The Broken Tradition

In the ongoing argument between foreign policy realists andidealists, the just-war tradition of moral reasoning about the use offorce has played a crucial mediating role for centuries.

Issue: Fall 1996

In the ongoing argument between foreign policy realists and
idealists, the just-war tradition of moral reasoning about the use of
force has played a crucial mediating role for centuries. Rooted in
the conviction that all human action--even in the distinctive field
of international affairs, and even in the extremity of war--is
susceptible to moral scrutiny and judgment, the just-war tradition
has insisted that moralists take a realistic account of politics as
an arena of conflict in which the quest for justice and peace is
inevitably fraught with ambiguity and disagreement. Its mediation has
also enabled statesmen to maintain an accepted role for moral
judgment in the very domain--that of war--farthest from the regular
application of human compassion, law, and comity. Just-war theory
has, in short, been a civilized and civilizing agent in the darkest
corners of the human social endeavor, and it has kept the church from
straying too far from the realm of this world.

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