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What are the main features of the 'just war theory'? Examine and comment on the reasons why some thinkers criticise this theory?

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Introduction

What are the main features of the 'just war theory'? Examine and comment on the reasons why some thinkers criticise this theory? By Lucy Cox War is commonly known as open armed conflict between two or more parties, nations or states. Within a war the aim is usually to triumph over the opponent by inflicting maximum damage upon them with minimum damage to themselves. The just war theory looks at how situations such as these can be carried out fairly and justly with the minimum amount of suffering possible. In this essay I am going to outline the main characteristics of the just war theory mainly devised by Thomas Aquinas and then decipher how successful it is in determining how workable the theory is in the face of conflict and warfare. The just war theory was first developed by Aristotle and Cicero in 4 BCE who said that war for the purpose of self-defence was justified. It was later expanded on by St. Augustine in the 5th century when the leader of Rome felt that the pacifist Christian attitude of the society was weakening Rome's defences. Many were reluctant to fight believing the teaching of Jesus from the Bible that you must always turn the other cheek, so Augustine justified the idea of war to defend the church in the threatening of the faith. ...read more.

Middle

In the case of civil wars it does not suggest the correct behaviour towards a situation where the current legitimate authority is incompetent. It denies oppressed people the opportunity to defend their rights. It may seem that to avoid the unnecessary destruction of life would be desirable but in the case of a group of oppressed people by their nation leader they would feel that their chances of success in securing their basic human rights would be low. Does this mean that they should not fight; some may say that 'it is better to die standing up than to live kneeling down.' Sometimes can it be right to protest against injustice and give your life even if you cannot win, especially if it is the last resort. The just war theory does not explain what would be the moral thing to do in this case. Pacifists would argue that you could always submit rather than wage war meaning that the last resort would never outcome in war only peace. The just war theory also recognises the need to have a real and certain danger before entering war and that the aim of that war should be to rid the nation of that danger but it is unrealistic to suppose that there would be a single cause or intention in going to war. ...read more.

Conclusion

The just war theory provides criteria for the waging of war and so makes nations think carefully about their decisions and not act unnecessarily. The just war theory is also strong as it can be used as a Christian ethic as its basis is taken from the Bible. Overall the just war theory is probably effective in its reduction of wars occurring if at every conflict the nation considers the criteria before waging war. However these strengths are not strong enough to redeem the just war theory of its weaknesses. It is still too simplistic, ambiguous and impractical to be completely workable. The theory is either going to be too simplistic making generalisations and not considering all aspects of war or too specific and exclude some circumstances. It is completely open to interpretation and with clever manipulation the just war theory could be used to justify many immoral situations in war. It is also unworkable in that many points fail when it is realised that you cannot predict the future and that a war can never be just if both sides are not following the just war theory in which case war would never have started at all. Overall the just war theory can only be applied as guidelines for the waging of wars and not possibly a set of rules. ...read more.

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