The Justification of War

With her brother on her back a war weary Korean girl tiredly trudges by a stalled M-26 tank, at Haengju, Korea.  June 9, 1951.  Maj. R.V. Spencer, UAF. (Navy) NARA FILE #:  080-G-429691 WAR & CONFLICT BOOK #:  1485

  • What do we see in the picture?
  • What is shown about the world in the photo?
  • What is your reaction to the photo?

One of the age-old questions facing humankind is: when is war justified. Or, put another way, is there such a thing as a just war? Almost no leader will remain in power if he or she risks the lives of soldiers and civilians without assuring them that their mission is just and that of the enemy unjust. Some would argue, however, that many leaders use the language of just principles simply to justify wars they would fight in any case.

Many people believe in the concept of a just war, as defined by these fundamental principles:

  • A just war must be a last resort;
  • all peaceful options must be exhausted before the use of force can be
  • justified;
  • A war is just only if waged by a legitimate authority;
  • A just war must be fought only as self-defense against armed attack or to redress a wrong;
  • There must be a reasonable chance of success; deaths and injury that result from a hopeless cause cannot be morally justified;
  • The consequences of the war must be better than the situation that would exist had the war not taken place;
  • The violence and destruction must be proportional to the injury suffered;
  • Civilians must not be targets of the fighting and great care must be taken to avoid civilian casualties.

Others, however, would argue that the concept of a just war remains very subjective, and still others argue, usually for moral or religious reasons, that war can never be justified. The principles themselves raise many issues. Are wars just only when fought in self-defense? Wars may be fought to redress an injury to a people or a society, yet it is unclear who determines that an injury has occurred. Also, upon what basis can one establish whether civilians were deliberately targeted or that the violence was proportional? Those who argue for “just wars” believe that the goal of a just war must be to bring about peace, a peace that is preferable to whatever situation would have existed in the absence of the war. How can this claim be substantiated, and who should determine whether peaceful options have been exhausted or the extent to which one party has been wronged?


Questions to discuss:

Why is there war?

What kind of wars are there?

What are the consequences of war?

Can war be justified? Why/why not?

File:Pages from justification

En tanke på “The Justification of War”

  1. why is there war? There are many causes for war, the economy, the social and the political rellationships between countries. or by their own intresst, maybe they want to show that they are the bosses.

    what kind of wars are there? The kind of war we have in the world today is the terrorists, and the fight against them. its not just a war with guns, there is war socially, we are fighting for the oil and all the goods. some people are destroying the world because they want to show us we are living the wrong way.

    what are the consequences of war? people have to escape their country. inocent people die.
    revenge and emotions, and fear.

    war can be justified because people are observing how bad it is.
    its bad because war isnt good at all. is there even a meaning of war? war is destroying the trust to countries and people. its harming us.
    LInus och kaye



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