Just War Theory

Just War Theory: NATO Action Against Serbia

Years of aggressive European empires have left the area known as the Balkans
in an almost constant flux. The nation of Yugoslavia, originated in 1918, first
became stable under the leadership of Dictator Josip Broz Tito who turned the
nation to communism in 1945. However, with Tito’s death in 1980, the country
dissolved into several smaller countries. Presently the former state of
Yugoslavia is comprised of the nations Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina,
Macedonia, Montenegro, and Serbia. Within Serbia lies a region called Kosovo, an
area where over ninety percent of the citizens are ethnic Albanians.

Kosovo’s opposition to Serbian control of their region climaxed in January
1998, when a group known as the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) manifested its
plans to unify Kosovo with the neighboring nation Albania. In response, the
present Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic, ordered Serbian forces to police
the area. Within a short time, the Serbian forces also began to ethnically
cleanse Kosovo of all non-Serbs. The civil war escalated into an international
conflict in March 1999 when the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
intervened by bombing Serbian targets.

According to the most basic tenets of just war doctrine, NATO’s
militaristic intervention with Serbia in the NATO Yugoslav War seems to be
appropriate. NATO’s actions appear to follow the principles of jus ad bellum
as well as jus in bella. Their goal also seems in accordance with other
documents of sustaining peace, such as the Charter of the United Nations.
However, a more detailed analysis might suggest otherwise: NATO’s intervention
was not justifiable in account that the war was more for Western interests than
ending the ethical genocide of the non-Serbs in Kosovo.

In the extreme realistic view of war, or “all’s fair” view, any action
is justifiable if it protects or advances the interests of the state acting.
This ideology strives on two tenets: “(1) that any act in war is justifiable
if it seems to serve the national interest, and (2) that rightness depends
solely on the ends sought rather than on methods used to obtain those ends.”
The realistic view also follows utilitarian reasoning, which states “behavior
is ethical if it brings the greatest good to the greatest number.” In this
perspective, NATO’s interaction was most certainly just.

Contrastingly, another view of war is the extreme pacifist view, that is
avoiding conflict or any violent action in every situation. No action is ethical
if an individual is harmed. In this case, NATO’s intervention would certainly
have not been ethical.

However, the current just war doctrine is neither of these extremes.
Contemporary politics attempt to follow something in the middle.“[T]here are
sets of ethical principles to consider when judging the morality of war” which
are “justice of war” or “jus ad bellum” and “justice in war” or “jus
in bella.” Together they are embodied as “just war tradition”. Several of
these modern just war theory tenets are expressed in the UN Charter.

Article 33 states that any war must have a “just cause” :

The parties to any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger
the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a
solution by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial
settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means
of their own choice.

Article 39 exemplifies the necessity of nation-states to make all attempts at
restoring peace and security:

The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the
peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations,
or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to
maintain or restore international peace and security.

The UN Charter stresses that war is a last resort. In fact, the document goes
on to describe war as an act of self-defense. “The principle of last resort
suggests that states should exhaust all peaceful means of resolving disputes
before resorting to military force, a condition that is easily met when a state
has been attacked and is merely engaging in self-defense.” These ideas are
expressed in Article 51:

Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual
or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the
United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to
maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the
exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the
Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and
responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any
time such action as it deems necessary