Thursday, April 1, 2010

On "Just War" Theory

On "Just War" Theory: American Protestant theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr (pictured above), advocated a theory of "just war" that eventually morphed into the Christian Realist movement. Originating with Catholic theologians like Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Aquinas, a just war is fundamentally conducted from a defensive standpoint. Basic requirements (jus ad bellum) include just cause, comparative justice, and legitimate authority. Yet with the advent of the Cold War in 1945, Christian Realism brought a hawkish attitude to American foreign policy. As a religiously rooted ideology, it helped Americans cope with the prospects of imminent war. And Niebuhr recognized that attempting to meet every stipulation for a just war would hamper the ability of the defender to prepare an adequate defense. Therefore, sometimes the best way to defend a territory involves going on the offensive. Preemptive war signifies an off-shoot of this kind of thinking. For example, the Bush Doctrine in Afghanistan and Iraq applied the principle of preemption to combat global terrorism. But it is never enough to strike preemptively and then leave one's opponent wallowing in the wake. A comprehensive plan for recovery (nation building) must be implemented in order to mitigate the potential for future aggression.

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