Just War Theory

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Evan Uesato
November 4 2009
Rel204

Violence in the Name of Religion
(Just War)

Christianity preaches peace and loving your neighbor but for the history of christianity, there has been violence and war in its name. For Many years people have been killing other human beings in the name of christ or justifying their killings by saying that the war is in the name of god. The belief that violence and war can be justified is called the “Just War Theory.”

Just war is a war that is justified because it is necessary for peace to happen. Just war theory has its origins in the catholic church. In order for a war to be considered just it must meet certain criteria. For a war to be just it must: have a just cause, have a valid authority, be comparative justice, the right intention, be the last resort, have a good probability of success, and have proportionality.[1]

Just cause means that going to war is the only way to prevent immanent danger, to protect innocent life, and to preserve human rights. A valid authority is a leader declared by public order, not a private group. In order to have comparative justice, the rights and values that were violated must be worth killing for, god and right must be on their side.[2] Force can only be used in a truly just cause not for material gain. For war to be the last resort, all peaceful alternatives that have been proposed and exhausted before force can be used. Probability of success means that force may not be used in a situation that cannot be won or requires irrational measures to win or achieve success.[3] To have proportionality, the benefits of war must out weigh or equal to the costs of the war.[4]

The just war theory started with the catholic church. The importance of the just war theory is connected to the Christian medieval theory which began from St. Augustine of Hippo.[5] The original three criteria made by St. Augustine are right intention, valid authority and peace must be the final goal. The rest of the criteria came later.[6] The first work of the just war theory is De bellis justis which justified the war of the Kingdom of Poland and the Teutonic Knights of Jerusalem.

Just war theorists have a moral distaste for war but also realize that sometimes war is necessary.[7] Just war theories “distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable uses of organized armed forces,” they try to explain how violence can be directed towards peace. It also determines if the use of violent force is necessary and morally permissible.[8]

Just war theory governs the morality of violence before and during the war. Recently, just war theory also governs violence in the post war period. Jus ad Bellum is the criteria that are needed to be met in order for a war to be started. It dictates how a nation or group handles a conflict before engaging in a war, this is the main idea of the just war theory. The criteria for jus ad bullum is the criteria discussed earlier. The second theme that the just war theory addresses is jus in bello. Jus in bello dictates how combatants are to act during times of war. The criteria for jus in bello is as follows: distinction, proportionality, and military necessity. Distinction addresses the distinction between military combatants and civilians. It also prohibits actions such as bombing a residential area or a non militarized zone. Proportionality states that a military attack cannot be launched if the leader has knowledge before hand that there would be excessive killing of civilians. The loss of lives must be in proportion to the gains of the military. Minimum military force must be used in order to achieve military necessity, a military action must be intended to win the war or gain advantage and the action must be against the enemies objective[9] It also goes back to proportionality where the harm caused to civilians in such actions, must be proportional in relation to the advantage gained. This principal is meant to...
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