Just War and Human Rights

Fighting with Right Intention

By Todd Burkhardt

Subjects: International Relations, Human Rights, Conflict Resolution, Violence, Ethics
Series: SUNY Press Open Access
Paperback : 9781438464022, 222 pages, March 2017
Hardcover : 9781438464039, 222 pages, March 2017

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Table of contents


1. Right Intention and a Just and Lasting Peace

2. Reasonable Chance of Success: Analyzing Postwar Requirements in the Ad Bellum Phase

3. Post Bellum Obligations of Noncombatant Immunity

4. Negative and Positive Corresponding Duties of the Responsibility to Protect

5. Justified Drone Strikes are Predicated on Responsibility to Protect Norms

6. Updating the Fourth Geneva Convention


Discusses how just war theory needs to be revised to better secure and respect human rights.


Warfare in the twenty-first century presents significant challenges to the modern state. Serious questions have arisen about the use of drones, target selection, civilian exposure to harm, intervening for humanitarian reasons, and war as a means of forcing regime change. In Just War and Human Rights Todd Burkhardt argues that updating the laws of war and reforming just war theory is needed. A twenty-year veteran of the US Army, Burkhardt claims that war is impermissible unless it is engaged, fought, and concluded with right intention. A state must not only have a just cause and limit its war-making activity in order to vindicate the just cause, but it must also seek to vindicate its just cause in a way that yields a just and lasting peace. A just and lasting peace is motivated by the just war tenet of right intention and predicated on the realization of human rights. Therefore, human rights should not only dictate how a state treats its own people but also how a state treats the people of other countries, insulating them and protecting innocent civilians from the harms of war.

This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to Knowledge Unlatched—an initiative that provides libraries and institutions with a centralized platform to support OA collections and from leading publishing houses and OA initiatives. Learn more at the Knowledge Unlatched website at: https://www.knowledgeunlatched.org/, and access the book online at the SUNY Open Access Repository at http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.12648/7135

Todd Burkhardt is Professor of Military Science at Indiana University at Bloomington.


"…an outstanding contribution to the intersection of 'just war' theory and human rights practice … Essential." — CHOICE

"Todd Burkhardt, experienced American soldier and educator, has here crafted a clearly written and spirited book. It's timely and practical—analyzing drone strikes and post-conflict dilemmas—yet also reflective and theoretical—arguing that the rule of 'right intention' deserves far more prominence in just war theory than it has recently been given. Above all, this is a readable and constructive call to reform the laws of armed conflict in light of human rights values, especially as understood through the lens of John Rawls's theory of international justice. A welcome contribution to today's philosophy of war." — Brian Orend, author of The Morality of War, Second Edition