"Just war" is a term to characterise a war as being permissible according to
a set of moral or legal rules. The rules applied may be ethical, religious,
or formal (such as international law). The rules classically cover the
justification for the war (Jus Ad Bellum) and the conduct of the
participants in the war (Jus In Bello).
Just war theory has ancient roots. Cicero discussed this idea and its
applications. St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas later codified a set of rules
for a just war, which today still encompass the points commonly debated,
with some modifications. "Whether it is always sinful to wage war?"
In modern language, these rules hold that to be just, a war must meet the
following criteria before the use of force:
* War can only be waged for a just cause. Self-defense against an armed
attack is one example that is considered just cause.
* War can only be waged under legitimate authority. The sovereign power
of the state is usually considered to be legitimate authority.
* War can only be waged with the right intention. Correcting a suffered
wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain is not. Thus
a war that would normally be just for all other reasons would be made
unjust by a bad intention.
* War can only be waged with a reasonable chance of success. It is
considered unjust to meaninglessly waste human life and economic
resources if defeat is unavoidable.
* War can only be waged as a last resort. War is not just until all
realistic options which were likely to right the wrong have been pursued.
Once war has begun, just war theory also directs how combatants are to act:
* The force used must be proportional to the wrong endured, and to the
possible good that may come.
* The acts of war should be directed towards the inflictors of the wrong,
and not towards civilians caught in circumstances they did not create.
* Torture, either of combatants or of non-combatants is forbidden.
* Prisoners of war must be treated respectfully.