In the Institute’s first working paper, the author, Dr. Eamon Aloyo, argues that last resort should be dropped from the just war tradition because its inclusion can result in a greater number of harms to innocents than if the precept did not exist. Last resort can conflict with proportionality, necessity, and non-combatant immunity.
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