The Cause must be just

The reason for going to war must be good in themselves. A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified. They must not be conquest for the sake of exploting the enemy's territory or people, but self-defence against a real and present threat.

Must be called for by a competent authority

The war must be started and controlled by the state and or ruler (the King), this is refered to as ligitimate ruling authority. Cannot be waged bey individuals or groups that do not have a ligitimate authority.

It must involve comparative justice

A just war can only be fought to restore a wrong suffered. Self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause. A just war can only be fought with "right" intentions. This involves weighing any justice of the cause against the evils of violence, destruction, suffering and death that will inevitabilty flow from war. The good must overweigh the evil! Peace and justice must be resorted quickly.

The intention must be right

There must be no reasonable conditions added to the original war aims.

  • A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. The primary objective is to re-establish peace.

  • War must be last resort

    A just war can only be waged as a last resort. The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. All means of securing justice, short or war; should have been exhausted: negotiations, statements of intent, police actions short of open warfare, and invoking the authority of international bodies.

    There must be a probability of success

    This does not necessarily rule out hopelessness wars if the values involved are important enough, but again demands a careful assesment of the consequences. There must be a rational possibility os success, a nation cannot enter into a war with with a hopeless cause.

    There must be proportionality between means and ends

    Only enough force should be used as an absolutely necessary to achieve peace. Innocent civilians should not be attacked. The good to be achieved must never be out of proportion to the means used. The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered.


    War and Peace VCE Religion and Society Class Book

    Engebreston,K, Duncan,B, Elliot,P, Rule,P, Rymarz,R, 2004, Catholic Ethical Thinking for Senior Secondary Students, James Goold House Publications, Melbourne


    By Lauren Van Der Westhuizen