We have all heard and read over the last few years, particularly in respect of the Iraq conflict, the expression ‘Just War.’ The principles of a theory of a ‘Just War’ are firmly rooted in the Christian Tradition. They were first laid down by St Augustine in 410 AD in a response to the ever-increasing closeness between the Church and the state. As the nature of war has evolved over the years so have the theories and the principles involved, and since 410 AD theologians and philosophers have developed the following eight recognised principles. I will leave it to you to decide if they have been adhered to in any particular situation…
Just cause: defence against violent and unjustified aggression against the state, or a neighbourhood state unable to defend itself.
Just intention: to restore peace to friend and foe. Revenge and hatred are unacceptable reasons for going to war
Last resort: all other efforts, including international negotiation, would have to have failed.
Proper authority: the decision to go to war must have been at the highest national or international authority level and with an official declaration of hostility.
Limited ends: war must be waged for limited ends, only to repel aggression and redress injustice.
Proportionality: the means to wage war must be proportional to the offence. The evils of the conduct of the war must not exceed the evils of the cause.
Protection of non-combatants: civilians must be protected from intentional attack.
Reasonable chance of success: if a just peace cannot be achieved then war would serve no purpose.
With regard to the last two points and in respect of modern weapons, the Catholic Church, at the second Vatican Council in 1962, declared that ‘they can inflict immense and indiscriminate havoc which goes far beyond the bounds of legitimate defence.’ There has been a suggestion that a ninth principle be added in order to rule out long-term environmental damage and to highlight the ‘need to protect the innocent future.’ Sadly this is still only a suggestion.