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  • KC Stark

Only The Dead Know: What is a Just War?

300 days after the largest invasion in Europe since WWII, some may ask, when is war just?

The concept of a "just war" refers to the idea that certain criteria must be met in order for a war to be considered morally or ethically justified.


When is a war just? ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war’ Plato

The criteria for a just war have been developed over time and are based on moral and ethical principles, as well as international law.


According to the traditional criteria for a just war, a war is considered just if it meets the following conditions:


  1. Just cause: The war must be fought for a just and legitimate reason, such as self-defense or the defense of others.

  2. Right intention: The war must be fought for the right reasons, not for selfish or malicious purposes.

  3. Last resort: All other options for resolving the conflict must have been exhausted before resorting to war.

  4. Probability of success: The war must be likely to achieve its goals and bring about a more peaceful resolution to the conflict.

  5. Proportionality: The harm and destruction caused by the war must be proportional to the goal being pursued.

  6. Right authority: Only legitimate authorities, such as the government or the United Nations, can declare and conduct a just war.

  7. Fair treatment of non-combatants: Civilians and non-combatants must be protected and treated with respect and dignity.


These criteria are not always easy to apply, and there can be disagreement about whether a particular war meets all of the criteria. However, the concept of a just war serves as a guide for evaluating the moral and ethical implications of going to war.


How Does a Just War End?


A just war is typically considered to have ended when the conflict has been resolved and a peaceful resolution has been reached. This could involve the signing of a peace treaty or the establishment of a lasting peace agreement.


The end of a just war should also involve the restoration of order and the rebuilding of any damaged or destroyed infrastructure. This could include efforts to rebuild homes, schools, hospitals, and other public facilities that were damaged or destroyed during the conflict.


In addition, a just war should involve efforts to hold accountable those who committed war crimes or other serious violations of international law. This could involve the establishment of an international tribunal or other means of bringing perpetrators to justice.


Overall, the end of a just war should involve the restoration of peace and justice, and the rebuilding of society in a way that promotes long-term stability and prosperity.


During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), the Thirteen Colonies, which later became the United States, fought for independence from Great Britain. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, which recognized the independence of the United States.

Allies: America's Just War for Independence and Democracy


While the American colonies were fighting for independence, they received some assistance from European allies. The French were the primary European ally of the Americans during the Revolutionary War. They provided military, financial, and logistical support to the colonists.


The French entered the war on the side of the Americans in 1778, after the British captured their ally, the Kingdom of Spain. The French navy played a key role in helping the Americans win the war, by providing naval support and by blockading British ports.


In addition to the French, the Americans also received some support from the Spanish and the Dutch. The Spanish provided financial assistance to the Americans and allowed them to use their ports for naval operations. The Dutch provided some military support, including a loan to the Americans in 1781.


Democracies Die Without the Support of Allies


History tells the tale, the assistance provided by the French, Spanish, and Dutch was significant in helping the American colonies win their independence from Great Britain.


As Americans debate the needs and extent of support for Ukraine, it may be helpful to think of how George Washington felt prior to the victor at Valley Forge.


The Battle of Valley Forge was a crucial turning point in the American Revolutionary War. It took place during the winter of 1777-1778, when the Continental Army, under the command of General George Washington, established a winter encampment at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.


At the time, the Continental Army was in a dire situation. The British had won several significant battles and had occupied Philadelphia, the capital of the colonies. The Continental Army was low on supplies and morale, and many of the soldiers were suffering from hunger and illness.


Despite these challenges, Washington was determined to keep the army together and to use the winter months to regroup and reorganize. He implemented a number of tactics to improve the army's effectiveness, including training and drilling the soldiers to improve their military skills, improving the army's supply chain, and instituting a system of hospitals to care for the sick and wounded.


Washington also worked to improve the army's morale by maintaining strict discipline and encouraging the soldiers to remain united and committed to the cause. He famously said, "I am determined to sustain myself as long as possible and die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor and that of his country."

Thanks to Washington's leadership and the efforts of the Continental Army, the winter at Valley Forge proved to be a turning point in the Revolutionary War.


America's fledgling army emerged from the winter stronger, better trained, and more united than ever before, and went on to win several key battles, including the Battle of Saratoga and the Siege of Yorktown, which ultimately led to the British surrender and the independence of the United States.

There are parallels to be deduced. The question is, will today's political leadership defend a just democracy or retreat in denial?


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