“Just War” or Just More War?

An increase of troops in Iraq is not the pursuit of a “Just War,” it is just more war. Indeed, … Continued

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.

  • Cloud

    Someone had to be blamed for 9/11 and be seen as payback. It redirected US sentiments away from itself to a target. Sadam was at the wrong place at the right time. And now Augustine and Aquinos want the warmongers brought to justice

  • Ba’al

    The outcome of this war — the thing we now see plainly — was predicted by many people long before Bush sent in troops. It was not hard to find these commentaries, which proved prescient; but it is also true that those of us who opposed this war were not taken seriously and our patriotism was impugned (as it still is in certain circles). A war cannot be “just” when you can easily predict that fighting it is likely to make things worse for pretty much everybody involved — like the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqi’s who had nothing to do with Saddam Hussein’s policies, not to mention the tens of thousands of Americans killed and grievously disabled.I’m trying to figure out at this point who is coming out ahead in this whole deal. For sure, the Iranian hard-liners and their proxies; and the American war profiteers. (Make no mistake, the billions of $ of unaccounted money spent in Iraq will be found in their pockets once people decide to look for it). It helped Bush in 2004. I don’t think at this point I see any other winners.

  • BGone

    BA’AL, Bush called on Pat Robertson for his advice. He said that he told him there would be a lot of casualties. Lot is a realitive number. It’s also relevant when it reaches the present number. We hear about the dead but the seriously wounded for life are rarely mentioned, about 5 for every dead one.Jerry Brown may prove to be the prophet of doom when he said this war signals the end of America as a world leader. The Chinese have since opened a national bank.

  • Bob

    Thank you Ms. Thistlethwaite. Finally an irrational believer and a rational non-beliver readily agree. We both share that innate sense of human “morality” (ethics) which transcends all religious belief.

  • Anonymous

    Sweetie,Maybe you should read the newspapers more. Whatever the morality of the original intervention, Coalition forces are now in Iraq at the invitation of the constitutionally elected and internationally recognized popular government, to assist it in restoring order following three decades of brutal totalitarianism. Just war has long since been moot because we are not waging war against another party.

  • BGone

    Being a reverand and all you must know what’s up.Jesus said, “When two are more are gathered in my name__________________________.”Fill in the blank. That’s what Mr President did. He gathered rooms full in the name of Jesus. He brought America’s pastor, Billy Graham, the high priest to crown him. He did everything right except one thing, read the whole gospel.When two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus somebody is going to get crucified. I’ve heard that Hillary has already given the order, “somebody get a cross.”

  • Tomcat

    I find it hard to think about Iraq and Just and Unjust Wars without some examples. What are the generally agreed upon Just and Unjust Wars? I guess WWII was just, although it left Eastern Europe under the boot of Godless Communism. Was the Korean War just? How about WWI?

  • Ba’al

    Anonymous should go sign up then and found out whether or not our troops are “waging war against another party”. Seems like we are spending billions on this “not war”, and lots of people are getting killed in it. I would like to invite Anonymous to take a walk across the very busy freeway near my house. Of course, the fact that I have politely asked him to do this doesn’t make it in his best interests. The fact that this sham of a government in Iraq — that controls a few square blocks of Baghdad on a good day — “invites” us in doesn’t make it in our best interests to stay there.Of course it is in the best interests of war profiteers, who seem to have a lot of access to the White House.

  • BGone

    Tomcat, we need to know more about the history of war to decide just or unjust. I think we can say war is the product of one group of people deciding that another group isn’t entitled to what they have. In the case of Iraq that was sold as WMDs the Iraqi were not entitled to own. The usual, historical normal, wars are when one group has wealth another group wants, gold being the most common form of that wealth. The Nazi, Imperial Japanese said they needed territory and were entitled to that of others based upon race. They were better than other people.The easy way to understand the actual fighting, killing of other human beings is described at the hoax buster web site. There’s a psychological problem with the taking of human life experienced by the killer. It can be summed with the notion that ALL DEAD go to another world not unlike this one where they wait for their killers. Hell was invented to keep the dead of war out of the next world, today known as heaven.Thus all faith is in Devil, There’s a lot of information at that web site and a very good, in my opinion way of looking at war with the rose colored glasses off. Check out the battle of the Little Big horn on the home page. War is a situation where groups of people are attempting to send each other to hell, always done in the name of God.

  • Tomcat

    One could argue that Iraq was a just war, ineptly handled. After all, Saddam was killing his people and ignoring UN sanctions. Should we sit idly by and let Iraqis perish? It only went sour after we cleared out Saddam and his Baathists. The question of justice should only consider intentions, not results.

  • Steve

    Is any war really just? I imagine a better a better description would be “acceptable based on the circumstances.” Really, it’s hard to define that now because of the nature of warfare and WMD. It’s a fact that America has enemies in the Middle East. It is fact that they have weapons and WMD It is debatable whether or not they intend to use them, they certainly intended to attack us on 9/11. Personally, I think America refusal to fully commit to the war, or fully disengage is quite a bit more dangerous then fighting a war that is debatably unjust.