View from the choir

I am a Catholic layperson and Secular Franciscan with a sense of humor. After years in the back pew watching, I have moved into the choir. It's nice to see faces instead of the backs of heads. But I still maintain God has a sense of humor - and that we are created in God's image.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Iraq conflict is not a just war

At a secular blog I take part in, the issue of Iraq and just war came up. Someone asked what just war is. This is what I responded:

Just war is a theological/ethical idea.

Basically, what it says is that if all other reasonable means have been tried, and if the resulting good is greater than the resulting harm, and if proportionate means are used, and if it is fought only until the specific goal is achieved, then a war might be just.

Phew. That's a lot to swallow.

Try this.

It is wrong to cut off a person's hand. But if that hand has gangrene, there is no way to stop its spread, and the person's life is in real danger, then cuttting it off is justified. The good - saving the person's life - outweighs the bad - the person losing a hand.

But cutting off the entire arm would be wrong - unless there is no other way. Cutting off a leg just to be sure would be wrong. and so on.

When it comes to killing, a police officer just shootng a person is wrong. But if there is an immediate danger to other lives, and there is no other way to stop the person from seriously hurting or killing others, then the officer is justified in shooting.

But if he shoots the person 30 times when he didn't have to, or tortures the person, etc, then it would be wrong.

As for war, if all means have been tried to end a serious problem, or if a nation is attacked, then war can be justified. (When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, for example.)

But the war must be fought with a clear goal, and the resulting harm must not be greater than the harm that might have been occurred if we had not fought.

The first Gulf War could be considered just. Iraq invaded a country and refused to leave despite international demands and appeals, so a coalition invaded and drove Iraq out, then stopped. The goal - freeing an invaded country - had been achieved.

I think most ethicists and theologians would agree that this current conflict in Iraq does not meet the cirteria for a just war.

And there are folks who say war is never justified, but that's another discussion.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would disagree with most theologians and ethicists then. The war continues to be just because the enemy is still fighting. We are being very measured in our use of power. For instance, we haven't razed whole neighborhoods or randomly killed people to establish our own terror. Some people might make the mistake of thinking that since we are still there that we are overstepping our bounds. They forget that the enemy has not stopped fighting.

11:20 AM  
Blogger Lee Strong said...

To suddenly leave would be problematic. We are there now, and simply leaving might make things worse.

But, the problem that they point to is with the reason for going to war in the first place. Those reasons failed to meet the criteria for just war.

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps. But given the nature of new war, non-state entities attacking from under the cover of sympathetic states, I don't if it will be possible to have a just war. One of the selling points of assymetrical warfare is that it melts back into the population to avoid counter attack. Is it not just to overthrow such sympathetic states that allow terrorists to serve as their proxies? At least if we attempt to avoid innocent casualties?

3:48 AM  
Anonymous Richard Grabman said...

The war continues to be just because the enemy is still fighting.

But, he wasn't your enemy til you invaded his country. "Entre los individuos como entre las naciones, el respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz," to quote Benito Juarez (who knew more than a little about being subject to foreign invasions)

2:40 AM  

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