Principles of the Just War Last

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Principles of the Just War

  • Last ___________:

    • A just war can only be waged as a __________. All ___________ options must be __________ before the use of force can be justified.

  • _____________ Authority:

    • A war is ______ only if it is waged by a _________ authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority ___________ by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.

  • Redress Wrong: (________________)

    • A just war can only be fought to ____________ a wrong suffered.

    • For example, _____________ against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient--see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with "right" _______: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.

  • Reasonable ___________ of Success:

    • A ______ can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable ________ of _________. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.

  • __________ is to Re-establish Peace:

    • The ultimate goal of a just war is ___________ ______. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the ________ that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.

  • ___________ must be ___________________:

    • The violence used in the war ________ be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using _______ not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.

  • ____________ may not be ____________:

    • The weapons used in war must ____________ between combatants and ______-combatants. Civilians are ________ permissible targets of war, and every _________ must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are ___________ victims of a deliberate attack on a _____________ target.


A Brief History: Just War theory is a doctrine of military ethics of Roman philosophical and Catholic origin[1][2] studied by moral theologians, ethicists and international policy makers which holds that a conflict can and ought to meet the criteria of philosophical, religious or political justice, provided it follows certain conditions.

The idea that resorting to war can only be just under certain conditions goes back at least to Cicero.[3] However its importance is connected to Christian medieval theory beginning from Augustine of Hippo[4] and Thomas Aquinas[5]. First work dedicated specifically to it was De bellis justis of Stanisław of Skarbimierz, who justified war of the Kingdom of Poland with Teutonic Knights. Francisco de Vitoria justified conquest of America by Kingdom of Spain. With Alberico Gentili and Hugo Grotius just war theory was replaced by international law theory, codified as a set of rules, which today still encompass the points commonly debated, with some modifications.[citation needed] Importance of the theory of just war faded with revival of classical republicanism beginning with works of Thomas Hobbes.

The Just War Theory was asserted as an authoritative Catholic Church teaching by the United States Catholic Bishops in their pastoral letter, The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response, issued in 1983. More recently, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraph 2309, lists four strict conditions for "legitimate defense by military force":

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

  • there must be serious prospects of success;

  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. (

  • Militarism –

  • Realism-

  • Pacifism –

  • Nonviolent struggle –

  • Absolutism –

  • Revolution

Additional Theories

  • Militarism

    • War is not inherently bad.

    • Can be a beneficial aspect of society.

    • The belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.[1]

    • Glorification of the ideas of a professional military class." [3]

  • Realism-

    • Proponents of realism believe that moral concepts should never prescribe, nor circumscribe, a state's behavior.

    • Instead, a state should place an emphasis on state security and self-interest.

    • One form of realism - descriptive realism - proposes that states cannot act morally, while another form - prescriptive realism - argues that the motivating factor for a state is self-interest.

  • Pacifism

    • Pacifism is the belief that war of any kind is morally unacceptable and/or pragmatically not worth the cost.

    • Pacifists extend humanitarian concern not just to enemy civilians but also to combatants, especially conscripts.

  • Nonviolent struggle

    • The methods of nonviolent action permit the waging of political struggle without resort to violence.

    • Historical evidence and political theory can be examined to determine whether nonviolent struggle can be expected to be effective in future conflicts.

  • Absolutism

    • Absolutism holds that there are various ethical rules that are absolute.

    • Breaking such moral rules is never legitimate and therefore is always unjustifiable.

  • Revolution

    • Just War Theory states that a just war must have just authority.

    • To the extent that this is interpreted as a legitimate government, this leaves little room for revolutionary war or civil war, in which an illegitimate entity may declare war for reasons that fit the remaining criteria of Just War Theory. This is less of a problem if the "just authority" is widely interpreted as "the will of the people" or similar. Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions side-steps this issue by stating that if one of the parties to a civil war is a High Contracting Party (in practice, the state recognized by the international community,) both Parties to the conflict are bound "as a minimum, the following [humanitarian] provisions."

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