A Just War Framework: Analyzing the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War


The origins of the just war theory date back to medieval times, with the early Catholic scholars, Augustine and Aquinas, and have continued into modem times, with revisions of the theory by Elshtain and Walzer. So why is a new just war theory needed? The primary problem with the old theories is not the concept of the theory itself, but the questions that prior theories of just war leave unanswered. The just war theory of today continues to be unspecific, and does not deal with contemporary issues, such as nuclear, chemical and biological weapons; terrorism; and discrimination between combatants and noncombatants in an age of airborne warfare.

In the years since September 11 th, and following the 2003 invasion of Iraq sans the support of the United Nations, the concept of the just war has gained prominence in political theory and commentary. In a twofold manner, this thesis deals with the problems left unanswered by current just war theory. First, a new just war theory is proposed, which addresses many of the abovementioned issues that remain unsolved by former theories. Second, this theory is tested through application to the 1991 Persian Gulf War; the decade after the war in which economic sanctions were placed against Iraq; and the three-year period directly after the September 11th attacks, in which the world again entered into conflict with Iraq. The classic just war theory template is used, with the war and the decade-long period following it classified under the traditional jus ad bellum (just cause ),jus in bello (just conduct), and conclusion categories. The post September 11th period is dealt with using the jus ad bellum template, as a precursor to the 2003 Iraq War. This thesis tests the applicability of the new just war theory in the face of modem wartime considerations, such as advanced weapons technology, wartime military conduct, military occupation, and civilian welfare. The new just war theory has been designed to take these issues into consideration, and as such, it accommodates the just limitations of war (what a state can and cannot do in the course of a conflict), while still defining what is and is not a just cause to go to war. There is also new consideration given to the conclusion of the war, and specifically, the rights and responsibilities of both the occupied and the occupying parties, as well as the issue of rebuilding and recovery in the country or countries involved in the conflict. These are considerations that are new to war, and were not considered previous to the past century of conflict. As such, older just war theories do not adequately discuss these responsibilities, and the new theory strives to fill this gap.


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Thesis Completion





Jungblut, Bernadette


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Program

Political Science


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic; Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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