Reflections of a Broken Man

On Just War: Part III – Components (a) by StephenMac
October 26, 2009, 10:26 pm
Filed under: Reflections

*Currently listening to Map of the Problematique – Muse*

It’s been close to a month since my last post, and even longer since my last in this series. Having had a conversation on state sovereignty with respect to God’s sovereignty (another possible post), I was reminded that I haven’t been here in a while. Unfortunately, life’s a little chaotic at the moment, so I don’t know how regular I’ll be until end of November…

My argument has been so far that just war theory is a tragic necessity, tragic as it permits in certain circumstances the killing of humans, necessary in that we live in a sinful world, and that killing of humans is in defence of others. I argue that it is a moral framework for the ethical practice of war, that it holds the necessary middle ground between political realism (realpolitik) and pacifism, and that it must remain a moral theory rather than a legal one. Now, I want to describe the three components of just war theory, namely jus ad bellum (justice in going to war), jus in bello (justice in fighting war), and jus post bellum (justice in the post-war aftermath).

Jus ad bellumThe decision to make war.

The decision to make war is the first step in the “event” of war: how a war begins will often affect how it is conducted and how it ends. Jus ad bellum is one of the most recognisable aspects of just war theory, especially because of its prominence in various international regimes that regulate conflict. The term jus ad bellum is attributed to Augustine who, writing in an era where the Christian standpoint was pacifist, realised that there had to be a serious discussion on the use of force in the context of increasing Christian participation in the Roman Empire, especially in its army. Jus ad bellum is a set of exceptions that differentiate ‘just war’ from the ‘crime of war’, or what Walzer calls “aggression” (p. 51). Some considerations involved in jus ad bellum, like ‘legitimate authority’ and ‘right intention’, have their origins in antiquity, while others like ‘reasonable prospects for success’ are more recent.

Jus ad bellum has a twofold approach: a retrospective and a prospective viewpoint. Of the seven criteria that make up jus ad bellum, it is interesting to note that only two of these criteria (just cause and right authority) are retrospective, while the majority of the criteria are prospective. This is important, as it means that there is a strong connection between jus ad bellum, jus in bello and jus post bellum, and that while these principles are analytically distinct, in practice they will overlap. Furthermore, jus ad bellum ensures that leaders have seriously thought through the decision, not just retrospectively, (whether the war is just because just cause and right authority have been satisfied), but have considered and planned prospectively: essentially forcing decision makers to consider jus in bello and jus post bellum before those principles actually come into effect.

The retrospective viewpoint analyses the lead up to the conflict. It has two parts: the first asks, “Is the cause just, and is it great enough to justify going to war over it?” The question of just cause looks at the reason for war, the injustice or wrong done, and is usually limited to self-defence, defence of others, restoration of peace, defence of rights or the punishment of wrongdoing (Bellamy: p. 122). Just cause also relates to the magnitude of the ‘wrong’ and whether the resort to war is an appropriate response to that ‘wrong’. This ties closely to ‘proportionality of ends’, discussed below. The second part of the retrospective viewpoint is the question of right authority. Given that the cause is just, and war is the correct response, right authority asks whether the actor is the appropriate one to pursue justice and fight the war. Traditionally, this actor is only one who has no judicial superior, yet of late, more legitimacy has been given to non-state and sub-state actors.

A majority of the jus ad bellum criteria are prospective, i.e., they look at the plans for the execution of the war, and the re-establishment of peace: implying that those who choose war as a means for justice must consider all aspects of the war (its inception, prosecution, and conclusion) before making the initial step. Considerations like ‘last resort’ and ‘proper declaration’ remain similar in both conventional and asymmetric scenarios, and ‘right intention’ is dependent on the definition of war (war as justice). It is ‘proportionality of ends’ and ‘reasonable prospects for success’ that provide the most interesting analysis for asymmetric warfare. Proportionality is tied to just cause, as the magnitude of the cause will determine whether war as a response is proportional. If in an asymmetric scenario civilian casualties are higher, then the cause for war must be greater that in a conventional scenario for it to remain proportional. Reasonable prospects demands that even if a cause be just, and war be a proportional response, a war can still be unjust if it is waged knowing that it cannot be won. It has two parts, looking at the chance of success, as well as the cost of success (Bellamy: p. 123).



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[…] Today’s class on political philosophy reminded me that I had neglected this series. You can find them here, here, here, here, and here.  […]

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