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Criteria of a Just War

  • Last resort. “All other means to the morally just solution of a conflict must be exhausted before resort to arms can be regarded as legitimate.”
  • Just cause. “War can be just only if employed to defend a stable order or morally preferable cause against threats of destruction or the use of injustice.” (Goals must be seen as just, the opponent must be clearly unjust, even though there is ambiguity in the self.)
  • Right attitudes. “War must be carried out with the right attitudes. (The intention must be the restoration of justice, not retaliation or revenge.)
  • Prior declaration of war. “War must be explicitly declared by a legitimate authority.” (A formal declaration must precede conflict.)
  • Reasonable hope of success. “War may be conducted only by military means that promise a reasonable attainment of the moral and political objectives being sought.” (If there is not a reasonable chance of success then it is wrong to fight no matter how just the cause.)
  • Noncombatant immunity. “Selective immunity must be honored for certain parts of the enemy’s population” (particularly noncombatants, women, aged and children).
  • Proportionality. “There must be reasonable expectation that the good results will exceed the evils involved.” (Thus any victory whose cost is greater than the eventual outcome expected is not right.)

David Augsberger, When Enough is Enough, (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1984), p. 171.