Philosophy 2800
Week 4

Just War Theory

Three Views of the Moral Status of War

1. Pacifism - War is never morally acceptable.
"Do not resist one who is evil. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also." (235)
2. Anything Goes - There are no moral rules when it comes to war.
Here, we need to distinguish between:
jus ad bellum - going to war justly
jus in bello - carrying out a war justly

It's possible to take the 'anything goes' approach to one without taking it to the other.

E.g., you might think there moral restrictions on when it's OK to go to war, but think that, once you're at war, anything goes.
3. Just War Theory - "Some wars are just and some are not." (236)
In other words, some wars are morally defensible & some are not.
Here again, we need to distinguish between jus as bellum & jus in bello.
If you accept this idea, it becomes important to figure out the conditions under which wars are just.

History of Just War Theory

This is an idea that goes back (at least) to the Ancient Greeks.

Early Christians tended to be Pacifists

From about the 5th Century on, many Christian thinkers tried to find a way of reconciling Christianity with Warfare.

St. Augustine (354-430)
St. Aquinas (1225-1274)
From about the 17th Century on, there has been an attempt to come up with non-religiously based Just War Theories.

From about the 19th Century on, there have been many attempts to enshrine the notion of Just War in international law.


Just War Theory

1. Competent Authority
The war must be run by an appropriate public authority.
i.e., not some isolated individual or indviduals

Q: What about civil war?

It must be aimed at some political result.
Q: What counts as a political result?

A: from Lackey, not genocide, not "many holy wars" (237)

2. Right Intention
The war must be fought for the right reason.
e.g., to protect the territory of a country, but not to distract attention from domestic problems
3. Just Cause
Aristotle - We should "wage war for the sake of peace." (238)
What counts as a just cause?

Not: expansion of your territory
seizure of other's wealth

Self-defence is accepted as a reason by most just war theorists. (Although the question of when exactly a country or people has been harmed is open to some discussion.)

What about war to prevent immoral actions elsewhere?

E.g., Kosovo
The U.N. charter allows for collective self-defence, but notice that this doesn't amount to allowing war on moral grounds. What about being a Good Samaritan?
War to improve others?
E.g., the Crusades
"Anticipatory Self-Defense"? (239)
"it is implausible that every case of anticipatory self-defense should be morally wicked." (240)

But, we need to be careful here. Anticipatory self-defence can serve as an excuse for agression in some cases.

4. Proportionality
Is it reasonable to think that the just cause (see #3) could be brought about by some means other than war (e.g., diplomacy)?
"the rule of last resort" (241)
This also applies to the means used to wage a war. "military forces should cause no more destruction than is strictly necessary to achieve their objectives." (242)
5. Just Peace
When the war ends, the people of the losing country must not be punished.

They may be harmed in the process of waging war (although there are limits to this, see below), but 'damages' may not be inflicted upon them (unlike, say, when one wins a civil law suit).

6. Reasonable Hope of Success
Note: Lackey doesn't clearly point this one out, but it's touched on in his discussion of proportionality.

Since wars cause suffering, there must be at least a reasonable chance of accomplishing something by the suffering.

7. Respect for Non-Combatants
Civilians should not be targeted.

"military force must be directed only at military objectives." (243)

Q: What is a civilian?
What about 'Collateral Damage'?
A Possible Justification: The Doctrine of Double Effect
it may be OK to perform actions that have the forseeable result of harming a person so long as you don't perform the action with the intention of harming the person.

So, no Hiroshima or Dresden, but maybe civilians killed by shrapnel in an attack on a military target


Group Work: (1) Which view is correct: Pacifism, Just War Theory or Anything Goes? Explain.


(2) Just War Theory claims that all 7 of the conditions we have just discussed must be met if a war is to be a just one.  Is this right?  If not, suggest and defend one significant revision to the theory.

[Philosphy 2800]