War Ever JustifiedIs War Ever Justified?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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In my personal opinion, yes.  My thoughts on this subject always revolve around Saint Thomas Aquinas' "Principles of a Just War" from his Summa Theologica:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
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M.P. Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Yes. War is justifiable. Even our oldest ancestors would band together to defend their territory, and each other. It is quite justifiable if an incoming group of terrorists, for example, threatens to take away the freedoms and liberties that our founding fathers fought so hard to draft and constitute.

On a personal level, any person, or thing, that threatens my freedom and my internal peace is a person or thing to which I will declare war. And I will go to any extent to ensure that my rights are protected, and those of my family.

Yep- it is justified.

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markchambers1966 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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War can indeed be justified. I note that some respondants here feel the USA was justified entering WW2 AFTER Pearl Harbour. What if Pearl Harbour had not occurred and the holocaust had gone on in Europe, should America have sat on the sidelines then? Is being directly attacked the only justification, or is there a case for a greater good? Surely acting with a consciousness to oppose evil may be a moral justification in itself, even if the threat is not on your doorstep.

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timbrady | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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I think your question is asking whether starting a war is ever justified.  It is clear, to me at least, that a defensive war is justifiable.  It would be a strange world if countries could just start wars knowing that there would be no response.

So is it ever justifiable to initiate a war?  I think it could be.  For instance, if you know that another country is planning a war against you, not just thinking, but actually planning and gathering the weapons they will need at your border, a first strike might be appropriate.  Of course, this all hinges on "knowing."  The world "knew," for instance, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but there were never found.  (This doesn't mean the world was wrong, just that, by the time we got there, the weapons were gone.)

I think it also might be moral to "join" a war, even if "we" are not attacked.  This might be the case, for example, to try to stop mass genocide in another country.

All this is very hazy as it happens; it's much clearer from 100 years away ....

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sharrons | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I think that often times we "jump the gun"--pardon the pun--when it comes to war; however, there are cases when it is indeed justified.  When people are being denied human rights, and all other options have been exhausted, then, war is justified.


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drmonica | (Level 2) Associate Educator

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Yes, there are occasions when war is justified. The entry of the United States into World War II following the attack on Pearl Harbor is an example of a war that must be fought. Had the U.S. not joined the Allies, liberty itself was at stake, and not just in Europe.

Are innocent lives lost as the result of war, however justified the end might be? Of course. Nonetheless, there are times when there is no choice. A war that takes some innocent lives by accident is preferable to another Holocaust that takes millions of innocent lives purposefully.

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Susan Hurn | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Is murder ever justified? Yes--in self-defense. A person has the inherent right to protect his own life from anyone who would take it. Applied to the national perspective, then, a nation has the right, and responsibility, to protect the lives of its people when attacked. A war of national self-defense would be justified. Such was the case in World War II. The United States supported Britain's fight against Germany through the lend-lease program, but we did not go to war until we were attacked at Pearl Harbor. Once attacked, we waged war against Japan, Germany, and Italy, all working in concert as the Axis powers. Our role in World War II was a matter of national survival, and our actions were justified.

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dominion | College Teacher | (Level 3) eNoter

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War Ever Justified

Is War Ever Justified?

Humans and animals all are born with the instinct to protect themselves and their young. Therefore I would agree war is justified in that context.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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In response to Post #8, I would like to add that protecting your rights and interests is not just being mean and selfish. Being true to one's conscience is also an important part of our right. Rather, I would say that a war is most justified when it is fought in response to your conscience.

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epollock | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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War is always justified in which oppression is battled and peopel are allowed to live in freedom and liberty.

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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Starting of a war is never justified. Even taking unjustified actions that leaves other party no option but to fight to defend their rights and interests, is not justified. But when a nation sees no other option to protects its rights and interests, it is very much justified in resorting to war.

A war is never the best means to secure your ends, but it may be justified when the following two conditions are met.

  1. The war is fought to secure ends that are justified.
  2. There are no other means available to secure those ends.