Sunday, March 09, 2003

Weekend Commentary: The Just War

Earlier this week, Bush was visited by a papal envoy who expresses the views of the Vatican that the coming war with Iraq cannot be just.

Bush, being a man of God himself, disregarded the Pope’s pleas, and continues to press on for military involvement.

But, what IS a just war?

Saint Thomas Aquinas laid out the groundwork on the ideas of a Just War in Summa Theologicae. How can the “Christian Right” that support this war look at their reflections in the holy water? Let’s break it down:

Principles of a Just War

1) A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.

This is hardly the case. Inspections are working. Weapons are being destroyed. The only caveat is that they are not happening at the pace that the Bush administration would like.

2) A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.

Bush’s legitimacy issues resulting from the 2000 elections aside, this is a world issue, and the legitimate authority for world issues is, and will remain, the UN. The United States has no legitimate right to impose our will upon other nation states. That power is reserved for the world community.

3) A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient--see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with "right" intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.

The United States has never been attacked by Iraq. Iraq has no capability for attacking the United States. It is not just for us to preemptively attack a nation state out of fear that they may attack strike first in the future.

To illustrate this point, let’s use an example: Let’s say that it’s Saturday night, and I’m walking down High street here in Columbus, Ohio. It’s 2:30, and the bars are letting out. I see a drunken guy stumble towards me, he’s screaming at people, looking for a fight. I am not in the right to strike him first out of fear that he’ll strike me first. I’ll be the one to be charged with a crime, and any fighting he may do will go as self-defense. The same concept can be applied to nation states.

4) A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.

There is no argument here. We have a more than reasonable chance of success.

5) The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.

America will not be any more secure after this war than it is today. Terrorist factions will continue to prowl. Rogue states like North Korea will continue to threaten. Our “alert level” will not drop to blue after occupation of Iraq.

6) The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.

Since America has not suffered injury at the hands of Iraq, the proportional force should be sanctions and inspections. Not bombs and troops.

7) The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

In the last Gulf War, some targets were civilian radio and TV stations. Granted, they were “state-owned” but, these targets are necessary for the communication of safety information to the public. Whether Saddam chooses to use them as such is irrelevant. We must provide the Iraqis people a chance to shelter themselves from our weapons.
There have also been accusations, led by Thomas J. Nagy that the US was planning to use the last Gulf War, and following sanctions as a tool to anger the Iraq people, making them overthrow their leader. In my heart, I believe these are not true, but I cannot put it past this, or past administrations to attempt this.

This war should not be occur. I urge you to contact your congressmen and Senators. Let them know how you feel about this. Let them know that world opinion matters to you. Let them know that you too, feel this is an unjust war.

UPDATE: Apparently Jimmy Carter and I are on the same wavelength. I read this article after writing mine, in my "last before bed" troll of the sphere. Even the FORMAT is the same. I'm leaving mine up mine because we are both arguing the same side, but taking different points to get there.

My apoligies to my readers for this freakish twist of fate.

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