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War's Ends

Human Rights, International Order, and the Ethics of Peace

James G. Murphy

Publication Year: 2014

Before military action, and even before mobilization, the decision on whether to go to war is debated by politicians, pundits, and the public. As they address the right or wrong of such action, it is also a time when, in the language of the just war tradition, the wise would deeply investigate their true claim to jus ad bellum ("the right of war"). Wars have negative consequences, not the least impinging on human life, and offer infrequent and uncertain benefits, yet war is part of the human condition.

James G. Murphy's insightful analysis of the jus ad bellum criteria -- competent authority, just cause, right intention, probability of success, last resort, and proportionality -- is grounded in a variety of contemporary examples from World War I through Vietnam, the "soccer war" between Honduras and El Salvador, and Afghanistan, and the Middle East conflict. Murphy argues persuasively that understanding jus ad bellum requires a primary focus on the international common good and the good of peace. Only secondarily should the argument about going to war hinge on the right of self-defense; in fact, pursuing the common good requires political action, given that peace is not simply the absence of violence. He moves on to demonstrate the interconnectedness of the jus ad bellum criteria, contending that some criteria depend logically on others -- and that competent authority, not just cause, is ultimately the most significant criterion in an analysis of going to war. This timely study will be of special interest to scholars and students in ethics, war and peace, and international affairs.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v

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pp. vii

In the course of planning and writing this book, I received much support and encouragement from many people. My late father, Frank Murphy, educated me long ago on the primacy of the political, and the importance of civilian control of the military. He first got me thinking about these things...

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1. War and Moral Theory

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pp. 1-16

The just war tradition is alive and well today. After emerging in ancient Rome and flourishing in medieval Europe, it experienced a partial decline in the early modern period, 1600–1900, but it has enjoyed a revival since World War I (1914–18). The tradition developed under two headings: the morality of going to war...

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2. The Goods of Peace

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pp. 17-36

A practical moral theory typically provides some account of required, prohibited, and permitted action. The jus in bello part of just war thought focuses particularly on that in its discussion of the limits of force and the treatment of enemy combatants and noncombatants. The jus ad bellum part of the tradition also has much to say about moral behavior, but what may be more important...

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3. Good Authority

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pp. 37-68

In chapter 1 I listed competent authority, just cause, right intention, probability of success, last resort, and proportionality, in that order, as the jus ad bellum criteria—that is, the criteria to be met in order to be justified in going to war. On my view of jus ad bellum, competent priority is prior to just cause. I start by treating the reasons...

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4. Just Cause

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pp. 69-91

The previous chapter argued that, with respect to jus ad bellum, the competent authority criterion should be treated as prior to the just cause criterion. A number of reasons supported that argument. The most important was that the analogy of individual self-defense is not integral to what is involved in jus ad bellum. The theory of justice with respect...

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5. Intention

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pp. 92-138

In the just war tradition, following competent authority and just cause, having a right intention is the third of the three most important conditions for being justified in going to war. Relatively little has been written on it. While superficially it may seem clear, appearances are deceptive. The concept requires a fair deal of clarification...

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6. Succeeding

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pp. 139-158

Classic just war thought listed competent authority, just cause, and right intention as the three required criteria for being justified in going to war. Other criteria were added in modern times; these include reasonable prospect or probability of success, last resort, and proportionality.1 In this chapter I address reasonable prospect of success...

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7. Last Resort

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pp. 159-179

The last resort condition appears to have an intuitively obvious meaning: it would be wrong for a state to go to war until all other options have been tried and failed. Thus, any rapid move to war would appear suspect, as probably violating that condition. Yet appearances can be deceptive. It is possible that the moment of last resort, when war ought to be chosen, might arrive earlier...

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8. Proportionality

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pp. 180-204

Proportionality is the final and most obscure criterion in jus ad bellum. Some of its obscurity can be removed if it is accepted that it is logically dependent on the other criteria. If any of the earlier criteria are not fulfilled, the proportionality condition cannot be met.1 I also hold that proportionality’s obscurity is partly unavoidable since it is a kind of “catchall” for any moral concerns...

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pp. 205-214

The central point of this book on jus ad bellum is: politics first. With respect to the decision to go to war, the political must be neither excluded by the moral nor swamped by the legal. The just war tradition, of which jus ad bellum is part, is fundamentally moral in nature. It is good that it has influenced international law, and that international law has gained wider...


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pp. 215-222


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pp. 223-232

E-ISBN-13: 9781626160286
E-ISBN-10: 1626160287

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2014