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Can war ever be justified? Essay

War is an inevitable part of the history of humankind. Unlike natural happenings, war is an action of people inflicted of other people. This issue has raised ethical problems, which are still problematic till today. War is by common sense evil, but can it ever be less evil? There are a number of varying options when discussing the issue of a ‘justifiable war’. Some people argue that war is always justifiable while others argue that it can never be. Some maintain that due to human conditions, war is inevitable. Can it ever be morally justifiable to use force so as to preserve values within a society such as justice, peace and freedom? The Pacifists argue that war is never morally justifies, while others argue that war at times is justifiable, and therefore they produce what one may call the ‘just war tradition’.

The just war tradition represents a fund of practical moral insight based on a reflection on actual problems as these have occurred in different historical contexts. The moral insights and practices that make up the tradition reflect the judgments and experience of people coming from a wide range of cultural institutions. Unjustly causing harm to someone is never justified, and is referred to as an absolute moral obligation. An absolute moral obligation therefore refers to an obligation which has priority over all other moral obligations. On the other hand, to inflict harm which may or may not be justified can be referred to as prima facie moral obligation.

A prima facie moral obligation is an obligation which has a strong moral reason supporting it. However such obligation may be overridden under special circumstances, like self-defense. Therefore it is ethically correct to harm someone else in order to protect yourself and others. The ‘just war tradition’ provides three fundamental moral reminders. The use of force is sometimes necessary to preserve values that would otherwise be lost. Any resort to force and the application to forceful means have to be subjected to an intentionality of justification and restraint, and the means and techniques of war should serve the legitimate moral aims of the employment force. Can war be ethically justifiable? Two sets of rules have been developed to assess when choosing violence can be justified, as well as to set limits on the amount of force. These two sets of rules are referred to as jus ad bellum, which is the right to war, and jus in Bello, which is the right in war. Jus ad bellum refers to whether the option to use force in a particular situation is justified, while jus in Bello refers to whether the type of force is to be justified. There are conditions in both jus ad bellum and in jus in Bello. The conditions in jus in Bello are proportionality of specific tactics and the immunity of non-combatants.

The killing of innocent people during war is a criminal and who do it will be punished. The conditions in jus ad bellum are that there must be a legitimate authority and the need for a declaration of war (from the legitimate authority itself). There have to be a Just Cause, for example to defend human life; no one can start a war without a reason. In a just war there have to be right intentions. One can kill others to stop them from attacking his country. There have to be reasonable hope of success; you only declare a war with the hope of winning. Courage is to refuse to obey orders which are inhumane and to know when you need to stop (surrender). War has to be the last resort and one has to try and avoid it when possible. The last but not least is proportionality of the whole enterprise. There is the need to calculate the beneficial and harmful results. There have to be more positive results than negative ones. Thomas Aquinas held that a war can only be justified if three conditions are satisfied.

The war must be legally declared by a public authority that is legitimately authorized to commit a people to war; the war must be declared by someone who can be entrusted with the care of the common good and a legal authority to declare a war. The war must be pursued for a morally just cause, like self-defense or to take something which is yours back; it isn’t right to engage in a war against a nation that has done nothing to deserve it. Those who are engaged in fighting a war must have a rightful intention; they must intend only to achieve the just end and must not be provoked. Some conditions are added to those of Aquinas by those who use the just war theory to evaluate the morality of war and of the weapons of war.

They added that the war must be fought only as a last resort; so if there is another way of achieving one’s just end, the war will not be just. There must be a reasonable hope of success. The war must be aimed to produce more good than harm, and it is wrong to use methods of warfare that cause more injuries and deaths than necessary. Therefore as to conclude, one must say that war has its rules and they should be followed. To declare a war one must have the right intention and a reasonable hope of success, and it must be fought only when nothing else can be done to achieve the results desired.

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