Just War, Just Cause, Or Just Vengeance

1126 words - 5 pages

JUST WAR, JUST CAUSE, OR JUST VENGEANCE The atrocities of September 11th and the subsequent response have left us to ponder whether our own actions are of a just nature. Throughout history, we have come to accept a common notion of what a just war is. In present times however, it has become quite problematic to define the ongoing military actions as a just war, when there has been no discernable enemy.Historically, the just war tradition, which is a set of mutually agreed upon rules of combat, has commonly evolved between two similar enemies. However, when enemies differ greatly because of different religious beliefs, race, or language, war conventions have rarely been applied. It is only when the enemy is seen to be a people with whom one will do business in the following peace that tacit or explicit rules are formed for how wars should be fought and who they should involve. In part the motivation is seen to be mutually beneficial since it is preferable to remove any underhanded tactics or weapons that may provoke and indefinite series of vengeance acts. September 11th though in itself shattered the previously accepted beliefs about just war. The September 11th attack constituted a crime against humanity, which could not be justified, and voices across our own political spectrum have described our military response as a ?just war.? Richard Falk, a columnist for The Nation wrote in an article that this is ?the first truly just war since World War II.? Yet how can a war be called ?just? when it contradicts the accepted principles on which a just war is founded? The just war tradition seems to be as old as warfare itself. The term itself was first coined by Aristotle in his Politics ?to describe the wars conducted by the Hellenes against non-Hellenes who were considered barbarians.? Aristotle?s work would later influence Cicero whose work On Duties would further elucidate the theory of the just war. Cicero saw war as a last resort, which had definable rules and participants. He would add also to his theories that intervention was necessary when a clear and present danger existed by saying that ?He who does not ward off injury from his comrade, when he is able to, is just as guilty as he who does the injury.? Cicero?s work would then influence the work of St. Thomas Aquinas who would become credited with the most clear and complete description of a ?just war.? In the Summa Theologicae, Aquinas presents the general outline of what becomes the just war theory. He discusses not only the justification of war, but also the kinds of activities that are permissible in war. The principles of the just war are commonly held to be: having just cause, being declared by a proper authority, possessing right intention, having reasonable chance of success, and the end being proportional to the means used.Possessing just cause is the first and arguable the most important factor of jus ad bellum. It is commonly accepted that initiating acts of aggression is unjust...

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