Critical Thinking Essay

Critical Thinking

The purpose of the article Just War in the 21st Century: Reconceptualizing Just War Theory after September 11 by Eric Patterson is revaluation of Just War theory according to the reality of modern warfare. The author touches both pragmatic and ethical issues concerning the War on Terror. (Patterson 2007) The purpose is not stated clearly, the author only mentions that he is going to describe but it does not elaborate it further and he does not illustrate it by examples. It is difficult to understand if the purpose if relevant and accurate because it is stated unclearly.

Eric Patterson mentions that justice in war was determined by such philosophers as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas. But he does not reveal what exactly they meant by their descriptions that makes difficult comparing between primary meaning of Just War theory and its change after September 11.

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However it should be mentioned that the author chose very significant and relevant subject. Entirely the style of the article is not completely clear. Patterson raises two questions: if it is ethical for the US military to kill an avowed terrorist and if the likely “collateral damage” included his wife and children. (Patterson 2007) Both questions are very important in the modern war ethic but the author does not express the questions in several ways to clarify its meaning and scope. But the questions and the purpose are relevant to each other.

Although the expression of the questions does not completely justice to the complexity of the matter at issue. The author divided the question into two sub-questions but it would be more clearly if he used more detailed sub-questions. The questions raised in this article are very complex and they need to be described from several points of view but Eric Patterson reveal only one point of view so his narration ca not be considered unbiased. (Patterson 2007)

The most important information in this article is: first the author mentions some points of Just War theory. These points are: value of a human life, morality in accountability for one’s actions (Patterson gives good illustration to this point using the example of Nazis and Allies), and the war should proceed only on the basis of legitimate authority acknowledges that government and law are the foundation of the good life. (Patterson 2007) The author describes practical aspects of Just War, he mentions that “military leaders know that when their troops believe in the ‘rightness’ of their cause they will fight better, longer, and harder against the enemy”. Eric Patterson writes that real ‘freedom fighters’ like Chechens or Kurds can be labeled as “guerillas, insurgent, rebels, or terrorists”. (Patterson 2007)

However, the author’s point of view is biased because he does not reveal all the complexity of the problem because he does not pay enough attention to the point of view of the opposite side. (Patterson 2007) So, it can not be considered as relevant evidence. Eric Patterson raises very important problem of killing civilian population during the war. He asks if it is fair to kill wives and children of enemies proposing to imagine that they can kill our relatives for vengeance. (Patterson 2007)

The author tries to reconsider Just War theory to adapt it to modern conditions. As he mentions this theory was created at time of sword, lance, and bow even before the advent of gunpowder. He tries to understand how style of wars changed since Peloponnesian war till September, 11. (Patterson 2007) The basic differences are: old wars were between legitimate authorities, these wars between states were generally a dispute over property, and old wars were fought by ‘combatants’. In old wars were not weapon powerful enough to make a region uninhabitable for generations. Unlike old wars people attacked USA in September, 11 do not belong to any government but they can not be considered as usual outlaws because their position is founded on religion. Their theological motives make appropriate using the weapon of mass destruction. (Patterson 2007) America’s opponents in the War on Terror are not traditional combatant in uniform because even children and women are involved in the war as soldiers. Terrorists do not accept the difference between combatants and civil population; according to their outlook all Americans including women and children are representatives of Global Evil that is why terrorists commit their attacks in the very heart of the country.

Eric Patterson asks is USA have right to act outside its borders in order to protect their citizens. His answer is yes but he does not give enough convincing arguments to prove his point of view. He states that America has to act even against indirect threaten affecting the USA but directly challenging security of its partner. But he does not take into account that interfering to international conflicts America becomes a state-aggressor and therefore number of its enemies increases. Inasmuch military power of countries that became victims of American “peace-making mission” is not as strong as one of US they fight indirectly because they can not begin direct conflict with USA. (Patterson 2007)

However, the author does not mention outside military activity of America as a reason of terrorism. Information given by Patterson is strongly partial and one-sided, purposely or not he closes his eyes on many important factors, he does not take into account positions of other countries demonstrating bright example of national egocentrism. (Patterson 2007) He states that America has right to make order in other countries but this researcher even did not make work to study inner situation in these countries, he is indifferent as for what consequences for other countries brings American “self-protection”. (Patterson 2007)

As Eric Patterson fairly mentions the War of Terror like the Cold War is a struggle between compelling ideas and value systems and it must be adjusted by different instruments of hard and soft power like diplomacy, economics, politics, and in last turn military forces. He gives good metaphor such as a marriage of principles and pragmatism.

There are several extremist statements in Patterson’s work unfortunately inherent to modern American policy. He writes that when a country such as Yugoslavia or Iraq grossly harms its own civilians, threatens its neighbors the West has right to use military forces. (Patterson 2007)  When USA bombed Yugoslavia they forgot to ask its citizens if they wanted such “protection”. As for Iraq it is notoriously known that the main reason for war with Iraq is its oilfields. This hypocritical position is the reason of many human victims. (Patterson 2007)

The author does not clarify the key conceptions when necessary. The article is written without clear order. It is difficult to separate main and subsidiary information. The language is rather difficult because the author uses many foreign terms and does not always give its translation. The article lacks logic because the statements are poorly grounded and the facts do not follow one from another. The combination of thoughts is not mutually supported and does not make sense in combination. A line of reasoning is not clear and not always relevant.


Patterson, Eric (2007) “Just War in the 21st Century: Reconceptualizing Just War Theory after September 11”. Lanham, MD : Lexington Books