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« After the hype: Thoughts on ’Left Behind,’ the game | Main | An Anti-Theist’s Rant »

May 23, 2007

Re: ’Warmonger’

Roberto,

I don't know; I don't think many Christians would argue that jus in bello violations are permissible; but your note begs the question "What does 'taint' mean, and what are the implications if a just war is indeed so 'tainted'?" For example, if we deemed the Iraq War just, we probably wouldn't think that we ought to pack up our gear and head home because of the violations of a few National Guardsmen ... er, Guardspersons? ... at Abu Ghraib.

Would you be willing to elaborate, though, as to how you think the decision to enter the Iraq War was unjust from the get-go? My own perspective was that it was a just cause but not particularly prudent. I realize that is nonsensical, in a sense, because Just War doctrine includes a requirement of prudence. But, then again, I've always found the inclusion of prudence into the Just War criteria a bit odd. I'm hoping you can shed some light on that matter.  For what does “prudence” have to do with “justice” anyway? Sometimes … oftentimes … those two characteristics stand in opposition to one in another in matters of problem solving.

So it seems to me that whether or not a war is “just” in nature and “prudent” to initiate are two very different matters.

If your Just War objection to the decision to enter the war is based upon the prudence requirement, then -- as a fan of Caspar Weinberger’s Six Tests -- I can certainly understand it. If your objection is to the very merits of the Administration’s desire (and, to be fair, Congress’s and Big Media’s and nearly everyone’s desire, it seemed at the time) to enter the war, then I would like to know more specifically what you mean.

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Comments

Christopher Clukey

Roberto may not be one of them, but I've found most of those who say the liberation of Iraq violates Just War doctrine believe that just the fact that the war was pre-emptive makes it a violation. This is incorrect for three reasons:

1. Iraq had engaged in a number of hostile actions against the United States, most notably Saddam's call for terrorist attacks on all American and British interests in the Gulf region, his call for suicide bomb attacks against the West and his assistance to Al Qaida while they were engaged in armed conflict with the United States. These, coupled with the fact that Iraq had not complied with the surrender terms agreed to at the end of the Gulf War, place Iraq in a state of war with the United States and Britain, ergo, no pre-emption.

2. There is nothing in the letter of the doctrinal tests that prohibits pre-emption.

3. There is nothing in the spirit of the doctrine that prohibits pre-emption. The doctrine was conceived to prevent Christian authorities from engaging in avaricious conquest under the banner of Christ, and to eliminate wars that were unneccesary vendettas or exercises in futility. By no means does it prohibit actions by a leader that are honestly undertaken to protect his people.

jason taylor


Prudence is put into just war criteria because the primary injustice of an unjust war is not to the ruler of the opposing state, but to the people who must suffer because of it. If one sends people to die they should at least die for something and not achieving the goal takes that away.
At the same time it must be admited that no war really fits the Just War criteria letter by letter. Yet unless we permit war in some circumstance we must be pacifists and therefore anarchists(as the nature of a state is to use force a pacifist must logically be an anarchists to be consistent).
However if we consider the Just War as a guideline rather then a set of rules(which is reasonable-St Augustine wasn't given a message directly from God ) then we can get somewhere.
For instance the Finn's war against the Russians in the winter of 1939 was just in most senses. However it was imprudent by any calculation accept hindsight(no one could forsee the humiliation they would impose on the Russians). World War II is generally held to be just, but Operation Torch was arguably blatent aggression on a neutral power. And so on.
What does that tell us? It does tell us to be humble when judgeing right and wrong in an area like Power Politics where it is so hard to judge. If one says a particular action is wrong that is one thing. We must be more careful about condemning human beings though-the grain in another's eye and all.
The Just War tradition we are given is good. But we should treat it as advice not precepts.
Another way of thinking about war is to follow this line. It is not true that "the end doesn't justify the means"-sometimes it does. What is true is that:

Some ends cannot be justified whatever the means(for instance Rommel was a brave and honorable warrior but that doesn't make what he fought for right)

Some means cannot be justified whatever the end

And some means are justified by some ends

it is the last two statements that we argue about. No one disputes the first.

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