Just War Theories in the West

Topics: Natural law, Thomas Aquinas, School of Salamanca Pages: 3 (984 words) Published: May 5, 2005
Dan Kassel
Just War Theories in the West
Sinkwan Cheng

Since the beginning of time, strong nations have taken over weaker ones without any consideration for the indigenous people of those lands. Some claim that because many of these peoples are inferior intellectually and/or physically to the conquerors, than by nature they are slaves and, as stated by Aristotle, "it is better for them as inferiors that they should be under the rule of a master (Aristotle, Vitoria 239)." However, natural law claims that all men are equal and liberty is entitled equally for all. It is also stated under this divine law that all men have the right to defend themselves. Therefore, it is according to natural law that despite a native peoples' intellectual capacity, they are granted the right to hold sovereignty over their land. Where all other laws falter, it is the laws of nature which hold true to providing what is best for mankind.

Take into account, for example, the Spanish conquest of the New World. The Indians who inhabited this land were immediately viewed as barbarians and seemed entirely unfit to govern themselves. According to Vitoria, "It is undoubtedly better for them to be governed by others, than to govern themselves (239)," but it must also be considered that these natives had complete ownership over their properties both publicly and privately, and therefore have the right to retain ownership over their land. It is by the workings of nature in the first place that these people were given this land, and if there is no concrete evidence that they have befouled what has been rightfully theirs for thousands of years before the Spanish invasion, than they ought to continue living in their isolated peace. "Peoples, techniques, and disease strains had continued to pass back and forth over the entire great land mass of Europe-Asia-Africa for interminable centuries, on into modern times, whereas the Indian peoples, whatever sporadic contact there...

Cited: Lockhart, James, and Stuart B. Schwartz. Early Latin America: A history of colonial Spanish America and Brazil. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.
Vitoria, Francisco de. Political Writings. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Aquinas, St. Thomas. The Summa Theologica. England: Benziger Bros., 1947.
Tuck, Richard. The Rights of War and Peace. New York: Oxford University Press Inc., 1999.
Einar Himma, Kenneth. "Two Kinds of Natural Law Theory." The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2001. Seattle Pacific University. 14 Oct. 2004 http://www.iep.utm.edu/n/natlaw.htm#I.%20Two%20Kinds%20of%20Natural%20Law%20Theory
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