Posted by: graemebird | February 4, 2007


From Tigerdroppings:

Its excellent doctrine. And it can be used to show where the administration has come off the beam.

It must be stressed that these are seven guidelines as opposed to Ten Commandments.

And we need to look at them again in the modern context.

Lets look at them all again in light of the modern context and in light of what the
American administration has done.

1. A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.

This is the one that needs the most updating. With weapons of mass destruction in the world this NO.1 is untenable. Also its untenable for terrorism.

Since terrorism is a CHRONIC rather then a CATASTROPHIC problem so formulated as to get under our threshold for war.

So where there is either terrosism of WMD physical action must be a first rather then a last resort.

2. A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.

No problem on our side of the rumble here.

3. A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient–see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with “right” intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.

No problem there either.

4. A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.

Now this highlights a grave mistake on the part of the administration. Not in that they went to war. And not exactly that they went to war without a strategy that could work.

The BIGGEST mistake came in mid-2003 when the enemy (ie the American left and the neighbouring Jihadist countries) changed their strategy. But the administration did not change their own strategy to meet this.

And the continuation of reactive defense within the geographical contraints of Afghanistan and Iraq could not be reasonably expected to wear down jihadist countries who could pick up $50-$80 for a barrel of oil and could produce millions of these barrels every day.

5. The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.

Very good.

6. The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.

No problem.

7. The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

All is well.

I think this doctrine is excellent and very helpful in showing where things have gone wrong.



  1. “The BIGGEST mistake came in mid-2003 when the enemy (ie the American left and the neighbouring Jihadist countries) changed their strategy”


  2. Well its true and there’s no use bullshitting about it.

    In fact all these wars have this inside-the-drawbridge and outside-the-drawbridge duality.

    At least wars that democracies are invloved with have this aspect to them.

  3. […] conservative Mark Richardson asks some hard questions about ethnic diversity, while Graeme Bird walks through St Thomas Aquinas’ doctrine of the just war and wonders if it applies to the War on Terror. In other news, Tim Blair rounds up the signatories […]

  4. Good post, Graeme. The just war doctrine has stood the test of centuries and remains as true as the day it was first articulated.

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