What should matter morally is the severity and extent of harm inflicted on innocents, not whether those harms are inflicted violently or nonviolently. The author suggests that the only actions that are permissible are those that are likely to inflict the fewest morally weighted harms and that meet the other just war theory precepts (excluding last resort).

The last resort criterion occupies a hallowed place in the just war theory tradition and in the responsibility to protect (R2P) norm. Many leading just war theory scholars, R2P experts, and world leaders accept last resort as a jus ad bellum requirement. The most plausible version of last resort is that all peaceful policy options that have a reasonable chance of achieving a just cause must be exhausted before the use of force is permissible. Its justification is straightforward and commonsensical: war is terrible, inevitably results in the deaths of numerous innocents and destruction of their property, and thus should be avoided whenever possible.

Download PDF

Further Reading

Completed: Human Security in Mali

Human Security adopts a people-centered approach to protect individuals by promoting peace and a holistic understanding of security. This project partners with NGOs and…


Past Initiative: Peace-Justice Nexus

The Peace-Justice Nexus project aims to contribute to ongoing debates on the effects of the International Criminal Court (ICC) on conflict and peace processes using…


Conflict Prevention

The overarching goal of the Conflict Prevention Program is to improve the theory, policy and practice of conflict prevention by producing knowledge that shapes…