Just war theory (Latin: jus bellum justum) is a doctrine, also referred to as a tradition, of military ethics studied by military leaders, theologians, ethicists and policy makers. The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met for a war to be considered just. The criteria are split into two groups: "right to go to war" (jus ad bellum) and "right conduct in war" (jus in bello). The first concerns the morality of going to war, and the second the moral conduct within war.Recently there have been calls for the inclusion of a third category of just war theory— jus post bellum —dealing with the morality of post-war settlement and reconstruction.
Just war theory postulates that war, while terrible (but less so with the right conduct), is not always the worst option. Important responsibilities, undesirable outcomes, or preventable atrocities may justify war.
Opponents of just war theory may be either inclined to a stricter pacifist standard (proposing that there has never been and/or can never be a justifiable basis for war)or toward a more permissive nationalist standard (proposing that a war need only serve a nation's interests to be justifiable). In a large number of cases, philosophers state that individuals need not be of guilty conscience if required to fight. A few ennoble the virtues of the soldier while declaring their apprehensions for war itself. A few, such as Rousseau, argue for insurrection against oppressive rule.
The historical aspect, or the "just war tradition", deals with the historical body of rules or agreements that have applied in various wars across the ages. The just war tradition also considers the writings of various philosophers and lawyers through history, and examines both their philosophical visions of war's ethical limits and whether their thoughts have contributed to the body of conventions that have evolved to guide war and warfare.
A 2017 study found that the just war tradition can be traced as far back as to Ancient Egypt, "demonstrating that just war thought developed beyond the boundaries of Europe and existed many centuries earlier than the advent of Christianity or even the emergence of Greco-Roman doctrine."
Chinese philosophy produced a massive body of work on warfare, much of it during the Zhou dynasty, especially the Warring States era. War was justified only as a last resort and only by the rightful sovereign; however, questioning the decision of the emperor concerning the necessity of a military action was not permissible. The success of a military campaign was sufficient proof that the campaign had been righteous.
Though Japan did not develop its own doctrine of just war, between the 5th and 7th centuries they drew heavily from Chinese philosophy, and especially Confucian views. As part of the Japanese campaign to take the northeastern island Honshu, Japanese military action was portrayed as an effort to "pacify" the Emishi people who were likened to "bandits" and "wild-hearted wolf cubs" and accused of invading Japan's frontier lands.
The Indian Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, offers the first written discussions of a "just war" ( dharma-yuddha or "righteous war"). In it, one of five ruling brothers ( Pandavas ) asks if the suffering caused by war can ever be justified. A long discussion then ensues between the siblings, establishing criteria like proportionality (chariots cannot attack cavalry, only other chariots; no attacking people in distress), just means (no poisoned or barbed arrows), just cause (no attacking out of rage), and fair treatment of captives and the wounded.
In Sikhism, the term dharamyudh describes a war that is fought for just, righteous or religious reasons, especially in defence of one's own beliefs. Though some core tenets in the Sikh religion are understood to emphasise peace and nonviolence, especially before the 1606 execution of Guru Arjan by Mughal emperor Jahangir,military force may be justified if all peaceful means to settle a conflict have been exhausted, thus resulting in a dharamyudh.
It was Aristotle who first introduced the concept and terminology to the Hellenic world where war was a last resort and required a conduct that would not make impossible the restoration of peace. Aristotle generally has a favorable opinion of war and warfare to "avoid becoming enslaved to others" is justified as self-defense. As an exception to this, Aristotelian just war theory permitted warfare to enslave what Aristotle called "natural slaves". For this reason, Aristotelian just war theory is not well regarded in present day. In Aristotelian philosophy, the abolition of what he considers "natural slavery" would undermine civic freedom. The pursuit of freedom is inseparable from pursuing mastery over "those who deserve to be slaves". According to The Cambridge Companion to Aristotle's Politics the targets of this aggressive warfare were non-Greeks, noting Aristotle's view that "our poets say 'it is proper for Greeks to rule non-Greeks'".
In ancient Rome, a "just cause" for war might include the necessity of repelling an invasion, or retaliation for pillaging or a breach of treaty.War was always potentially nefas ("wrong, forbidden"), and risked religious pollution and divine disfavor. A "just war" (bellum iustum) thus required a ritualized declaration by the fetial priests. More broadly, conventions of war and treaty-making were part of the ius gentium , the "law of nations", the customary moral obligations regarded as innate and universal to human beings. The quintessential explanation of Just War theory in the ancient world is found in Cicero's De Officiis , Book 1, sections 1.11.33–1.13.41. Although, it is well known that Julius Caesar did not often follow these necessities.
Christian theory of the Just War begins with Augustine of Hippoand Thomas Aquinas.
Augustine of Hippo claimed that, while individuals should not resort immediately to violence, God has given the sword to government for good reason (based upon Romans 13:4). In Contra Faustum Manichaeum book 22 sections 69–76, Augustine argues that Christians, as part of a government, need not be ashamed of protecting peace and punishing wickedness when forced to do so by a government. Augustine asserted that this was a personal, philosophical stance: "What is here required is not a bodily action, but an inward disposition. The sacred seat of virtue is the heart."
Nonetheless, he asserted, peacefulness in the face of a grave wrong that could only be stopped by violence would be a sin. Defense of one's self or others could be a necessity, especially when authorized by a legitimate authority:
They who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."
While not breaking down the conditions necessary for war to be just, Augustine nonetheless originated the very phrase itself in his work The City of God:
But, say they, the wise man will wage Just Wars. As if he would not all the rather lament the necessity of just wars, if he remembers that he is a man; for if they were not just he would not wage them, and would therefore be delivered from all wars.
J. Mark Mattox writes that, for the individual Christian under the rule of a government engaged in an immoral war, Augustine admonished that Christians, "by divine edict, have no choice but to subject themselves to their political masters and [should] seek to ensure that they execute their war-fighting duty as justly as possible."
Nine hundred years later, Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274) laid out the conditions under which a war could be justified (combining the theological principles of faith with the philosophical principles of reason, he ranked among the most influential thinkers of medieval Scholasticism):
In the Summa Theologica, Thomas proceeded to distinguish between philosophy and theology, and between reason and revelation, though he emphasized that these did not contradict each other. Both are fountains of knowledge; both come from God.
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The School of Salamanca expanded on Thomistic understanding of natural law and just war. It stated that war is one of the worst evils suffered by mankind. The School's adherents reasoned that war should be a last resort, and only then, when necessary to prevent an even greater evil. Diplomatic resolution is always preferable, even for the more powerful party, before a war is started. Examples of "just war" are:
A war is not legitimate or illegitimate simply based on its original motivation: it must comply with a series of additional requirements:
Under this doctrine expansionist wars, wars of pillage, wars to convert infidels or pagans, and wars for glory are all inherently unjust.
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The just war doctrine of the Catholic Church found in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church , in paragraph 2309, lists four strict conditions for "legitimate defense by military force":
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church elaborates on the Just War Doctrine in paragraphs 500 to 501:
The first work dedicated specifically to it was De bellis justis of Stanisław of Skarbimierz (1360–1431), who justified war by the Kingdom of Poland with Teutonic Knights.[ citation needed ] Francisco de Vitoria criticized the conquest of America by the Kingdom of Spain on the basis of just war theory. With Alberico Gentili and Hugo Grotius just war theory was replaced by international law theory, codified as a set of rules, which today still encompass the points commonly debated, with some modifications. The importance of the theory of just war faded with the revival of classical republicanism beginning with works of Thomas Hobbes.
Although the criticism can be made that the application of just war theory is relativistic, one of the fundamental bases of the tradition is the Ethic of Reciprocity, particularly when it comes to in bello considerations of deportment during battle. If one set of combatants promise to treat their enemies with a modicum of restraint and respect, then the hope is that other sets of combatants will do similarly in reciprocation (a concept not unrelated to the considerations of Game Theory).
Just war theorists combine a moral abhorrence towards war with a readiness to accept that war may sometimes be necessary. The criteria of the just war tradition act as an aid to determining whether resorting to arms is morally permissible. Just war theories are attempts "to distinguish between justifiable and unjustifiable uses of organized armed forces"; they attempt "to conceive of how the use of arms might be restrained, made more humane, and ultimately directed towards the aim of establishing lasting peace and justice".
The just war tradition addresses the morality of the use of force in two parts: when it is right to resort to armed force (the concern of jus ad bellum ) and what is acceptable in using such force (the concern of jus in bello ).In more recent years, a third category— jus post bellum —has been added, which governs the justice of war termination and peace agreements, as well as the prosecution of war criminals.
Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin defined only three types of just war,all of which share the central trait of being revolutionary in character. In simple terms: "To the Russian workers has fallen the honour and the good fortune of being the first to start the revolution—the great and only legitimate and just war, the war of the oppressed against the oppressors.", with these two opposing categories being defined in terms of class, as is typical in the left. In that manner, Lenin shunned the more common interpretation of a defensive war as a just one—often summarized as "who fired the first shot?"—precisely because it didn't take in consideration the class factor. Which side initiated aggressions or had a grievance or any other commonly considered factor of jus ad bellum mattered not at all, he claimed; if one side was being oppressed by the other, the war against the oppressor would always be, by definition, a defensive war anyway. Any war lacking this duality of oppressed and oppressor was, in contradistinction, always a reactionary, unjust war, in which the oppressed effectively fight in order to protect their own oppressors:
"But picture to yourselves a slave-owner who owned 100 slaves warring against a slave-owner who owned 200 slaves for a more "just" distribution of slaves. Clearly, the application of the term "defensive" war, or war "for the defence of the fatherland" in such a case would be historically false, and in practice would be sheer deception of the common people, of philistines, of ignorant people, by the astute slaveowners. Precisely in this way are the present-day imperialist bourgeoisie deceiving the peoples by means of "national ideology" and the term "defence of the fatherland" in the present war between slave-owners for fortifying and strengthening slavery."
Anarcho-capitalist scholar Murray Rothbard stated: "a just war exists when a people tries to ward off the threat of coercive domination by another people, or to overthrow an already-existing domination. A war is unjust, on the other hand, when a people try to impose domination on another people, or try to retain an already existing coercive rule over them."
Jonathan Riley-Smith writes,
The consensus among Christians on the use of violence has changed radically since the crusades were fought. The just war theory prevailing for most of the last two centuries—that violence is an evil that can, in certain situations, be condoned as the lesser of evils—is relatively young. Although it has inherited some elements (the criteria of legitimate authority, just cause, right intention) from the older war theory that first evolved around AD 400, it has rejected two premises that underpinned all medieval just wars, including crusades: first, that violence could be employed on behalf of Christ's intentions for mankind and could even be directly authorized by him; and second, that it was a morally neutral force that drew whatever ethical coloring it had from the intentions of the perpetrators.
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Just War Theory has two sets of criteria, the first establishing jus ad bellum (the right to go to war), and the second establishing jus in bello (right conduct within war).
In modern terms, just war is waged in terms of self-defense, or in defense of another (with sufficient evidence).
Once war has begun, just war theory (jus in bello) also directs how combatants are to act or should act:
In April 1917, two weeks after the United States Congress declared war on Germany, Cardinal James Gibbons of Baltimore, the de facto head of the U.S. Catholic church, issued a letter that all Catholics were to support the war.The Episcopal bishop of New York, William Manning said the following:
Our Lord Jesus Christ does not stand for peace at any price ... Every true American would rather see this land face war than see her flag lowered in dishonor ... I wish to say that, not only from the standpoint of a citizen, but from the standpoint of a minister of religion ... I believe there is nothing that would be of such great practical benefit to us as universal military training for the men of our land.
If by Pacifism is meant the teaching that the use of force is never justifiable, then, however well meant, it is mistaken, and it is hurtful to the life of our country. And the Pacifism which takes the position that because war is evil, therefore all who engage in war, whether for offense or defense, are equally blameworthy, and to be condemned, is not only unreasonable, it is inexcusably unjust.
In recent years, some theorists, such as Gary Bass, Louis Iasiello and Brian Orend, have proposed a third category within Just War theory. Jus post bellum concerns justice after a war, including peace treaties, reconstruction, environmental remediation, war crimes trials, and war reparations. Jus post bellum has been added to deal with the fact that some hostile actions may take place outside a traditional battlefield. Jus post bellum governs the justice of war termination and peace agreements, as well as the prosecution of war criminals, and publicly labeled terrorists. This idea has largely been added to help decide what to do if there are prisoners that have been taken during battle. It is, through government labeling and public opinion, that people use jus post bellum to justify the pursuit of labeled terrorist for the safety of the government's state in a modern context. The actual fault lies with the aggressor, so by being the aggressor they forfeit their rights for honorable treatment by their actions. This is the theory used to justify the actions taken by anyone fighting in a war to treat prisoners outside of war.Actions after a conflict can be warranted by actions observed during war, meaning that there can be justification to meet violence with violence even after war. Orend, who was one of the theorist mentioned earlier, proposes the following principles:
There are many theories that correlate with the Just War Theory doctrine, which include:
These theorists either approve of war as retaliation, or of war as a last resort.
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These theorists do not approve of war, but provide arguments for justifying retaliation when another starts war.
Pacifism is opposition to war, militarism or violence. The word pacifism was coined by the French peace campaigner Émile Arnaud (1864–1921) and adopted by other peace activists at the tenth Universal Peace Congress in Glasgow in 1901. A related term is ahimsa, which is a core philosophy in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. While modern connotations are recent, having been explicated since the 19th century, ancient references abound.
War is intense armed conflict between states, governments, societies, or paramilitary groups such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.
Civilian casualties occurs in a general sense, when civilians are killed or injured by non-civilians, mostly law enforcement officers, military personnel, or criminals such as terrorists and bank robbers. Under the law of war, it is referred to civilians who perished or suffered wounds as a result of wartime acts. In both cases, they can be associated with the outcome of any form of action regardless of whether civilians were targeted directly or not.
The law of war refers to the component of international law that regulates the conditions for war and the conduct of warring parties. Laws of war define sovereignty and nationhood, states and territories, occupation, and other critical terms of international law.
The principle of double effect – also known as the rule of double effect; the doctrine of double effect, often abbreviated as DDE or PDE, double-effect reasoning; or simply double effect – is a set of ethical criteria which Christian philosophers, and some others, have advocated for evaluating the permissibility of acting when one's otherwise legitimate act may also cause an effect one would otherwise be obliged to avoid. The first known example of double-effect reasoning is Thomas Aquinas' treatment of homicidal self-defense, in his work Summa Theologica.
Jus ad bellum is a set of criteria that are to be consulted before engaging in war in order to determine whether entering into war is permissible, that is, whether it is a just war.
The School of Salamanca is the Renaissance of thought in diverse intellectual areas by Spanish theologians, rooted in the intellectual and pedagogical work of Francisco de Vitoria. From the beginning of the 16th century the traditional Catholic conception of man and of his relation to God and to the world had been assaulted by the rise of humanism, by the Protestant Reformation and by the new geographical discoveries and their consequences. These new problems were addressed by the School of Salamanca. The name refers to the University of Salamanca, where de Vitoria and other members of the school were based.
International humanitarian law (IHL), also referred to as the laws of armed conflict, is the law that regulates the conduct of war. It is a branch of international law which seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict by protecting persons who are not participating in hostilities, and by restricting and regulating the means and methods of warfare available to combatants.
The philosophy of war is the area of philosophy devoted to examining issues such as the causes of war, the relationship between war and human nature, and the ethics of war. Certain aspects of the philosophy of war overlap with the philosophy of history, political philosophy, international relations and the philosophy of law.
The relationship between Christianity and politics is a historically complex subject and a frequent source of disagreement throughout the history of Christianity, as well as in modern politics between the Christian right and Christian left. There have been a wide variety of ways in which thinkers have conceived of the relationship between Christianity and politics, with many arguing that Christianity directly supports a particular political ideology or philosophy. Along these lines, various thinkers have argued for Christian communism, Christian socialism, Christian anarchism, Christian libertarianism, or Christian democracy. Others believe that Christians should have little interest or participation in politics or government.
The history of international law examines the evolution and development of public international law in both state practice and conceptual understanding. Modern international law developed out of Renaissance Europe and is strongly entwined with the development of western political organisation at that time. The development of European notions of sovereignty and nation states would necessitate the development of methods for interstate relations and standards of behaviour, and these would lay the foundations of what would become international law. However, while the origins of the modern system of international law can be traced back 400 years, the development of the concepts and practises that would underpin that system can be traced back to ancient historical politics and relationships thousands of years old. Important concepts are derived from the practice between Greek city-states and the Roman law concept of ius gentium. These principles were not universal however. In East Asia, political theory was based not on the equality of states, but rather the cosmological supremacy of the Emperor of China.
Jus post bellum is a concept that deals with the morality of the termination phase of war. The idea has some historical pedigree as a concept in just war theory. In modern times, it has been developed by a number of just war theorists and international lawyers. However, the concept means different things to the contributors in each field. For lawyers, the concept is much less clearly defined and many have rejected the usefulness of the concept altogether.
Right to Exist: a Moral Defense of Israel's Wars is a book by German-born Israeli historian Yaacov Lozowick, the director of archives at the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.
Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations is a 1977 book by the philosopher Michael Walzer. Published by Basic Books, it is still in print, now as part of the Basic Books Classics Series. A second edition was published in 1992, a third edition in 2000, a fourth edition in 2006, and a fifth edition in 2015. The book resulted from Walzer's reflections on the Vietnam War.
Christians have held diverse views towards violence and non-violence through time. Currently and historically there have been four views and practices within Christianity toward violence and war: non-resistance, Christian pacifism, Just war theory, and the Crusade. The early church in the Roman empire adopted a nonviolent stance when it came to war since imitating Jesus's sacrificial life was preferable. The concept of "Just war", whereby limited uses of war were considered acceptable originated with earlier non-Christian Roman and Greek thinkers such as Cicero and Plato. This theory was adapted later by Christian thinkers such as St Augustine, who like other Christians, borrowed much of the justification from Roman writers like Cicero and Roman Law. Even though "Just War" concept was widely accepted early on, warfare was not regarded as a virtuous activity and expressing concern for the salvation of those who killed enemies in battle, regardless of the cause for which they fought, was common. Concepts such as "Holy war", whereby fighting itself might be considered a penitential and spiritually meritorious act, did not emerge before the 11th century.
Tranquillitas ordinis is a Latin phrase meaning the "tranquility of order" or "well-ordered concord". The term is associated with the Roman Catholic tradition of just war theory, and is found in the writings of Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas. Depending on the author and the context, the term is used to convey various meanings in theology and politics. These meanings include the divine order imposed on the universe and a theoretical framework for peace. Tranquillitas ordinis remains a cornerstone of Catholic teaching on peace. It is included in the framework laid out by Pope John XXIII in his 1963 encyclical, Pacem in terris, and is a featured topic at The Global Quest for Tranquillitas Ordinis, a conference organized by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences.
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to war:
Targeted Killings: Law and Morality in an Asymmetrical World is a non-fiction compilation book about targeted killing edited by Claire Finkelstein, Jens David Ohlin, and Andrew Altman. It was published by Oxford University Press in 2012. The book grew out of contributions by the authors to a conference in April 2011 at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Targeted Killings features eighteen essays in five sections arranged by topic. The work argues that after the 11 September attacks by Al-Qaeda in 2001, the United States and other countries began to see the tactic of targeted killing differently. The practice of targeted killing had previously been accepted in situations of self-defence in military settings; after 11 September 2001 it was used to kill non-combatants and those not directly involved in a particular armed force.
Schmitt analysis is a legal framework developed in 1999 by Michael N. Schmitt, leading author of the Tallinn Manual, for deciding if a state's involvement in a cyber-attack constitutes a use of force. Such a framework is important as part of international law's adaptation process to the growing threat of cyber-warfare. The characteristics of a cyber-attack can determine which legal regime will govern state behavior, and the Schmitt analysis is one of the most commonly used ways of analyzing those characteristics. It can also be used as a basis for training professionals in the legal field to deal with cyberwarfare.
Human shields may be civilians used against their will to deter attacks on military targets during an international armed conflict or they may be civilians who voluntarily protect either military or civilian targets from attack. The use of human shields is forbidden by Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions. It is also a specific intent war crime as codified in the Rome Statute, which was adopted in 1998. The language of the Rome Statute prohibits "utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas, or military forces immune from military operations."
Philosophical discussions of pacifism have clarified the concept by distinguishing the more general commitment to nonviolence from a narrower anti-war position. Pacifism is further defined through its dialectical relation to the idea of justified violence that is found in the Western just war tradition, with many locating pacifism on a continuum for assessing the morality of war that includes realism, just war theory, and pacifism. Indeed, there is an ongoing debate about the proper relation between just war theory and pacifism that focuses on the question of whether the just war theory begins with a pacifist presumption against war. Some authors (May, for example) have used the just war theory to derive a version of pacifism described as "contingent pacifism" or "just war pacifism".
The main pillar of the ius publicum Europaeum, according to Schmitt, was a strict separation between the ius ad bellum and the ius in bello. On the level of ius ad bellum, all independent states were recognized to possess the right to go to war on the basis of their own judgment of justice and necessity. The legal order of ius publicum Europaeum, in effect, did not distinguish between just and unjust war. Rather, both sides in a conflict between sovereign states were by default recognized as legitimate belligerents (NE 140–71). Moreover, since both states in any conflict were held to be legitimate belligerents, states not directly involved in a conflict were taken to possess the right to choose to back either side or to remain neutral (DCW 53–74). This framework, Schmitt argues, allowed European states to bring about a highly effective containment of the negative consequences of war, and thus of the dangers of political existence. The abstraction from the justice of war allowed states to make peace without being hampered by the need to apportion moral blame. The freedom to side with either party in a conflict, or else to remain neutral, allowed states to contain conflicts by balancing or simply by staying out of the fight. Most importantly, however, the mutual recognition of legitimate belligerency allowed for the effective enforcement of stringent constraints on the permissible means of warfare on the level of ius in bello. Inter-statal warfare during the period of the jus publicum Europaeum, according to Schmitt, distinguished carefully between combatants and civilians and abstained from using methods of warfare that might endanger the lives or the property of civilians (NE 142–43, 165–8). This containment of war, Schmitt claims, was premised on the willingness to bracket the question of justice on the level of ius ad bellum. Once one takes the view that a war can be legitimate on one side, while being illegitimate on the other, one is forced to conclude, Schmitt argues, that it is morally wrong to grant the status of legitimate belligerency to those who are judged to fight without a just cause, and equally wrong to assume that they ought to enjoy the same in bello-rights as those who fight justly (NE 320-2; CP 54–7). Moreover, once one separates between legitimate and illegitimate belligerency, it will no longer be possible to argue that other states have the right to side with either belligerent or to remain neutral. Rather, third parties will be seen to have a duty to side with those who fight justly (DK 26–53). The abandonment of the idea that all participants in a war among states are equally legitimate belligerents, Schmitt concludes, inevitably undercuts the containment of war achieved in ius publicum Europaeum (PB 286–90). Unsurprisingly, Schmitt rejected the project of creating an international legal order based on a 'discriminating concept of war' that would subject the use of force on the part of sovereign states to substantive criteria of moral legitimacy and external legal control. He regarded such developments as little more than attempts on the part of the victorious western allies to brand any violent German effort to revise the outcomes of WWI as illegal and thus as unjust, and to give themselves license for the application of means of coercion and for the use of methods of warfare that would have been considered as illegitimate in the context of mutually legitimate belligerency (PB 184–203; NE 259–80). Schmitt argued that international legalization on the model of just war theory would not prevent coming wars. It would merely make them more total, as it would encourage opponents to regard each other as absolute enemies worthy of elimination (NE 309–22; Brown 2007; Slomp 2009, 95–111).
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