Just and Unjust Wars


Course Code:
LAW 751
Law Honors/Pass/Restrd Cr/Fail


War is violent, but also a means by which political communities pursue collective interests. When, in light of these features, is the recourse to armed force justified? Pacifists argue that because war is so violent it is never justified, and that there is no such thing as a just war. Realists, in contrast, argue that war is simply a fact of life and not a proper subject for moral judgment, any more than we would judge an attack by a pack of wolves in moral terms. In between is just war theory, which claims that some wars, but not all, are morally justified. We will explore these theories, and will consider how just war theory comports with international law rules governing recourse to force. We will also explore justice in war, that is, the moral and legal rules governing the conduct of war, such as the requirement to avoid targeting non-combatants. Finally, we will consider how war should be terminated; what should be the nature of justified peace? We will critically evaluate the application of just war theory in the context of contemporary security problems, including: (1) transnational conflicts between states and nonstate groups and the so-called "war on terrorism"; (2) civil wars; (3) demands for military intervention to halt humanitarian atrocities taking place in another state. Enrollment will be limited to 20 students — 10 from SLS who will be selected by lottery and 10 from H&S. Elements used in grading: Class Participation, Written Assignments, Final Exam. Cross-listed with Ethics in Society (ETHICSOC 205R), (ETHICSOC 305R) & Philosophy (PHIL 205R), (PHIL 305R).

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