Meeting the Conditions of Peace

It appears that many theologians do not accept Michael Novak’s arguments for Just War against Iraq. In at least one case, a theologian regards Novak’s claim — that he is not arguing for a new theory of preventative war — as incomprehensible.

Novak claims that the "first" Gulf War was a just war. No one appears to dispute this. It was undertaken by a lawful authority — Bush (41) with the authorization of Congress. Additionally, although it is not a requirement, the war was approved by UN resolutions. The war was undertaken by just cause — the internationally recognized state of Kuwait was invaded by Iraq — the cause was the defense of another state. The war was undertaken with right intention — the liberation of Kuwait. Furthermore, when the war was undertaken, it was limited to actions to redress the wrong, the invasion of Kuwait.

I get the sense that George Weigel is on target when he observes religious leaders using just war theory as a "presumption against violence." With this presumption, by any practical measure, meeting the requirements for just war is exceedingly difficult if not impossible. The progression of this development leads to one similar to the pope’s pronouncements on the death penalty. In theory, just war is licit, but in practice just war is impossible. The ability of a magistrate to exercise his prudential judgment to wield the sword (to maintain order) has been taken away. The range of options is limited to one or none.

That George Bush (43) has sent Michael Novak to the Vatican to explain the president’s reasoning is evidence that he has given just war theory due consideration. If the pope’s pronouncements against the war are to direct prudent reflection on the necessity of war, then that mark has been met.

Indeed, very early on, President Bush suggested that his authority to go to war against Iraq came from the resolutions of Congress and the UN from the early nineties. But as Bush continues to meet the objections of the anti-war crowd — by obtaining a re-authorization from Congress and a new UN resolution — I am reminded of Abraham’s objections to the Lord over the destruction of Sodom. Would the Lord spare the city if fifty upright people were found there? Forty-five? Forty? Thirty? As Bush continues to meet the marks set before him, will the pacifists finally acknowledge as Abraham did of the necessity of the act?

I don’t begrudge the efforts of the anti-war crowd who ask that President Bush re-examine his reasons for the use of force. Wars should not be undertaken lightly. But at the same time, there should be some honesty in those who oppose the war: have the conditions of peace ever been met?

Novak’s claim that the Gulf War has been "summarily interrupted" is passed off too glibly. They ignore his insistence of the definition of peace given at the peace table, "Saddam Hussein must [a] disarm and [b] provide proof to the U.N. that he had disarmed, accounting with transparency for all his known weapons systems and arsenals."

All efforts to get Saddam to comply with a peace he "agreed to" have failed. Sanctions, embargoes, and arms inspections have failed to compel him to [a] disarm and [b] provide proof that he has done so. Even cruise missiles and air attacks have failed to change any long-term behavior. It should be plainly obvious that the cease-fire has only been honored in the breach, not as the norm. "Peace" has been a low intensity conflict, rather than the high intensity conflict "war" the pacifists wish to avoid.

I have to imagine that the next time any country achieves the objective of redress, their leaders will view with a jaundiced eye the arguments of those perpetually opposed to war that a just war theory demands a cease-fire now. Why should they, those leaders might reasonably ask. If just war theory precludes any enforcement of the peace, why should they bet their future survival against the chance that an untrustworthy enemy will not rise again in reprisal? Better to secure a permanent peace by razing Carthage now.

While Saddam has agreed to peace in word, in deed he has remained at war. The cease-fire has failed. We are at war with Iraq, and a new tactic in war — asymmetrical warfare — has been developed. It is asked that we wait for the next blow, while forgetting that we might not be able to tie that blow to Iraq. How soon we forget that the naysayers of war against the Taliban denied that the proof of 9-11 was conclusive. The proof is unlikely to get any easier.

The political realities are that there are several rogue states in breach of treaties. They are in violation of international law. At the same time, those who are perpetually opposed to the legitimate use of force would deny any ability to enforce. We forget the lessons of history. Hitler tore up the Treaty of Versailles. Italy proved the League of Nations to be ineffective. Rather than handle the evils when manageable, they appeased and waited until the situation was dire. The cost of peace was war, a terrible and insane war.

How do we maintain a peace when the conditions of peace have not been met?