There is no such thing as a just war.
Every war is an injustice because the requirement of the immunity of noncombatants from attack is never and can never be met. Innocents are always injured. Always. The injury goes beyond the physical. People suffer psychological and soul wounds. The harm goes beyond the human. Animals, plants, the very earth suffers. Buildings that stand as landmarks to history and culture are often destroyed. War is terror and destruction and a crime that humanity commits against itself. It is neither noble nor necessary.
Just war theory is an obsolete and exhausted concept. It served its historical purpose as a middle way between pacifism and the concept of holy war. Since no war is holy, the just war concept is the extreme rationale for war and just peace theory severs as the middle ground between pacifism and just war theory. Just peace pragmatism is the beating heart of an Obama doctrine of foreign policy.
The United States, as a member of the United Nations and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council has an obligation to help enforce Security Council resolutions. Two recent resolutions—1970(2011) and 1973(2011)—recognize the obligation of the international community to protect civilians when their own government will not, when their own government is the perpetrator of atrocities. The Security Council decided to take the step of calling for a “no fly zone” and other military moves against Libya because of the extremely belligerent statements by Col Kaddafi and his son.
The international response to Kaddafi’s rhetoric is a just peace response. There are three principle elements in my interpretation of just peace theory: truth, respect and security. The current international military engagement over and around Libya intends to meet the international obligation to protect innocent civilians.
Just peace theory calls for the strengthening of international organizations both on a regional and on a global level. One of the reasons that the UN Security Council passed resolutions 1970 and 1973 is because regional international organizations—the Arab League and the African Union—called for a “no fly zone.”
However, military action is only one tactic that the international community is using to achieve the strategic goal of creating space for the people of Libya to exercise their universal human rights to choose their government. Resolution 1970(2011) calls for referral of Libyan leaders to the International Criminal Court, an arms embargo, travel bans, an asset freeze, and humanitarian assistance. Resolution 1973(2011) calls for military intervention for protection of civilians, establishing a no-fly zone, enforcement of the arms embargo, a ban on flights and a freeze on assets.
Just peace theory recognizes the importance of security in creating peace with justice, but it also recognizes the importance of respect. This not only means respect for one’s allies, but it also means respect for the government or person against whom the military action is taken. Muammar Gaddafi is not insane. He is not evil incarnate. He is not “the mad dog of the Middle East” as he was labeled during the Reagan administration. He is an aging autocrat who has not yet realized the tragic irony that has trapped him.
He was once a revolutionary. The revolutionary who fought for the oppressed, who championed the human rights of the wretched of the earth has become the oppressor. The former colonizers who he struggled against are now on the side of the revolutionaries demanding their universal human rights.
When the revolution that is sweeping across North Africa and the Arab world reached his borders, Gaddafi, the revolutionary turned autocrat, could not hear its call. He has not yet recognized this moment as an irresistible historical moment. He sees former colonizers destroying his military capabilities, and he wants to fight them. The truth is that he, Gaddafi, is the enemy of the revolution.
It is time for the original revolutionary to end the fight and to join the revolution by allowing a smooth transition of power that is truly power to the people.
| Mar 25, 2011 12:02 PM