America and the Just War Tradition
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184 pages

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America and the Just War Tradition examines and evaluates each of America’s major wars from a just war perspective. Using moral analysis that is anchored in the just war tradition, the contributors provide careful historical analysis evaluating individual conflicts.

Each chapter explores the causes of a particular war, the degree to which the justice of the conflict was a subject of debate at the time, and the extent to which the war measured up to traditional ad bellum and in bello criteria. Where appropriate, contributors offer post bellum considerations, insofar as justice is concerned with helping to offer a better peace and end result than what had existed prior to the conflict.

This fascinating exploration offers policy guidance for the use of force in the world today, and will be of keen interest to historians, political scientists, philosophers, and theologians, as well as policy makers and the general reading public.

Contributors: J. Daryl Charles, Darrell Cole, Timothy J. Demy, Jonathan H. Ebel, Laura Jane Gifford, Mark David Hall, Jonathan Den Hartog, Daniel Walker Howe, Kerry E. Irish, James Turner Johnson, Gregory R. Jones, Mackubin Thomas Owens, John D. Roche, and Rouven Steeves



Publié par
Date de parution 30 mars 2019
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9780268105280
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1750€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Edited by
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana
University of Notre Dame Press
Notre Dame, Indiana 46556
Copyright © 2019 by the University of Notre Dame
All Rights Reserved
Published in the United States of America
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Hall, Mark David, 1966- editor. | Charles, J. Daryl, 1950- editor.
Title: America and the just war tradition : a history of U.S. conflicts / edited by Mark David Hall and J. Daryl Charles.
Description: Notre Dame, Indiana : University of Notre Dame Press, 2019. | Includes bibliographical references and index. |
Identifiers: LCCN 2018055518 (print) | LCCN 2018056151 (ebook) | ISBN 9780268105273 (pdf) | ISBN 9780268105280 (epub) | ISBN 9780268105259 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 0268105251 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780268105266 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 026810526X (pbk. : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH: United States—History, Military. | United States—History, Military—Moral and ethical aspects. | United States—History, Military—Social aspects. | United States—History, Military—Religious aspects. | Just war doctrine.
Classification: LCC E181 (ebook) | LCC E181.A36 2019 (print) | DDC 355.00973—dc23
LC record available at
∞ This book is printed on acid-free paper.
This e-Book was converted from the original source file by a third-party vendor. Readers who notice any formatting, textual, or readability issues are encouraged to contact the publisher at
We dedicate this book to the men and women who serve, or have served, in America’s armed forces, and to professors who keep the just war tradition alive in our nation’s colleges and universities.
James Turner Johnson
The Just War Tradition and America’s Wars
J. Daryl Charles and Mark David Hall
“Fear, Honor, and Interest”: The Unjust Motivations and Outcomes of the American Revolutionary War
John D. Roche
The War of 1812
Jonathan Den Hartog
James K. Polk and the War with Mexico
Daniel Walker Howe
The Fractured Union and the Justification for War
Gregory R. Jones

Just War and the Spanish-American War
Timothy J. Demy
The Great War, the United States, and Just War Thought
Jonathan H. Ebel
The United States and Japan in the Second World War: A Just War Perspective
Kerry E. Irish
America’s Ambiguous “Police Action”: The Korean Conflict
Laura Jane Gifford
Vietnam and the Just War Tradition
Mackubin Thomas Owens
The First and Second Gulf Wars
Darrell Cole
The War on Terror and Afghanistan
Rouven Steeves
James Turner Johnson
As I considered what I might contribute as a foreword to this book on bringing a just war perspective to reflection on America’s wars, among the thoughts that came to mind were various examples of books and shorter pieces whose authors have employed their own understandings of the just war idea to argue against the justice of American uses of armed force in particular cases, against the use of particular weapons or ways of fighting by American military forces, or against war itself as inherently unjust today, measured by just war standards. This book is different from these in conception and execution; yet since it appears in a landscape populated by such examples, they need to be acknowledged in order for readers to appreciate the contribution this book makes.
Among the examples that came to my mind were three books that used somewhat different understandings of just war to criticize the 2003 use of armed force to invade Iraq and overthrow the Saddam Hussein regime. One of these extended the author’s political opposition to the government officials who favored this use of force and argued for it during the period of deliberation that ended with the decision to use force: here the introduction of just war reasoning came in second, not first, place, and the interpretation of just war was shaped by the author’s political commitments. Two other books also came to mind, works that defined the idea of just war in terms of lengthy lists of criteria and then used as a checklist by which to weigh, and find wanting, various aspects of the decision process and the use of armed force itself. This way of describing and using the idea of just war not only manifested a simplistic kind of moral reasoning divorced from the complexity of actual moral reflection and decision making, but it eviscerated the idea of just war itself, which, understood in its fullness, is the composite product of centuries of interactions among various formative forces—religion, philosophy, law, government, and military experience—all intertwined in the wisdom of a moral tradition.
I also thought of various books and articles, as well as statements produced by various groups, using elements from just war thinking to oppose war itself, to oppose the use of particular kinds of weaponry, or to oppose any and every use of force by states—often especially the U.S.—as inherently immoral. Sometimes the thought in these works turned just war reasoning back on itself, arguing that just war thinking justifies immoral uses of armed force and so ought to be discarded completely.
Happily, the present book is of a very different sort from any of the kinds of examples I have mentioned. First and fundamentally, in the first chapter of the book the editors rightly insist that just war should be thought of as a tradition , not a theory . This properly acknowledges two core truths about just war thought: that it is the product of a long and rich history of experience and efforts to think morally about that experience in connection with the place of the use of armed force in the service of the goods of order, justice, and peace within and among political communities; and further, that the moral content of just war tradition is not simply intellectual in nature but also empirically engaged in recognizing and meeting the responsibilities of life in an ever-challenging world. Augustine, often cited as the first Christian just war thinker, formulated his own thoughts on just war in fashioning responses to the teachings and actions of Christian heretics like the Manichees and the Donatists, and at the end of his life his thinking about just war reflected the grave military and religious threats posed by Arian Vandal armies that laid siege to his home city of Hippo Regius. In the face of all these challenges he argued for restoring and maintaining justice in the face of injustice. This, for him, was what the idea of just war was about: it was an element in Christian responsibility to take part in holding together a world menaced by injustice and chaos, so that God’s purpose for that world might be completed. His was an engaged understanding of just war, not simply a theoretical conception.

The same goes for the thinkers who contributed to the definition of the first systematic understanding of just war, the canonists of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Their focus was on just war as a responsibility of temporal government, a tool for securing the common good of all in every political community. Justice and peace for them were not ideal goods for a perfect world but real forms of human interrelations which those responsible for political order should continuously seek to achieve. The same applies to the theological thinkers who followed, importantly illustrated by Thomas Aquinas, who seconded the canonists in emphasizing use of just war as an aspect of the responsibility of sovereign rule and understood the decision for or against just war as a form of moral discernment of the natural law. The same too for those thinkers of the early modern period who rethought just war in the context of new forms of warfare and new experiences of cultural diversity, and so also those thinkers who transformed just war into a way of ordering and regulating the world of nation-states that followed the Peace of Westphalia. Such was the nature of the thinking of those who in earlier times gave shape to just war tradition, and stepping into that tradition today means taking up the same lines of reflection.
One who engages in just war reasoning, on this conception, is one who enters the ever-developing stream of tradition on moral responsibility and the use of armed force, joining in dialogue not only with contemporaries in their own context in the world but also with those who have dealt with similar and other challenges in earlier historical contexts. The result of thinking of just war in this way is to conceive it as significantly more diverse than can be captured in any checklist of moral criteria that might be offered. Nor is it simply a set of ideal norms; it is also a way of thinking that recognizes the contingency of human moral reflection and activity. The standard here is not moral perfection, which can only be reached in some ideal realm but only approximated as best possible in history.
If one surveys recent and present-day writing on the topic of just war, one encounters a wide variety of representations of just war. Rather than argue for one or another of the theoretical conceptions of just war found in these, chapter 1 of this book, written by the two editors to define the purpose and scope of the book, develops a synthetic overview of th

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