Whither the Just War?: From March 24, 2003

September 11th raised new questions about what constitutes a just war, especially in an age of terrorism. If U.S. leaders knew about the attacks on Sept. 10, would they be justified in taking lethal action? In the aftermath of 9/11 critics complained that just-war principles restricted the options open to policy makers and military planners. As Drew Christiansen wrote in 2003:

After Sept. 11, moralists of the permissive school—as I call them for their willingness to justify most government policies—reasoned that the war on terror warranted disregard of what they termed the “limiting principles” among the ad bellum rules, norms like last resort and proportionality, in favor of the “legitimating” ones, like just cause and proper authority.

Advertisement

As the United States prepared to invade Iraq, the Vatican reiterated its commitment to the just war tradition and voiced its opposition to the idea of launching war to preempt attack.

From the point of view of Catholic just-war teaching, preventive war is a dangerous innovation. If the distinction between aggression and defensive war is blurred, then the world is threatened with a war of all against all. In Rome, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, dismissed the notion. Preventive war, he said, “does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Read "Whither the 'Just War'?"

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

So what does it matter what a celibate woman thinks about contraception?
Helena BurnsJuly 20, 2018
Former US President Barack Obama gestures to the crowd, during an event in Kogelo, Kisumu, Kenya, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo Brian Inganga)
In Johannesburg, Obama gave what some commentators consider his most important speech since he vacated the Oval Office.
Anthony EganJuly 20, 2018
With his "Mass," Leonard Bernstein uses liturgy to give voice to political unease.
Kevin McCabeJuly 20, 2018
Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, arrives for the Jan. 6 installation Mass of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)
Women often “bring up the voice of those who are the most vulnerable in our society,” says Hans Zollner, S.J., who heads the Centre for Child Protection in Rome.