Terrorism and 'just war'; an old tradition, new challenges

Moral challenges

The mainstream of Christian ethics has contended that there can be a legitimate or “just” use of military force—legitimacy being determined by a variety of factors, such as the presence of a “just cause,” “right authority,” “last resort,” and the use of “means proportional to the end,” to cite some of the traditional language of just war thinking. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, Christian thinkers in the U.S. have again drawn on the vocabulary of this tradition as they ponder the proper response to terrorist acts. At the same time, many commentators—including some of the following four—have acknowledged that the categories of just war thinking are not easily adapted to the challenge now facing public authorities in the U.S.—the challenge of responding not to an aggressive state but to unidentified individuals whose aim is to spread terror.

 

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