Tag Archives: Just War

Bakircioglu, “Islam and Warfare”

This November, Routledge Press will release “Islam and Warfare: Context and Compatibility with International Law” by Onder Bakircioglu (School of Law at the University of Leicester).  The publisher’s description follows:

The question of how Islamic law regulates the notions of just recourse to and just conduct in war has long been the topic of heated controversy, and is often subject to oversimplification in scholarship and journalism. This book traces the rationale for aggression within the Islamic tradition, and assesses the meaning and evolution of the contentious concept of jihad. The book reveals that there has never been a unified position on what Islamic warfare tangibly entails, due to the complexity of relevant sources and discordant historical dynamics that have shaped the contours of jihad.

Onder Bakircioglu advocates a dynamic reading of Islamic law and military tradition; one which prioritises the demands of contemporary international relations and considers the meaning and application of jihad as contingent on the socio-political forces of each historical epoch.

This book will be of great interest to scholars and students of international law, Islamic law, war and security studies, and the law of armed conflict.

Pope Francis on the Crisis in Iraq

Pope_Francis_in_March_2013In an airborne press conference on the way back from Korea yesterday, Pope Francis addressed the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Iraq. In response to a question about the American bombing of ISIS targets, the Holy Father made three important points. One, unfortunately, was not helpful.

First, the Pope said, under Just War theory, it is “licit” for third parties to intervene in order to “stop” the “unjust aggression” by ISIS. Pope Francis emphasized that he did not endorse bombing, specifically, but action to stop ISIS generally. Second, the decision how best to deal with ISIS must be made by nations acting together in consultation, at the United Nations. Consultation is necessary, he said, in order to prevent any one nation–implicitly, the United States–from succumbing to the temptation to become an occupying force.

There isn’t very much danger of the US seeking to occupy Iraq at this stage, frankly. If anything, Americans in 2014 are disposed to avoid the region altogether. But the Pope’s statements are consistent with Just War theory and entirely appropriate. And perhaps Pope Francis feels justified in offering an oblique criticism of the US, which ignored his predecessor’s plea to get UN approval for the 2003 Iraq invasion, and reaped the consequences.

The Pope seems to have gone a little astray, though, in his third point. Responding to a question about religious minorities, including Catholics, he said this:

Secondly, you mentioned the minorities. Thanks for that word because they talk to me about the Christians, the poor Christians. It’s true, they suffer. The martyrs, there are many martyrs. But here there are men and women, religious minorities, not all of them Christian, and they are all equal before God.

Pope Francis is right that minorities other than Christians are suffering in Iraq. And Christians would not object to the idea that God loves all people equally, Christians and non-Christians. But the implication of the Pope’s statement– at least in the way his remarks have been translated and transcribed–is that the suffering of Christians gets disproportionate attention, and that it’s necessary to widen the focus to make sure other groups are not forgotten.

With great respect, this misstates the situation. The danger is not that the outside world pays too much attention to Christian suffering, but too little. The media routinely downplays that suffering, notwithstanding the fact that Christians–as Pope Francis himself recently stated–suffer the greatest share of religious persecution in the world today. As for the great powers, they typically look the other way. The United States, for example, did absolutely nothing to help the 100,000 Christian refugees displaced by ISIS in recent weeks, but sent in helicopters to distribute relief to 40,000 Yazidis.

As I say, the transcript may not fairly reflect the sense of Pope Francis’s remarks. Transcripts do not capture inflections. But many in the media will no doubt seize on the  remarks to justify their comparative inattention to Christian suffering. That would be most unfortunate. Although non-Christians are surely suffering in Iraq, and although it’s entirely appropriate to remember and help them, there is nothing wrong with stressing the suffering of Christians, especially when one is Pope. Unless people speak out, continually, there is a grave danger that Iraq’s Christians will simply be forgotten.

Reichberg & Syse (eds.), “Religion, War, and Ethics”

9780521738279Next month, Cambridge University Press will publish Religion, War, and Ethics: A Sourcebook of Textual Traditions edited by Gregory M. Reichberg (International Peace Research Institute, Oslo) and Henrik Syse (Peace Research Institute). The publisher’s description follows.

Religion, War, and Ethics is a collection of primary sources from the world’s major religions on the ethics of war. Each chapter brings together annotated texts – scriptural, theological, ethical, and legal – from a variety of historical periods that reflect each tradition’s response to perennial questions about the nature of war: When, if ever, is recourse to arms morally justifiable? What moral constraints should apply to military conduct? Can a lasting earthly peace be achieved? Are there sacred reasons for waging war, and special rewards for those who do the fighting? The religions covered include Sunni and Shiite Islam; Judaism; Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity; Theravada Buddhism; East Asian religious traditions (Confucianism, Shinto, Japanese and Korean Buddhism); Hinduism; and Sikhism. Each section is compiled by a specialist, recognized within his or her respective religious tradition, who has also written a commentary on the historical and textual context of the passages selected.

Shogimen & Spencer (eds.), “Visions of Peace: Asia and the West”

9781409428701This month, Ashgate published Visions of Peace: Asia and the West edited by Takashi Shogimen (University of Otago) and Vicki A. Spencer (University of Otago). The publisher’s description follows.

Visions of Peace: Asia and the West explores the diversity of past conceptualizations as well as the remarkable continuity in the hope for peace across global intellectual traditions. Current literature, prompted by September 11, predominantly focuses on the laws and ethics of just wars or modern ideals of peace. Asian and Western ideals of peace before the modern era have largely escaped scholarly attention. This book examines Western and Asian visions of peace that existed prior to c.1800 by bringing together experts from a variety of intellectual traditions.

The historical survey ranges from ancient Greek thought, early Christianity and medieval scholasticism to Hinduism, classical Confucianism and Tokuguwa Japanese learning, before illuminating unfamiliar aspects of peace visions in the European Enlightenment. Each chapter offers a particular case study and attempts to rehabilitate a ‘forgotten’ conception of peace and reclaim its contemporary relevance. Collectively they provide the conceptual resources to inspire more creative thinking towards a new vision of peace in the present. Students and specialists in international relations, peace studies, history, political theory, philosophy, and religious studies will find this book a valuable resource on diverse conceptions of peace.

Reflections from the City of God: On the Miseries of Just War

I am blessed to be on sabbatical this semester. In addition to beginning several City of Mennew writing projects, I thought it might be good to take on some meaty reading projects. One of these projects will be to read through St. Augustine’s City of God and to become familiar with some of the secondary literature related specifically to his political thought (the project is not purely a private one–future students in my spring Professional Responsibility course, take note!). In connection with that project, I hope to post a weekly reflection from the City of God that is relevant to some law and religion issue of current moment.

I’m confident that I will say nothing original about Augustine’s political thought. Indeed, I am sure that many readers of this blog will know much more about Augustine than I will learn in these few months and well beyond that. But because I have been enjoying greatly what I have read so far, and because what I have read relates in various ways to many of the questions we consider at the Center for Law and Religion, and because it may be a pleasure for readers to see some of Augustine’s words again before their eyes (and a pleasure for me to re-write them), and simply for the joy that comes in replowing well-tilled fields, I thought to give it a try. Those of our readers who are Augustine scholars or otherwise knowledgeable: please let me know in the comments what secondary literature I ought to be reading. I am reading the Marcus Dods translation (would that I could read it in Latin, but as Dods–writing in 1871–said, “[T]here are not a great many men nowadays  who will read a work in Latin of twenty-two books”).

Here is a passage from of the famous Book XIX on the miseries of war, including of just war:

But the imperial city has endeavored to impose on subject nations not only her yoke, but her language, as a bond of peace, so that interpreters, far from being scarce, are numberless. This is true; but how many great wars, how much slaughter and bloodshed, have provided this unity! And though these are past, the end of these miseries has not yet come. For though there have never been wanting, nor are yet wanting, hostile nations beyond the empire, against whom wars have been and are waged, yet, supposing there were no such nations, the very extent of the empire itself has produced wars of a more obnoxious description–social and civil wars–and with these the whole race has been agitated, either by the actual conflict or the fear of a renewed outbreak. If I attempted to give an adequate description of these manifold disasters, these stern and lasting necessities, though I am quite unequal to the task, what limit could I set? But, say they, the wise man will wage just wars. As if he would not rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars. For it is the wrongdoing of the opposing party which compels the wise man to wage just wars; and this wrongdoing, even though it gave rise to no war, would still be matter of grief to man because it is man’s wrongdoing. Let everyone, then, who thinks with pain on all these great evils, so horrible, so ruthless, acknowledge that this is misery. And if anyone either endures or thinks of them without mental pain, this is a more miserable plight still, for he thinks himself happy because he has lost human feeling.

One striking feature of this paragraph is the ubiquity of misery in all matters related to war. The misery not only of the initial wrongdoing that leads to war, and not only of war itself, but also of the waging of just war in response to (in fact, ‘compelled’ by) the existence of miserably wrongful conduct.

“Just War: Authority, Tradition, and Practice” (Lang et al., eds.)

This July, Georgetown University Press published Just Law: Authority, Tradition, and Practice edited by Anthony F. Lang Jr. 9781589019961(University of St. Andrews), Cian O’Driscoll (University of Glasgow), and John Williams (Durham University). The publisher’s description follows.

The just war tradition is central to the practice of international relations, in questions of war, peace, and the conduct of war in the contemporary world, but surprisingly few scholars have questioned the authority of the tradition as a source of moral guidance for modern statecraft. Just War: Authority, Tradition, and Practice brings together many of the most important contemporary writers on just war to consider questions of authority surrounding the just war tradition.

Authority is critical in two key senses. First, it is central to framing the ethical debate about the justice or injustice of war, raising questions about the universality of just war and the tradition’s relationship to religion, law, and democracy. Second, who has the legitimate authority to make just-war claims and declare and prosecute war? Such authority has traditionally been located in the sovereign state, but non-state and supra-state claims to legitimate authority have become increasingly important over the last twenty years as the just war tradition has been used to think about multilateral military operations, terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and sub-state violence. The chapters in this collection, organized around these two dimensions, offer a compelling reassessment of the authority issue’s centrality in how we can, do, and ought to think about war in contemporary global politics.

Biggar, “In Defence of War”

9780199672615_450This September, Oxford University Press will publish In Defence of War by Nigel Biggar (University of Oxford). The publisher’s description follows.

Pacifism is popular. Many hold that war is unnecessary, since peaceful means of resolving conflict are always available, if only we had the will to look for them. Or they believe that war is wicked, essentially involving hatred of the enemy and carelessness of human life. Or they posit the absolute right of innocent individuals not to be deliberately killed, making it impossible to justify war in practice.

Peace, however, is not simple. Peace for some can leave others at peace to perpetrate mass atrocity. What was peace for the West in 1994 was not peace for the Tutsis of Rwanda. Therefore, against the virus of wishful thinking, anti-military caricature, and the domination of moral deliberation by rights-talk In Defence of War asserts that belligerency can be morally justified, even though tragic and morally flawed.

Recovering the Christian tradition of reflection running from Augustine to Grotius, this book affirms aggressive war in punishment of grave injustice. Morally realistic in adhering to universal moral principles, it recognises that morality can trump legality, justifying military intervention even in transgression of positive international law-as in the case of Kosovo. Less cynical and more empirically realistic about human nature than Hobbes, it holds that nations desire to be morally virtuous and right, and not only to be safe and fat. And aspiring to practical realism, it argues that love and the doctrine of double effect can survive combat; and that the constraints of proportionality, while real, are nevertheless sufficiently permissive to encompass Britain’s belligerency in 1914-18. Finally, in a painstaking analysis of the Iraq invasion of 2003, In Defence of War culminates in an account of how the various criteria of just war should be thought together. It also concludes that, all things considered, the invasion was justified.

Kopel on Evolving Christian Attitudes Towards Personal and National Self-Defense

David B. Kopel (Denver University – Sturm College of Law) has posted Evolving Christian Attitudes Towards Personal and National Self-Defense. The abstract follows.

This Article analyzes the changes in orthodox Christian attitudes towards defensive violence. While the article begins in the 19th century and ends in the 21st, most of the Article is about the 20th century. The article focuses on American Catholicism and on the Vatican, although there is some discussion of American Protestantism.

In the nineteenth and early in the twentieth centuries, the traditional Christian concepts of Just War and of the individual’s duty to use force to defend himself and his family remained uncontroversial, as they had been for centuries. Disillusionment over World War One turned many Catholics and Protestants towards pacifism. Without necessarily adopting pacifism as a Continue reading

Balkaran & Dorn on Violence in the Vālmiki Rāmāyana

On September 3, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion published Violence in the Vālmı̄ki Rāmāyana : Just War Criteria in an Ancient Indian Epic by Raj Balkaran (University of Calgary) and A. Walter Dorn (Royal Military College of Canada and Canadian Forces College). The abstract follows.

When is armed force considered justified in Hinduism? How do Hindu legitimizations of warfare compare with those of other religions? The Just War framework, which evolved from Roman and early Christian thought, stipulates distinct criteria for sanctioning the use of force. Are those themes comparable to the discourse on violence of ancient India? This article examines the influential Sanskrit epic Vālmıki Rāmāyana in order to broach these questions. This analysis demonstrates the presence in the ancient work of all seven modern Just War criteria—namely (1) Just Cause, (2) Right Intent, (3) Net Benefit, (4) Legitimate Authority, (5) Last Resort, (6) Proportionality of Means, and (7) Right Conduct. This study also shows the extent to which the criteria and the larger discourse in the Vālmıki Rāmāyana are distinctly couched within Indic ethical parameters, drawing particularly upon the moral precept of ahim (nonviolence). This article identifies both similarities and differences between the epic’s criteria for warfare and those of the Just War framework. By comparing representations of violence in the Vālmıki Rāmāyana to modern Western legitimizations of force, this study advances the inclusion of Hindu thought into the global discourse on the ethics of war and peace.

Roy, “Hinduism and the Ethics of Warfare in South Asia”

Here’s something at the intersection of religion and statecraft about the Hindu tradition of the philosophy of war (compare, e.g., just war theory in the Catholic tradition): Hinduism and the Ethics of Warfare in South Asia: From Antiquity to the Present (CUP 2012) by Kaushik Roy (Jadavpur University).  The publisher’s description follows.

This book challenges the view, common among Western scholars, that precolonial India lacked a tradition of military philosophy. It traces the evolution of theories of warfare in India from the dawn of civilization, focusing on the debate between Dharmayuddha (Just War) and Kutayuddha (Unjust War) within Hindu philosophy. This debate centers around four questions: What is war? What justifies it? How should it be waged? And what are its potential repercussions? This body of literature provides evidence of the historical evolution of strategic thought in the Indian subcontinent that has heretofore been neglected by modern historians. Further, it provides a counterpoint to scholarship in political science that engages solely with Western theories in its analysis of independent India’s philosophy of warfare. Ultimately, a better understanding of the legacy of ancient India’s strategic theorizing will enable more accurate analysis of modern India’s military and nuclear policies.