The Legitimacy of War – Toward a New Principle for Intervention, with its Application to the Iraq War of 2003

Authored by: Troy Davis

The Ashgate Research Companion to War

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

Print ISBN: 9780754678267
eBook ISBN: 9781315613741
Adobe ISBN: 9781317041115


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One of the major problems of war is how to decide whether it is legitimate. This problem is one of the manifold issues addressed in Just War Theory (JWT). JWT finds its grounding in the general philosophical concepts of natural law used by the ancient Greeks and then Cicero, the great Roman writer, philosopher and statesman, who strived to determine the perfect form of government and to revive the Roman Republic. Early and medieval Christian theologians like St Augustine of Hippo and St Thomas Aquinas further refined these concepts, while the Dutch theologian and jurist Hugo Grotius published in Paris in 1625 the first extensive and detailed discussion of the subject, 1 1

Hugo Grotius, On the Law of War and Peace, translated from “De Jure Belli ac Pacis” by A.C. Campbell, AM (Kitchener ON: Batoche Books, 2001).

laying down as his introduction a general theory of international law as emanating from a natural law common to all humanity:

After examining the sources of right, the first and most general question that occurs, is whether any war is just, or if it is ever lawful to make war. But this question like many others that follow, must in the first place be compared with the rights of nature. Cicero in the third book of his Bounds of Good and Evil … proves with great erudition from the writings of the Stoics, that there are certain first principles of nature, called by the Greeks the first natural impressions, which are succeeded by other principles of obligation superior even to the first impressions themselves. 2 2

Ibid., 18.

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