Just War Theory

St. Augustine’s Just War Theory

St. Augustine and a few others are mainly responsible for the guidelines to the Just War Theory. This is a largely Christian philosophy that attempts to bring together three main things: taking human life is seriously wrong, defending citizens and justice of states, and protecting innocent human life as well as defending important moral values. The theory specifies conditions for judging if it is just to go to war, and conditions for how the war should be fought. The six conditions that St. Augustine explains must be satisfied to go to war will be extensively discussed later in the paper. The Pope’s condemnation to the current Iraqi war will also be discussed as well as personal opinions towards this condemnation.

The aim of the Just War Theory is to provide a guide to the right way for states to act in potential conflict situations. This theory is exclusively intended for states as opposed to individuals. St. Augustine believed that the only just reason for going to war was to maintain peace. In the book, The Just War, Paul Ramsey quotes St. Augustine on the main idea of going to war. “We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warning, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.”(Ramsey 151, on Augustine). Augustine tried to bring together Christian pacifism with the way it was; to bring together the pacifist teachings of Jesus with the obligation of Christians to fight for their country when required to. This concept was considered a prelude to Augustine’s conditions of a Just War. Augustine accepted that there would always be wars, and that war was generally a sin. But he also stated that war could be a consequence of sin and that war could be an accepted remedy for sin, thus war could sometimes be justified. In his discussions, Augustine made it very evident that individual and states have different responsibilities when it came to war and violence. Augustine said that the rulers of the states had the responsibilities to maintain peace, and this gave them the right to wage war in means to maintain the peace. Again in Ramsey’s The Just War, he quotes Augustine’s certain reasons for waging war when the time is right. “A just war is wont to be described as one that avenges wrongs, when a nation has to be punished for refusing to make amends for the wrongs inflicted by its subjects, or to restore what is has seized unjustly.”(Ramsey 155, on Augustine). This quote by Augustine states why an injustice is a greater evil than war, and it was proper to carry out a lesser evil if it would prevent a greater evil. But a war is only just if the people who are waging the war do it so with good intentions. This paves the way for St. Augustine to reveal his six conditions for a war to be just.

There are six conditions that must be present in order for a war to be considered a just war according to St. Augustine. First, the war must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority. This means that controlling governments of nations, not some isolated individuals, are allowed to declare and wage war against another nation. Only appropriately constituted public authorities may wage war. Secondly, the war must be fought for all the right reasons. Good intentions could include, creating, restoring, or keeping a just peace. Other conditions that would be deemed acceptable could be righting a wrong and/or assisting the innocent. This is one of the Just War conditions that are primarily religious in origin. If the people making up the state wage war for all the wrong reasons, then they endanger their soul, because God ultimately knows they did wrong and will be punished accordingly.

Next, there must be a reasonable chance for success. The waging war state should only go to war if the reasonable chance for victory is present. This idea is derived from the thinking that war is a great evil, and that it is wrong to cause suffering and pain, and death where there is no hope for success. Fourthly, the war must be for a just cause. A war is only just if it is fought for a reason that is justified, and something that carries a “moral weight”. The country that wishes to wage war against another country, must demonstrate sufficient evidence and proof that would make its case for being a just war. The main cause is to right a wrong. Sometimes a war fought to prevent a wrong from becoming could be considered a reason for a just war. St. Augustine says that there are three just causes of war: defending against an attack, recapturing things that were taken, and punishing people who have done wrong. Also, the means used must be in proportion to the end that the war seeks to achieve. This condition of proportionality can be looked at in two lights: first, the goal of the state waging the war needs to be proportional to the offense. This means that if one country invades a part of another country, the second country is morally allowed to take back the invaded part only, not to go on and invade the whole of the original invading country. Secondly, it must prevent more evil than the war itself causes. These benefits of conducting a war must be in proportion to the costs. Moreover, there should be a respect for all non-combatants or civilians. Simply saying that civilians should not be targeted, only military objectives should be the result of military force. Lastly, all other ways of resolving the problem should be exhausted before going to war. This condition simply explains that a state should only use war as a last resort of every other non violent alternate means has been tried. It would be senseless for the state to put innocent lives at risk if not everything has been made an effort to avert war. These conditions must be satisfied accordingly to be able to call a war a just war.

Today in regards to the current war in Iraq between the regime of Saddam Hussein and the United States, there has been much opposition to the war and the reasoning for the U.S. and its allies to wage this war with Iraq. According to the Pope John Paul II and his views, diplomacy and peace have been at the top of his concerns on the situation brewing in Iraq. For example, in two ways where the Vatican argues that the war in Iraq is not just, is where there is a lack of just cause or evidence and in addition to the authority which is waging the war against Iraq is not the ultimate authority according to John Paul II. The Vatican believes that there is little evidence of just cause of the war in Iraq, and denounces the idea of a preventive war as a “war of aggression” that does not fit the definition of a “just war.” According to articles published by reporters from Cardinals from the Vatican, the evidence that has been presented to the U.N. has been nothing but vague and unconvincing . Next, the Vatican believes when it comes to the Just War Doctrine, that the U.N. is the ultimate authority when it comes to waging wars. From the middle years of the 20th century, the Vatican has often said that the appropriate authority should be the United Nations, rather than individual states. The Vatican believes now that the U.N. is the highest authority in the world, only a war authorized by the U.N. would be considered as a just war. In Pope John Paul II’s address to the diplomatic corps in mid January, the Pope is quoted as saying about the possible Iraqi war, “War is not always inevitable War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling difference”. This statement by the Vatican expresses their deep concern over the fact that peace must be tried throughout all paths.

Being a practicing Catholic and a member of the church, I respect the Vatican’s stance on the current situation in Iraq, but I also strongly disagree with its comments on the war and believe strongly that coalition’s war on Iraq is a just war. The two points listed in the above paragraph from the Vatican state that the United States is lacking just cause due to a lack of evidence and that not the ultimate authority, which is the United Nations, has not given its support behind a U.S. led coalition war. In response to their argument, the U.S. and the U.N. have given the Iraqi government 12 years of sanctions and rules to follow at which they have failed miserably. To many viewers of this war, the 12 years of deceitful activity is evidence enough. If the world knows he has these weapons of mass destruction then why should the world wait to see them possibly used by terrorists against America and her allies? As for the second argument that the Vatican makes on whether or not the U.N. is the ultimate authority, the United States is a recognized and elected democracy that is acknowledged around the world as a lawful government. I think the U.N. will only do so much and in the shadows of 9/11, I think the U.S. should do everything in their power to prevent another tragedy that occurred on that horrific day. If the U.N. would do what they stand for then they would take harder measures on Iraq and not tolerate deceitful behavior as they have for the past twelve years. Since 9/11, I think every country has the right to defend themselves from governments who support terrorists, and if the U.N. will not convene then they countries should take their own measures to ensure the safety of their people. The U.N. lost their ultimate authority the day they would not put more pressure on Iraq to cooperate with weapons inspectors. There is no reason why the United States should not defend us against a regime that has nothing but hatred for the U.S. and that has the eagerness to use weapons of mass destruction.

In conclusion, I think that St. Augustine and company’s basis for war is a very fair and just way of thinking of conducting wars. In support of the current situation in Iraq, I think the just war doctrine was represented clearly and throughouly and the conditions were met. The Vatican’s concern over the war and arguments are well thought and I think deserved the White House’s consideration before and throughout the war, but the U.S. also has the right to defend ourselves and especially to prevent another September, 11.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *