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Having just cause (especially and, according to United Nations Charter, exclusively, self-defense);
Being (formally) declared by a proper authority;
Possessing a right intention;
Having a reasonable chance of success;
The end being proportional to means used."
Yet, evolution of warfare - invention of nuclear weapons, propagation of total war, ubiquity of guerrilla and national liberation movements, emergence of global, border-hopping terrorist organizations, of totalitarian regimes, and rogue or failed states - requires these principles to be modified by adding these tenets:
That declaring authority is a lawfully and democratically elected government.
That declaration of war reflects popular will.
(Extension of 3) The right intention is to act in just cause.
(Extension of 4) ... or a reasonable chance of avoiding an annihilating defeat.
(Extension of 5) That outcomes of war are preferable to outcomes of preservation of peace.
Still, doctrine of just war, conceived in Europe in eras past, is fraying at edges. Rights and corresponding duties are ill-defined or mismatched. What is legal is not always moral and what is legitimate is not invariably legal. Political realism and quasi-religious idealism sit uncomfortably within same conceptual framework. Norms are vague and debatable while customary law is only partially subsumed in tradition (i.e., in treaties, conventions and other instruments, as well in actual conduct of states).
The most contentious issue is, of course, what constitutes "just cause". Self-defense, in its narrowest sense (reaction to direct and overwhelming armed aggression), is a justified casus belli. But what about use of force to (deontologically, consequentially, or ethically):
Prevent or ameliorate a slow-motion or permanent humanitarian crisis;
Preempt a clear and present danger of aggression ("anticipatory or preemptive self-defense" against what Grotius called "immediate danger");
Secure a safe environment for urgent and indispensable humanitarian relief operations;
Restore democracy in attacked state ("regime change");
Restore public order in attacked state;
Prevent human rights violations or crimes against humanity or violations of international law by attacked state;
Keep peace ("peacekeeping operations") and enforce compliance with international or bilateral treaties between aggressor and attacked state or attacked state and a third party;
Suppress armed infiltration, indirect aggression, or civil strife aided and abetted by attacked state;
Honor one's obligations to frameworks and treaties of collective self-defense;
Protect one's citizens or citizens of a third party inside attacked state;
Protect one's property or assets owned by a third party inside attacked state;
Respond to an invitation by authorities of attacked state - and with their expressed consent - to militarily intervene within territory of attacked state;
React to offenses against nation's honor or its economy.
Unless these issues are resolved and codified, entire edifice of international law - and, more specifically, law of war - is in danger of crumbling. The contemporary multilateral regime proved inadequate and unable to effectively tackle genocide (Rwanda, Bosnia), terror (in Africa, Central Asia, and Middle East), weapons of mass destruction (Iraq, India, Israel, Pakistan, North Korea), and tyranny (in dozens of members of United Nations).
This feebleness inevitably led to resurgence of "might is right" unilateralism, as practiced, for instance, by United States in places as diverse as Grenada and Iraq. This pernicious and ominous phenomenon is coupled with contempt towards and suspicion of international organizations, treaties, institutions, undertakings, and prevailing consensual order.
In a unipolar world, reliant on a single superpower for its security, abrogation of rules of game could lead to chaotic and lethal anarchy with a multitude of "rebellions" against emergent American Empire. International law - formalism of "natural law" - is only one of many competing universalist and missionary value systems. Militant Islam is another. The West must adopt former to counter latter.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com