The increasingly widespread and energetic engagement with the idea of just war over the last fifty years of thinking on morality and armed conflict—especially in English-speaking countries—presents a striking contrast to the previous several centuries, going back to the early 1600s, in which thinkers addressing moral issues related to war did so without reference to the just war idea.
Have the critics of the historical approach to just war theory landed it a knock-out blow, or can it withstand the bricks and bats that have been hurled its way? This article will elucidate four of the most hard-hitting charges levied at the historical approach, and evaluate its continuing utility in light of them.
Given the niche occupied by just war thinking in contemporary policy discourse, it is worth asking several basic questions about the just war vocabulary. What purposes does it (or can it) serve? What is the nature of its authority? How does or ought just war thinking proceed? Or, to put it another way, how does one recognize “good” just war thinking?
Just war scholars often do not differentiate between force and war, but rather talk about bellum justum as if all uses of force implied the same moral challenges. The tendency is therefore to evaluate forces short of war through the lens of jus ad bellum. We question whether this assumption is warranted.
In this article, we explain why an ideal typical war cannot be regulated with rules that attach to individuals’ moral status; propose an alternative framework for regulating the conduct of hostilities that hinges on military necessity; and argue that its deliberate departure from individual rights–based morality is morally preferable.
It is generally assumed that when judging the proportionality of a humanitarian intervention, these consequences must be factored into the equation. If an intervention is expected to provoke adverse reactions the accumulated costs of which will outweigh the benefits that the intervention will deliver, then the intervention is thought to be disproportional and, therefore, unjustified. I want to challenge this assumption.
Morality and War is a timely addition to contemporary just war literature. While advocating the use of just war principles to evaluate modern armed conflict, Fisher takes the innovative step of introducing virtue theory into these debates. Largely neglected by just war theorists, virtue theory has, for example, invigorated bioethics by providing an antidote to the rigidity of principled moral thinking while also offering a useful and versatile educational tool.