This past Monday, two teams of academic minds met for an intriguing discussion on the Just War Theory. Professors Tim Fuller and David Hendrickson from Colorado College and Professors Carrese and Heidler hailing from the United States Air Force Academy sponsored a panel. The panel covered the history on the theory, its impact on the past, and its effect on the U.S future with international relations regarding the political and moral use of force in war.
The main questions posed in the theory are: “When is it right to go to war?” and “What is the right way to conduct yourself when engaged in warfare?” Fuller started the discussion by turning to the Christian origins of the theory. He cited two principles within the New Testament that related to the theory: one that asks humans to turn the other cheek when it comes to violence and another that says human beings require artificial political order to prevent them from being self-destructive. This principle creates a boundary of what is proportionate to the extent of what should be fought and no further than that.
Carrese examined the origin of this theory and focused on George Washington’s farewell address of 1796. He talked about the same balance that Fuller mentioned, but understood the balance as a way of thinking about war justice in relation to foreign policy with other countries. This theory acts as the balance that requires America to consult with others, otherwise known as America’s grand strategy.
Carrese expressed the importance Washington’s speech had on the theory of Just War as well as the contributions of Montesquieu and Grotius’ ideas on the foundation of Just War tradition. Looking backwards on Grotius and then slightly forward onto what Grotius effect on Montesquieu, the same topics Washington spoke of in his address surfaced in the minds of those in the 17th and 18th centuries.
Grotius said that with human beings knowing that some aspects are immoral, law of charity should rise above all else, while keeping the use of moderation in mind. Montesquieu revised these ideas and believed that the law of natural enlightenment is the law to be followed. In modern terms, Montesquieu believed in the golden rule: do unto others what you would want them to do onto you.
From this point, Professor David Hendrickson and Professor Heidler spoke of Andrew Jackson’s contribution to this theory and the United States’ current relationship with Syria.
Heidler focused on Jackson’s betrayal of Monroe’s orders during the War of 1812. Jackson was given orders to help as General, but not harm the Spanish residing in Florida. Jackson disregarded those orders and continued to use force aimlessly on the Spanish. Jackson’s decision ultimately led to the U.S.’s purchase of Florida from Spain and his restriction of power once he became President.
Heidler emphasized that since his unnecessary use of force was deemed more or less outrageous, he was prohibited from actively associating with countries that could cause conflict with the U.S.
Hendrickson transitioned from this point into our situation with Syria and showed our issue with deciding whether or not to let revolutions happen.
Should we move away from what tradition of the theory argues – limiting force – towards finding the ways to use force? Should we alter how we use force and eliminate it all together? Or, is war just a way of life?