Augustine's Just War and Nuclear Weapons: From Hiroshima to Today's Nuclear Arsenal
Access changed 8/16/21.
President Truman’s decision to drop two nuclear weapons on Japan to end World War II is one of the most contentious decisions in the 20th century. Those who abhor his decision argue that the use of nuclear weapons is inherently unethical and unjust. Augustine of Hippo is one of the earliest thinkers to write on the justice of war, particularly on jus ad bellum and jus in bello. His arguments for the justice to go to war and justice in war, though centered on his Christian faith, have influenced innumerable international agreements on the conduct of war. This thesis analyzes some of Augustine’s arguments surrounding the justice of war and then applies them to both Truman’s decision as well as the post-Cold War nuclear revolution, where the United States has sought nuclear primacy through low-yield, precision guided nuclear weapons. This thesis finds that Augustine’s conception of the just war would likely have found Truman’s decision justified under the circumstances. It also evaluates the highly advanced nuclear arsenal of the United States today. It finds that this arsenal, opposed by theorists of nuclear deterrence, enables a degree of ethical decision-making surrounding nuclear weapons that is more consistent with the just war than Cold War nuclear deterrence.