Helms School of Government


Doctor of Philosophy in Public Policy (PhD)


Robert Nalbandov


Christian Realism, Great Power Competition, Just War Theory, Strategic Risk, Just Competition Theory


Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


How can a Christian Realist approach shape United States security policy to manage strategic risk during Great Power Competition? This work finds that Just War Theory, in particular jus in bello (behavior in war), is a common method used by Christian Realists to determine actions and manage consequences in war; however, it is not optimal for the challenges posed in Competition. A complementary structure uniquely applicable to actions below the threshold of armed conflict is needed. This argument is manifested through Just Competition Theory or jus in contentione. In a complex environment of Great Power Competition, principles of jus in contentione offer a better Christian Realist approach to strategic risk management than the principles of jus in bello. This claim is analytically supported using grounded theory methodology, incorporating a review of literature, content analysis of documents and structured interviews, comparative hypotheses testing, case studies, and a compatibility assessment. The principles of jus in contentione offer a complimentary Christian Realist method of analysis for the modern strategic context. Comparative hypotheses testing assesses them against historical military deployment data, a strategic risk assessment, a theoretical application of forces and activities, and the professional input of interview respondents. Two case studies using jus in contentione principles as explanatory factors provide further empirical support. An assessment of Classical Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism shows this novel theory is most compatible with Christian Realism. Comprehensively, the research assesses that jus in contentione is a viable addendum to Just War Theory and a useful analytical tool for Great Power Competition policy and strategy.