Just War And Iraq

Michael Novak attempts to reconcile just war theory with a war in Iraq. His argument follows that since the forthcoming conflict in Iraq is an extension of the 1991 operations, the just war justifications of that war are still in effect. If that seems logically dicey (and there’s a good argument to be had in that), he also argues that the new reality of assymetrical warfare changes the justifications for a just war. As Novak states:

Somewhere between 0 and 10, in other words, there already is a probability of Saddam’s deadly weapons falling into al Qaeda’s willing hands. (There are also other branches of the international terror network). Reasonable observers can disagree about whether that risk is at 2 or 4 or 8. But this much is clear: Those who judge that the risk is low, and therefore allow Saddam to remain in power, will bear a horrific responsibility if they guessed wrong, and acts of destruction do occur.

That’s a point that needs to be stressed with great strength. We can assume that Saddam’s weapons won’t get into the hands of terrorists – but if they do millions of people die. It is immoral to wager so many lives on a conclusion that is that tenous.

We live in age were scouts cannot see armies mounting on our frontiers. Rather, the doctrines of assymetrical warfare and international terrorism involve horrific strikes against civilian targets with little or no warning. Against those odds, both caution and morality strongly warn against waiting for such a cataclysm before taking action.

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