What circumstances legitimize a just war in the cause and conduct? The principles in making conditions for a war to be just are closely connected to the question: why and how are wars fought? In light of just war tradition (Jus ad bellum), the question of why wars are fought is about the question of what conditions meet the criteria in order for a sovereign nation to engage a war against another nation. This argument, to be sure, is open to broad interpretations. Thrasymachus, the Greek philosopher, argued that what is just or right is the interest of the stronger party so that the weaker should subject to the stronger.[i] After September 11 attacks, the President Bush asserted the right of the United States to act militarily whenever and wherever necessary to prevent future violent attacks upon the United States and its citizens.[ii] In this view, morality has no place in wars or politics because a nation that has justifiable reasoning can be whenever and wherever engaging in war if necessary conditions arise. Is this framework still useful for the contemporary war on terror and the war in Iraq? I argue that the conditions made by the Bush administration for war against Iraq hardly meet the criteria necessary for fighting in just war tradition (just ad bellum).
The purpose of this paper is to discuss the United States' decision to go to war on Iraq in the context of traditional just war theory (just ad bellum): necessary conditions that arise in order for a state to go to the war. The principle six criteria for just war are commonly held to be: just cause (self-defense and preemptive strike); explained by proper authority; possessing right intention; a reasonable possibility for military success; the ends being proportional to the means used; and a last resort.[iii] This is, obviously, a prewar condition for just war. Once a war is considered justified, its conduct must be judged according to jus in bello criteria: proportionality and discrimination.
Just cause: self-defense and preemptive strikes (so called Bush doctrine)
Possessing just cause is the first and arguably the most important condition of jus ad bellum. One aspect of just cause is self-defense. Self-defense has to be clear ground and demonstration that the aggressor made a preemptive physical attack against us. Therefore, the physical response under self-defense is held for just cause, and its purpose is not to retaliate against crimes wrong doers already committed. Some conditions are likely to meet this criteria, for example, if a war is to pursue and punish an aggressor, or to pre-empt an anticipated attack, or be a response to a violation of territory, or an insult (an aggression against national honor), or a trade embargo (an aggression against economic activity), or even to a neighbor’s prosperity (a violation of social justice).[iv]
With respect to self-defense perspective, the September 11 attacks were obviously understood and framed in self-defense because the attacks were a violation of territory and an aggression against national honor killing thousands of innocent civilians. The issues, however, is that there was scant evidence to tie Saddam to terrorist organizations, and even less to the September 11 attacks. Although the Bush administration claimed that Iraq was aggressive and harboring terrorists in its nation, indeed Saddam's goals had little in common with the terrorists who threaten American people, and there was little incentive for him to make common cause with them.[v]
Another aspect of just cause is preemptive strikes (so called Bush doctrine). In a nut shell, the concept of preemptive strikes is attacks by one state on the other state, recognizing necessary conditions of imminent threats, to prevent the other state from using weapons of mass destruction. How much evidence is necessary to justify preemption? The President Bush asserted in his speech outlining how Iraqi threat is urgent to America and world that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and the danger was already significant, and it would only grow worse with time.[vi] Vice President Dick Cheney made also such an argument that deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a murderous dictator [Saddam Hussein] constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined.[vii] Furthermore, in article 51 of the United Nations charter, preemption is recognized as the right of any nation to defend itself, including the right in some circumstances to take preemptive actions in order to deal with imminent threats.[viii] Arguably, in light of this view, the preemption strategy is accessible to the United States.
However, the problem with preemption is that it is not needed in order to give the United States the means to act in its own defense against terrorism in general or Iraq in particular. There are also plenty of potential imitators: South/North Korea; India/Pakistan; China/Taiwan; Israel/Iran; and others.[ix] Therefore, the line between preemption and self-defense becomes blurred to the point where the threats (which may not risk the territorial integrity or political independence of a state) and uncertainty are used to justify preemptive attacks.
Congress has the power to raise armies to provide for the military and to declare war, according to the U.S. Constitution. The President Bush demanded that Congress speedily affirm that he has the necessary authority to proceed immediately against Iraq.[x] Although debates in Congress were disputed, Congress gave authorization for use of military force against Iraq.[xi]
However, such processes between the Bush executive and the legislative raised fundamental issues of the ethical leadership for using military forces. Although the Congress ultimately decides a war-related question, the American people should decide whether or not to accept the statesmen's judgments.[xii] Furthermore, the Bush administration made less effort to dispel concerns about the months and years after a regime change.[xiii]
Right intention is the most problematic criteria because of its nature that something existed in my mind that I can't disclose: how do you demonstrate intent? Acting with proper intent requires us to think about what is proper, and it is not certain that whether he or she is acting in self-interest or not. President Bush introduced his concept of an axis of evil, during his State of the Union address, "Our cause is just, and it continues... Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror...States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”[xiv] He also defined the world in either/or terms: you are either with us or with the terrorists.[xv] The President Bush expressed his ethical concerns through his rhetoric.[xvi]
However, the issue in this view was on his purposeful intention in the politics. The President George Bush pushed for a vote in the Congress immediately before the election. His political strategy clearly described in a White House aide's misplaced computer disk, which advised Republican operatives that their principal game plan for success in the election was to focus on the war. [xvii]
Reasonable possibility for military success
The United States has learned lessons in the context of military success, especially in Vietnam War. As the United States made under estimation on Vietnam that consequently the war led to blood war, the President Bush made the same mistakes in Iraq. About six years later after his announcement of victory over Iraq, ironically, the President Bush admitted, just before his departure of the White House, that the decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein on the basis of flawed intelligence was the biggest regret of his presidency.[xviii]
The Machivavelli expressed in the “Prince” that the prince ought to read history and study the actions of eminent men to imitate the causes of the great victory and to avoid the defeat. He also articulated, “[a] prince must guard against as a rock of danger, and so contrive that his actions show grandeur, spirit, gravity, and fortitude.”[xix] I do not argue that the President of the United States should think and act like a king in democratic society, but the principles presumably will remain the same. The President Bush seemed more concerned with not being despised or hated by the American people and the world, than avoiding the defeat.
This criterion of proportionality is whether to practice unjust uses of force to meet the just ends of war. In other words, if the ends are to make a better world and the means call for killing all the people in an enemy territory, the means are justifiable? In light of the proportionality, the concept of proportionality in jus ad bellum is distinguished from the proportionality in jus in bella. Means, such as weapons or violence, in jus in bella must be used in proportion of perceived threat, and moral and legal obligations must abide by what proclaimed prior to war.[xx]
In this view, although the President Bush announced publicly the goal of Iraq war was to prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek weapons of mass destruction from threatening the United States and the world, the issues, in terms of means, is whether the death of soldiers and marines is just or not. [xxi] According to Michael Walzer, just war requires morally pressing to win, and a soldier who dies in just war does not die in vain.[xxii] Pew Research Center released its survey result, “Thirty-three percent of the post-9/11 veterans who took part in the poll said neither of those two wars was worthwhile considering the costs versus the benefits to the United States.”[xxiii] In response to the nature of September 11 attacks, the United States had initially responded with a mix of law enforcement, intelligence gathering, financial asset tracking, and asset seizure. In light of the concept of limited wars and unlimited wars in means and ends relations, the Bush policy on terror could have been the limited ways of war with a mix of civilian-military resources to achieve the just ends.
No matter what under circumstances, the use of military forces must be the last resort. In every war, we must ask if all other methods to resolve conflict were tried and failed. The Bush administration demanded that Iraqi regime turn over Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders who plotted September 11 attacks, and gave them a second chance a few days after the bombing in Afghanistan began.[xxiv]
However, the issues are, in light of the criteria, on the US official policy in that it has long been not to make concessions to, or negotiate with, terrorists and those who harbored them. The President Bush defined clearly the world in either/or terms: you are either with us or with the terrorists-last resort is truncated.[xxv] I believe that we should be pacifist, and acknowledge that most leaders would not use diplomacy because it is not easy to use and it is difficult to understand different culture, and mostly hard to be humble oneself to prevent conflicts.
Evaluating just war theory (jus ad bellum) in Iraqi war
Recall that this paper argued that the conditions for war against Iraq do not meet the criteria in a given nature of just war tradition (just ad bellum). It is arguable that morality has no place in wars or politics, yet to be sure, the argument is open to broad interpretations. Just war theory traditions are not checklist or tools for evaluating options and assessing for going into the war, rather it is an art of ethical leadership on using military forces for just ends.
[i] Willian Ebenstein and Alan Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers: Plato to the Present, 6th edition, (Wadsworth Cengage Learning), 31~33.
[ii] Craig L. Carr and David Kinsella, “Preemption, Prevention, And Jus Ad Bellum (2006), (International Studies Association), 1. http://web.pdx.edu/~kinsella/papers.html.
[iii] Alexander Moseley, “Just War Theory,” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 16 October), http://www.iep.utm.edu/justwar/#H2.
[iv] Alexander Moseley, “Just War Theory,” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 16 October), http://www.iep.utm.edu/justwar/#H2.
[v] John Ehrenberg, J. Patrice McSherry, Jose Ramon Sanchez, and Caroleen Marji Sayej, Ed. The Iraq Papers, (Oxford University Press, 2010), 70.
[vi] John Ehrenberg, J. Patrice McSherry, Jose Ramon Sanchez, and Caroleen Marji Sayej, Ed. The Iraq Papers, (Oxford University Press, 2010), 86.
[vii] Neta C. Crawford, "Just War Theory and the U.S. Counterterror War," Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 1, No. 1, (JSTOR, March, 2003), 15.
[viii] Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Ed. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions, (Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 2003), 330.
[ix] Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Ed. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions, (Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 2003), 331.
[x] Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Ed. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions, (Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 2003), 326.
[xi] Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Ed. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions, (Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 2003), 378.
[xii] Richard J. Regan, Just War: principles and cases, (The Catholic University of America Press, 1996), 23.
[xiii] Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Ed. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions, (Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 2003), 327.
[xiv] Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Ed. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions, (Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 2003), 251.
[xvi] Neta C. Crawford, "Just War Theory and the U.S. Counterterror War," Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 1, No. 1, (JSTOR, March, 2003), 15.
[xvii] Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Ed. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions, (Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 2003), 327.
[xviii] "Bush expresses doubts about rationale for Iraq war," http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/dec/02/george-bush-iraq-war-regrets?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487
[xix] Willian Ebenstein and Alan Ebenstein, Great Political Thinkers: Plato to the Present, 6th edition, (Wadsworth Cengage Learning), 292.
[xx] Jason Campbell, “What is just war theory?,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaSKe52Hmdg&feature=share
[xxi] Micah L. Sifry and Christopher Cerf, Ed. The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions, (Touchstone Rockefeller Center, 2003), 251.
[xxii] Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations, 4th Ed. xv.
[xxiii] Will Dunham, “Many U.S. veterans say Iraq, Afghan wars not worth it,” http://news.yahoo.com/many-u-veterans-iraq-afghan-wars-not-worth-074724753.html
[xxiv] Neta C. Crawford, "Just War Theory and the U.S. Counterterror War," Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 1, No. 1, (JSTOR, March, 2003), 12.
[xxv] “Text of the President's speech,” http://yc2.net/speech.htm.