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.

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'?"

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Perhaps it is an odd moment for Lutheran fan mail. Yet, ever since you became the Bishop of Rome in 2013, I have become increasingly convinced that you are the pope that Luther was looking for 500 years ago. Here are four reasons why.
Aana Marie VigenSeptember 19, 2017
Trolls are preying on weakness as much as—or more than—hunting for supposed transgressions against orthodoxy.
The EditorsSeptember 18, 2017
Photos: iStock, composite: America Media
The attacks on ‘Building a Bridge’ tap into long-standing bigotry within the church and U.S. culture against members of the L.G.B.T. community.
Robert W. McElroySeptember 18, 2017
The Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Va. (iStock/jcarillet)
Probably most Americans can agree that Confederate monuments should never have been erected, but dismantling them is a different story for many citizens.
Margot PattersonSeptember 18, 2017