"People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf." - George Orwell

Monday, January 10, 2005

Just War Series - Just Cause 

This is the first in a series on Just War Theory. The topic was first introduced in this post.

Just Cause
is the first requirement that must be met if a nation is to meet the test of whether a war is just. "The cause is the ultimate end for which the war is fought." (All quotes are from A Fighting Chance)

Martino makes three points that must be used in determining Just Cause.
  1. War must be limited to self-defense. This includes collective self-defense, such as coming to the aid of an ally.
  2. "Just Cause is limited to shielding against or preventing the violation of rights, and to reestablishing preexisting rights that have been violated. " In other words, if another country did something that has taken away some or one of our rights, we are justified in going to war to regain that right(s). In addition, we are justified in going to war to prevent recurrences of violations. War is only an option, however, if the danger is "real and certain." We are not just talking about the rights of nations. Individuals have rights, too (individual rights are primary, it may be argued). One may fight to secure and protect human rights.
  3. Retaliation for past wrongs is not allowed. Likewise, punishment for past violations of rights is not allowed if that violation has ceased and there is no reason to believe that it will recur in the future.
It is important to note that Martino framed his discussion in the context of the Cold War. As such,
  1. The use of nuclear weapons could destroy civilization as we knew it. One had to take into account the enormous amount of damage they could cause when contemplating a decision to go to war.
  2. The Soviet Union was a uniquely dangerous enemy. It had a history of mass murder that was unmatched by any regime in history, even Hitler's. Stalin alone murdered anywhere from 30 to 60 million, and communist governments worldwide over 100 million. One had to assume, therefore, that if the Soviets were able to take over our country or those of our allies mass murder would ensue. As Martino says, "we are talking about an enormous cost in lives even from unresisted Soviet conquest." Therefore, one must calculate how many people we would lose to new communist gulags versus the amount we would lose in a nuclear war. No one is reducing the decision to go to war to a mathematical calculation, rather it is simply a concept that we cannot ignore. Those who talk only of the destruction caused by nuclear weapons are missing half of the issue; the destruction caused by communist rule must be considered as well.
  3. Further, we are not just talking about deaths. Quality of life must be considered. Avoiding life as a slave is worth fighting for.
The Post Cold-War World

It is my contention that with only minimal adjustment, Martino's concepts apply to today's world. They can be used to justify both the War on Terror in general and the invasion of Iraq in particular.

War on Terror

The invasion of Afghanistan and our pursuit of al Qaeda meets the Just Cause test. We have every reason to believe that they are planning additional attacks after Sept 11 2001, and as such, we have a perfect right to go to war with them. The Taliban gave sanctuary to al Qaeda, and were complicit in their actions, having knowledge of their plans.


The harder test is the invasion of Iraq. Many have argued that the situation in Iraq did not require war for several reasons, but mainly because Saddam Hussein and his regime were effectively contained by the sanctions and no fly zones.

The invasion can be debated by reasonable people, with honest and well-meaning people coming down on both sides. It is my contention that the war meets the Just Cause test.
  1. Self-Defense - Saddam would, if he could have, attacked Americans and our allies. That he did not do so was only a result of the sanctions and no-fly zones imposed after the Gulf War. Saddam never "came around" or changed his ways. Further, the sanctions were falling apart. Russia and France had, several times, proposed that they be weakened. As Senator John McCain (in one of the rare times in which I agree with him) said at the Republican National Convention, "there was no stable status quo". The no-fly zones would likely be weakened over time. Once free of constraints, few would contend that Saddam would not have started up his WMD programs again. Given his propensity toward invading his neighbors, there is little reason to believe that he (or his sons when they assumed control after his death) would not repeat his aggressive behavior. Most importantly, we had every reason to believe that he possessed stocks of WMD, and would use them if he could. Lastly, the United States has allies in the region, not the least of which is Israel. Saddam fired Scud missiles at Israel during the Gulf War, and there was every reason to believe that he would do so again. Thus, we were acting to defend our allies.
  2. Reassertion of Rights -Immediately after the Gulf War, Saddam complied with the Security Council resolutions that, among other things, required him to destroy his WMD. But as time went on, and the threat of actual invasion by the US and UK (which he very much feared in March and April of 1001) receded, he grew more and more bold. One step at a time he threw roadblocks in front of the inspectors. Never enough to precipitate war, he moved slowly. But by the late '90s cooperation ceased completely and the UN was forced to withdraw its inspectors. Not until President Bush reasserted our rights was the issue brought to the forefront again. But again Saddam did not comply with the UN Security Council (resolution 1441). Lastly, the war was fought to secure the rights of individual Iraqis as well. That Saddam's Ba'athist regime violated basic human rights hardly needs elaboration.
  3. Retaliation - The war was not about retaliation. While some on the left rant about President Bush finishing "daddy's war", we need not take such talk seriously.
  4. I do not want to rehash the entire justification for the war in Iraq here. Interested readers can visit my post in which I list 16 reasons why I believe the war to be justified.
There are those would argue that whether or not Saddam "would have if he could have" is not a legitimate argument. They say that while we need not wait until after an attack has been made to respond, we should have waited at least until Saddam had truly shown that he was going to perpetrate an attack or atrocity.

Such an argument is not totally without merit. But it is one that I do not believe holds up in this situation, for reasons stated above.

Next up: Competent Authority

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