Iraq and the Just War Theory : LUSENET : Concerned Philosophers for Peace : One Thread

Let us examine this latest episode in the war against Iraq in the light of the requirements of the "just war" theory:

(1) Is the war authorized by the proper authority?

According to the U.S. Constitution, only Congress (not the President) has the right to declare war. According to the War Powers Act, the full Congress (not just a few selected congressional "leaders") must approve a presidential deployment of U.S. forces. Neither of these requirements has been met in the current case. Nor has the current action been authorized by the UN Security Council--3 major members of which (Russia,France and China) are opposed to military action. If the precedent of past U.S. presidents is cited, one may note that an illegal precedent has no force. Nor may Congress legitimately surrender its constitutional rights and obligations to another branch of government without amending the Constitution itself.

(2) Is there a "just cause" for the war?

Iraq has not attacked the U.S. It has not recently attacked any of its allies, or indeed any nation in the region. Nor are such attacks imminent. The pretext for the current strike is a series of comparatively trivial disputes over UNSCOM inspections, hardly an adequate cause for the punishing rain of weapons currently being launched. It is obvious, of course, that Iraq's cooperation has not been perfect, but neither is it true to say that it has not cooperated at all. Many inspections have in fact taken place over the past 7 1/2 years.

(3) Has everything else been tried, and is war a last resort?

Sanctions of course have been in place for almost 8 years, as a result of which (according to the UN's own statistics) over a million innocent civilians have died, 60% of these under the age of 5. Nor has the "oil for food" program done much to alleviate this problem, since a good share of the proceeds must be paid to Kuwait as reparations. In fact, the major reason for Iraq's petty protests against inspections has been to mobilize world opinion regarding the devastating effects of the sanctions on its civilian population. The real solution here would be a partial lifting of the sanctions, limiting the embargo to military goods only while allowing desparately needed civilian supplies to be imported and, of course, the export of sufficient oil to pay for them.

Has diplomacy been tried? It has been partially successful in the past, though always done through third parties such as Russia or the UN Secretary General. It has certainly not been tried by anyone in the current crisis, since the U.S. acted with such suddenness that no one had time. The U.S. admits that it itself is not even in diplomatic contact with Iraq. So much for its avowed "preference" for diplomatic solutions.

(4) Is there any "proportionality" between the resulting harm and the anticipated results?

In the last crisis the Pentagon itself estimated 10,000 casualties over a 3-week campaign of bombing. At this time we do not know how long the bombing will continue, but the goal is certainly not the "pinprick" for which the administration has been criticized in the past. Nor are the weapons always as "smart" as the administration would have us believe (recall the exaggerated and subsequently exposed claims in this respect during the Gulf War, and the 200 or so Iraqi civilians killed when a bomb shelter was destroyed due to faulty intelligence on our part). Just as important will be the further crippling of the nation's infra- structure--i.e., the further damage to vital energy and transportation facilities badly needed for the day-to- day civilian life of the nation. As for the hoped-for benefical results, everyone concedes that UNSCOM inspections will be effectively ended for the present. Nor will Saddam himself suffer, in fact his position is only strengthened with his people. Did the Gulf War unseat him? It did not. So why should a more limited operation do so now? It is claimed that the strikes will "contain" Iraq by "degrading" its capacity to produce "weapons of mass destruction". Not unless we have a pretty good idea of where they are (if indeed they exist). And if we do, how do we know that if the Iraqis have been so uncooperative with the inspections? In the same way that we "knew" that the factory produc- ing medicines in Sudan was "really" producing "precursors" to chemical weapons, a claim which has met with widespread and justifiable skepticism?

(5) Is the war being undertaken with the "right intention"?

The avowed intentions are already implicit in our examination of the fourth requirement. Knowing this President's admitted history of "misleading" the American people and the fact that this operation commenced the evening before he was to be impeached in the House, the informed citizen may perhaps be forgiven if he suspects that the real intention is otherwise. A remarkable coincidence, surely. And equally remarkable is the sudden precaution of the UNSCOM chief in pulling the inspection team out of Iraq (without consulting with the Security Council) --knowing that a strike was imminent?--and submitting a negative "report" to the UN providing just the needed justification for that strike. Surely this is completely unrelated to the fact that Great Britain was the only ally which joined us in the attack and that the UNSCOM chief just happens to be British? And what was the urgency in all this? That we did not, out of the goodness of our hearts, wish to initiate hostilities during the sacred month of Ramadan? We could not wait 30 days for diplomacy or a comprehensive review of Iraq's compliance before taking such a serious and unilateral (except for Britain) step? We waited for over a year while the Serbs carried out their ethnic cleansing in Bosnia--and there the evil was evident and already in progress.

In conclusion, it would appear that the real danger to world peace is the American president, and this for two reasons: first, he has in modern times usurped the power of the Congress to initiate a war. Second, with the end of the Cold War there is no longer any "balance of power" to check the lust for power. The world's "sole remaining super-power" may turn out to be not the world's policeman, but the world's tyrant. The "new world order" may be only the old world order with different players....

-- Robert J. Kovacs (, December 17, 1998

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