Mars, the god of war

JUST WAR: warfare that is justified by a moral or legal tradition.

Just war theory presumes that there are legitimate uses of war but also sets moral boundaries on the waging of war. It deals with two fundamental questions concerning the ethics of war and peace: When is it morally and legally justified to go to war? What moral principles should we follow during war? Jus ad bellum (moral justifications for going to war) requires that the cause for war is just; the right authority makes the decision; the decision is made with the right intention of bringing about peace; the war is a last resort; the overall evil of the war does not outweigh the good. Jus in bello (moral principles to follow during war) governs the treatment of prisoners; requires the protection of civilians, and prohibits the disproportionate use of force. A third part of just war theory is jus post bellum, denoting justice after war.

The historical aspect of just war, also referred to as the just war tradition, represents the historical rules, such as the Geneva Conventions, that have been applied to wars. Ethical theorists of international relations must consider the philosophical coherence of international agreements and reflect upon the circumstances that legitimize the waging of war.



1. Refer to Michael Walzer's remarks on just war. What distinguishes preemptive war from preventive war? Consider the case of Germany in World War II and answer Walzer's question: Is regime change ever a just cause of war?

2. The international community has been unable to come together under the banner of just war to stop genocide in the Sudan. What political factors constrain the waging of a just war? What obligation does the international community have to declare just war? Compare the Sudanese case to that of Rwanda, Iraq, and Kosovo. What similarities/differences are there between these cases and how do they relate to the concept of just war?

3. The 2006 mid-term election sparked contentious debate on American's role in Iraq, particularly with regards to America's role jus post bellum. What responsibility does the United States have in the reconstruction of Iraq?


Selected Carnegie Council Materials

SPECIAL REPORT: War with Iraq (2003)
Noah Feldman, What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building
Whitley Kaufman, "What’s Wrong with Preventive War? The Moral and Legal Basis for the Use of Preventive Force."
Jeff McMahan, "Just Cause for War"
Robert J. Myers, "Notes on the Just War Theory: Whose Justice, Which Wars?"
Thomas M. Nichols "Just War, Not Prevention."
Albert C. Pierce, "Just War Principles and Economic Sanctions." 
Joel H. Rosenthal, Thomas M. Nichols, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Just War?
Joel H. Rosenthal, In the Shadow of Haditha: Essential Resources on Ethics in War
Joel H. Rosenthal, "New Rules for War?"
Joel H. Rosenthal, Dilemmas of Humanitarian and Peace Operations
Scott A. Silverstone, The Ethical Limits to Preventive War
Michael Walzer, Arguing About War 2006 and 2004

Further Reading

Bull, Hedley. "Recapturing the Just War for Political Theory." World Politics Vol. 31 No. 4 (1979): 588-599.
Elshtain, Jean Bethke. Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World. (New York: Basic Books, 2003).
Elshtain, Jean Bethke, ed. Just War Theory. (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1992).
Evans, Mark (ed.). Just War Theory: A Reappraisal. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005).
Fixdal, Mona and Dan Smith. "Humanitarian Intervention and Just War." Mershon International Studies Review Vol. 42 No. 2 (1998): 283-312.
Hehir, Bryan J. "The Just-War Ethic Revisited." In Ideas and Ideals: Essays on Politics in Honor of Stanley Hoffmann, edited by Linda B. Miller and Michael Joseph Smith, 144-161. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993).
Hoffman, Stanley. Duties Beyond Borders. (Syracuse University Press, 1981).
Johnson, James Turner. Can Modern Wars Be Just? (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984).
Kelsay, John and James Turner Johnson, eds. Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Traditions. (New York: Greenwood, 1991).
Oberleitner, Gerd. "A Just War Against Terror?" Peace Review. 16 (2004): 263-268.
Ramsey, Paul. The Just War: Force and Political Responsibility, updated edition. (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2002).
Rengger, Nicholas. "On the Just War Tradition in the Twenty-First Century." International Affairs. 78 (2002): 353-363.
Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. 3rd ed. (London: Basic Books, 2000).
Zinn, Howard. "A Just Cause, Not a Just War." Progressive. 65 (2001):16-19.