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Lecture discusses ‘just war’ theory

Katie Mounts | Friday, February 13, 2004

Linking recent events in Iraq to Catholic responsibility, author Peter Temes articulated his opinions on just war theory when he spoke at Notre Dame Thursday night. Temes, President of the Antioch New England Graduate School and author of the recently published “The Just War: An American Reflection on the Morality of War in Our Time,” presented a one-hour lecture entitled “Just War Thinking in a New Age” to approximately 50 students and faculty in the Hesburgh Center Auditorium.The just war theory, Temes said, revolves around the idea that while “war is always wrong, [it is] sometimes necessary.” He argued that choices are not always between right and wrong, but that war may end up being the lesser of two wrongs. “As precious as peace is, peace is not enough,” he said. “Justice and decency are higher values.” The highest justification for war, he said, is not defense of self, but defense of an innocent third party.Temes explained the ambiguity found in the principles of Catholic just war theory, a concept first proposed by St. Augustine. These principles include the propositions that war must be waged by a legitimate authority, be taken as a last resort and be harmful only in proportion to the good it brings, he said.Temes’ book adds three original ideas to the first principles. He also proposed that war may be considered just if and only if it is about the future instead of the past, it is waged with the understanding that all human life is equally precious and it promotes the idea that the legitimacy of government comes from the consent of the governed.Temes related his belief that a war is partly justified by its after-effects to the recent controversy in Iraq.”Our obligation in Iraq is just beginning,” he said.The Program of Liberal Studies, The Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and The Review of Politics cosponsored the lecture.