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If a war is to be labeled as just, an understanding of what makes a war just is needed.

Just War Theory (or Jus Bellum iustum) is a philosophical theory that was
practiced by the Roman armies and first written down in the Indian epic the
Mahabharata (approx 400 BCE). Accounts of justifying war or aggression also appear
in the Christian Bible and have been spoken about by Islamic scholars for centuries.
The theory states that war cannot be fought for the sake of fighting a war. There
are conditions that must be met, and other avenues of resolution must be pursued before
violence is resorted to.
While cultural interpretations of what comprises each condition vary; the core
principles of these conditions are commonplace. These principles fall into to two
categories; just reasons for war, and unjust reasons.
For most modern societies, just reasons for war include preservation of land,
protection of life and retaliation for aggression. Commandeering resources, saving face or
pride of the leader of a country or nation state, or merely starting a war on a whim all fall
into the unjust category. Once the requirements for going to war have been satisfied,
they must then be used by the appropriate powers to properly declare war. This system of
checks and balances was devised to ensure that no one person wielded too much power
and that declaring war took time and afforded the parties involved the opportunity to
resolve the conflict in a non-violent way if possible.
Another element of the Just War Theory is conduct on the battlefield. While
America and other Western countries strive to wage a humane war while adhering to a
strict set of guidelines or Rules of Engagement, other nations or militant groups do not.
The unfortunate circumstance that we are faced with is that our moral and ethical views
are not shared by all of those whom we engage in armed conflict with. These groups
often do not view non-members of their culture or faith as humans; they are regarded as
animals and are treated as such. Another tactic that is used by these groups to justify what
we consider inhumane acts is taking examples of deplorable, yet isolated, acts carried out
by our military and suggesting that those acts are normal and they are merely acting in
The idea and definition of Just War has been re-visited many times by American
philosophers. In the last eighty years alone it has been looked at in the mid twentieth
century with the advent of the Atomic bomb, during Americas involvement in the
Vietnam Conflict, and most recently during the second Gulf War/War on Terror.
Deciding what constitutes a Just War is a debate that has raged for millennia
between philosophers, politicians and laymen. This discussion pre-dates our so called
advanced society and will likely outlast it.
The definition of what is a Just War has changed many times in the past and will
undoubtedly change many times in the future. What we as a human race must learn from
the debate is not the definitions of right and wrong, or what can be universally accepted
as moral. The lesson that we must learn if we hope to survive as a species is that
regardless of the justness of the war, it is not always the answer.
Pacifistic strategies or conscientious objection may sometimes hold the key to
resolving conflict. There are times when violence must beget violence, it is inevitable;
however, man has made many technological and theological advances since we first
climbed down from the trees. There is no reason that peaceful coexistence cannot be our
next major breakthrough.