Catholic pacifists blame the just war tradition of their Church. That tradition, they say, can be invoked to justify any war, and so it must be jettisoned. This book argues that the problem is not the just war tradition but the unjust war tradition. Ambitious rulers start wars that cannot be justified, and yet warriors continue to fight them. The problem is the belief that warriors do not hold any responsibility for judging the justice of the wars they are ordered to fight. However unjust, a command renders any war “just” for the obedient warrior.
This book argues that selective conscientious objection, the right and duty to refuse to fight unjust wars, is the solution. Strengthening the just war tradition depends on a heightened role for the personal conscience of the warrior. That in turn depends on a heightened role for the Church in forming and supporting consciences and judging the justice of particular wars.
As Saint Augustine wrote, “The wise man will wage just wars. … For, unless the wars were just, he would not have to wage them, and in such circumstances he would not be involved in war at all.”