JWT: When Is It Just To Fight A War?

in #writing3 years ago
They who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill". — St. Agustine, City of God, ch.21


Justin Colby

Three thousand, one hundred and one US soldiers refused to fight in Iraq between 2005 and 2006 alone. Justin Colby is one of the deserters within that timeline.

“The army did a lot of good things for me. It taught me responsibility. But I won’t bite my tongue anymore and continue doing something I think is wrong.” — Justin Colby

Compelling a soldier to fight in a war that he thinks is unjust is a recipe for the soldier's development of PTSD. So, in the context of the US army, the remedial measure is for the soldiers to apply for conscientious objection status: applicants will however have to demonstrate that the objection is sincere, firm, and fixed.

It looks like we all need to know about JWT to decide things for ourselves.

Just War Theory (JWT): Introduction

States have to protect their citizens and important moral values, a job which sometimes requires the use of force or violence.

War is always bad. Just or permissible war is still evil. It's just that it's a lesser evil. That's the idea of contemporary JWT when it comes to a situation of conflict where war is the last resort to defending the citizens and important moral values.


The purpose of the JWT is to provide a moral framework for the states to act in conflict situations.

Origins of Just War Theory

The theory is based on the works of the versatile minds among the classical Greek philosophers, such as Plato, and the Roman philosophers, such as Cicero, and the Christian theologians, such as Agustine and Thomas Aquinas.

Elements of Just War Theory

There are two parts to traditional JWT: "jus ad bellum", which refers to the right to go to war, and "jus in bello", which refers to the right conduct in war.

In recent times, some international lawyers and just war theorists, including Brian Orend, have added a third category called "jus post bellum", which refers to justice after war (think of stuff like rebuilding the society after a war in a way that is just and conducive for long-term peace).


I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life. — Corazon Aquino

Jus Ad Bellum

The following conditions have to be fulfilled before going to war:

Just Cause: war may be used to rectify a grave, public evil such as large-scale violation of the human rights of the entire people.

Comparative Justice: the violence offered by one party must be significantly less than that of the other.

Competent Authority: war has to be conducted under a competent political authority.

Right Intention: the violence must be used to promote life as opposed to using it to solely hurt and kill people vengefully.

Probability Of Success: the fight has to be fought only when there's a reasonable chance of success.

Last Resort: the violence must be used as a last resort when all else had failed.

Proportionality: the expected benefit of fighting the war has to be measured against its expected harm (principle of macro-proportionality).

Proportionality in "jus ad bellum" has to be assessed against the military operation as a whole (as opposed to individual attacks).


In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons. — Herodotus

Jus In Bello

Distinction: non-combatants must be distinguished from combatants. Those who are not responsible for the situation can't be targeted.

Proportionality: the violence in the war has to be proportionate to the expected military advantage toward the goal of defeating the enemy.

Proportionality in "jus in bello" has to be measured against individual attacks (as opposed to the military operation as a whole).

Military Necessity: there has to be a military necessity behind every act of violence in the course of the war. The use of violence must be out of necessity to defeat the enemy.

Prisoners Of War: prisoners of war have to be treated fairly.

No "Malum In Se": acts that are evil in themselves, such as torture and rape, must be prevented in the war.


Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die. — Herbert Hoover

Jus Post Bellum

Cause For Termination: war can be terminated if the conditions that led to the war have been remedied or can't be remedied at all or the aggressor is willing to surrender.

Right Intention: war should be terminated according to the above criteria. The victor must investigate the war crimes of the actors from both parties objectively and fairly and must not seek revenge.

Public Declaration And Authority: the peace agreement must be made by a legitimate authority, and the terms of the agreement should be publicly proclaimed.

Discrimination: political leaders should be differentiated from military leaders as much as combatants from civilians.

Proportionality: the post-war settlement for just and lasting peace must not do more harm than good for the affected people.

Two military generals on the phone

According to Peril, a book written by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, Mark Milley (a general in the United States Army) made phone calls to General Li Zuocheng (of the People's Liberation Army of China) during the final weeks of Trump's presidency. Milley promises his counterpart that nothing untoward would happen and that the United States is not going to attack or perform any kinetic operations against China.

"General Li, I want to assure you that the American government is stable and everything is going to be okay" — Mark Milley, October 30, 2020


"If we're going to attack, I'm going to call you ahead of time. It's not going to be a surprise."

One of the phone calls was made two days after the insurrection by Trump's supporters at the US Capitol.


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