The application and transition of just war principles in Canadian defence policy 1947–2005

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University of New Brunswick


Just War Theory is a set of principles that have long been used to guide and regulate warfare between nations. Just War Theory principles are divided between jus ad bellum, the principles that guide the decision to engage in war, and jus in bello, the principles that regulate right conduct in war. The principles which guide the decision to engage in war include just cause, legal authority, sufficient cause, reasonable chance of success, and last resort, whereas the principles of right conduct include discrimination and proportionality. As the product of western religious and scholastic thought these principles have guided nations’ resort to and conduct of war, and shaped the international conventions concerning war that now exist as the law of armed conflict or international humanitarian law. As a western democracy, Canada's defence policy and military operations have been influenced by Just War Theory principles. Analysing how these principles have been defined and applied in Canadian defence policy and operations illustrates to what extent they have been used as a foundation for Canadian defence policy in the twentieth century and how they were re-defined and applied as Canadian defence priorities changed in the aftermath of the Cold War. This thesis examines Canadian defence policy statements from 1947 to 2005 before focusing on case studies of Canadian Armed Forces peace-building operations in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia. This paper traces the application and transition of Just War Theory principles from the post-war internationalism establishing the United Nations, through the alliance relationships of the Cold War, the new internationalism and revitalized United Nations following the end of the Cold War, culminating in the emergence of a new understanding of Just War, the doctrine of Responsibility to Protect.