviously does not conform to moral standards. Some argue that the moral solution to counter insurgencies “is to take the moral high ground and employ political, economic, and social tactics in addition to the tactics of (morally restrained) hard power” (Fiala 6).

The problem lies in that insurgents are willing to employ brutality and, more often than not, have more political authority on their locality, which would be difficult to counter when just war tradition is employed. Which brought Fiala to conclude that “in order to win a war, injustice may be necessary” (p. 6). Another solution to counter insurgencies is just to leave them by. People become insurgents when they do not want someone who is foreign to them interfere with their affairs, which, taking all things into account, they have the right to assert.

But not because one can find a peaceful solution to a particular situation means that there is one for every problem. Insurgencies and terrorism, for example, are different in that while you can leave the insurgents to their own affairs, terrorists will come after you. In cases like this, there is a just cause for preemption. Israel’s attitude towards war exemplifies the concepts that the just war theory implies. While the biblical history is filled with the violence of war, it nevertheless encompasses theological justifications and the warriors do not actively seek it for any other reason but to defend the faith and obey the will of God.

Wood explained that “in contrast to cultures which glorify military exploits, …the Hebrew calendar contains no memory of men of war, and that whereas foreign kings set up monuments to celebrate their victories, ‘the monuments of the Old Testament do not mark the places where battles were fought; they do not show generals astride prancing steeds; they do not represent beaten enemies bowing in submission’… They did not maintain large standing armies for the purpose of conquest, although their political leaders clearly believed that military force was necessary to resist invasion” (13).

Recommended Course of Action Warfare seems to be a brutal fact of life. No matter how high the standards of one’s morals are, there will always be people who would resort to force for their own benefit. It is a question of whether we should allow such people to persist, or should we put an end to terror by waging wars against them. The theories of Just War enable us to make a choice. Its primary teaching is to resolve to violence only for defense and when all possible peaceful solutions have failed.

There is no doubt that killing is wrong, but we must sometimes do what is necessary in defense of liberty and justice. There is much to be clarified about the scope of the Just War Theory and setting a standard set of rules would be difficult as cultures vary greatly from one part of the world to another. Perhaps understanding the reasons why people engage into wars is of utmost importance in justifying the war, but, as already specified and we must all be firm with it before justifying any war, the concepts of defense and the failed diplomatic solutions must be present.

Conclusion Opponents of the just war tradition insists on the immorality of war. For the religious pacifist, it is better to “turn the other cheek,” let God be the judge, or allow their adversary to develop conscience. However, if morality is the real issue here, then the question would be: would it be more morally permissible to tolerate tyranny or terrorism than to counter its evil? Violence is not the solution to counter violence would likely be the answer. Peace, they claim, is the answer.

The question again is: will the other side accept the peace offered? The most credible answer would be: “we hope so. ” End of discussion. War is also not prohibited in the context of the Bible as it is a matter of fact that the Bible is full with stories of it. It is also notable that the wars presented in the Bible were ordained by God, or has the active participation of God, so much so that it is a basis for the Jewish and Christian Holy Wars. But while wars were not prohibited, it is undeniable that the Bible seeks justification for waging it.

The answer to the situation given at the beginning of this paper depends on one’s principle. If one believes in honor and the glory of dying in battle fighting for survival and principle, then engaging war for the purpose of defense would be the more rational choice, whether there is a slim chance of victory or not. On the other hand, one chooses to remain a pacifist, accepting slavery rather than fight for what is right, hoping for some divine intervention to save them. The idea of fighting for peace makes sense in theory.

However, the problem lies in that what makes sense in theory often fails in practice. The concept of a just war is characterized by at least two features: that it should have been based with a just cause (jus ad bellum); and that it is waged with justice in conduct (jus in bello). But, as have already been argued, war has turned out to be more complex and difficult to control. That is why just war advocates suggest the use of force only as the last resort—to resort to arms only for the protection of innocent lives and when all diplomatic means have failed.

No matter how we would love to live in peace, we have to face the fact that there are some who are willing to employ violence for their gain and has no respect for boundaries. Thomas Nagel asserts: “it is naive to suppose that there is a solution to every moral problem with which the world can face us. We have always known that the world is a bad place. It appears that it may be an evil place as well” (p. 144). The real problem with war is not why it was waged but how and what comes after.

If we could somehow find a way to restrict combatants to adhere with justice in conduct and give effort to address the effects of war, then we can fully realize justice in war.

Works Cited

Augustine of Hippo. The City of God. Evans, Mark. Just War Theory: A Reappraisal. Edinburg University Press, 2005. Fiala, Andrew. The Just War Myth: The Moral Illusions of War. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2008. Herbert, Bob. 19 March 2007. “Death of a marine. ” New York Times. 16 July 2008. <http://select. nytimes. com/2007/03/19/opinion/19herbert. html> “Just War: Can any war be just? ” Peace Pledge Union (PPU).

13 July 2008. <http://www. ppu. org. uk/learn/infodocs/st_justwar. html> Knox, E. L. Skip. “The First Crusade: Urban’s speech. ” Boise State University. 13 July 2008. <http://crusades. boisestate. edu/1st/02. shtml> Nagel, Thomas. 1972. “War and massacre. ” Philosophy and Public Affairs, Vol. 1, No. 2, 123-144. “Overview of the Crusades. ” 2008. Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). 13 July 2008. <http://www. cbn. com/spirituallife/ChurchAndMinistry/ChurchHistory/Crusades_Wikipedia. aspx> The Bible. New International Version. Wood, John A. Perspectives on War in the Bible. Mercer University Press, 1998.

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