Hugo Grotius and justice war

Hugo Grotius and the War of Justice Chap#6 Part 1

With these words [on intentions] you may rightly associate the passage of Augustine: “The eager desire to injure, the cruelty of rebellion, the lust of ruling, and whatever else it is akin, these are vengeance, the unappeased and unappeasable mind, the savagery of the things which are justly censured in warfare.”

However, when a justifiable cause is not wanting, while these things do indeed convict of wrong the party that makes war, they do not render the war itself, properly speaking, unlawful. Hence no restitution is due as a result of a war undertaken under such conditions.

We can see that if a war is formally and materially just, the intentions of the ruler(s) cannot invalidate this judgment. Nevertheless, we should keep in mind that the political objective toward which the war aims cannot be the annihilation or subjugation of a people. Even in defeat, political communities do not lose their right to the territorial integrity or political sovereignty.

Another Just War condition not added by Grotius requires that a war, to be just, must be fought justly.25 Earlier I mentioned that the two components of the Just War theory, jus ad Bellum and Jus in Bello, are separate and distinct. I believe this interpretation is appropriate for two reasons. First, jus ad Bellum concerns relationships between states; just and unjust conduct on the battlefield concerns the actions of individuals. As Grotius notes, war describes a condition that can exist between nations (or other political collectives); it is not a description of the action.

Second, soldiers can never be responsible for the crime of war, qua soldiers. Resort to war is always a political decision, not a military one. As Grotius observes:

It does not fall within the province of the general to conduct negotiations about the causes or the consequences of a war… Even though the general has been placed in command with absolute power that must be understood to apply only to the conduct of the war.

Michael Walzer captures this distinction nicely when he notes that it does not matter whether soldiers fight because of a legal obligation (conscription) or a patriotic duty; theirs is never the crime of aggression because they always believe that their cause is In Francisco Vitoria’s language, soldiers are always infected with “invincible ignorance”-and who could wish it otherwise?

Standing armies are recruited, trained, and maintained to defend the community in times of danger. And although defending one’s community or family may be the right of every citizen in primitive society, in a civilized society that right has been taken away from the population at large and isolated in the office of soldiers.

It is, therefore, a duty for the soldiers to defend those constituents who have entered a pact with them to this end. It would be a traitorous abrogation of public trust to swear an oath of preparedness to perform certain duties on demand in return for “meals and support by the state.” and then, after accepting the benefits of the agreement, to refuse to fulfill the duties stipulated when called upon to do so. No citizen logically could wish it so.

On the other hand, political leaders are responsible for engaging in political intercourse with other nations on behalf of their respective citizens. The most extreme form this intercourse can take is the resort to arms. Of course, the earlier discussed requirement that the political objective of the war be proportional to the cause for which the war is fought remains applicable.

Read More: Hugo Grotius and the War of Justice

If the political objective of such violent intercourse is not proportional to the wrong received, a war might be fought unjustly. In this case, the jus ad Bellum condition that would be violated is proportionality.

That political leader can create circumstances that lead to unjust fighting does not, however, imply that soldiers qua soldiers have no responsibility under the Just War Tradition. They bear heavy responsibilities though not of a jus ad Bellum Bellumnature. The responsibility for the conduct of the war is, as Grotius notes, always a military one. In fact, all soldiers are always morally and legally responsible for their actions on the battlefield regardless of whether the actions are based on superior orders.

In other words, soldiers must disobey unlawful orders regarding the conduct of war even if they are given by an elected official. A good example of this in the practenBello order that all Allied soldiers found behind German lines be twice is Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s decision to burn Hitler’s writ killed. (We will return to the issue of superior orders in consideration.

The conceptual difference between political leaders and sol Commander-in-Chief in the United States or the Secretary of diers seems clear enough, even if, at certain high levels (e.g. the soldiers” because although they do give up some of the rights of possibilities. Likewise, U.S. military personnel are considered “citizen Defense) one person may bear both political and military response active”) they are allowed to vote.

Still, we have no trouble disinviting citizens (such as the right to hold public office or be “politically both of them. Because political leaders are responsible for the crime gushing between the two roles, even when a single individual plays war (jus ad Bellum), and military persons are responsible for in war a condition for determining the justification of the war itself crimes in war (jus in Bello), it does not seem useful to make actions

Certainly, we can imagine a nation’s soldiers fighting and adjusting themselves either justly or unjustly in such a war. Moreover, we war that they believe to be just; and we can imagine their conduct can imagine a Just War in which some soldiers fight by the jus in Bello rules and others do not.

That some soldiers violate the rules of war does not invalidate the justification for the resort to arms in the first place any more than an elected official’s misuse of his or her office would invalidate the democratic processes whereby the official was elected. For example, the Allied bombing of Germany during World War II violated the laws of war because it resulted in the intentional and unmakes finding scary deaths of innocent civilians would not by itself negate Great Britain’s and France’s right to defend themselves against German aggression.

The two moral truths between which this Bellum just dual-ism attempts to adjudicate are (1) the prohibition against intentionally harming innocents, and (2) the positive duty to protect oneself and other innocents from harm. In response to the argument that the attempt to protect innocents through war always directly results in the death of other innocents and, hence, is immoral, Grotius responds that in cases where all alternatives violate either the same natural law or natural laws of equal import, one must choose the alternative that minimizes the amount of evil that will occur.

In such cases, as he puts it, the lesser evil assumes the character of the An interesting and often overlooked aspect of these traditional jus ad Bellum criteria is that some of them apply internationally as proportionality, or a reasonable chance of victory, the citizens of that of a condition such as legitimate authority, public declaration. nation have been wronged as much as those of the opposing one, and they have the right of redress from their own leaders, as Grotius points out in a previously cited passage (see page 89, note 10 without pursuing alternate means of resolution, it is primarily the above).

If a nation resorts to arms without a just cause or people of the opposing nation have tight to redress against the political decision-makers who violated the jus ad Bellum principles. Obviously, these theoretical distinctions will not often be maintained in practice and most examples show both parties wronged.

It is especially important to keep in mind that Grotius saw the Law of War and Peace as a handbook for individual rulers to use in conducting their international affairs. In that sense, his work constitutes a system of national laws prescribing the conduct of international relations.


Appropriately, the United Nations Charter limits its references to jus ad Bellum to those aspects of jus ad Bellum that we identified as pertaining primarily between states rather than between a government and its people. Article 2 states that “(3) All Members shall settle their disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace, security, and justice are not endangered.

(4) All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.” Article 51 states that nothing “shall impair the inherent right of self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations.” Articles 33 through 40 all deal with means for settling disputes short of the resort to arms.

Taken together, these articles reflect those aspects of the Just War Tradition that should appropriately be articulated in international less scrupulousness than judicial processes are wont to be.” He Grotius makes it clear that wars must be carried on “with not certain other laws “which are of perpetual validity and suited to all times” must be obeyed, 33 These laws constitute his theory of jus in insists that even in the war when normal municipal laws are set aside Bello way.

Grotius is careful to point out that questions of jus ad Bellum are not relevant to jus in Bello prescriptions or, put another one may not set aside the rules of war on behalf of a just cause Let us turn now to Grotius’s concept of who may rightfully be attacked in war and how one may attack them.

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