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The international arena is regulated by the morality of anarchy wherein the primary actors/states, counterattack any attempts meant to direct their conduct or limit their pursuit of national interests with the available means in their hands, including waging war. This observation opens the critical debate on the recourse to war amid the scholars of just war theory tradition and the realist thinking. Both have convergent points and divergent points.

According to Coates (1997, p.17), realism resists the application of morality to war. Further, Hegel, reported in Bellamy (2006, p. 90), “insisted that there were no a priori moral standards governing combats”. Under this circumstance, sovereigns are legitimately authorised to wage war if it is justified in terms of necessity (Raison d’état). While the just war theory aims at providing moral discourse on the jus ad bellum, jus in Bello and jus post bellum. They can be termed as ‘war conventions’ with the intentions of establishing ethical and legal norms which would employ “unharmed mechanisms”. This tendency is perceived by realists as utopian, legalist, moralist, naïve, stupid or hypocrite behaviour.   For Realism, as Clausewitz argues “war is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse with a mixture of other mean” (Clausewitz 1982, p. 402 in Coates, 1997, p. 22). The world is not perfect but evil and war is the strategy for survival in the highly competitive and dangerous environment (Morgenthau, 1978, p. 173). Moral principles can be achieved if only they are within the constraint, realities and power tendency (Coates, 1997, p.18). Morality is not only hostile to the international environment of international relations, but also dangerous; dangerous to think that the world is basically driven by the good will of people with harmless behaviour, and ready to sacrifice themselves for others’ interests. Realism assumes that any rules to regulate war should always be evaluated regardless of the state interest, an attitude which is fundamentally a utilitarist approach of morality. Therefore, any moral rules are subordinated to the State interest (Carr 1981, p. 153) and therefore using Coates’ words, are dictated “by pragmatic considerations of power and interest” (Coates, 1997, p. 23).

In his interview to the students of Military Academy of West Point, Professor Noam Chomsky (2006), confers to the just war theory the role of offering means to the “humanization of war”. It implies that just war theory gives a moral pretext and legal provisions to limit the brutal realist behaviour towards war which they perceive as the extension of politics. This attitude is justified by the fact that realism puts states which have no moral obligation towards one another on the forefront of politics (Carr, 1946). Among them they have treaties which have no binding force and which could cease if their national interest is exposed. Such attitude is dictated two core values of necessity and prudence. In ius ad bellum, the prosecution of war depends on necessity rather than on justice whereas in jus in Bello, proportionality is associated with the prudence of the state. We understand Coates formulation asserting that if necessity is given, “all available means of carrying the war to the enemy should be employed, not in any moralistic spirit of vengeance or retribution, but simply out of pragmatic necessity” (Coates, 1997, p. 27).

In the two domains of just war theory and realism, there is a type of reliance on the fact that war should legitimately be conducted and for just causes, fault to which it will be unnecessary to go to war whether it is politically motivated or morally justified. In the ius in bello, both sides argue on the immunity of non-combatants as well as the collateral damages of unintended action. The reasonable hope of success is among the points of convergence. The Just war theory embraces the “rational interest and pragmatic moral” of realist as the recourse. Is there ethical evaluation regardless of this condition or simply an evaluation on the benefit and the opportunity that war offers?

In conclusion, the realists abide by a certain type of morality. Likewise, at the heart of the realism lies a “moral commitment’ according to which states should pursue their national interests” (Keohane 1986, pp. 320-1), failure to which a sovereign can be sanctioned by the population if he does not accomplish this moral duty. Just like Coates, we may assume that there is a blame game in the sense that “the utopian claims the moral high ground, accusing the realist of moral duplicity and even the rank immorality, while the realist regards the utopian or moralist at best as a dangerous if well-intentioned fool”(Coates, 1997, p.19). However, they need each other in a context where the state deals with individuals who are embedded in the cultural and moral values, and where morality needs physical environment to apply its principles


Just war relies on seven conditions including just causes, proportionality, a reasonable hope (chance) of success, legitimate authority, right intention, last resort, and public declaration of war.  Some of those conditions are reasonable but some are probably and reasonably relative.

1) Just causes are “the foundation of a case of war” (Frowe, 2011, p. 51), but all of them cannot be justifiably universal. For example self-defence in an emergency and necessity context is justifiable. It is not justifiable as a response to a past aggression or injury. The Congolese government cannot attack Rwanda as response to ten years of past aggression; there are international laws and international institution to resolve such matter. 2) The legitimate authority aims to reduce anarchy in the conduct of war. The state has the monopoly to wage war and any international institutions such the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union. However, does a citizen who feel threatened, unsafe, whose rights are violated go to war of protest and declare a war against its home state if the state fails to protect him? As it will be discussed in the coming question, just war theory finds itself challenged with the growing number of intrastate conflicts, where rebel groups can actually destabilize a state. 3) Proportionality relates to the proportionate response to a received or anticipated injury (Frowe, 2011, p. 154) or the necessary force needed to defeat an enemy. Its reasoning is to prevent excessive force which can cause more damages. This condition sustains for one reason making warfare the pursuit of justice rather than a battle of power. Proportionality challenges itself when the intention to go to war is to win or to protect national interests. Several states fail to apply this condition. In my understanding the moral evaluation of proportionality can be inflected in the jus post bellum where consequences or caused damages are proportionate to the strategies and the logistics used. How could we evaluate proportionally the bombings of the Twin Towers and the death of Osama Bin Laden? How can one explain the global activism war on terrorism by the United States in Iraq or the NATO invasion in the Republic of Libya?

4) Right intention can be understood as the actual motivation behind the last resort to war (Frowe, 2011, p. 60). Having just causes is one thing but expressing “the hidden agenda” should morally assess the righteous of war. The purpose of war is not harming but to repair or to restore peace. Bellamy (2008, p. 19) quoting Cicero, argued that “the only excuse… for going to war is that we may live in peace unharmed” or Augustine’s statement “it was not the act of killing in self-defence that was itself sinful but the inward disposition that drove the act” (Bellamy, 2006, p. 26).  According to Thomas Aquinas, “there is a required right intention on the part of the belligerents: either of achieving some good or of avoiding some evil’ (Bellamy, 2006, p. 4). The right intention will lead the just war theory to one of suspicion in which the evaluation of one’s motivation is only measurable after the war. In the case of Central Africa Republic, the rebel group, Seleka, had a political motivation of being part of politics in the country. Later on, they were no longer interested in the power sharing model, but in overthrowing Bozize. Yet, their “grievance” to seize the country according to the Congo Brazzaville peace talks which revealed to which extent their “right intention” was – about “autonomy or secession seeking”. Somehow; to have right intention is privately reasonable, but if the intended disposition is different from unintended action, then the end will justify the means.

5) What I conceive to be more reasonable is the serious prospect of success which is a rational calculation and which materializes to other conditions. The West cannot fight Russia for Crimea unless they want to have a nuclear holocaust. The United States is reluctant to intervene in Syria because its chance of success is limited. The reasonable chance of success, which is not a moral condition, but a pragmatic and realistic consideration’, transcends the just causes. Punitive war cannot be effective if the one to attack will not win the war, unless they agreed to have some alliances. The reasonable hope of success, dictate states attitude towards war.

6) Last resort: todays international relations is governed by plenty of alternative disputes resolutions. Peace can be achieved by peaceful means or existing legal provisions rather than through physical violence. The previous conditions are not enough if the the seat-talk method of Kaye (2007) have not been applied. In the same line the United Nations Charter, 6, 33 encourages states to seek for pacific settlements negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice. The encouragement is reasonably accepted among states and it constitutes ipso facto – the feature of democratic nations; however, the mainstream question is to which extent states are willingly ready too corporate if their interested are threatened.

The commitment of the United Nations to limit war is mainly expressed on the rules of engagement in the “code of conduct” on the use of force.  The use of controlled force does not have the purpose of killing the enemies, but aims to establish cosmopolitan norms i.e. enforcement of international humanitarian and human rights law (Kaldor, 1999). The international legal institutions find themselves weaker due to lack of political will of the state to be bound by them.

Worse, in the past decades following the Cold War, we saw emerging violent wars promoted by democratic institutions, USA and NATO intervention in Afghanistan and in Yemen, USA in Iraq, France in Libya, USA and Western Countries in the Persian Gulf, the protracted conflict in the Middle East (Dunning & Wirpsa, 2004) and violent civil wars in Central Africa as well as the last events of the Arabic Spring.  These assert that war is the first alternative and not the last one.

7) Public declaration of war: the Hague convention of 1907 recommended that “war must not “commence without previous or explicit warning, in the form either of a declaration of war […] or ultimatum with conditional declaration of war” (Frowe, 2011, p.63). Since this declaration was made, we can count how many wars have been fought without being declared, giving the fact that secrecy is on the feature of the strategic warfare.

In conclusion, we hold on the objective of the just war tradition of regulating war, whether those conditions can or cannot be achieved, we should stick on the fact that war is evil in the number of causalities. Limiting and regulating war should be the preoccupation of any human kind. I might not add another condition, but I will recommend more research on the just causes and legitimacy taking into consideration the growing number of intrastate conflicts, terrorism and the enforcement of laws, and coercive measure on transitional justice in order to reduce impunity in the conduct of war.


At the end of the cold war, scholars brought to attention the new and violent scramble over identities and resources pitted between local warlords and states (Klare, 2001). This new model, also called “new generation” of civil war challenges the seven conditions of just war theory.

Who is the authority to wage war today or what are the just causes going to war today? In the context of Africa and elsewhere, it is being assumed that war has been privatized and relativized while the monopole use of force by the state has been weakened because of the increasing level of rebellion capable to destabilized or even topple a government.

In some four cases in Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, the Republic Central Africa and the Republic of Somalia, we realize that the states have lost  their primary authority and are been driving  by the “ mood” of the rebellion. For example the ex- Conseil National pour la Defense du Peuple (CNDP) in DRC, followed later on by the M23 had the “just cause to rebel”, over the security of their identity (self-preservation) which cannot be compromised.

The Universal Declaration of Human and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights legitimatize this attitude. In the African warfare; just causes are more of fights between structural or ascribed identities and structural identities. In most cases the International Community encourages government to seat and talk with these rebel groups.  In DRC for example International Conference of the Great Lake Regions signed in Nairobi on 24th November 2012 urged the Congolese government to listen to M23 grievances and to evaluate their claims so as to answer pertinently if they are legitimate. Again, In the context of South Sudan today, using the just war tradition conditions, once we may assume that Riek Machar does not have the legitimate authority to wage war, but how do we explain his action which paralyzes the entire region?

To conclude, there is a question left behind “what is the impact of the authority on self-preservation in context where a state is accused to oppress its own peoples or cannot be responsible for their security of its own people? Once the trust within the social contract is broken, the question of legitimacy becomes relative. More and more, the just war theory should examine the responsibility to protect and   how its failure create internal distortion within a state or within a region.

Marius Mufuta



Bellamy, A. J. (2006). Just Wars : From Ciceron to Iraq. Cambridge: Polity Press .

Carr, E. H. (1981). The Twenty Year Crisis, 1919-1939. London : Mcmillan.

Chomsky , N. (2006, 4 20). Retrieved from The Problem of the ‘Just War Theory’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e1pNz8A5vMA

Clausewitz, C. V. (1982). On War. London: Penguin .

Coates, A. J. (1997). The Ethics of War. Manchester : Manchesters University Press .

Dunning, T., & Wirpsa, L. (2005). Oil and The Political Economy of Conflict in Colombia and Beyond: A linkages Approach. In P. L. (Ed.), The Geopolitics of Resources Wars: Resource Dependence, Governance and Violence. London : Frank Cass.

Frowe, H. (2011). The Ethics of War and Peace : An Introduction . London: Routledge.

Kaldor, M. (1999). New and Old Wars. Cambridge : Polity press .

Kaye, D. (2007). Talking to the Ennemy : Tract Two Diplomacy in the Middle Easr and South East and South Asia. Santa Monica, A: Rand Corporation.

Keohane, R. O. (1986). Neorealism and Its Critics (Ed). New York : Columbia University Press .

Kissinger, H. A. (1957). Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy. New York: Harper.

Klare, M. T. (2001). Resource Wars : New Land Scape of Global Conflict . New York: Metropolitan Book.

Morgenthau , H. J. (1978). The Politics Among Nations : The Struggle for Power and Peace(5th ed.). New York: Knopf.


The Tragic End of a Dream with Lies: the M23 could do or be better by staying CNDP

“This paper is a critical comparison between some provisions of the 23rd March 2009 peace-accord between the National Congress for Defence of People ( CNDP, French acronym) and the Congolese government and the 12th December 2013 Nairobi Declaration of the Congolese government after the M23 ( Movement of 23rd March) defection. It shows how it could better and profitable for the M23 to stay CNDP and to profit from the advantages they benefited than to become M23, where they are apparently losers after the Kampala peace-talks“. Beyond this observation, this article a pre-argument of an upcoming publication on “the politics of resource war management:  violence perspective”  where it will be argued that the success of peacebuilding in the context of greed model is to dislocate the rebel from the field of natural resources in order to reduce their financial capacities and to compel them to disarm” ( Full text.. contact the editor)

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