Just War Tradition:  Can this be a good guide?

 

The idea of a “just war” began with Augustine, a leader of the early Christian Church in the 4th C., who wrote City of God.  His concept was applied and made famous by Thomas Aquinas, another Catholic philosopher, in the 13th Century.  Aquinas’ writings have been debated by Christians, historians, and others for centuries.   It has been argued by some contemporary thinkers that “just war tradition” is based on common moral beliefs and can be an aid for all, Christian or not, in deciding whether a military action is justified.  Others believe that it does not apply to the conflicts of the modern world.

Aquinas’ concept of just war was based on three criteria, but it has been modified by philosophers over the centuriesThis “just war tradition” begins with a strong presumption against the use of force and then establishes the conditions when this presumption may be overridden.

 

There is no official list but the following are generally-accepted:

 

“Jus ad bellum”   (Is going to war justified?)

 

Criteria of Aquinas

 

Legitimate authority: Has a lawful government or duly constituted governing body           declared war?  Does it have the legal right to go to war?

 

Just cause: Is the war a defense against wrongful attack, retaking something wrongly taken, or to correct a grave evil?

 

Right intention:  Is the aim of the war to bring about peace?  Is war being undertaken for revenge, personal glory, etc.

 

Other Accepted Criteria

 

Probability of success:  Is there a reasonable chance for success?

 

Last resort:  Have all other peaceful means been tried seriously and exhausted? “Jus in bellum” (Is war being waged justly?)

Discrimination:  Is there a distinction between combatants and non-combatants?  Is all means being used to prevent civilian casualties?

Proportionality:  Will the means used to wage war be proportionate to the ends sought?     Will the good achieved exceed the harm done? 

 

 Note: “Other things to consider” is asking you to think of other events, circumstances, etc., that could affect the decision to commit to war.

 

 

 

Was the American Revolution Justified?

 

Your task is to evaluate the events leading to the Revolutionary War using the “just war” criteria and determine whether or not the Revolutionary War was justified.

 

Break into small groups and discuss the “just war” criteria, applying them to the colonies.  Use the chart below in your deliberations and decide whether each criterion has or has not been met.  At the end draw a conclusion about your position on whether war with Great Britain justified. 

 

For homework state your position clearly and make a list of the arguments that support it. The list will be specific examples/evidence from the unit and must be in sentence form.  You will then conclude with a statement about whether applying “just war” criteria is helpful in judging the merits of War. All of this will be written in your notes.

 

Criteria “jus ad bellum”

Considerations

Decision

Legitimate Authority

Had a lawful government or duly constituted governing body declared war?

Go  /  No Go

 

Does it have the legal right to go to war?

 

Go  /  No Go

 

Other things to consider:

 Example: Technically still British citizens

 

Go  /  No Go

Just Cause

Is the war to defend against wrongful attack, to retake something wrongly taken, or

to correct a grave evil?

 

Go  /  No Go

 

Other things to consider:

Go  /  No Go

 

 

Right Intention

Is the aim of the war to bring about peace? 

Go  /  No Go

 

 

Is war being undertaken for a legitimate purpose, i.e., not for revenge, glory, etc.?

 

Go  /  No Go

 

Other things to consider:

 

 

Go  /  No Go

Probability of Success

Is there a reasonable chance for success?

 

Go  /  No Go

 

Other things to consider:

 

 

Go  /  No Go

Last Resort

Had all other peaceful means been seriously tried? 

 

Go  /  No Go

 

Had all other peaceful means been exhausted?

 

Go  /  No Go

 

Other things to consider: 

 

 

Go  /  No Go