Rethinking the ‘Just War,’ Part 2

The Second of a Two Part Series

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Before presenting a critique of traditional just war theory (which I call the “Theory,” for short) I should make two points of clarification. Although the Theory is largely congruent with the international law of war, the subject of just war theory is not law but morality. If the inconsistencies and absurdities I will describe were confined to the law, they would be less troubling. Because the law is an artifact and does not purport to state truths about a reality that is independent of human invention, it can tolerate considerable disunity. But just war theory is usually understood as a set of principles that have been discovered rather than designed, and that provide an objective account of the morality of war. If just war theory is more than just a set of conventions, and if the objections I will advance here are correct, the traditional version of just war theory must be rejected. Continue reading