Nigel Biggar investigates the moral claims of just war thinking.
I think just war thinking does appeal to a higher natural moral law, because we are talking about justice here, right? We’re not just talking about conventions. I don’t think the just war criteria are simply useful conventions that the West has concocted because it serves its purpose – although, of course, many of those on the sharp end of Western military power might be sceptical or cynical about the way in which we use just war theory to justify military intervention. (Although those we save are not so cynical.) So insofar as we’re making moral claims and we’re trying to use these criteria to judge whether going to war is right or wrong, these are moral claims and moral considerations. They’re not conventional, they’re not a proxy for something else. In a sense, we’re trying to discern what is morally real here, not conventional. And implicitly we’re making a universal claim about the truth, not just what I perceive to be the truth.