Terrorism and the Just War Tradition Essay

Terrorism and the Just War Tradition Essay

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Terrorism and the Just War Tradition

  It´s important, at the outset, to understand what the just-war tradition is, and isn´t. The just-war tradition is not an algebra that provides custom-made, clear-cut answers under all circumstances. Rather, it is a kind of ethical calculus, in which moral reasoning and rigorous empirical analysis are meant to work together, in order to provide guidance to public authorities on whom the responsibilities of decision-making fall. This essay will study the tradition and apply it to the Sept. 11 aftermath.


From its beginnings in St. Augustine, just-war thinking has been based on the presumption -- better, the classic moral judgment -- that rightly-constituted public authorities have the moral duty to pursue justice -- even at risk to themselves and those for whom they are responsible. That is why, for example, St. Thomas Aquinas discussed just war under the broader subject of the meaning of "charity," and why the eminent Protestant theologian Paul Ramsey argued that the just-war tradition is an attempt to think through the public meaning of the commandment of love-of-neighbor. In today´s international context, "justice" includes the defense of freedom (especially religious freedom), and the defense of a minimum of order in international affairs. For these are the crucial components of the peace that is possible in a fallen world.


This presumption -- that the pursuit of justice is a moral obligation of statecraft -- shapes the first set of moral criteria in the just-war tradition, which scholars call the "ius ad bellum" or "war-decision law:" Is the cause a just one? Will the war be conducted by a responsible public authority? Is there a "right intention" (which, among ...

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...tc.; no one suggests that guerrilla warfare is anything other than warfare. It is true that the just-war tradition is accustomed to thinking of states as the only "unit-of-count" in world politics. The new situation demands a development of the just-war tradition. As a method of moral reasoning about politics, the just-war tradition emerged long before the state system; the tradition developed to deal with the realities of a world in which states were the primary actors, and now it must develop to help us think through our moral obligations in a world in which non-state actors, like terrorist organizations and networks (often allied with states), are crucial, and intentionally lethal, actors.







In Response to Terrorism.



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