War and Peace in Religious Thought

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Daniyah Hannini Final Paper
War, Peace and Violence in Western Religious Thought

For a little over ten years, various works have been published by numerous academics in hope of finding some sort of solution when it comes to the position America should take when it comes to dealing with the tragedy of the September 11th attacks and the seemingly uprising form of “radical” Islamists. Although the bulk of books and articles published that seem to agree and promote the concept of engaging in warfare against these groups and individuals who promote acts of terrorism are very clear in their position on this matter, very few actually carry through with providing a blueprint which serves the purpose of defining the actual boundaries the United States must have in order for this military action to be considered as morally stable.

In the book “Just War Against Terror,” Jean Bethke Elshtain provides her solution for the U.S's role in regards to the war against terror. However, one major difference between Elshtain's book and the many others that exist today, is the fact that she took this concept of engaging in warfare a step further and actually constructed the foundation to how the U.S should go about military conduct. Elshtain feels that not only is this war necessary and vital for the safeguarding of America as a country, but is also the ethical thing to do. Throughout her book Elshtain constantly criticizes those who feel that attaining justice is impossible if it involves shedding blood of others and clearly supports the involvement of America in the Iraq War. Elshtain provides her own alternative for the situation, which involved her fine tuning the definition of just war and boldly taking the stance that this is a time in which it is a necessity for America to truly start establishing true peace and to work on itself as a country.

The book starts off by Elshtain painting a picture of what exactly happened on September 11th. She then draws attention to the contrast between Pope John Paul II's and Osama Bin Laden's view of that day. While the Pope understood that day to be an “unspeakable horror,” Bin Laden (representing Islamic terrorism) had the opinion that it was a “glorious” day. Right off the bat, Elshtain highlights the road she's headed down by starting her book off in this manner. By showcasing this contrast, she creates a somewhat black and white scenario, in which there only exists good and bad—nothing in between. This forces the reader to ultimately chose between two diametrically opposed views, leaving them with no other choices. She then goes on to quote John Paul when he stated: “We must acknowledge...the right and duty of a nation and the international community to use military force if necessary to defend the common good by protecting the innocent against mass terrorism” (Elshtain). This not only paves the way for her main argument that America should engage in warfare to end terrorism. One must note that Elshtain very smartly lays out the foundation before making her main points.

Throughout the book, one will notice that she constantly builds on emotions and once she has emotionally drawn her audience in one direction, she proceeds to a seemingly natural point that meshes completely and perfectly with everything she had set up. However, once one moves past the emotionally driven text, it becomes quite clear that Elshtain fails to provide much substance when it comes down to her reasoning. Elshtains understanding of just war is a bit watered down in the sense that she calls for just war, however her understanding of just war is a bit simpler when it comes to implementation of the doctrine. Elshtain focuses heavily on the the importance of intention when it comes to engaging in warfare. She strongly believes in stopping acts of terrorism and that engaging in war against those who promote and carry out terrorism is an honorable and just war. She also agrees to the fact that during war...
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