An increase of troops in Iraq is not the pursuit of a “Just War,” it is just more war. Indeed, the attack on Iraq has never been a “Just War.”
In 2002, before the U.S. invaded Iraq, I argued in a Chicago Tribune piece that preemptive war cannot be a “Just War:”
I wrote: “Just War theory first began with the agonizing reflections of a saint. Augustine looked at the horrors barbarian invaders were inflicting on the Roman citizens and he asked himself if a Christian could ever justify going to war. He answered a very qualified “yes.” A Christian can go to war if it is to “defend the vulnerable other.” His version didn’t even include self-defense.
“Self-defense was added about 500 years later by another saint, Thomas Aquinas. You have a just cause, said Aquinas, when you are defending yourself. You have to have right authority (be a government), you need to have a right intention (not just love violence), you need to have a good outcome (more good should result than the evil of violence), you need to be proportional (not use more force than necessary), you need to have a reasonable hope for success (peace should result), and it must be the very last resort (all diplomacy must be exhausted).
“We can see that no part of Just War theory supports a first-strike option.
“To have a just cause, you have to be defending yourself (or defending someone else from attack). Not in this proposed war with Iraq.”
There are many who dismiss Just War Theory because they rightly point to the history of its rhetorical misuse by politicians in particular to justify any war by any means.
But Just War theory can be very useful along with the Pacifist and Just Peacemaking paradigms in bringing some degree of orderly reflection to the consideration of using military force. Otherwise, the emotional drumbeat for war will always prevail.
Look at the “troop surge” proposal from the perspective of only two of the Just War criteria. First, consider “last resort.” Preemptive war is a version of ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ and this possible “surge” in troops is more of the same. ‘Last resort’ means you have exhausted all possible diplomatic responses to a conflict before you engage in war.
Both General John Abizaid, who has been Head of U.S. Central Command and General George Casey, who has been Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq, have opposed sending more troops. These military commanders have recognized that civil war has broken out in Iraq and the increase that is needed is not military but diplomatic. Both are being replaced by the President.
A second criterion that needs to be considered at this time is “good outcome.” “Good outcome” is another way of asking “where’s your exit strategy?” There has been no exit strategy for the war in Iraq; more good has not resulted from the incursion to justify all the Iraqi and American deaths and injuries. We have helped give Iran a greater role in the region and we may have set off a regional conflict that could last decades. More troops only provokes more occasion for the American presence in Iraq to be used as a recruitment strategy for terrorists.
And if these sound Just War criteria don’t persuade you that instead of a troop surge we need to get out of Iraq, how about the ‘Rule of Holes’?
When you find yourself in a hole, this rule states, first quit digging.