Just War

johnhall johnhall@isomedia.com
Tue, 28 Jan 2003 18:56:32 -0800

This is something I put together months ago.  If someone wants to talk
about war and peace, Just War theory is usually a good place to start.

I was talking to someone [my pastor] who had granted the moral case for
ousting Saddam.

Just war:  http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/j/justwar.htm

Just War theory asks that someone "have just cause", "be declared by a
proper authority", "possess right intention", "have a reasonable chance
of success", and "be proportional".

Now, I don't fully subscribe to Just War Theory and some of it is open
to interpretation.  Here were my notes:

. having just cause, -- "Nonetheless, the principle of self-defense can
be extrapolated to anticipate probable acts of aggression, as well as in
assisting others against an oppressive government or from another
external threat (interventionism). Therefore, it is commonly held that
aggressive war is only permissible if its purpose is to retaliate
against a wrong already committed (e.g., to pursue and punish an
aggressor), or to pre-empt an anticipated attack." - Once you accept the
moral case for war, this is a checkmark.  Noting that it is a
continuation of the previous war started by Saddam is another check. We
are restarting an interrupted war because Saddam broke the rules of the
cease fire.  [It is hear that people will argue that the specific
problems of WMD argue for a looser interpretation of just cause.]

. being declared by a proper authority, -- Check.  Congress has passed
and Bush has signed authorization to go to war. Few wars in history have
been launched with more 'proper authority'.

. possessing right intention, -- By admitting a moral case for war, this
gets a check.  - "The general thrust of the concept being that a nation
waging a just war should be doing so for the cause of justice and not
for reasons of self-interest or aggrandizement. Putatively, a just war
cannot be considered to be just if reasons of national interest are
paramount or overwhelm the pretext of fighting aggression. However,
possessing right intention masks many philosophical problems. According
to Kant, possessing good intent constitutes the only condition of moral
activity, regardless of the consequences envisioned or caused, and
regardless, or even in spite, of any self interest in the action the
agent may have. . On the other hand, a nation may possess just cause to
defend an oppressed group, and may rightly argue that the proper
intention is to secure their freedom, yet such a war may justly be
deemed too expensive or too difficult to wage; i.e., it is not
ultimately in their self-interest to fight the just war. On that
account, some may demand that national interest is paramount: only if
waging war on behalf of freedom is also complemented by the securing of
economic or other military interests should a nation commit its troops."
- Color me in the middle.  War should be waged if there is a moral case
for it (as here) as well as a national interest case (as here).  It
helps as our primary national interest is self-protection and the
destabilization of radical Islam.  [BTW: the resistance to Bosnia and
Kosovo was that there was a moral case but not a national interest case.
Our allies had a national interest case, but they didn't have the
military to do anything about it.  In Rowanda, the moral case might have
been so strong you didn't need a national interest case.  Unfortunately,
in Rawanda it happened so quickly it couldn't have been stopped anyway.
Rawanda happened very, very, fast.] 

. having a reasonable chance of success, -- Easy check mark.  Once the
marines come in earnest, Saddam as master of his fate is doomed.  Note
that a good reason attacking North Korea or China for moral reasons
would fail a  test for just war is both this one and the 'end
proportional' test. 

. the end being proportional to the means used. - Let us agree that I
would sanction means to success, were they entirely necessary, that you
[my Pastor, if those on Fork wanted to know] would find abhorrent.  I'd
be willing to do to Tikrit what we did to Dresden and various Japanese
cities in WWII if necessary while I assume you would not.  A war with
Iraq won't be as easy as some may think but it won't be that hard,
either.  Especially if we are a little patient.  Surround Bagdhad, and
the city starts starving within 3 days.  - Let the civilians out,
feeding them in camps outside of town.  The odds the military will
surrender are high.  If they don't, kill them.  It will be one of the
most proportional wars in history.  It will certainly beat the mass
starvation which resulted for the 30 years war between Christian armies,
for example. 


1. The fatalism of the people in the region means that winning a war on
Terrorism is a road straight through Iraq.  Failure to do so won't make
our problems smaller, it will make them greater.  Just listen to Osama -
he points out our failure to respond effectively to previous outrages. 
2. I'm not interested in placating them because they are angry.  It
can't be done (also for cultural reasons).  On the other hand, I would
like to make them very concerned about placating the US because we are
3. Rather than worry about starting a war of civilizations, I note that
it has already started.  I prefer we win. 
4. We were attacked *because* we are (as a civilization) spiritually
strong.  The key reason they hate us is the insidious attraction of our
culture for their women and children - our 'spirit'.  We aren't using
our military in place of the spiritual power of our society, but in
conjunction with it as a reaffirmation that our civilization is vital
and worth defending, not decadent and in decline. 
5. If all else fails, make a desert and call it peace.  If we don't, it
is likely to be far worse.  Israel possesses the ability to hit every
Arab city within 1,000 miles with a pop over 30K with a nuke. 300
million people live in those cities.  I think it is in everyone's
interest to make sure nobody gets a WMD into Israel because the
retaliation will be horrific. 
6. Neville Chamberlain - a piece of paper with Hitler 'peace in our
time'.  Truman, postdam, a piece of paper guaranteeing free elections in
Eastern Europe with Stalin.  Saddam, a piece of paper guaranteeing he
would disarm but we were still uncovering programs he denied existed
years into an inspection regime.  North Korea, another piece of paper.
With all do respect, pieces of paper rarely mean much with a
totalitarian regime.  We tried paper with Saddam for 11 years and it
didn't work.