Since Webster 1913
is mute, I turned to the Oxford English Dictionary
), which says simply:
An act justifying, or regarded as a reason for, war.
I'll admit I was surprised not to find more here, because my understanding of the term included a specific doctrine or school of thought in international law
. I figured the OED would have page after page of discussion of this use of the term, but it doesn't. I guess international law really is still in its infancy
. Happily, E2
has already covered many of these meanings (without specifically mentioning casus belli!) in Just War Doctrine
, a just cause
, History of War
, and the Geneva Convention
"Casus Belli", Oxford English Dictionary. Ed. J. A. Simpson and E. S. C. Weiner. 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 6 Oct. 2002. <http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/entry/00034315>
Lometa adds, the Dictionary of Law, Oxford University Press in 1997 said: "The only legitimate casus belli now is an unprovoked attack necessitating self-defence on the part of the victim." Forgive me, but I wonder what was considered a legitimate casus prior to 1997...and I wonder about the word "unprovoked". It seems to imply that certain attacks, namely those that are "provoked", do not permit the provocateur to claim a legitimate casus belli in response to the attack...