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Morality of war in afghanistan and iraq essay

The basic moral problem of how to deal with a repressive and aggressive rogue regime with weapons of mass destruction WMD remains essentially the same.

What is different is that this debate is taking place after September 11. That has changed what is perceived to be at stake. If the case for Iraq I was based on defense of vital U. If Iraq I was seen as part of an effort to shape a new U. Iraq I did not require a significant rethinking of just war norms. Iraq II does — at least to the extent that the Bush administration's moral case has rested on the right to use unilateral, preventive force in a post-September 11th world.

Second, just as hard cases make bad law insofar as the exceptional case is used to establish unwise and unhelpful precedents, the Bush administration's justification for preventive war against Iraq would make for problematic morality. Third, good morality is realistic, and there are realistic ways to deal with this hard case of Iraq short of a major war or a radical change in just war doctrine, particularly given the paucity of available evidence that the nature of the threat has changed significantly in recent years.

The Hard Case Iraq is a hard case.

  1. The threat posed by this deadly combination of threats is so great — even if the chance of the threat being carried out is relatively low — that it can push traditional strategies and moral analysis to their limits.
  2. Ethicists and others differ on whether Iraq poses such a threat.
  3. It is entirely legitimate to ask, therefore.
  4. The threat of mass terrorism by global terrorist networks is no longer just a thing of the latest Hollywood thriller or some arcane Pentagon war game; it is a reality that must be dealt with.
  5. As religious leaders, the bishops offer a moral framework that can contribute to the formation of a community of conscience and can inform the momentous decisions being taken about possible war against Iraq.

It is held up as a poster child for three potentially interconnected moral challenges posed by contemporary international relations — rogue regimes, global terrorism, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Iraq is also a test case for proposed U. The first moral challenge is posed by repressive and aggressive rogue regimes, such as Iraq and North Korea. According to the Bush administration's "National Security Strategy," these regimes are particularly problematic because they are ruled by brutal and megalomaniac — or at least less than rational -- dictators who, are not easily influenced, deterred or contained. September 11th is dramatic evidence of this form of terrorism's capacity for unleashing unimaginable evil.

It is also symptomatic of how difficult it is to defend against such evil. Such loose-knit, global networks of terrorists prosecuting what they consider to be a holy war are much more difficult to contain and deter than rogue regimes. If a third moral challenge — the proliferation of WMD — were to be connected to the first two — rogue regimes supporting global terrorism — the combination would be extremely dangerous.

The threat posed by this deadly combination of threats is so great — even if the chance of the threat being carried out is relatively low — that it can push traditional strategies and moral analysis to their limits.

Whether one describes the current structure of the international system as unipolar, uni-multipolar, or multipolar, it is indisputable that the United States has the preeminent military, political, economic, and cultural power and influence in the world. While the public rhetoric has changed in the past few months, in part in an effort to gain UN and allied support, it is significant that the Bush Administration's case for war against Iraq has been made in the context of a strategic doctrine which places a priority on maintaining U.

In short, the Administration's strategy posits the right of and necessity for the United States to pursue, in some cases, the unilateral, preventive use of military force against rogue regimes seeking or possessing weapons of mass destruction.

Hard cases Make Bad Morality Underlying this new national security strategy is an important moral insight — that there is a moral imperative to address the Iraqi threat and threats like it.

There is sometimes a tendency among those who are opposed to the war on terrorism or war in Iraq to feel a need to minimize the threat and to lose sight of a fundamental moral obligation to act with resolve to defend innocent life and the common good.

The United States, in collaboration with others, has not only a moral right but a grave obligation to defend against mass terrorism and the threat Iraq poses. As the bishops said in their recent statement on Iraq, "We have no illusions about the behavior or intentions of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi leadership must cease its internal repression, end its threats to its neighbors, stop any support for terrorism, abandon its efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, and destroy all such existing weapons.

Recognizing that "people of good will may differ on how to apply just war norms in particular cases," the bishops "fear that resort to war, under present circumstances and in light of current public information, would not meet the strict conditions in Catholic teaching for overriding the strong presumption against the use of military force. Weakening the constraints of just cause. The principal problem with muscular unilateralism is morality of war in afghanistan and iraq essay implication for just cause.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church limits just cause to cases in which "the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations [is] lasting, grave and certain. What is the casus belli for a military attack on Iraq? Among the several causes put forward by the Bush administration, the most troubling is its argument for preemptive or preventive use of force.

I. Iraq: The Hard Case

Like many ethicists, the bishops recognize that preemptive or anticipatory use of force is sometimes morally permissible, but only in the exceptional case where there is a clear and present danger, or a grave and imminent threat.

Ethicists and others differ on whether Iraq poses such a threat.

Jean Bethke Elshtain, who believes preemptive use of force is justified in this case, argues morality of war in afghanistan and iraq essay "an imminent threat does not necessarily mean one that is just around the corner. It may refer, instead, to murderous capabilities an outlaw regime is in the process of developing.

Whether or not the Iraqi threat is, in fact, imminent, what is disturbing is that the Bush administration has taken the concept of preemption as an option in exceptional cases and turned it into a new doctrine about the legitimacy of the unilateral use of preventive war to deal not just with imminent threats, but with merely potential or gathering dangers.

Michael Walzer points out that President Bush repeatedly states that war with Iraq is neither imminent or unavoidable: The war that is being discussed is preventive, not preemptive — it is designed to respond to a more distant threat. If the threat is not immediate but, as the president said, grave and gathering, then you rely on preemption. Where would this doctrine lead? Would the world be a safer place if all countries embraced this new doctrine of preventive force to deal with the proliferation of WMD?

It might be that the administration is not advocating preventive war but merely redefining "preemption" in order to deal with WMD held by rogue states. If that is the case, it must be done very carefully so as not to erase the vital distinction between impermissible preventive and permissible preemptive interventions.

While the administration has not made it the principal case for going to war with Iraq, it has tried to connect the Iraqi regime to al Qaeda. According to the bishops, there would be just cause to use force against Iraq if there was clear and adequate evidence of Iraqi involvement in the attacks of September 11th. Given that al Qaeda is estimated to operate in some sixty countries, military action to overthrow the regime as opposed to other less forceful measures would have to be based on evidence of substantial support.

A third basis for justifying force is humanitarian intervention. Humanitarian intervention has been more implicit than explicit in the administration's arguments in large part because it departs from its broader strategy of using military force only when vital national security interests are at stake and its stated distaste for engaging in "international social work" and nation building.

An Ethical Analysis of War Against Iraq

Others, however, have made a moral case for humanitarian intervention. Pope John Paul II, citing the "conscience of humanity and international humanitarian law," has gone beyond standard interpretations of international law in claiming that nations and the international community have not only a right, but a duty of humanitarian intervention "where the survival of populations and entire ethnic groups is seriously compromised.

Among these many possibilities, military intervention to overthrow a regime should be the exceptional case that requires a very high threshold to justify — such as genocide, mass starvation, or similar mass suffering.

  • Because of deterrence, the arms embargo, UN control over Iraq's oil revenues, and the no fly zone, Iraq's military is a shell of its former self and is no longer a serious threat to its neighbors;
  • Proportionality concerns the need to balance the projected military gains of a possible action against its likely costs, especially the extent of the incidental harm it might cause to the civilian population;
  • It will be said that Coalition troops and their Afghan supporters will have fought and died in vain unless a humane, democratic regime is created.

As the bishops have said, "We must be wary that the outstretched hand of peace is not turned into an iron fist of war. Approval by the U.

Security Council or some other form of international sanction for humanitarian interventions can provide a procedural safeguard to guard against abuse. In the case of Iraq, humanitarian intervention has already taken place, at least insofar as the international community has provided a safe haven for the Kurds, who were victims of a genocidal campaign in 1988 that included the use of weapons of mass destruction. Those still under the Iraqi government's control face gross human rights abuses, especially if they oppose the regime, but those abuses do not meet the high threshold that should be required for military intervention to overthrow a government.

A fourth justification for military force is based on a material breach of the cease-fire resolutions. One would have to consider the nature of the breach e. The bishops have not addressed this question in their statements to date, in part, because of their prudential judgment that resuming inspections provides a better, less harmful and potentially more effective alternative to using force to enforce UN resolutions.

They have, however, urged that a distinction be made between forceful "efforts to change unacceptable behavior of [Iraq] and efforts to end that government's existence. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has developed a widely-discussed proposal for coercive inspections — i. While this proposal is based on the assumption that the threat to overthrow the regime is necessary to ensure Iraqi compliance with UN resolutions,21 it is also possible that threats of overthrow might complicate such efforts.

It would be easier to justify coercive inspections if they were aimed at disarming Iraq, not overthrowing the regime; if they were approved by the UN Security Council; if they did not simply punish Iraq but had a reasonable chance of eliminating its weapons of mass destruction and ensuring Iraqi compliance with its obligations; and if they were designed to avoid and limit harm to civilians.

In addition to raising strong concerns about dramatically expanding just cause to justify war against Iraq, the Bishops have questioned the wisdom of acting unilaterally. The Vatican has been especially insistent that any use of force should take place within the framework of the United Nations after considering the consequences for Iraqi civilians, and regional and global stability.

First, if the United States is truly upholding the credibility of the UN, it can scarcely ignore the UN's own decisions about how to enforce its own resolutions. Second, international sanction provides necessary checks and balances, especially given the troubling precedent involved in the world's only superpower proposing to use preventive force to overthrow other regimes. Third, the success of any effort to rebuild Iraq after a conflict and the success of the wider war on terrorism will require the support of Arab states, our allies and morality of war in afghanistan and iraq essay in the international community.

Finally, the cosmopolitan ethic underlying the just war tradition presumes that nations have an obligation to help build up the international institutions that would make war between states less of a tragic necessity in international affairs.

To ignore widespread international opposition and act unilaterally in Iraq would further contribute to a perception of U. Probability of success and proportionality. The use of force must have "serious prospects for success" and "must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated" Catechism, 2309.

  • Third, good morality is realistic, and there are realistic ways to deal with this hard case of Iraq short of a major war or a radical change in just war doctrine, particularly given the paucity of available evidence that the nature of the threat has changed significantly in recent years;
  • In fact, this is essentially the approach the Bush administration is following in response to what it acknowledges is a similar but more immediate threat from North Korea.

In their November statement, the bishops "recognize that not taking military action could have its own negative consequences. Therefore, they raise a number of questions. Would preventive force succeed in thwarting serious threats or, instead, provoke the very kind of attacks that it is intended to prevent?

How many more innocent people would suffer and die, or be left without homes, without basic necessities, without work? Would the United States and the international community commit to the arduous, long-term task of ensuring a just peace or would a post-Saddam Iraq continue to be plagued by civil conflict and repression, and continue to serve as a destabilizing force in the region?

Would the use of military force lead to wider conflict and instability? According to James Turner Johnson, the bishops' questions reflect a form of utilitarianism that is not consistent with the just war tradition's emphasis on just cause, legitimate authority and right intention. He contends that this focus on the negative consequences — "worst-case scenarios" — distorts just war reasoning and reinforces the inappropriate replacement of the just war tradition's presumption against injustice with a presumption against war.

But Johnson's minimizing of the significance of consequences is difficult to understand.

As Drew Christiansen argues, "[a]ny theory of justice must accommodate diverse goods and evilsbenefits and burdens, rights and duties. It is not the role of religious leaders or the just war tradition, however, to encourage a permissive attitude toward war on the part of decision-makers who, in seeking to justify war, are already tempted to adopt the most optimistic scenarios about the likely consequences.

If moral analysis is realistic about the need to use force as a last resort to deal with injustice, it is equally realistic about the consequences of doing so, especially given the sad history of civilian suffering, unintended consequences, and failed efforts to achieve greater justice and peace as a result of war. The burden of proof is on those who would justify war to make a convincing case that it would not result in the unintended and untoward consequences that so often accompany modern war and that could well be the result of war against Iraq.

  • Weakening the constraints of just cause;
  • A third basis for justifying force is humanitarian intervention;
  • It is also symptomatic of how difficult it is to defend against such evil.

A war against Iraq could exemplify two countervailing developments in modern warfare. On the one hand, the wars waged by the United States in recent years are, with some exceptions, the most discriminate in recent history in terms of the intent and capacity to avoid the direct targeting of civilians.

This is a significant moral achievement. On the other hand, war in Iraq could continue the trend of the past fifty years in which civilians have increasingly been the principal victims of war. The United States is threatening the use of nuclear weapons in response to any Iraqi use of WMD26 and is likely to use anti-personnel landmines and cluster bombs, neither of which can distinguish between civilians and soldiers.

Its rules of engagement in recent wars have effectively reversed the duty of care owed civilians in the name of zero- U. Just as prominent voices called for taking off the "kid gloves" with respect to "collateral damage" in Afghanistan given the nature of the al Qaeda threat, one surely will hear the same calls given the nature of an Iraq armed with WMD.

If the experience in the Gulf War, Kosovo, and Afghanistan are any indication, the greatest risk to civilians, according to Human Rights Watch, will be from the Iraqi army, which is likely to lash out at Shiite and Kurdish minorities, and from these political opponents of Saddam seeking retribution against his Sunni supporters.

So What Can Be Done? If Iraq is a hard case that must be dealt with, yet going to war to overthrow the Iraqi regime is morally problematic, absent clear and adequate evidence of Iraqi involvement in the September 11th attacks or a grave and imminent Iraqi threat, what is to be done? If the burden is on those advocating war to justify it morally, the credibility of those opposing war depends on their ability to provide a realistic alternative. There are never easy or perfect answers to hard cases, morality of war in afghanistan and iraq essay a strengthening of current efforts at enforcement, containment, and deterrence would seem to be more realistic than resorting to war, with all its troubling precedents and potentially negative consequences.