Re. Just War? Q & A, October/November 2015, p. 8:
Congratulations to Lawrence Denef for a masterful summary—both historical and contemporary—of the complex issues surrounding the “just war” doctrine. I know from experience what an accomplishment it is to successfully condense a vast subject into the confines of one printed page.
Denef rightly points out that our global context has changed, as have the technologies of war. For one thing, current wars are no longer contests among sovereign states and legitimate authorities. The wars raging in our world today are more often internal conflicts and fought by irregular forces.
In recent years an additional wrinkle to the age-old question about the use of force for virtuous objectives has surfaced. The concept of “humanitarian intervention” posits that a nation’s sover- eignty is itself no longer inviolable. According to this notion, military action is justified if it aims to end human rights violations within any country, even when that country has not committed an act of aggression against another state.
In the early years of this century, the Canadian government championed a related concept, the “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P), whose tenth anniversary was celebrated at the United Nations in September 2015. R2P has many positive intentions, broadening the intervention idea to the responsibility to prevent and to rebuild.
Unfortunately, as the saying goes, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. No matter how noble the mantle into which we clothe war, it will always involve the powerful enforcing their will upon the weak. The fruit of violence will always be more violence. Syria is just the latest example of this truth.
Therefore I totally agree with Denef’s conclusion: Instead of justifying wars of any sort, let us rather focus on striving for peace, reconciliation and life.