The tragedy of justified war

Michael Neu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines and critiques the binary structure of contemporary just war thinking. Theorists claim that the waging of war, and the committing of military acts within war, is either just or unjust. This binary distinction should be tempered by the awareness that justified wars are tragic: tragic in the broad sense of inescapably involving moral wronging, but not necessarily tragic in the narrow sense of not having been preventable by the tragic agent himself or herself. Justified war situations that fail to be tragic in the narrow sense are inauthentic. If contemporary just war theorists were to explicitly recognise the tragedy of justified war in the broad sense, as well as the dangers of lacking authenticity, their theory might become less susceptible to abuse by political moralists.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-480
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Relations
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2013


  • binary thinking
  • justified wronging
  • just war theory
  • pacifism
  • tragedy


Dive into the research topics of 'The tragedy of justified war'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this