When a violent conflict ends, the question of what should be done next is often extremely difficult to answer comprehensively. Several moral theories aspire to help people think and act reasonably and constructively in such circumstances, guiding them toward the formulation of potential ways forward by identifying, clarifying, and perhaps ordering the issues at stake, and undertaking a principled consideration of the possible practical consequences of these formulations. In this article, I consider how one body of moral theorizing in particular—just war theory—may be equipped to contribute to the morality of postconflict reconstruction. Specifically, I wish to consider whether the ostensibly most robust or attractive form of jus post bellum is vulnerable to this ‘‘action-guiding’’ problem. I will illustrate the problem via the notion of a ‘‘just occupation’’ of a defeated unjust aggressor by just victors after a just war. (‘‘Humanitarian intervention,’’ insofar as it also entails a form of occupation, can therefore give rise to a similar internal contradiction.) If the vulnerability charge stands, jus post bellum could thus fall foul of Alex Bellamy’s contention that its addition to just war theory may in fact be seriously misguided. I am not mounting a wholesale rejection of jus post bellum. I will, in fact, propose a further set of action-guiding principles to jus post bellum in partial response to the problem I identify, and others might well follow once the theory is subjected to more extensive treatment. But I also suggest that what we should generally expect of jus post bellum in terms of its action-guiding potential needs significant further consideration.
Theories of jus post bellum have tended to be what I call `restricted’, in that they have focussed on the norms to govern the ending and immediate aftermath of a just war. But the goal of building a just peace, which is the ultimate aim of a just war, often places rather longer-term responsibilities on the shoulders of the victorious just, especially where occupation of the defeated unjust state is required (the scenario on which I concentrate). Given the variety of possible post-conflict situations, then, we should expect there to be various conceptions of jus post bellum, sensitive to the context-specific demands of the `just peace’ objective. This article therefore sets out the case for an `extended’ theory of jus post bellum which is likely to be required in, for example, occupation scenarios. But, having argued that `restricted’ conceptions do not fully lay out what might be reasonably expected of just occupiers, the article then contends that the `extended’ considerations may be in significant tension with another post- bellum requirement, namely, the obligation to restore sovereignty to the occupied state as soon as is reasonably feasible. Various ways of negotiating the tension are discussed and found to be wanting. Given that just war theory in general is supposed to be action-guiding, the concern is that an extended jus post bellum may be unhelpfully action-disorienting. The ostensibly strong case for it is therefore cast into some doubt and some implications for how the obligations of peacebuilding for just occupiers should theorised are considered.