America’s War


Just Wars or just wars?: An Assessment of America’s Wars


Why would it matter if wars are Just or not if, regardless, soldiers and innocent civilians alike will still die? Those who argue along this line may want to ask themselves if they believe there are moral differences between murdering innocent people and having to kill others in order to defend loved ones and ourselves. Or, if there is a difference between sending our troops abroad to kill and be killed–in order to conquer lands and pillage others’ resources on the one hand–and having to engage in warfare to protect our well-being and our security on the other.

In the era of terrorism, what would distinguish us from terrorists if not the reasons and motives behind our opting for war and how we fight those wars? Should we follow the old adage, “America, love it or leave it,” projecting the view that America can do no wrong? As if our leaders were infallible or as if we as a collective group possess an inherent sense of justice and fairness that prevents us from ever making serious political mistakes?

Believing, as we do, that we are a nation founded on moral values, shouldn’t there be criteria that would help our leaders and citizens decide on the morality of wars? The Just War doctrine has been around for centuries. Initially a set of moral postulates elaborated within a Christian-based framework to limit military action, the Just War doctrine has given us many of the principles of international relations under which world affairs are conducted today.

In the first part, Criteria for a Just War, I have sought to reword the basic aspects of this concept, seeking to anchor it to traditional Christian values with the understanding that a religious faith is not necessary to follow its precepts. Independent of its religious elements, the Just War criteria is based on a set of political values and large doses of common sense Realism. The Just War criteria is then used in a discussion of our current wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the war on terror in the chapter Just Wars or just wars? as well as in the analysis of the war on terror and the Middle East conflict in the last section on Foreign Affairs.