Just War criteria – a summary

The various Just War criteria are summarised here.

The Criteria for a Just War

Taken from the Old Testament

  •  “At the same time we captured and destroyed every town and put everyone to death – men, women and children. We left no survivors.” (Deut. 2:34)
  • “Joshua spared no-one, everyone was put to death. This was what the Lord God of Israel commanded.” (Joshua 10:40)

Augustine laid down two conditions:

  • It had to have a legitimate authority
  • Had to be a just cause

Q: What is the purpose of war? Aquinas added a third:

  • There has to be a right intention

At the Nuremberg trial, two problems came through:

  1. When is it right to go to war ?- Jus ad Bellum
  2. How should war be fought ?- Jus in Bello

Catholic Bishops in America set out conditions for a just war in 1983: Jus ad bellum –

  1. There must be a cause.
  2. war must be declared by a competent and legal authority.
  3. Comparative justice – the justice of the claims of both sides must be compared.
  4. There must be a right intention in going to war.
  5. War must be a last resort.
  6. There must be a reasonable probability of success.
  7. There must be a reasonable proportion between the injustice suffered and the death and suffering of war.

Jus in bellum –

  1. Proportionality
  2. Discrimination

Objections to just war theory

  • Pacifism
  • Tyrannicide – Bonhoeffer
  • High Moral standard of government. Walter Wink argues that war can never be just as justice requires fairness on both sides and war can never deliver.

Question: If people in country S are starving to death for lack of food and those in country M have a large surplus of food, could it be just for S to go to war with M if all attempts to obtain relief through negotiation have failed?







Past Questions

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