Just War Term Paper

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Just War

Is the War in Iraq Justified?

This paper will explore the concept of war from the point-of-view of the just war theory. In order to better understand war, one must look at the concept from all angles including the point-of-view of peace movements. What is the Just War Theory and what are its principles? What does the theory represent and who believes in this theory? By answering such questions, one can better understand the state of the war's current conflicts that are resulting in death and destruction. More specifically, this paper will look at the current war in Iraq and beg the question: is the war in Iraq justified? This paper will look at sources that attest to both sides of the issue in hopes to find that the war is not justified at this moment. Part of the problem with discussing the war in Iraq is that it causes many emotional responses among people. That is the beauty of being an American citizen is that we are allowed to voice our beliefs. Still what happens when one does not believe the country is taking the right action? How does one formulate a well-constructed argument to persuade the other side to adopt different beliefs? Discussion of the war in Iraq can be difficult because this country has already suffered so much at the hands of terrorists and fascists. The best way to confront this subject is to look at both sides of the coin and examine the facts closely to decide justification. Brandon Hill writes, "we are able to listen to the voices of ALL the Church, not simply one or two voices" (1). The paragraphs below will look at the facts of each side but also formulate an argument that the war is not just but wrong in its intentions.

Just War Theory

The Just War Theory is most the popular view of war among Christians. The just war approach is based "upon the moral theory known as natural law morality" (Hill 2). What natural law morality refers to is that all people know that certain kinds of behavior are immoral, irrespective of their own religious loyalties. This includes all major world religions such as: Islam, Judaism, Hindu, Buddhism and Christianity. This means that all these world religions agree murder, theft and dishonesty are immoral. This concept applied not only in society but also across cultures. A good example of how the natural law morality works within society is the Nazi war criminals were tried and convicted because of their crimes against humanity as a result of the immoral aspects of their conduct. Within the just war theory exist elements which must be obeyed and they are as follows: (1) Declaration by a lawful government, (2) Just cause, (3) Just intent, (4) Last resort and (5) Immunity of non-combatants. Even with these elements in place, as it will be discussed later in this essay, these words can be misconstrued and manipulated to create multiple meanings within a specific context. Truly this is how war can be justified in one person's mind and completely wrong in another's.

The just war theory appeals to the idea of retributive justice as seen particularly in civil punishment or in other words, an eye for eye. Brandon Hill surmises, "any enemy of the state that threatens the well-being of the state can, and should be punished" (2). This explains America's actions after the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. The country had every right to defend and return the threat as a form of punishment. The continued War on Terror and the United States' increased activity regarding Homeland Security is definitely warranted under this scenario. Actually it was expected. It is only the human condition to desire payback for the pain and loss suffered. Unfortunately, it is my belief that as much as the War on Terror is justifiable, it has spawned an atmosphere that made the war in Iraq seem justifiable in many American eyes. What the War on Terror really did was cloud the public's perception of what was really happening with Bush's agenda in Iraq. With so many emotions looming including fear, paranoia, grief and anger, made it the perfect time for Bush to act and still get public approval. Ramesh Ponnuru writes, "a vast majority of conservatives supported the decision to force to topple the Iraqi regime and thought the war was justified based on what we had reason to believe at the time it began and based on what we know now" (3). It is believed that had action not been taken at the time that despite the sanctions on Iraq, "the regime would have been able and willing to make a menace of itself" (Ponnuru 3). Still one must review all the facts of "what we know now" and wonder how American intervention can be justified now. Many conservatives claim the war is over but then why are American troops still there in harm's way?

Ramesh Ponnuru, although conservative in his writing, allows for examination of the other side of the coin and reflects these facts of today's Iraq war, "opponents often claimed that the war was motivated by America's thirst for oil or President Bush's desire to avenge his father and that failure to find the weapons proved that the president has been lying" (4). Unfortunately, these facts now come to light after the regime falls and offers the public with a new set of parameters in which to define the just cause behind the war in the first place. These facts coupled with others put doubt in the mind of the public. President Bush can rationalize that Saddam Hussein's regime was a threat to the world because "nuclear, chemical and biological weapons constitute a serious threat to humanity" (CAIR 1). Still even with this threat many believed that it should be been handled through the United Nations but this would mean other countries like North Korea and Iran should also be accountable for their weapons. Justified or not, the American attack has lead to "the death of many innocent civilians, further destabilization of an already unstable region, harm to international efforts to combat terrorism, drained much-needed financial resources from our struggling economy and set a dangerous precedent for unilateral intervention in the affairs of other nations" (CAIR 2).

Part of the difficulty of arguing justness of this war is hindsight. Now knowing what we know to be true, one can adjust the rationale of the just war theory to suit the situation in hopes that the actions do not have many repercussions. This brings the morale and confidence of the American citizen to an all time low. It creates an environment of distrust and conflict. How can President Bush justify such a war and its cost, not just financially but the human toll knowing current facts? It is clear he has made foreign policy the true focus of his leadership without regard for the current state of the country. Taking care of another country and its freedom is more important than our own? Now that it is clear that the reasons behind entering into the Iraqi War were inconclusive and based on inadequate intelligence, it is easy to see difficulty in justifying such actions. The just war theory was bent for what was known to fit the purpose of starting the war but how does justify continued intervention? One cannot justify the current state of our involvement now. Even members of Congress now regret such action and conclude the war has resulted in an unjustifiable presence. Don Walton writes of Republican Representative Doug Bereuter's departure as a result of believing the war was wrong. He believes his vote "to authorize the use of military force was based on faulty or misrepresented, intelligence that led to the fear Saddam Hussein would share weapons with terrorists" (Walton 1). Unfortunately it is inconclusive if the intell was intentionally misconstrued to justify military action on the part of the Bush Administration. Bereuter believes one cannot justify the war on threat alone but also must consider the consequences of such actions. One result of the war that negatively affects Americans is "our country's reputation around the world has never been lower" (Walton 1) and this he believes can be attributed to our reasoning behind attack. As a result, Walton reflects, "we are immersed in a dangerous, costly mess and there is not easy and quick way to end our responsibilities in Iraq" (2).

Part of the real issue here with justifying the war is discovering that it was wrong after the fact. Still the just war theory does mention the "last resort" element that must be obeyed. Is it possible in some way this allows for any justification as it implies that all other options have been exhausted? I think the real issue here is that war is not the answer truly but it seems in today's society the only real way to get anyone's attention. In…

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