President Barack Obama has bypassed the time-honored rules of just war for a second time.
The first time was when he announced in early December 2009 that he wanted more war in Afghanistan to end the war there.
In Obama’s speech at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., he talked about “capacity” and “transition.”
“I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home,” said Obama. “These are the resources that we need to seize the initiative, while building the Afghan capacity that can allow for a responsible transition of our forces out of Afghanistan.”
His expanded war failed to pass one of the rules of a just war—the probability of success. A just war must have a reasonable chance to succeed.
Success in Afghanistan appears as unlikely now as when he argued for capacity building. Fifteen months later, the U.S does not appear ready to leave Afghanistan.
In his March 19 remarks in Brazil about the attack on Libya, the president again bypassed the rules of just war. He referenced Muammar Qaddafi’s actions against the people of Libya. He said that the “writ of the international community must be enforced. That is the cause of this coalition.”
The “writ of the international community” is not one of the rules of just war.
In addition to the probability of success, just war rules include just cause (such as stopping genocide), just authority (congressional approval in the U.S. case), last resort (try to resolve conflict without military force), just intent (restoring peace, not revenge and economic gain), proportionality of cost (war accomplishes more good than harm), clear announcement, and just means (no targeting of civilians).
And while Qaddafi is a bad guy, being a bad guy with a long history of brutality and terrorism is not a moral justification for the U.S. to go to war.
Another administration made its case for war based on the bad-guy argument. Their actions have turned out badly and without a seeming end.
The rules of just war are intended to provide parameters that guard a nation against costly misadventures that result in killing noncombatant civilians, unending military conflict and creating more harm.
One wishes that the White House would have run its decision making about both Afghanistan and Libya through the filters of just war.
Maybe then we would not be a warfare state.
Robert Parham | Mar 23, 2011 11:33 AM