January 9, 2003
Edited: December 31, 2008
Liberty, War & Politics
Leave Iraq Alone
Moral Reasoning to Limit War: Articles that Discuss the Idea of "Just War"
"What is needed is a re-evaluation of Just War Theory. By this I mean a discussion that does not stop with jus ad bellum, i.e, whose cause is just, but takes in jus in bello, i.e., the question of what means are moral, whether a cause is just or otherwise. This would mean throwing overboard all that post-1945 pseudo-Christian Just War theorizing which legitimated nuclear weapons and the like on the rather thin ground that the hearts of one side were pure."(1)
"This administration seems to regard the United States as exempt from the laws of war and from the traditional norms governing just and unjust war. These have only philosophical or moral authority, but were taken serious[ly] in American government as recently as the 1950s and 1960s in policy debates ... over nuclear war.
"His anti-war stance - he takes pains to say that pacifism seems to him "logically indefensible," but sets the threshold for war higher than even "just war" proponents - stems from his own experience, and from knowing that the justifications for war (to stop aggression, to "preserve peace") often differ from the actual reasons nations go to war (strategic relationships, power balances)." (3)
"VATICAN CITY, Dec 17: A senior Vatican prelate on Tuesday condemned any so-called "preventive war" against Iraq as "aggression".
"They are opposing war because they believe it does not meet the standards of a ''just war.''
"Gumbleton told the Neu Chapel audience that President Bush has failed to make a case for the war using traditional Christian "just war" principles. Those principles, Gumbleton explained, include the requirement that war be a last resort, and that any use of deadly force meet strict moral conditions."(6)
"For more than a thousand years there has been a doctrine and Christian definition of what a just war is all about. I think this effort and this plan to go to war comes up short of that doctrine. First, it says that there has to be an act of aggression; and there has not been an act of aggression against the United States. ...
""In the history of the 'just war' ethic, pre-emptive war has been viewed quite dimly," Casey said. "When you think about inflicting harm on someone, you have to have a justifiable reason . . . ."
"The threatened invasion of Iraq represents a grievous violation of just war principles. Devoid of sufficient cause, portending disaster and lacking in legitimate authority, it fails every significant test of jus ad bellum. Moreover, by these same principles, the means by which the war will be conducted (jus in bello) also promises to contradict justice.
This war would not be a just war by Richard Harries, Bishop of Oxford, Aug 4, 2002
"..."While war was seen as sometimes an ugly necessity, just war doctrine held that the same rules of morality applied to a king making war as to a peasant defending his home. The State had no special moral status, and was seen at best as a bandage, only necessary due to man's fallen nature. Pascal (somewhat behind the times in his views, no doubt) pointed out the absurdity of the idea that if someone lives on one side of a river, they are our friends, and to kill them is murder, but if they live on the other side, they are our enemies, and to kill them is good. It is the actions of others, not their affiliation with this or that state, that determines how we may justly behave toward them.
"Over the centuries – from St. Augustine forward – many Christian churchmen and writers sought to lessen the horrors of war by means of Just War theory. Their goal was to leave society in general, that is, civilians, as untouched as possible by conflicts set off by the quarrels of the political classes. "(12)
Authority and War
Mr. Cherry thinks "Taken in its most literal sense, this might be interpreted to mean that the bishops of the Catholic Church could never deem a war unjust" and "...only that authority charged with calling for the just war can determine whether the other criteria fit". (13)
On the contrary, it is the duty of everyone to judge the morality of a particular war or the way it is conducted. The quote he gives from St. Thomas Aquinas doesn't say not to give advice to the king! What's the point of just war theory if no one is supposed to use it to make moral decisions except the aggressor ("the legitimate authority")?
Anyway, I don't agree that the State is invested with "the supreme authority" from God - whether or not Paul or Augustine thinks so - and I don't think the Bible and theology are the ultimate truth.
Although "Just War" theology is not as clear-cut as libertarian ideas such as the non-aggression principle, it looks like some of these ancient theological discussions are invaluable for pointing our minds towards moral reasoning.
"As a devout Catholic, Buchanan upholds the "just war" theory developed by the Jesuits which insists on, among other things, "proportionality" – that is, that the punishment meted out by aggrieved party in any conflict must be proportional to the original aggression. " (14)
"By keeping these sanctions fastened on Iraq, we flout every tenet of Christianity's Just War doctrine, and build up deposits of hatred across the Arab world that will take decades to draw down"(15)
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