Just War

Theologically speaking,

Are the wars in Iraq and Afganistan Just Wars?

No war is just. Mennonite stance…"The regenerated do not go to war nor engage in strife. They are the children of peace who have beaten their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and know of no war… Since we are to be conformed to Christ, how can we then fight our enemies with the sword?:"Menno Simons

Quaker stance…“We utterly deny all outward wars and strife and fightings with outward weapons, for any end, or under any pretence whatsoever; and this is our testimony to the whole world. The spirit of Christ, by which we are guided, is not changeable, so as once to command us from a thing as evil and again to move unto it; and we do certainly know, and so testify to the world, that the spirit of Christ, which leads us into all Truth, will never move us to fight and war against any man with outward weapons, neither for the kingdom of Christ, nor for the kingdoms of this world.” "

Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states in Chapter 11:

500. A war of aggression is intrinsically immoral. In the tragic case where such a war breaks out, leaders of the State that has been attacked have the right and the duty to organize a defence even using the force of arms. To be licit, the use of force must correspond to certain strict conditions: “the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave and certain; all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective; there must be serious prospects of success; the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition. These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the ‘just war’ doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good”.

Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have voiced their opposition to the Iraq and Afghan wars. Still, the matter involves prudential judgment and a legitimate diversity of
opinion may arise. As Pope Benedict himself said as then Prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in one of his private pastoral letters:


3. Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.

I think it is interesting that people confuse what any given Pope thinks vs what is actual Catholic Dogma.

There is no such thing as a just war, however a nation has a right to defend itself from those who would attack them or harbour those who attack them, so Afghanistan can be morally justified, Iraq notsomuch.

However each soldier fighting in a war, no matter what side he is on, is personally responsible before God for his own actions, no one gets a free pass.

Peace and blessings,
wow thats a hot potato.

I think you would need to first ask can war be just, many will say no.

I say yes if just is meaning justice that would say yes. G-d works through men and G-d gives and entitles us to justice. an eye for an eye as people say.

But we also know G-d is slow to anger and very merciful to us so we are to be the same to others. That is we do better to be merciful than enforce justice.

Now you speak of two different wars. Neither of which i have access to the truth on my government and others that were involved dont inform us the people of a pure truth. Our sources of information are objective driven.

I despise war more today then war of old so many non combatants are killed.

I would consider war could be justified today if your country was invaded by a foreign force and in other situations maybe.

Bless you thanks for encouraging me to think this through.

But Iraqis are free now from Sadam’s dictatorship…( I think that is more than enough to justify it).

well lets see my friend. no one being put through plastic chippers, no more rape rooms, no more mass killings of civilians. agriculture on the rise. a more democratic form of government taking shape, industry on the rise. standard of living somewhat better. money actually going to more outlying areas instead of staying in bagdad. families no longer living in fear of a brutal tyrant, who would torture and kill people just for amusement. i would have to say what we have done in Iraq, is not only Moral theologically, but righteous. and we are not quite done yet. reguardless what the media is telling you. also i getting some school supplies and activity books for the kids here. remember. Germany didnt attack us either. but no-one argues that what we did to that brutal regime was not moral. they deserved what they got. Peace :slight_smile:

How is that justification for the war though? Are you saying the United States has a moral imperative to overthrow every dictatorship? Is war automatically just if one side is a dictatorship?

I don’t think such questions enter into the idea of justification, particularly when the freedom of the people was never part of the casus belli.

To start with your last point, Germany declared war on the United States first. :wink:

As for your claims, those are all relatively recent (and oftentimes subjective) statements. What was done to get there though required more of the same. In essence you’re saying the End justified the means. Additionally, as I pointed out in my previous post you are setting up a system where you now have a moral imperative to act as you have everywhere. If it was moral theologically to interfere in Iraq, then it is immoral, theologically to leave Iran, China, Russia, Sudan, etc. alone.

However as I already said, none of that was the cause for war, and the casus belli cannot itself be defended under those grounds as “just”, certainly the United States, and indeed all its allies in the war, need to stay in until there is stability, but that is the occupation, not the war, and whether the end results of the occupation may result in some type of justice, the war itself was not.

We can think to overthrow a dictator is justification but is it?

What do your holy books say? G-d respects or does not respect personages?

If one seeks to justify war it should not be by the disposing of an unjust leader but to dispose suffering of people.

Who decides how many innocents should die to end the suffering of others?

How many innocents died from the war in Iraq? are the people of Iraq now free of suffering?

Heavy is the burden on those who justify the war in Iraq especially now with the benefit of hind sight.

If where you live there is suffering would you justify me using deadly force with an aspiration to end suffering where you live. If there is suffering where i live would you trust i have the answer?

Who lives where there is no suffering.

For those who take Yeshua (pbwh) as their king god or G-d did / does he teach you deadly force is what he calls you to or does he encourage you to bring healing to the world?

What you justify you could be blessed to be given.
What blessing do you want to end suffering where you live?

That is the good part but can we call it ‘just’ considering the huge number of deaths of innocent people especially women and children? If you consider just the purpose then you may say the war was just but considering the outcome, No war is just!

I don’t think death tolls can be used in deciding whether a war is just or not, reducing war to numbers only serves to make it pointless, and a pointless war cannot be just (now if you want to argue there is no such thing as just war, that is another matter).

WWII had more casualties, civilian and otherwise, than either Afghanistan or Iraq, it was the allies (France and Britain) who declared that war, were they acting unjustly, based solely on numbers?

My point was when innocents of a country die at the hands of foreign invaders it is not justified. if numbers dont count then is 1 unjust dictator is ruling a country it is justified to kill all people in that country. Injustice will be stopped. But at what cost?

The countries that invaded Iraq were not invaded. The people oppressed by the regime there did not have control of the invasion. I thought i covered this in my earlier post.

The latter part of my last post was IMO very important and your post does not refer to those points.

I agree reducing war to numbers is pointless if you have to defend yourself you will, in aspiration to end suffering.

Invading forces reduce wars to numbers. Invading forces give up on “liberating” people by numbers, as you say pointless for the objective they aspired to.

G-d bless you and yours

So your argument is that war cannot possibly be just?

It is a valid position, I just want to clarify that it is your position.

Lots of nonsense and “feelings” and opinions above on this matter.

The main rational principles to test whether a war is justly fought or not can be remembered by the word PLAID.

I learned this acronym in the Marine Corps, interestingly enough.

The order of the letters isn’t quite lined up right…so bear with me.

Intent: What is a country’s intent in deciding to go to war. self-defense, protection of the larger population, to right an injustice (e.g., taking of land not duly owned), to prevent further or greater loss of life.

Authority to act: What’s the legal authority to act…UN resolutions, act of congress, organization of Arab States, etc. What are the bases of authority?

Last Resort: Have other measures to address the matter failed, repeatedly failed, made no effect at all on the aggressor. Is it likely that other half measures won’t make a difference…

Proportionate measures used in fighting. No nukes against mere border incursions, for example.

Discrimination of combatants vs. non combatants: What tactical control measures are in place to minimize civilian casualties.

fwiw, I fought in Iraq twice (including Fallujah, Nov 2004). I saw the great care that we put in to fighting that clearing operation in a just manner. I KNOW what was done. To see some of the nonsense peddled above makes me realize how foolish some people are in this regard…to hold such naive, idealistic positions, unwashed with facts.

The idea that a war cannot be Just is not a valid one. If one beleives in an objective morality, then Just War is is a valid. Particularly for Catholics! The idea that the Just War doctrine is fallacious lies within the realm of Moral Relativity.

The Catholic Catechism at 2308 states -

All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. However, “as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed.”

In the context of the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the targets are the terrorists who have themselves targeted Western nations. The US saw the aim of these soldiers of Islam when they destroyed the Twin Towers. This ideologically backed terror campaign has been waged for a long time before 9/11 and it still continues. Terrorist plots have very recently been foiled in the US and Australia. It is an ongoing problem. A persistent problem. To conduct countet attacks, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan ocurred. The aim was to destroy the terrorists capabilities. Because the battle field is in a foreign land does not detract from the right of a nation who is trying to defend itself. If innocents are killed, then that is not the intention of the defending nations and does not detract from the morality of the defense.

The Catechism at 2309 tells us -

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time: - the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
    These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.
    The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

Note the part I have underlined. It calls for serious consideration regarding the moral legitimacy of the war. The safety and welfare of the citizens of threatened nations is the paramount consideration of the elected governments. If they fail that duty, then they have no moral authority whatsoever. Considering the attacks that have taken place in the US, England, India and Europe and foiled attacks in Australia and other places, the governments of those nations are duty bound to protect their citizens from the threat of living under the fear of terrorist attack. 2309 also tells us the threat may be to the community of nations and in the case of terrorism it most certainly is a shared threat.

A Just War implies that the notion of Justice within the boundaries of a nation should be exercised outside the boundaries of that nation to preserve what is within. In western nations justice underpins how the societies operate, function and deliver certainty of outcomes between their citizens. The notion of Justice means fairness and equity and an appeal to good conscience. A government of such a society would be failing its citizens if it abbrogated the notion of Justice when threatened by an aggressor. Justice should be used to protect its citizens. If that protection requires that war be waged to afford that protection, then by definition, the war is Just. Justice in western societies is partly constituted by the requirement that the perpetrators of aggression be captured, tried and punsihed. It is a part of the Criminal Law in western societies. Therefore, the extension of internal Justice requires that a government capture, try and punsih those who would harm its citizens. To not extend the reach of the notion of Justice outside the boundaries of the society threatened is to suspend the belief system which underpins that very society.

Stepping outside the specific dictates of the Catholic Church, we can see that the notion of Justice is a universal doctrine which is part of Natural Law. It is written into the Constitutions and Laws of many western nations. It gives certainty in economic and social circumstances and therefore safety and security when dealing with fellow citizens. To not to have to live in fear is a natural right and it is the duty of any elected government to make certain that its citizens do not live in fear. The notion of Justice therefore demands that it be extended outsiode the boundaries of a nation when the citizens right to living free from fear have been violated. If it means that war must be waged to facilitate this, then that war is Just, because it is underpinned by the objectivity of the Natural Law right to freedom from oppression, of which fear is a part.

That would be the definition under International Law, but since we are dealing with the concept of “justice” we are entering into the philosophical, which is something which can’t define by law very easily.
As already said it is intent and authority that would stop me from labeling Iraq a “just war”, I’m curious what you have in that regards?

Neither myself, nor the person I was addressing is a Catholic, so what the Catholic Church says is irrelevant. The accusation that disbelief in Just War Theory is Moral Relativity is also wrong, believing that war is always wrong is certainly not being relativistic, if anything someone who believes such may well use the relativity argument against you.
If one believes in an objective morality, and that killing is always wrong, then certainly they will not believe in such a thing as Just War. You’re the one who is saying killing is ok, under these circumstances… very relativistic of you.

Further, as I’ve already stated my own belief in Just War (distinguishing between two wars), your post is ill aimed. I’m simply trying to figure out where someone stands on the issue of war.

No that is not my position we were discussing a particular conflict.

G-d is justice and allows humans to have justice.

If you come into my house and attack me i am allowed to attack you, its the law.

But with Yeshua (pbwh) as my king i understand that mercy is better for us all.

So yes war can be just.

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