Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

David A. Reidy

Committee Members

Vejas G. Liulevicius, Jonathan F. Garthoff, Adam Cureton, Larry May


Under the nonideal conditions of our world, war is sometimes morally permissible, perhaps even required. Just war theory aims to make sense of this. It does so, on my view, by allowing war only if pursued with ‘right intention.’ In order permissibly to go to war, a state must not only have a just cause and limit its war-making activity to that necessary to vindicate the just cause, both required in order to engage in war with ‘right intention,’ but it must also seek to vindicate its just cause in a manner likely to yield a ‘just and lasting peace.’ To fight without or unconstrained by this latter aim is to fight without the required ‘right intention.’ A lasting peace is not possible unless certain standards of basic justice are secure. These include those given by human rights, by principles of political self-determination and international toleration, and by the recognition of international responsibilities to protect. I argue further that these norms governing ‘right intention’ should be realized as international legal norms.

My aim is to make the case for some needed reforms to just war theory in order to give more adequate content to the idea that war is impermissible unless it is engaged and fought and concluded with ‘right intention.’ Aligning the just war tradition with human rights is essential because human rights constitute the core of international justice. Securing and respecting human rights; protecting noncombatants from the residual effects of war during the postwar period; tolerating illiberal but decent regimes; allowing for reasonable political self-determination; establishing when military intervention in accordance with the Responsibility to Protect is required; and updating, facilitating, and adjudicating a revised Fourth Geneva Convention that better protects civilians, can all be argued for as necessary if force is to be governed by a ‘right intention’ oriented toward peace with justice.

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