A brief introduction to the just war tradition: Jus post bellum

August 31, 2017

Note: This is the third article in a series on the Christian just war tradition.

If a nation is able to meet all of the moral requirements for going to war (jus ad bellum) as well as the moral requirements for waging war (jus in bello) they will find they have a new set of moral requirements after warfare is concluded.

“As in so many issues in public life, those who would act well bear a heavy burden, and jus post bellum duties only add to that burden,” says Gary Bass. “People who somehow manage to act decently before and during war are rewarded only by being required to act decently again afterward.”

The “afterward” is the focus of just post bellum, justice after war. Because it can be difficult to determine when exactly a war has ended, we’ll consider the post (after) in jus post bellum to refer to the termination phase of conflict, the drawing-down of the war and the beginning of a the phase of a just peace.

While just post bellum is the newest addition to the just war tradition, the concept has always been inherent in thinking about the morality of war. After all, as Aristotle says in his Politics, the proper telos (end or function) of war should be peace. Just war theorist Michael Walzer adds to this that, “the object of a war is a better state of peace. And better, within the confines of the argument for justice, means more security than the status quo ante bellum, less vulnerability to territorial expansion, greater safety for ordinary men and women and for their domestic self determination”

If at the end of the war, the state of peace and justice is no greater than before the conflict started, then how can the conflict have been worth the violence and death? This is why thinking jus post bellum is an essential addition to the Christian jus war tradition.

Unfortunately, despite the importance of the topic, it has been given less thought than jus ad bellum or jus in bello and no set criteria have yet been agreed upon.

One of the first attempts to clearly define jus post bellum principles was offered by Michael Schuck in a 1994 article in Christian Century magazine. Shuck proposed three principles: repentance, honorable surrender, and restoration.

A more elabarote set of principles was presented by just war scholar Briand Orend, who outlines seven post-bellum principles whose violation would contradict the rules of just war:

Proportionality and Publicity: The peace settlement should be both measured and reasonable, as well as publicly proclaimed.

Rights Vindication: The settlement should secure those basic rights whose violation triggered the justified war. The relevant rights include human rights to life and liberty and community entitlements to territory and sovereignty.

Discrimination: Distinction needs to be made between the leaders, the soldiers, and the civilians in the country one is negotiating with. Civilians are entitled to reasonable immunity from punitive postwar measures.

Compensation: Financial restitution may be mandated, subject to both proportionality and discrimination.

Punishment: Soldiers and political leaders from all sides should face fair and public international trials for war crimes.

Rehabilitation: Reforming of decrepit institutions in an aggressor regime.

Former U.S. Navy chaplain Louis V. Iasiello also outlined seven principles he says should set the moral parameters of behavior in the post-combat phase of war:

A healing mind-set: “It would be constructive if both the victors and the defeated entered this post-conflict phase in a spirit of regret, conciliation, humility, and possibly contrition. Such a mind-set may further the healing of a nation’s trauma and thus enhance efforts to seal a just peace.”

Just restoration: “Victors have a moral obligation to ensure the security and stabilization of a defeated nation. Whenever practical and possible, they must provide the essentials of life (food, clothing, shelter, medicine, etc.) to those without them and repair or rebuild infrastructure essential to a vulnerable population’s health and welfare.”

Safeguarding the innocent: “The victors in war should focus special attention on children in the post bellum phase of war. Of equal importance is the direction of post bellum care to other at-risk groups and those who cannot easily care for themselves, most notably the sick, the elderly, and some groups of women.”

Respect for the environment: “All sides in a conflict should assume responsibility for the protection of the environment in war, and they should be held accountable for both the treatment of the environment during hostilities and the subsequent restoration of the environment after the fighting has ended.”

Post bellum justice: “The prosecution of suspected war criminals and political regimes should be treated as a critical dimension of any successful post bellum dynamic to further post bellum healing.”

Warrior transition: “This criterion addresses a nation’s moral obligation to heal the visible and invisible wounds of its warriors by adequately preparing them for their inevitable return and reentry into the society.”

Study of the lessons of war: “Nations that wage war have a moral responsibility to study their decision to use force, and the way force was used in the conduct of war.”

Each of these three scholars has added important elements to the formulation of a set of jus post bellum principles. But more thought needs to be done and the area is ripe for fresh Christian thinking on what we owe our enemies after the fighting has ended.  

Next in this series: The just war tradition and terrorism.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is the author of The Life and Faith Field Guide for Parents, the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible, and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History’s Greatest Communicator. He also serves as an executive pastor at the McLean Bible Church Arlington location in Arlington, Virginia. Read More

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24