In Defence of Just War: Christian Tradition, Controversies, and Cases


  • Nigel Biggar Oxford University, UK



Just War, International Law, National Interest, Proportionality, Preventative War, Punishment, Rebellion


This article presents four controversial issues that are raised by the articulation of just war thinking in my book, In Defence of War (2013, 2014): the conception of just war as punitive, the penultimate nature of the authority of international law, the morality of national interest, and the elasticity of the requirement of proportionality. It then proceeds to illustrate the interpretation of some of the criteria of just war in terms of three topical cases: Britain’s belligerency against Germany in 1914, the Syrian rebellion against the Assad regime in 2011, and Israe’s Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza in 2013. It is often claimed that just war thinking has been rendered obsolete by novel phenomena such as nuclear weapons, wars ‘among the people’, war-by-remote-control, and cyber-aggression. The presentation of issues and cases in this article, notwithstanding its brevity, is sufficient to show that just war thinking continues to develop by wrestling with controversial conceptual problems and thinking its way through novel sets of circumstances.


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How to Cite

Biggar, N. (2015) “In Defence of Just War: Christian Tradition, Controversies, and Cases”, De Ethica, 2(1), pp. 5–17. doi: 10.3384/de-ethica.2001-8819.15215.