just war theory
Set of conditions under which a resort to war is morally legitimate (jus ad bellum); also, rules for the moral conduct of war (jus in bello). Among the proposed conditions for the just resort to war are that the cause be just (e.g., self-defense against an attack or the threat of imminent attack), that the authority undertaking the war be competent, that all peaceful alternatives be exhausted, and that there be a reasonable hope of success. Two of the most important conditions for the just conduct of war are that the force used be proportional to the just cause the war is supposed to serve (in the sense that the evil created by the war must not outweigh the good represented by the just cause) and that military personnel be discriminated from innocents (noncombatant civilians), who may not be killed. The concept of just war was developed in the early Christian church; it was discussed by St. Augustine in the 4th century and was still accepted by Hugo Grotius in the 17th century. Interest in the concept thereafter declined, though it was revived in the 20th century in connection with the development of nuclear weapons (the use of which, according to some, would violate the conditions of proportionality and discrimination) and the advent of humanitarian intervention to put an end to acts of genocide and other crimes committed within the borders of a single state.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on just war theory, visit Britannica.com.
Seen & Heard
What made you look up just war theory? Please tell us what you were reading, watching or discussing that led you here.