Debates about the justice or injustice of war have been going on for centuries. People are divided into two opinions, those who hold the opinion that war can be justified if there are reasons and those who do not allow the justice of this action under any circumstances. With all of the above, this academic paper adheres to the opinion that two wrongs do not make a right and stands up for the view that none of the scientists was suitable. This point of view is justified by the fact that the nature of war is antithetical to peace, which is an obligatory condition for human life, its flourishing, and advancement. Disruption of these processes, especially so violently, is immoral and cannot, therefore, produce a morally justified action and become a just war.
This study considers it necessary, first of all, to determine the motives for adhering to the presented point of view. Any form of aggression or violence is initially the disruption of peace and an immoral act in relation to humanity and human rights. Hence, regardless of the reasons, military actions cannot be fully justified. In addition, “war and all killing in war involve agents in an irreducible moral dilemma” (Parsons & Wilson, 2020, p. 105). Moreover, the means that are used during an armed conflict, which can become a severe threat to the well-being of people, are also unethical.
One of the aspects that this work refutes is the theory of just war. The main concepts within this approach are Jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello, in other words, justice in the conduct of war and justification for the original going to war (Walzer, 2006). They help in gaining a more detailed understanding of why some consider military actions to be fair while others do not. The first aspect being analyzed is Jus in Bello. It consists of two leading principles, which establish the fundamental foundations of a fair war. They are discrimination and proportionality, and they also contribute to the formation of impartial and unwavering behavior directly during the conduct of hostilities.
The two principles mentioned are justifications for maintaining the opinion about the justice of the war. Discrimination pursues the goals for which an armed conflict was initiated, and proportionality provides a justification for the use of physical force and the ethics of this action. However, war cannot be justified by any goals, and violence breaks moral values and fundamental human rights, such as peace and safety. At the same time, the theory of just war attempts to defend its postulates that form the moral boundaries of the actions performed. Thereby it emphasizes that not all actions are good and effective in achieving the goal.
One of the justifications for war is the desire to protect human lives and a peaceful environment, which also implies defining the boundaries of armed actions and regulating the scale of violence used. These aspects are determined while taking into account humanitarian law; however, they are not always respected. Hence, in many cases, either people who directly take part in hostilities suffer or those who prefer to stay out of the conflict between countries and peace in them are affected. Nevertheless, in cases of human rights and freedoms violations, Jus in Bello has regulatory norms that can be noted as positive. In such cases, this concept implies that individuals are responsible for their actions (McMahan, 2006). This is because if the rules of discrimination and proportionality are violated and an unethical act is committed, such as an attack on civilians, the actions of the military can be regarded as murder.
One of the moral aspects of conducting military operations is gaining responsibility for the actions committed. Sources underline that “traditional just war doctrine holds that political leaders are morally responsible for the decision to initiate war, while individual soldiers should be judged solely by their conduct in war” (Sagan & Valentino, 2019, p. 411). However, this aspect concerns the government, leadership positions, and soldiers who decide to take part in the war.
Another aspect that deals with the justification for entering the war is Jus ad Bellum. Research states that “because congruence between law and morality is ideal, the morality of Jus ad Bellum is one standard against which the amendments can be evaluated” (McMahan, 2017, p. 1386). Among the derived criteria, ensuring the achievement of success and the control and regulation of any military action by qualified and informed governing bodies are highlighted. Another criterion is the introduction of troops into the territory of a foreign state as a last resort, which is applied if there are other alternatives. Only when these criteria are met this approach can consider war a justified action.
The main criticism that comes out in relation to Jus ad Bellum is the lack of broad-mindedness in relation to the problem of maintaining and finding reasons for military actions. Countries have the opportunity to protect themselves from aggression from other States without using military forces in the first place. Proponents of this concept justify preemptive strikes if the government feels that a conflict situation is possible. The phenomenon of dividing countries into aggressors and defenders is also characterized by excessive simplification. Followers of this theory believe that in some exceptional cases, it is possible to violate the borders of the country, and the use of force can be justified since it is used to eliminate serious problems. One of such cases may be the government’s wrong and illegitimate attitude towards the people, which restricts or wholly violates their rights.
This approach also emphasizes the mandatory existence of a reason for the outbreak of war by one or another state. One of them is the manifestation of aggression; however, this academic work does not consider it an entirely reasonable movement. Any conflict that arises between countries can be resolved peacefully since the war and armed actions have social, economic, political, and overall severe global consequences. Therefore, no reason can justify the high cost of war since, during it, the most valuable thing goes away; these are people’s lives and peace. In addition, significant financial and political expenses and costs, which are rather difficult to compensate, are experienced by both sides of the conflict. Even the conquest of lands cannot be justified since, in any case, innocent residents and the aggressor state will suffer.
Despite the existing concepts that try to provide rational justifications for the war, the study supports the view that it has no reasons and cannot bring positive results. This fact is because military actions violate peace in countries and the world and bring undesirable consequences for the participating countries and the whole world. Peace is one of the fundamental human rights, the violation of which should not be considered. Consequently, during military operations, not only this right is broken, but also those that relate to freedom and inviolability. Recovery from the actions that occurred may take an extraordinary amount of time, and in some cases, restoring the world may not be possible. This fact alone emphasizes that no justification can prove the correctness and reasonableness of the war.
Based on the analyzed information, this work adheres to the opinion that war cannot be justified by any reasons and is only a critical instance and an extreme measure. This violates all ethical and moral principles and tramples the most basic human need and right-peace. Moreover, it prevents countries from developing and flourishing and can bring states back a few steps in their development. Despite the goals and possible achievements that can be obtained during the war, it takes people’s lives and stimulates severe conflicts. This factor applies both to participants’ lives in hostilities and to innocent residents. It violates human rights and freedoms and thus cannot have a rational justification.
One of the main components of war is military actions that cannot be fundamentally moral and can significantly harm the peace of any country. They cause harm to humanity and cannot be calculated as ethical under any circumstances. This also concerns the justification of war as an agent for creating peace on a global level. However, the achievement of this goal cannot be entirely done by threatening the welfare of countries and their inhabitants. All actions of Governments should be aimed at protecting innocent residents from unjust aggression, which is prompted by military actions.
McMahan, J. (2006). The ethics of killing in war. Springer.
McMahan, J. (2017). Unjust war and the crime of aggression. The Crime of Aggression: A Commentary, 1386-1397.
Parsons, G., & Wilson, M. A. (Eds.). (2020). Walzer and war: Keading just and unjust wars today. Springer Nature.
Sagan, S. D., & Valentino, B. A. (2019). Just war and unjust soldiers: American public opinion on the moral equality of combatants. Ethics & International Affairs, 33(4), 411-444.
Walzer, M. (2006). Just and unjust wars: A moral argument with historical illustrations. Basic Books.