“It is well that war is so terrible, lest we should grow too fond of it,” said the famous American general, Robert E. Lee during the American Civil War. The United States has found herself in war once again, and the nation is torn on whether or not to support President George W. Bush in his unilateral attack on Iraq. The country is full of veterans of the Vietnam Conflict and the Gulf War and those that remember World War II. Many have a bitter taste in their mouth from Vietnam and do not want America involved in missions such as the one she is currently engaged in. Non-military citizens and the younger generations find themselves unsure how to feel; only knowing stories of past wars does not help one formulate an opinion easier. One popular way to determine if a war is worthy of support is to use the historical “Just War Theory” developed by philosophers and theologians. The British Broadcasting Corporation defines Just War Theory as “a useful framework for individuals and political groups to use for their discussion of possible wars.” While its purpose is not to help justify wars (it is more aimed for preventing unnecessary wars from occurring) it can be used to help establish need for support or cause for the withdrawal of support. If American citizens used the just war theory to analyze the Iraq War, most would conclude that the war is unjust and calls for the removal of individual support for further operations and missions.
Before one can use just war theory, one must understand its origins. The history of the just war theory dates back to classical Roman and Greek philosophers Plato and Cicero and later Christian theologians Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas (“The Doctrine of the Just War”). The great Classic thinkers began to argue that there were no just causes for war except self-defense and the desire to keep or bring peace to another warring nation. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas agreed that peace was the only justifiable reason for war (“The Doctrine of the Just War”). Dutch Philosopher Huge Grotius(1583-1645) wrote a book titled De Jure Belli Ac Pacis, translated as The Rights of War and Peace, that listed the conditions for a just war which serve as the basis for the ones we list today. Chrisitans have long adopted Just War Theory, but it wasn’t until 1842 that the theory was legitimatized in America by Daniel Webster, the United States’ Secretary of State.
The newest and most accepted version of the just war theory lists six conditions. Each of the six criterions must be satisfied for the war to be considered just. These six conditions for just war are
1.The war must be for a just cause.
2.The war must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority.
3.The intention behind the war must be good.
4.All other ways of resolving the problem should have been tried first
5.There must be a reasonable chance of success.
6.The means used must be in proportion to the end that the war seeks to achieve.
There are also two elements of just war, those being jus ad bellum and jus in bello with jus ad bellum meaning “the conditions under which the use of military force is justified” and jus in bello meaning “how to conduct a war in an ethical manner. To put simply, war is only just it is “both justified and carried out in the right way” (“The Doctrine of the Just War”). One should not only carefully analyze each criterion in relation to America’s War on Iraq, but also the condition as many are subject to interpretation.
The war must be for a just cause. The just cause is the reason for war, and it must be justified and have honorable intentions. At the US Catholic Conference in 1993 just war theory was discussed and a conclusion was made that “force may be used only to correct grave, public evil, i.e., aggression or massive violation of the basic rights of whole populations” (“The Doctrine of the Just War”). The most common and recognized just cause is self-defense as in when the United States joined the Second World War after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Just causes can also include righting a wrong or often preventing a wrong from happening; defending human rights or innocent people is another “just” cause that has emerged in modern times with the Vietnam Conflict and much like one reason given for Bush’s War on Terrorism in Iraq. Attacks on allies or neighboring countries can serve as justification for war. A pre-emptive strike, like the one made by the United States on Iraq, is rarely seen as just.
Another problem with Bush’s pre-emptive strike is in direct relation to the second condition for just war. The war must be lawfully declared by a lawful authority. While Bush, as our President and Commander-in-Chief of our troops, has the right to wage war, he did not implement it in the politically correct way. As a member of the United Nations, there are certain protocols for asking for assistance in waging war. While the UN does not wage war, for it is against its charter, it does give “lawful authorization” by way of resolutions. Resolution 1441 was passed in regard to Iraq in November of 2002. Dworkin of the Crimes of War Project interviewed Vaughan Lowe, Chichele Professor of Public International Law at Oxford University, who summed up the parts of Resolution 1441:
Iraq “has been and remains in material breach” of its obligations under previous Security Council resolutions.
The Security Council decides to afford Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations.”
The Security Council will convene immediately upon receipt of a report making clear that Iraq is still not complying with its obligations, “in order to consider the situation and the need for full compliance with all the relevant Council resolutions in order to secure international peace and security.”
The Security Council recalls that it “has repeatedly warned Iraq that it will face serious consequences as a result of its continued violations of its obligations.”
The Security Council “decides to remain seized of the matter.”
Also in Lowe’s statement to Crimes of War, he emphasized that the resolution still gave no one permission, except the UN Security Council (Dworkin). Some argue that the UN is not the supreme lawful authority of this world, but as a member, the United States needs to respect the policies upheld. This country sought support at the UN Council meetings, but declared that we were going to war with or with out with any support from the UN. Many Members of the United Nations chose not to support Bush in his attacks for numerous reasons.
One concern of many nations, and of American citizens, is that the intentions behind this war are not just. Just War Theory demands that the motives behind the war are good and honorable. Good intentions are often those listed as just causes, so there is often trouble distinguishing a “just cause” from a “good intention,” but it is quite easy to have a just cause but a bad intention For example, Nation A could declare war on Nation B, claiming the cause for war is to free the oppressed people from the dictator, but the intention of the war might be to seize control over the valuable land for certain resources, like oil. In this case, the country masked its bad intention with a just cause, easily gaining support from its citizens. Did you find yourself picturing America as Nation A and Iraq as Nation B?
As Nation A is considering going to war, they must first deicide if they have done everything else possible. War needs to be the last resort, according to just war theory. Tradition holds that all other peaceful options are extensively exhausted, within reason, before declaring war. The United States worked with the United Nations over the years to try and force Saddam Hussein to comply with international laws and treaties, and attempted numerous searches for weapons of mass destruction. George H. Bush waged war with Iraq during his presidency, but was never able to get Hussein out of power. While it may seem that the USA has done all it could do, and that the war is the last resort, it is hard to believe. How can a pre-emptive strike be seen as a last resort? It does not seem plausible that attacking a country is a last resort, especially when the attack is not sanctioned by the highest authority in the world, the United Nations.
There must be reasonable chance of success as well. In other words, only wars that the state has a good chance of winning should be waged. It would be unethical to go to war for a noble cause but end up loosing the war along with many casualties (“The Doctrine of the Just War”). The United States is defiantly more powerful and more resourceful than Iraq. There are no weapons of mass destruction to wipe the country out, nor are their armies as well trained and equipped as ours. This is the only criterion that America fulfills. But even though there is a very good chance of success, there is still a risk of loss. Those believing in the presence of WMD should believe this more than non-believers, because then the US would be in more of a risk.
A just war must be proportionate. This means the outcomes of the war must be more good than bad; often this is measured in casualties, etc. The result of the wrong righted must be better than the current wrong. If one examines the Iraqi war, the number of citizens killed by Saddam(100,000 to 200,000) over his entire reign of forty years is proportionately smaller than the amount of civilian deaths(16,000 to 100,000 though most sources estimate about 20,000) in the two short years that the United States has occupied the country (Cooley). Civilian deaths bring about the question of how the war is conducted. A just war must not target civilians nor result in a high civilian death toll. Only certain weapons may be used, and that depends on whom you are fighting (“The Doctrine of the Just War”). With the threat of an uprising between religious groups, a civil war could break out at any moment, causing more insurgency and death among the Iraqi people. America claims to be pushing for democracy in the Middle East, but how is Bush to know that’s what the Iraqi people want? An internal war in Iraq would not be considered a good outweighing the bad.
“War is always a matter of doing evil in the hope that good may come of it.” Sir Basil H. Liddel-Hart said it right. War needs only to be waged to bring about peace. Good intentions and just causes are vital in completing a just war. When analyzed closely, the deceptions and casualties of the Iraqi War make for anything but a just war. The criterion spell out for us what should be approved and what should not, and the Iraqi War does not meet most requirements. Just war theory states that the war must meet all, not some, of the conditions to be considered just. Because this war is not seen as just, I urge to withdraw your support from George W. Bush his war with Iraq. As American citizens we do not need to be subjected to participation in a war that should not have been waged. Help bring the soldiers home and give America back her good name.
Cooley, Dr. M.E. Class Discussion. March 8, 2005.
Dworkin, Anthony. “Would War be Lawful Without Another UN Resolution?.” The War in Iraq. 10 March 2003. Crimes of War Project. 25 Mar. 2005 .
“The Doctrine of the Just War.” BBC’s Religion and Ethics. The British Broadcasting Corporation. 19 Mar. 2005 .