TOWARDS A RENEWED MORAL BASIS FOR THE USE OF ARMED FORCE: An Examination of the Just War Doctrine and its  Implications For the War Against Global Terrorism

 

Tell me frankly, I appeal to you -- answer me: Imagine that it is you yourself who are erecting the edifice of human destiny with the aim of making men happy in the end, of giving them peace and contentment at last, but that to do that it is absolutely necessary, and indeed quite inevitable, to torture to death only one tiny creature, the little girl who beat her breast with her little fist, and to found the edifice on her unavenged tears -- would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me and do not lie!"

-- Ivan Karamazov in The Brothers Karamazov, by Feodor Dostoyevsky[1]

 

 

            The distance most of us feel from having to face this terrible hypothetical posed by Dostoyevsky’s fictional character may be illusory.  In its most basic form, Karamazov’s question outlines in the extreme the issue of ends and means.  In this paper, the issue of war and the interrelated concepts of jus in bello (the justness of the means of warfare) and jus ad bellum (the justness of the reason for going to war) will be addressed.  These well-worn concepts lie at the heart of the historical attempt to create an international law pertaining to war.  Jus in bello and jus ad bellum essentially deal with the means and ends questions that form the basis for what is known today as the proportionality doctrine.[2]  For those who hold that there are acceptable wars,[3] an honest examination of the terrible realities of war and the complex of questions regarding morality, ethics, legality, and religion that arise necessarily from this examination, brings Dostoyevsky’s dilemma into stark view.  If a war is to be deemed any degree more just than a mere criminal act,[4] the means and ends questions need to be wrestled with.  It is one of the purposes of this paper to review the difficulties, inconsistencies and perhaps unanswerable questions that have burdened this inquiry and to suggest a contemporary paradigm in which to at least frame the questions. 

            

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