The Broken Tradition

The Broken Tradition

Mini Teaser: 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.

by Author(s): James Turner Johnson

Restoring Justice to Just-War Reasoning

Despite the existence of such variable circumstances, some modern
just-war theorists have marginalized themselves to the point where
they can barely speak to such matters. It is hard to see how, from a
posture defined by the "presumption against war", uses of force can
be justified for reasons of national interest other than resistance
to a direct attack in progress (and perhaps not then, if the
prudential tests are not met), even in the face of serious threat to
national security or for international order purposes. Yet these
kinds of cases provide the context for debate over the use of force
today: threats to national interest take such forms as terrorist
attack and the drug trade; recent international order concerns
include rolling back aggression (the Gulf War), promoting human
rights and democracy (Haiti), and ending an indiscriminately
destructive civil war (Bosnia). Just-war theory, if brought back to
its real roots, can be relevant to all these contingencies. The way
to do this is to restore the centrality of the idea of justice to
reasoning about the use of force.

There is no question that classic just-war theorists were motivated
in their thinking about the use of force by the desire to prevent,
punish, and remedy injustice, and even to do so at risk to
oneself--as per Ambrose and Augustine. The purpose of statecraft

Essay Types: Book Review