Just Peace

A documentary to end War

September 5, 2013
by justpeace
1 Comment

Just Peacemaking is a new philosophical paradigm, and as with anything new, the greatest understanding comes from comparison to what is currently known and accepted.  We need to spend a bit of time examining current philosophies of dealing with war – in particular those of Just War, Pacifism, and Crusade.

The following post is from a thesis, “Search For a New Model,” written by Rev. Paul “Chip” Jahn in the late 1990′s.  Over the next few days, we’ll be excerpting parts of his thesis as we look at the past theories of war in comparison to the new paradigm of Just Peace.

The theory of Just War

Christian just war theory is built on three convictions.  The first is that God is the author, creator and parent of all humanity.   Second, conflict between people and communities is inevitable.  It is the way sin, either individual or corporate, often manifests itself.  The third conviction is there are times when our respect for all God’s children will demand that we protect victims of unjust attacks.

There are two sets of criteria by which they judge a situation.  The first set is to judge whether going to war is justifiable.  The second set of criteria is used to judge whether the means of war are justifiable.


Just Criteria for Entering Into War

The number of criteria vary depending on the author.  Joseph Allen lists seven standards to deduce whether war is justifiable.

1.  Justifiable cause:  A justifiable cause might include such things as to protect people from an unjust attack,  to restore rights that have been unjustly taken away,  to defend or restore a just political order.

2.  Legitimate authority:  The prerogative to make the decision to go to war needs to lie within the hands of an authority that honestly represents the just interests of the people.

3.  Last resort:  All peaceful alternatives should be exhausted before people resort to war.

4.  Declaration of war aims:  The authority with the power to go to war explains and justifies its war aims.  This states clearly to its advisory the reasons for the impending conflict.  It also allows the citizens of the country an opportunity to deliberate the justness of the action.  Some just war proponents claim a declaration of war before hostilities begin can give an opponent an unfair advantage, taking away the element of surprise.

5.  Proportionality:  One should not resort to war if the evil created by armed conflict would be greater than the evil that would exist if there was no war.  The war should have the possibility of making the situation better.

6.  Reasonable chance at success:  War should only be considered if their is a reasonable chance at success.  This doesn’t mean just vanquishing ones enemies, it means achieving the war’s just objectives.

7.  Right intention:  The motivations of those entering into armed conflict need to be as just as the cause they fight for.  The intention of the just warrior ought to always be a more just peace.

Just Criteria in Conducting War

Using just war logic, the conduct of war should be shaped and limited by Christian love.  Discrimination and proportionality are the two criteria used to measure the just conduct of war.

1.  Discrimination:  Just war theory calls for a process of discrimination of what is a legitimate target of war.  Legitimate targets are military personnel or political leaders in the chain of command that have a active or cooperating role in the hostilities.  The criteria forbids direct and intentional attack on noncombatants.  These are civilians but also can include military personnel that do not pose a direct or potential threat, such as medical personnel.

The just war theorist recognizes that war is not an exact art and there are times when noncombatants become unintentional targets of a military action.  Joseph Allen places some responsibility on the noncombatant to keep themselves out of harms way.  Efforts should be made to avoid the intentional destruction of civilian targets.  Allen contends that the fire bombing of Dresden and Tokyo and the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki violated the principal of discrimination by intentionally choosing targets that would inevitably involve high proportion of civilian casualties.  It is not enough that noncombatants are not directly attacked.  The principle is violated if an attack on a military target leads to a disproportionately high number of noncombatant casualties.  On the other hand, he claimed the United States was not in violation of the just war principle when civilians were killed during the bombing of a military communication bunker during the Persian Gulf War if they were unaware it was also used as a civilian air raid shelter.

2.  Proportionality:  This is the just war principle of matching the amount of force to a justifiable objective.  As a strategic principle it is a matter of economy; you use enough force to accomplish the task.  But to meet the just war criteria of proportionality you do not use any more force than is needed.  Though just war theory recognizes killing enemy military as a legitimate war objective, the criteria of proportionality states that no more should be killed than absolutely necessary.

Christian just war thinking acknowledges the complexities of international conflict, and provides a philosophical model for measuring the cost of entering into and engaging in war.  It calls a wide range of community voices into the the discernment  processes, and gives them established, if not universally accepted, criteria to use in their judgments.  Just war theory recognizes that the mere absence of violence is not all that God wants for us.  Injustice is as much a state of human sin and brokeness as war is.  Oppression is just another form of violence.

- Rev. Paul “Chip” Jahn