What Makes a Just War?


When is it justified to go to war?

The question is as old as civilization, yet we already have the answer. It is written in history books, in fallen empires, and in articles both recent and ancient. Parts of the answer are even engineered into the United States Constitution by our founding fathers, who knew the dangers on a first-hand basis, and so wished to limit the scope and power of unjust military engagements.

War is a terrible thing. It is commonly said that military action should be the last resort, yet it is not treated that way. It is important that we acknowledge the terror involved, and that we do not distance ourselves from the memory, lest the horrors seem pacified as time goes on.

Recently, I had a discussion with a woman who works with refugees in war-torn parts of the world. She does her best to help people who have faced some of the worst circumstances this world has to offer. During my discussions with her, I have heard just a small fraction of the struggles.

I could tell you about a woman who had her baby flung from her arms in the wake of a bombing. I could tell you about a woman who was beaten, raped, and put in prison because her abuser did not renew her visa. I could tell you about a young man who was picked up by soldiers at the age of sixteen, and put in prison with no way to contact his family, and beaten until he couldn’t walk, for no discernible reason, other than being an easy target in an unstable country during a time of turmoil.

I could recount many grim stories that she has heard and witnessed during her years of work, cleaning up the messes of war, and the injustice and innate flaws ingrained in humanity itself.

But those would be anecdotes, and easily dismissed by war-mongers as necessary losses for a so-called “greater good”, and even further dismissed by those who care only for numbers in the verbiage of collateral damage.

Yet there is no need to rely solely on stories, even as vital as they are to the message of peace. The data speaks for itself.

U.S. military interventions, often issued under the guise of going to help those in crisis, have a cruelly poetic way of making problems larger than they were before. Although rudimentary, rather the same principle applies to hitting a child, and making it more predisposed to violence by doing so. These actions of violence only promote more misunderstandings and violence, and on a massive scale that is detrimental to all involved.

Have we not learned from Vietnam?

Have we not learned from Iraq?

What good did our bombs do in Syria? Did the U.S. really act to stop the use of chemical weapons? Is Syria now better for our bombings? Is our country safer? Is the only way to fix a humanitarian crisis by causing another humanitarian crisis?

And the madness continues. Why is there talk of war with Iran? Are they truly a threat to our safety?

What about Venezuela? Surely they are not a threat to our safety. Yet war-mongers would and have said that we must be involved in their division. Is it so strange to suggest that a country in civil war must resolve its issues from within if it is to be healed in whole? Just as a person cannot understand something for another sovereign person, and implant the idea into another’s head through force, it is equally impossible to fix a sovereign nation by putting its pieces together for it, and then expecting everything to stay in place.

The very philosophy in the methodology is flawed.

For it is a shortsightedness that plagues this policy. We have bankrupted our nation, damaged our currency, and short-changed our people, in large part by fighting wars we did not have to fight. We have further spread chaos in the Middle East by participating in their innumerable wars, rather than standing back and setting a good example of peace and honest trade. Has the Middle East become stabilized for all of our meddling? Surprise, surprise—it would appear not.

The U.S. has done some good through its military interventions, as many advocates of war will be fast to argue, but even a broken clock is right twice a day. That does not mean that the policy of micromanaging the world is the right one, either morally, constitutionally, or economically.

If we would only invest in ourselves at home, how much stronger might our economy be, and our position in the world? How much richer would the world be if we cared more about free trade, and negotiation? How many lives would be spared?

A strong defense is vital to any self-reliant nation. But it seems it has been forgotten that a national defense is supposed to be just that—defense. Not aggression, not micromanagement, not policing, not conquering, not threatening, and not bullying.

“WAR is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.” – Major General Smedley Butler, War Is a Racket.


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