Iraq War, Unjust or Just
On March 19th 2003, President George W Bush opened his address to the nation by saying “My fellow citizens, at this hour American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.” (CNN) Bush’s address was the beginning of a costly and long war that resulted in hundreds of thousands of causalities and a hefty increase in national debt. As the U.S slowly recovers from the tragedies caused by the Iraq War, Americans questioned the original justification for the U.S government to invade Iraq. There is no seldom-clear way to determine the justification for war but for centuries philosophers have used just war theory to assess the morality of it. Essentially, just war theory is a set ethical principals used to assess war. Just war theory is split into two categories: ‘the right to go to war’ (jus ad bellum) and ‘right conduct in war’ (jus de bellum). While assessing the Iraq War, jus ad bellum (JAB) will be referred too in order to determine U.S’s justification for declaring war. JAB consists of six criterion, which all must be met in order for a declaration of war to be classified as morally just. The first and most significant criterion, especially in the case of Iraq War, is that the state must have a just cause to engage in war. Secondly only a legitimate authority can declare war, meaning that it must be declared by a political system that allows distinctions of justice. The next criterion establishes that a state must have rightful intentions when fighting said war. Furthermore a war must show proportionality in the balance between good and harm it does, essentially the benefits of winning must out weigh the costs of fighting. The last two criteria of JAB are that war must be a state’s last resort and the state must have a reasonable chance of success before the war is declared (Lee 70) The following assessment of the Iraq War’s ability to meet JAB’s criteria will determine whether U.S participation in the war was justified, not to be mistaken with evaluating the justification for Iraq War as a whole. The U.S fails the first and fifth JAB criteria because anticipatory defense was not a necessary course of action; therefore the U.S was unjustified to declare war on Iraq because it didn’t have a just cause to engage in war and ‘full-scale’ war was not the last resort. In accordance with the UN Charter, the only just cause for declaring war is national defense (Lee 64) National defense alone is roughly defined and can be misconstrued. Therefore in order to determine if a state’s cause for war is just or unjust one must first determine whether a state is acting for the sake defensive aggression (national defense) or a state is exercising unjust aggression. To make this distinction one can refer to Michael Walzer’s outline of the theory of aggression, known as the legalist paradigm. Walzer’s version of the legalist paradigm relies on the domestic analogy, which makes the presumption that the relations among individuals and the relations between states are the same (Lee 69) Therefore when one state uses force or is a immediate threat of force to another state’s rights, it is classified as an act of aggression and justifies two kinds of violent responses : a war of self defense by the victim and a war of law enforcement ( Walzer 62) The aggressor is defined as the state who initiated the first blow while the victim is the state who received the first blow (Lee 74) Typically the aggressor is categorized as the unjust party in an asymmetric moral relationship but, as mentioned by Walzer and Lee, a state can be morally justified to initiate the first strike in an effort of anticipatory defense. Distinguishing the form of anticipatory defense is essential in determining if a cause is just. Anticipatory defense can be divided into two categories: preventive and preemptive. As Walzer defines it, a...
Cited: Decosse, David. "Iraq: It Was an Unjust War." Iraq: It Was an Unjust War. Santa Clara University, n.d. Web. 09 Mar. 2014.
Lee, Steven. Ethics and War: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2012. Print.
Walzer, Michael. Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations. New York: Basic, 1977. Print.
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