Classical Just War Theory and Its Relevance Today

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Martin White
Government 260
Professor Gonzalez
April 19, 2012

Reaction Paper: Classical Just War Theory and Its Relevance Today

Cian O’Driscoll, author of the article Re-negotiation the Just War: the Invasion of Iraq and Punitive War, explains how the arguments of punitive war, or wars of punishment, from both Presidents George Bush and Tony Blair relate to the justification of going to war with Iraq in 2003. O’Driscoll, after explaining the justification of both presidents then relates these justifications to jus ad bellum, a Latin term which constitutes a more moral lethal question, when is it “just” or legitimate to go to war? Jus ad bellum is part of just war theory, which over the years has gained two different entities, contemporary just war theory, or in plainer terms the older traditional way of justifying punitive wars. The second is conventional just war theory, the way we justify punitive wars as of right now. O’Driscoll uses Bush and Blair’s argument in justifying the punitive Iraq war with conventional just war theory, O’Driscoll then relates this conventional justification to how contemporary war was justified back in the days. O’Driscoll is comparing contemporary and conventional just war theory, saying that although there are differences among the two, contemporary just war theory still has influence on conventional just war theory and punitive wars. First, we should understand the differences O’Driscoll points out between contemporary and conventional jus ad bellum. O’Driscoll points out that contemporary jus ad bellum justifies punitive wars with a more moral and religious agenda. O’Driscoll points out that wars were usually justified because God commanded the punishment of the wrongdoers and the evils of the world. The author uses two examples from other just war theorist such as O’Donavan and Elshtain, who write books about contemporary just war theory and the moral and religious aspect in...