There Are No Just Wars: David Rodin and Oliver O’Donovan’s Divergent Critiques of a Tradition

Ars Disputandi 8 (2008)
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Two recent monographs re-examine the central elements of the just war tradition and its contemporary applications. David Rodin’s War and Self-Defense analyzes, and rejects, the common doctrine that just war is an instance of national self-defense, in parallel with the right of individuals to protect themselves against violent attack. This derivation fails, and it cannot justify resort to war. In contrast, Oliver O’Donovan’s The Just War Revisited dismisses the notion that there are rules for just war and calls instead for careful and deliberate practical reasoning in particular contexts. Indeed, there can be no just wars, only specific acts that pass the tests of theological, historical, and practical scrutiny.



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David Hoekema
Calvin College

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