The “Just War Theory”


On a semi-regular basis I attend a local Unitarian church and always benefit from each visit. This morning the minister talked about a concept I had not heard of called “Jus Ad Bellum” which in Latin translates to “The Law to War Theory”. Some refer to it as “The Just War Theory”.

At a time my country is considering making war in another country (again) I hope many will go through the seven criteria for a “Just War” and come to their own conclusion concerning possible new military action in the Middle East.

Just Cause: The reason for going to war needs to be just and cannot therefore be solely for recapturing things taken or punishing people who have done wrong; innocent life must be in imminent danger and intervention must be to protect life.

Comparative Justice: While there may be rights and wrongs on all sides of a conflict, to overcome the presumption against the use of force, the injustice suffered by one party must significantly outweigh that suffered by the other

Competent Authority: Only duly constituted public authorities may wage war. “A just war must be initiated by a political authority within a political system that allows distinctions of justice. Dictatorships are typically considered as violations of this criterion.

Right Intention: Force may be used only in a truly just cause and solely for that purpose… correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not.

Probability of Success: Arms may not be used in a futile cause or in a case where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success.

Last Resort: Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously tried and exhausted or are clearly not practical..

Proportionality: The anticipated benefits of waging a war must be proportionate to its expected evils or harms. In modern terms, just war is waged in terms of self-defense, or in defense of another (with sufficient evidence).

“The Just War Theory” has Catholic roots, but in my mind stands as wisdom unbound by any dogma. War is something that has always been difficult for me to sort out and I often been a fence straggler. I have grateful that “Jus Ad Bellum’ has been made known to me. It will a useful yardstick from now on when the politicians and generals start talking about making war, not matter how limited in scope.

There is no such thing
as a little war.
It’s like trying to say someone
is a little pregnant.