When Is the Use of Military Force Justified?

Words: 2537
Topic: Politics & Government


The significance of negotiations can hardly be underrated in the present-day political world. No matter how smoothly the process of international operations may run, conflicts do emerge as a result of a natural evolution of states, and addressing them in a manner as expeditious as possible is essential to the wellbeing of the citizens.

However, in some cases, diplomatic negotiations are not enough for reaching a compromise; specifically, the cases of revolution, rebellions, terrorist acts, etc. need to be mentioned as some of the most difficult issues to address. Consequently, the necessity to use military force emerges. Despite the fact that the current justification of the use of military force is quite reasonable, it is still far too loose for being used only in the instances that cannot be addressed with the help of diplomacy.

As a rule, several instances of justifiable use of military force are mentioned in the United Nations code. In most cases, the necessity of using military force is predisposed by a threat to specific denizens of a certain population. The use of military force, therefore, must be encouraged so that the potential threat to the wellbeing of the citizens should not grow out of proportions.

Key Justifications

Among the key justifiable instances of military force used, the cases that involve international military conflicts posing a tangible threat to the global wellbeing deserve to be mentioned. For instance, a range of American political scientists insists on the need to introduce military force to Syria and the domain of ISIS (McArthur 34).

The justification for the specified actions is quite obvious from the perspective of the proponents of the specified measure: seeing that ISIS is a terrorist organization, by gaining power, it will become increasingly threatening to not only the people living in the areas invaded by the organization, but also the residents of other states, including those of Europe and America.

As far as the current set of principles, in accordance with which the military force is used, is concerned, one must mention the fact that the present-day regulations, which seems reasonable, may appear rather controversial in specific cases.

The specified characteristics of the current regulations regarding the use of military forces can be explained by the fact that there is no distinct line drawn between the conflict that can be settled peacefully and the one that requires military intervention. Once the charter law is jeopardized, the military intervention is traditionally used according to the key tenets of the U.S. laws and regulations.


More importantly, in the wake of the post-9/11 concern for security, which bordered a nationwide hysteria at some point, the issue of using military force as preemptive measures was brought up at some point (Dudziak 6). Bush’s doctrine of preemption declared that “the United States can attack any country and depose any political regime if they pose a security threat on the U.S.” (Dresner 282).

Although the approach in question may be viewed as rather harsh, it is, in fact, justifiable in the light of the threats, which the creation of the global economy and international relationships poses to city residents.


As the current standard for the measures involving the use of military forces presupposes, the U.S. government is eligible for using military force in the circumstances that involve any kind of threat to the wellbeing and security of the U.S. population, as well as the United States as a political entity in general.

Traditionally, the use of military force is considered the ultimate measure that should be applied in the conditions in which no other alternatives are possible.

Additionally, the justification of the use of military force in resolving international conflicts is often determined by public opinion to a considerable degree. For instance, the infamous case of the United Kingdom using military force as a tool for resolving a conflict in Libya had very little support among the British population, a range of people being doubtful “about the existence of a strong moral case for the action.

In March, 41 percent agreed that there was such a case, but 34 percent disagreed” (Reifler et al., 2014, p. 45). As a result, the actions of the British government, which, while harsh, could still be defined as rather reasonable, were dismissed as unnecessarily cruel by the UK citizens.



Despite the fact that the use of military force is only viewed as acceptable in dire situations, a plethora of examples of the subject matter can be found in the latest history of international relationships between some of the states. For instance, the use of military force against ISIS deserves to be brought up as one of the latest examples of the use of military force. The specified decision of the United States government can be viewed as justified seeing that the specified organization is identified as a terrorist one and threatens people’s lives.

Indeed, a number of scholars consider the specified measure necessary for maintaining the security rates of not only the United States but also the rest of the world at a comparatively high level. It should be noted, though, that some scholars argue that the specified measure was a violation of international ethics. At present, though, it seems that the position of Obama’s administration is quite legitimate, as the lives of millions of people are currently at stake.

Because of the consistent threat, which the specified organization poses, it is imperative to terminate its activities and even existence until ISIS causes even greater harm.

More importantly, the organization in question has already proven to be extremely dangerous and pose a consistent threat to the wellbeing of the global society; specifically, the acts of terrorism, which ISIS has already committed, serves as a solid proof of the fact that the organization needs to be stopped: “It has been well documented that ISIS has seized a significant number of American weapons from the Iraqi army and Syrian rebels” (Sprusansky 19).

True, a range of political scientists points at the fact that comparing ISIS to the notorious Al Qaeda is wrong and that ISIS cannot be technically called a terrorist organization. However, despite the distinction, which is being made between the two organizations, ISIS remains a palpable threat to the wellbeing and lives of people all over the world due to the aggressive choices that the ISIS leaders make. Therefore, the use of military force, though being an extreme measure, is still justified from the perspective of the greater good and the lesser evil.

Al Qaeda

Speaking of which, the issue regarding Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist threats also clearly needed a much stronger tool than diplomatic negotiations could serve as at the specified moment in history. The use of military force can be viewed as rather justifiable in the specified scenario, as Al Qaeda not only posed a huge threat to the wellbeing of people all over the world but also put some of its threats into practice by setting and implementing a range of acts of terror.

It should be noted, though, that even the case of Al Qaeda has been debated for an impressive amount of time prior to the introduction of any measures; “The Supreme Court has dismissed some of these more aggressive efforts, holding, for example, that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions provides some minimum baseline of protection to detainees in the conflict with al-Qaeda” (Ingber 77).

Saudi conflict

Likewise, the way in which the Saudi conflict was addressed, can also be viewed as a justifiable, though obviously arguable, use of military force. Because of the threat of terrorism, which innocent people were under as the conflict erupted, the introduction of the military force to the conflict served as the means of relieving the local denizens of the Saudi pupation from consistent jeopardy that their lives had been in until the military intervention.

The examples are shown above display the consequences of taking the threat of terrorism lightly in a rather graphic manner. Seeing that living in a global environment means sharing not only opportunities but also certain threats, including the threat of a possible attack of terrorists, it is essential to be able to foresee the possible attack and to strike first before civilians may suffer.

It should be noted, though, that the specified policy can be viewed as rather dangerous due to the fact that the process of predicting the possible terrorist attack may be flawed and innocent people may suffer as a result of a political misunderstanding. While the specified assumption can be considered rather farfetched, it still may occur due to a string of coincidences and misunderstandings, therefore, leading to the death of hundreds of people.


In order to resolve the dilemma in question, one must consider the option of improving the methods for possible threats identification, as well as reconsidering the rules for military force use. The rules and regulations regarding the latter need to become more stringent so that no possible abuse of power should occur and that the rights of certain countries should not be infringed. Particularly, the factors that define the introduction of military force into the action scene must be revisited.

In order to reduce the possibility of making a political mistake and attacking innocent people, the methods of data retrieval and analysis must be revisited. In order to make sure that the safety of the state and the security of its citizens are facilitated, the leaders of the state in question must consider not only the changes that occur within their country but also the major political alterations in the states all over the world. The specified measure is essential for facilitating security within a state and preventing similar instances from occurring in it.

More importantly, other states may share the threat, which a certain group of people poses to a specific country, once the group in question gains more power and expands its influence into the global environment.

Because of the fast development of globalism, both economic and political links between different countries have become much stronger, which means that the changes in the political landscape of one state will inevitably result in just as drastic alterations in other countries. Therefore, the necessity to address international conflicts with the help of the use of military force can also be considered as justifiable from the perspective of people’s safety and the wellbeing of the state.

It should be noted, though, that the adoption of the specified measures needs to be reasonable; in other words, the military response, which one state provides to the aggression from the other one, needs to be proportional to the aforementioned aggression. Therefore, the principle of proportionality must be introduced into the military strategy of the state as the foundation for the rest of the regulations to align with and the state leaders to comply within their choice of military actions to be taken.

Moreover, some scholars tend to agree that the current principle of proportionality needs a better taxonomy so that the existing threats should not be underrated or overestimated and that no victims should suffer as a result of miscalculations and the leaders’ misguided efforts to address the needs of other cultures and states: “proportionality falls within a category the International Court of Justice has described as ‘intransgressible’ norms of international law” (Clarke 76).

As it has been stressed above, the necessity for states to exercise their influence on the military conflicts in other countries is vitally essential for the security of not only the leaders of the states in question but also the citizens thereof. However, a range of people tends to disapprove of the military interventions carried out by the state leaders, as the experience of the British parliament described above has shown.

Therefore, the necessity to introduce citizens to the concept of a political threat without making people politically insecure emerges. The specified goal can be achieved by incorporating media into the increase of awareness regarding certain threats and, therefore, the necessity to address these threats in a proper manner: “In reality, the public typically perceives a policy’s likelihood of success, the number of casualties it is generating, and its principal objective only as filtered and contextualized through an intervening variable: the media” (Perla 143).

It is essential, therefore, to make sure that the political situation in question is described in a manner as clear and exhaustible as possible; instead of creating a cheap propaganda message, the political leader of the state must provide people with an insight on the actual complexity of the situation: “The media’s role is fundamental for another reason.

Not only is the media the public’s primary source of political information, but the press also serves as the principal conduit of communication between political actors and the mass public” (Petra 146). As a result, the justification of the military action to be taken – or, on the contrary, the lack thereof – will become evident after the observation of the public’s reaction towards the situation.


The use of military force must be viewed as an essential step towards facilitating the safety of civilians, as the current global threats are clearly fraught with major negative consequences for people’s wellbeing. Using brutal force must be considered the ultimate measure that should be used when no other tools can be used for addressing a specific political or military conflict.

An admittedly drastic measure, which presupposes that people may be killed in the process, the specified approach still needs to be taken into consideration as one of the possible ways of settling the conflict. Although the use of military force must be considered the last resort and used only after every possible negotiation has failed, it still should remain one of the strategies for cases such as terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately, not all conflicts can be settled with the help of peaceful regulations, and the use of military force often has to be considered as an option. Therefore, it is only when the opportunities for peaceful negotiations have been exhausted that the use of military services should be viewed as an option.

Additionally, the principle of proportionality needs to be included in the current set of strategies used for addressing terrorist threats and related international conflicts. Although preventing the instances of an international tragedy is essential, one must also make sure that the response towards the threat should be adequate and that the state responding to the latter should not be viewed as an aggressor. Therefore, the principle of proportionality must be incorporated into the very basics of the strategy for responding to political conflicts.

One must bear in mind, though, that the specified definition of the possibility for military force used is rather flimsy. Because of the vagueness, which it inevitably attains, the threat of military force abuse may emerge; in other words, the specified measure may be adopted even in the instances that do not require drastic measures.

The problem in question can be solved by creating a more elaborate set of standards for addressing conflicts by using military tools. Once the conflict resolution process becomes clear and easily observable, the justification for the use of a specific approach towards settling it will become easy to assess.

Works Cited

Clarke, Ben. “Proportionality in Armed Conflicts: A Principle in Need of Clarification?” International Humanitarian Legal Studies 3.1 (2012) 73–123.

Dresner, Ana. “Policy of Preemption or the Bush Doctrine.” School of Doctoral Studies (European Union) Journal 1.1 (2009): 281–285.

Dudziak, Mary L. “How 9/11 Made ‘History’.” OAH Magazine of History 25.3 (2011): 5–7. Web. 29 June 2015.

Ingber, Rebecca. “Untangling Belligerency from Neutrality in the Conflict with Al-Qaeda.” Texas International Law Journal 47.1 (2011): 76–113.

McArthur, Shirl. “Congress Puts Off Debating and Voting on Use of U.S. Military Force Against ISIS.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 33.8 (2014): 34–35.

Perla, Hector. “Explaining Public Support for the Use of Military Force: The Impact of Reference Point Framing and Prospective Decision Making.” International Organization 65.1 (2011): 139-167.

Reifler, Jason, Harold D. Clarke, Thomas J. Scotto, David Sanders, Marianne C. Stewart and Paul Whiteley. “Prudence, Principle and Minimal Heuristics: British Public Opinion toward the Use of Military Force in Afghanistan and Libya.” The British Journal of Politics & International Relations 16.1 (2014): 28–55.

Sprusansky, Dale. “Understanding ISIS: Frequently Asked Questions.” The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 33.7 (2014): 19–20.