restricted access 2. The Aftermath of War: Reflections on Jus Post Bellum
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c h a p t e r 2 THE AFTERMATH OF WAR Reflections on Jus Post Bellum michael walzer New Thinking in Just War Theory As a distinct category, jus post bellum is not part of classic just war theory. But it isn’t entirely missing from the theory either. The original idea was probably that post bellum justice was included in the criteria for ad bellum justice. The inclusion would have been twofold: first, a war can only be considered just if there is a strong possibility of success, and in order to judge that possibility, political leaders must have some idea of what success would look like. And, second, the requirement of a just intention means that whatever is taken to constitute success has to be not merely possible but also morally defensible; it has to be, if only in prospect , a just outcome. So arguments about what would come after the war were a crucial part of the arguments about whether the war should or should not be fought in the first place. Ad bellum anticipated post bellum. But there is another sense in which the just outcome of the war is supposed to be anticipated in its beginnings. The standard understanding of aggression holds that it is a violation of the status quo ante. The world was at peace, in such and such an arrangement of states and borders— which was presumed to be just insofar as it was established, conventional, widely accepted, and also insofar as its stability made for regional (or global) peace. The aggressor violently disrupts this arrangement, moving 35 36 michael walzer an army across the existing border, and then a just war restores the arrangement and the border. Justice after the war is the same as justice before the war. The idea of reparations gains its force from this understanding . The breaking of the old order has to be repaired. Though the violence of the aggression and the human damage that it produced cannot be undone, we can compensate the surviving victims and rebuild the ruined cities. We insist that the aggressor state make things, as much as it can, just like they were before. And that, on this view, which I take to be the classic view, is the definition of a just outcome. It is worth noting that the early modern idea of a political revolution derived from this conception of a just war. The tyrant started the revolutionary process by breaking the established constitutional order, attacking his subjects, and violating their rights. Tyranny was understood as a kind of aggression. The people, organized perhaps by the lesser magistrates of the realm, justly defended themselves and restored the constitution. The movement was circular, ending where it began. A revolution that didn’t end in a restoration would not have revolved completely. Just war and revolution are deeply conservative ideas, though what they aim to conserve is the peacefulness of the status quo ante—not its particular political arrangements, which may indeed need to be changed, but only through normal politics, not through war. There are always state leaders who believe that their country’s borders aren’t where they should be or that the division of colonial possessions and spheres of influence or the access to natural resources is fundamentally unjust. That may or may not be so (the status quo is usually unjust, though not in the way state leaders believe it to be); in any case, just war theory holds that war is not a permissible remedy. When Francisco de Vitoria said that the only justification for war is ‘‘an injury received,’’ he meant a recent injury that violated the existing conventions and arrangements, not an injury received a hundred years before that had long ago been incorporated into the existing conventions and arrangements.1 Territorial irredentism was no more an excuse for war than imperial ambition. Violent disruptions of the status quo were, almost by definition, unjust. The 1991 Gulf War provides a nice example of the classic understanding of post bellum justice: restoration for both sides; reparations for one side. The first Bush administration thought that its war was justly concluded when Kuwait was liberated from the Iraqi occupation—and Saddam Hussein, his aggression defeated, was still in power back in Baghdad the aftermath of war 37 and able to pay reparations to Kuwait. Justice did not extend to regime change. It did extend to the imposition of restraints on...