I didn’t want this to get by without commenting. Donald Sensing of One Hand Clapping posts a short primer on “Just War” theory and its application to the present situation in the Middle East, written by a friend. Very much worth reading.
In summary the conditions are
- The causes must be lasting, grave, and certain.
- Other means must be ineffective.
- There must be a likelihood of success.
- The means employed must be proportionate.
You might consider reading Thomas Aquinas’s treatise “On War”, at least the first part dealing wih justification. Aquinas is rough sledding: his format is highly formal. But he was an extremely systematic thinker and his work laid the foundation for today’s thinking on the subject.
Aquinas taught that there were three requirements for a decision to go to war (jus ad bellum) to be just:
- The person or persons deciding to go to war must have legitimate authority.
- The cause must be just.
- The belligerents must have rightful intention.
In my opinion Hezbollah fails on all three counts.
To my mind one of the most significant of Aquinas’s observations is:
Those who wage war justly aim at peace, and so they are not opposed to peace, except to the evil peace, which Our Lord “came not to send upon earth” (Mt. 10:34). Hence Augustine says (Ep. ad Bonif. clxxxix): “We do not seek peace in order to be at war, but we go to war that we may have peace. Be peaceful, therefore, in warring, so that you may vanquish those whom you war against, and bring them to the prosperity of peace.”
See also here.
Other people are reflecting on the legal and moral issues surrounding the current situation, too. Check out Marc Danziger’s post at Winds of Change on the Fourth Geneva Convention. I don’t think the reactions of the Europeans and UN officials can be understood without considering, too, the Second Protocol to the Geneval Conventions and the Additional Convention prohibiting certain conventional weapons.
The latter, in particular, although not generally ratified is probably influential in the thinking of some on the subject of proportionate force.