Just War Theory, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

Authored by: Paul Robinson

The Ashgate Research Companion to Religion and Conflict Resolution

Print publication date:  November  2012
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9781409410898
eBook ISBN: 9781315613505
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041832


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Just war theory refers to the body of thought, arising primarily out of the Western Christian tradition, which addresses the questions of when war may be justified (referred to as ‘ius ad bellum’) and what actions are justifiable during war (‘ius in bello’), and in some modern manifestations also what actions are morally necessary after war (‘ius post bellum’). Strictly speaking it is not a single ‘theory’ at all, in that there is no firm agreement about the answers to these questions. For this reason, it is perhaps better considered as a framework for discussion within certain recognized parameters and many writers prefer to speak of the just war ‘tradition’ rather than just war ‘theory’. Alex Bellamy, for instance, writes that ‘The Just War tradition is a two-thousand-year-old conversation about the legitimacy of war’, which ‘provides a justificatory framework; a meaningful language that soldiers and politicians use to legitimize their actions and that friends, foes and bystanders alike use to evaluate those claims’ (Bellamy 2006, p.2).

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