View Full Version : - The War is Just -

abu afak
03-08-2003, 02:24 PM
March 7, 2003, 12:40 p.m.
The War Is Just
The president’s decision.

By Douglas W. Kmiec

The world is on the brink of war. Justifiably so.

Notwithstanding the urging of the Holy Father for peace, war with Iraq seems increasingly likely. The president of the United States also believes it is just. Without the ability to perfectly predict future events, no one can say otherwise.

The dilemma of weighing unquestioned threat against unknown attack cannot be wished away. 9/11 established that. Do we trust the leader of the free world and his assessment of intelligence or the obstinate and arbitrary will of a despot who at any moment seems more than willing to share unaccounted-for weapons of mass destruction with those who, by word and deed, have already set out to destroy America?

In the classic Catholic position on just war articulated centuries ago by Augustine and Aquinas, the strict, moral duty to maintain the security of others is placed squarely upon the designated leadership of one's own nation. President Bush is accountable for our security, the United Nations is not. With all due respect to Cardinal Laghi, the Vatican envoy who visited with the president earlier this week, the legality and justice of this war does not depend upon the view of the Security Council, which has never had the direct responsibility of our continued well being.

That President Bush understands the full weight of this obligation was plainly evident in his press conference. "My job is to protect America, and that's exactly what I'm going to do," he said. "People can ascribe all kinds of intentions, [but] I swore to protect and defend the Constitution." Indeed, his duty arguably transcends constitutional document, originating in the Great Commandment, itself. One manifests love of neighbor, after all, by protecting the innocent and their families from imminent and grave attack. While the imminence of terrorist assault by nerve gas, biological toxins, dirty bombs, and the like is unknown, their gravity is not. The harms that would flow from the vast and easily transportable stockpiles of munitions Saddam Hussein has left unexplained are, as the president has said, "a direct threat."

Peace ought not be confused with appeasement. Only those insistent upon avoiding war at all cost — including the cost of freedom and continuing fear — can rationalize away the justness of America's need to respond to the previous deadly attacks and the continuing jihad.

This is why there is proper authority. Beyond the president's inherent constitutional responsibility to defend his citizens, Congress in this instance has unequivocally authorized the president to do so, by the terms of the ignored Gulf War armistice, the passage of force resolutions immediately after 9/11, and more recently and specifically with respect to Iraq's continued belligerent noncompliance.

There is also just cause — protecting the lives of innocents from weapons of mass destruction is surely that. And finally, there is right intention — notwithstanding scurrilous commentary, this is not an "oil war"; our abundant strategic petroleum reserve and only modest reliance upon Middle Eastern natural resources dispel this myth.

True, the interrelationship between al Qaeda and Saddam remains obscure. But that is the nature of asymmetrical warfare. Host states secretly foster the actions of terrorists, much in the same way organized crime lingers behind the common street thug or drug pusher. If Osama sat overtly in Saddam's chair, we would already be engaged. Osama may think himself more religiously pure than Saddam, but a thug is a thug, whether his motive is venal or fanatically religious. The president — much in the way Augustine would have envisioned — has made his case that the peace can only be restored through preparations for war. It is up to Saddam whether it is fought.

This is not to elide the inescapably hard questions of proportionality and prudence concerning whether the good to be achieved by war outweighs its evils (including the further destabilization of the Middle East or a spike in terrorist suicides against human life here or abroad). But hard questions aren't resolved either by naive or self-serving platitudes from diplomats or even the heartfelt homilies of bishops. A dozen years of international noncompliance, the loss of life to terrorist hands, and the immensity of the evil capable of being fostered by Saddam suggest that if the president believes this is the right time to act, we should.."