This is the question, more or less, that I have to try and deal with in a 1000-2000 word essay to be published in a book. The actual question is, “What is Just War theory, and is it still viable today?” As a pacifist by upbringing and personal conviction, my instinct is to answer “no” to the second question. However, the essay has to be 2000 words long, not 1. I feel like the major question I have to deal with is about the protection of the innocent in places like the Sudan where people face brutal violence. One book that is helping me work through this is Against the Nations by Stanley Hauerwas. I haven’t finished all of it yet, but it deals with the issue of a survivalist mentality in Christianity, which I think (I haven’t read it yet)is along the lines of, “Christians should be more willing to lose their lives on behalf of the innocent without taking the life of the aggressor.” That is the position I find myself leaning towards arguing for in my chapter.
Here’s what Hauerwas says are the traditional Just War principles: 1)declared by a legitimate authority; 2)has a just cause; 3)that there can be reasonable hope of success; 4)proportionally more good than evil comes from the war; 5)the war can be fought with a just intention; 6)noncombatant immunity; 7)the object is not to kill the enemy but to incapacitate them, therefore prisoners of war as treated respectfully; and 8)unnecessary suffering is avoided.
From a merely pragmatic standpoint, principles 1,2,3,4, and 5 are problematic, since I can think of no war that actually abides by them. Of course, the logical question is whether or not a war must have all of these or just some to be considered just. In today’s world, a “legitimate authority” is another serious question. Why is, for instance, the U.S. a legitimate authority? Or is it? Would the U.N. be a legitimate authority? Principle #5 is the other biggie. I think that governments are not capable of engaging in war based on just intentions. Governments are by definition self-seeking. God’s justice requires love of neighbor, of putting others ahead of oneself, and a country cannot do that. That’s not to say that a country cannot do something on behalf of another, but only to say that pure justice, and pure, just intentions, are not possible with a government. The U.S., for instance, would not engage in a war where it did not see some profitable gain for itself.
I believe that the primary position of any Christian must be one of nonviolence, and of taking violence on oneself on behalf of another. That’s true imatio dei. I’ll stop here. I think my next post will go more into my actual argument for the chapter.