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Justification For War Essay

By Richard N. Haass
president, Council on Foreign Relations

Should the United States attack Iran if we learn it has begun to enrich uranium to the level required for a nuclear bomb? What about attacking North Korea if it appears too close to producing a nuclear warhead small enough to place inside a missile? Or sending troops into Pakistan if the government loses what little control it has over its western regions and terrorists take hold?

No decision is more fateful than the decision of a government to employ military force. Except in the most clear-cut cases, such decisions are also difficult. As a result, just war theory has for centuries provided useful guidance to policymakers, clergy, citizens, and soldiers alike. But just war theory is too subjective and confining for today’s real-world threats.

A more useful concept is that of justifiable war.

Just war theory today is a composite that has evolved from ideas developed by various religious figures. In the 5th century, St. Augustine discussed in City of God the circumstances under which killing could be justified and empires legitimately expanded. In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas laid out a more elaborate just war doctrine in his Summa Theologica. He wrote that three conditions were necessary to make a war just: it must be ordered by a competent authority; the cause must be just; and the combatants must have “a right intention, so that they intend the advancement of good, or the avoidance of evil.”

Modern just war guidance involves both the decision to go to war (jus ad bellum) and how to fight one (jus in bello). This latter set of criteria focuses on proportionality (how much force is used), targeting (avoiding non-combatants), and means (avoiding certain classes of weapons).

Most of the debate, however, reflects the more basic decision of when to go to war. Building on the writings of both Augustine and Aquinas, there must be a just cause as well as a decision by a competent authority sanctioning the undertaking. War must be a last resort. There must be a good chance of success. And projected benefits must outweigh projected costs. The theory also holds that all the criteria need to be present before a war can be deemed just and hence undertaken.

One problem with just war theory is that it is too subjective. What constitutes a just cause is in the eyes of the beholder, as are the probability of success and any estimate of likely costs and benefits.

Just war theory is also too confining. Is the United Nations Security Council the only competent authority, or was NATO’s approval enough to make the Kosovo war just? Waging war only as a last resort means risking the lives of many while other policies are tried and found wanting.

That’s why justifiable war is a more useful concept. Justifiable wars undoubtedly include wars of necessity, that is, wars in which the most vital interests of a country are threatened and where there are no promising alternatives to using force. World War Two and the first Iraq war of 1990-1991 following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait would qualify, as would wars of self-defense

The question is whether wars of choice can also be justifiable. By definition, wars of choice tend to involve less than vital interests and the existence of alternative policies. Vietnam, Kosovo and Bosnia were all wars of choice. So, too, was the second Iraq war begun in 2003.

Are wars of choice ever justifiable? The answer is “yes” when using force is the best available policy option. The argument that the goal is worthy and that war is the best option for pursuing it should be strong enough to garner considerable domestic and international support. More important, the case should be persuasive that using military force will accomplish more good for more people at a lower cost than diplomacy, sanctions, or inaction.

By this standard, the second Iraq war was not justifiable, as the United States could have done more to contain Saddam though strengthening sanctions. There was a decided lack of international support. And even before the war it was argued and could have been known that the likely costs would be great and the accomplishments modest.

But what about the future? The concept of justifiable war is not simply one for history. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Afghanistan -all are potential theaters for new or intensified U.S. military action. The question is not whether they would constitute just wars. That is too impractical a standard. The question in the real world is whether they would be justifiable–to Congress, to the American people, to the world. It is a question President Obama will have to answer.

Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, is the author of “War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars.”Read an excerpt.

More on: American People, Faith, Just War, Military Action, Military Force, National, Nuclear War, Religious Figure, Saddam Hussein, Security Council, Thomas Aquinas, War Theory

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War CANNOT Be Justified by any Party or any Reason Essay

1884 Words8 Pages

Have you heard about Korean War, which occurred in June, 25, 1950? The conflict between ideologies caused this war with tens of millions killed, millions of families separated, the country reduced to rubble, and a huge permanent scar on Korea’s culture. Then, Vietnam War, Gulf War, or Iraq war can sound familiar to you. Let’s change point to the number of dead bodies from wars themselves. Can you guess how many people got killed during all of those war periods? Only for Vietnam War, the true civilians of Vietnam War were two millions in the north, and another two millions in the south, and military causalities were 1.1 million killed and six hundreds thousand wounded during war. To finish a war, how many innocent people and soldiers have…show more content…

The damage of wars is way too much that it should never happen under any circumstance. No one should ever initiate a war and claim it justified. Let’s see why war should not be justified.

First of all, war is nothing but bloodthirsty killer. During Iraq War period, 172 U.S. and British combatants were killed fro m March 20 to May 1 and another 222 died between May 2 and October 20. The number of civilians killed during war is between 5,708 and 7,356. The major unknown is the number of Iraqi military deaths during the war and it was estimated as low as 13,500 or as much as 45,000 soldiers. Furthermore, at least 20,000 civilians were injured. If protecting national interests or achieving diplomatic goals is a just cause then which party has a just cause between Iraqi people and U.S. or British army? Basically, all of them have their own just causes arising from their national profits. Then, can you say that soldiers, no matter which party they belong, are guilty because of killing people? The answer is “No,” because, for soldiers, killing enemies is related to more likely legal defense than any other reasons. The point is that all the people, who are related with this cruel action, are nothing but innocent victims.

People are just born with nationality not by their willing or choice whether they like it or not and therefore they acquire the ideology that is prevailing in their birth countries as they grow up. No matter what country they are from or what ideology

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