According to Augustine’s Just War Theory, was the United States of America and Israeli invasion of Iraq just?
Guilty On One Count of Retaliation, and Innocent on Two Counts of Humanitarianism The war in Iraq is obscured by a fog of war-rhetoric and a thick forest of myths which it has nursed. It appears that there is more than one war being fought. The question of just invasion, therefore, must be asked of both of these wars, as each bear its own conclusion. Finally, the justness of attack is contingent upon when that question is asked in light of current and true information. Again, more than one answer exists. As we seek a single, pragmatically valuable conclusion, in spite of the two simultaneous endeavors presented here, we will be better equipped to face various other imminent dangers of similar nature in the near future, such as North Korea and Iran.
We cannot examine the ethicality of the entire operation of Iraqi freedom, without generalizing. Against a backdrop of renewed interest in Augustine’s “Just War Theory,” one may both oppose and advocate the invasion in light of how the war is conducted; jus in bellum or post bellum. One might also argue pro or con, relative to the chronology of events and one’s viewpoint. One cannot be both in an oil painting and an observer of it. And as Walzer points out, we don’t have access to government intelligence.1 As we will see later, even if we did have access to intel, could it be trusted?
A focus specifically on jus ad bellum, as if pertains to the U.S.-Israeli invasion, reveals popular myths that are attached to each of Augustine’s tenants. Believing one or many of the myths will cause one to decide prematurely about the justness of the U.S.-led coalition, and is the culprit for confusion and over-generalization. However, with regard to that fateful decision to go to war, we cannot be on both sides. The motive for invasion then was not just in light of retaliation and the lack of weapons of mass destruction, yet it is just and humanitarian now to stay and continue fighting.
Can a state turn the other cheek? Asked another way, “Are the same liberties of individuals necessarily also available to corporate collectives like a nation?” In politics, a nation collective does not offer its leaders the option to turn the other cheek, nor does Augustine’s model require passivism.
We cannot affirm or deny the justness of the invasion without first considering how well the conflict guidelines in St. Augustine’s day can apply to modern war. Even if it is shown that the principles found in the Just War Theory are useful and applicable today, what considerations about this particular war make it still unique and difficult to diagnose? Possibly there is less middle ground today between the irresponsible extremes of both pacifism and unjust cause. Although he faced terrorism of a different sort, we must, as did Augustine, seek to be “a peace-oriented, non pacifist who consider[s] warfare a conceivable if distasteful possibility.”2
Is there “just cause” that lies within the unjust extremes? Weapons of mass destruction were inconceivable in Augustine’s rubric development. And even if they were, war would still be averted at all costs.
Waltzer explains, “the old argument for preventive war did not take into account weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems that allow no time for arguments about how to respond. Perhaps the gulf between preemptive and prevention has now narrowed so that there is little strategic (or moral) difference between them.”3
Evil, and the moral judgments employed in response to evil cannot be outdated, but the circumstances surrounding modern warfare can. Staring us in the face, the horror of WMD’s not only exist, but other evil governments in Iran or North Korea currently seek or possess such weapons.4 We are obligated to look objectively and carefully at “just war” conclusions against developing threats in various other places as well.
Recent developments in the War on Terror have been met with questions. The search for answers, whose sources can be trusted, has sparked a renewed interest in an orthodox Christian ethic with regard to war. The invasion of coalition forces into Iraq will be considered against St. Augustine’s “Just War Theory.” Critique of this sort, however, will not be definitive, as the world and the war are ever changing and full of evil fury and injustice at each leg of the journey. “The challenge thus becomes one of how to make the morally preferable also politically possible.”5
There is no Iraq War: Myth #1, “The U.S. took over Iraq.”
The nature of our current battle is that over the ideals of a non-state (namely, al Qaeda), and a collective of various states (the U.S., England, Israel, etc.), who somehow oppose those ideals. It follows, then, that in The War on Terror, the real preemptive strike is less about the U.S. attacking as much as it is about terrorists attacking. The U.S.-led invasion was a state collective reacting to the danger of future attack. The al Qaeda were the first to strike, and the invasion of Afghanistan which follows, could not, then, be preemptive. In similar fashion, the invasion of Iraq was the next step in the effort to prosecute those who harbor terrorists.
Augustine’s “Just War Theory” is written in the context of conflict that arises between civil individuals or between civil states. The War on Terror is neither of these. It is not a conflict between civil individuals where war can be averted by passiveness and the mere turning of one’s cheek.6 Neither is this a war of state against state. The War on Terror, as I insist on calling it, is not against Iraq, Afghanistan, North Korea, or any other nation—It is a clash of ideals. But when the idealists are militant and aggressive, we cannot be passive.
Proper Authority: Myth #2, “Bush acted aggressively without it.”
It would seem that in the world of Augustine or Aquinas, the monarch in fact has the authority. In the U.S., Congress holds the leash. The President of the United States requires approval by Congress before declaring war. He does not need approval by the U.N. to pursue terrorists, even though the U.S. is not the only nation whose safety is at risk. The U.S. cannot enforce U.N. Security Counsel Resolutions without their vote—Section 2(b) 1. However, the U.S. moves ahead with force consistent with the above statements that the war is personal to the U.S. So, as it pertains to Section 2(b) 2, Bush’s administration personalized the attack in retaliation. Regardless of the right of wrongness of that decision, he did have the backing of Congress in both October 2002 and March 2003, and therefore, proper authority. Either way, this was not the case with Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or any militant sect leader like Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
The Empire “Strikes” Back: Myth #3, “The invasion was a preemptive strike.”
As I have already argued, the U.S. is carrying out a campaign that started in Afghanistan and will find its way to anyplace that terrorist are found hiding. Also stated earlier, the term “preemptive strike” belongs alone to the militant extremists. Why would we then demand a just cause of the U.S. led coalition? The term “preempt” means to forestall or prevent (something anticipated) by acting first; preclude; or head off.7 Discussion of proper authority lies on the side of the aggressor. I intend to keep this reminder at the forefront of discussion—the war-hungry villains began the conflict.
Just Motive: There Are Two Wars Being Fought in Iraq.
The true war concerns are two-fold. The purposes that took the coalition into Iraq are not the same as those that keep us there today. The former is a discussion on anti-terror with mention of humanitarian mistreatment. The latter is a discussion about humanitarian treatment, and somewhat about anti-terror. This suggests that central war concerns have already changed, or are continuing to change.
On August 31, 2005, Bush gives a new reason for the Iraq war from the deck of the USS Ronald Regan on the coast of Coronado, CA:
If Zarqawi and [Osama] bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks . . .They'd seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition . . . We will defeat the terrorists. We will build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary.8
The rhetoric addressing the justness of the Iraqi invasion has become a fire-breathing dragon with two tails. The invasion, as I see it, set out to 1) avenge terrorism in the world, 2) with the goal of ending terrorism altogether, and 3) post-war hopes of a free Iraq. There is no clear distinction between where one tail ends and the other begins. We set out to avenge, defend, and restore. Initially, we engaged in “The War on Terror.” The March 2003 invasion was a continuation of that effort which got its skeletal frame from the recent campaign in Afghanistan for the same reason. Currently, however, our Armed Forces are now scrambled in the name “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The general agenda—the dragon itself—is the effort to rid the planet of terror for the betterment of all. To be exact, one goal, or tail of the dragon, is a democratic Iraq—the assumption being that westernization would empower the Iraqi people and prevent militants from giving us a repeat history lesson. Can the dragon be a tool of moral obligation? Johnson begs that it is the Christian “moral duty.”9 He cites Niebuhr when he says, “violence may be the servant of moral good will.”10 Augustine himself said that it is “good to war against one’s unbridled lust,” but that “peace should be the goal.”11
Walzer struggles with this question on the one-year anniversary of the terrorist’s attack on the U.S. He concludes “yes,” al Qaeda poses a “plausible threat.”12 Later, in March of 2003, the U.S.-led coalition storms Iraq, and Walzer writes, “a war fought before its time is not just.” He now raises the question of diplomacy. With several U.S. interests, embassies, and the nation of Israel in their back yard, and the possibility of al Qaeda stateside, where is there room for diplomacy? Hannah points out in class that Clinton had tried that for twelve years with no avail. How will a sanction defend the U.S. government or its people while it stares down the barrel of ICBMs? Saddam’s regime had tested chemical weapons on its own people. Now, he harbors those who killed many American (non-military) civilians on our soil. That is understood as “plausible threat.”
Myth #4, “The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was intended to protect the American people.”
This myth is central to my argument contra just cause. This was widely accepted in the early stage of the war and continues to cause confusion today. This myth says that “protection” is considered above all as the objective to invasion of Iraq. Colin Powell pitched his plea to the U.N. for support one month before the invasion of Iraq.13 He employed strong argument, complete with photos from spy plane reconnaissance. He was sure that the intelligence indicated that long-range missiles were being constructed with chemical or biological warheads on them. This danger was the primary central impetus for the invasion in March 2003. Were the intel to be true, the invasion would have had a more clearly just motive.
In October of 1962, Kennedy decides not to invade Cuba in the name of protecting American and Russian lives.14 What if he had allowed his “trigger happy” cabinet to react to intel during the Cuban Missile Crisis where nuclear weapons were pointed at the U.S. with a range of 2,400 Miles. There existed reasonable doubt of future security for Americans. Again Augustine would say that we are just to go to war.15 But since that was not the true sole motive in the spring of 2003, Augustine would quote Jesus and say that one should not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Retaliation is not a just cause.
Myth #5, “The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was intended to protect the Iraqi people.”
If we generalize that the war was started to end an evil regime, the invasion was just. In examination of invasion for humanitarian relief, Augustine’s argument for “felicity at the cost of adversity”16 does merit our military strike. Hannah and I agree with Augustine, that subduing and overturning the evil regime of Saddam motivated by the goal of future, enduring peace,17 is biblically ethical in bellum practice. The goal would be a peaceful, possibly democratic, Iraq post bellum. There is no debate between either of my classmates or their contemporaries that Saddam’s regime was evil and needed to be ended.
I have two concerns with this approach for invasion. First, history teaches that felicity and seeking justice for the Iraqi people is not the sole, primary concern for the “War on Terror.”18 My second problem with this myth is that I agree with my classmate, Phillip. The U.S. cannot meet that goal. Volf agrees that an attack would cause “long-term instability to Iraq.”19 Deciphering this should have been done prior to invasion. Only in retrospect, is there weak evidence to indicate that democracy in Iraq was the goal of Congress—at least in the months that followed Nine Eleven. This is evident with the media triumph of the capture of two significant trophies. The first of which came in the same month of the invasion. In March, 2003, “American and Pakistani authorities captured the mastermind of the September the 11th attacks against our country, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.”20 Secondly, on December 15, 2003 we celebrate the capture of Saddam.
Further, it cannot be argued that the mistreatment of the Afghan or Iraqi people alone warrant just cause to the U.S.-Israeli invasion. If this alone were the just motive, we are guilty of ignoring the humanitarian crisis of an AIDS pandemic, extreme poverty, or various other grave situations around the globe. Therefore, if the main objective of Operation Iraqi Freedom is changing, or has already changed, and it is lying beneath the surface of humanitarian concern, then I suggest there is a political and incriminating secondary purpose called “vengeance,” which lies someplace outside of the “Just War” boundary. Volf points out that Augustine would agree. Retaliation is not a just cause.21
It was in shadow and sympathies of that fresh and tragic assault on innocent American lives that Congress votes on Public Law 107-40, empowering Bush to use military force to avenge the attack of September 11, 2001. In October 2002, the United States Congress authorized the president to use force if necessary to disarm Iraq in order to "prosecute the war on terrorism."22
Neither of these two myths were center stage in the deliberation to attack. So we cannot generalize to either claim now as if they were. Therefore, much of the pro-war argument from Mrs. Venable as it pertains to in bellum or post bellum, although it is provocative and convincing, is irrelevant jus ad bellum. Now that we are in Iraq, I stand with Hannah. Prior to the invasion, I stand with Phillip. I am persuaded that to remain consistent with Augustine is to take a similar stance.
Summary: There is one war being fought in Iraq.
What my classmate, Phillip, has removed from center stage, I call back. He reasons, “issues surrounding proportionality” and “last resort” thinking occupy center stage—even over the criteria for “just cause” and “legitimate authority.” Instead, I put “just cause” back into center focus and call on recent historical fact to show that congress grants the “go” for war without just cause because it both relied on fallible intel and secondly, sought to retaliate. The discovery that the military might of extremist Islam was instead in tatters, our administration sought to place its secondary objective into center stage. Today’s current humanitarian effort shifted the defense objective to the side and took its place. This change moves the current war back within just cause allowable by international law—emphasizing a new motive in the anti-terror war.
That being said, it raises imperative questions about the near future. If there is warrant for a preemptive strike, it could not, according to Augustine, be attached to vengeance, or to meet evil for evil. In the name of just cause, motivation, and authority, would a strike be warranted against Iran or North Korea? In the name of self-defense and geo-political safety, there is. Indeed, when it becomes the only way for a safe future, the U.S. must face certain danger with danger of its own. Nuclear weapons do not allow us to wait until evil men have carried out their evil plan. To be passive is itself ethically questionable. It would be deadly. Why would we wait until nuclear weapons are used against innocent people before getting upset? I argue, that although past terrorist attacks seriously question the motive of the U.S. in retaliation, the U.S. cannot preempt anything as it pertains to a post Nine-eleven world. I pray that we vote in a future president who, like George Herbert Walker and George W. Bush, will demonstrate U.S. resolve to the nations against unwarranted aggression, from collective governments like Iran and North Korea, or individuals, wherever it rears its ugly head.
Guilty On One Count of Retaliation, and Innocent on Two Counts of Humanitarianism
By: Stephen C. Allen
Albright, David and O’Neill, Kevin, Eds, Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle, Institute for Science and International Security, Washington, D.C. 2000. http://alsos.wlu.edu/information.aspx?id=1909&search=North+Korean+Nuclear+Weapons+Program+ (accessed November 4, 2007).
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Loven, Jennifer, “Bush gives new reason for Iraq war.” Boston Globe. Associated Press, August 31, 2005
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/08/31/bush_gives_new_reason_for_iraq_war/ (accessed on November 3, 2007).
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President’s Radio Address. Office of the Press Secretary. March 8, 2003
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___________. “The War to Oust Saddam Hussein.” Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.
Volf, Miroslav. “Indefensible War—Faith Matters,” Christian Century, 121, September 2002. 12-13
Walzer, Michael. “Five on Iraq” in: Waltzer, Arguing About War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.
1 Walzer, Michael. “Five on Iraq” in: Waltzer, Arguing About War. New Haven, CT: (Yale University Press, 2004), 143
2 Paskins, Barrie, “The Ethics of War” in Lawrence Freedman, ed., War, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 151
3 Walzer, “Five on Iraq,” 147.
4 Albright, David and O’Neill, Kevin, Eds, Solving the North Korean Nuclear Puzzle, Institute for Science and International Security, Washington, D.C. 2000. http://alsos.wlu.edu/information.aspx?id=1909&search=North+Korean+Nuclear+Weapons+Program+ (accessed November 5, 2007).
5 Johnson, James Turner, “Just War Tradition and Contemporary War” in Turner Johnson. Just War Tradition and the Restraint of War. Princeton, NJ: (Princeton University Press, 1981), 366
6 Augustine of Hippo, The Political Writings of St. Augustine, Ed. Henry Paolucci. Chicago, IL: Henry Regnery, 1962,183.
7 preempt. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/preempt (accessed: November 04, 2007).
8 Loven, Jennifer, “Bush gives new reason for Iraq war.” Boston Globe. Associated Press, August 31, 2005
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2005/08/31/bush_gives_new_reason_for_iraq_war/ (accessed November 1, 2007).
9 Johnson, James Turner, “Just War Tradition and Contemporary War,” 335
10 Johnson, James Turner, “Just War Tradition and Contemporary War,” 333
11 Augustine of Hippo, The Political Writings of St. Augustine, 180-182
12 Walzer, Michael, “Five on Iraq,” 161
13 Remarks to the United Nations Security Council: Secretary Colin L. Powell. New York City, February 5, 2003
14 Revelations from the Russian Archives, Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis, Library of Congress, January 4, 1996
15 Augustine of Hippo, The Political Writings of St. Augustine, 175
16 Augustine of Hippo, The Political Writings of St. Augustine, 167
17 Augustine of Hippo, The Political Writings of St. Augustine, 180-182
18 Johnson, James Turner, “War to Oust Saddam” 116.
19 Volf, Miroslav, “Indefensible War—Faith Matters,” Christian Century, 121, September 2002. 12-13
20 President’s Radio Address. Office of the Press Secretary. March 8, 2003
22 "Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq", White House, October 2, 2002. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/10/20021002-2.html (accessed on November 5, 2007).