Thursday, October 06, 2005

Iraq and Just War Revisited

Chris Burgwald (Veritas) has written an excellent post "Iraq: A Just War?", continuing a dialogue initiated on David Jones' blog (here) with Dr. J.P. Hubert, Jr., MD FACS, on whether the Iraq war meets just war criteria.

In response to the oft-repeated statements by Pope John Paul II and then-Cardinal Ratzinger, Chris noted:

. . . I fully agree that the notion of disagreement with the CDF Prefect (let alone the Holy Father himself) requires careful thought and discernment. But it can be licit. It's well-known that Ratzinger looked askance at the Assissi meetings, even thought they were a "pet" of JPII's. I am not saying that my wisdom and intellect match Ratzinger's, but I do think that there are problems with the position he articulated.

For instance, in the same statement you are referring to, he doubted that just war was even possible today. In and of itself (i.e. prescinding from context which was perhaps not revealed), that is a difficult statement to make sense of. The Vatican itself publicly agreed that the US's actions against the Taliban were licit. (In fact, come to think of it, one might argue that the same arguments being employed against the justice of the Iraq War also obtain with regard to Afghanistan, in that that nation did not initiate hostilities against the US.) [This strikes me as an important point.] Furthermore, with the development of technologies that greatly reduce the danger to innocents, it seems that it's easier to be in accord with the tenets of that doctrine.

On the question of whether modern technology necessarily renders the tradition of 'just war' invalid was addressed by James Turner Johnson, a scholar well-versed in the just war tradition and the ethics of warfare (Pope Benedict, Modern Weaponry and Civilian Casualties (Just War? June 18, 2005).

Likewise, a case study of this issue would be the U.S. "Shock & Awe" bombing campaign which, despite the misleading title, demonstrated the U.S. military's specific desire to minimize civilian casualties through the use of guided weaponry ("Shock & Awe, Civilian Casualties and Questionable Statistics" Just War? June 17, 2005).