Could this be a ‘just’ war?

BBC, Feb. 10, 2003

Can war with Iraq be justified? The historic “just war” theory states that war is never good but it can be a lesser evil to doing nothing. So, how does it apply to the current crisis?

Originally devised by Greek and Roman philosophers, the “just war theory” was developed by Christian theologians. With some variations, it is widely cited and applied by various religions today.

Here we outline the six steps to a just war and square them with the issues at stake.

1. The war must be for a just cause

eg. A pre-emptive strike – attacking an enemy to prevent an anticipated attack.

George Bush has consistently portrayed Saddam Hussein as a threat to the West. “The danger is already significant, and it only grows worse with time. If we know Saddam Hussein has dangerous weapons today – and we do – does it make any sense for the world to wait to confront him as he grows even stronger?”

But the UN charter appears to side against pre-emptive strikes, stating “all Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means”.

2. The war must be declared by a lawful authority

As an elected democracy, the US government is a lawful authority.

But some believe that today the UN, as the highest world authority, is the only “lawful authority” with the right to sanction war. And, through its charter, it requires all members to refrain from use of force. But in practice the right to wage war remains with individual states.

It could also be argued that if public support is against a war, as seems to be the case in Britain, a government lacks the lawful authority to go to war.

3. The intention behind the war must be good

Washington and London claim war would be waged for the right motives, finally putting right the UN resolution to strip Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

They have also cited Iraq’s poor reputation on human rights – something they would hope to improve on by getting rid of Saddam.

Critics claim these are side shows to the real issue – oil. Iraq has massive reserves of oil and, mindful that not all is well in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil producing country, the US wants a more secure supply in the Middle East.

Force can be used as a last resort
Defines conditions for declaring war & limits to conduct in war
Some Muslims claim it’s similar to ‘jihad’ – spiritual warfare

4. All other ways of resolving the problem should have been tried

It’s 12 years since the UN demanded Iraq scrap its weapons of mass destruction; time enough, says Tony Blair, for Saddam to have complied.

The UN has passed numerous resolutions against Iraq, but Britain and the US claim it has consistently snubbed them.

France has been leading calls for more diplomacy. It has always opposed a draft UN resolution threatening the use of force against Iraq. It wants to see more time for the weapons inspections and French President Jacques has asserted a diplomatic solution is still possible.

5. There must be a reasonable chance of success

This comes from the idea that war is a great evil, and that it is wrong to cause suffering, pain, and death with no chance of success.

There seems little doubt in the West that the US alone can win the war. As the world’s only superpower, its military might dwarves that of Iraq.

There are doubts over the loyalty Saddam Hussein can expect from his army, if their backs are against the wall.

But some experts caution it will not be a “walk over” for the US. General Norman Schwarzkopf, who commanded the US military in the first Gulf War, has said it’s “not going to be an easy battle”.

6. The means used must be in proportion to the end that the war seeks to achieve

In other words, it would be wrong to use a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

We don’t yet know the military strategies of both sides, but there are fears war with Iraq could turn nuclear, and so cost many thousands of lives. In 1991, the US warned Saddam they would respond with nuclear force if he used chemical weapons.

Even with conventional weapons, critics warn that hundreds of Iraqi civilians could be killed in bombing raids.

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