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Saint Augustine
Caught by Surprise: Post-Cold War Geopolitics and the Relevance of the Just-War Tradition
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Article Index
Caught by Surprise: Post-Cold War Geopolitics and the Relevance of the Just-War Tradition
Justice, Neighbor-Love, and the Just War Tradition
An Anatomy of Just-War Moral Reasoning
Present Realities and Future Prospects: Concluding Reflections
All Pages

by J. Daryl Charles, Ph.D., Director and Senior Fellow of the Bryan Institute for Critical Thought & Practice, Chattanooga, Tennessee

My point is…that the field of international relations, more narrowly, and the wider culture, more generally, are ill-prepared – indeed, I would argue, unwilling – to deal with moral categories. Precisely this may be our biggest challenge. The fact that we in the West live in a “post-consensus” moral climate does not prepare us well to understand – let alone to deal with – many of the pressing geopolitical crises of our time….Evil cannot be identified because we cannot permit it to be identified; for once we identify something as evil, we are required to address it. —from the text of this essay

At bottom, just-war thinkers who are moral realists will insist that the linkage between politics and morality must not be severed, since an important part of politics – and ensuing policy – is how we respond to a world in which conflict, disagreement and disorder seem the norm. Policy, it should be emphasized, is the meeting-place of politics and morality, and our duty to act justly depends on our recognition of this symbiosis. –from the text of this essay

Part 1: Current Geopolitical and Cultural Realities

Not only did the end of the Cold War not usher in the new peaceful order that some had optimistically projected, if anything, it heralded new contexts in which human depravity might show itself, leaving policy-makers, policy analysts, and to a lesser extent, military strategists ill-prepared for the geopolitical crises that have arisen since -- from Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan to Bosnia-Kosovo and Rwanda, from Burundi, Sierra Leone, and Liberia to Somalia, Sudan and beyond. And this brief listing of nations doesn’t even begin to take into account more general developments such as the production of chemical and nuclear weapons by rogue nations, drug trafficking on most (if not all) continents, the escalation of human trafficking on most (if not all) continents, and the breathtaking rise of international terrorism. These crises, whether regional or global in scope, at the very least herald the need for reinvigorated debates about the moral basis for military as well as humanitarian intervention.

Daunting as these geopolitical challenges are, however, they may not be the greatest challenge before us. More formidable may be the West’s inability to make moral judgments, to be able to name good and evil, identify just and unjust, and demarcate unacceptable from acceptable human behavior. On the domestic front, this moral obtuseness poses serious challenges to “civil society” as we presently know it; and abroad, it presents challenges for serious statecraft and responsible foreign policy.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, Hannah Arendt, whose post-war reflections on “the banality of evil” are familiar to many of us, predicted, in an essay titled “Nightmare and Flight,” that the problem of evil would become the fundamental question of post-war intellectual life in Europe.1  Strangely, in the 1950s, even when atrocities associated with the Holocaust were fresh and remained a scar on the European psyche, concern with moral evil and the political disorder had already begun to recede in Western political thought.2

But consider the present cultural climate. For an American President to speak of “evil” in the geopolitical context, as two of our last four Presidents have, is to invite scorn of the greatest magnitude, both at home and abroad, is it not? Regardless of your own political sympathies, what was unforgiveable to most people was the fact that someone in public office – much worse, a head of state – would name evil and then contextualize it in the field diplomatic relations. Such sin, in secular eyes, is simply unforgiveable.

My point is not whether making moral judgments can be done in a more nuanced or diplomatic fashion; indeed, they must, and those in public office must be wise in the language that they employ. My point is, rather, that the field of international relations, more narrowly, and the wider culture, more generally, are ill-prepared – indeed, I would argue, unwilling – to deal with moral categories. Precisely this may be our biggest challenge. The fact that we in the West live in a “post-consensus” moral climate does not prepare us well to understand – let alone to deal with – many of the pressing geopolitical crises of our time. This present state of moral affairs is reminiscent of the scenario depicted by Albert Camus in The Plague. Perhaps you recall the setting… The city of Oran had become host to an insufferable epidemic of pests. Rats were appearing everywhere in the city. At first, despite the pests’ ubiquitous presence, the townspeople ignore the epidemic, acting as if it did not exist. Only later, after conditions become unbearable and dead rats are piled high on the city streets, do the municipal authorities act and begin hauling away the dead carcasses, which ironically is the actual vehicle by which the plague spreads throughout the city. Camus’ metaphor is instructive. Why did the plague initially “not exist”? It did not exist precisely because it was not permitted to exist. And such, I would argue, is the moral climate that exists today, at least in the West. Evil cannot be identified because we cannot permit it to be identified; for once we identify something as evil, we are required to address it.

Part 2: Justice, Neighbor-Love, and the Just-War Tradition


The central question that I wish to raise before this esteemed audience is simply this: How might those who are responsible for policy propose to deal with the scale of humanitarian need in our day that is massive and frequently the result of unstable regimes? More specifically, what moral and political resources might inform our response to such situations – situations that typically fall short of formal war per se but which require some measure of interventionary force for humanitarian purposes? As it affects American foreign policy, few questions will be more pressing in the years ahead, as evidence from the past two decades amply demonstrates.

Difficult issues, it goes without saying, confront us. When, if ever, should a nation engage in coercive intervention for the primary purpose of saving lives or protecting the relatively innocent when its vital national interests are not directly at stake? Should governments – and thus, should we – respond and intervene in order to prevent (or retard the effects of) genocide, mass murder, enslavement of peoples or people-groups, and egregious human rights violations? Why or why not? Always? Never? Some times? If so, then when, why, and by what moral criteria? While answers to these questions require the painstaking business of moral discourse and moral discernment, each of us must be able to offer a rationale, regardless of the degree to which military training formally prepares us. And for those who place great faith in the UN, the words of one Burmese human rights activist need reiterating: “There are no countries in the world which have gained liberation through the help of the United Nations.”3

My thesis is straightforward and unapologetic: the just-war tradition – the mainstream of which extends for almost two millennia – constitutes an enduring and ever-fresh repository of moral wisdom, moral reasoning, and moral discernment. Not only does it serve us in situations of potential formal war, it also guides us with a similar rationale in the case of humanitarian intervention – that is, in situations that fall short of formal war per se. Why does it continue to speak and guide? Two rudimentary elements lie at the heart of classical just-war thinking, particularly as it has been refined in the Christian moral tradition, whether in its patristic, medieval, early-modern or modern expression. While these elements are permanent and compelling, they nevertheless are easily forgotten or obscured; hence, the need for reiteration. The first is the unchanging character of justice; the second concerns the ethical obligations that attend “neighbor-love.”

Rightly has someone called justice the moral tissue that binds together a society. That definition, simple as it is, is rich with implication. And it helps explain why the ancient philosophers intuited justice to be a “cardinal” virtue. Question: Why is it that we, in our culture, routinely use phrases such as a “travesty of justice” or a “miscarriage of justice”? The reason, which we all intuit, is that we assume justice to be of the same nature for all people everywhere and at all times. One doesn’t have to be a religious person to intuit that justice is (or, should be) the same for Cambodians, Koreans, and Canadians. And if it is not the same, then it’s not justice; and if it’s not justice, then it represents, in Nietzschean terms, “the will to power,” by which I mean it is  arbitrary, authoritarian, and degrading to the human spirit. Plato and Aristotle, no theists by any stretch of the imagination, offered enduring insights into justice – enduring because they are true for all people at all times in any location (an assumption that is offensive to the postmodernist and the radical pluralist).

And because justice is unchanging in nature – equally applicable to Rwandans, Russians, and Rhode Islanders – there is no such thing as moral neutrality. That is to say, human beings cannot be “neutral” about issues of justice, because what is just, right, impartial, good and wise is fixed in nature. Justice, because it is rooted in the design of human nature and human community wherever found, is measured in permanent ways and is not sliding, relative, contingent, or culturally-conditioned. Hence, we cannot be morally neutral on matters of justice; where and when we have the wherewithal to counter gross injustice, we must do so.

At this point, of course, I can hear the standard objection. But what I am most assuredly not suggesting is that a nation or regime should “police” the world, as the common objection goes. Indeed, the wisdom of the just-war tradition is that it requires that humans and nations severely qualify intervention or non-intervention – a process of deliberation that combines moral principle with pragmatic discernment. These two – principle and prudence – must go hand in hand; the latter is needed to indicate whether and how the former applies in a particular geopolitical context.

The second element, wed to justice, is what we might call love of the neighbor. Neighbor-love is expressed, quite simply, in the so-called “Golden Rule” teaching of both Plato and Jesus. The ethic of the “Golden Rule” implies both positive and negative obligations toward one’s neighbor. Positively, we treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated; negatively, we do not treat others – or permit them to be treated – in a manner that we would not wish for ourselves. This simple moral guideline is rich with policy implications, both at the domestic and foreign level.

But “Golden-Rule” logic needs to be further clarified. Writing on the ethics of intervention during the tension of the Cold War, Princeton ethicist Paul Ramsey set forth the argument that just-war thinking is rooted in the recognition of certain inalienable ethical obligations that all humans, everywhere and at all times have toward one another. Speaking from within the Christian moral tradition, Ramsey readily granted that extending charity toward the “neighbor” or the stranger is counter-intuitive to our human inclinations. Nevertheless, he insisted, neighbor-love is a unique contribution of Christian moral reflection to social ethics, political theology, and in the end, policy considerations. Christian theology, of course, affirms that all people, based on their shared humanity (which derives from being created in the divine image) have an intrinsic dignity and hence deserve equal regard. An important implication of this intrinsic dignity is that human beings qua human beings are to be sheltered from arbitrary and inhumane acts of oppression; so, for example, the parable of the “Good Samaritan.4

But we seek to ameliorate human suffering not merely out of a sense of duty (although such surely is our duty); rather, we do this out of an awareness of human solidarity. In moral-philosophical terms, this sense of solidarity or neighbor-love accords with natural-law ethics: that is, all human beings possess basic moral knowledge – a moral pre-understanding, as it were, and what the apostle Paul called “the law written on the heart”5 – which requires of all people that they do good and avoid evil. This moral intuition concerns, in the words of one social philosopher, “what we can’t not know.”6 Therefore, neighbor-love, supported by Golden Rule- and natural-law moral reasoning, calls us, positively, to treat others as we ourselves would wish to be treated, based on our shared humanity and our capacity as moral agents, and negatively, to relieve or prevent intolerable suffering that confronts our “neighbor” – whether that be the next-door neighbor in our local community or a nation in the wider international community. Justice and charity working together will not tolerate the oppressive suffering of a neighbor.

If human beings fail to heed these rudimentary and universal moral intuitions, if they fail to uphold the good and resist or prevent evil, as they themselves would wish others to do on their behalf, then justice is impossible to realize. To be sure, one does not need religious faith to intuit moral obligation toward others, and to perform what is just and humane. At the same time, Christian theology sharpens our awareness of both (a) the fact that justice and charity are owed to all fellow human beings and (b) the symbiotic manner in which justice and charity cohere. These moral realities apply every bit as much to the community of nations of which we are a part as they do to the local neighborhoods in which we live.

Part 3: An Anatomy of Just-War Moral Reasoning


The moral wisdom that undergirds just-war reasoning, as already observed, calls us to both positive and negative moral obligations. Positively, we qualify our action or inaction morally, we aim to restore peace and the highest good, and we reflect soberly on the what, where, why and how of interventionary force; negatively, the tradition calls us to redress, retard or prevent evil, where and when we have the wherewithal to do such. Recall, for a moment, that military personnel are not the only ones who agonize over the moral particulars of applying coercive force. Policemen and law-enforcement officers, in the domestic context, do this all the time, even when the stakes are not as great. How do they proceed in exceptional cases of violent crime? They wait, they plan, they scheme, they consider risks, they collude, they take counsel, they wait, they strategize, they measure the effects and results, they wait, and in time they either act or don’t act, or they postpone acting. And when they do act, they determine that the law and common social standards of minimum decency have been broken and  they aim to get at the root of the problem (that’s just cause); they act under the authority of their office as public servants (proper authority); they seek to restore and safeguard the wider community for the greatest good (right intention); they seek to be measured in the means that they employ (proportionality); and they take every precaution to protect the innocent while rooting out the problem (non-combatant immunity). What are they doing? They are applying “just-war” principles.

To understand the classical just-war tradition is to appreciate the moral-philosophical assumptions that undergird the tradition. Philosophically, the just-war tradition understands itself as a mediating position between the ideological poles of Realpolitik or militarism on the one hand and pacifism on the other. In the wise words of the 17th-century Dutch jurist Hugo Grotius, the tradition believes neither that everything is permissible nor that nothing ever is.

Classical or mainstream just-war thinking has no equal. It alone facilitates the task of weighing military or humanitarian intervention because it subjects to intense scrutiny the relevant conditions that must justify intervention or non-intervention. While the moral criteria of the just-war tradition over the centuries have received varying emphasis and have gone through refinement based on their social and political context, they nevertheless have been continually reaffirmed – from Augustine to Gratian and Aquinas, to Luther and Calvin, to early-modern thinkers Vitoria, Suaréz and Grotius, to 20th century- and contemporary thinkers such as John Courtney Murray, William V. O’Brien, Paul Ramsey, Michael Walzer, James Turner Johnson and Jean Elshtain.

At the macro level, just-war moral reasoning refuses to do what is fashionable in our day, namely, to separate ethics from politics and policy, Moreover, it insists that there is no gulf between domestic justice and international justice, as I suggested earlier. Permit me once more to draw analogy to “criminal justice.” As responsible public policy, neither do we tolerate police brutality and unbridled law-enforcement on the one hand, as occurs in a police state, in order to deal with deviant behavior, nor do we acquiesce passively to violent crime and social chaos around us on the other. Justice, rather, is mediate, measured, qualified, proportionate, and intended for a greater good. We look neither to proponents of political realism in the Machiavellian mold nor to pacifist withdrawers, both of whom refuse to wrestle with the complexities of maintaining relative justice in an imperfect world. For the just-war theorist, “might” never makes “right,” but on occasion it may serve what is right.

Just-war moral reasoning is rooted in what one political ethicist calls an “Augustinian realism” about human nature, which assumes that (a) humans are capable of both good and evil and (b) responsible policy must mirror this moral reality.7 At the level of policy and responsible statecraft, this “realism” will express itself in important ways. For example, it will promote a healthy skepticism about the use (and misuse) of power. At the same time, however, it will refuse to opt out of political reality altogether in favor of utopian fantasies or irresponsible non-engagement.

In addition, it will always be cognizant of the provisional nature of all political schemes, systems, and arrangements. (So, for example, democracy, while it provides in relative terms one of the best means for humans to flourish, may not always be the best for every society. What’s more, even democracies decay and degenerate; thus, without a commitment to moral principle, no society will endure.) At bottom, just-war thinkers who are moral realists will insist that the linkage between politics and morality must not be severed, since an important part of politics – and ensuing policy – is how we respond to a world in which conflict, disagreement and disorder seem the norm.8 Policy, it should be emphasized, is the meeting-place of politics and morality, and our duty to act justly depends on our recognition of this symbiosis.9

Historically, two sets of moral criteria or conditions – familiar to most – have served to define what is permissible and impermissible with regard to war and coercive force. The traditional ius ad bellum criteria which denote justice in going to war – just cause, proper authority, and right intention – provide terms under which coercive intervention might be undertaken, while the ius in bello conditions – proportionality and noncombatant immunity – govern the means by which to proceed in war. One is justified, in my view, in arguing for the inclusion of a third category – ius post bellum – since post-war considerations of justice are informed by the same moral logic that undergirds ad bellum and in bello considerations. That there is a great need for post-war moral reflection is confirmed by recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan. In short, what is required to help rebuild a society after intervention has occurred?

Regardless of our differences over the justness of the U.S. intervention in Iraq, the Iraqi people illustrate the importance of extending just-war thinking to post-war scenarios. Thirty years ago, remarkably, Iraq’s per capita income was $3,600 annually, roughly that of Spain at the time. Per capita income as of October 2003 barely reached the $600 mark. Between 1980 and 2001, Iraq tumbled 50 places in the United Nations Humanitarian Development Index.10

Civil society, utilizing diplomatic efforts, the “extended hands” of the military, the private sector, non-government organizations, even the church, plays a crucial role in reconstructing any semblance of a civil society in war-torn or politically decimated regions. And in Iraq, despite the great challenges it poses, there is great hope. The reconstructive task, however, begins with education. Education has something of a “humanizing” effect, particularly in cultures that have known totalitarian tendencies and repressive rule. Thus, basic exposure to ideas, to history, to other cultures, to literature, to law, to science and technology – all of these are critical. At a very practical level, job skills will need to be learned in order that Iraqis can be productive, utilizing their remarkable creativity. A future generation of leaders must be educated – leaders who will not simply emigrate to the West where they might live the rest of their lives.

What’s more, the legal system is all but non-existent in these countries. Again, this is due to monarchical or dictatorial practices. The rule of law is meaningless; law has been entirely arbitrary. Graft and injustice have largely been the norm. Overcoming the past in this regard is particularly challenging yet essential if a people is to become self-governing.

All of the important components in a nation’s re-birth – education, learning job skills, the rule of law, self-government, etc. – will contribute to the overall development of that people. Very often, socialist practices were the nearest thing to “official policy” in the past. Learning to be self-motivated, to serve others, to make basic wise economic decisions – these require a fundamental change in the way people think. Government restricted what jobs were available, where they could work, and how much they could earn. And in the end, government siphoned off from the people what resources they had in order to maintain power.

All of these and more considerations are rooted in a fundamental notion of justice. That is, all human beings have been endowed with certain inalienable rights – rights that in many regimes are denied. Nothing less than justice is required to allow formerly oppressed people to flourish. To be sure, we must be careful not to foist upon them our culture. They must learn to flourish in theirs. We do, however, facilitate what is due all people – the choice to be free from social-political tyranny.

Part 4: Present Realities and Future Prospects: Concluding Reflections


Humanitarian scholars Thomas G. Weiss and Cindy Collins identify no less than twenty-one international humanitarian and human rights accords or conventions that were established between 1946 and 1990. These conventions, which codify and institutionalize humanitarian concern, cover an extraordinarily wide range of scenarios, short of formal war, in which cases the most basic of human rights are being denied. These include (but are not limited to) political asylum, international refugee status and transfer of refugees, prevention and punishment of genocide, absence of political rights for women and children, war crimes, hostage-taking, torture and inhumane treatment of human beings, and obliteration of children’s dignity and rights.11 Surely, the irony here is impossible to miss. Precisely in our era, after the international community has committed itself to the codification and institutionalization of human rights, have the most widespread and tragic cases of human rights violations occurred. Why? Seemingly, the community of nations lacks the political and moral will to prevent what, at least in theory, should be non-controversial. For this reason, then, the failure of the world to prevent genocide in Rwanda in the mid-1990s as well as genocide, enslavement and displacement of peoples in Sudan since 1990 constitute two of the grave moral indictments of our time.12

To intervene or not to intervene? This should always be a difficult question. The use of force in other nations should always induce hesitation and anxiety. The just-war position, properly understood, is neither interventionist nor non-interventionist in its ideological precommitments. Rather, in assessing and judging cases of potential use of coercive force, it requires severe qualification of whether to intervene, why, where, and how.

Part of the West’s rationale for non-intervention is that few of the crises today technically qualify as external aggression; rather, more often than not they are internal collapses and catastrophes, characterized by rape, murder, ethnic cleansing, state or religious terrorism, political tyranny, and domestic brutality. If we assume that intervention should be a multi-national concern and effort wherever possible, which is my position, then we must ask: when should the world’s agents and powers – for example, the UN, the EU, NATO, the Pan American Alliance, the Organization of African Unity, and the United States – not merely register protest but intervene in crisis situations characterized by egregious human rights violations on a mass scale?

Without question, the presumption against intervention is strong and should not be easily overridden. Nevertheless, neither intervention nor non-intervention can be an absolute moral principle. It is well possible – indeed, it would seem increasingly commonplace in the post-Cold War era – that a government can do things to people within its borders  that are so evil and corrupt, so thoroughly wrong, that another nation – or coalition of nations – would be justified in intervening. The point at which that threshold is reached is the point at which the moral absurdity of a “doctrine” of non-intervention must be acknowledged, even when intervention (a) must be severely qualified and (b) is by nature susceptible to abuse.13 Classical just-war moral reasoning enjoins us to act justly, proportionately, and with the goal of establishing a better end when it is within our power to relieve outrageous suffering of innocent human beings.

In an important address in 1997 at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, South African Justice Richard Goldstone, who had previously served as chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, had this to say about our response to the unspeakable:

The one thing I have learned in my travels to the former Yugoslavia and in Rwanda and in my own country is that where there have been egregious human rights violations that have been unaccounted for, where there has been no justice, where the victims have not received any acknowledgement, where they have been forgotten, where there’s been a national amnesia, the effect is a cancer in the society. It is the reason that explains, in my respectful opinion, spirals of violence that the world has seen in the former Yugoslavia for centuries and in Rwanda for decades, to use two examples…. So justice can make a contribution to….enduring peace.14

Goldstone’s comments highlight important truths about the character of justice: it exposes the truth of specific guilt; it records the truth of moral atrocity for the historical record: understands the necessity of moral retribution (over against revenge or retaliation) as a pedagogical tool for all concerned; and it publicly acknowledges the immeasurable loss of victims, who, as a terrified people, need justice.

Intervention, whether “military” or strictly “humanitarian” in nature, is a profoundly negative undertaking. Its purpose is to stop, retard or prevent policies and actions that constitute “crimes against humanity,” based on our shared humanity and neighbor-love. In the present world, often the reality is that neighbor nations probably will not intervene where intervention is morally justifiable; and as we have suggested, there is no guarantee that multi-national entities (e.g., the UN) will act more justly than unjustly. Thus, absent, a willing “neighbor,” the next potential actor is any nation – or coalition of nations – near enough, strong enough, and “just” enough to stop what needs stopping.

But surely I can hear the shrill objection. No one really wishes the United States to be world’s policeman. Nor should it be. But what we can do, short of assuming the role of sheriff, is to make wise and strategic use of the power, resources, and influence that we possess. Thus, we must press other nations, diplomatically, to do their share of the work. At the same time, because of the status of the U.S in the world, it will be more involved in international affairs than any other nation, for better or worse. This, however, in and of itself is not imperialism; rather, it is stewardship, and it should be added, a large part of responsible statecraft. We do well to remember that to possess much and be privileged is not wrong per se; but it does mean that we have much to give, and many in the world need our help. Recall the truth in the adage that to whom much has been given, much will be required.

It has been said that people do not cherish their own freedom if they are unwilling to identify with the less fortunate. Not only just-war moral reasoning but ancient proverbial wisdom beckons people of principle, irrespective of their location in life, to act on behalf of the traumatized. Such a call bears repeating, especially in a morally obtuse cultural climate:

If you faint in the day of adversity,

How small is your strength.

Rescue those who are being led away toward death,

Hold back those stumbling toward the slaughter.

If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”

Does not He who weighs the heart consider it?

Does not He who guards your life

Not know it?

And will not he repay each person

According to what that person has done?15

J. Daryl Charles serves as Director and Senior Fellow of the Bryan Institute for Critical Thought & Practice in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is author of three books on the ethics of war and peace and humanitarian intervention. See Between Pacifism and Jihad: Just War and Christian Tradition (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2005); (with Timothy J. Demy) War, Peace and Christianity (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010); and (with David D. Corey), The Just War Tradition: An Introduction (Wilmington: ISI Books, 2011). This paper was presented by Dr. Charles at the Third Annual Leavenworth Ethics Seminar sponsored by the U.S. Army Command & General Staff College (CSGC) and the CGSC Foundation last November at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Dr. Charles' academic degrees include a Ph.D. from Westminster Theological Seminary, Ph.D. Studies from Catholic University of America, and a Certificate from the University of Siegen in Germany. His work focuses on a wide range of themes that concern the intersection of faith and culture, including criminal justice ethics, religion in the public sphere, bioethics, war and peace and humanitarian intervention, and natural law. He is author or co-editor of 11 books, including most recently with David D. Corey The Just War Tradition: An Introduction (ISI Books, 2011), with David B. Capes Thriving in Babylon (Wipf and Stock, 2011), Retrieving the Natural Law: A Return to Moral First Things (Eerdmans, 2008), Faithful to the End (Broadman and Holman, 2007), and Between Pacifism and Jihad (InterVarsity Press, 2005).



1 . The essay is reproduced in Jerome Kohn, ed., Hannah Arendt: Essays in Understanding, 1930-1954 (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994), 133-35.

2. This post-WWI development has been correctly observed by Nicholas Rengger and  Renée Jeffery in “Moral Evil and International Relations,” SAIS Review 25, no. 1 (2005): 3-4.

3. Ludu Sein Win, veteran Burmese (and Rangoon-based) journalist, cited in Irrawaddy (April 2008), p. 5.

4. Luke 10:25-37.

5. Rom. 2:14-15.

6. J. Budziszewski, What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide (Dallas: Spence, 2003 [rev. Ignatius, 2011]).

7. Jean Bethke Elshtain, “Just War and Humanitarian Intervention,” Ideas 8, no. 2 (2001): 18-21; see also Augustine and the Limits of  Power (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1996); “What Is a Just War?” (chap. 3) in Just War Against Terror: The Burden of American Power in a Violent World (New York, NY: Basic books, 2003); and “International Justice,” 63-70.

8. Elshtain, “Just War and Humanitarian Intervention,” 18-19.

9. On the pernicious effects of the false dichotomy between political power and ethics, the remarks of John Courtney Murray remain timeless: “It is the function of morality to command the use of power, to forbid it, to limit it, or, more in general, to define the ends for which power may or must be used and to judge the circumstances of its use. But moral principles cannot effectively impart this sense of direction to power until they have first, as it were, passed through the order of politics; that is, until they have first become incarnate in public policy. It is public policy in all its varied concretions that must be ‘moralized’…” (We Hold These Truths… 273).

10. Ana Palacio, “The Rebirth of a Nation,” The Wall Street Journal (October 27, 2003): A22.

11. Humanitarian Challenges and Intervention, 2nd ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview, 2000), 19

12. As veteran human rights watcher Nina Shea has recently reported, ever since Omar al-Bashir, Sudan’s president, took power in the late 1980s, he has waged a ferocious war against his own people – initially the Nuba, then South Sudan, then Dafur in the west,, then the Beja people in the east, and now again the Nuba. Khartoum has made it literally impossible for foreign aid groups to access these people groups, where aerial bombings, forced displacement, mass killings of innocent lives, abductions, summary executions, attacks on churches, and systematic destruction of dwellings have been waged  for decades. See Nina Shea, “Serial Genocide in Sudan.” National Review Online (August 10, 2011), accessible at

13. Hereon see Hadley Arkes, First Things: An Inquiry into the First Principles of Morals and Justice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), esp. chapters 12 (“The Morality of Intervention”) and 13 (“The Obligation to Rescue and Supererogatory Acts”).

14. The transcript of this address appeared in the Washington Post, February 2, 1997, C4.

15. Prov.24:10-12.




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Last Updated on Wednesday, 15 August 2012 17:15