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Document Details :
Title: Bellum iustum and liberum ius ad bellum in 19th Century International Legal Discourse
Subtitle: Deconstructing a Myth
Author(s): SIMON, Hendrik
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 24 Issue: 1 Date: 2017
In early modernity, the theory of just war (bellum iustum) was contested by alternative normative approaches to justify war. Faced with the empirical problem of impartially deciding when competing ‘justice’ claims were made, the moral criterion of just cause (iusta causa) lost its plausibility to many contemporary scholars. Consequently, as a majority of scholars argue today, the moral-theological bellum iustum was gradually transformed into an almost purely formal doctrine and was finally overtaken in the 19th century by the so-called sovereign right to wage war, the liberum ius ad bellum. However, a closer look at 19th century international legal discourse reveals that there was far less support for a liberum ius ad bellum than mainstream views of the 19th century would have it. Starting from this observation, the present article argues that in the 19th century war became a contested area in international legal doctrine, caught between politics, law and morality. Bellum iustum definitely maintained relevance as a discursive reference point in contemporary academic disputes, but the claim that the narrative of a liberum ius ad bellum prevailed in 19th century international legal discourse constitutes a myth that I hope to deconstruct.