|Religion and Disaster Part III: Justice and a Just War
November 9, 2001
This is the third installment of American Public Radio’s Speaking of Faith‘s three-part “Religion and Disaster” series.
|Just-war theory was set in motion in the 5th century as St. Augustine agonized over how to reconcile Christianity’s high ethical ideals with the devastating world realities which were bringing about the fall of Rome. For 1,600 years, theologians, ethicists, diplomats, and political leaders have drawn on this tradition, refined it, and employed its key questions: When is it permissible to wage war? And how might our ethical and religious foundations place limits on the ways we wage war?In this program, we explore three varied perspectives on how such questions are alive and evolving today, and how they might inform our approach to the conflict in Afghanistan and the peace we would like to achieve beyond it.Guests
Jean Bethke Elshtain is Laura Spelman Rockefeller professor of social and political ethics at the University of Chicago. She is a renowned political theorist, with a special interest in the morality of war, whose counsel is sought by seminaries, military academies, and national political leaders. Her publications include Women and War; Augustine and the Limits of Politics; The Just War Theory; and Who are We? Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities.John Paul Lederach is a leading Mennonite theologian/activist who pioneered the adaptation of his tradition’s pacifist “theology of involvement” into regions of deep and intractable violence across the world. He is professor of peacebuilding at the Joan B. Kroc Institute of International Peace Studies at Notre Dame University and a distinguished scholar at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Michael Orange is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and author of Fire in the Hole. Raised Catholic and patriotic, he left his studies at Kent State University to fight in Vietnam. His book is the culmination of long reflection on the reality and the morality of war, with relevance both to the war he entered in 1968 and the conflict we have entered now.
• Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life: Find religious responses to Sept. 11 and the full transcript of a just-war symposium including Jean Bethke Elshtain, Stanley Hauerwas, and James Turner Johnson.
• America, a national Catholic weekly magazine, includes editorials on the nation’s response to Sept. 11 from leading Catholic just-war thinkers.
• Christianity Today online has followed the faith dimension of the American response to Sept. 11, including just-war arguments as well as reports from and about Pacifist Christian traditions.
• Deny Them Their Victory is a statement signed by more than 1000 representatives of a broad spectrum of the U.S. religious community. It was developed in consultation with Jewish, Muslim, and Christian clergy, and circulated for signature beginning Sept. 12 by the Rev. Jim Wallis, Call to Renewal, and Sojourners; Dr. Robert W. Edgar, National Council of Churches; the Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, Reformed Church of America; Rabbi David Saperstein, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism; and Dr. Ron Sider, Evangelicals for Social Action.
• Conflict Transformation Program at Eastern Mennonite University: Read analytical papers on Sept. 11, including an essay by John Paul Lederach, “The Challenge of Terror: A Travelling Essay.”
• Augustine and the Limits of Politics (University of Notre Dame Press, 2000)
• Just War Theory (Ed.) (New York University Press, 1992)
• Who are We?: Critical Reflections and Hopeful Possibilities (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000)
• But Was it Just?: Reflections on the Morality of the Persian Gulf War (Doubleday, 1992)
• Religion in American Public Life: Living with our Deepest Differences (W. W. Norton & Company, 2001)
Books by John Paul Lederach
• From the Ground Up: Mennonite Contributions to International Peacebuilding. (Oxford University Press, 2000)
• Fire in the Hole: A Mortarman in Vietnam, by Michael Orange (iUniverse.com, 2001)
• Just and Unjust Wars: A Moral Argument With Historical Illustrations, by Michael Walzer (Basic Books, 2000)
From the Pew Trust Just War Symposium:
Just War Tradition and the New War on Terrorism
Friday, October 5, 2001
A discussion with:
Jean Bethke Elshtain, Professor, University of Chicago and Co-chair, Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life
Stanley M. Hauerwas, Professor, Duke Divinity School
James Turner Johnson, Professor, Rutgers University
MS. ROGERS: Good afternoon. My name is Melissa Rogers. I am executive director of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The Forum serves as a clearinghouse of information and as a town hall on issues at the intersection of religion and public affairs. The Forum is supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts and we are grateful that Kimon Sargeant of The Trusts could be with us today. The co-chairs of the Forum are E.J. Dionne, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist at the Washington Post, and Jean Bethke Elshtain, the Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics at the University of Chicago. We are so pleased that Jean could be with us today – I’ll say a bit more about Professor Elshtain in just a moment.
It has come to my attention that, quite unintentionally, we have scheduled this event during a Muslim prayer time. Apparently this conflict has prevented some of our Muslim friends from joining us today. I appreciate the fact that someone brought this to my attention and apologize for the schedule conflict.
I know that we all share the deep sadness of fellow Americans over the incalculable losses suffered through the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the wake of these attacks, we are facing a host of critical issues, and, of course, religion has much to say about these issues. Today we discuss the just war tradition, its origins and principles and the ways in which it might apply to a war on terrorism.
We are fortunate to have speakers today who are three distinguished scholars on the topic of ethics and the use of military force. Each of them is a prolific and critically acclaimed author on this subject, as well as many others. There is really no way to do justice to their reputations and the breadth of their knowledge and writing in just a few moments. So please know that all I can do is give you just the barest glimpse of their work. I want to say a special word of thanks to each of them as we start, because this period is a very busy period in their lives and in so many lives, and we are grateful that they’ve taken time to travel to be with us and to discuss this most important issue.
First I’d like to introduce Professor Elshtain. As I mentioned, she is one of the co-chairs of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and we’re quite proud of her leadership for the organization. She is author of “Augustine and the Limits of Politics.” She has edited a volume entitled “Just War Theory” and authored another book called “New Wine In Old Bottles: International Politics, an Ethical Discourse.”
She is a member of the Social Science Research Council of the Committee on International Peace and Security. And in a moment she will join us to discuss the origins, background and basic principles of the Just war theory. Her friend and colleague Michael Walzer calls her a truly independent, deeply serious, politically engaged and wonderfully provocative political theorist. And those of you who know Jean’s work I’m sure heartily agree.
Next we’ll hear from Professor Stanley Hauerwas. Professor Hauerwas is the Gilbert T. Rowe professor of theological ethics in the Divinity School and professor of law at Duke University. His works include “The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics.” He and Jean Elshtain have collaborated in the past on a work called “But Was It Just? Reflections on the Morality of the Persian Gulf War.”
He has vigorously defended pacifism and pacifism’s perspective on this issue. For those of you who are familiar with Professor Hauerwas’ work, you may appreciate William Cavanagh’s observation about Professor Hauerwas. Cavanagh said, and I quote: “Indeed, of all the great Christian pacifists over the centuries, Hippolytus, Francis of Assisi, Martin Luther King, Stanley Hauerwas is the one I would want on my side in a bar fight.”
What more can we say?
Finally, Professor James Turner Johnson will join us in discussion. Professor Johnson is a professor of religion and associate member of the Graduate Department of Political Science at Rutgers University. His books on this subject include “Just War Tradition” and “The Restraint of War,” “Can Modern War Be Just?” and “Cross, Crescent and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition.”
He is co-editor of the Journal of Military Ethics and former general editor of the Journal on Religious Ethics. Professor William O’Brien has praised Professor Johnson as someone who is particularly gifted in his ability to apply the Just war doctrine to evolving dilemmas of contemporary deterrence and defense.
So I welcome all our speakers. I will ask Jean Elshtain to join us first, and then we will welcome your joining into the discussion. Thank you very much for being with us today.
PROFESSOR JEAN BETHKE ELSHTAIN: Good afternoon and thank you very much, Melissa. And it’s good to be joined by two esteemed friends and colleagues in Professors Hauerwas and Johnson. You heard what my task is, so I think that I ought to just begin because it’s going to take me a little bit of time to sketch some of the fundamental features of the just war tradition, especially with reference to the current crisis.
From President George W. Bush to the average man and woman on the street, Americans are evoking the language of justice to characterize our response to the despicable deeds perpetrated against innocent men, women and children on September 11th. When they do this, they tap into a complex tradition called Just war. The origins of the just war tradition are usually traced to St Augustine’s fourth century masterwork “The City of God.” In that text, Augustine grapples with the undeniable fact that Christian teaching challenges violence. He comes to the conclusion that wars of aggression and aggrandizement are never acceptable, but there are occasions when resort to force may be tragically necessary; not a normative good, but tragically necessary. What then makes the use of force justifiable? For Augustine, the most potent justification is to protect the innocent, and the innocent in the scheme of things are those in no position to defend themselves, to protect them from certain harm.
If one has compelling evidence that harm will come to persons unless action involving coercive force is taken, a requirement of neighbor love may be a resort to arms. Self-defense is trickier. According to Augustine, it is better for the Christian to suffer harm rather than to commit it. But are we permitted to make that commitment to non- self-defense for others? I would say not.
The upshot of Augustine’s reflections, refined over time, is that a primary rule for those committed to just war is non-combatant immunity, or the so-called principle of discrimination, meaning that non-combatants must not be the intended targets of violence. A further implication is that a carefully worked out act of terror against non-combatants of one’s own country is an injury that demands a response. That response involves just punishment, not in order to inflict grievous harm on the non-combatants of a country or a group whose operatives have harmed your citizens, but to interdict in order to prevent further harm and to punish those responsible for the harm that has already occurred. And this, of course, takes place in a world that international relations theorists called a world of self-help. That is, there’s absolutely no guarantee that anybody else is going to do this for you. So it’s an obligation of government to respond. And in responding in a way that abides by certain limits, one reaffirms a world of moral responsibility and justice.
When a wound as grievous as that of September 11 has been inflicted on a body politic, it would be irresponsible, it would be a dereliction of duty, it would be a flight from the serious vocation of politics to fail to respond. The Christian tradition also tells us that government is instituted by God. This does not mean that every government and every public official is godly, but rather that he or she is charged with a solemn responsibility for which there is a divine warrant.
A political ethic that flows from this responsibility is precisely one that emphasizes not absolute ends, to go back to Max Weber’s classic essay on politics as a vocation, but precisely the responsibility to tend to a common good, to tend to the safety, peace and security of one’s citizens.
Now, the just war tradition offers a way to exercise that responsibility. It attempts to steer a course between, on the one hand, the sort of anything goes ethic of realpolitik, often associated with thinkers like Machiavelli and Hobbes. But the just war tradition rejects as well an effort that forswears action, if that action commits the country to the use of armed force in a responsible and limited way.
Now, in the immediate aftermath of the events of 9/11, I said to a friend in conversation, “Now we are reminded of what governments are for.” It made the debates about which prescription drug plan is better than another seem, I mean not utterly unimportant, but it put it in a certain perspective, let’s say. None of the goods human beings cherish, including the free exercise of religion, can flourish absent a measure of civic peace and security. If evil is permitted to grow, good goes into hiding. Evildoers that lurk and plot in darkness and secret, that operate stealthily and that refuse to accept responsibility for wrongdoing, perpetrate harm beyond the immediate violent event. It is they who try to force good into hiding.
Now, what “good” do I have in mind? The simple but profound good that is moms and dads raising their children, men and women going to work, citizens of a great city making their way on streets and subways, ordinary people buying airplane tickets in order to visit the grandkids in California, men and women en route to transact business with colleagues in other cities, the faithful attending their churches, synagogues and mosques without fear.
Make no mistake about it. This quotidian idea, this basic civic peace — tranquilitas ordinis it’s called in the tradition — is a great good. It is not, of course, the peace of the kingdom promised by scripture. That awaits the end time. Beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, a world in which nations shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more, is a vision connected with certain conditions, as Kenneth Anderson reminds us in a recent articles in The Times Literary Supplement. For the prophet tells us that the condition of eschatological peace is one in which the Lord’s house has been established everywhere, and all go up to the mountain of the Lord, for out of Zion shall go forth the law and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. So it assumes a kind of unity of order and the rule, a singular rule of a law that applies to all of that distinction. Well, we are not there yet, to put it mildly. As Martin Luther observed, if the lion lies down with the lamb, the lamb must be replaced frequently.
The ordinary civic peace that horrific violence disrupts and attempts to destroy offers intimations of eschatological peace and is a good to be cherished and not to make light of. It is a good we charge our public officials with maintaining. If we live from day to day in fear of deadly attack, the other goods that we cherish become difficult. Human beings are fragile creatures. We cannot reveal the fullness of our being, including our deep sociality, if airplanes are flying into buildings and cities become piles of rubble, composed in part of the mangled bodies of victims. We can neither take the civic peace for granted, as we have learned so shockingly, nor shake off our responsibility for helping to respect and to promote the norms and rules whose enforcement is constitutive of civic peace.
Saint Augustine taught us that we should not spurn worldly vocations, including — and his famous example is the vocation of the judge; tragic because he or she can never know with absolute certainty whether punishment is being meted out to the guilty and not the innocent. But we depend on judges and on others to uphold a world of responsibility; a world in which people are not permitted to devour one another like fishes, in Augustine’s pithy phrase.
Now, public officials are charged with protecting a people. As those extraordinary firemen in New York City said simply, “It’s my job. It’s my job.” The same holds for our military, operating within the limits I have just very briefly sketched. It’s their job. These are our sons and daughters. This is their right authority, or what they do. The job they do flows from right authority; another vital dimension of the just war tradition, right authority, and one aimed at limiting freelance opportunistic and individualistic violence.
So even as just war permits limited resort to arms, it challenges, as I’ve already indicated, the “anything goes” approach to violence. Now, responding justly to injustice is a tall order, for it means that it is better to risk the lives of one’s own combatants in certain situations than to intentionally kill non-combatants of the society with whom one is in conflict. It is often difficult to separate combatants from non-combatants, but one is obliged to try.
The restraints internal to the just war tradition encode the notion of limits to the use of force. Many of these rules and stipulations have been incorporated into various international agreements, including several Geneva conventions. During and after a conflict we assess the conduct of a war fighting nation by how its soldiers, its warriors conducted themselves. Did they rape and pillage? Were they under careful rules of engagement, or was it a free-for-all? Was every attempt made to limit civilian casualties, knowing that in time of war civilians are invariably going to fall in harm’s way?
I think we are obliged not to respond simply cynically to this attempt to limit the damage that is done. It’s a very important attempt, a vital attempt, and one that our military has, certainly since the restructuring of the military since the Vietnam War, taken up. That is, pains have been taken to underscore the codes of ethics that derive from the just war tradition in our military academies and in the training of our Army, our Marines, our Navy and our Air Force.
Indeed, it is my impression talking to students, looking at the curricula of institutions, that no group in the country pays more attention to this question of the restraint, ethical restraint on the use of force than does the United States military in its academies, in its training centers. That means we do not kill or threaten to kill nearly 6,000 civilians because that number of our own civilians have been murdered by perpetrators who scarcely deserve the name of either a soldier or a warrior. We put soldiers into combat rather than unleashing terrorists. The soldier puts himself at risk as surely as the firefighter.
Now, just punishment that I’ve been talking about, to seek out those who have perpetrated an evil deed and to punish, is very different from revenge. Revenge repudiates all limits. Just punishment observes restraints. The course thus far chartered by the administration is admirable in its complexity, its nuance and its restraint. The use of military force is planned, at least at this point, as one part of an overall strategy that involves, as you all know, decoding messages, cutting off money flows, and many other ways to go about dealing with this issue.
One sign that the President and his advisors are aware of the need for restraint is their renaming a mission that was first dubbed, as many of you know, Operation Infinite Justice, with a more modest name that does not suggest a utopian goal. And that was done almost immediately once the name was given. Another sign is the President’s repeated insistence that our response is not aimed at a whole people, a religion, an entire nation or a way of life, but is, instead, directed at those who drag their own people into harm’s way, defame their religion and perpetrate an ideology that has as its end the deaths of babies, people in wheelchairs, moms and dad, brothers and sisters, grandmas and grandpas, friends and colleagues going about their daily routines.
And why should they die? Simply because they are Americans? It didn’t matter if you were white or black, young or old, male or female, able-bodied or with a disability, gay or straight, Christian, Muslim or Jew. If you were in those buildings and you were an American, you were slated for death. The aim of terrorism — again, let’s make no mistake about it — is terror. The terrorists do not issue a set of demands. They do not say, “We’d like to negotiate about the following three points.” They simply murdered. That is why one does not negotiate. There is nothing to negotiate about if the end your opponent has stated clearly is your own complete obliteration. At some point the word breaks off and the call to responsible action begins.
This is an extraordinary moment in our nation’s history. On September 11 we sustained a greater loss of life in a single day than ever before in our history, easily topping the previous norm for a day of death, which was the Battle of Antietam. Americans tell us that they are prepared for this different kind of war. But as I’m sure you know, the numbers of those who support action, military action against terrorism begins to waiver when the question is put as to whether this force would be acceptable if innocent men, women and children in large numbers became victims. So you can see the public is making certain kinds of discriminations as well.
No war, as I’ve already indicated, can be fought without putting non-combatants in harm’s way. The American people favor doing everything possible to limit this damage. One reason this country wearied of the Vietnam War was the realization that fighting that war meant that we could not — given the nature of that war, could not distinguish combatants from non-combatants and that even without horrors like the My Lai massacre, our soldiers were put in the impossible position of regarding everyone without discrimination as the enemy. That is not the case here.
So respond we must, respond we shall. We must stop those who use civilians against other civilians by turning a great symbol of human freedom of movement, the commercial airplane, into a deadly bomb. If one abides by just war restrains, we will put our combatants in harm’s way to punish and interdict those who put our non-combatants in harm’s way and have no compunction about mass murder, and that is the burden of the just warrior.
In the dark days of Nazi terror, there was a brave young German theologian, known to many of you I hope and trust, named Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who had been moving toward pacifism, which was a rather remarkable thing for a German Lutheran under that era to be doing. And he committed himself to a conspiracy to assassinate Adolf Hitler, to “cut off the head of the snake,” as he put it. And he asked in his letters and papers from prison, “Who stands fast?” “Who stands fast?”
Bonhoeffer observed that the great evil that had appeared among the German people had played havoc with all our ethical concepts, and he was particularly severe in his criticism of those who, in his words, flee from public altercation into the sanctuary of private virtuousness. But anyone who does this must shut his mouth and his eyes to the injustice around him. Only at the cost of self-deception can he keep himself pure from the contamination arising from responsible action.
It is the vocation of those that we elect to carry the burden of political office that they must ongoingly deal in ways that most of us are spared from. Ongoingly deal with the problem of what’s called in the world of political theory the problem of dirty hands. There are times when there’re things that one must do that are not ethically pure, but they are ethically defensible given what is at stake, given the issues at hand, given what the alternatives are, obedient and responsible action. And one who cares about these, Bonhoeffer taught us, asks the following question. He doesn’t say, “How can I do the right thing?” The question is, “How is the coming generation to live?”
Now, we know what happens to people — and it’s with this I’m going to close. We know what happens to people who live day in and day out over a long period of time in pervasive fear, and it isn’t pretty. It invites lashing out. It invites isolation from a desire to protect oneself. It encourages over time harsh measures, and in this Thomas Hobbes was surely right. We simply cannot live as human beings if we live in constant fear of violent death. The International Criminal Court is not going to protect us from that or from other terrorist acts.
Last week my daughter and I found ourselves having this discussion. We found ourselves discussing the possible need for a family plan should there be a biological or chemical attack. Who would pick up the children, the grandchildren? This is something that Melissa Rogers and I were talking about, too – her responsibility for our staff here at the Pew Forum. Are there plans? Are there instructions from the CDC about what one should do?
It’s extraordinary to be having these kinds of conversations, certainly if you live in this country and simply assume that civic peace, if you will, that we can no longer assume. Who would pick up the children, the grandchildren? Where would we rendezvous? Are gas masks any protection? Should one discuss any of this with two five-year-olds and a seven-year-old, and already these children are drawing pictures of planes flying into buildings and asking what happens if grandma’s plane is hijacked? We reassure them, knowing that the correct answer is there is no more grandma.
Of course, we all must die one day but we are called to life. Christians are taught that their savior came that believers might have life and have it more abundantly. There are times when the call to live demands. It demands action against those claimed by death. I do not believe this is contrary to our tradition. I believe it is consistent with it and with the fact that believers are claimed by a god of mercy, who is also a god of justice.
PROFESSOR STANLEY M. HAUERWAS: I want to make candid a claim that was intrinsic to Jean’s defense of just war using Augustine that I think is not unimportant for these kinds of deliberations.
Oftentimes people assume that just war developed as a mode of reflection in the Christian tradition as an exception to the general position, the general Christian tradition of non-violence. There is some basis for that. I mean, why would you even have to come up with a justification for violence if, as a matter of fact, you assumed the priority of non-violence on the part of these people?
I mean, the Romans did not presume that non-violence was something they were called to, though the Stoics came up with certain kinds of views about how you could think about the justification of violence. So just war from this perspective is seen as a series of exceptions — the attempt to develop a series of exceptions against the general Christian presumption against violence.
The justification that Jean gave of just war is not a series of exceptions to non-violence, but rather assumes the priority of justice to non-violence. This is extremely important, I think, because justice names not self-defense but, as she so eloquently put it, the defense of the innocent. So you only want to use as much violence as is absolutely required to stop the attacker. And all “innocent” means there is they did not deserve the attack. They did not deserve the attack. It doesn’t mean they’re a baby or something like that.
Now, presupposing this is that in the world as we know it, we are never free from disorder. So just war assumes a world at war even if there is no violent conflict going on at this time. Just war presupposes that you never live in a world free of war. One of the crucial questions involved here is a question of historicity in terms of the kind of disorder that you’re actually finding in the world. It is one thing for the Roman Empire to think about the kinds of disorder it confronted. It’s quite another thing to think about the kind of disorder that now names the world of international nation-states. That is a new development.
And the question — and I mean Jean spoke, of course, of the political realism that has given the description of that world fundamentally as a balance of power. So you assume that some kind of balance of power names the order that is relatively tranquil. But then that raises the question of what do I mean when I say “justice?” Can you talk about justice and international order? Justice normally presupposes goods that can be named in common that therefore allow you to articulate what is just and unjust.
This indicates, I think, one of the great tensions in modern accounts of just war; namely, how do you square the ability to fight a war justly when, as a matter of fact, you presuppose an international arena in which justice no longer makes any sense? This was the great task of Paul Ramsey, who tried, as a matter of fact, to take a Niebuhrian account of political realism and wed it to just war. Whether that can be done or not still seems to me to be a deep question. And I’m more than willing to enter in as a pacifist into that project, because just war is clearly better than political realism. And so I certainly want to do that. I don’t pretend that that’s their problem. I need to take it on too.
Now, one of the implications, however, if just war is an account to produce justice, one of the implications of this view is that pacifists are not just confused, but we are deeply immoral. Because exactly to the extent that we refuse to take up the project of defending the innocent, then as the matter of fact we have betrayed a deep moral responsibility that shall be incumbent upon anyone; and in particular on the disciples of Jesus.
On this view, of course, the disciples should have rushed back to Galilee and gotten up the Galilean Liberation Front to save Jesus from being killed, because that death was clearly an unjust death. It is very interesting to ask how just war people narrate the scriptures on these grounds. It’s not a question of pacifists trying to preserve some kind of purity. Hell, I’m from Texas; purity was never an option.
Pacifist and just warrior alike, because of their commitments, will have to watch the innocent suffer for their convictions.
Well, murder can occur in war. I mean, that’s what the just warrior is committed to. And so do you call — does the fact that terrorist acts — I mean, the British blanket bombing in World War II, the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo, the firebomb raid on Tokyo, does that mean World War II must be described as something other than war, if war is an honorific term that distinguishes war from murder?
If, from a just war perspective, you can only describe war as just war, then you need to distinguish war from what is not a just war. I mean, what was the bombing of Yugoslavia we just did? What was that? Was that war on just war grounds? I’m interested, in particular, many people have said that just war somehow — or that there’s no one to declare war against in terms of the terrorist raid on the World Trade Center. And I wonder about how do they presuppose you can — I mean, of course, you need to declare a war where your enemy will know under what conditions they can surrender.
Now, is the mere fact that you are declaring war against a terrorist organization means that just war has somehow become unintelligible because you can only deal with state agencies? And you can see then how the point about history makes a difference here. In the Middle Ages there were no state agencies. There were kings and queens and they were sovereign. So the very idea that you have a bureaucratic order which you can call a state, how does that change how you think about these matters?
Secondly, I want to raise a question to the people that are committed to just war perspectives, and that is: how do you form a people and institutions for just war prior to violent outbreaks? How do you form a people prior to a violent outbreak to be just warriors? Are the American people — would the American people be ready to invade the beaches of Japan rather than drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Because more lives would have been lost that way than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but it would have been just. It would have been just. Are the American people ready to sacrifice lives to fight a war justly?
I mean, I think that Jean’s right. I’m extremely impressed with our military in terms of the agents. I’m interested though what would military forces of the United States look like if they were structured on just war grounds? I mean, is the institutionalization of the United States military in terms of the kinds of weapons it uses, in terms of how it’s trained to use those weapons, just war training? I mean, see, it’s too late if you just get an event and then say, “How do we fight it justly?” You’ve got to prepare to fight wars justly in this way.
Secondly, what does a just war foreign policy look like? What does a just war foreign policy look like? Again, just using national self-interest won’t cut it, if you have a just war foreign policy. I mean, America walks around the globe with great power. How do you do that as a just war nation?
Now, finally, I want to ask how would Christians prepare themselves for a just war? At the Eucharist, before we receive, we wish one another the peace of Christ. How would that peace be understood if we said, “Except”. I mean, I’ve oftentimes wondered. Christians don’t develop theories of Just Adultery. I mean, you know, you could be the last resort, it’s the only way to save this person and so on.
How is it that we develop theories of just war, and what would that do to our understanding of what we do when we wish one another the peace of Christ? Because I take it that the deepest issue here is the doctrine of God. And what happens when Christians cross their fingers is we turn God into a spirit, rather than the material presence found in Jesus Christ through which we continue to be made God’s material people in the world through body and blood.
What I fear about just war is that it always leads to the spiritualization of the Christian faith, and that’s what I think and why I think I must remain committed to Christian non-violence.
PROFESSOR JAMES TURNER JONHSON: We were joking among us up here that each of us would have his or her say and then Jean and I would beat up on Stanley. I want to start the process in connection with three things Stanley has just said, before I get on to what I was actually planning on saying today. [Laughter.]
First, on the matter of how the Christians — how do Christians narrate the scriptures in connection with just war reasoning. I would suggest that in fact there has been — or there was an awful lot of this in the development of the idea of just war, and all one has to do is go back and read the materials and you’ll see that they’re full of scriptural references. This is not an idea that somehow comes out of Augustine’s fertile neo-platonic imagination, but is an idea that historically Augustine and his successors in the Middle Ages and the early modern period who developed this idea in religious terms, grounded very explicitly in passages of the scripture.
Secondly, on the matter of the kinds of weapons used by the U.S. military and their kinds of training, are they appropriate for just war theory? And I would say “hey yeah,” but it may be not always this way. I remember very well the debates of the early 1980s when people on the pacifist side of the line were arguing against the development of cruise missiles and PGMs as war fighting weapons, and therefore inherently bad as they would increase the possibility of war.
Well, I’m awfully glad that we have them now, you know, despite this kind of argument. It seems to me that this is an example of how the U.S. military has been configured so as to be able to fight justly, and I would suggest further that the training that makes possible the insertion of relatively small groups able to fight in a discriminate and proportionate way in a particular context is a much more moral way of thinking about the training of troops than to think in terms of vast operations that necessarily have huge amounts of collateral damage.
The third point on Just Adultery versus Just War. That’s a nice quip, Stanley, and I know that it makes a good point to make it. But notice what it presupposes. It presupposes that violence is what is wrong, which is basically the pacifist position. Just war tradition says that it’s not violence that’s wrong, but rather the reasons that may be right or wrong. Under some conditions it is unjust; under other conditions it serves justice. And so you end up on different sides of the page on this issue, depending what your presuppositions are.
When I was thinking about what I wanted to do today, I reflected that — and I’m sure that all of you have had this same kind of thought. I reflected that, my God, it seems like all I’ve talked about since the 11th of last month has been this subject. And from that perspective there are far, far too many words to squeeze into 10 minutes, and so I’m woefully over-prepared. And yet on the other hand, when you think of the horror of what happened on the 11th of last month you realize that words cannot express it. And so from that standpoint, I’m woefully under-prepared.
What I want to do is just make some fairly simple observations about the contemporary debate, and then conclude with some rather pointed things about the idea of just war that will give you a better sense of how I come at this as opposed to — well, in terms of slight differences between me and Jean on the debate: is this war or is this criminal activity? This is an issue that it seems to me has surfaced in the debate as a way of arguing that we ought not to use military force against Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda and against his supporters, but we instead ought to use judicial process.
Well, this confuses the issue it seems to me. Morally speaking there is no difference between the use of force, whether one uses it in the context of police action or whether one uses it in the context of international projections of force, military force. In the medieval coming together of the idea of just war, and this reflects Augustine’s view very directly. The central issue was the public use of force versus the private use of force; in the Latin, bellum versus duellum. “Bellum” translates as war, we have the legacy of that. “Duellum” translates as the duel. Any private use of force is wrong. The one who has the authority to use force is the one who has the responsibility for the public good, and anyone who is authorized by him or her to do that — or them to do that. So the central issue here is, as Jean said very, very well, that it is the protection of the political community which is centrally at stake in the effort to think about moral uses of force.
The second thing I want to say about the contemporary debate I can illustrate by something that happened on a panel that I was on last night at my university, Rutgers. There were five of us talking about the whole idea of the clash of civilizations and whether this is inevitable and so forth. And one of the people was arguing at some length that we really are in no position to throw stones or throw bombs; that basically everybody has sinned and therefore nobody can throw the first stone; that the United States is complicit on all kinds of misery around the world and the 9/11 events are perhaps an understandable response to this.
She was particularly upset about the use of the idea that the terrorist attack was somehow evil. She didn’t like this word “evil.” She also didn’t like the word “punishment.” So you can see, if you know the just war tradition, that she would have some serious problems with the tradition because one of the standard items on the listing of the just cause is this punishment of evil.
Well, when she got done one of the people in the audience stood up and said, “Professor, would you say that the Nazis were evil?” Big pause then the response: “That’s a hard question.”
You know, I don’t think that’s a hard question. I don’t think that it’s a hard question to answer to say that the attacks on 9/11 were evil. And so I think that from this perspective we need to do an awful lot to educate members of the American community in being able to morally discriminate between the kind of background noise of human imperfection and genuinely evil actions; which this attack certainly qualifies for, I have to say. So those two comments on the contemporary debate.
Now let me say some things about thinking about this in just war terms. If you look at recent examples of just war debate, what you tend to find is that almost always the idea of just cause is listed first and the requirement of right authority or sovereign authority is listed after that. If you look back at, for example, the American Catholic bishops in 1983, this is how they did it. They did it again in 1993 and I must confess if you look at some of my works from that period, you’ll find that I do the same thing.
And I think there’s an excuse for it or a reason for it; namely, that in the context of the modern period there has been a real effort in the shaping of the whole international order to define sovereign authority in a de facto way in terms of territory, in terms of recognition by other states. If you have that, then you have it. So if that’s defined in that morally contentless way, then what you are left with is the question of just cause first.
The question of intervention has reawakened me to something that Augustine and his medieval and early modern successors knew very well, that the central issue is the issue of authority. The central issue is the degree to which the government in question, or the person if it’s an authoritarian state, is actually serving the good of his or her people. Once you have made that determination you know whether there is any possibility that that individual’s use of force is justified or not.
So in the classical just war tradition you always began with the question of sovereign authority, and the sovereign authority had the responsibility of weighing the other issues: the matter of just cause; the matter of having a right intention; the matter of intending to restore peace. These are the four things that I call the de-anthropological requirements. They’re the ones that Thomas Aquinas specifically mentions. Today in contemporary discourse there’s a lot of attention to the prudential requirements of apportionality. That is, the expectation that the use of force will do more good than harm; the requirement of reasonable hope for success and the requirement of last resort, properly understood, anyway, as the calculation that nothing else is going to do the job.
In the classical tradition these were all concerns that the sovereign rightly worked with in order to decide whether in a particular instance the use of force, already justified by the other terms, ought to be undertaken or not. And so I’m rethinking my own position in terms of the requirements of sovereignty so as to try to do better justice to this than I fear that I may not have done in the past.
What about this whole business of intentionally? Again, you look at contemporary writings on this — and again I’m thinking of the U.S. Catholic bishops as an example of this — and the treatment of right intention is just plain wimpy. It is usually put in terms of something like “an intention in line with the just cause.” Well, that’s not what it meant originally. Augustine says when talking about this, and it’s always Augustine who is quoted on this subject, “What is evil in war? It’s not the deaths of some who will soon die anyway.”
And then he says these are the things that are evil in war. He mentions the lust to dominate, the lust of power, just showing your power. He mentions the cruelty of avenging. The important thing here is not avenging; the important thing is that it’s done cruelly. He mentions an implacable animosity towards the enemy, and some other things. These are the kinds of mindsets that we don’t want to have when thinking about the restoration of justice. And I would submit they are precisely the kind of mindset that we find in the justification for the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Let me conclude by saying that while we’re here to talk about the just war tradition and its help in thinking morally about the possibility of the United States response and the coalition response to the terrorist attacks of the 11th of last month, that there are very important overlaps with the jihad tradition. The jihad tradition also requires right authority. Historically, for the community to act, the leader of that community, the caliph for the Sunnis, the imam for the Shi’ahs, had to authorize it. In the case of an attack against the Islamic society, there could be — or there was, indeed, a responsibility for individuals to act to defend against that attack. But there were very, very stringent restrictions put around this. And so the Fatwa of 1998 which Osama bin Laden, styling himself as a sheikh, issued is simply against what the normative tradition allows in the way of defensive jihad.
Further, and I’ll just make one other point here. The jihad tradition includes very explicit limits on whom you may fight against. There are a number of traditions associated with the prophet Mohammed which have the language “you shall not kill the women and children.” Some of the traditions also include other groups of people: the aged, the infirm, the mentally incompetent. These are exactly the same lists that we find in the just war tradition and the same lists that we find in contemporary international law of armed conflicts.
So there is no culture conflict here. There is fundamental agreement on these issues and it seems to me that from this perspective there is good reason to say from the standpoint of Islam, as well as from the standpoint of just war tradition, that the attacks of 9/11 were indeed evil and that there is a just necessity for a response to them. Thank you.
MS. ROGERS: I want to thank each of our speakers for those very helpful reflections on these profound issues, and in a moment I want to turn to you for your questions.
Let me mention something that I want to bring to your attention that’s related to this topic. We want to encourage discussion about the many issues that are flowing out of the September 11 attacks and one of our upcoming activities will be an online discussion, focussing on understanding Islam and Muslim Americans’ reaction to September 11 and its aftermath. I hope you picked up a flyer outside about that discussion. It will happen on October 18 and will be facilitated through the Washingtonpost.com. So we’re looking forward to carrying the conversation forward in that way at that time, and also in future events that we will sponsor.
I want to call at this time for questions. I have a number of my own, but I’m going to try to restrain myself since we —
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Will I get a chance to respond….?
MS. ROGERS: Oh sure, yeah. Stanley, let me go ahead — yeah, let me go ahead and let Professor Hauerwas respond to the comments that have been made, and then we’ll open up the floor for questions.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: I need to respond, too.
MS. ROGERS: Sorry. Each of you get an at-bat.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: There’s much that I could respond to, but I want to take up the point that Jim made about that he, among others, early on as there was this great reclaiming of the just war tradition tended to emphasize the use of “in bellum” rather than the use of “ad bellum.”
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: I didn’t say that.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: You didn’t? I thought that’s what you were saying?
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: No, no. I said we emphasize just cause —
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Right, rather than — I think — well, right. But Ramsey certainly wanted —
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Yeah. If I had said that, you —
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Right, right, right.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: And Ramsey had a lot of trouble with just cause because he wasn’t clear how it could be articulated in a way that — and the reason he couldn’t be — the reason he had problems about how it could be articulated is not only the difficulties of understanding how self-interest works in an international system, but more how do you — I mean, Jim is absolutely right that the issue of authority is serving the good of their people.
The difficulty is in liberal political theory, if not practice, you don’t want goods; all you want are interests. And one of the difficulties, it seems to me for just warriors, is what kind of political activity do you name to involve goods that are in common that are not matters of interest? Augustine was very clearly. No society can be just, Book 19, that doesn’t worship the true God. All other kinds of justice will be half-measures and possibly very distorting.
Now, this is not discussible in liberal democratic societies, because the whole point is the privatization of religion. Now, how just warriors — I mean, because I believe the questions of legitimacy are very important. I mean, I think that’s exactly right. And how you get to them in these kinds of social orders is not at all clear to me. So the just warriors say, “Well, no matter where you go, you’ve just got to observe non-combatant immunity.” I don’t think that’s sufficient, as Jim doesn’t think it’s sufficient, but then how you really develop that within our kinds of politics is a deep issue.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: I’m going to very quickly respond to a couple of Stan’s points. This will be a little bit hit and run, but that’s okay; he can take it.
First of all, one of his questions was: what makes the outbreak of violence war, and isn’t war an honorific term that one perhaps shouldn’t apply to the events of September 11? I would say, if you just call it a crime, you radically diminish what happened. Moreover, one of the reasons we use the term “war” is that we recognize that any response to an event of that proportion is simply going to fall outside the boundaries of the domestic legal and penal system to deal with it.
It’s an act of a magnitude perpetrated by those who are not members of your own polity, against your polity on the body of your people. And I think there’s a very good reason for seeing that as an act of war rather than a crime. A crime suggests that there is available to us some kind of set-down, normative international order that can somehow deal with this in a convincing and viable way, and that simply doesn’t exist. So I think that’s one of the reasons that the language of war is appropriate to characterize that situation.
I don’t want to let this one slip by, because Stan had an interesting and an important question – what would a just foreign policy look like, or a foreign policy that is paying some attention to the just war tradition? I think, among other things, it would mean that you would have to ask yourself a whole range of questions about the kinds of measures that those who say we shouldn’t have violence, we shouldn’t have a war, often favor, as if they were if fact more just. That is not necessarily the case at all.
You would have to look at something like the use of embargoes, for example, and what is embargo. Are you embargoing the necessities of life? Are people, including children, dying because they don’t have access to necessary medical supplies or food? And so you would have to ask questions about that.
Stanley also used an example of churches where we give one another the greeting of peace. That of course presupposes a community with a shared faith; a community that is at peace, one with the other, although thinking about some of the churches that I’ve been part of, that’s not necessarily the case. But, in fact, you can make that kind of presupposition.
I think in a situation in which we’re dealing not just with the ordinary routines of complex pluralistic societies, that same kind of robustness of that kind of peace I think cannot be fully attained. One cannot make that presupposition. Certainly something like civic affection binds us one to the other, and that’s why I think the shock waves of what happened on September 11 continue to ricochet and to echo, because we recognize that there is an “us”; there is a “we.”
I don’t have a car in Chicago, I’m in cabs all the time, and there is an African American cab driver that I call upon very frequently who has begun speaking of an “us.” That’s something that before September 11 I think I would have heard from him. He talks about politics all the time, and I didn’t hear that image evoked. So there is something that stretches that and binds us in a kind of civic affection.
But that stops at one point. That cannot be stretched sort of infinitely, and I think those who have violated a community in such a way that we all respond appropriately to that deep violation of the polity, the body of the polity itself, then at that point one is simply obliged to do what one can to restore the peace, the ordinary peace — the tranquilitas ordinis it is called in the tradition, the ordinary civic peace — to restore that which has been so violently assaulted and violently attacked.
The issue of formation, I’m just going to sort of note that that’s something that’s vital and that’s very interesting. But I think that you can’t say — and I know Stan isn’t suggesting this, that because we haven’t all been formed completely and robustly in the tradition, that is therefore foresworn and cannot be evoked because people haven’t been properly formed in order to act fully and completely on its principles. It strikes me as far better to see what we can do with those principles, and their availability to us and to act in a way that honors them and abides by some of the restraints of that tradition; than to say because we haven’t all been formed in the tradition, we simply can’t go that direction at all.
MS. ROGERS: Okay, thanks. I will make sure each panelist gets time to answer questions and sneak in any other comments that they would have to address one another. We are recording this session and we have mikes. I will ask that you wait till a mike gets to you and then say your name and your organizational affiliation, if any.
David Saperstein, I’ll call on you for a question first.
MR. DAVID SAPERSTEIN: This has been illuminating and I deeply appreciate it. Let me ask you to address even more directly the issue of terrorism; particularly in terms of just means. Many of the rules that you’ve discussed were created when it was state versus state, with distinct armies, with different and civilian populations. Terrorism is different in that the state sometimes gives sanction, often is complicit, often in opposition.
In terms of the civilian community, very often terrorists live within civilian communities. They look and live their lives as civilians. The civilian population may be supportive, may be complicit, may be in opposition immediately around them. Often they don’t know of the activity going on by their very neighbors, whether we’re talking about people living in cities, towns, universities, refugee camps. How do you apply the just means issues that you have been discussing here, when it talks about the use of force against targets that intentionally locate themselves in the very fabric of civilian societies?
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Well, let me take the first cut at this. The first thing I would say is that your premise is a little wrong. You’re suggesting that this a uniquely modern problem or a uniquely contemporary problem. And, in fact, in the 10th century there was a series of church councils in the West that reiterated something that was collectively known as the Peace of God, and the immediate problem was that they were brigands who were doing terroristic kinds of things. There were using force privately, they were using force against subtle townspeople and pilgrims and peasants on the land and these sorts of people. And they were attacking them, not only for their own benefit, but also to dominate them; also to terrorize them you might say.
So the tradition that I’m talking from and that Jean is talking from has confronted this kind of stuff for a long, long time. And historically the reason why there is an effort to insist that the right to authorize force be restricted to the person or persons who are responsible for the good of the political community, that on the one hand, and the insistence that there are some people who ought not to be directly, intentionally targeted by the use of force, that, on the other hand, these are both responses to this kind of activity when it was encountered a thousand years ago.
As for how you apply the means test in the contemporary circumstance, the answer is you do it by using forces that are designedly capable of discrimination and proportionate use. You do it so as to try to avoid the kinds of very massive uses of force that tend to maximize collateral damage, unintentional, to be sure, but nonetheless unfortunate, and to be avoided if at all possible.
And so it seems to me that to talk in terms of very closely targeted bombing using precision guided munitions, if you talk in terms of the insertion of small groups of force in areas that are very heavily populated by civilians among whom the terrorists are hiding. If you talk about the use of larger, more conventional kinds of force against troops that may be guarding an area where someone, a group or a person that you are trying to get at, may be sheltered, then you’re in the ball park of the just war kind of reasoning.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: In Vietnam Ramsey argued that the Maoist strategy that was used by the Vietcong meant that when civilians were killed, it was their fault. And I take it that that could also be transferable. The same thing about ICBMs. If you put an offensive ICBM near Moscow, when we aim at it we’re not trying to destroy the civilian population, you’re just trying to destroy the ICBM, but it’s an indirect effect. I mean, there’s something to that logic. I think Jean’s suggestion that it’s very hard to be a human being exacting that logic when you’re the soldier doing it makes it tough.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Let me just give a footnote to that. I think Walzer has it right when he argues that not only do you have the obligation to avoid direct intentional attacks, but you also have the obligation which comes from proportionality to try to minimize the collateral harm.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: And, David, very quickly, there are a number of different kinds — you’ve really nuanced your question so there — we can imagine a number of different kinds of situations that present very different challenges. The one where you have those who intend to do harm, who are just mingling indiscriminately among a civilian population and you only know them when their horrible deeds take place; that of course presents particular kinds of challenges.
But another of the examples you offered isn’t I think as much of a challenge to the just war tradition. Namely, a regime that knowingly aids and abets and sustains those who commit terrorist activities, terrorist networks, does that, is in cahoots. At that point one doesn’t make a distinction between the regime and those who actually commit the terrorist deeds. They are all part of an entity that in fact has as its end the killing indiscriminately of civilians.
I’ve heard a few people in the aftermath of 9/11 say, “Well, you know, I wonder what their aims were.” They achieved them. The aim was to kill as many people as you possibly could. So the notion that this is within the boundary of ordinary political bargaining and discussion is preposterous. Now, the aim is to kill and that’s what happened.
MS. ROGERS: Yes, right down here please. Yes, in the black coat.
MR. JUSTIN CAPIZI: Justin Capizi, Catholic University. Two quick questions, one for Professor Johnson and one for Professor Hauerwas.
Professor Johnson, you spoke a little bit about evil, but it seemed like you were using two different important categories: evil people and evil actions. You referred to the Nazis, were they evil, and you referred to the acts of September 11th as evil. I mean does that at all complicate, you know, the capacity to say, well, I mean, they both are sort of clearly evil?
And then for Professor Hauerwas, very quickly. I didn’t get the force of the point about just cause and the Augustinian question. Because it seemed like the conclusion to draw is that the Christian community is the one that is most capable of defending itself with lethal violence. I was wondering if because they have that love for God and therefore, you know, they have kind of a, you know, monistic position. Is that what you were saying?
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: First, on evil. You remember when I brought up the Nazis, I was actually recounting a conversation that went on last night between two other people.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Was she from the English Department?
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: No. [Laughter.] She was actually a historian. English professors are too busy deconstructing to know what they mean.
But the general answer is you know them by their acts. So that’s the sort of language that I — when I was stating my own position, that I used. You don’t hate the people, you hate what they do. And thus we don’t have any quarrel with Afghanistan. What we have a quarrel with is Al Qaeda, with the leaders of that movement and with the Taliban leaders who are supporting it.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: You know, the issue of intention — and I’m sure Jim agrees with this — you have to be very careful not to subjectivise intention. It’s how it’s actually embodied in the action itself that you’re really interested in. I do believe that Christians are the only people capable of knowing rightly how to use violence. Unfortunately, the God we worship won’t let us do it. So I mean it’s just that simple. Namely, the good itself, that is that we find in terms of the God we worship, then is a nonviolent God, and so we can’t use it.
MR. CAPIZI: For instance, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it seems to me, had a tradition that was very similar to what you articulated. It was, yes, we can defend ourselves when God says so, you know, with lethal force. I mean, that’s the only situation when we’ll do it. We are the people of God, and when God says, you know, “Now we must defend ourselves to the point of violence” — I mean it’s a different kind of pacifism, you know, than —
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Oh, I agree. I mean, in Jewish tradition there’s also that position also. But the truth of the matter is I think Jehovah Witnesses have God wrong. I mean, I don’t know any other way to say it. I mean, they just have God wrong.
MS. ROGERS: The mike is right there.
MR. JAMES STANDISH: Okay, great. Well, thank you very much. This has been a very enjoyable, stimulating discussion.
My question about the just war tradition is that it sounds very good in theory. They are very good principles, but they are very malleable. When we think back to the First World War, for example, where we had very Christian nations on both sides getting their guns blessed by priests, and so forth. And my question is, can this theory actually be applied in a principled manner in a real world where people are actually being attacked and so forth? And is there a danger, in fact, in applying this principle, because it gives a sort of infallible God-sanctioned type of war? We think, for example, of the song, the old song by Bob Dylan, “With God on their side.” Does this sort of theory actually lead into that kind of mentality?
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: It seemed to me that in fact within the framework of this theory or this tradition, there are certain constraints and sort of brakes that are put on to guard against the very outcome that you suggest. When people within the just war tradition think back on some of the bellicosity attendant upon the first world war and the invocations of something akin to a crusade, one of the strongest arguments against crusades — which are assault without limit, sacralizing the use of violence and making it indeed a kind of normative good – are that the just war tradition is a very powerful argument against precisely that.
If you’re going to tell me that people who call themselves Christians have often behaved very badly, of course. I mean, there is no doubt about that and I think we’ve been talking at the intersection of just war and pacifism. There is also that other intersection that all three of us noted between just war and the tradition of real politique, which would say, “Well, you know, whatever violence you need to apply in order to get the job done, just do it.”
But there is also the other end of a continuum, if you have pacifism and just war, and that’s the crusading use of violence. And it seems to be one of the sturdiest available traditions that we have to guard against that, which is a tradition many of us have called upon and criticized the very things that you noted, is in fact the just war tradition and its account of restraint by — for the occasions of going to war and how war is pursued.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: If you look back at the debates surrounding the use of force in the First World War, you don’t find any presence of just war reasoning there. One of the things that happens when you take just war thinking out of the mix is you go to the other extremes. And so what you were talking about is not the result of just war reasoning; what you’re talking about is the result of what happens when you don’t have just war reasoning.
In fact, there was a considerable period when moralists, Christian and otherwise, just completely lost track of this tradition entirely. There was a considerable amount of it present in the philosophy of international law and in the positive law of war when it began to be codified. But the philosophers and the Christian moralists weren’t doing anything about it. And it’s our mutual friend and my former mentor Paul Ramsey that started the recovery of this, and now we can — we don’t really have any excuse not to think about it now, I think.
MS. ROGERS: Can I just ask a related question in there? Does the just war tradition prescribe recommended ways for policy-makers to check their policy as they go? I mean, is there a recommended sort of procedure of discussing whether one is holding to the just war tradition as one moves forward, and whether one is checking — a lot of these deal with motives. You know, motives that one shouldn’t have. How does one try to check these with policy makers, and is there any recommended process or some process that’s happened in the past that’s defined; as opposed to just societal criticism of such?
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: Well, Melissa, you don’t have anything obvious here like a checklist, you know where you say, “I am or I’m not following it.” But certainly as a set of — shall we call them roughly very solemn guidelines, I mean one is obliged to ask within the just war tradition — which makes this issue a very complicated tradition within the framework of ethical and moral philosophy.
It’s not a consequentionalist theory, but you’re obliged to think about potential consequences and to think about whether — what the probability is that a world after the limited and discriminate use of force, whether that world will be a more just world and more peaceful world than the world as we now know it, or a world without some response to what’s already happened that would occasion the just use of force.
So that you’re always having to deal with — it’s a very solemn responsibility to deal ongoingingly with possible outcomes and possible consequences and to think about those in a way that put some of these ethical kinds of foregrounds, some of these ethical kinds of constraints and concerns. But, you know, it would be a very daunting challenge, or it is indeed one to attempt to stay within the framework that we’re here talking about. I think it would be too much to expect that any policy-maker could do this certainly at this point in time, probably any time, when you come right down to it, could do it perfectly.
But I completely agree with Jim. It’s much better to have this discourse and to have people lifting it up, paying attention to it, debating it, than not to have it; because then you are more likely without it to precisely fall into the limitlessness attendant upon either a certain version of a realist tradition or a certain variant on a kind of sacralization of nation state violence. And I think both of those are, well, outcomes that one wouldn’t want to endorse and doesn’t like to contemplate.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: I just want to respond very quickly to that. There was once several years ago a guy in HEW called me up and said, “We’re considering this policy and I need to ask an ethicist whether it’s consistent with Rawls’ maximin principle. I thought, “Oh Jesus, have we created this?” And I think if you think that it’s a set of ticks that you look at, it’s just a mistake. And what you have to see is the just war tradition works within a sea of an understanding of an ethics virtue. And that’s very important because, as Jim reminds us, the ruler should have the virtue of patience. Patience is absolutely crucial and therefore you have to absorb often times much wrong, rather than repaying in this way. And so these are — just war is sets of skills for frenetic judgments, I think, rather than just ticking off whether everything fits in that way.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Melissa, I take it your question had to do with the question of institutionalization. And I was reflecting as others were talking that there is a requirement in the U.S. military that the judge advocate general’s office review all new weapons proposals to determine whether they’re lawful by the law of war and by U.S. law. There isn’t any similar requirement that the chaplain corps do the same thing for the morality or that there be a corps of ethicists to do this. If there were, it would be something like what we have in the field of health research where there are, in fact, ethics panels that have to review proposals as they come forward and offer their guidance and sometimes have to approve it or else you don’t go forward with it.
The institutionalization is different with just war. We’re in the middle of an example of it right now. This is the way that the debate gets carried forward and the concerns get expressed. I know Jean and I, and maybe Stanley, too, have been involved in discussions and think tanks here in this city and in other places and with people who were policy folks under the former administration and now are out of work, but are going to be policy folks in the next administration, and so forth. By carrying on this kind of a dialogue, we make people conscious of this level of concern. And it’s just extraordinarily present in the U.S. military.
MR. KEITH PAVLISCHEK: Jim mentioned his colleague at Rutgers and her hesitancy about mentioning evil. But I wonder if it just is limited, you know, this sort of thing is just limited to English professors or history professors.
A mutual friend of ours, Gil Meilaender, wrote an article in the most recent “Christian Century” which he begins by deploring the very disappointing, and I would probably say pathetic, way in which this has been discussed among ethicists, ecclesiastical authorities. And he was particularly pointing his finger at the mainline. And, you know, the moral symmetry, the talk of reconciliation and forgiveness apart from the notions of justice.
I’d like you to address whether you think Gil’s statement is an accurate assessment of the guild of ecclesiastical statements on this kind of thing? And what is the source of the rot, if so? And then I think we’d be remiss if we didn’t give Stanley a chance to respond to sort of the classic response to pacifism, [which] is that were we all to become pacifists, attacks on the innocents would continue and may result in even a worse situation, tyranny. And I think there’s a certain type of pacifist response to that classical pacifism, the kind you find in the Schlittime articles that says, “Well, we just don’t do that, but that’s what civil authorities — they need to kill and punish the evil. It’s just not us Christians.” And I wonder if that’s a reasonable response or, if not, how do you typically respond to that kind of question?
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Well, I don’t think that’s a completely accurate account of Schlittime. But my response is that as a person committed to non-violence, I want to work as had as I can to have a social order in which those who are called to the police function do not have to bear weapons. And so I want to do everything possible I can to enter into the creation of more nearly just societies in which it might even be possible for Christians to be called to the police function, exactly because — I mean, remember the police function is the function under law that is not about killing; it’s about preventing the possibilities of the necessities people feel for killing.
Of course sociopaths exist, but there are ways as a matter of fact to deal with sociopaths. The police, who I admire deeply, do all the time know how to deal with sociopaths in a manner that is without killing them. Now, I’m not going to say that you’re not going to get into some hard cases. But, Keith, there’s no difference between a person committed to non-violence and a person committed to just war. It’s going to get into hard cases. And I’m obviously committed to trying to work within a social order to make violence less likely.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: Keith, I think that you have really raised in reminding us of Gil Milander’s editorial, which raised the question of formation within — which Stan raised originally within the framework of the Christian ministry and the pastorate and the kinds of training that goes on in our seminaries, and so on. And I think there is a problem. I think that the lamentation, the entirely correct one that Jim offered up about the impoverished response of many in the Christian communities, the moral leaders and the moral philosophers at the time of World War I that just created this space that a kind of bellicose crusading mentality just flowed in take over, that they bore some responsibility for that outcome.
I’ve been struck by some of the very inadequate responses that have come to my attention from the pulpit. In one church service, the person preaching on the Sunday after 9/11 said, “Well, it’s been a terrible week, I know that. But that’s no reason for any of you to lose sight of your individual dreams.”
And then he went on to talk about how we have to hold on to our individuality. And I thought, you know, this shows you what happens when psychobabble substitutes for thinking. And that comes out of some place. I think that the emphasis in many of our seminaries, and so on, has been pastoral counseling. We’ve got to figure out how to hold people’s hands and be nice to them. I mean, I don’t mean you should run around and be mean to — everyone who knows me knows I’m a nice person – I don’t want people to be mean to one another. But for heaven’s sake. I think that we have to find a way to be able to respond to these horrible events and respond in a way that has some authenticity, some robustness, some seriousness, that can conjure with what people are feeling and how deeply they’re feeling it. And I think it’s an intellectual vacuum and that we really need to take stock, certainly within the community, the mainline community of the United States, of whether or not young people going out to occupy the pulpits are being formed in a robust and rigorous way so they understand the complexity of some of the traditions that are supposed to be their traditions.
You know, when Dietrich Bonhoeffer, whom I lifted up, was here in the United States in the 1930s, and you know he left the safety of Union Theological to go back to Germany and met his fate, hanged by the Gestapo for his activity in the anti-Nazi conspiracy, he was already complaining about what he took to be a kind of intellectual slackness that was going on in seminary and theological training in the United States. I think it’s a very serious problem, and I think we’re seeing some of the effects of that in some of what we’ve been hearing from the pulpit, which has just not being able to come to grips with the scope, the reality, the seriousness of what’s happened and how we have to think deeply about our response.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: Yeah, but I want to say to that — I mean, no one is more critical of the liberal sentimental s..t that passes muster as Christianity today. But the reason that it passes muster as Christianity is because the Protestant Church has lot any hold in Christology and they’re scared to death of it. And the other side of that is the church’s absolute capitulation to the identification of God and country, because the sentimentality that on one side gives you this stuff about, you know, “We want easy reconciliation” and the way the truth doesn’t matter, turns out to be on the other side saying, “Ah ha, then that means God and country are co-evil” — I mean co-equal.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: Co-evil too.
PROFESSOR HAUERWAS: And I think where you have the Color Guard at Saint Pat’s walk down the aisle at the start of the memorial mass should not happen. Should not happen. I mean, that is not Christianity.
MR. HILLEL FRADKIN: I wanted to return a little bit to David Saperstein’s question about this situation which combatants hide among non-combatants, because — and I have a feeling — though I don’t know that he raised it, because initially James suggested that this would be very different from Vietnam. In that situation it seems to me it’s quite likely to be the opposite: that it will be very — we will be presented with many circumstances in which it will be hard to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants.
The reply I think all of you gave, as I understood it, was that what’s called for in that situation is very discriminating forces. So that seems to me something like what — if rumors and newspaper stories are believed, what we’re going about; just insert Green Berets, Seals and so forth. Now, I think it likely that the administration is doing that at least partially because it doesn’t want to harm non-combatants. But it’s also doing it because it thinks that it will work best. If it doesn’t work best, where does just war theory take you after that situation?
MS. ROGERS: Thank you for that question. That’s going to have to be the last question since our panelists need to take off. But I’ll let each of you respond.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: And notice how they’re kicking it to me.
PROFESSOR ELSHTAIN: You didn’t get a chance to attack the last question, so it’s yours.
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: Okay, it’s just all fair. Well —
PROFESSOR JOHNSON: I was watching the Today show this morning briefly before I left home to come down here, and General McCaffrey was on. He’s a consultant for the Today show and was talking about thinking in terms of the three year campaign.
My first answer to what you just said is, well, it’s going to take a while to find out if it works or not. I myself have a very high confidence that it will work, and in fact will work better the more time goes on, because intelligence will develop better as time goes on. But the answers really depend on what the eventualities are. I can’t foretell how that’s going to be. One of the things that you would expect would happen from the application of force appears, if The New York Times yesterday is correct, already to have begun happening. That is, the Taliban is beginning to fragment because of interests that drew it together in the first place not being there any more, or being negated and switched around in the other direction and a lot of other reasons as well.
The end result might very well be, for example, that important groups of terrorists effectively go to the mountains or, you know, consolidate in a particular place and then a more indiscriminate, more destructive means of force might be appropriate there. But the short answer is that I think that what appears to be contemplated now is the right answer, and over the long run I don’t know what the answer is.
MS. ROGERS: Thank you so much and I’m sorry that we’re out of time today. Thank you to each of you for coming today. I’d like to thank our speakers.
And thanks to the Forum staff for making this come together. Staci Simmons, Amy Sullivan, Kirsten Hunter, Brett Swearingen, and Kayla Drogosz. Thank you so much for your help and for your putting together this event today. Thanks a lot.
[END OF EVENT.]
This transcript has been edited for clarity, spelling and grammar.
Pre-emption, Iraq, and Just War: A Statement of Principles
November 14, 2002
Pacifism says that all war is morally prohibited. What is often called realism says that war is essentially about power and self-interest, rendering ethical analysis largely beside the point. In contrast to both of these perspectives, the just war tradition, developed over a period of 1500 years, says that ethical standards can and should be applied to the activity of war.
The ends of war, and the means deployed to achieve them, must be based on justice. Indeed, it is precisely because justice is so important that war is a legitimate and necessary part of political life. But just war teaching also makes clear that war is at best a necessary evil, in part because war takes human lives, and in part because war is such a blunt and uncertain instrument of policy. These twin ideas, highlighting both the centrality of justice and the problematic nature of war – von Clausewitz’s famous “fog of war” – undergird the numerous requirements for declaring war justly. These include rightful cause, proper authority, the intention to pursue peace and justice, and the use of force only after other reasonable alternatives have been considered and found wanting.
These ideas also set forth the requirements for waging war justly, including proportionality of response and a clearly positive balance of benefits over costs. In addition, the just war tradition teaches that while war alters some implications of the principle of equal human dignity – the idea that even our adversaries have the same human rights that we do – war does not suspend or negate that principle. Specifically, equal human dignity requires us to observe the principle of noncombatant immunity and to do everything reasonably in our power to minimize civilian casualties.
From this just war perspective, we have supported, and continue to support, the use of military force against the murderers of September 11 and those who assist them. In February of this year, we were among those who stated: “Organized killers with global reach now threaten all of us. In the name of universal human morality, and fully conscious of the restrictions and requirements of a just war, we support our government’s, and our society’s, decision to use force of arms against them.”
Today, from this same ethical perspective, we state our views, including our critical concerns, regarding the Bush Administration’s proposed strategic doctrine of pre-emption, the crisis in Iraq, and the relationship between the two.
In recent statements and documents, the Administration declares the right to initiate attacks against states deemed to be future threats to the U.S. The idea of attacking a nation that does not pose a threat today, but that may pose one in the future, is as old as war itself. But within the framework of just war theory, pre-emption can be morally justified only in rare circumstances – when the attack is likely to be imminent, the threat is grave, and preventive means other than war are unavailable.
Expanding this narrow and exceptional option into a broad doctrine at the center of U.S. foreign policy is inconsistent with the just war tradition. We are concerned that such a doctrine may well make the world a more dangerous place, especially if other nations appropriate it for their own purposes. For example, the new doctrine might appear to license India in the use of force against Pakistan, with the intention of pre-empting the possibility of Pakistani action. Particularly since both of these nations possess nuclear weapons, it should be U.S. policy to do what we can to reduce, rather than enhance, the likelihood of either of these nations pre-emptively attacking the other.
The Administration’s new doctrine is also troubling to us because, at least regarding Iraq, it seems clearly to be unnecessary. Debating pre-emption in the context of Iraq obscures the fact that the U.S. has been in a low-grade military conflict with Iraq for more than a decade, stemming from our leadership of the coalition that reversed Iraq’s illegal occupation of Kuwait in 1991. As long as our demand is Iraq’s compliance with United Nations-approved disarmament requirements stemming from that conflict, including requirements against developing, stockpiling or using weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. doesn’t need a new doctrine called pre-emption to justify an increased use of force. The relevant issue is enforcement, not pre-emption.
Would a renewed U.S.-led military assault against Iraq be just? In recent months, the Bush Administration has publicly floated numerous reasons for such a move. From the perspective of just war thinking, most of these rationales are not compelling. For example, we hear of “regime change” as a primary goal in Iraq. Regime change can be one consequence of a just war, but waging a war primarily to get rid of a foreign leader, even a dangerous one, could set a dangerous precedent and is generally inconsistent with just war principles.
We also need much more clarity on the imminence of the threat. Specifically, there seems to be little or no credible evidence indicating that Iraq is about to launch an attack against the U.S. or any other country. Evidence of Iraq’s complicity in the attacks of September 11 appears so far to be thin and inconclusive. While Iraq’s government is certainly brutal and repressive, there is no evidence, so long as no-fly zones over Iraq are enforced, that Iraq’s government is currently in a position to engage in widespread killings of Kurds or Shiites living in Iraq.
At the same time, one rationale for at least preparing to attack Iraq seems fully justified. The U.N. Security Council resolutions on disarmament and weapons inspections in Iraq, passed in 1991, have been flagrantly – and so far, with impunity – violated by the Iraqi regime. The U.S. and its allies should have been willing to fight a just war over this issue years ago, especially when Iraq effectively expelled the U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998. Although Iraq almost certainly does not yet possess nuclear weapons, it appears to be aggressively seeking the means to produce them. As President Bush has rightly insisted, the fact that Iraq today may be only a year away from obtaining nuclear weapons makes the regime’s continued flouting of these disarmament requirements a legitimate international crisis.
For this reason, if Iraq fails to comply with demands for a renewed and unencumbered program of arms inspections by a near-term date, then the use of force to compel compliance would be both justified and necessary. Conversely, however, if Iraq does comply, the Administration should take “yes” for an answer – not because weapons inspections are a panacea, but because they worked reasonably well in Iraq in the early 1990s, and because, at least for the immediate future, they are morally preferable to full-scale U.S. military action against that country.
As President Bush recently stated, true disarmament in Iraq would constitute “regime change” in the most relevant respect – it would dramatically reduce Saddam Hussein’s capacity to threaten his neighbors and the world. That should be the principal aim of U.S. policy, and we should resort to war only if we have exhausted all other reasonable means of achieving it. If we proceed in this measured, step-by-step manner, we will not only do justice, but be seen as doing justice. No other course of action could better advance the long-term prospects for a more peaceful and democratic world order.
President, Institute for American Values
Jean Bethke Elshtain
Laura Spelman Rockefeller Professor of Social and Political Ethics, University of Chicago Divinity School
Bernard Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy, Johns Hopkins University
William A. Galston
Professor at the School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland; Director, Institute for Philosophy and and Public Policy
Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion, Florida State University
Peter and Isabel Malkin Professor of Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, Harvard University
Max L. Stackhouse
Professor of Christian Ethics and Director, Project on Public Theology, Princeton Theological Seminary
Paul C. Vitz
Professor of Psychology, New York University
And another forum from the Pew Trust:
Iraq and Just War: A Symposium
Monday, September 30, 2002
10 a.m. – Noon
Gerard Bradley is Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School. A noted scholar in the fields of constitutional law and law and religion, his books include Catholicism, Liberalism, and Communitarianism. He is the director of Notre Dame’s Natural Law Institute and is a former president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
William A. Galston is Professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy. His books include Liberal Purposes and Liberal Pluralism. A widely respected political theorist who also participates in politics and policy, he served from 1993 to 1994 as President Clinton’s deputy assistant for domestic policy. His recent articles on Iraq have appeared in the Washington Post and The American Prospect.
John Kelsay is the Richard L. Rubenstein Professor of Religion at Florida State University. A noted authority on Islam, he is co-editor, with James Turner Johnson, of Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Tradition and Cross, Crescent, and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition.
Michael Walzer is Professor at the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study. He previously taught at Harvard and Princeton Universities. His writings address a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy. A broadly acclaimed authority on the morality of the use of force, he is the author, among other books, of Just and Unjust Wars, which has become a seminal text for just war analysis.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Good morning. My name is David Blankenhorn.
There are basically four ways to think about war. The first can be called realism, the belief that war is essentially a matter of power, self-interest and necessity, thereby making moral analysis largely irrelevant.
The second can be called holy war, the belief that God or some secular ideology of ultimate concern can authorize the coercion or killing of unbelievers.
The third way of thinking about war can be called pacifism, the belief that all war is intrinsically immoral.
And the fourth way to think about war as a human activity is typically called just war, the belief that universal moral reasoning can and should be applied to the activity of war, thereby helping us to determine together whether a particular use of force is just or unjust.
The four speakers today all represent this fourth school of thought, the just war school. Now, this is a very specific and, I suppose, in some respects narrow school of thought, but it’s also quite an important one. It has helped to shape, for example, the United Nations charter and international law with respect to war. Ethically, the just war tradition seeks to take seriously and reflect the sanctity of human life and the principle of equal human dignity, the idea that those who are different from us and even those who may oppose us in war have the same right to life that we do and the same human dignity and human rights that we do.
Historically, by seeking to surround the use of force with clear moral boundaries the just war tradition has served primarily to limit more than authorize or unleash the use of military force.
At the same time, the just war tradition tells us that sometimes the use of force is not only morally justified but morally necessary.
And what makes this panel, this event, this day interesting is that all four of our speakers today, along with several other of the nation’s most distinguished just war thinkers, publicly declared in a letter released earlier this year that the use of force against the killers of September 11 and those who assist them is morally justified.
This letter, which is available at the table outside, concludes, “Organized killers with global reach now threaten all of us. In the name of universal human morality and fully conscious of the restrictions and requirements of a just war, we support our government’s and our society’s decision to use force against them.”
Today the issue is Iraq and, of course, our challenge is to seek to apply these same moral principles of just war as honestly as we can, as absent political partisanship as possible to two questions: First, is where the U.S. administration seems to be going with respect to Iraq just or unjust? Secondly, is the administration’s recently announced doctrine of preemption just or unjust?
Even given their common philosophical starting points, or a number of common philosophical starting points in the just war tradition, today’s distinguished panelists are not of one mind on these questions. So let’s get to the debate.
I’d like to thank the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy for helping to organize and make possible this event.
And now let me briefly tell you the ground rules for today’s discussion. Each speaker will take up to 15 minutes to make his case. After that, we will have some time for them to question one another and, more importantly, to respond to your questions.
To make the discussion cleaner and smoother, to help make clear the real issues at stake, the panelists in advance have all agreed for the purposes of this discussion to the following factual assumptions or stipulations:
• First, Iraq now has biological and chemical weapons and is seeking, but apparently does not currently possess, nuclear weapons;
• Second, because of Iraq’s history of brutality and aggression, we cannot rule out the possibility of Saddam deciding to use these weapons himself in the future, as he has already done on his own soil with respect to chemical weapons, and/or deciding to make them available to terrorists.
These are the two factual assumptions or stipulations that we have agreed to for the purposes of this discussion.
Okay, let’s get going.
Our first speaker is Gerard Bradley. He is a professor of law at Notre Dame Law School, a noted scholar in the fields of constitutional law and religion. His books include Catholicism, Liberalism, and Communitarianism. He is the director of Notre Dame’s Natural Law Institute and is a former president of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.
GERARD BRADLEY: Thank you, David.
Well, I cannot say whether all things considered the United States should launch a preemptive attack on Iraq, and, if so, when, for these decisions depend upon facts I don’t know and upon specialized judgment I’m not competent to make. I can say something, however, about the morality of a preemptive attack upon Iraq, relying upon David to make an initial stipulation and upon one more of my own, which I’ll state momentarily.
But upon this description of a proposed preemptive attack, my judgment is this: Such an attack would not be inconsistent with traditional teachings on just war. I contend, in other words, that on this description, a morally upright statesman, President Bush, for example, could launch a preemptive strike to disarm Iraq.
And that leads to my stipulation: I take it to be the central or justifying purpose of a preemptive strike upon Iraq to disarm Iraq and thereby to protect innocent people against the use or threatened use of weapons of mass destruction. I take the central purpose of a proposed attack upon Iraq to be the destruction of, or otherwise to deprive the Iraqi leadership of, weapons of mass destruction – chemical, biological, nuclear – even though the latter is in its incipient stages. These things have no benign uses. Their destruction as such does no genuine injury to those who possess them. Destroying them violates no one’s rights. Destroying them would do many people a great deal of good, not least of all those in the neighborhood of Iraq who come under the possible intimidating effect or force of an Iraq armed with weapons of mass destruction.
And I take it this point is not controversial, to think most of us would agree that, just so far considered, disarming Iraq is a morally good objective, and if it could be done so with proportionate losses or proportionate destruction or damage – collateral damage – by some legitimate authority, whether it’s the United States, the United Nations or some coalition of nations, that we could support that route.
And I take it to be that disarming Iraq is the central or justifying purpose. I emphasis that because I do hold that the purpose of attacking Iraq must be defensive. It must be undertaken to protect, finally, the safety of Americans and other innocent people by disarming Iraq.
My emphasis arises from the following judgment about the just war tradition, as I support it or appropriate it: An attack upon Iraq for any other reason than defense of innocents, Americans and others, would not be morally legitimate. An attack upon Iraq to avenge past injustices perpetrated by Saddam Hussein and his regime, or to punish Iraq for alleged complicity in the 9/11 attack upon New York and Washington, or to subjugate the Iraqi nation or just for the sake of regime change would, in my judgment, be wrong.
This limitation to defensive warfare in the just war tradition is a rather late development. It is one that is not shared, we might say, by all adherents to the just war tradition. But the limitation of upright purpose in launching hostilities, limited to defense, is one that has become authoritative within the Catholic strand of the just war tradition. Although not all Catholic moralists agree with this development, I do.
It’s true that Thomas Aquinas and Augustine, who were leading figures in the development of this tradition, thought that nations could rightly punish outlaw nations to achieve retributive justice, somewhat as the governing authority within a nation use police powers to punish criminals, to bring them to justice. But by the 1960s non-defensive war had been categorically ruled out by some just war thinkers, and, as I say, within authoritative Catholic teaching.
To say that the central or justifying purpose of preemptive strikes must be defensive is not to say that there might well be predictable effects of a defensive strike, which we quite welcome. So-called regime change, that is a thorough uprooting of a corrupt political establishment in Iraq, replaced, hopefully, by more democratic elements, is a predictable effect of trying to disarm Iraq, and it should be welcome as a side effect of defensive war.
On the question of specifically targeting Saddam Hussein – say sending in teams of special operations forces, whose mission is to locate and to kill him – I’d say that that should be done if a preemptive strike is to be launched. Put differently, Saddam is surely in command of Iraqi armed forces. He is a combatant, not a civilian. He may be targeted. I think he should be, not as a matter of sort of punishing him by way of a death penalty for past injustices but in order to effectively disarm Iraq. Given Saddam’s pivotal role in any expected resistance to an American strike, it seems to me that it would be wrong, indeed unfair, not to go after Saddam Hussein as early and as vigorously as possible in a conflict. But we can reasonably suppose that Iraqi resistance to the death and destruction that will attend any attempt to disarm Iraq would be greatly reduced by Saddam Hussein’s demise. Perhaps, just perhaps, resistance would collapse.
One more thing about what it means to say that disarming Iraq should be the central or justifying purpose. This meaning is not as subjective as perhaps the term suggests this meaning would be. To say it’s a central justifying purpose to disarm Iraq is not a statement about the subjective state of mind of a statesman or a particular general’s motive; it is rather about the guiding purpose, the limiting principles which organize, explain, justify and limit the whole military undertaking.
So, even if – and fill in here a proper name of any leading statesman or general, fill in any name you wish – so even if that person is actually motivated now, today by a desire simply to kill Saddam Hussein and to punish him for 9/11 or for some other past injustice, let’s say gassing the Kurds, we could still support a preemptive strike if — if the strategic plan, the rules of engagement, the terms of surrender or armistice or truce and other operational aspects are what they should be, if the purpose is to disarm Iraq and not to punish Iraq for past injustices.
It matters not, I think, to the moral evaluation of a preemptive strike whether, in fact, President Bush has already decided that he is going to attack and that he’s just playing out the political strings in the meantime to see how many allies he’ll have for an attack, whether it’s just Tony Blair or whether it’s others as well. I don’t know what the president has decided to do. My point is that whether or not he’s decided to attack, come what may, doesn’t affect us upright, conscientious citizens trying to decide whether we could support a preemptive strike. That question again, I say, rests upon application of just war criteria and whether the rules of engagement, et cetera, are limited by defensive purpose of the use of war.
I turn to other criteria that is besides defensive in purpose of just war and describe three of them briefly.
One, probability of success: It refers to the likelihood that an otherwise morally acceptable military action will attain the good purpose that justifies undertaking it – in the current context, that is the relevant probabilities of success in protecting innocent people by disarming Iraq.
Two, proportionality or proportionate means: In the just war tradition, this points to the need both in going to war and in choosing among military options during hostilities for prudent judgment in accord with all relevant moral norms, not least the Golden Rule of fairness: Do unto others as you would have them to unto you. By that standard of fairness, political and military decision-makers are forbidden to choose options whose impact on the innocent – that is, on those whose activities, whether civilian or military personnel, are not part of the ongoing Iraqi offensive threat – would be deemed unacceptable if those innocents happened to include some of the decision-maker’s own people, perhaps even some of their own friends and loved ones.
Just, for example, to illustrate this principle of fairness, with specific regard to damage or destruction or property, but especially with regard to the predictable effect of harming innocents – collateral damage you might say. Had President Bush ordered the shooting down of a hijacked passenger airliner last September, to prevent its being used as a missile to cause thousands of deaths, as perhaps he did, at least conditionally, last September 11th, the requirement of proportionality would have been fulfilled. But we surely would not bomb our cities and villages or those of our allies to get a terrorist who was hiding there, and we should not do that in Iraq or in Afghanistan. Fairness requires that we treat the people of other nations with the same consideration we treat our own, not different consideration merely because they differ from us in ways that are irrelevant to moral evaluations, such as having different language, ethnicity, religion or even different political beliefs.
The third requirement, which I propose to focus on in the remaining minutes, is the requirement of imminence. This seems to be perhaps the most common criteria of just war held up as an impediment to a preemptive strike. It’s easy to see why. Preemptive, by definition, I think, is not imminent; it is an alternative, so to speak, to waiting until an attack by Iraq is imminent. So it’s also a semantic requirement, a definitional requirement that we see that the traditional criteria that a grave offensive threat be imminent before defensive force may be used. It would seem to be almost necessary to say that a preemptive strike fails this requirement, and, therefore, those who are going to inherit these criteria have quite a job.
But wait a minute, I think not. I pose two questions. My judgment is that we should not so sharply oppose imminent to preemptive, because I think it derails clearheaded moral analysis. It distracts us from two important questions about the justice of a preemptive strike.
The first is, What does imminence include in today’s world of terror, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles? We have heretofore thought of imminence in sort of linear, chronological terms. Imminence meant that an attack is coming soon, it is nearing time, the enemy draws physically near, at least the enemy troops are embarking their transports, the cavalry has taken to horse; that is, the wheels of a sense of aggression are in motion and there is no mistaking the intention fueling the wheels.
Now, this is the conception of imminence that we’ve inherited, and there’s nothing wrong with it as an inheritance, but I think we need to look at imminence as a concept and consider whether a different conception of it may be appropriate for our time.
I think the concept of imminence – which I submit we should grab hold of and not the conception as such – the concept has to do with striking while there’s still time to do so effectively, striking before the damage is done. That is to say, we need to wonder whether given today’s conditions of ballistic missiles, terror radicalism, weapons of mass destruction, whether it would be too late to strike back effectively and therefore whether defensive means are required in anticipation of an assault. That is to say, we need to wonder whether the opposing force could strike without warning suddenly, and that once the attack is launched, it would be too late to protect innocents. This may well be the case, seems to be the case, at least for people residing with a few hundred miles of Iraqi territory.
The second question, which I mean to get to, and I think we can get to if we don’t so sharply oppose preemptive to imminence, is this: Is it fair to attack Iraq preemptively? Now, fair sounds too vague and general, and perhaps waffling and diffuse, to really push the analytical ball forward, but I think the truth is that the limiting conditions that I mentioned, all three of them – hope of success, probability of success I should say, proportionate means and imminence – are all manifestations of specifications or rules drawn from an underlying moral principle, and that principle is fairness. Again, those three limiting conditions I mentioned – proportionate, probability of success, imminence – I think are all concrete positions or rules drawn from an underlying moral principle, which is fairness. It is fairness, along with defensive purpose, immunity of noncombatants from direct harm – these are the principles of just war thinking.
To illustrate the relationship I’m describing, just very briefly, from the realm of constitutional law, which constitutes my day job, in fact, the relationship I’m talking about is illustratable by reference to the First Amendment, where we have a principle called separation of church and state. But then we have things like the three-part lemon test or other kinds of compelling-interest tests, where in law those are referred to as doctrines or tests, but they’re always understood to be specifications of an underlying principle; a second principle, Fourth Amendment, unreasonable search and seizure. That’s the principle of justification or, if you will, of justice.
Now, probable cause, warrant requirement, the exclusionary rule, those are rules derived from the principle, specifications of it; something similar in relationship I’m talk about with just war. The requirement of imminence is a specification of fairness.
Now, the requirement of imminence surely is fair in general. Given the awful destructive power and effect of war, war ought to be undertaken as a last resort. It ought to be forestalled until necessary and only undertaken to avert grave harm to innocents. Well, fair enough, but in present conditions the questions arise, how long is too long to wait? Is it unfair to potential victims of Iraqi intimidation to wait much longer?
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Time.
Our next speaker is William A. Galston, who is a Professor at the School of Public Affairs at the University of Maryland and Director of the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, which is a cosponsoring organization of this event. Bill’s books include Liberal Purposes and another book worth reading Liberal Pluralism. A widely respected political theorist who also participates in politics and policy, he served in 1993 through 1995 as President Clinton’s deputy assistant for domestic policy. His recent articles on Iraq have appeared in The Washington Post and The American Prospect.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Thank you very much, David, and the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy was absolutely delighted to be able to co-sponsor this event, which is necessary and, I believe, urgent.
Let me begin with a little bit of autobiography. I was and am strongly in favor of our response to the terrorist attacks of September 11th in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and, as David mentioned, I am a proud signatory of the “Why We Fight” declaration. I was strongly in favor of the Gulf War a decade ago at a time when most members of my own party were not. And for what it’s worth, I wore my country’s uniform during the Vietnam era at a time when relatively few people of my social class did.
Nonetheless, I am opposed to war with Iraq, at least as the Bush administration has defined and defended it thus far. And therefore I must explain myself.
In my judgment, there are two noteworthy and unusual features of the administration’s proposed war against Iraq. The first is the war’s doctrinal justification, which Professor Bradley has already referred to, the idea of preemption, the idea that it is permissible in these circumstances to attack Iraq without having been attacked by Iraq. The second is the war’s end, and here is my first point of engagement with Professor Bradley. The administration has repeatedly defined regime change not as the collateral benign effect of other efforts but as the end in view, and it would appear that we are about to agree that that formulation, at least, is outside the just war tradition.
Now, we may be tempted to underestimate just how unusual these two features are, but to put it on the table, let me quote someone who’s not often identified with the just war tradition, namely Henry Kissinger, who wrote recently, and I quote, “The new approach is revolutionary. Regime change as a goal for military intervention challenges the international system established by the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which, after the carnage of the religious wars, established the principle of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of other states. And the notion of justified preemption runs counter to modern international law.” I’m going to qualify that second statement in my remarks, but it will do as an introduction to our topic.
So can this unusual, indeed revolutionary, new approach that the administration is very forthrightly advocating be integrated into the theory of just war?
The basic argument, as expressed in the national security document made public a couple weeks ago, and as summarized very ably by Professor Bradley, is that the rise of terrorism renders traditional doctrines of containment and deterrence obsolete and therefore necessarily extant to traditional notions of preemption. I agree with this formulation that what we’re talking about is a concept/conception relationship as philosophy philosophers would put it.
This argument has incontestable merit as applied to stateless terrorists themselves. What I want to suggest is that it is not so obviously true as applied to sovereign states. It is not enough simply to assert the equivalence. The proponents of this new expanded view of preemption need to make the case that the possibility of state cooperation with terrorists, especially in the deployment and use of weapons of mass destruction, somehow renders governments with known addresses and a great deal to lose immune to the traditional incentive structures of deterrence; that is an important factual question with theoretical and moral consequences. I would argue that neither theory nor practice is well served by the casual amalgamation of the case of stateless terrorism and the case of sovereign states.
Now, having put on the table what I regard as the central question, namely can the just war tradition be expanded to incorporate this revolutionary new conception, I want to approach it by examining seriatim and all to briefly the three kinds of justifications for intervention in Iraq that the administration has offered over the past six months. By no coincidence, all three of these justifications make an appearance, albeit in one case only a cameo appearance, in the White House’s preferred version of the joint resolution now under consideration by Congress.
The first of these justifications is what I will call a war of enforcement, which was the focus of President Bush’s U.N. speech. I think we can stipulate for purposes of this argument that Iraq has clearly violated numerous resolutions and undertakings to which it is party, but I would point out that the agreed party on the other side of the table is not any individual sovereign nation, it is the United Nations Security Council as a whole. One of the traditional principles of just war theory is competent authority and it is clear that if we’re talking about the war of enforcement it is the United Nations that is the competent authority to enforce U.N .resolutions and not any individual member of the United Nations acting on its own.
And to understand why, consider a domestic analogy: A government, a sovereign state, passes a law and then in some respects fails to enforce that law. Does that failure of enforcement give individual citizens within that sovereign state the moral right to enforce that law on their own? I think not.
I would also point out in the context of the word enforcement that the goal of enforcement is compliance with the violated resolutions, not regime change. Notably, the phrase regime change does not occur once in President Bush’s U.N. speech and the one sentence that even gestures in that direction presents regime change as an alternative to successful enforcement and not the goal of enforcement itself.
These considerations raise the question, Under what circumstances is regime change a legitimate aim of a just war? And my answer, which I think is consistent with a number of other answers, is that only under the most exceptional circumstances, and not determined here, is the standard example.
Now, this puts the following consideration on the table. Regime change as a goal of foreign policy is the moral equivalent of the unconditional surrender that constituted the war aims of the allies in World War II, and it carries with it the same moral imperative; that is to say, a comprehensive post-war responsibility for the political, economic and social reconstruction of the defeated and regime-changed nation.
And so the end of regime change, if it is applicable in this case, if we can analogize Saddam Hussein to Hitler – and I think we need to discuss that – is a package of acts, and not an act that begins and ends with the military conquest.
And I would feel much more comfortable if I were confident that that full package had been presented to the American people by the administration as forthrightly as the entrance strategy had been presented to them. And if we are going even to consider going forward on the basis of regime change, there must be an explicit embrace by the United States, through its elected representatives, of the full package. Those sympathetic to the administration have argued that regime change done right in Iraq will require an occupation measured in years or even decades, not weeks or months, as it did in the case of Germany and Japan. We still have troops in those two countries more than 50 years after the end of World War II.
The question of regime change also raises another key just war principle to which Professor Bradley has already alluded, namely, the probability of success. Would regime change produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated? We have to ask that question seriously, and, in order to ask that question seriously, we cannot take our moral bearings only from the best-case outcome. We also have to take seriously the possibility that we will break a regime easily and then remake a regime only with difficulty, leading to chaos throughout the region, drawing in most parties that border on Iraq and some that do not.
The second proposed ground for intervention in Iraq is humanitarian intervention, but there two quick points. First, I would point out that the major humanitarian abuses in Iraq occurred at least a decade or more ago at a time when we repeatedly failed to intervene to stop them, and in the 1980s failed even to protest very vigorously against them. And one wonders whether it is credible to invoke that history now.
Besides, it seems to me on casual inspection that the northern and southern no-fly zones that we have established and policed for the past decade are, in effect, already humanitarian interventions and reasonably successful ones in protecting the Kurds in the North and the Shi’ites in the South against renewed atrocities. So I don’t think that the argument for humanitarian intervention is going to get us very far.
Which brings us to the third and, I guess, the central category: a war of national defense. Here, of course, the problem is that Iraq hasn’t attacked us and, in spite of determined efforts by some in the administration, it is not yet clearly implicated in attacks on us by others. So the national defense argument stands or falls with the case for anticipatory responses to future threats.
Now, the category of anticipatory self-defense does have a place in international law and just war theory. Summarizing much legal and philosophical argument, I would suggest that there are four criteria that can justify preemption and each of them is a continuum of possibilities rather than an on/off switch. These criteria are:
• Number one, the severity of the threat;
• Number two, the degree of probability of the threat;
• Number three, the imminence of the threat;
• And number four, the cost of delay.
If we test the proposed intervention in Iraq against these criteria I think that we find the following:
• The threat is high in the worst case – that is, the acquisition of transferable nuclear weapons.
• The probability is contested. Many experts have argued that the logically possible transfer of nuclear weapons by Saddam Hussein to terrorists is contrary not only to his past behavior but also to his clear and present interests.
• Third, this threat is not imminent by any definition of imminence, and I don’t think anybody has argued that it is.
• And finally, the costs of delay, at least the delay measured in months sufficient to try and exhaust other options, is low.
Given this four-part analysis, I conclude that the case for a preemptive strike against Iraq has not been made.
Now, let me just ask the following question: If we have an overall requirement of justice to seek peace at all times and to maintain it whenever possible, what follows from that? And I would say three things follow from that. First of all, war has to be understood as a last resort, when all the other alternatives have been exhausted or obviously when it has been thrust upon us, and I do not believe that we have reached that point.
Second, the generic obligation to seek peace means that we must honor international covenants that aim at peace, and if I had more time, I would argue that the proposed strike against Iraq does not comport with that criteria.
And third, it is incumbent on us to think through and to preserve the system of international norms and institutions that aim at peace.
Even Henry Kissinger argues and I agree that it cannot be in either America’s national interest or in the world’s interest to develop principles that grant every nation an unfettered right of preemption against its own definition of threats to its security. And that raises the following rhetorical question, with which I will conclude: How can we announce a new doctrine of preemption as the centerpiece of our foreign policy while insisting that it applies to us alone and insisting that it should not become, and must not become, the centerpiece of foreign policy systems and practices everywhere else on earth?
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Thank you.
Our next speaker is John Kelsay who is the Rubenstein Professor of Religion at Florida State University. A noted authority on Islam, he is the author of Islam and War: A Study in Comparative Ethics, as well as co-editor with James Turner Johnson of Just War and Jihad: Historical and Theoretical Perspectives on War and Peace in Western and Islamic Tradition and, a second book, Cross, Crescent, and Sword: The Justification and Limitation of War in Western and Islamic Tradition.
JOHN KELSAY: Well, I told David that for those of us from south of the Mason-Dixon line, we should get 18 minutes. (Laughter.) It takes longer to get around to what you want to say.
All of us here come to this discussion in the midst, obviously, of a wider discussion, and one of the things that we are trying to do is to utilize the framework of the just war criteria in such a way that it illumines the broader discussion, which sometimes is conducted in just war terms and sometimes not.
I’m also coming in, obviously, in the middle of this panel, and some of the things that have been said I agree with, some I disagree with. In some cases, I think that the way I would frame the fit between the criteria and our current situation is just a little different than our first two thinkers. I won’t really allude to that along the way, but I think it will be clear where there are some of those points.
What I want to do, then, is address two questions and then end with a little comment about Islam. The first question I can put this way: Does the United States have a right to employ military action aimed at regime change in Iraq? And I’m going to say that the answer is yes. The second question: Should the United States exercise this right? I’m going to say it depends. And then, as I say, I’m going to make some comments about Islam with respect to this issue.
Does the United States have a right to employ military action aimed at regime change in Iraq? The answer I’ve already suggested, for me, is yes. The just war categories at stake are right authority, just cause and right intention.
With respect to right authority, the primary issues have to do with international support. Ought the United States proceed without authorization from the Security Council or support from some important allies?
Now, I think everyone will or ought to agree that in this case, and really in most cases, it would be better for any action undertaken to have U.N. support or, failing that, that it would be good to have as much international support as possible. I think we should be encouraged by recent developments in that regard, and I certainly hope there will be a U.N. resolution of the type drafted by the U.S. and the U.K.
Given the nature of the Security Council and the vagaries of international coalitions however, the U.S. pursuit of justice in this case cannot be absolutely tied to such a resolution. International support, in other words, is desirable but not a requirement.
Continuing with right authority, many commentators express concern that the action contemplated involves regime change, which seems a kind of drastic step. It’s true that from the just war standpoint the establishment of governments is a good thing and that those who would utilize force to overthrow or alter an existing pattern of governance take on a heavy burden. However, in cases where an existing government shows a long-term pattern of unjust behavior towards its neighbors and its own citizens, one must consider then an unjust government seems to be no government at all. Citizens chafing under an unjust regime may take measures to remove it and other governments may assist them if necessary. The main limitations on those who would remove an unjust regime is that they consider the likely consequences of their actions. If removal would lead, for example, to an even worse state of affairs then one should forego action aimed at regime change. I’ll say more about that in a moment.
That involvement includes, and this is very important for my case, an ongoing program of diplomatic, economic, legal and military action. Throughout the past 12 years, the just cause and, I think, the intention of military action has been the same, limiting the Hussein regime’s capacity to do harm. Now, this means that I consider discussions of preemption largely irrelevant to this case.
All the members of this panel agreed to address the issue of preemption. In my judgment, the just war tradition can support preemptive action in certain cases and the Bush administration’s statement on national security strategy tries to point to some of those, or at least raise questions about what some of those might be. But with respect to Iraq, preemption is not a particularly apt category. We’re already involved militarily. And so what we ought to be asking is whether now is the time to increase the military aspect of our effort in hopes of creating a better political climate in Iraq.
And thus my second question: Granted, the U.S. has a right to employ military action aimed at regime change; should it exercise that right? With respect to the justification of resort to war, just war tradition presses considerations of prudence as well as of rights. The criteria of last resort, proportionality, reasonable hope of success and aim of peace are important here. These require that we consider our options and also that we take into account the likely consequences of military action. Further, they require that consideration of consequences include developments that will come about as a result of responses by parties other than ourselves; for example, in this case, responses by people living in Iraq and also by Iraq’s neighbors.
Now, with respect to last resort, I have to say I think the non-military options are limited at this point. In my judgment, a renewal of arms inspections does not particularly inspire confidence, and the failure of sanctions, in the sense that the Hussein regime has been able to manipulate these in ways that cause ordinary people in Iraq to suffer, is almost legendary.
With respect to the other prudential criteria, I’m not so sure about the case. Here we have to answer questions about various military options and their likely success, about the responses of various parties to any increase in U.S., and perhaps international, military involvement and about the likely political arrangements to follow removal of the Hussein regime.
Now, certainly I think, as all of you do, about these questions, and I even have a few opinions, but, ultimately, answering them requires information I don’t have. My own view is that these questions are far more difficult and important in this case than those involving right authority and just cause, yet public debate thus far focuses almost exclusively on right authority and just cause rather than on the really difficult questions raised by the prudential criteria of just war tradition.
My argument is thus that the U.S. has a right to use military force aimed at regime change in Iraq, but I’m less certain that the United States should exercise that right.
Now, I do think that the problems of Iraq cry out for action. I think our current policy is at an impasse, and we need to do something to break that if it’s possible. And thus before anyone leaves thinking that uncertainty means from my point of view that it would be better to forego military action in this case, let me say that no decision should be made regarding the wisdom of such action until military and political planners have made their best effort to find ways to bring about a course of action that will be proportionate, have a reasonable hope of success and issue in a political climate more suited to peace. If reasonable plans are not forthcoming, the U.S. should not exercise its right, but our leaders should make every effort to develop such plans before making a decision.
Now let me conclude with some comments about Islam.
Most of my scholarly work deals with what you might call the Islamic analog to just war tradition. I think it’s possible to run through the criteria of that analogous tradition and to make a case for action against the Hussein regime. I think the argument would look very much like what I’ve already said.
The question that follows then is why are so many Muslims opposed to or at least very worried about the Bush administration’s proposals regarding Iraq. No special expertise is required to answer.
First, Muslims worry because ordinary Iraqis, civilians are going to suffer again.
Second, even those Muslim majority states generally friendly toward the United States worry that the United States will overreach. There is, in other words, a specifically Muslim version of the worry that the status of the U.S. as the world’s only superpower creates special temptations for unilateral action. Recent developments at the U.N. seem positive in this regard, and movement in the Palestinian-Israeli impasse would certainly help as well.
Third, there are, of course, Muslim majority states and also non-state organizations, which are not friendly to the U.S. and believe implicitly that the U.S. and its allies are hostile to Islam and should be encouraged to limit their role in historically Islamic countries and regions. Some of these are already giving notice that they, too, can employ military force in the present circumstance. I refer to the movement of missiles into southern Lebanon. Some of these opponents of the United States may even hope that U.S. or allied military action against the Hussein regime will provide an occasion for general war in the region. The likely actions of these players have to be a factor as we think not only about whether the U.S. has a right to use force in this case but also about whether the U.S. should exercise that right.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Thank you.
Our final speaker before we open it up for your questions and comments is Michael Walzer. He is Professor at the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He previously taught at Harvard and Princeton Universities. His writings address a wide variety of topics in political theory and moral philosophy. A broadly acclaimed authority on the morality of the use of force, he is the author, among other books, of Just and Unjust Wars, which has become a seminal text for just war analysis.
MICHAEL WALZER: Thank you.
I pretty much agree with Bill Galston, so I will give some comments and footnotes to his analysis. But I do want to start a little farther back than any of my colleagues have done, because the stipulations that we all accepted have, in fact, been plausible for some years now, perhaps for a decade, and they suggest how wrong it was for us to have allowed the first U.N. inspection system to collapse. There was a just and necessary war waiting to be fought back in the 1990s when Saddam was playing hide and seek with the inspectors, and that would have been an internationalist war. It would have been Bill Galston’s war of enforcement, and its justice would have derived, first, from the justice of the peace agreement it was enforcing and, second, from its likely outcome, the strengthening of the U.N. and of the global legal order.
Though Iraq did not use weapons of mass destruction in 1991, the peace agreement imposed after the Gulf War, which was authorized and in part implemented by the United Nations, included restrictions on the development and deployment of those weapons. As an aggressor state, Iraq was subjected to a set of constraints designed to make future aggression impossible. Imagine it as a state on parole, deprived of full sovereignty because of its previous behavior. That was a just outcome of the Gulf War and the inspection system was its central feature.
Once the inspectors were in place, they revealed to the world how hard Saddam’s government had been working on a variety of horrific weapons and how far along some of the work was. And for a while the inspections seemed to be effective; in fact, I think they were effective. A number of facilities and large quantities of dangerous materials were discovered and destroyed. We were told in 1991 that Iraq was a year or two away from acquiring nuclear weapons; they are still a year or two away, and that is because of the success of the inspection system and the embargo.
But memory is short in political life and commitments and coalitions are fragile. The urgencies of the war and its immediate aftermath receded, and some of Iraq’s old trading partners, France and Russia most importantly, began to renew their ties. By the mid-’90s, Saddam felt he could safely test the will of the U.N. and the coalition of ’91, and so he began delaying the inspections or denying the inspectors access to the sites that they wanted to visit. And he was right: There was no will to enforce the inspection system, not at the U.N., which passed many resolutions but did nothing else, not in Europe and not in the Clinton administration. The U.S. was prepared to use its air power to maintain the no-fly zones but was not prepared for a larger war.
If the inspectors had been forcibly supported, their employer, the U.N., would be much stronger than it currently is and it would be very difficult for the United States or anyone else to plan a war without reference to the U.N. decision-making procedures.
But the failure of the ’90s is not easy to rectify, and it doesn’t help to pretend that the U.N. is an effective agent of global law and order when it isn’t. Many states insist they support the renewal of the inspection system, but so long as they are unwilling to use force on its behalf, their support is suspect. They profess to be defending the international rule of law, but how can the law rule when there is no law enforcement?
When the Bush administration worries that the return of the inspectors would be, in Vice President Cheney’s words, “false comfort,” it is reflecting a general belief, which unfortunately is shared by Saddam Hussein, that our European allies will never agree to fight. And until a couple of weeks ago, probably because they were reluctant to face the enforcement question, the Europeans were not seriously trying to renew the inspection system.
U.N. negotiators dithered with Iraqi negotiators in a diplomatic dance that seems to have been designed for delay and ultimate failure. It still isn’t clear that the dance is over.
Delay is dangerous because once Iraq has weapons – nuclear weapons and effective delivery systems – the threat to use force will be far less credible than it is today. But Iraq doesn’t have them yet, as we have stipulated.
If the administration thinks that Iraq is already a nuclear power or is literally on the verge of becoming one, then the months of threatening war rather than fighting it would seem to represent, from its perspective, something like criminal negligence. But if there is even a little time before Iraq gets the bomb, the rapid restoration of the inspection system is surely the right thing to aim at, far preferable to the preemptive war toward which the Bush administration seems to be leading us.
In a speech at West Point a few months ago President Bush made the case for the necessity and justice of preemptive war. But in the absence of evidence suggesting not only the existence of Iraqi weapons but also their imminent use, preemption is not an accurate description of what the president is threatening. No one expects an Iraqi attack tomorrow or next Tuesday, and so there is nothing to preempt.
“We don’t have to wait for them to attack,” said Condoleeza Rice on television the other day. Well, no, we don’t, but we do have to wait for some sign that they are going to attack. The war that is being discussed is preventive war, not preemptive, which means that it is designed to respond to a more distant threat.
The general argument for preventive war is very old; it’s been around since the time of the Greek city-states, and, in its classic form, it has to do with the balance of power. “Right now,” says the prime minister of country X, “the balance is stable, each of the competing states believes that its power is sufficient to deter the others from attacking. But country Y, our historic rival just across the river, is actively and urgently at work developing new weapons, preparing a mass mobilization, and if this work is allowed to continue, the balance will shift and our deterrent power will no longer be effective. The only solution is to attack now while we still can.”
International lawyers and just war theorists have never looked with favor on this argument because the danger to which it alludes is not only distant but speculative, whereas the cost of a preventive war are near, certain and usually terrible. The distant dangers, after all, might be avoided by diplomacy, or the military work of the other side might be matched by work on this side, or country X might look for alliances with states possessing the deterrent power that it lacks.
Whether or not war is properly the last resort – and I don’t believe in that doctrine – there seems no good reason for making it the first.
But perhaps we need to reopen the question of preventive war so as to take weapons of mass destruction into account and delivery systems that allow no time for arguments about how to respond. Perhaps the gulf between preemption and prevention has now narrowed so that there is little strategic, and therefore little moral, difference between them.
The Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 is sometimes invoked as an example of a justified preventive attack that was also in a sense preemptive. The Iraqi threat was not imminent, but an immediate attack was the only possible action against it. Once the reactor was in operation, an attack would have endangered civilians living for many miles around it, so it was a question of now or never, or better a single attack could be effective now but never again. Afterwards, only a full-scale war could have prevented the Iraqi acquisition of nuclear weapons.
But if this limited argument for prevention applied to Israel in 1981, it does not apply to the United States in 2002. Iraq was already formally at war with Israel and its hostility was visible and directly threatening. Listening these days to Saddam’s speeches, one might conclude that Israel still has a case for a preventive attack against Iraqi targets and some of its other neighbors may also have a case. At least they confront a real threat. But I don’t think that there is an American case, even if we claim to represent the neighbors, who have not authorized our representation and whose citizens would be radically at risk in any American war.
In fact, the now or never example would seem to strengthen the argument for inspection because the first U.N. inspectors supervised the destruction of facilities and materials that it would have been very dangerous to bomb from the air. There is still time for them to do that again.
Now, the administration’s response, so far as I can make it out, has two parts. First, the inspectors will never get into Iraq or will never be able to work effectively once they are in unless there is a readiness to fight, and no one at the U.N. or in Europe is seriously ready. Inspection means delay and again delay is dangerous; it’s better to fight now. But “now” seems to be a very elastic term. Clearly there are people in the Bush administration who think that the delays of the last month and the likely delays of the coming months are not so terribly dangerous, and the inspectors could probably be at work now, in the more precise sense of that word, had their been a will to send them back.
Second, however effective they were, the inspectors will not overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein, and that’s certainly true, though their presence would weaken the regime. In any case, change of regime is not commonly accepted as a justification for war, nor should it be. The precedents are not encouraging: Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Iran, Chile, Hungary, Czechoslovakia twice, in ’48 and ’68, all reflect the bad, old days of the Cold War, spheres of influence, the ideologically driven military or clandestine intervention.
Regime change can sometimes be the consequence of a just war when the defeated rulers are moral monsters like the Nazis in World War II, and humanitarian intervention to stop massacre and ethnic cleansing can also legitimately result in the installation of a new regime. But now that a zone of relative safety has been carved out for the Kurds in the North, there is no case to be made for a humanitarian intervention in Iraq.
The only reason for targeting Saddam is the belief that he will never give up the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, but this is not persuasive. Faced with a unified international community committed to the enforcement of inspections, with soldiers ready to move, Saddam would almost certainly suspend his pursuit, and the suspension would last as long as the commitment did. It’s the commitment that is problematic.
In any case, many other regimes around the world, including democratic regimes like India, have developed or are trying to develop such weapons, so how can we be sure that future Iraqi rulers would not resume Saddam’s project? If we’re interested in the safety of Iraq’s neighbors, inspection is more reliable than regime change.
So the right thing to do right now is to recreate the conditions that existed in the mid-’90s for fighting a just war, and we should do this precisely to avoid the war the Bush administration wants to fight.
The Europeans could have done the necessary work by themselves months ago if they really wanted to avoid American unilateralism. No government in Baghdad could have resisted a European ultimatum, admit the inspectors by a certain date or else, so long as the states behind the ultimatum included France and Russia, who have been Iraq’s only protectors, and so long as the “or else” extended to both economic and military action. Why didn’t the Europeans do this? I think this is a great puzzle. They seem to have lost all sense of themselves as responsible actors in international society.
I can’t say right now if there’s a good chance of getting the inspectors back. There are a lot of people eager to repeat the old mistakes. The real and only argument for war is not that war is the right choice or the best available choice but that there is no international commitment to actions short of war, which require the threat of war. Prime Minister Schroeder has forsworn the threat as a matter of principle. I think it’s fair to say that many influential Europeans from both the political class and the intelligentsia would prefer a unilateral American war to a European readiness to fight, even if to misquote Shakespeare, the readiness is all and war could be avoided.
And so we may soon face the hardest political question: What ought to be done when what ought to be done isn’t going to be done? But we shouldn’t be too quick to answer that question. If the dithering and delay over inspections go on and on, if the inspectors don’t return or if they return but can’t act effectively, if the threat of enforcement is not made credible, if our allies are unwilling to fight or to threaten to fight, which is what I think is all that would be necessary, then many of us will probably end up very reluctantly supporting the war the Bush administration is much too eager to fight.
Right now however there are other things to do and there is still time to do them. Right now the administration’s war is neither just nor necessary.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Thank you, Professor Walzer. Thanks to all of our distinguished panelists. And now it’s time to open it up for questions and a more freewheeling discussion. I will say that I’m going to put the microphone in front of you. When you speak into it, for the purposes of recording it, if you could just briefly say your name and affiliation that would be great.
QUESTION: My name is Stanley Kurtz from the Hoover Institution. I guess I have a comment for both Professor Galston and Professor Walzer, but there’s no time, so I’ll just stick with Professor Galston.
First, you say, Bill, that the onus is on the proponents of an invasion to establish the fact that Saddam Hussein is not susceptible to the traditional incentive structures around deterrence. I believe that the case for that has already been made. It’s been made in a brand new book that you wouldn’t have had time to read, but I urge you to read it. That’s just the beginning of what I have to say. It’s called The Threatening Storm by Kenneth Pollack. There he argues, as he did in his op-ed piece in The New York Times, and, in my opinion, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Saddam Hussein is not susceptible to the traditional incentive structure of deterrence.
It’s also important to point out that traditional deterrence is a lot more tenuous than we realize. We have really only had one good test of that, and that’s the United States and the Soviet Union. Even that came pretty close to the brink, on the occasion of Cuba, and we have to understand that when we’re dealing with people like Saddam, the traditional thing might not work.
But what I really want to say is that, in my view, if I understand them correctly, you have already accepted the idea that Saddam is not susceptible to traditional incentive structures because, if I understand it correctly, that’s what your stipulations say. The stipulations seem to say that Saddam is not going to act according to traditional patterns of deterrence. Now, either you’ve already accepted that or you don’t really accept it, which is what I suspect because you seem to challenge some of that in the course of your talk, or the stipulations themselves are meaningless.
And finally, what you focused on was the likelihood of Saddam giving a nuclear weapon to terrorists. That’s one key problem, and I think it’s a grave one. But in addition to that, there is the event greater likelihood, in my view, that Saddam is going to make a move on Kuwait or Saudi Arabia and threaten us with nuclear weapon blackmail as a result of it. That is the truly imminent threat. We just had weapons grade uranium seized – okay, it wasn’t as much as they thought. Professor Walzer’s distinction between imminence and having even a little time, to me, is a distinction without a difference.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, in spite of your fear that you didn’t have enough time, you did manage to challenge both of us. Let me just say very briefly, and this is summarizing a very extensive empirical debate, which will rage outside the halls of this room for a long time to come, I believe that the following is the most accurate description of Saddam Hussein and deterrence: That when we have sent a clear and unambiguous message that disastrous consequences will flow from his doing something that we emphatically do not want him to do, he has not done it. He has done terrible things when we have failed to send such a message, as we did on the eve of the invasion of Kuwait, or, even worse, when we turned a blind eye to terrible violations of justice and war and human rights as we did during the Iran-Iraq war, for reasons of our own, which seemed good at the time but weren’t, even then.
So I will have to read Ken Pollack’s book. I’ve read his article in Foreign Affairs, so I have some sense of what he thinks. But on first inspection I do not agree with the summary judgment that Saddam Hussein is a madman, reckless and outside the pale of the traditional structure of deterrence, but that is an important empirical question and we will just have to stipulate it as a difference between us for purposes of this discussion.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I’ve got to keep going, sorry.
MICHAEL WALZER: Can I respond also?
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Oh yes, sure.
MICHAEL WALZER: I do not want to get into a system of deterrence with Saddam Hussein. I don’t believe that deterrence is what has worked in the past 12 years. We have had inspectors there for 8 of the 12 years. We have had an embargo in place for the whole time. We are bombing Iraq a couple of times a week on average. I think that’s what has worked. If Iraq were to get nuclear weapons, then we might have to rely on deterrence and I think that would be disastrous, because it would not just be an American-Iraq deterrence system; it would also have to be an Israel-Iraq deterrence system. The Israelis would have to acquire what I don’t think they have now, a second strike capacity. That means there would be ships in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea with nuclear weapons, and that would be, whatever our system of deterrence was, an Iraqi-Israeli system, which would be hair-trigger deterrence. That is not what we want in the Middle East, and that’s why I think that coercive inspections as soon as possible is the real alternative and the only substitute for a war designed to eliminate the threat entirely.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Yes, sir?
QUESTION: I’m Nicholas Berry, foreignpolicyforum.com.
I’d like to you to explore the issue of nuclear blackmail. In effect, some of you are making the case that if, in fact, Saddam Hussein gets a nuclear weapon and issues threats for the use of that nuclear weapon offensively, that the United States would just back down, the international community would quiver and quake and, in fact, wouldn’t that create an awful, imminent, horrendous threat that the United States and the international community, including the U.N. Security Council must, in fact, deal with?
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, sure.
QUESTION: As a follow-up: Doesn’t that make the likelihood of Saddam Hussein actually going out on a limb like that where his destruction would be assured rather unlikely?
And let me add one thing, also, about deterrence. Not only did he test U.S. deterrence in late August of 1990 with April Glasby, and we, of course, sort of gave him the green light to invade Kuwait, but he was also deterred, if you read The Washington Post this morning, and probably many of you know, from using weapons of mass destruction because of the deterrent threat in 1991.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: On the wonderful example of our panel to let some other voices and questions be put on the table let’s let that happen. Hilell?
QUESTION: Hillel Fradkin of the Ethics in Public Policy Center.
It’s partially an observation. It seems to me that Professor Walzer’s footnote to Bill Galston was not merely a footnote but a real disagreement about the material or the historical background, which would enter into a potential judgment, and perhaps you’d like to comment on that.
But my question really is directed to Professor Walzer. Given what I thought was a very good and accurate description of the history of the last 12 or maybe even 15 years, your certainty about – well, perhaps, would it be fair to say that you’re just suggesting, let’s give coercive inspections one last shot? And if that’s the case, it really does mean that if war then comes, it really is not, on your own telling, really of first resort, but really the last resort after very many attempts. That’s question A, how you would describe your understanding.
The second thing is, given what you’ve described about the general will of the international community, the Europeans, their most recent behavior, and also it seems to be perhaps a certain oversight about what happened since the Bush administration took office and efforts he’s made to renew the sanction regimen, what reason do you have for thinking that another shot will really work, and how long, really, do you think it’s plausible to wait until it does?
MICHAEL WALZER: There has certainly been a very extended period of negotiation between Kofi Annan and his representatives and representatives of the Iraqi government over inspections, and I think it’s been an appalling spectacle to the humiliation of the United Nations and one that poses real dangers to the rest of the world.
It seems to me that, I guess, here, I do agree with Bill Galston. If Saddam is persuaded that the international community is prepared to use force, that his allies – that’s too strong a term – in Russia and France are prepared to go along with that, I think he will yield on the inspection question.
So I think that coercive inspection is a real option if there is a will to enforce it, and I think we should do everything we possibly can to produce that will in the international community, and we should stick with that for some time, even if we are preparing for war while we do it.
And if the inspectors get into Iraq and cannot function, if they are harassed and if there is a repetition of the mid- and late-’90s, then it would be time to use force, not as a last resort. Lastness is a metaphysical concept. You never reach it. There’s always something to do before doing whatever it is that comes last. Politics is a matter of try, try again.
So you want to do what you can to avoid war, and that has to be a serious effort. And the Bush administration has not even given us the appearance of making that serious effort.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: Bill, why don’t you go and then we’ll – actually, quick response.
QUESTION: It seems to me though we have some things we can observe about the most recent period. I think it’s a little bit unfair to say that the Bush administration made no effort, because for at least a brief period of time under-rode Powell’s initiative on smart sanctions. There was no appetite for that at the U.N. so it was dropped.
But it would also seem to be the case that it’s somehow our apparent appetite for war that has gotten us to the possibility of coercive sanctions in the first place. So it seems to me a little hard to argue at this point that – I mean, I think it would involve very delicate diplomacy at least and I think you would agree that we would need to keep up somehow a very credible threat that we’re ready to go to war in order just to move France and Russia off the dime.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, three things briefly in response to Hillel. First of all, and because of poor time management on my part I didn’t have a chance to say this, I agree emphatically with something that Michael Walzer with his superior talent for time management did have time to say, namely, that I think the single most important and productive proposal for moving us forward has emanated from this building in the form of a well worked out proposal for coercive inspections, and I am surprised and dismayed that that idea, which it seems to me to draw its strength from a number of considerations that have been put on the table, has not gained more serious support at home and abroad. I hope that it will.
Number two, I think that you and I would agree, Hillel, that in grave matters of this sort it is not only the act that is at stake but also the nature of the justification of the act. And I would submit to you that if the president and the administration had been talking the language of enforcement rather than preemption starting in the spring and running forward consistently to the president’s United Nations speech of September 12th, we would be in a very different place domestically and internationally. And, I think, it is very, very regrettable that the justification that was put forward first and most emphatically, and which continues to figure centrally in the national security doctrine, is one that gives so many people at home as well as abroad pause about a venture which may be more nearly justifiable in other terms, and I think that that is a failure of prudence and statecraft.
Third and finally, and I want to repeat with emphasis something that I said hastily and poorly in my prepared remarks, and that is: We cannot assume that a justification for our own activity that we put forward will be without consequences for the behavior of other actors in the international system, because we have already seen in the past 13 months definitive evidence to the contrary. And so if we go with preemption as an official doctrine of U.S. foreign policy, it will become the world’s official doctrine. It will become the new centerpiece of the international system. Henry Kissinger is not alone in worrying that, for example, India’s appropriation of that doctrine could have truly horrific consequences.
JOHN KELSAY: Can I say something? Just two comments: First, on the last resort business, where I agree, I think, with Michael Walzer, that is that the way that criteria operates it has to be last reasonable resort or, even better, particularly, it catches up some nuances, in this case, timely resort. What you’re trying to decide is whether among the various actions that are possible for you or in concert with other efforts, diplomatic, economic and so on, raising the military ante at this time has a reasonable chance of delivering the goals that you want.
On the language of preemption, I made the comment in my remarks that I think it’s largely irrelevant in this case, and I’ll stick by that. I do agree with Bill Galston’s last comment. I think it is very unfortunate that that language came to be invoked early on in this discussion. I think it’s a red herring. I think it misses the point that we have been militarily engaged in Iraq, as Michael mentioned, dropping ordnance around the no-fly zones consistently over the last years, as well as engaged in other matters. We’re really asking whether it’s time to raise the military level of our involvement to achieve certain goals. Let loose just in the international forum, a doctrine of preemption is highly dangerous. It has the risk of taking on a life of its own with consequences that we will not like and shouldn’t like. I don’t think we need that language in this case. I don’t think it helps us to illumine the things we need to think about. I wish we would put it aside.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I want to just bring your attention briefly to the fact that on the table outside there are a number of essays and articles, and among the documents is the letter from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and I wanted to ask Gerard Powers to ask a brief question or make a brief comment.
QUESTION: Jerry Powers from the Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The bishops, in short, were concerned about the aspects of just war. One was just cause, and they basically took the view that Michael Walzer took, that this is really preventive use of military force, which raises troubling moral and legal precedents.
They’re also concerned about right authority, and it is very problematic in their point of view to pursue this unilaterally, without U.N. Security Council authorization.
And, finally, something that most of the panelists have referred to, the bishops would be concerned about the probability of success and proportionality, both, not so much military success in terms of trying to overthrow Saddam Hussein, but whether or not you’d be able to build a just peace after the war in Iraq, and also what the consequences would be for peace and stability in the Middle East.
I guess I’d like to, since the bishops’ position was heavily based on their concern about preemptive or preventive use of force, unilateral use of force, I’d like to ask Michael Walzer if he would respond to John Kelsay’s argument that this really isn’t about preemption at all; it’s really just about enforcement of the U.N. norms and resolutions.
MICHAEL WALZER: I certainly agree that the enforcement of the no-fly zones with air power, that those are acts of war that derive from U.N. resolutions. We are, in fact, enforcing with U.N. authorization a peace itself authorized by the U.N. And if we are to expand that war, I would think it would once again require U.N. support.
It’s an interesting argument. Bob Kerrey made this argument in The Wall Street Journal, the former senator from Nebraska, now president – in-congressly – president of The New School for Social Research.
JOHN KELSAY: Or out-congressly.
MICHAEL WALZER: He argued that we are already at war with Iraq, and there is no way of stopping this little war with Iraq, because if we stop, Saddam would overrun the northern and southern zones, and there might well be a massacre of the Kurds. There would certainly be a brutal repression of the current autonomy in the North.
So we can’t stop this little war except by fighting a bigger war. Otherwise, we are condemned to continue bombing Iraq into the indefinite future. And that struck me as one of the better arguments for a war, although Bob Kerrey emphasized the costs of the enforcement of the no-fly zones. And while there have been obviously financial costs, there hasn’t been a single plane or a pilot lost in the many, many years of regular bombing, so perhaps it would be better to continue doing that rather than to escalate to a war, which there’s just no evidence that this is necessary. If you think back at the way the Iraqi threat was described in ’91 and the way it is being describe now, the descriptions are so close in some ways, we know he has fewer missiles now, he has far smaller stockpiles of biological and chemical weapons. The peace system, putting Iraq on parole, all the constraints imposed by the U.N., there’s every evidence that they have worked. So why not keep them, why not sustain the system?
JOHN KELSAY: It was the point of my comments that if we can put aside the debate over preemption with I don’t know quite what word to use, it’s just not an apt term for this case and as a doctrine I think it’s highly dangerous, then the case I was trying to make sounds very much like what Michael just said, that this has to do with enforcement of agreements put into place or policies put into place to restring injustice.
Now, what the difference between us would turn on then is a question of authority, of right authority in this case, since he rightly makes the point that many if not all of the policies put in place after the Gulf War were under international auspices.
The problem with seeing U.S. action tied strictly to that in this case I think comes from the almost complete failure of the enforcement parties to carry through with consistency on the policies that they have in place and with the fact that right now we really are at an impasse. It’s not only a problem of the suffering or relatively — they’re actually doing reasonably well, the Kurds in the north — it’s the Shi’a in the south, we have a number of ordinary people in and around Baghdad and in the east of Iraq who are suffering because of the way that the regime of sanctions has been turned by the Hussein regime.
I think we need to think very hard about whether or not we have some options to break this policy impasse that we are in, which doesn’t work to the advantage of people in Iraq or to our advantage or the advantage of the international community. I don’t know that raising the military ante is the answer to breaking that impasse. I don’t know what options we have fully. That’s why I stressed the question, Should we exercise a right to make war in this particular case? But I think we need to think very hard about it and it’s something that we have not been doing for most of the last 10 years.
QUESTION: Jerome Segal, University of Maryland.
A question for Michael Walzer and then for Bill Galston: Michael, the report that was in the news yesterday about the discovery, I think it was in a car, in Turkey of a certain quantity of highly enriched uranium a couple hundred miles from the Iraqi border – I would think that the effect of that incident on one’s thinking would be to have one reach the conclusion that our judgments as to how imminent Iraqi obtaining nuclear weapons, in fact, are judgments that we can’t have much confidence in at all, that what we have heard all along is that the problem for Iraq was obtaining the fissile material, that if it had it, it would only be a matter of months before it could have a weapon.
And whatever it turns out to be with respect to that particular incident, the fact that it could happen, it seems to me, is kind of an epistemic wake-up call that just simply tells us that we don’t know whether or not another car, uncaught, in fact got into Iraq yesterday with X amount of highly enriched uranium, and so that on one of the most crucial questions here, we’re simply in the dark, and not abstractly, but very really in the dark.
And to Bill, as I understood the difference between your position and Michael Walzer’s, it was that while both of you were strongly supportive of intrusive inspections, Michael’s perspective was that he at least was unwilling to rely on a deterrence regime, and that if he believed that it wasn’t possible to prevent Iraq from obtaining nuclear weapons, then that would be at least a good part of a case for going to war; whereas your comments about Saddam being deterrable seemed to me, at any rate, to accept the possibility that even if one thought that he would obtain nuclear weapons we could still rely on deterrence. You’re shaking your head, so I guess I misunderstood, but if you could clarify that.
And let me just push it a step further. What I was going to ask is this: If Saddam was to get nuclear weapons, I would assume the very first thing he would try to do with them is to find some way to deter the United States, especially given all of our clear now intentions, so that whether it was in terms of delivery systems or smuggling such a weapon into the United States and so on.
Now, if one accepted that as a stipulation, that what Saddam would do with nuclear weapons is not to use them but to try to set up a deterrence regime with the United States, would that change your thinking about the importance of going to war first with Iraq before they got nuclear weapons?
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, I can clear this up very quickly. Deterrence is a general term, which in order to have a precise application and specific case needs to be filled in – deterring whom from doing what. And I was not talking about setting up a system of nuclear deterrence in the Middle East. There Michael Walzer and I are entirely in agreement. My broader point was that I think that I believe that there is a reasonable chance that through a regime of more vigorous, more coercive, more sustained and less restrained inspections, plus a number of other blandishments and threats, we can bring about not only the diminution of various sorts of domestics acts that we don’t like, but also a reasonable probability that he will not obtain the weapons that we most fear.
And if I did not believe that as a matter of fact my argument would be very different, but I agree with Michael as to the entire litany of parade of parables that he trotted out if Saddam Hussein were to obtain a nuclear weapon. It has been a fixed position of U.S. policy through thick and thin that he must not be permitted to do so and it is formerly ratified as a condition for the ceasefire in the Gulf War. There is no reason to revise that requirement or stipulation. I am certainly not recommending that.
So I’m afraid that my generic use of the term deterrence, as in creating incentives to prevent Saddam Hussein from doing what we don’t want him to do, created the mis-impression that what I’m in favor of is sort of a Cold War balance of nuclear power in the Middle East. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
MICHAEL WALZER: And can I just ask Jerry Segal what conclusion do you draw from the Turkish incident?
QUESTION: Well, I guess my conclusion is that it’s much more pressing than we thought, that, in fact, if we’re going to have an intrusive inspections regime it has to happen very quickly and that if it doesn’t happen then the case for using force, not necessarily the way the administration is planning to and in that framework, but that the case for using force is a great deal stronger.
(Michael Walzer nods.)
QUESTION: Jim Matlack with the American Friends Service Committee.
I want to test two boundary conditions, you might say, to your very thoughtful discussion. The first is the role of oil. It’s not any part of the initial pretext offer by the administration. I don’t know what role it does play. But if Saddam is displaced, any new leadership in Baghdad has at its command, or at the command of those who influence it, the second largest reserve of petroleum in the world, known reserve.
If that’s a factor at all in those planning the war, from what you’ve all four said, I think that’s a disqualifier for being a just war. We do not go to war for oil; we go to war to protect innocents. But whether that plays in any part of your calculation.
The second is some of the same people who have urged the administration’s case for attacking Iraq seem to have made roughly a comparable case for attacking Iran, which is equally apparently seeking weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear, is much more clearly involved in active links to various terrorist activities, doesn’t have the same history, of course, with the invasion of Kuwait. But as you think about that argument that is advanced not quite so publicly, is there any just war rationale for an attack on Tehran?
GERARD BRADLEY: Let me respond to the first of your two questions. As to oil, I guess I would emphasize something I said earlier, perhaps too quickly, more quickly than it deserved to be said, and that is that we should focus upon the kind of undergirdings, morally speaking, of any attack, plan of attack and execution of the attack. I would assume that there are a host of motives at work in the various people involved who actually are carrying it forward and out, and I simply don’t know who is thinking about oil and how much they’re thinking about oil.
But I wouldn’t agree with the proposition, if it’s your proposition, that if some number of administration officials are more or less secretly coveting Iraqi oil, that it’s somehow disqualifying. No. I would say what is the focus of our attention or what should be the focus of our attention is the plan of attack and what appears to be or what are the moral justifying principles of the attack. So to play that out, if the attack looks like one to seize control of oil fields as opposed to disarm Iraq, well, then, we have a real problem from the moral perspective.
But I take it that at most I would say that if there’s a more customer-friendly oil regime in Iraq after this is all over, it might be a secondary or tertiary side effect that would be welcome, but it certainly isn’t a disqualifying factor if other people in charge have a more kind of high octane desire for oil.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Well, just very briefly I think that as this very grave debate goes forward – and I don’t intend this as a rebuke, but really as a statement of principle on my part – I think it is very important that we take the administration at its word, that we take authoritative statements like the president’s U.N. speech of September 12th, his West Point speech of June 1st and the national security document issued a couple of weeks ago as the authoritative statement of the real convictions, the real reasons and the real motivations, because if we get into an imputation of motives exchange, then my fear is that this debate will degenerate very, very quickly. And we already saw some signs of that in the past 24 hours with Congressman McDermott’s statements from Baghdad and the political response to those.
So I don’t think it would be useful to go down that road, and, in addition, I associate myself with Jerry Bradley’s remarks about why it wouldn’t make that much of a difference if other things are dominant.
With regard to your second question, I mean, you’ve sort of raised the question of whether Iraq is the Mini-Me and Iran perhaps is the real Dr. Evil, and I do think that, to the extent that one is focusing on acquisition of nuclear weapons and known links to terrorists, that you have raised a serious question. I think that there are some important prudential differences. The Iranians have been conspicuously less aggressive territorially than the Iraqis have been, and they are not enmeshed in the sorts of enforcement regime that the Iraqis are enmeshed in right now, so that it is not possible to talk about a war of enforcement with regard to Iran in the same way it is with regard to Iraq.
JOHN KELSAY: On the question of oil, I think the most important things to think about are probably things that affect how one applies the prudential just war criteria; that is, what is the danger that oil wells will be hit in the midst of military action and bring about environmental and other kinds of damage, and then what happens in the political arrangements in Iraq afterwards in terms of the various parties fighting over who controls oil. If you imagine one of the possible scenarios in which the present no-fly zone in the North becomes part of a federated Iraq with largely powers devolved to the Kurds for self-governance, a number of the large oil fields would be under their control, and one could imagine some kind of struggle within Iraq among the various parties over how to distribute the benefits from those. So I think it’s important to think about oil that way more so than in terms of categories of intention and so on.
As to Iran, that would clearly at present be a war that would have to be either described as preemptive or preventive. I’ve been trying to argue that those terms aren’t really applicable in Iraq, meaning that the case of Iraq is different because we’re already there, and in some sense the policy impasse that we’re at is not the direct and intended result obviously of our policies, their failure and/or successes over the past several years but there certainly are some difficulties that have come about for the people of Iraq because of the ways those policies have worked out for them, and, I think, we have to consider ourselves in some sense deeply involved and therefore responsible to try to bring about a resolution. That’s a very different kind of thing.
MICHAEL WALZER: Just one word of partial disagreement with Bill Galston. I think we are already down that road because I believe that the problems we are having with France and Russia derive in part from their anxiety that the Bush policy in Iraq would result in their displacement and that America would become the dominant economic partner of the new Iraqi regime, and so it might be a sign of our commitment to fight a just war in Iraq that we commit ourselves in advance to respect the economic interests of the French and the Russians.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I want to get one more comment on the table and then we’re going to turn to the panelists for any closing thoughts.
QUESTION: My name is Thabet El-Bardicy and I’m with Al-Jazeera TV.
Excuse my layman question, but this is a question for Mr. Gerard Bradley. And it is known that almost half a million Iraqi children have been killed because of the sanctions. According to your definition of proportionality, how many innocent people can be sacrificed for a just war?
GERARD BRADLEY: It’s an important question, although the way you put it is probably not the right way. I would say that it’s impossible to say that a certain number of innocent people, children or otherwise, is the right number, and beyond that there is no end, which could justify such sacrifice of innocent persons.
My answer is simply this, and alluding to what I said earlier, is that the test is to regard the death of enemy civilians, noncombatants, consider them in a calculus of fairness as if they were people like you. I do think that that’s probably one of the first casualties of actual hostilities; that is to say, to get into a war I’m sure it’s very, very difficult for planners, military planners, not to prefer their own, perhaps even their own combatants to enemy noncombatants, as I think happened in the Kosovo bombing campaign, where apparently, if I understand the facts, we were determined to fly high enough so that none of our pilots was ever downed, and that led with statistical certainty to a much greater incidence of death on the ground of noncombatants.
Now, I think that’s immoral, but I think that’s the calculation or that’s the comparison or the calculus is fairness and whether we’re treating other people, in this case Iraqi children, if you will, differently than we would treat them if they were like our own.
And other than that, I don’t think I could say anything that’s sort of general or helpful.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I want now to ask our panelists if they have any closing comments briefly. We have about five minutes left. If you could, please, if you see fit, offer a summary of where you see the center of gravity, the key differences, disagreements among you.
I want to read four – this may not work, and ignore these, if you wish – but I want to read four statements, sort of mainly agree, mainly disagree statements.
• The essential goal of our policy should be the disarmament of Iraq not regime change.
• Two, the main goal now should be coercive inspections.
• Three, the doctrine of preemption is inconsistent with prudence and just war tradition.
• Four, the administration’s current approach to Iraq is consistent with just war tradition.
Those are four statements. If that helps you in any way to sort of summarize for all of us where you think you are in relationship to the other panelists or anything else you want to say, and let’s start in the reverse order, with Professor Walzer, and just move across the table.
MICHAEL WALZER: Well, I agree with the first three of those statements, but I want to stress that I feel a very high level of anxiety about the current situation and about my own response to it and everybody else’s. At this moment, I think this is an avoidable war, which we should do everything we can to avoid. But there has to be a collective will to avoid it, and that isn’t yet apparent in the international community. A lot of my recent writing on this subject has been aimed at European audiences not at American, for I really believe that they can save us from that war. Bush said it’s a test of the United Nations. I think it’s a test of our European friends, and I hope they meet the test.
JOHN KELSAY: The first two propositions seem to me to rest on judgments about empirical matters, that is what’s possible, what the current policy state is. I’ve already stressed that I think we’re at a very serious impasse and we need some changes.
So is the goal or should the goal of our policy be disarmament rather than regime change? If you say regime change, what you’ve said is you think the existing policies have run aground of the obstreperous behavior of the Hussein regime and you might as well call it what it is. You’re out to deprive certain people of the power to make decisions to affect the course of events for their own country people and people around them, and that’s regime change.
Disarmament is a kind of finer-tuned way to put things, and it depends again on how one estimates the current situation.
Coercive inspections. I’m not very confident about the arms inspections and what has been accomplished or what might be accomplished. I’d be willing to be persuaded on that. One could certainly try them in concert I think with maintaining a certain level of awareness of the military prospect.
Preemption, how did you phrase that one?
DAVID BLANKENHORN: It’s not a good idea, not consistent with just war.
JOHN KELSAY: Not a good idea, yeah, and irrelevant in this particular case. As something that one has to deal with in just war thinking or in any realistic thinking about war, preemptive strikes might be necessary in some kind of case. In this one it’s an irrelevant part of the debate, a red herring.
And is the current movement of the Bush administration in line with just war tradition? Well, I take it that part of the problem we’re all having with assessing that is how much weight we put on the different kinds of public justifications that are being given, whether we think it really is being construed as preemptive or a preventive war, or whether we stress more the enforcement language. I stress more the latter. I wish people would stop talking about the former.
But I also think that answering that question ultimately has to do with the prudential criteria and a serious attempt to try to find our way out of this impasse and assess whether or not a military option is a timely way to do that or not, I don’t think we know the answer at present.
WILLIAM GALSTON: Very quickly, I obviously would have to look at the wording more carefully, but, just listening to you, I agree as to the first two propositions. I may disagree as to the third. I think that there may be a limited role for preemption within a just war doctrine, but preemption is going to be an exception to the general rule and is not and ought not to be the general rule of conduct, and that’s another way of formulating my disagreement with the Bush administration’s declaratory doctrine. And with regard to your fourth question, I agree with both my colleagues so far. It depends on what happens and how it’s justified.
Now let me make a closing statement on my own hook, and that is, I believe, that although Michael Walzer is right in principle that this is an avoidable war, I believe that we will not avoid this war in the last analysis. I believe that we are going to war with Iraq.
That being the case, there are better and worse ways of going to war with Iraq, and let me state three conditions that would reduce the harm of doing what I think we will almost certainly do, even though if I were the decision-maker I would not do it in this way at this time.
Number one, we have to make a visible and credible effort to explore and exhaust all other reasonable options – not logical options but reasonable options.
Secondly, I think we have to state a public rationale that focuses to the maximum feasible extent on enforcement within some viable vision of the international system rather than preemption.
And third, and this, to my mind, may be the most important condition of all, if Saddam Hussein is analogized to a regional Hitler and if regime change means unconditional surrender, then right here, right now, before we go to war, we must, as a nation, commit ourselves to doing for Iraq what we did for Germany after World War II. We cannot have a drive-by regime change, right? We must commit ourselves to the political, economic and social reconstruction of that country, such that a decent regime that can stand on its own will be the likely outcome of our efforts. If that means an occupation measured in decades rather than months, and if it means the expenditures of tens of billions of dollars a year in order to sustain that, we must commit ourselves to that here and now, because if what we really have in mind is some version of drive-by regime change, that, in my judgment, is absolutely the worst outcome imaginable.
GERARD BRADLEY: Well, my judgment is that the central questions about a final decision by those in authority to go to war with Iraq have to do with the probability of success and take into account all of the foreseeable consequences of an invasion, including, as Bill Galston has reminded us, consequences for the global legal order. The question, not in these words, but, I think, this is the question he put to us is what behavior by other nations is the United States committed at least by consistency to endorse or at least tolerate if we go to war unilaterally with Iraq or bilaterally with the help of Britain. That is a serious question. I don’t know the answer to it.
Related to that is the question of rightful authority. You know, I think it’s worth stating that in a limit case, not an unrealistic case but a limit case of the possession or imminent possession of nuclear weapons by Iraq, I think rightful authority belongs to that body, that institution, that nation, which actually has the power to destroy those weapons. I think in that case, given the consequences of possession of nuclear weapons by Saddam Hussein, I think if the United States has the power and the opportunity to destroy them, it has the moral responsibility to do so, regardless in the end of what the positive law, the international positive law says.
Now, finally, I think no matter how this important episode in our history, in world history, shakes out, we’re going to see a development of inherited doctrine concerning just war, whether it’s the elimination or eclipse of the notion of the imminence or whether it’s a modification of the notion of rightful authority, as I’m suggesting it could be in the end. We’re going to see a development of doctrine, and I think that that can only come about in a legitimate way by reaching down to the principles, which underlay the norms, the standards, the tests, and I do think those principles are just cause, which is defensive, is only a defensive war is just, noncombatant immunity and fairness with regard to all of our facts.
DAVID BLANKENHORN: I want to thank each of you for spending the time to be with us today, again thanking the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, Melissa Rogers and her team. Is E.J. Dionne here? Jean Elshtain, co-chair, the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy at the University of Maryland, thank you. Thank each of you. It’s an honor for me to be associated with a panel of people who, although they clearly have some disagreements, I believe have kind of honored us and elevated this subject by trying to bring a kind of moral seriousness to the discussion, and for that I thank you. (Applause.) And thank you so much for joining us again.
[END OF EVENT.]
This transcript has been edited for clarity, spelling and grammar.