Date of Graduation

Fall 2009


Master of Science in Defense and Strategic Studies


Defense and Strategic Studies

Committee Chair

Keith Payne


just war theory, nuclear weapons, deterrence, jus ad bellum, jus in bello

Subject Categories

Defense and Security Studies


Justice in the recourse to war and in the conduct of war can be measured. Some of the world's greatest philosophers, ethicists, and theologians contributed to the debate of faith and force to ensure the justice of warfare. The principles which have evolved from centuries of study are encompassed within just war theory. Just war theory represents an ethical and theological set of guidelines for individuals to assess the justice of war. Just war theory is still applicable to questions in the nuclear age. The principles of jus ad bellum and jus in bello can be applied to the use of nuclear weapons – both for employment during warfare and for deterrence purposes. Pacifistic voices call for further reductions in the U.S. nuclear arsenal with the goal of complete nuclear disarmament. However, it must be unequivocally clear that in order to act justly government should be guided by its mandate to protect the innocent and punish evil. To this end, the United States should maintain a nuclear arsenal that can justly deter our adversaries, dissuade aggressors, and ultimately protect the innocent. This requires a U.S. nuclear policy that embraces just deterrence policy, honors the commitments made to defend our allies, and justly targets an adversary's military. The United States nuclear policy must accomplish these goals, while at the same time making it clear that its nuclear capability can be congruent with the requirements of the just war doctrine.


© Stephanie Joy Merrell Koeshall

Campus Only