I was in a Yahoo Chat room, and a young woman was on a rant. Nothing new about that, but her subject was war. War is inherently evil was her premise. Further, anyone that ever engages in war is evil, at least that is her hypothesis. I happen to believe a bit differently. I questioned her about her beliefs and while I believe that she is, or was sincere; She is horribly misinformed. It has been some time since I studied ethics in college, and high minded Kantian philosophy has to step aside in favor of Utilitarianism when someone is pointing a weapon at you or your loved ones.
That being said, the earliest documentation of the idea that war can or cannot be justified that I am aware of is found in the writings of the Roman Catholic Church. From that we find the following;
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, in paragraphs 2302-2317, authoritatively teaches what constitutes the just defense of a nation against an aggressor. Called the Just War Doctrine, it was first enunciated by St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD). Over the centuries it was taught by Doctors of the Church, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, and formally embraced by the Magisterium, which has also adapted it to the situation of modern warfare. The following explanation of Just War Doctrine follows the schema given in the Catechism.
Just-war theory deals with the justification of how and why wars are fought. The justification can be either theoretical or historical. The theoretical aspect is concerned with ethically justifying war and forms of warfare. The historical aspect, or the “just war tradition” deals with the historical body of rules or agreements applied (or at least existing) in various wars across the ages. For instance international agreements such as the Geneva and Hague conventions are historical rules aimed at limiting certain kinds of warfare. It is the role of ethics to examine these institutional agreements for their philosophical coherence as well as to inquire into whether aspects of the conventions ought to be changed.
As I said at the beginning. I believe differently than that young lady. I believe that war cannot only be justified but that it is in fact mandatory under certain conditions. I do not believe, as do so many of my fellow Libertarians, that all war needs to be reactive, that is, after the fact (of having been attacked.) Preemptive war can be justified in many cases; It is called being “quicker on the trigger.” Now, before all the Christians jump all over me about the commandment “Thou shall not kill.” Go find a Diaglot, a word for word translation, and read the actual commandment; “Thou shall not commit murder” is what it says.
So young pacifist lady, sleep well, because rude men stand guard protecting you.