This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by professional essay writers.

The Just War Theory: Literature Review

downloadDownload printPrint

Remember! This is just a sample.

You can get your custom paper by one of our expert writers.

Get custom essay

121 writers online


Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. The Just War Theory: Literature Review
  3. Introduction
    The Jus ad Bellum
    Jus In Bello
    Jus Post Bellum
  4. Conclusion
  5. Reference


The purpose of this study is to explore some of the aspects that influence state and non-state actors using the Just War Theory in wars or conflicts. The review seeks to answer the research question, how does applying the Just War theory affect current wars based on the current environment and the complexity of today’s conflicts. In addition, analyzing the boundaries of wars and how the Just War Theory applies to humanitarian efforts within and after wars. The aim is to examine the models and principles of the Just War Theory and to determine whether or not the theory is ethically and morally applied in wars.

The Just War Theory: Literature Review


The Just War Theory primarily provides a strategic framework on why and how wars occur in addition to having a justified means to conduct war. The Just War Theory could be inferred of mainly relying on three main models: Just ad bellum, jus in bello and the jus post bellum. These models will be further be analyzed and reviewed. In applying the Just War Theory, certain principles need to be adhered. Under normal circumstances in applying the Just War Theory, all non-violent options need to be exhausted before the use of force may be justified which is the last resort under which war can be waged.

The Just War Theory is the foundation on which states or individuals pursue to morally and legitimately rationalize going to war. The history of the Just War Theory started with the philosopher Augustine who provided the foundation of the theory and provided remarks on the morality of war. According to Vorster, “For a society to be sustainable and preserved from descending into chaos, a sense of virtue and justice is needed that can only emanate from a love of God. This explains why Augustine held to the doctrine of just war and why he expected the state to act coercively to preserve the justness and virtue of society” (2015). Further, another philosopher Saint Thomas Aquinas systemized Augustine’s thoughts into clear principles that have remained the base of the Just War Theory until today. Saint Thomas Aquinas presented the broad standards of justification of war and the types of activity and actions that are tolerated during war.

Although the Just War Theory is outdated, recently, the theory has been rationalized due to modern warfare and the operational environment in which we function. Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 (9/11), researchers have turned their attention to the Just War Theory and more importantly, the role, implications, and the effects of the theory in the dynamic front. While strict rule applies to nations military and individual combatants to adhere to war treaties and conventions, war crimes continue.

In some parts of the developing nations such as the Rwandan genocide, wars are waged on cultural and ethnic groups with many brutalities. While these actions may be debated by the benefit of the Just War Theory, certain engagements within war are believed to be unjustifiable regardless of the cause. Within the rule of law, nations or individuals who go contrary to the law or violate them need to be held accountable for their actions. Additionally, it is essential to note the effects post war on humanitarian crisis. Moreover, the feminist perspective of the just war, which is another criticism of this theory need to be addressed. The feminist view of this theory takes concerns with the gendered nature of the just war.

To some, the cruelties of war will continue due to the failure of the applications of morals within war and the failure of the international courts to apply the law where necessary. One thing that needs to be taking in consideration is nations interest, which somehow will overpower ethical concerns in war. It may be noted that during wars, ethical concerns become unclear which has proven to be problematic amongst parties involved. Having two ethical views of being open-minded and the other of more restrictive, the Just War Theory proposals a series of ideologies with the goal to keep hold of possible moral strategies of war. In reference to the just war, the logic is to differentiate between the rules that pertain to the fairness of war which is the jus ad bellum from the objective and reasonable conduct of war and the conditions to conduct war; the jus in bello. Even though these guidelines are not limited in its ways, they provide a standard of ethical standards for wars.

The Jus ad Bellum

The fairness of war is generally referenced to the just cause affirmed by an appropriate authority, having the right intensions and a rational of success of which the principle should be the last resort. The United Nations Charter under article two forbids states from exercising cross-border services or militaries except with an approval from the United Nations Security Council (UN Charter, n.d). The content of these exceptions provides some amount of debate as it may be noted of other exceptions, which may have existed. As such, the argument of a nation using forces without proper consent from the United Nation Security Council may automatically deflect to humanitarian disaster. Mathew Waxman (2013) researched two viewpoints of the jus ad bellum with strict and clear guidelines and also others who will prefer the flexibility in weighing circumstantial issues. Although the article points out on two distinctive view of this model, most agree that the jus ad bellum consist of general guidelines applied to applicable values.

The article Multi-Part Tests in the Jus ad Bellum by Ashley Deeks (2016) is somehow similarly to Waxman’s views. Equally, pressing for flexibility in understanding when approached by unusual cases could be essentially ‘ethical’ in some circumstances but allowing extreme flexibility in this doctrine will be detrimental in war, which could eventually undermine the United Nations Charter in the long run. Under these circumstances, nations and states tend to distant themselves. Occasionally, nations conduct actions that may not be reasonable within specification of the jus ad bellum (Monica Hakimi, 2018). In such instances and as the general guidelines of the jus ad bellum states, nations whose actions (acting in the ‘grey area’) indicate their position reflect particular cases and instances and not in accordance with any law.

For instance, in April 2017, the United States conducted missile strikes against Syria in response to suspected use of chemical weapons which potentially killed civilians to include children. The actions of the United States did not concur with the ‘acceptable’ standards under the jus ad bellum. Also, the actions of the United States did not conform to cross-border forces and Syria did not consent to the operation. Essentially, the United Nations Charter did not approve of this action. The United States did not act in self-defense but cited the importance of preventing the use of chemical weapons. This instance was more of a specific act, which justified the use of force and supported by other states.

Another controversial theory is applying counterterrorism and the Patriot Act within the parameters of the Jus ad Bellum. Michael Lacewing (n.d) performed a study on the Just War Theory and highlighted all of the details about the jus ad bellum for which war must be just. In the past, the connection between morality and combating terror has been researched and therefore the need to connect the dots. Analyzing methods on countering terror both domestic and foreign, key arguments such as domestic surveillances and the patriot act for examples have been discussed within the context of the just war. The United States Patriot Act (2002) has been one of the hot issues in regards to morality. Some support for its need and ethics. Katrine Hadjimatheou (2014) argues that the cases of untargeted surveillance make people less skeptical compare to the targeted alternatives. She further points out that the untargeted surveillances are likely to be morally cost efficient when used in enforcing order in specific activities. As the patriot Act expands its ability to conduct and tap into domestic and foreign activities, ethical questions have been raised as agencies have been given more power to use all available resources to combat terrorism.

The debate on whether to tighten or remain flexible under the just ad bellum concept remains unanswered as some circumstance or cases are defined by both arguments. These arguments may be modified into doctrine that may depict some of the assumptions and the act of balancing ideologies may be captured into law. This will eventually help understand the limits and values operating under this concept.

Jus In Bello

In taking actions of oppositions, efforts must be taken to accomplish and attain objectives with needed force and to avoid harm to noncombatants. The amounts of force used need to be proportional to the destruction while civilian lives are avoided. Moreover, under this concept, civilians do not have to be under direct attack and military forces should take precautions to minimize or avoid harming of civilians. This falls under the discrimination factor of the concept. Additionally, the right of intentions in achieving the relative goal of peace must be adhered. Alexander Moseley argues in his article on the Just War Theory (n.d) explains how conducting war can be considered unfair and unjust to attack extensively innocent people since civilians are not considered to be part in the aspect of war. Moseley further explains that the standard of the just case is that of an attacking action, which should remain strictly proportional to the objective, desired. Geoffrey Corn in the Self-defense Targeting (2013) explains the jus in bello concept of alternatives that are proposed to target an applicable stability between the authority to capable to bring about the compliance of an enemy and the humanitarian interest of regulating the anticipated miseries related with conflict.

Braun and Brunstetter (2013) argue the opposite of finding proportionality in bello. With the use of drones, the authors argue how the damage or the effects cause by drones is not relatively proportional in achieving objectives in war. The articles further assess the ethics in using drones as well as human right concerns in employing drones in specific war fronts.

Michael Boyle (2015) examines the legal and ethical implications of the drone warfare. He argues on both sides citing the Obama administration on using drones to defeat al-Qaeda and its terror networks around the world while limiting the use of ground forces to accomplish its mission. On the other hand, Boyle points out the fact that the modern warfare dictates the type of weapon used using the ad bellum as a just war to update the just war theory to meet modern warfare.

While some does not believe morality and ethics does not exist in war, the system of the just in bello offer guidelines that need to be used in war. In war, states or parties involved will do whatever it takes to win war and achieve their aim. Whiles this may be applied; international laws must be adhered to balance and make sure the principle of humanity are applied in conflict. Leslie Green (2008) specifies the policies and standards of conflict should seek to aim in protecting human life and the fundamentals of human rights to ensure violence is limited within the scope of war.

Jus Post Bellum

With two essential part of the Just War Theory discussed above on the justness and the way to fight wars, the jus post bellum is equally essential in the theory of the Just War. Gary Bass (2004) explains the issues surrounding post war and how critical to stabilize the environment of war. Although the author elaborate on the importance of post war, he also points to the burden on post war even though the war fought may be just. The article Jus Post Bellum: The moral Responsibilities of Victors in by Louis Iasiello (2004), the authors thoughts align with Gary Bass as to rebuild and provide rebuilding and stabilization. The article further clarifies the ethical implications of saving lives after the fact and thus restoring order.

Mark Evan (2009) identifies the cost related in the jus post bellum and considers the implications of states waging war as it could be implied in rebuilding and providing stability for the victor. With the effects of war and the implications war brings, most argue on the ethical aspect of war to provide the necessities in order to bring peace and stability. Although this aspect or concept may be expensive in itself, the concept need to applied in the Just War Theory in order to achieve the ultimate goal of peace.

This concept brings about the gendered nature of the Just War Theory. Jiri Krcek (2012) evaluates the gendered nature of the just war from the feminism viewpoint and outlines the renewal of the just war theory by taking the humanitarian harm more seriously.


Recognizing the different arguments of the models of the Just War Theory provides grounds for adjusting the standards and the principles of the Just War Theory when assessing actions taking by sate, international laws, and the need to act abruptly without adhering to any specific rule. The framework of the Just War Theory needs to be adjusted to meet today’s operational environment and the nature of the wars. More importantly, humanitarian needs and the ethical aspects of wars need to captured in policies and hold people accountable who go contrary to them. Although this review captured some importance of having flexibility within the theory, limitations and parameters need to establish to shape efforts of war.


  • Alexander Moseley (n.d). Just War Theory. Retrieved from
  • Ashley Deeks (2016). Multi-Part Tests in the Jus ad Bellum. Retrieved from
  • Bass, Gary J. 2004. ‘Jus Post Bellum.’ Philosophy and Public Affairs 32 (4) (Fall): 384- 412. doi: 4963.2004.00019.x. https://search-proquest-
  • Corn, Geoffrey S., Self-Defense Targeting: Blurring the Line between the Jus ad Bellum and the Jus in Bello (October 22, 2011). Available at SSRN:
  • Evans, Mark. 2009. “Moral Responsibilities and the Conflicting Demands of Jus Post Bellum.” Ethics & International Affairs 23 (2). Cambridge University Press: 147–64. doi:10.1111/j.1747-7093.2009.00204.x.
  • Iasiello, Louis V. ‘JUS POST BELLUM: The Moral Responsibilities of Victors in War.’ Naval War College Review 57, no. 3/4 (2004): 33-52. Accessed September 24, 2020.
  • Katterina Hadjimatheou,. ‘The Relative Moral Risks of Untargeted and Targeted Surveillance.’ Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17, no. 2 (2014): 187-207. Accessed September 23, 2020.
  • Krcek, Jiri. 2012. What’s Wrong with Just War Theory? Examining the Gendered Bias of a Longstanding Tradition. Inquiries Journal/Student Pulse 4 (05),
  • Leslie Green (2008). The Contemporary Law of Armed Conflict
  • Mathew Waxman (2013). Regulating Resort to Force: Form and Substance of the UN Charter Regime. Retrieved from
  • Megan Braun & Daniel R. Brunstetter (2013) Rethinking the Criterion for Assessing Cia- targeted Killings: Drones, Proportionality and Jus Ad Vim, Journal of Military Ethics, 12:4, 304-324, DOI: 10.1080/15027570.2013.869390
  • Michael J. Boyle (2015) The legal and ethical implications of drone warfare, The International Journal of Human Rights, 19:2, 105-126, DOI: 10.1080/13642987.2014.991210
  • Michael Lacewing (n.d). Just WaR Theory. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group. Retrieved from
  • Monica Hakimi. ‘The Jus Ad Bellum’s Regulatory Form. “Am. J. Int’l L.112, no. 2 (2018): 151- 90
  • United Nations Charter (n.d). Retrieved from charter/un- charter-full-text/
  • Vorster, Nico. 2015. ‘Just War and Virtue: Revisiting Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.’ South African Journal of Philosophy 34 (1): 55-68. https://search-proquest-

Remember: This is just a sample from a fellow student.

Your time is important. Let us write you an essay from scratch

experts 450+ experts on 30 subjects ready to help you just now

delivery Starting from 3 hours delivery

Find Free Essays

We provide you with original essay samples, perfect formatting and styling

Cite this Essay

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

The Just War Theory: Literature Review. (2022, May 24). GradesFixer. Retrieved January 27, 2023, from
“The Just War Theory: Literature Review.” GradesFixer, 24 May 2022,
The Just War Theory: Literature Review. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 27 Jan. 2023].
The Just War Theory: Literature Review [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 May 24 [cited 2023 Jan 27]. Available from:
copy to clipboard

Where do you want us to send this sample?

    By clicking “Continue”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy.


    Be careful. This essay is not unique

    This essay was donated by a student and is likely to have been used and submitted before

    Download this Sample

    Free samples may contain mistakes and not unique parts


    Sorry, we could not paraphrase this essay. Our professional writers can rewrite it and get you a unique paper.



    Please check your inbox.

    We can write you a custom essay that will follow your exact instructions and meet the deadlines. Let's fix your grades together!


    Hi there!

    Are you interested in getting a customized paper?

    Check it out!
    Don't use plagiarized sources. Get your custom essay. Get custom paper

    We can help you get a better grade and deliver your task on time!

    • Instructions Followed To The Letter
    • Deadlines Met At Every Stage
    • Unique And Plagiarism Free
    Order your paper now