Just War theory
Most religions offer teaching on war and conflict. And over time religion has been at the heart of conflict between nations.
The majority of people believe that fighting and killing are wrong but they might agree that in some situations war is inevitable, particularly for defence.
A Holy War and a Just War are different.
The aim of a Holy War is to protect the religion of the people concerned. A famous Holy War fought by Christians was the Crusades of a thousand years ago when Christian Europe claimed the Holy Land from the Muslims who governed it.
A Just War is just if it is fought for a reason that is justifiable, and that carries sufficient moral weight. The country that wishes to use military force must demonstrate that there is a ‘just’ cause to do so.
A Just War is one which has to be fought but is conducted according to certain conditions. These were developed by Thomas Aquinas (c1225-74) and Francisco de Vitoria (c1483-1546) and are still referred to by Christians today.
The theory is not intended to justify all wars but to prevent them by showing that going to war - except in certain limited circumstances - is wrong. The intention was to motivate states to find other ways of resolving conflicts, prevent war and to limit its effects.
The conditions of a Just War are:
Some wars can appear to meet all of these conditions. For example, World War Two (1939-1945) would appear to have been a Just War:
This looks as though it was a ‘properly constituted’ Just War, but actions like the Allied bombing of Dresden, a two-day raid by almost 2,400 bombers that destroyed the city and killed perhaps 135,000 civilians to virtually no military purpose, certainly broke the final condition.