Justice and the War

When is war just?  In the American tradition, the justice or injustice of war has turned primarily upon the circumstances immediately attending the initiation of force.

Issue: Fall 1991

When is war just?  In the American tradition, the justice or injustice of war has turned primarily upon the circumstances immediately attending the initiation of force.  The just war is the war waged in self defense or in collective defense against an armed attack.  Conversely, the unjust war is the war initiated in circumstances other than those of self or collective defense against armed aggression.  The American view of just war has thus been characterized by a singular preoccupation with the overt act of resorting to force.  It has proceeded from the conviction that whatever a state's grievances, aggressive war is an unjust--and illegal--means for settling those grievances.  This conviction was given full expression in the Gulf War.

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