Was World War Ii a Legitimate War? in the Context of Just War Theory.

Topics: Laws of war, World War II, Just War Pages: 11 (3976 words) Published: January 4, 2011
Was World War II a legitimate war? in the context of just war theory.

'In war some sorts of restraint, both on what we can legitimately fight for (jus ad bellum) and on how we may legitimately fight (jus in bello), are morally required'.1 However, recent theorists also add the responsibility and accountability of warring parties after the war (jus post bellum) to the main two categories of just war theory. From Christian perspective the function of the JWT was simply an excuse of making war morally and religiously possible writes Michael Walzer. He also agrees with its defendants, that it made war possible in a world where war was, sometimes, necessary. JWT is therefore to be used as a sort of moral rule-book from which legitimate instances of the use of force can be read off whenever needed.2 That said this essay aims to investigate and legitimate World War II by examining jus ad bellum's predominant principles – just cause, rightful authority and right intention, further by examining jus in bello's essential principle of non-combatant immunity and discrimination, and finally, looking closely at two peculiar moral events of closing days of World War II.

The jus ad bellum consisting of six principles: (i) the just cause, (ii) rightful authority to wage war, (iii) right intention, (iv) exhausting all other reasonable resolutions before waging war as last resort, (v) reasonable hope of state to win else they should not opt to wage war and (vi) proportional means of military force to objectives sought; of which first three are predominant both in the development of the theory and in its historical application as stated by Johnson.3 First, just cause evaluates the use of force as means of self-defence or defence of third party against wrongful attack and punishment of the acts against humanity. Second, rightful authority legitimises only states as rightful to wage wars not criminals, corporations or individuals who are deemed/seen illegitimate states Shapcott. And thirdly, right intention implies military action to possess either peacekeeping or justice-building efforts. By applying these fundamental principles to the beginning of World War II, shows Britain, France and later other Allied powers as legitimate to wage war against Germany - who started the invasion on Poland before even formally declaring war - and other Axis powers (Italy and Japan; albeit the non-aggression pact with Soviet Union, she was merely an ally of Germany who later joined the Allies) because they (1) defended themselves and other failed states4 who were not able to protect themselves in long term war period; (2) the declaration of war was issued by competent state authorities and (3) their efforts in waging war were to restore status quo, maintain peace, and to undo injustice by stopping Axis powers from doing evil acts against humanity which were not in accordance to moral nor ethnic codes of JWT as their goals were territorial acquisitions and at times cruelty and vengeance. Furthermore Nazis' Jews hate which later led to genocide. If a government begins a systematic campaign of killing members of an ethnic group, then military action by another state can be justified as a defensive rightful act to rescue the innocent; then this validates the rights of legitimate governments to drive the invader back, summarizes Hoekema.5 Now this work embarks to look at one uncertain case that falls under the principle of justice in war but before it does so it explains justice in war generally; and later turns theory to practice to further defend its legitimate stance.

From justice before war to the Jus in bello two criterions are the principle of (i) proportionality of military force used to the end they seek in combat and (ii) non-combatant immunity and discrimination to use weapons to target only those who are, in Walzer's words 'engaged in harm'. Therefore soldiers must discriminate between innocent civilians morally immune from direct and...
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