Ethics of War and the War in Iraq
A Lecture Presented at Southeastern Bible College,
Birmingham, AL, November 9, 2005
Steven B. Cowan
We are here tonight
to talk about the ethics of war. Now to some minds
phrase “the ethics of
war” will likely cause raised eyebrows. “The
ethics of war? What can ethics possibly have to do
with war? Isn’t war evil?”
Well, of course it is. War is a terrible thing. The
existence and prevalence of war in history is, in fact,
ample testimony to the depravity and wickedness of
Man. The conduct of war involves the intentional killing
of human beings and the destruction of property. War
inevitably causes untold suffering. I do not think
that any rational person can ever say without qualification
that war is good. War is something that we would all
rather do without. And as Christians it is our earnest
hope that someday God, in his mercy and grace, will
beat every sword into plowshares and eliminate war
from the face of the earth.
But that day has
not yet come. For Americans, who have lived in relative
and safety for many years,
war has become an unpleasant reality recently. We have
experienced the horror of September 11, 2001, and we
face the threat of more such terrorist attacks everyday.
In the wake of this injustice, our nation has begun
a war on terrorism that has eventuated in the ongoing
military actions in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Though
most Americans and most Christians support the general
war on terror, questions have been raised about our
decision to invade Iraq, and public support for the
continuing involvement of American forces there is
steadily eroding. So, we may ask the question: “Should
we continue to fight the war in Iraq?” And many
of us are still asking the question of whether or not
we should have gone to war there in the first place.
Yet, there are
even deeper questions that remain: “Isn’t
war evil? Can there be such a thing as the ethics of
war?” Throughout history, Christians have often
asked these kinds of questions. We know that Jesus
told us to love our enemies and to do good to those
who mistreat us. He said, “Turn the other cheek?” How
can Christians (or anyone for that matter) condone
or participate in war for any reason?
This is the main question that we will address today.
Though we may all admit that war is a terrible thing
and hope that wars will cease from the face of the
earth, may there nevertheless be an ethical justification
for war? What, specifically, should be the Christian
position on war in general and on the current war in
particular? In this lecture, I will defend the view
that war is sometimes justifiable, and that when war
is justifiable, Christians may ethically participate
in that war. Moreover, I will also argue that the war
in Iraq is a just war.
Two Christian Perspectives on War
Traditionally, Christians have defended two competing perspectives on the question
of war. First of all, though it has been the minority view in church history,
many Christians advocate pacifism. For example, such Christian groups as
the Amish and the Mennonites have historically been pacifists. Pacifism,
of course, is the view that we should not participate in war. War is wrong
and so we should not engage in it for any reason.
There are several varieties of pacifism, but for our purposes here we will
distinguish two forms of pacifism. First, there is universal pacifism. This
is the view that it is wrong for anyone, whether Christian or not, to participate
in war. Second, there is Christian pacifism, which allows that non-Christians
may sometimes morally participate in war, but it is wrong for Christians to
participate in war.
Most Christians in history have rejected pacifism in all its varieties. They
have instead advocated what is known the Just War Theory. On this view, it
is recognized that war is generally evil. Nevertheless, it is sometimes just
and right for a person, even a Christian, to participate in war. On this view,
in other words, it is possible to have a just war, a war that is morally justified.
It should also be said, though, that on the Just War Theory (JWT), only one
side in any given war can be just. That is, in any and every war, at least
one side in the war is fighting unjustly. Of course, it is also possible that
both sides in a given war may be unjust. But, to reiterate, there can never
be a just war in which both sides are justified in fighting the war. At least
one side in any war will be unjust. When we look at the criteria for a just
war later, this will become more clear.
Now I have already indicated that I believe that war can sometimes be morally
justified. So, it should be obvious that I reject pacifism and embrace the
JWT. So let me now turn to discuss pacifism in more detail and explain why
I reject it and why you ought to reject it too.
An Evaluation of Pacifism
Let me first address Christian pacifism, the view that
Christians should not participate in war, though
it is morally permissible for non-Christians to do
so. In other words, those who advocate Christian
pacifism recognize that human government has a responsibility
to protect its citizens from harm, and that this
governmental responsibility may require that a country
go to war to fend off foreign aggression. In such
cases, those who hold this view would say that most
citizens of the country (the non-Christian citizens)
can go to war, but not the Christian citizens.
Why would someone hold to this position? Ordinarily
what is permissible for people in general is permissible
for everyone. If it is just and right for the non-Christian
citizens to fight off a foreign invader, why would
it be wrong for Christians to help out? Well, according
to Herman Hoyt, one defender of this view, the reason
is that Christians have a special calling in this world
from which war would be an unacceptable distraction.
Inasmuch as true
Christians are “not of this
world” (Jn 17:16), but have been chosen by Christ
out of the world (Jn 15:19), it is the divine purpose
to keep them from the evil in the world (Jn 17:15).
One of those evils is the exercise of physical force
to accomplish the purposes of life. This includes the
use of force in times of peace and also in times of
war. (War: Four Christian Views, p.32).
He goes on to
say, “Witnessing for [Christ]
to the salvation of souls. . . is the supreme business
of the church. . . . Believers were to give themselves
unreservedly to this task. Military service would exhaust
their time and effort” (War, p.41). For Hoyt,
the idea that Christ’s kingdom is not of this
world and that our weapons are spiritual, not carnal,
together with the evangelistic mission of the church,
make it the case that military service is prohibited
for the Christian.
This view has,
it seems to me, several fatal flaws. First, though
is certainly a citizen
of God’s kingdom, a kingdom that is not of this
world, the Christian is also a citizen of the earthly
nation in which God has placed him. Christians have
a dual citizenship and are called by God’s word
to subject themselves “to every ordinance of
man for the Lord’s sake” (1 Pet. 2:13).
This would seem to imply that Christians should support
any just cause that their nation may have including
any just war (assuming there is such thing). Second,
this position presupposes that the only purpose that
Christians have in this world is evangelism. But such
is not the case. We are called to be salt and light
in the world, to have a positive impact on the culture
around us, to work, for example, for social justice.
If this is so, then why can’t a Christian participate
in a just war if that contributes to making the world
a better place overall?
Third, we need
to ask why military service would be any more distracting
from the Christians call to
witness than any other secular vocation? Being a plumber
or a banker or a lawyer is as time-consuming as military
service. And just as one can witness for Christ in
the civilian workplace, what is it about military service
that would prevent one from witnessing for Christ in
the Army? Don’t soldiers need to be evangelized?
happens when and if a nation’s
population happens to consist of mostly Christians?
On this view, then, only the small minority of non-Christians
could morally participate in defending the nation when
it is attacked. Surely, this cannot be right. Indeed,
can we imagine any government, forced to defend itself
against foreign aggression, exempting the majority
of its population from military service on such grounds?
I think not.
But, what of
universal pacifism? This view holds that it is wrong
Christian or non-Christian,
to engage in war. Certainly this view avoids the bizarre
and inconsistent consequences of Christian pacifism,
so it has at least that in its favor. But, why advocate
a universal prohibition against war? Christians who
defend this view look to the teachings of Jesus, primarily
in the Sermon on the Mount, in which he enjoins his
followers to non-resistance to those who mistreat them.
For example, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Blessed
are the peacemakers. . .” He also says, “Do
not resist him who is evil, but whoever slaps you on
your right cheek, turn to him the other also.” And
he says to “love your enemies and do good to
Well, what about it? Do these texts require us to
be pacifists? No. The first thing we should note is
that these statements by Jesus were directed toward
Christians, not to everyone in general. So, at best,
these biblical texts could support Christian pacifism,
but not universal pacifism.
But, in any case, there are reasons to doubt that
these texts support any kind of pacifism. For one
thing, it is generally recognized that Jesus uses
in the Sermon on the Mount a figure of speech called
hyperbole—an intentional exaggeration in order
to make a point. For example, elsewhere in the sermon
Jesus tells us that if our right eye causes us to
stumble into the sin of lust, then you should pluck
it out! We know this is hyperbole because nowhere
else in the New Testament do we find so much as a
hint that the early church took it literally. In
fact, in Colossians 2:23, the Apostle Paul tells
us that such “severe treatment of the body
is of no value against fleshly indulgence.” Likewise,
then, we may ask whether Jesus, when he said “Turn
the other cheek,” literally intended us to
take this as a prohibition against any and all resistance
to evil. Did he mean, for instance, that it would
be wrong for me to use force to defend my wife against
the violent attack of a rapist?” I seriously
For another thing, we should take careful note that
Jesus’ instructions in these biblical passages
are directed to individuals. That I, as an individual,
should turn the other cheek does not tell us that
the government should turn the other cheek. As I
will argue in a moment, the government has a God-given
function to administer justice. So, even though you
and I as private citizens are called upon to not
resist the evil person, the state has no such pacifistic
There are some
other points that pacifists might raise in order
to justify either
Christian or universal pacifism
from a Christian perspective. Someone might ask, for
example, “How can Christians participate in a
war when the people on the other side might be Christians,
too? How can a Christian kill other Christians?” Well,
this question assumes that a Christian may fight in
any war. But, if the JWT is true, then Christians (and
everyone else) may participate only in a just war.
Which means that if Christians are on both sides of
a battle, one of them is making a mistake. One of them
shouldn’t be there. One of them is doing an unjust
action, and there is nothing in the Bible that says
that Christians are exempt from the consequences of
doing wrong in this life.
But what about
killing unbelievers, the non-Christians? If we kill
in war, then we are sealing their eternal
destiny; we’re sending them to Hell. Should Christians
participate in war, killing people who are without
Christ and sending them to Hell? This is a hard question,
no doubt. But if, as I will argue momentarily, it is
right and just for nations to defend themselves against
unjust aggression just as it is right for individuals
to defend themselves against violent attackers, then
this objection loses its force. Nowhere does the Bible
teach that evildoers should be exempt in this life
from the consequences of their actions. And if I kill
another person in war who is unjustly seeking to kill
me and my fellow citizens, then the fault is his, not
mine. He should not have been doing what he was doing.
So, I conclude that there is no biblical basis for
pacifism. Indeed, as I will now argue, there is a very
strong biblical basis for the JWT.
A Defense of Just War Theory
In Romans 13:1-4, the Apostle Paul has this to say
about the governing authority (the state):
Let every person be in subjection to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority except from
God, and those which exist are established by God.
Therefore, he who resists authority has opposed the
ordinance of God, and they who have opposed will receive
condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a
cause for fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do
you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good,
and you will have praise from the same; for it is a
minister of God to you for good. But if you do evil,
be afraid, for it does not bear the sword for nothing;
for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings
wrath upon the one who practices evil.
Paul tells us
here that the governing authority is “God’s
servant.” And this servant of God has the God-given
responsibility to “bear the sword” and
to “bring punishment on the wrong-doer” (v.4).
Clearly, the government is sanctioned by God to maintain
order and justice within society, and to defend the
lives of its citizens against those who would unjustly
take them. And, by clear implication, this would mean
that the state has the right and responsibility to
engage in war if its citizens are threatened by unjust
aggression from another nation.
We can add that
the justification for war can be likened to the justification
In Exodus 22:2,
we read: “If a thief is caught breaking in and
is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty
of bloodshed.” The teachings of Jesus on turning
the other cheek notwithstanding, self-defense against
life-threatening violence is not prohibited by Scripture.
Likewise, nations defending themselves against foreign
aggression is not prohibited either.
What’s more, it is perfectly legitimate for
Christians to participate in this function of the state.
If it is good and right for a government to protect
its citizens even to the point of waging war, then
why can’t a Christian participate in this good
function of government? I see no reason why not. In
fact, when we look elsewhere in the New Testament,
we see this view confirmed very clearly. In Luke 3:14,
we see a reference to some soldiers who were converted
under the ministry of John the Baptist. They came to
John and asked him what they should do now. Apparently,
they thought that their new-found faith required of
them some “spiritual” service and their
resignation from military service. However, John told
them, “Don’t extort money and don’t
accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” In
other words, John said, “Be good soldiers!” So
Christianity is not pacifistic, but clearly supports
Nevertheless, even though Christians may support and
participate in war, all Christians (and all people
generally) should agree that not just any war is justifiable.
There is a higher law than the state. We answer first
and foremost to God and his moral law. So, we should
not blindly follow the leadership of our government
when the war drums are beaten. The God-given job of
government is to establish and maintain justice. But,
governments often fail in this duty. Sometimes governments
act unjustly. So, whether to condone or participate
in a war requires careful moral reflection. In what
follows I will set out the criteria that scholars of
past ages have established for evaluating the justness
of any given war. Then I will look at the war in Iraq
in light of those criteria.
The Traditional Criteria for a Just War
There is, as I have mentioned, a strong tradition in
Christian history that Christians may condone and
even participate without guilt in a just war. Though
war is always evil, and those who start wars are
evil, not everyone’s participation in a war
is evil. The Bible does, after all, permit self-defense
when one’s life is threatened by another person.
Likewise, it is certainly justifiable for a nation
to defend itself against aggression. That being so,
those defending themselves are not doing evil in
fighting the evil aggressors in war. So, it is possible,
in some circumstances, to justly wage war. But just
what are the criteria for a just war? There are several
criteria, and just war theorists have held that each
one of these criteria must be met before it is morally
permissible to wage war.
First, there must
be a just cause. Not just any reason for war will
Certainly, a war designed to take
the property of another nation, or to kill its citizens
because they are hated by the attacker, is an unjust
war. Traditionally, the only just cause that has been
recognized by just war theory is a war of self-defense
against an invasion of one’s own country or that
of an ally. So, for example, in World War II, when
France, Britain, and other nations were attacked by
Nazi Germany, they had a just cause to wage war against
We must be careful
not to interpret this criterion too narrowly, however.
As stated, the criterion would,
strictly speaking, justify war only after an aggressive
attack has been launched. However, just war theorists
have generally agreed that a nation may justly engage
in a preemptive strike in order to defend itself
in the face of a clear, though merely imminent attack
by a foreign aggressor. A good example of this can
be found in the Israeli Six-Day War. When Israeli
learned that the Egyptians and Syrians we poised
to launch a military attack on Israel—and that attack
was known to be imminent and certain—the Israeli
armed forces launched a preemptive strike that devastated
the military forces of their enemies and prevented
Israel from being invaded. Just War theorists agree
that this preemptive strike was justified under just
war criteria because the heart of the criterion under
discussion is the right of self-defense, and it would
have been foolish for the Israelis to follow the letter
of the law and await the actual attack of the Egyptians
This proviso on the first criterion is all the more
important in our age, when nuclear weapons and other
weapons of mass destruction pose a real danger to the
very existence of any nation attacked by them. No nation
can afford to wait for an actual attack before taking
action if the attack will likely involve weapons of
mass destruction. So, we will understand the first
criterion for a just war to allow for preemptive attacks
in the face of real threats by aggressive nations.
Before I move
on, however, I want to raise the question of whether
or not there
might be still other just causes
for going to war. The traditional just war theory,
as we have seen, only recognizes self-defense as a
just cause for war. But there are some just war theorists
(myself among them) who believe that war may be justified
on other grounds. Keep in mind that the reason why
self-defense is considered a just cause for war is
because an aggressive attack on one’s nation
by a foreign army is an act of injustice. That is,
at the bottom of the issue of just causes for war is
the theme of justice. And it seems to at least some
just war theorists that the interests of justice vis-à-vis
war go beyond the interests of self-defense.
example, the invasion by NATO of Bosnia several years
The Serbs, under the direction of
their President Slobadan Milosevic, engaged in a horrific
campaign of genocide against the Muslims in Bosnia.
NATO forces (which included U.S. forces, by the way)
invaded Bosnia and put an end to the genocide. On traditional
just war criteria, it is hard to see how this was a
just war. After all, the Serbs had not attacked any
NATO country, nor was any such attack being planned.
Yet, most of us, I think, would consider the actions
of NATO morally justified. This suggests that the traditional
criterion of a just cause (self-defense) is inadequate.
A more adequate criterion would allow as well for what
we might call a moral crusade—not a religious
crusade, but a moral one—in which a nation is
justified in going to war in order to redress a significant
injustice (such as genocide) being done to people of
another nation. This point would be controversial even
among just war theorists, but I think that it is worthy
of our consideration.
Secondly, the war must be waged by a legitimate governmental
authority. Private citizens have no right to wage war
against another nation even for a just cause. A properly
established government (or some officially sanctioned
arm of the government) must officially declare the
war and sanction the military actions taken. So, for
example, we should say that the Irish Republican Army,
the terrorist group fighting the British in Northern
Ireland, even if they have a just cause, are not fighting
a just war because their actions are not sanctioned
by a legitimate governmental authority. Likewise with
most other terrorist groups.
Third, war must
be the last resort. War may be justly waged only
peaceful means of adjudicating
grievances between nations have been exhausted. Avoiding
bloodshed is always the right thing to do if it is
possible. Consider, for example, the First Gulf War.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait, many weeks were spent by
the U.S. and the U.N. trying to find a diplomatic solution;
trying, that is, to get Saddam Hussein to withdraw
his forces on his own. Failing that, the U.S.-led coalition
went to war—but only because peaceful means were
unable to redress the injustice done to Kuwait.
Fourth, there must be a reasonable hope of success.
Even if one has a just cause, legitimate governmental
sanction, and has tried to resolve the conflict peacefully,
it may still be unjust to go to war. If waging the
war would clearly be futile and only result in further
unnecessary bloodshed, it would be unjust to go to
war. The idea here is that surrender to an aggressor
is the right course of action when there is no reasonable
hope that resistance will repulse the invading army.
A case in point here might be the initial Polish resistance
to the Nazi invasion in 1939. The German tanks were
met with a terribly inadequate Polish army, including
old-fashioned horse-cavalry. There was no hope of success,
so the Poles should not have resisted.
Fifth, there must
be a rational proportion between the goal and the
to achieve it. Suppose that
there is reasonable hope of success in waging war against
an aggressor. Still, it may not be just to fight that
war. For example, what if success can be achieved,
but only with the devastation of one's own country,
the loss of (say) 90% of your military forces as well
as many civilian lives, and the crippling of your economy
for decades to come? In such a case, the cost of success
is irrationally disproportionate to the goal. A war
cannot be just if the cost of waging it is far worse
than the aggression it is intended to redress. So,
as one of Jesus’ parables tells us, a nation
must count the cost of going to war.
Sixth, there must
be a just intent. Traditionally, the right intent
should motivate an otherwise
just war is to secure a just and lasting peace. Revenge,
conquest, economic gain, religion, or ideology are
not good intentions for going to war even if you have
an otherwise just cause. In other words, suppose a
nation is wrongly attacked by another country. By the
first criterion, they have a just cause to go to war.
But, suppose the citizens and leaders of this nation
say to themselves, “Hey, this nation has attacked
us. We have the right to defend ourselves. But, hey,
this also affords us an opportunity to conquer them
and take all their stuff! This would not be a just
intent, and I dare say that just this sort of thing
has happened in history. We know, for example, that
the American Indian Wars were replete with this kind
of injustice—when an Indian tribe would attack
a white village, the Army would often respond by seizing
large portions of Indian lands, not in the interests
of justice, but in the economic interests of settlers,
the railroad, and other big business.
Seventh, the war must be fought by just means. The
first six criteria must be met in order to justify
going to war in the first place. But, having the moral
right to go to war is still not enough to justify participation.
A just war will be conducted in a just way. A war that
is otherwise just (i.e., meets criteria 1-6), will
become unjust if the means used for conducting it are
unjust. Just War Theorists have articulated criteria
for the just conduct of war:
1. The war must have a limited, just objective. Restoring
peace and justice are just objectives, but obliterating
the other country or the capacity for its citizens
to survive are not.
2. Prisoners of war must be treated humanely and not
killed or tortured. Killing or mistreating enemy soldiers
who have laid down their arms in surrender is evil,
not good. Of course, I realize that in war, especially
in the heat and passion of battle, these kinds of things
happen and may, in some circumstances, be understandable.
But that does not make them right.
3. There must
be no direct, intentional attack on civilians. This
does not mean
that a war is unjust
if civilians happen to be killed unintentionally. It
is almost always impossible to guarantee that only
soldiers will be killed. So-called “collateral
damage” is inevitable in war. But, intentionally
targeting civilians is immoral. Here is another point
where we have to be willing to take responsibility
for our own actions in history. For example, on this
criterion, the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo in
WWII are clearly seen to be unjust because civilians
were intentionally targeted.
4. There must
be no “overkill” in the
use of weapons. That is, one should not use a bomb
to achieve the military objective when a bullet will
do. Of course, determining the appropriate degree of
force in a particular battle may not always be easy.
One has to weigh several factors, including the risk
to one’s own military forces. Nevertheless, it
is wrong to intentionally and knowingly use overkill
in the conduct of a war.
These are the primary criteria for a just war. Before
I move on, however, let me mention another—though secondary—criterion that is often overlooked
in discussions of this topic. If a war fails to meet one or more of these criteria,
then it is an unjust war. That means that it would be immoral for anyone to
participate in that war. And those who see it as unjust have the duty to conscientiously
object to participating in it. This much is clear. However, conscientious objection
requires clear and unmistakable evidence of injustice. Just having doubts about
whether a war is unjust or not is not sufficient for conscientious objection.
Questions will inevitably be raised about the justice of any war, and sometimes
those questions will be serious—serious enough to cause us to doubt if
the war being waged (or about to be waged) is truly just. But, the just war
tradition requires that the benefit of the doubt always belong to the state.
That is, if you are not sure whether or not a war is just—there is evidence
going both ways, let’s say—, but your government believes or claims
that it is just, then you should assume that it is just until you know better.
The rationale behind this criterion is that the government authorities, who
are waging the war, are usually in a better position to know the facts about
the war (or at least more of the facts) than individual citizens whose perspective
is more limited.
The War in Iraq in Light of These Criteria
How does the war in Iraq measure up in light of these
criteria? I believe that it measures up fairly well.
First of all, it seems to me that there was and is
a just cause. According to traditional theory, self-defense
is a just cause for one nation (or group of nations)
to wage war on others. President Bush and his cabinet
made a convincing case that Saddam Hussein’s
regime posed a clear and imminent danger to the security
of the United States. Saddam appeared to be, from
the intelligence we had available, building weapons
of mass destruction that we knew he had the will
to use on the American people.
Of course, we
all know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction—or at least none have been
found yet. But, this doesn’t change the fact
that our government had very good reason to think that
he had WMDs—the vast majority not only of the
executive branch, but both houses of congress, were
convinced that he had these weapons. And waiting for
Saddam to use those weapons before acting in our defense
was not a rational option.
And let me also say that now that we have discovered
that he probably did not have WMDs, we have no need
to apologize for our actions. Saddam himself could
have made it perfectly clear that he had no WMDs by
allowing the U.N. weapons inspectors to do their jobs.
Instead, he hindered them at every turn, leaving the
inspectors and the whole world convinced that he did
have such weapons. Saddam Hussein wanted the world
to believe that he had WMDs.
Moreover, if you
agree with me that self-defense is not the only just
for going to war-—if
you agree, that is, that a moral crusade may also justify
war, then we had plenty of just cause even if we knew
ahead of time that Iraq had no WMDs. Saddam’s
government was a tyrannical, oppressive dictatorship.
He massacred thousands of his own people at whim; he
dropped nerve gas on entire villages, wiping them out.
He exploited his own people for his own personal profit.
If NATO was justified in invading Bosnia to end the
genocide there, then we were justified in invading
Iraq to end the reign of terror by Saddam Hussein.
Second, the U.S.
Congress approved President Bush’s
call for military action against Iraq. So, there can
be no question that the war in Iraq meets the second
criterion: it was sanctioned and waged by a legitimate
Third, what about
the question of last resort? Though many people in
our own country
and around the world
think that diplomacy was not given enough time, it
seems to me (and many others) that diplomacy was wholly
ineffective in resolving the problem of Iraq’s
potential WMDs. Allowing diplomatic efforts to continue
worked only in Saddam’s favor, and every day
that war was postponed only increased the threat that
we believed Saddam to pose at that time.
Fourth, as to
whether there is a reasonable hope of success depends
what the goal is that
our government was trying to achieve. Initially, the
goal was to remove the threat posed by Saddam and his
WMDs. We had every reason to believe that we could
succeed in accomplishing this goal, and the history
of what actually happened bears this out. Our military
forces launched a blitzkrieg attack that toppled Saddam’s
regime and neutralized his military forces in less
than three weeks. No one was in any doubt as to the
outcome of this initial stage of the war before it
Questions do arise,
however, about the on-going war effort in Iraq. The
goal of that effort, if
I understand it correctly, is to help maintain order
and security until the new Iraqi government can take
care of itself. I will admit that right here opinions
will differ widely and strongly. We get lots of reports
out of Iraq everyday about on-going violence and chaos.
Some wonder if we have enough troops there to do the
job and others wonder if any number of troops would
be sufficient to do the job. But, the truth is that
most of Iraq is secure and stable. The violence we
see in the news is confined to a few specific regions,
and there is no reason to believe that the insurgency
there will gain enough strength to prevent us from
achieving our goals there. Though we might wish for
greater certainty, there is at least a reasonable hope
for success. And let’s not forget that the benefit
of the doubt belongs to the state.
Fifth, the cost/goal
ratio of waging a successful war in Iraq easily fall
the bounds of acceptable
limits, at least when looked at historically. This
war will cost a lot of money when it is all said and
done, but it will not break the U.S. economy. And the
lives lost (over 2000 now), while tragic and regretful,
are not disproportionate to the goals we are trying
to achieve. By way of comparison, let’s consider
what it cost us in lives to win WWII. Most Americans
are oblivious to the fact that over 291,000 American
servicemen lost their lives in WWII. That’s almost
a third of a million! More American soldiers died on
one day—D-day—in WWII than have been lost
in the entire Iraq war so far. Yet, few people would
argue that the cost to defeat the Axis powers was disproportionate
to the goal. Since Vietnam, Americans have become very
squeamish about fighting wars, and though we are certainly
right to shrink back at the thought of American soldiers
dying in battle, we cannot allow our squeamishness
to prevent us from making a rational assessment. The
Iraq War meets the criterion concerning a rational
proportion between goal and price.
may be the justness of our cause, I do not think
can reasonably impugn the
intent. I don’t think very many who are fighting
this war are doing so for revenge or for money or (as
we hear from some quarters) for oil. Though some Americans
may want such things, the best of us, and the best
of our leaders, desire to correct the injustices done
to our nation and defend ourselves from further aggression.
These intentions are good and right.
Lastly, what about the means used to conduct the war?
On the issue of the targeting of civilians, I believe
that our military deserves an A+. They have gone out
of their way, more so than any previous war in human
history to minimize civilian casualties. Though many
civilians have been killed and injured, no case can
be made that any of these casualties were intentional.
On the treatment of POWs, however, we may raise some
legitimate concerns. We all know, for example, about
the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Grab. Nevertheless,
there is no indication that this mistreatment was a
matter of national policy, and those who perpetrated
these injustices have been punished severely.
Concerning our intent for the on-going military presence
in Iraq, no one but Muslim extremists believe that
our objectives are anything but honorable and limited.
Once having secured Iraq from the threat of the insurgency
and having trained the Iraqis to maintain their own
internal security, our intent is to remove our military
forces from Iraq and allow the Iraqis to govern themselves.
Furthermore, no significant overkill with the use of
weapons is demonstrable.
In conclusion, then, I would contend that the war
in Iraq is a just war, and that Christians should support
it and, if called upon, participate in it. War is a
terrible thing. But there are times when, in the cause
of justice, the burden of that terrible thing must
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