Opinion » Columnists
Author`s name Michael Simpson

A Just War?

Do other nations really want the U.S. to be the world's lone enforcer?
By demanding too much, too soon, in regard to the complicated endeavor of disarming Iraq, the U.S. has made a grave mistake in going to war so precipitously - a mistake that may hurt all of us in the long run.
At the same time, the other members of the United Nations may be held somewhat responsible for collectively being unable to accommodate America's search for homeland security by finding a way to legally and effectively incapacitate dictators like Saddam.

Nonetheless, and very tragically, President Bush's rushed initiative undermines the theory of a just war. Under this concept, no country, not even, and perhaps most particularly, a superpower, like America, can be acknowledged to have the right to initiate a so-called preemptive war.

Speaking just prior to the war, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter made the critical comment that "by defying overwhelming world opposition, the United States will undermine the United Nations as a viable institute for world peace." Do other nations really want the U.S. to be the world's lone enforcer? We can not judiciously abrogate our collective duty for keeping the world free from tyranny by assigning such responsibility to one superpower, however benign that superpower might be perceived of as being.

America's lack of patience in seeking a peaceful solution through the use of U. N. inspectors and other non-invasive pressure tactics can only lead to a proliferation of war and increase the tendency to resort to violence as a means of seeking solutions to international and domestic problems.

Even were the United Nations, as the final guarantor and arbiter of international law, to sanction the U.S. in the war effort already in progress, this war can not be considered "just" since the moral principles of a just war theory do not include the idea of a "preventive" or preemptive war.

Bush has claimed that "the security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now...Responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self defense. It is suicide."

The numerous anti-war protests around the world indicate that most people disagree with this position. Other than for self-defense, it is a contradiction to suggest that it is permissible to kill in order to prevent killing. In order for America to invoke self-defense, it must be able to show that the aggressor has already inflicted upon it some grave and lasting damage. A legitimate defense of persons and societies under just war morality would not, furthermore, condone the killing of innocent people, which is happening at this very moment in Iraq.

Predicated on basic moral principles and with respect for international law a just war must also meet other criteria. Carter defined some of these as: 1) All previous efforts at peace must be exhausted and proven impractical and ineffective, 2) the peace established must be "a clear improvement over what exists".

It is clear that America’s unilateral attack on Iraq does not satisfy the first of these standards. Regarding the second point, Carter warns that in the aftermath of the war the region will likely be destabilized, providing terrorists with the opportunity to further jeopardize "our security at home". The Iraqi people will certainly suffer serious consequences. The futures of the Kurdish population in the North and the Shiite Muslims in the South (who are pro-Iranian) have not been well thought out. This makes it highly likely that the equilibrium of the entire Middle East will be affected, causing new forms of extremism. Many Muslims already view the war as a battle between Islam and Christianity.

History shows that the development of democracy is a gradual, evolutionary, and not revolutionary, process. Bush's hope for democracy in Iraq after the war is an illusion. Democracy can not be artificially imposed.

Bush has shown the world that he believes bullets and bombs are more effective than diplomacy and dialogue, exactly the opposite of what the flowering of democracy would seem to call for.

As humans we are called to be sentinels of peace. I invite people of all faiths to pray and fast as an expression of penance for the hatred and violence that poison much of human relations. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "let us ask God for the conversion of hearts and the farsightedness of just decisions to resolve with adequate and peaceful means the conflicts that impede the pilgrimage of humanity in our time."

Pal Kokoski

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