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Can There Ever Be A 'just War'

5294 words - 22 pages

Can There Ever Be A ‘Just War’

The question as to whether there can ever be a war that is justified entirely by the just war theory is a somewhat more difficult question than it would appear on the surface. The just war theory was devised and matured over a tremendously long period of time with the intention of producing a blue print of sorts that could be compared to any plan to engage in warfare and placed a broad series of principles that would, in effect conclude whether the proposal of going to war was, in fact, justified. If that was indeed the case then surely if any war had met these qualifications and the war had been justified, and henceforth the conflict had taken place, ...view middle of the document...

For the just war theory to be fully understood, it is Gill’s understanding that the notion of comparative justice also be approached and grasped. Gill uses the ‘Challenge of Peace’, a pastoral letter written in 1983 by the United States Bishops. In the letter, it maintains that comparative justice is the belief that one side can be more ‘right’ in a conflict, and that if one side is more right, is it right enough to wage war. The ‘Challenge of Peace’ by the Bishops, found in the Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics sums the thought up quite nicely:

“…do the rights and values involved justify killing?” Gill (2001, p.183)

This is an inescapable truth of war, war involves killing. No matter how justified the war is Christians will always makes this point, and rightly so, a conflict will always involve killing. That’s why man has, throughout his time here, attempted to provide an etiquette for such actions, provide a manuscript that would attempt to question whether war is entirely necessary, and if it is unavoidable, at least limit the damage and brutality of the act. The ‘Challenge of Peace’ includes and important note, that no one country or force is always right; there is no country capable of absolute justice. Comparative justice is an attempt to relativise any claims to war, and limit the force used even if when war is justified.

Of course nothing is without its negatives, and comparative justice is just the same, it can be very problematic in putting into effect as Gill (2001) agrees:

“…the test of comparative justice may be extremely difficult to apply.” Gill (2001, p.184)

Gill (2001) expresses that the just war theory is designed to restrain the impact of war, not to justify any war in particular. Principles must also be altered with regards to the theory depending on the current state of events being before war (jus ad bellum) or actually in the physicality of war (jus in bello). The limitation of damage is still the key objective; however they have different approaches, and with jus in bello discrimination and proportionality are the important factors. In the Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics Gill uses the example of modern warfare, and that modern weapons can be aimed, however, in the example of the Gulf bombings by the United Nations, and the Balkan bombings by NATO some estimates claim that one in ten bombs and missiles would not explode, that would be one in ten at least missing there military targets, thus making civilian casualties extremely likely. With this in mind the Western world has since, with the attempt to act within appropriate means of international agreements there is now a much more careful use of weaponry. Jus ad bellum grants us with a broad set of values that, if followed to the letter, should hopefully avoid war altogether. In the Cambridge Companion to Christian Ethics defines the main six characteristics as a just war must (Gill 2001, p.185):


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