Approximate Justice & Just War Theory

I have benefited from the book War, Peace, and ChristianityReading it has given me a better understanding of the terms that surround just-war theory, as well as numerous other sources to read.  I plan on quoting from the book in the coming days. Here the authors give their reasons for the authority of the state, which I generally agree with.

The state’s authority exists for the purpose of preserving and defending the rights of its members. Its authority is legitimate to the degree that it carries out this mandate. Just-war thinking arises out of certain fundamental convictions-for example that justice is due all human beings, that approximate (versus absolute or perfect) justice is discernible, and that this approximate justice is worth attaining and preserving. This mode of reasoning applies equally to domestic or international concerns.

This quote contains two key insights that I have gained from reading the book. First, we will rarely, if ever, get justice perfectly right. We use our reason, nature, conscience history, and as Christians God’s Word to guide us to an approximate justice or as a Christian would say, true, but imperfect justice. But while we may not be able to make things perfectly just we can make them more just. The failure to attain perfect justice does not make the pursuit of justice hopeless or waste. There is a post-modern mindset that says if we ever get it wrong we should not do it all, after all who really knows if a war is just or not? Innocent people are harmed when thinking like this becomes common.

Second, the idea summed up on the last line has been helpful for me.  The authors frequently compare the local police to international affairs. Their point is that the same principles apply in defeating a kidnapper that apply in freeing a state that has been occupied by a foreign country. It is more complicated on an international scale, but the principles do not change.  If I saw a man purposely burning down my neighbor’s house, I would call the authorities or stop him myself. I would not sit there and go, “Well that is none of my business.”  This is true on the international scale as well. That does not mean America should jump in to solve every possible problem. But there are some situations where America or some other stronger country coming in to help a smaller country is not just necessary it is morally obligatory.